Cory Ondrejka also delivered a fascinating session, entitled Building Serious Games MMPS using Second Life.
My notes - again, NOT verbatim, very staccato (me, not Cory, who's a lovely speaker). Should give you a flavour of what he said, and what Second Life is about,which - from this insight - has given me a ton of experimental urges.
VP of Product Development for Linden Lab
BUILDING SERIOUS GAME MMPS USING SECOND LIFE
First point of note, Cory ran the whole presentation in-game, using Second Life's scripting to create in-game presentation tools...
Second Life is a digital world, no evil machines and no cybermage playground. It’s The Metaverse.
SL is different from other MMOGs for a number of reasons:
Architecture: It has 700 CPUs, resulting in 44km2 of space being simulated. There are 2000 concurrent players online at the moment of demo’ing. All content is streamed from centralised servers. Everything you see ingame is user-created content. You need to have broadband.
Atomistic construction is how you build things in SL. The basic construction atom is a geometric primitive: user-specified into a box, tube, cheese, sphere, etc. The viewer is a very thin and dumb client, streaming from the back end. Everything in the SL world today was built using the tools. A gun example: made of thousands of primitives with scripts and animations attached. Users simulated alien abductions which would happen randomly every few weeks to individual users. They built the aliens. They built the spaceship, the landings, the probes. The “I got abducted by aliens and all I got was this lousy teeshirt” teeshirts. You don’t get this kind of thing by planning. You just put the tools in the hands of the users, and it happens...
Second Life offers connections with the real world: outbound with email, etc. Users are creating photoblogs with automatically updated pix. Trading sites. Someone made a phone client and people are trading stuff using their phones.
Last month: 20,000 people using the product. 50,000 distinct items sold. 1million p2p transactions, $2m in internal economy.
Taking part: We’re not a subscription model. Players pay $10 up front, then it's free to take part from there on in. If you want permanence in the world though, you have to own land. We sell land to the users. You can buy as much land as you like. Scaling of needs, from small amounts for more casual players, to entire islands and such for the more dedicated..
Community: We found that older people are uniformly more likely to convert to SL. We’re just about equal male-female, unusual for a MMOG. The SL community is a very valuable asset!
RL skills are translating into skills in this space: estate realtors, you name it. There are 7000 user hours per day spent creating. 3.5 user years per day! Sturgeon’s law says 90% everything is crap. But this scales. Of our 1300 items created daily, we get 130 really good items a day. This is growing too.
Ownership: SL is different. In SL residents own their creations. Residents own the IP to everything they make. They can sell them for real $. People can make money in SL, that’s OK with us. Our EULA states this.
Gameplay: There area no traditional RPG elements in SL. You do not level up. People are competitive about the metrics, but is it a game? We ask our community this occasionally, and it’s split about 50-50 either way. So what are people doing?
SL allows users to collaborate and teach each other. Learning scripting: it’s easy, you have immediate feedback, and other people are willing to help. People spread knowledge and do FAQs. SL really encourages this. As an example: skydiving classes, ingame. Players sell lessons and parachutes. Skydiving became a huge fad in SL for a while. Abbot’s Skydiving sells equipment and airplanes to go up in. An elevator to 4000 feet. Total freedom to create. A service.
Another example of collaborative business: VERTU is a group in RL. They contacted the EFF and wanted to do a fundraise in SL. They raised 1700 bucks. Next month (for Charity X) they did 1900. Then for Hurricane Relief = 2000 US. People in these spaces recognise the virtual currency has value. Philanthropy, giving .. having an impact back on the RL is a real possibility.
Tringo, the current SL fad. A cross between tetris and bingo. Someone in SL wanted a fun social game to play ingame. He created Tringo. In the 3 months since, he’s generated the equivalent of 4000 US in Tringo. He just licensed the realworld distribution rights to Tringo to a mobile game company. Because SL lets him maintain the rights to his IP, he can distribute said rights in the real world, although apparently part of the deal is that he continues to manage the rights individually ingame.
Virtual Hallucinations. Done by a medical doctor who built a place that looks sort of like a hospital. It plays voices from interviews with schizophrenics as you move around the environment. It recreates hallucinations similar to those experienced by schizophrenics: voices from objects, objects that don’t actually exist. There’s a survey at the end. Did this explain schizophrenia to you? Did you find this disturbing? He got about 700 survey responses (for free) so far. He took real-life doctors and schizophrenics families through.. it’s early prototype work, but it’s a very powerful direction for the game to go in.
There are university classes in SL. University of Austin. Urban Planning students. If you have a class SL will give you free space and accounts to just let you in. Students almost always add to the world. We’ve had game designers, sociologists, anthropologists, etc. We’ve had a lot of research happening in SL. However we’ve asked researchers to please let us know if people are doing studies ingame to protect our players’ privacies.
Disabled folk and help groups: Wilde Cunningham / June-marie Mahay. John Lester, founder of Brain Talk Communities, migrated Asperger’s patients and families to SL, where they can experiene a social interaction where they have control. John and June-Marie met ingame and they created Live2Give island. 16 acres of comfortable space, with educational material on cerebral palsy on display, and testimonials from those with CP. They’re trying to reach out to the broader community of sufferers and people who might benefit from these spaces. The group themselves are creating these spaces, we give them the tools.
Like the web, anyone can take part. This is the same, just in 3D.
So what’s next? We’re starting to have shared collaborative spaces that everyone can have access to. What if you want to do experimentation with a business model? What happens if half the stuff in my store is licensed with Creative Commons? You can try it out ingame.
Collaboration. Realtime interaction in 3D. Can we use this to do distance learning, people ask? Don’t ask me, just go do it, you don’t need permission. Don’t go build a 3d world. Don’t go developing the content. Too pricey! Be lazy – there are worlds and communities waiting to help.
Social science research network: www.ssrn.com
Why are you so small?
We spent 11 bucks on advertising? Haha. We want to grow slowly. It’s a nice steady rate. No online world has ever grown like we do. Long gentle growth curve. We’re happy with this. We’re still building our technology.
If users can create and upload anything, haven’t you had a lot of legal trouble as a result?
Since we opened up our IP offering, we‘ve had TWO notices to take down, whereas everyone said we’d have thousands. You can upload textures of anything in SL. If you’re going to do user-created content you can’t approve everything that gets created. That does not scale. But if there’s a notice to takedown we comply.
We have 44km2 of stuff in there. I don’t personally know what’s going on in there, and I never will. The user network will, though. There are groups of users inworld who are very ready for big, interesting projects…