You know what the first rule of flying is?

For over eight years now I’ve been helping to guide the ship known as The Wastelands.  We had a phenomenal boom when we were but larvae on the Second Life grid; thanks to mostly word of mouth and Warren Ellis documenting our growth.  In the early days our land ownership capacity was always full, and we were struggling to just build more lands for people to come live on.  But then that bubble suddenly popped.

A series of growing pains came to Second Life right at the end of 2007.  An almost perfect storm of things.  Virtual gambling and then “banking” bans, major commercial content developers pulling out, news articles decrying SL as nothing but a sexual deviants paradise, pedophiles, a glut of virtual land, and pricing changes all made the grid start hemorrhaging it’s player base.  Just after all of that happened, the first CEO and pioneer of SL decided to move on to other projects.  The growing pains became more intense with a 66% employee layoff, the reign of M Linden and trying to turn SL into Facebook or Twitter, and what seemed like utter paralytic stagnation in terms of SL development for years.  For the most part The Wastelands has weathered all of this rather well, we’re survivors after all.  But it wasn’t easy…

It was as if we were all in a long dark tunnel in a mountain.  The kind that curves so you can’t see any light from either end.  You know you’re someplace in there with all the other vehicles trying to find an end — but you don’t know if you’re going to make it because you’re choking on the exhaust fumes.  You feel hopeless in the dark.  So many regions and excellent places in SL are just gone now, as they certainly couldn’t make it out.  Whole estates in SL have been gobbled up by bigger estates, others have just crashed and burned, and some have just taken advantage of peoples’ trust and their wallets.  The Wastelands even had to cut off a few regions just to stay alive, all while even the mega estates collapsed and vanished.  It was all very cutthroat, do or die, survival of the fittest.  Undoubtedly, these were the darkest ages of Second Life.

After what seemed like the longest years of SL, Rodvik Linden came in, shook up the place, and quickly left.  But I feel that due to his efforts during his short tenure, we could finally start to see the light shining around the bend.  Either a lot of low hanging fruit from the projects Linden Lab was working on had fallen, or just a lot of newer smaller projects got developed that made big impacts on SL seemed to turn things around in the right direction.  LL as a whole started to diversify into other not-SL things, but still kept steady enough development on SL to make positive progress. Then Ebbe Linden came in and kept up the momentum.  It’s pretty much been nothing but good news for SL since.  More recently there’s even been positive “news” articles about SL.  We just need to keep riding this wave high until the next storm comes.

Over this past weekend for the first time since 2008, I was one parcel shy from full capacity.  I have no doubt we’ll be completely full by time summer break arrives.  I may even have to have a waiting list for a new region.  Certainly all the damaged isn’t reversed, but I genuinely feel like everything has finally turned around.  Sure SL still has some issues to hammer out.  But just like my projects, they’re never REALLY done.  There’s always work to be done.  If you’re going to do anything well, you’ve got to really put your best work into it.  You have to be passionate, even manic, to really survive against improbable odds.  Even then, the amount of effort we put into things doesn’t always add up to a net gain, and for some that’s fine.  In more ways than one, The Wastelands is like the ship Serenity in Firefly.  We keep flying because of love.

I don’t apologize for the 1.5 years lapse in posts, I have been busy.

Why a Tier Reduction Won’t Bring Back Old Second Life Users

Earlier this week I made a strange realization that Second Life is much like The Never Ending Story.  In the Never Ending Story movie, there is a world called Fantasia.  It is created from the imagination of the people of our world, and more specifically the books we read and write.  Fantasia becomes endangered when the world is slowly being destroyed by a mysterious force called The Nothing. Eventually this force bleeds into our world, blanking out our books. Without spoiling the movie it takes quite a hero to put things right at the very last possible moment.

In a lot of ways Second Life is like the Never Ending Story. It’s created by the imaginations of people who exist in our world, who help breathe life into an alter-world.  Each region is like a book that tells someones story.  Each avatar is a character of that story.  Sadly, much like the movie the nothing is affecting us too.  The grid continues to shrink at a steady pace; sometimes hemorrhaging more regions than average each week. Slowly we’re losing our creative spaces — and if the “authors” of these creative spaces leave the odds of them coming back for a special sale are pretty slim. They’re gone for good.

Recently Linden Lab offered old discounts to educational entities that were in SL. While it may seem generous, it is too little, too late.  Here’s why:  If you’re an educational entity, you’re either going to pay someone to build your region, or build your region yourself.  If they paid someone, the odds are they’ve paid at least a couple thousand dollars to build it, and it took months to build.  If they made it themselves, the odds are it took many people several months to put it together. If they left Second Life, their regions and all the effort they put into it is gone.  A sale or special offer simply is not enough to compensate for the time and money they’ve already spent, and lost.

Even if tier were reduced for everyone today, I doubt it would bring back more than 5% of the creators who’ve already left Second Life. They already know that SL is a specialty platform, and that working on it can be very, very difficult at times. Starting over with a blank canvas on any other medium usually a breath of fresh air, but SL is a specialty case where the value of the service is at best tolerable. SL is expensive, plagued by bugs, plagued by service disruptions, filled with stolen content, and a champion of doing the bare minimum for customer service.  If SL could knock out half of these problems for good, it would add a lot of value to the service, and almost make it worth $295 a month for one region.

Right now, a special offer will do very little to win back anyone who’s left. The only thing a tier reduction would do now is encourage people who are still here to stay. It might entice new users in SL to try to create more immerse spaces. For a while it may staunch the loss of regions every month. What SL needs more than anything right now is MORE immersive places. But for now, the Nothing is consuming the grid, and the only way to battle it is to make the entry level into creating immerse spaces easier to obtain or make SL worth the fees we’re charged.

Katelynn Lysette

(Tralala IMed me that someone was outside of their plot being kind of crazy, and had followed her from Insillico I TPed in to observe, though I saw nothing. She flew into the sky after that, and I assume she was going up to a skybox. I was about to follow, but she IMed me.)

[16:15] Katelynn Lysette: do you know tralala?
[16:15] NeoBokrug Elytis: Kind of, why?
[16:15] Katelynn Lysette: please tell the piece of shit to stop being a lil coward and talk to me

(Okaaaayy…. Do go on!)

[16:16] Katelynn Lysette: pathetic how he is acting
[16:17] NeoBokrug Elytis: People can mute people for no reason at all. They don’t have to talk to you.
[16:17] Katelynn Lysette: lol
[16:17] Katelynn Lysette: well
[16:17] Katelynn Lysette: this piece of shit insulted me like no one ever has
[16:17] Katelynn Lysette: our friend died 2 days ago
[16:17] NeoBokrug Elytis: Then mute her
[16:17] Katelynn Lysette: im seriousl, if you know this douchbag peice of shit, i urge you to challenge him
[16:17] Katelynn Lysette: thats not a fucking girl
[16:18] Katelynn Lysette: discover for yourself what a fucking piece of shit this person is
[16:18] NeoBokrug Elytis: I don’t care much.
[16:19] NeoBokrug Elytis: The only person being kind of crazy right now is you. I don’t know you and you’re swearing up a storm. Tralala has been nothing but cordial to almost everyone I’ve seen her interact with I’m sorry that you’ve got a grudge, but people have a right to mute others.
[16:19] Katelynn Lysette: fuck ff lol

(Whoops, estate banned!)

[16:19] Katelynn Lysette: sorry i messaged you
[16:19] Katelynn Lysette: dont get involved in this
[16:19] Katelynn Lysette: lol neat
[16:20] Katelynn Lysette: you the owner oif this shithole sim?
[16:20] Katelynn Lysette: lol
[16:20] NeoBokrug Elytis: Yeah, I think I will. I don’t appreciate you on my estate stalking the residents.
[16:20] Katelynn Lysette: fuck your estate lol
[16:20] Katelynn Lysette: and fuck tralala lame
[16:20] Katelynn Lysette: there’s a difference between stalking and trying to talk to soemone
[16:20] Katelynn Lysette: she needs to face me
[16:21] Katelynn Lysette: is wrong what she said to me, you dont fuck with and insult someone about their lover that died 2 days ago
[16:21] NeoBokrug Elytis: She doesn’t need to.
[16:21] Katelynn Lysette: fuck for gwtting involved and thinking you are someone
[16:21] Katelynn Lysette: and fuck your trashy ass sim
[16:21] Katelynn Lysette: lol
[16:21] NeoBokrug Elytis: What would your lover do? How would they feel about how you’re acting now?
[16:21] Katelynn Lysette: excuse me?
[16:21] Katelynn Lysette: thats none of your business

:C

[16:22] Katelynn Lysette: tralala lame said some crazy stupid shit to em and she needs to answer for it
[16:22] Katelynn Lysette: it’s not right
[16:22] Katelynn Lysette: you dont fuck with people when they are burting
[16:22] Katelynn Lysette: wake up.
[16:22] Katelynn Lysette: thim not interested in any more of your silly shit
[16:23] Katelynn Lysette: fuck you for interefereing, your place or not
[16:23] Katelynn Lysette: fucking retard
[16:23] NeoBokrug Elytis: Just thought I’d strike a chord. I don’t typically ban people from the estate for hanging out on peoples ban lines, but we have a rule here that’s called “Don’t be a douchebag”, and I was going to try and have a civil conversation with you. However, it’s pretty apparent I can’t.
[16:23] Katelynn Lysette: Katelynn Lysette (busy response): The Resident you messaged has blocked you from sending them any messages. Sorry
[16:25] Katelynn Lysette: you can tell that piece of shit that i’ll be waiting for him when he returns to his other shitty wanna be diner at insilico
[16:25] Katelynn Lysette: no place to hide there
[16:25] Katelynn Lysette: welcome to my mute list shithead
[16:25] NeoBokrug Elytis: http://i.qkme.me/3p3u87.jpg
[16:25] Katelynn Lysette: Katelynn Lysette (busy response): The Resident you messaged has blocked you from sending them any messages. Sorry
[16:29] Katelynn Lysette: amazes me how stupid you must be
[16:29] Katelynn Lysette: sad

(I thought I was muted?)

[16:30] Katelynn Lysette: you can pretend that people are right to mute others
[16:30] Katelynn Lysette: but i have never had someone say such stupid and rude things to me
[16:30] Katelynn Lysette: sometimes people need to answer for their behavio

(45 minutes later, still not muted.)

[17:12] Katelynn Lysette: it’s funny how you try to talk to me..
[17:12] Katelynn Lysette: ‘stop stalking my tennent’
[17:12] Katelynn Lysette: lol
[17:12] Katelynn Lysette: sad that you let this person confuse you
[17:12] Katelynn Lysette: she must have messahed you crying lol
[17:15] NeoBokrug Elytis: Thought you muted me: http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/24231123.jpg
[17:15] Katelynn Lysette: look, i dont think it was right earlier
[17:16] Katelynn Lysette: im sorry for causing trouble, but it’s wrong how people can do things in sl and then mute the person they did them to
[17:16] NeoBokrug Elytis: http://static.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/1338588384177_4783689.png
[17:16] Katelynn Lysette: what is this link?
[17:16] NeoBokrug Elytis: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l8q0okIaDc1qzv40bo1_500.jpg
[17:16] Katelynn Lysette: so instead of communicating you put links up?
[17:17] NeoBokrug Elytis: http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/oh-no-im-out-of-fucks-to-give.jpg
[17:17] NeoBokrug Elytis: Finally: http://i.imgur.com/nhRgD.png
[17:17] Katelynn Lysette: why dont you just talk to me instead please
[17:18] Katelynn Lysette: lol thats about as lame as it gets
[17:18] Katelynn Lysette: what are you like 15 yrs old?
[17:18] Katelynn Lysette: fucking retard LOLOLOLOL
[17:19] Katelynn Lysette: now i see why that happened
[17:19] Katelynn Lysette: because you’re an immature lil douchbag too

(Many hours later)

[20:54] Katelynn Lysette: wow i’ve been to the wastelands and enjoyed it many times, thought it was an interesting place, i never imagined that it ws owned by such a childish pathetic lil shithead lol
[20:54] Katelynn Lysette: seriosuly, you’re fucking pathetic
[20:54] NeoBokrug Elytis: http://www.lolmadly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/dropped-the-fuck.jpg
[20:54] Katelynn Lysette: lolol
[20:54] Katelynn Lysette: exactly what a childish lil douchbag would say instead of responding intelligently
[20:54] Katelynn Lysette: have anything real to say, shithead?
[20:55] Katelynn Lysette: seriosuly, grow the fuck up
[20:55] Katelynn Lysette: lol
[20:55] Katelynn Lysette: 15 year old fag
[20:55] Katelynn Lysette: lol
[20:55] Katelynn Lysette: cant respond inteligently can you?
[20:55] Katelynn Lysette: you;re too busy being a lil bitch lol
[20:56] Katelynn Lysette: wow your gf looks like shit too, oh well birds fo a feather i guess lol
[20:56] Katelynn Lysette: probably another fake girl like tralala
[20:57] Katelynn Lysette: you can ban me thats fine, but if i ever see you anywhere else in sl it’s going to be your ass
[20:57] Katelynn Lysette: remember that;)
[20:58] Katelynn Lysette: see you around, shtihead:)

(I’ll keep updating the more she IMs me)

The Wastelands: Six Spans in the Sand

WL6B_poster

Click to see our events!

The Wastelands is going to be 6 years old in a few days.  In Second Life years that’s far beyond extinct.  We’ve beaten the odds most estates face on a year to year basis. Historically, nothing lasts very long inworld unless a huge effort is made. It is because of the really awesome community in The Wastelands that we’re still here today. I’m glad everyone is still comin’ by to visit. If you’re in Second Life come visit and celebrate with us this weekend!

Binge Learning, Task Wranglin’, and More!

Man.  It’s been three months since I posted anything of any significance in this blog.  I don’t really aim to change that trend with this post, but just sort of consolidate some thoughts.

First of all, I have been on a crusade to populate my brain with new things! In the past three months I’ve learned PHP PDO, how to normalize database design, build my own compact LSL protocol for off-grid communications, researched and built a self redundant system for inworld http LSL communications, and this month I am polishing off a secret masterpiece of inworld scripting.  Unfortunately, right now most of what I have been learning can only be seen with inworld projects like The Traders or the Doktor in the Wastelands.  They certainly don’t take advantage of everything I’ve learned, but they use some components of the things I’ve developed.  For the moment, I’m sort of wading my feet in the water to get a feel for it all.  If anything it makes me paranoid that things are just going so well.

I am actually very happy with all the Wastelands projects I’ve been working on this year.  For as complex as the things I have been working on are, they’re relatively bug free! The bugs that do pop up are always from when the sl grid is being uncooperative. On the other hand they’ve got crazy OCD levels of error catching and reporting; so they essentially ‘turn off’ for a while if there’s problems.

I was going to take a stab at coding a libOMV bot, but after some research and consulting their IRC channel — libOMV doesn’t support setting Estate Windlight settings, yet.  The exact reason I wanted to learn it was to make “real time”, realistic weather for my estate.  I guess I’ll just keep watch for when and if they add that, then revisit the idea.

The Crimson ThroneIt took a little over two years to run my Curse of the Crimson Throne game inside Second Life, but we finally finished it a week ago. Gameplay is much slower in SL than tabletop. I am a little bit disappointed in my skills as a GM, I had hoped the players would be interested in certain things, and less interested in other things. Then again it was my first game I’ve GMed since probably junior high; and I had to convert things from DnD 3.5 to Pathfinder all too often.  None the less, MOST of the players had fun.  So much so that we’re going to be playing Savage Worlds Deadlands in the coming weeks.  It’s a simpler system that doesn’t seem to have a great power imbalance in the later levels. I like Pathfinder LOTS, but those high levels are pretty brutal on both players and GMs.

In not-second-life, I’ve been on and off sick.  Possibly due to stress, possibly due to the heat, possibly due to not eating like I should. In reality, possibly all of the above. Everything combined with the normal migraines has kept me down for some portions of last week.  Usually I can work when I am sick or when I have a migraine, but I get to learn the hard way not both.  A lesson I never remember.

A big thorn in my side has been my hosting provider Dreamhost.  There’s been a TON of downtime in the past month, that I’m actually considering moving some of the more important processing to the cloud.  It’s going to be a bit more expensive, so I will have to try to offset that cost somehow. I guess I could always look into Dreamhost VPS, which is just about as expensive, if not more.

Everything considered, I’m very excited for the upcoming months!  I have all these projects with sub-projects coming to maturity. All that’s left is more testing (on The Wastelands), and bug fixes as they come.

Second Life: Region Idling, Where’s the Trade Off?

Soon Second Life will introduce region idling, a new “feature” intended to make SL servers run more efficiently. The intended way it’s supposed to work is if that there is no one on the region, and no one is looking into the region, that the region would go into a sort of “low power” mode. Before even I get to see it in operation, I already have several problems with this.

In the past Linden Lab has vehemently sworn up and down that regions on some piece of  hardware do not affect other regions utilizing that same hardware. So obviously this must be a power related cost saving measure, and not the fact that regions actually do impact other regions performance. For the record I’ve filed several JIRAs reporting poor performance, for no discernible reason other than sharing hardware with a resource hog of a region. But for now, let’s pretend that’s not the case.  Let’s pretend LL is doing this to save money on their power bills.

Here’s the part where I get extra irate.  Rather than investing money Region Idling, you should be investing money in some VERY SERIOUS JIRAs that eat up a TON of your customer support resources.  At this point having people on customer support must cost more than a region being online does because you’ve shed thousands of regions in the past year. That’s how you’re going to save a ton of money.  Make estates easy and manageable to the point where estate owners don’t need to contact support.

As a customer who pays SEVERAL THOUSANDS of dollars to Linden Lab PER MONTH for the service, and as an estate owner I should be able to decide what I do with my regions. As it stands now, this isn’t what I signed up for. I sure don’t have things running full time, but if I want my region to be full automation even while people aren’t on it, that’s what I signed up for. I should be allowed to script up a fully automated eco-system and check in on it’s progress when I feel like it. Not to only see that it’s gone only 1/10th of it’s intended pace. As it stands now the price for a full region isn’t worth it anymore. I’ve seen nothing but value of service decline over the past 5 years. Currently homesteads are limited to 20 avs per region, live support only asks you questions until the problem goes away on it’s own or you leave in utter frustration, and concierge phone support isn’t even 24-7 anymore.  On top of all that we’re getting the performance equivalent of a virtual host that is more costly than dedicated host pricing.  Chew on that.

So now that region idling is here, what’s the trade off for us?  Do estate owners who pay the bulk of supporting the grid get to have their regions on full time? Are all regions capable of holding more avatars now? What kind of added features are we going to see out of this? Is this just a crap trade off for pathfinding? Are our tier rates going to finally be lowered? Time will only tell. There’s one thing I can say to any Linden reading this.  I am really fed up with the platforms recent choices — make a favorable change soon.

Important SL JIRA issues for May

What an intense month for the Second Life grid!  Marketplace, search, hardware failure, and general asset server issues made a lot of people upset. However we’ve seemed to pull up out of that nose dive only in the last few days of April. Things seem stable (as they get) for now. Here’s this months list of important things!

Important Server Fixes

  • [WEB-4678] Regions not showing in inworld search.  This JIRA is just the tip of the iceburg for many search related problems. I myself, historically, don’t use search that often.  But this month I’ve been using search to see how my available parcels show up. Most times they do, but sometimes they don’t. For now there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why search intermittently fails.
  • [SVC-7837] Filtering by object name or owner name in top scripts/top colliders no longer works. Estates are already hard enough to manage when “estate wide” functions don’t work. Now the most very basic functions are broken. Rather than try to fidget with broken inworld tools, I’ll just call Concierge to do it for me. :P
  • [SCR-312] llSetRegionPos() does not return false when trying to move into nonexistent region. This one is a bit close to my heart, as I had hoped the llSetRegionPos() function would be smart enough to return a FALSE rather than try to cross into a non-existent region during a rolling restart. Getting a dozen or so IMs every time a region restarts because objects being returned is not cool.

Important Client Fixes

  • [VWR-15729] and [MAINT-720] Unknown failure mode causes uncontrolled network flooding. These issues are closed, but they shouldn’t be. Essentially the problem is if that you use the voice feature in Second Life, after you log out or quit the provider (Vivox) can keep sending you data for over an hour. But get this, the issue was closed as “Won’t Fix”, with no reasoning added to the issue, but a comment is later added to the issue where Mercille Linden says that it’s a Vivox issue that they have no control over. Tateru Nino makes an excellent comment about how they don’t have direct control over the issue, but LL can at the very least talk to Vivox about it, and help to fix the issue. The only known fix is to DELETE SLVoice.exe, and with that lose your SL voice features. But SL voice has historically been filled with problems, perhaps it’s time for LL to find a different voice provider?
  • [VWR-248] Inexplicable folding of Avatars such that they are walking around with their heads up their arses. Even though this JIRA was filed in 2007, this bug has been in SL since I started way back in 2005.  This bug doesn’t happen very often, but it’s plenty humorous when it does happen.  It’s just one of those annoying, but silly things in SL.
  • [ALL THE JIRAS] Alpha Flicker Issues Please Linden Lab. Dedicate someone to fixing the alpha sorting issues that have been around since SL BEGAN. SL would be a much better place if my client wasn’t going to give me an epileptic fit from staring at some sculpt trees.

My Wish List

  • Asset and LSL function versioning. More often than not any feature that we’d like to upgrade gets rebuffed by the lab with their catch phrase “It’ll break existing content”. I think it’s time to start versioning the assets.  Mesh2, and llSensor2() are just examples.  For instance Mesh2 could have all the qualities of a mesh in SL as of now, plus future upgrades, or llSensor2() could be a more fine grained control of sensing things around us, by owner, on land, etc.

Tip of the Hat

  • We can finally fly to 4000+ meters in the sky without a flight assist.  This is another one of those long desired, but simple user experience features that have been years in the making.