Gentlemen explorers from the big East India Companies of the world will need to cross the native-woven rope-bridges of virtual worlds carefully to avoid plunging into the shark-infested waters of committing pre-fab placement faux pas.
Silly me, I used to think that you won Second Life by skillingskillingskilling learning to build, beating the bosses in sandboxes while showing off your kewl gear purchased at the avalon island, camping at town hall meetings with Lindens, leveling up, leveling up, acquiring first the calling card of a telecommuter Linden...then an office Linden...then even Philip's card...winning a big quest (building contest) and being allocated free Linden land or winning a half or full island to build a game or something...then, the heady trip to California, the job interview...and walla, you are Lindenized (TM) and must *never, never, NEVER tell your original resident alt name!).
Along the way, of course, like the features of other power games like WoW or Ultime Online, you can get special features and open up your own server (well...in SL...get a closed, off-the-map, hidden private island, or start your own alt or keep an alt in high-profile business even while being a Linden, with access to internal knowledge of the BLOTTD, heads-up on the next patches, and connections!).
You might then begin to play Strategic SL with the heavy hitters -- getting a real-life media hit here, getting a real-life building contract there, leveraging your IRC buddy lists. Even I have managed to collect some 25 points in Strategic TSO just by showing up and logging on and going to SL Future Salon (oops I gave you a walkthrough AND a cheat there but heck, I need to level the playing field!).
Partly, it's just sheer dumb luck. I got the 5 points for the Pathfinder bear before Pathfinder figured out he hated me. I even *gave it back to him* in protest over the NolanNashstalking thing, a forums joust, and then later he apologized for letting me be mauled on the forums and sent it back (like I said, sheer dumb luck - I'm not going to get that lucky twice!).
Another time I picked up Philip Linden's calling card for a whopping 15 points. Some days, you just get lucky! I'm probably the only person in the game who triple-negrated Philip Linden audaciously for his wrecking of the GOM AND impudenly tp'd to him once, leveraging the p2p2me of a more favoured son whose card I had, who probably got Philip's friendie the honest way, and said bluntly, during the first hour Philip logged on and was all happy and giddy about p2p in the new patch: "Philip, p2p sucks, the sims are all set to 128/128 default landing points so you teleport into a wall or water or peoples' pose balls, plus, everyone will start ptp2u'ing on your HEAD!!!!".
"Whaa...???" he queried. "Give me your friendship card, and I'll show you!" He gave it to me -- like I said, 95 percent of Strategic SL is just sheer "being in the right place at the right time" and having enormous testicularity.
I backed off to my own home, then p2p'd into his favourite club again RIGHT ON TOP OF HIS HEAD.
"Oh," he said.
Strategic SL is so much fun... I won't reveal all my other points I've collected, in part because some are secret and in part because the HUD counter thingie doesn't work right yet. But...
ALL OF THAT IS FOR NAUGHT NOW.
Because while I was busy in RL, they got a new game patch (these patches are invisible to non-strategic SL players and can only be perceived as a tendency to grid-crash and grey-square more that month).
THERE'S NOW A WHOLE NEW GAME WITH ALL NEW RULES!
That its, sure, we can go on playing that old Strategic SL, like chumps with paper and pencil and Dungeons and Dragons. We can just not download the new game patch, but then, the Lindens can't promise absolute tip-top optimal performance!
So, back to the skill-grind...the levels..the bosses...the long AFK pauses and the hurrying home from work to see if your sim that you left in a macro with a rock on your enter key is so red he died...or worse, skipping work to camp a rare monster with loot who is spawning...like Lawrence Lessig spawns at the Free Culture meeting locations sometimes...
Strategic SL 1.5 isn't completely out of beta..not all the bugs are out, but I think you'll find that the graphics, the interest level, the immersiveness, are all really stellar. For those of you who don't have the graphics card horsepower to play (you'll need to be a master in RL of CAD, PSP, Maya, and have a RL architecture degree from a university somewhere between the 30th and 60th parallels), well, too bad for you.
In fact, you're not likely to get any cheats, walkthroughs, hints, potions, helms, or swords from anybody tethered, as Sherry Terkle very aptly put it in a talk she gave in Second Life, to the virtual world. In fact, the more *untethered* you are, the better!
I'm still working on the hacks (I need find more 13-year-old kids to put to work on this), but let me at least tell you the score: who is winning Second Life (Strategic 1.5)?
Answer: some of the same people -- hey, maybe its *the very same* people who won old Strategic 1.0:
See, Strategic SL is not about getting to be a Linden. That is so 2005! That is so yesterday's newspaper! Strategic SL 1.5 is getting a RL job in SL -- but not just one of those sheep-dip jobs, a job from the REAL big places! Like Microsoft! Or...if not a job...at least having your work shown in their space so that really important people like the ebay guy can see your work.
As you can see, it's an interesting mixture of old FIC like Siggy, newer FIC like Ingrid and Cory Edo; Lindens (well it's just their freebie stuff), excellent crafters whom everyone recognizes like Baron Grayson and Dane Zander, people with unique looks or inventions like Cadroe Murphy (the circle form), Ante Flan (the crashing waves), and what you might call the Indigenous Adapters look -- Lauk's tree house.
Eric Rice in RL (Spin Martin in the game), is a very kewl guy. I had never heard of him, but that means nothing, as I'm very far from kewl myself. People I talk to haven't heard of him, either, and so I try to explain, well, he's this guy on the Internet. Who has podcasts and stuff. They seem perplexed. Well, he has like tekkie news on his blog and kewl stuff, I supply, helpfully. Still bewildered. Well, I finally say, he's important, trust me, because he has MAKE magazine on his island. What's MAKE magazine people ask me? Well, it's just the kewlest thing on 3 legs, please, I inform them, witheringly. OK, I'm told by my interlocutors, who still aren't impressed. Well, look at THIS I say! I mean, is that a kick-ass build or WHAT? (Rez Menoptra
is a RL architect, who has a graduate degree in architecture, works with his wife, Endira. They have a RL business contracting with clients to do virtual projects, includin SL builds).
Well...he brought Microsoft into Second Life, DER, I finally explain in exasperation.
How, you ask? Well, I'm not sure exactly, so I'm trying to piece it together from clues, not having gotten the memo myself. Microsoft came into Second Life on little cat's feet, Tony Walsh reports in Clickable Culture. Zero and Walker were first on the story, so I'm merely following their well-blazed trail.
Not being real estate peeps, however, neither Z or W thought to look under the hood at the land, the objects on it, the build, etc.. I noticed that the island where they are has a land group with all new people in it no one has ever heard of -- well, those are probably the 10net.com staff or something. Maybe Linden alts, who the hell knows. The group has no tier in it -- but as my betters have patiently explained to me, islands don't *have* tier. They just get billed $195. They don't go up and down levels, etc. Duh. I knew that. But didn't think of how it would work in a group. On Democracy Island, I see one owner, for example, and wasn't sure exactly how groups do own islands -- and how you can distinguish between a group owning, i.e. with one person paying that $195 per month on their card, and having the island just deeded to you from another entity, say, Azure Islands' Nexus Nash or Dreamland's Anshe Chung. Or...LL. Interesting to contemplate! Surely, Microsoft would buy their own island?
Clearly, the stealth-entry of MS was carefully planned. Well, maybe casually tossed off kinda like Eric's elaborately-casual hairdo (his website informs us he's one of the hottest geeks on the Internet (his splash page has a quote from Fashiontribe saying, "Geeks just don't come any hotter!"). I still remain loyal to Philip's geek-hot hair first, of course.
I suppose if you're a large entity in RL and you want to enter sim-life, you have several routes you can go, and take any meandering paths combining some or all or none of these, although usually some of them are required for the really big mega-projects:
1. Hire natives for mere kopecks and have them do all the weed-whacking and wild-pig-hunting for awhile (these are enthusiastic fanboyz or people willing to be paid in Lindens or nearly-nothing in US dollars that translate to more in their home countries).
2. Hire sherpas (these are more sophisticated natives or regional experts, i.e. little Internet start-up firms who got in during the beta) to do more complicated heavy lifting and path-clearing and building, plus laying of campfires, and who need U.S. dollars for payment and lots of time off to go to gaming industry conferences and drink with Urizenus Sklar.
3. Hire gentlemen explorers (these white guys cost more but are still willing to scramble with very light go-bags and hit the ground running) -- these are more the RL-beyond-SL types with companies that do not rely exclusively on virtual worlds to survive but already have their own business without them; be prepared to be put on hold or to be told that "gosh, my offline IMs must not be clearing the servers".
4. Hire gentleman scholars (this would be someone like Edward Castranova who starts billing even for the time it takes for him to open and delete your email and schedules phone calls from even CNN only on alternate Tuesdays).
5. Hire the World Bank (under the guise of helping to educate the natives, this clumsy entity will leverage more funding than the hired guns in 1-4, but will drown some of the villages it purports to save with the new dam it builds).
6. Hire the Chinese, Russians, or Indians (competent, quick, motivated, hungry, good DSL lines, low-cost, and -- they'll have a cousin who is in the ministry that holds the keys to your visa AND your construction permits).
7. Hire the British (savvy, kewl, expensive, but...without what the Germans call luft, of lift-off power, so...you hire the Germans after the natives have slaughtered the first team of British, often handing them their engineers' heads literally on a platter like they did those telecom dudes in Chechnya. Then, after the Germans, Spanish, Belgian, and maybe a few Georgians and Kyrgyz have been shot...bring in...
8. Hire the Americans -- expensive, loud, crushing the competition, brash, wrecking as much as they create. When the dust settles and everything's been bought out and merged and reconfigured and repurposed, you'll be ready to...
9. Hire a small international Portugese-Polish-Slovenian-Chilean training firm that specializes in fixing up people problems and training even skilled professionals to adapt to new environments ROFL.
10. Getting the Congress of the United States to pass a bill mandating your virtual world in every public library at the taxpayers' expense (we're not there...yet : ))
I'm thinking Eric fits in somewhere between 2) and 3). I don't know whether he just decided to come in there on his own, or whether they hired him, and how that worked, but I'm thinking...he didn't have a huge budget because...
..it's all prefabs on Microsoft's 10 Island.
Prefabs, you say? Well, yes, prefabs. As in Barnes' Pre(fab)ulous homes! I don't know if this was strategic or accidental, or both, but if strategic, I think it's brilliant. Instead of splashing on to shore in big army boots, backed by gunboats, waving around bayonets and blasting Bruce Springsteen in the background, you sort of work your way in, "empowering the local talent." You scour around the world, shopping, shopping. You talk to people, learn who's in, who's out, who's hot, who's not. You hang out and watch stuff. You go to events like the Future Salon or the Thinkers and you see what people are wearing, and you click on their picks. You pick up Ingrid's furniture, and then by clicking on her picks, you get to the rest.
Eric Rice's picks are a little novella of their own (like anybody's in SL!) -- and a taste-making industry influencing little SLYSPACE all their own (still trying to think up what to call the SL avatar's myspace thinger):
MechMind Industries, Midnight City, Multiverse Records and Radio, Nexus Prime, Nexus Prime AGAIN (Tyrell Corporation), Slackstreet Business District, Special Occasion Shops, Swell Second Life's Men's Clothes, the GNUbie Store.
Like the balloon's that formed with whoever you came into contact in TSO, the picks tell a lot about a person's networking in SL.
Well, are you starting to get it a little bit better now? Aimee's sim, FlipperPA's land in Indigo, and the mysterious Tyrell Corporation (the group Tyrell in FIND GROUP shows the founder as "nobody" (!) because they are long since excised from the resident list, I guess, and the members are all charter members you've never heard of who are probably Linden alts and such).
Actually, even with 200,000, all of us in SL are probably separated only by three degrees of separation, not six, as in RL, so I'm pleased to see that Eric Rice, this really kewl Internet dude, shopped at Special Occasions like I did once and maybe talked even to that same girl I did! So, like, I'm one link away from him! Plus, frankly, I knew Ingrid before HE knew Ingrid! I go back all the way to TSO with Ingrid! Uh...Erm...ok, that was the best I could do, sorry, since I cut Barnes' card : (
So...10 Island then has a rather, well, hmmm...eclectic look. There's Barnes' Sea Wave house that I like to pride myself on being the first to show off inworld back in the Refugio club days...perched on top of Blanc Noir's module (Blanc being Cubey Terra's alt for doing module thingies). Porky Gorky is probably an alt, too, and he has contributed something blindingly white in the Adam Zaius style of toilet-tile production. Bill Stirling who is very good with textures, fences, walls, etc. for these kinds of island looks was a must. And of course, how can we do without Ingrid's Home Store furniture. Ingrid's card was cut ages ago, I routinely clash with her on the forums, and she's quite mean to me (so I dish it right back), but gosh, I can't imagine Second Life without Ingrid's furniture! Nor can you! I just bought the Bali set, have you seen it? I have spent ages trying to get *just that shade* of olive green and can't do it. She probably has a secret formula patented for that RGB number combo, but each time I stop in my office, I fiddle on Toast's pot for practice, trying to get *just that shade*.
A friend with a more discriminating artistic eye than I visited the 10 island and pronounced it "a crap build".
But, I disagree. It's not a crap build. It's not a build, technically, but an erm...potpourri. It's an indigenous campsite that the sherpas/gentleman explorer have laid out for their first reconnaissance mission. It's not crap. These are *our people*. These are the people that we, as the worlders of Second Life, can be proud of. These are all those people who came in here and worked for nothing in their spare time to perfect their craft and get really good. Now, to be sure, some of them also slept their way to the top, possibly, or simply go on the IRC channel a lot, but that doesn't mean they aren't talented!
I do have to chuckle that when I first visited 10, to come to this much-ballyhooed party of theirs, I didn't see anything from Siggy Romulus. Whew, that was a close one, sez I! Today, when popping in, I saw that ghastly basket-weave gazebo was up...and I'm sure that nasty turd-brown shingled beach house isn't far behind! Somebody probably put a bug in Spin's ear that you cannot have FirstIsland without a Siggy.
Oh, I forgot to explain what FirstIsland is. FirstLand is those 512s that you get for free with the $9.95 like a bag of chips on the bus to Atlantic City? Your first land is always in some crappy newbie hell surrounding by spinning pink dildos lagging the sim, and the objective in your first skill-up of Strategic SL is not only to get out of that hell-mouth of SL by selling the plaguey thing, but getting a Linden liaison to visit your land over some 3- or 4-way border-blocking griefer issue so that you can get that all-important first Linden calling-card you need to get on your way up the levels.
In fact, frankly, nowadays, I find people are *deliberately getting their friends to block them on 3 sides* just to speed up that first calling-card giveaway. Jeez. In my day...oh, never mind, let me explain some more about 10.
FirstIsland is what the Lindens give you for free, or what you get with your government grant and 501-c-3 status for $950 instead of $1250, or which you write off as "server storage space" (I wish I could get my clients to buy THAT one on my expense accounts! "Uhh, yeah, sure that $195 a month in server storage space are all big reports and digital photographs from Uzbekistan.")
Cienna Rand is there with some kind of graphics thing...there's a sculptured, rideable horse by Dee (who early on decided that if she was going to compete with Starax, it would be by picking one animal, and doing it WELL!)...and then some very new talent -- can't be sure whether by an alt or a genuine newbie.
All these years, we've been to those god-awful town hall meetings in Pooley-Brampton? And we sit around that awful campfire with these pointy sticks with the one lame marshmallow on them. I don't know about you, but *my* marshmallow, even being virtual, is getting a bit soggy and is long past the sell-by date.
No fear, this new guy, named Angstrom Kivioq, has made a plastic bag of marshmallows. I was thrilled! He's also the same guy who made that Starax-like white sculpture of a fist on the beach clenched at the sky. It was Tony Walsh who pointed out that this was really the only iconic reference to Microsoft. Unfortunately, the marshmallows aren't copyable or for sale, but I suspect not all the MS people worked the game levers yet.
I went to their party, and found nobody else was there but me and them. I rapidly realized this wasn't a kewl party if I was at it, sheesh, I mean, how lame can it get??? But silly me, figuring if it was on the events list and was Microsoft and blogged by Tony and Mark, it would probably have not only 40 avatars, but Hamlet in his blindingly-white Jesus suit. I got there early to just get my ass on a chair before the sim split up, and went AFK.
When I awoke, a girl was trying to get her animations to stop -- you know how that happens when you get a drink of beer but then the damn thing won't STOP??? Four or five of the other MS operatives were spread-eagled in Appearance mode struggling with the sliders.
A guy in a bear costume/skin that itself was what I might tactfully call 'a sim lagger' helpfully told the kids that they should get out of appearance mode, as it was lagging the sim!
I gave some of them some newbie help cards and chatted but nobody was paying any attention to anyone else because people were crashing, relogging, struggling. You know, SL.
I hung around for about 20 minutes clicking on stuff and trying to strike up conversations with people with funny names, then gave up lol. I'm sure the party got started right after I left!
Well, so that's Microsoft. Are you starting to fill in the dots? Yes, they need to put out more freebies -- they've got a lame t-shirt and nothing clickable! Come on, this is Microsoft, not the Shelter or Prok's Seafood after all, surely they can make interactive scripted clickable thingies? Call Cristiano -- why wasn't he in on the ground floor on this one?
And the activities have to have more em....content than just beer drinking and appearance-mode spread-eagles -- and I'm sure that very, very soon, there will be very kewl industry bleeding edge conferencing and podcasting and all that good stuff, only more likely out of the Slackstreet Business District that Spin built on another island.
But...don't worry. Yes, MS is here. No, they're not going to buy up all the islands...yet. They're not going to flood your village. They're just going to prefab you to death and make SL fashion faux pas like putting Barnes on top of Cubey and Lauk next to Porky Gorky. But...it's SL. Be thankful they didn't make a big spinning pink dildo.