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Second Life

Free for All: Second Life, the little 75 million-dollar engine that could

Culture, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Sandbox, Anniversaries

Second Life
Do not call Second Life a game. If you find yourself in the position of describing the game at all publicly, be prepared to be corrected: Second Life is not a game; it's a world. Let me amend that: Second Life is an experience, a world, a game, or whatever the players, residents, and consumers want to call it. In fact, the Linden Lab baby is whatever you want to make of it, and I have seen many, many sides of it over the last eight years since I joined the experience.

Don't worry; this column will not be a fanboy rehash of the successes of Second Life and will not be a recount of my favorite memories. Instead, we'll focus on facts to prove just how incredible this latest ninth anniversary is.

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The Daily Grind: Would you play an adult MMO?

Fantasy, Age of Conan, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Second Life, The Daily Grind, Mortal Online

Age of Conan - CasildaYesterday we told you about an adult MMO called Orgia Romanus that's causing a stir due to its focus on sexual content. While the game is certainly taking an over-the-top approach, it's by no means the first MMO to walk this path.

Indie titles like Sociolotron and portions of virtual worlds like Second Life are renowned for their focus on various taboo topics, while more traditional titles like Age of Conan and Mortal Online have dabbled in avatar nudity and adult-oriented quests.

But what if an MMO came along that managed to incorporate adult topics in a manner devoid of sensationalism? Sure, it's a tall order, but let's assume it's possible. Would you play it, or do you steer clear of anything with the "adult" label?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

The Daily Grind: Are virtual worlds still important?

Culture, Opinion, Second Life, The Daily Grind, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

The Sims Online
As part of the recent Massively Speaking bicentennial, we were reminiscing about the fact that Massively used to have a much heavier focus on virtual worlds. While we still touch on those from time to time, these types of "games" don't seem to be as hot as they once were. Or maybe they are and we're just not seeing it!

From Habitat to The Sims Online to Second Life, there have been many attempts at constructing vibrant, community-driven virtual worlds that would draw in players looking to create dual lives that were flashier and more fantastic than their real lives. These games once were heralded as the wave of the future, but it seems as if that wave has since moved on to bashing things with their +4 Clubs of Exquisite Suffering.

So what say you: Are virtual worlds still important? Are we trying to return to the concept by embracing sandbox principles? Are they best left to wither and die in the annals of history?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Second Life used to teach relaxation techniques

Culture, MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

Second Life - happy avatars
Who says Second Life's best days are behind it? Not Medical News Today, which reports that the long-running virtual world from Linden Lab has been successfully used to teach relaxation techniques. Massachusetts General Hospital researchers recently conducted a study that concluded that online worlds like Second Life can be useful in "teaching a mind/body approach that includes the relaxation response."

The study found that by doing away with the limitations of face-to-face meetings (and easing the minds of participants who are uncomfortable in real-world group settings), virtual worlds can foster more relaxing and healthy experiences. The study featured 24 individuals who were divided into three groups and subjected to eight weeks of online sessions in Second Life.

Researchers found that participants "showed reductions in depression- and anxiety-related symptoms," though it's also important to note that participants had prior experiences with virtual worlds.

Free for All: I got the Second Life inventory management blues

Real-Life, Culture, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free for All

Second Life screenshot
Every year I attempt to go through my Second Life inventory in the hope that it actually works out for me. I really do want to get rid of the 7,000+ items I have after eight years in the game (my game-birthday is on May 26th!), but it's such a daunting task. Where do you start? Is organization really even needed? Well, yes it is, from what I have heard. Everyone is running in-world carrying endless pockets filled with everything possible, and that's going to cause some lag and effort on the server's part.

Also, I have an obsession with minimizing my life. I hate physical stuff. It takes up room, collects dust, and just sits there. Sure, I maintain all of my art if I can and some other important items like pictures and cute little knick-knacks, but otherwise, if I don't use it, it gets tossed, sold, or set on the curb for the junk-people to grab.

I feel the same way about Second Life. There's a mental burden that years of junk presses onto someone, digital representation or not. It's no wonder those people in that Hoarders show look so down; it's a hard life to lose the ability to throw anything away, ever.

I am making a stand, slowly. I am going to get this inventory under control by coming up with some ideas to help me along.

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Linden Lab's Second Life 'extremely profitable,' company looking to expand

MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

Second Life - hot air balloon at sunset
Second Life has dropped out of the limelight in recent years, but if a new piece at GamesIndustry.biz is on the mark, the long-running virtual world may be primed for something of a renaissance.

Former Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon vacated the throne in June 2010, and veteran developer Rod Humble took over at the beginning of 2011. Since then, the EverQuest and The Sims veteran has been working hard to bring a bit of structure to Second Life's virtual sprawl, and in the process, reinvigorate what was one of the first MMORPG media darlings.

"I was taken aback by just how big Second Life was," Humble says. "To be honest, it had fallen off my radar until I got the call offering me the position. And I looked at their numbers; this is a world that has got 1 million people logging in every month, generating well in excess of $75 million a year -- it's extremely profitable."

Humble spent much of 2011 refining the product, and everything from the sign-up process to the UI to world transportation received some attention. The result was a 40 percent uptick in new users, and now Humble is bent on expanding Linden Lab's offerings beyond Second Life. "Linden Lab has been very successful with one innovative product, but I want to stretch the company out again, to make it a really exciting place where people can't wait to find out about the next unusual title we're going to release," he said.

Free for All: Comparing the payment models of Second Life and Pocket Legends

Business Models, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Second Life and Pocket Legends screenshots
Over the last few weeks I have been taking a look at different free-to-play payment models in the hopes of showing just how much variety there is in today's market. The term free-to-play is open to interpretation, and every time I become involved in a discussion about what the term means, I come to the same point: Show me the game and I'll tell you how "free" it is. While more titles than not can be enjoyed completely for free, it's important to note that every game needs to make money, so every developer hopes some players pay for something.

We also must note that the term "free-to-play" is almost like the term "rock-and-roll." It is a general term that can be broken into many sub-genres. In other words, don't be so uptight about the literal meaning of the word. If you are not sure, check out the game in question.

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Free for All: Old Second Life documentary still highlights truths

Real-Life, Video, Business Models, Culture, Opinion, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Free for All, Sandbox

Second Life documentary screenshot
So I was working on this week's Free for All last night when a buddy of mine asked me if I had seen a certain older Second Life documentary. I didn't think I had before, but it turns out that my usual record of consuming everything MMO still stands, and it was fun to re-watch the older documentary again for several reasons.

One of the most important things I noticed about the film was just how universal to MMO gaming the documentary was. The issues it brought up are still issues, the problems with virtual worlds are still problems, and the fact that any technology older than six months looks laughable on film is still true. It was also encouraging to see how well Second Life has aged since 2007, but it's slightly depressing to see just how horrible MMO documentaries can be at showing the entire picture.

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Some Assembly Required: A virtual world roundup

Fantasy, Super-hero, Aion, Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, Darkfall, Dofus, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Fallen Earth, Final Fantasy XI, Flyff, Lord of the Rings Online, PlanetSide, Ryzom, Wurm Online, Opinion, Second Life, Star Trek Online, Ultima Online, Vanguard, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Mabinogi, Mortal Online, Wizard101, Runes of Magic, DC Universe Online, RIFT, Xsyon, Family, Post-Apocalyptic, Some Assembly Required, Sandbox

Some Assembly Required header
If you are perusing this column, chances are you are a fan of virtual worlds and the sandbox genre. Join the club! (Dues will be due on the third Tuesday.) The aspect that compels many aficionados to delve into a game is the ability to make an impact on the world in some small respect instead of making them into Hive Member 1593072 running a static, predetermined gauntlet. How that impact is accomplished, however, varies; there are multiple features that can facilitate it, and which ones are considered most important depends on the player.

With the loss of one of the best sandbox games just last month, some players may be feeling a void. Others still are looking/hoping for the "ultimate" sandbox that contains nearly every virtual world feature. Certainly, there are some upcoming games that make some drool-worthy promises, but what about playing something now? There are actually games out on the market that have at least one aspect of the genre, if not more.

To start off the new year, Some Assembly Required looks at some of the top features of virtual worlds and lists games that incorporate these features. While this list isn't exhaustive (considering the sheer number of games when you include all of the smaller free-to-play titles, I'd run out of column space!), it is a comprehensive enough overview to point you toward some games worth playing that perhaps you hadn't considered before.

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Second Life rolls out Linden Realms publicly on December 1st

Culture, Game Mechanics, News Items, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Browser, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Next month, raid content.
Something very unusual is coming to Second Life on December 1st: a game. All right, that in and of itself isn't all that unusual, since the virtual world has long empowered users to create their own systems and their own games. But this is still something different because it's not a user-created game. Linden Realms has been developed specifically by Linden Lab, and as of December 1st all users will be able to experience what a first-party game for the virtual environment feels like.

Second Life content creators will, rather unfortunately, be facing off against an in-house project. Luckily, the tools used in the development of Linden Realms will also be made available to the community, giving everyone a chance to play with the new tools and improve upon gameplay experiences. Whether or not this is a good thing or not for the game's overall health remains to be seen, but it may well provide an interesting boost to the community's user-created content.

The Perfect Ten: MMOs in movies and television

World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, City of Heroes, City of Villains, EverQuest, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Stargate Worlds, Second Life, Humor, RIFT, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

The Perfect Ten
While 1982's Tron explored what virtual life might be like inside a massive video game, it wasn't until fairly recently that real MMOs have crossed the divide between niche and mainstream to be referenced in television and films. Depending on how you see it, this mainstream acceptance of geek culture can be a thing to be either celebrated or shunned. What's for certain, however, is that we've only started to see the beginning of such mentions.

In today's Perfect Ten, I cobbled together a list of the first 10 MMO references that I know of from movies and TV shows. Some might be nothing more than a background detail or a throwaway line, while others are completely centered around the advertisement, er, massively multiplayer online roleplaying game. I tried hard not to use "cheats" such as fake MMOs featured in shows like The Guild, so this list is all about real-world titles with no sugar substitutes.

Ready? Insert quarter and hit player one!

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One Shots: Electrobit City

Galleries, Screenshots, Second Life, One Shots, Virtual Worlds

Second Life screenshot
Today's screenshot features a name we don't often see in One Shots: Second Life. Massively reader and SL fan Kaozz sent us this unusual view from on high:
This is not something you see every day, kind of like a tribute within a game. I thought I'd submit this very cool picture from Second Life. It is an aerial view of a player-created sim called Electrobit City. I thought it was just awesome.
We're all about looking up this week on One Shots! Show us your favorite aerial image -- whether it be taken from the ground looking up or from atop a high-flying mount or tall perch, we want to see! Add your name and a little bit about the image, send it in to oneshots@massively.com, and we'll feature it in this week's One Shots!

Next week we're throwing the ball back to you. There's no theme and no requirement; just send us your favorite screenshots and tell us why you love them. Ready, set, go!

The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the hardest learning curve?

EVE Online, Culture, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Second Life, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Sandbox

Chalkboard demonstrating mathematical complexity
MMOs come in all shapes and sizes, and with new titles launching every other day, there's bound to be one out there that caters to just about every skill level imaginable. While many of these games boast similar mechanics, occasionally a dev team will stray from the norm and create a head-scratchingly complex title (or in some cases, a title that is deliberately user-unfriendly).

Games like EVE Online and Second Life are renowned for their learning curve and the amount of research necessary to play at a high level, and we're curious to hear about others you may have experienced.

For this edition of The Daily Grind, share your thoughts on MMO complexity, and whether the term entails mechanics, the UI, gameplay options, or some combination of all three. While you've got your thinking cap on, which MMO has the hardest learning curve?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Second Life's CEO Rod Humble talks anniversaries

Video, Interviews, Second Life, Free-to-Play, Virtual Worlds, Interviews (Massively's)

Second Life recently hit a milestone in the MMORPG industry: eight years in service. This is ancient in MMO terms, and yet the game has shown continued growth. How would you explain such success, especially when the game... er, world... is such an enigma? Even the players are not sure how to describe it.

Well, we called out the big guns and sat down with Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life. He was kind enough to not only do the interview but allow us to embed the audio in the article for you to hear! Don't worry; we've also written up much of what was said, so you can choose to listen, read, or both!

Click past the cut and let's get right to the interview with Rod as he talks about success, explaining Second Life and some of the surprises he's met with along the way.

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Duran Duran and Second Life, isn't that bizarre?

Culture, News Items, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Miscellaneous

According to Tateru Nino at Dwell On It, Duran Duran had promised its presence in the world of Second Life back in 2006. Second Life residents were hungry like a wolf for more information, but the band was lost in a crowd. At long last, the band announced yesterday the launch of Duran Duran Universe, a new zone in Linden Lab's virtual world. Although there may be no dancing on the sand, community manager Crissy Welinder posted the official announcement to the Duran Duran website: "Duran Duran Universe is packed full of wonderful artistic treasures, interactive features, innovative multimedia and exciting events and games." Every part of the Second Life zone has been carefully selected by members of the band, and they hope it is one continuous party.

For more information about Duran Duran Universe, don't twist through a dusty land, just visit the band's official website.

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