That's 7 million US dollars, for those without a calculator handy. Okay, so they invested in US$ in the first place, not L$, but it's a funny headline, right?
3pointD reports here.
I predicted it as #12, here. Well, kind of. They didn't get purchased, but 7 mil? Sheesh!
First, I think it's clear to say, that this will make it easier on the rest of us Metaverse Development Companies (MDC) to get Venture and/or Angel funding. Thanks, Sheeples.
Second, I'd like to point out that this is nearly as much money as Linden Lab's first major investment back in 2004. I think this speaks to a larger issue - something that I've been saying since Fall 2005**, but forgot to include in my 2007 predictions.
This is, namely, that Linden Lab's role as center of the Metaverse is shifting aside, and lending room for MDCs. Fortunately, Linden Lab knows this is bound to happen with a world created by users; that's why they open sourced the client, for example.
Third, I think it's great that a major network has invested so much money in a company who has a promotional toy they call "Destroy TV". It's a sign that television is looking at new media that will augment and ultimately replace it.
Fourth, I should point out that this is just the beginning. Sheep was the first MDC really to start off with any significant cash supplies. Most of the others have bootstrapped it up to now. Sheep have a head start, but there's at least half a dozen companies close behind, and a few dozen with some serious potential by this Summer to be in the same position.
Finally, I also might point out that this isn't *quite* the beginning. Here's one for the rumor-mill: I know of at least one other company receiving major funding already. Though I'm usually straightforward with my audience here, this bit of info I can't divulge.
** I think the first time I personally said it was at SLCC 2005, which I co-founded.*** I realized, as we initially figured 50 people would show up, and 150 actually did, that SLCC would be enormous the following year (which it was, at 400+), and that San Francisco would be a good location for SLCC 2006 because after that, Linden Lab wouldn't necessarily be the center of the Metaverse.
*** The Official SL Guide had a major type-o, they're working on the correction, I'm told.
That's 7 million US dollars, for those without a calculator handy. Okay, so they invested in US$ in the first place, not L$, but it's a funny headline, right?
Disclaimer: Dell Inc is one of my company's ongoing clients.
Dell has been a terrific client of my company for a variety of reasons, but there's one I think that is worth noting here. Dell has taken initiative to integrate SL into its extra-SL presence.
For instance, if you go to the dell.com homepage, you'll find that in the "Choose your country" picker, "Second Life" is one of the options. This takes you to a Second Life Dell homepage, at dell.com/secondlife. From there, Dell includes a welcome area that aids in the training of new users.
Linking back out to existing flat-websites is a becoming a bit more common in the SL community, especially with the added "Web" tab of an avatar's profile. As I mentioned when Dell island opened, Dell also had aspects of the Dell website integrated into SL. (such as customizing your own PC)
Today I received a link to a video, here. Dell has filmed their own "What is SL?" type short piece that describes the platform very well to people who have yet to dip their toes in Second Life.
So what I like is that Dell is treating a visitor in a continuous, end-to-end fashion. They help explain what Second Life is, adjust the new user, provide space in Second Life for a variety of purposes, link it back in with their original flat-web presence. Dell continues to grow in its involvement with Second Life through Dell island, both through events (like streaming of Michael Dell's speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) and in new ways for users to interact with Dell and its programs.
This complete cycle indicates that to me that Dell, as a company, is very serious about treating SL as an extension of the flat-web, and not just some walled garden where people go and chat. Some of the ideas come out of discussions between Dell and SL contractors (IVM), but I'm delighted to see that many of these ideas stream from Dell itself.
I think it's important that companies treat SL as an extension of their web presence, and realize that it's beyond that - it's integrating with the community.
Thomas Malaby wrote a thought-provoking entry over at the braniac Terra Nova blog, on the subject of griefing. Like most thought-provoking pieces, it was part of a larger conversation, one I hope to continue here. Previously, 3pointD's Mark Wallace had posed the question whether griefing was simply "emergent game play", and folks left comments that further picked at this thought.
Wallace started this conversation citing Something Awful dot com (SA), a gag humor website that is a breeding ground for pranks ranging from silly to intolerant, benign to destructive. In Second Life, they've been a continued presence, where banned users will come back over and over with new accounts. They've been known as the "SA Goons" originally, leaving ultra-graphic war images on 10x10x10 cubes all over the grid in 2004. Then they were "w-Hat", depicting the World Trade Center Disaster in a very in-your-face, distasteful manner. One in particular, a script kiddie citing himself named only as, "Plastic Duck", has a grief portfolio including:
- Stealing and Extorting land from new users while mocking them
- Vandalizing a sim dedicated to awareness of the genocide in Darfur
- Harassing users in a variety of ways
- Launching grid-crashing attacks
Now, the kicker is - the SA crowd always plays a "Oh, we're not formally sanctioning any griefing" stance. In fact, if you go into their forums, you'll find posts that describe in details how to avoid violating Second Life Community Standards and Terms of Service, while still doing the greatest harassment. The SA crowd also claims to kick the "bad seeds", but since users keep coming back, it's clear to see that "kicking them out" means kicking an account, not making any attempt to ban the person behind it. Naturally, they'd claim that they have no way they can do that.
Ganking the Meaning Out of Games
Ganking is a term used in PvP multiplayer games describing when a higher level / better equipped player kills a lesser player. There is little effort to this action, as opposed to the typical "pwn", which indicates a particularly impressive killing move. Ganking is a form of griefing, and heading back to Terra Nova, Malaby's argument is a two-parter:
1. Ganking is not actually game-play.
2. Ganking takes advantage of unwilling participants.
In the first part, he states:
"Games, as ends in and of themselves, are things that can generate new meanings and experiences. For the ganker, however, ganking is a means to other ends ..."
I believe this is an important distinction. While Malaby focuses only on multiplayer games, the idea of ganking also translates into one-player games. For instance, a gamer might come home from a hard day of work, need to let off some steam, and so they load up Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas to create some mayhem. That person might jump into their attack chopper and completely overpower the local imaginary police force. Heck, the whole premise of the GTA series is that you can run over people at will at any time, or live out a fantasy of revenge on a rude real-life driver who cut you off and almost got you into an auto accident.
The point isn't a game. The point is letting off steam, or sheer dominance. And that, in and of itself, is okay.
It's in the second part of the argument that Malaby shows that it's not okay. In multiplayer games, the people who are ganked are unwilling participants. Some folks argue that this is a phenomenon that is part of the overall game play of a multiplayer game, and so the important question is:
"Is this game play prescribed by the creator of the game?"
In the case of Malaby's arguments, we look at World of Warcraft, by Blizzard Entertainment. Having played, I can say that none of the promotional materials or guides that I encountered encouraged ganking. In fact, I remember clearly reading that certain acts were frowned upon, such as "corpse-camping" (hanging around the corpse of a player, waiting for them to re-spawn, in a weak state), and an abuse reportable offense.
However, the game mechanic that most indicates Blizzard's intentions regarding ganking is the "honor" system. Honor is a PVP points system in WoW where players can earn rewards for good PvP play. A player is awarded honor points for killing another player of similar level, but none for someone of a significantly lower level. (like 7-8 levels below)
Some people would continue to argue, "Blizzard created a game with conditions that arose that allows ganking. If Blizzard wanted to eliminate ganking, they'd prevent those conditions from happening."
This comes from people who have little understanding about programming. Bugs are common, and if you look for exploits, generally, you will find them. So, no amount of preventative code or rules is going to completely eliminate the "conditions that allow ganking".
Darwinian (Lack of) Ethics
There's something also very unsettling with the "conditions are there" argument for ganking, which is the fact that if you applied this to other situations, it leads to complete Darwinian mode of ethics.
Isn't that rationale the politician who argues that since corruption is pervasive, and the general public doesn't know any better, that it "creates a condition" where they can do pretty much whatever they feel is right, regarding of their constituents' desires?
Doesn't the classroom bully argue that because "he's bigger" and "you're not cool" and "no one's watching", that it's conditions for him to force you to pay him your lunch money? Or to simply pound on you with fists?
Ganking Is Bullying
And ganking / griefing is clearly bullying, by definition. It's the bigger performing harm on the smaller. I thus put forward this rationale:
Since bullying is, in general, thought of as unethical, then it shall remain considered unethical in multiplayer games unless specifically stated otherwise as a desired component of the game. (or that the game itself encourages unethical behavior, which is a slippery slope in and of itself)
Futher, these game ethics only apply to other real players, not computer controlled NPCs.
Relating this Back to Second Life
And so, we bring back this rationale into Second Life. Even if Second Life were "just a game", the Community Standards clearly indicates that harassment and griefing do not belong.
And, even if you assume Second Life is not a game, and you were to try and justify griefing based on game principles, you would first have to prove that both the griefer and the griefed were playing the same game. In that case, since Second Life isn't a game, the game would be "grief people", of which the griefed user clearly does not want to play.
If griefing is a game, can the griefed be considered "playing" the griefing game at all? Is conscious agreement to participation in a game required to play a game?
Easy. Since games are meant to be entertainment, then the answer is clearly that conscious agreement is needed.
Griefing is wrong. Don't be a jerk; you make kittens cry.
Machinima is bleeding into mainstream media. While South Park's machinima episode, "Make Love, Not Warcraft", can be considered the true pioneer of machinima into mainstream media, it is Second Life getting nods for the time being.
Part I: Documentary
On January 31, Robo Studios premiered a feature-length (55 minutes) machinima documentary about Second Life. I was one of the interviewees, as were other SLebrities including (among others):
- Metaverse Development Company Owner, Aimee Weber
- SLBoutique creator, FlipperPA Peregrine
- Land Baron / Eternal Devil's Advocate, Prokovy Neva
The documentary itself was fairly SL-positive. It has been criticized for not talking heavily about sub-culture issues in Second Life, but I personally think the creators were aiming at a larger audience. Most average people still haven't been exposed to virtual worlds, and they need some explaining about what they are, before delving too deeply into some of the individual controversial issues with specific worlds. It also seems a little redundant - the Internet has the same kind of sub-cultures as Second Life. This is a documentary about what makes SL unique from existing platforms, not a review of how it's the same.
Still, there's a lot there to think about. As a veteran SL resident, I found myself enjoying the whole documentary and gaining good perspectives from the other interviewees.
You can purchase it for $5US or pay with L$ in-world for a digital copy.
I've put the official press release at the bottom of this entry after part 2
Part 2: Superbowl Ad
3pointD reports that the Ill Clan and Electric Sheep Company teamed up to do a pre-game spot for the TV show, "Two and a Half Men". Here, I'll do the cool thing and embed it right into the blog. (I should make a habit of this.)
Very cool, guys. I'm excited that it seems that they took it so far as to get voice-overs from the actual actors.
And, as promised, the official press release for the documentary:
For immediate releaseJanuary 30th
Robo Studios PO BOX 10544
Bainbridge Island WA, 98110
Anders von Reis Crooks
Robo Studios President
Tel: (206) 930-7040
‘Second Life: a documentary’ released by Robo Studios
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash., - What is Second Life? This is the question that Robo Studios explores in its debut documentary film, to be released January 31st, 2007. The film is an hour long exploration of the virtual world/online platform known as Second Life. It is the first full length Machinima film to be completed and premiered within Second Life.
Second Life is a 3d interactive web platform designed by Linden Lab. According to the company website, Second Life is “a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents.” There are currently over 2.5 million worldwide members, and over a million US dollars of transactions occurring in Second Life daily.
The hour long film highlights one unique feature of the Robo Studios project; the documentary has been done entirely in Machinima. This is a new form of digital animation, which allows virtually anybody to produce a digital film.
The film was “shot” entirely within the Second Life world, in order to fully immerse the viewer in the virtual environment.
Second Life’s unique position in the digital world makes it a difficult concept for many people. The film is an attempt to explain both to the prospective and current user the power and potential of the Second Life platform, while allowing users to experience the stunning visual rendering and user created world of the Second Life platform. The film also hints at and attempts to explore the difficult question of how to classify Second Life; as a game, a business application, or a social networking tool.
The film will be available for purchase and download using both Robo Studios’ website www.robostudios.com and also in Second Life. Customers will be able to pay for their purchase using US or Linden dollars, the Second Life currency.
The trailer is available for viewing online at www.robostudios.com. For more information about the trailer or the documentary please contact Robo Studios’ project manager Anders von Reis Crooks through the company website.
Spammers and Lesbians
There, that title caught your attention. I wanted to talk a bit about AOL Pointe and Showtime's "The L-Word" builds in Second Life. Both are being sherpa'd in by our friendly competitor, Electric Sheep Company. I think there are a multitude of nice aspects in both builds, and I want to point them out in the interest of promoting good practices in metaverse development.
AOL: A Turn Toward Eco-Friendly
AOL decided to open up AOL Pointe, which I like, because it's much more eco-friendly than sending every man, woman, child, and business dozens of AOL install discs every year. Whichever genius had the brilliant idea to box them in aluminum cases or plastic DVD cases should be forced to pay millions into the EPA Superfund. I once calculated how many tons of landfill these things took up, and it blew my mind. AOL discs are like the Capitol One "No Hassle" spam snail mail credit card invites. It's completely against what it's supposed to be representing. (spam = hassle, spam = annoying people, spam != make people want to join a community)
What's more of a tragedy is that AOL, who pioneered making the web easy for people to access, felt it had to resort to such ugly measures to survive the dot-com bust. So, when I see AOL going with a targeted audience in a new technology like virtual worlds, I have to applaud.
There's Stuff To Do
What I really like about AOL Pointe is that between the minds at E-Sheep and AOL, they decided that it was important to give users stuff to do. Sure, you can listen to music at Sony BMG (another Sheep build), but at AOL Pointe you can skateboard, watch video media, and plant yourself on the "sticky wall". I'd show pictures, but I thought Akela Talamasca already did a fine job, so I'll just like to his article at SLInsider. Thanks, Akela.
I point this out because most corporate builds in SL don't cater to the average user looking to kick back and have fun. It's not always easy to convince a client to just have stuff for fun sake. It's also not always easy to make it relevant to the client's project; in that sense, AOL is about providing random stuff for users to do, so, I guess it's a bit more intuitive.
I was also impressed that Electric Sheep Company was steering away from their traditional gunwhale gray and cerulean blue themes. AOL was colorful and more light-hearted. Actually, so was L-Word, but in a classier way.
Wow, Nice Introduction to the L-Word!
D'oh, I blew it! I had this nice, natural transition introducing The L-Word, and then I had to go and point it out. *chuckles* Actually, there's a method to my madness - I want to point out that The L-Word in SL has a much better introduction in Second Life than I gave it here in this blog. It features an easy-to-understand set of images with icons showing you what keys and mouse movements to use to perform the basic tasks needed in SL. There's no getting lost, you're not overwhelmed, and yet the idea of what alt-clicking and zooming is comes across fairly cleanly.
Oh, and other than the 1-time Rockefeller Center event, The L-Word seems to be the first majorly sharded corporate build in SL. I have to wonder how Electric Sheep got Showtime to approve something like 10 shards of both the welcome island and the main island, when maybe 1 or 2 of each is occupied at a time. However, I imagine the welcome island is probably a void sim, which comes in packages of 4 for the price of 1, and a lower prim limit. I think sharding is going to become more and more needed, so depite the extra capacity, I think this is a forward-thinking move.
All in all, a nice set of builds. I'd easily say these are Electric Sheep Company's two best so far.