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How To Become an Accomplished Architect in Second Life

Posted by SIM on April 30, 2007

If you have ever dreamed about building a castle, now’s your chance. Learn to manipulate Second Life graphics primitives, and the only limit is your imagination.
by Jeff Heaton
April 30, 2007

Building and scripting are two very important skills in the MMOG Second Life. Building is the process by which you create complex 3D structures. Scripting is the process of using a script language to allow those 3D structures to perform tasks, in the game. My last article focused on scripting. In this article I will cover building. I will cover the fundamentals of building and show you how to create a set of 3D objects that will allow you to construct castles, such as the one shown in Figure 1.

Understanding Primitives

To begin building you will need to create primitives, called prims for short. Prims are very simple solid geometrical objects. Second Life lets you create 13 different prim types. However, these are made of only seven different basic shapes. For example, a sphere can become a hemisphere by setting a “path cut” begin and end. Using path cuts you can remove a portion of a prim, creating a different shape. Figure 2 shows the seven basic shapes.

Figure 2 shows my game avatar, Encog Dod, standing by the seven primitive types. From left to right, the figure shows the box, prism, cylinder, sphere, torus, ring, and tube.

To build one of these primitives, select the “build” option from the bottom of your screen.

Author’s Note: If build is not enabled, then you are not on land that supports building. Generally you must be on your own land to build. However, if you do not own land, you can use a sandbox. To find a sandbox use the search and search for a sandbox. Sandboxes are regions that allow anyone to build. You’ll often find other builders present in sandboxes, so things can get a bit chaotic. Additionally, most sandboxes are cleared out daily. So make sure you take a copy of your creation, if you want it saved.

After you select build, you will see the building window (see Figure 3). To create primitives, select the magic wand icon. By default, you will create a box. If you click anywhere near yourself you will see a box created, as shown in Figure 3.

Note that the small “wood textured” box in Figure 3 is selected when you create it. You can tell that the box is selected by fact that there are red, green and blue arrows on the box. These arrows let you move the box any of the three dimensions. Second Life opens a window that shows you options that affect the box primitive. I’ll discuss these options later in the article.

You can also rotate and resize primitives in a manner similar to moving an object. You use the mouse to drag and rotate or resize a prim. To rotate a prim use the CTRL key. To resize use the CTRL-SHIFT key combination.

Grouping Primitives

You create complex objects by combining primitives. To combine two prims they should be touching, or at least very close. Select your first object normally. However, when you select additional prims hold down the SHIFT key. This lets you select multiple prims. Select all the prims you want to group, and then select “Link” from the tools menu. To unlink a group of prims, select the group, and then choose “Unlink” from the tools menu.

In Figure 4 you can see three white spheres combined to create a primitive snowman.

To make the spheres white I used the “Texture” tab of the prim’s option window. From the “Texture” tab you can choose a color. The only other changes to the spheres were sizing and moving them into place.

One of the first things that most Second Life users want to build is a house. After you have land, you can create your own place to live. There are many different types of houses in Second Life. In this article you’ll see how to construct a simple castle, built of basic castle building blocks; you can build as large or small a castle as you like. You’ll also see a useful terraforming technique that you can use with any building type.

Working with Land

Second life land is not always flat; however, flat land is the easiest to build on. Some land will be flat and easy to build on, such as Figure 5.

Most other land that you purchase will have hills. You can flatten small parcels of land relatively easily. However you can only raise or lower land so far. This makes it very difficult to flatten large areas of land. Consider Figure 6, which shows the hilly land on which the castle in this article was built.

You will notice from Figure 6 that the land’s texture varies with its height. As you move closer to the ocean the land’s texture becomes sandier. This is a preset option for land, and cannot usually be changed. The only time land texture can be changed is if you own a Second Life Island. You can get more information about island ownership here.

It is also important to note that this form of texture applies only to land. All other textures will not be affected by height.

I’ve already flattened the land as far as I can. Now I must build a foundation on which to build the castle. Basically a foundation is a bunch of large boxes textured to look like a foundation. To build the foundation, start by creating a cube of the maximum size—10 cubic meters (see Figure 7). The easiest way to make a cube that large is to choose the prim options and set the x, y, and z sizes to 10. Next, select the texture tag and choose the “Granite” texture included with the standard object library in your inventory. If you can’t find it, fill in the text box at the top of your inventory and do a search. While still in the texture options, change the “Repeats per Face” option to “1” for both horizontal and vertical.

If you are building your own castle it is best to built it to fit your land’s size. The plot that I am using for this example is 4,096 square meters. For this size a foundation will consist of 36 (6 x 6) granite blocks like the one you created in the previous step. You can quickly copy the granite block (or any primitive) you’ve created by clicking it and choosing “Take Copy.” Copying the block adds the new block to your inventory. From the inventory, you can drag a block to the ground and quickly create more copies. Drag enough blocks to create a foundation for the size castle you want.

While you could drag all 36 blocks to the correct location, it is much easier and more accurate to simply set the x, y, and z coordinates using the prim options window. For example, the first block that I placed over the land had a z value of 36 meters. Since every block in the foundation is the same height I was able to simply enter the value of 36 for the z-coordinate of all of the foundation blocks. Likewise each block’s x and y should be 10 meters away from the previous block. This is because each block is 10 cubic meters.

Setting the z value the same for all blocks creates a flat foundation, because each block has the same height and the same z-coordinate. Z-coordinates are zero based, where zero is a spot deep underground. Therefore, if all blocks have the same height and z-coordinate they will all appear at the same level. Some will be slightly underground, similar to a real-life house’s foundation. Figure 8 shows the completed foundation.

The next step is to add grass on top of the foundation. You will likely want to walk around outside the castle, and adding grass to the foundation makes it look like a nice grassy field—a perfect building spot! To add grass, change the texture of only the top face of each of the cubes by dragging the texture to the top face of the cube. Note that each face of a prim can have a different texture.

First, select a grass texture from your inventory. I like the “Islands—Grass” from the standard library. Drag this texture to the top of all of the foundation cubes. This will result in a terraformed grassy plane ready for building (see Figure 9).

Creating the Castle Building Blocks

So far you have seen how to perform a number of basic building options. Specifically you have learned to:

Create any prim type
Move a prim or object
Resize a prim or object
Apply a texture
Apply different textures to different faces

You can quickly build a castle similar to the one shown in Figure 1 from a series of castle building blocks. In this section you will see how to create these blocks. You can obtain a copy of all of the textures and castle building blocks in the Second Life world at the following SLURL (Second Life URL): http://slurl.com/secondlife/Encogia/211/181/63.

The castle is packaged into a large box called “Castle in a Box Tutorial”. The tutorial box contains all of the textures and building blocks needed for this castle. Additionally you are given full rights to these objects so that you can examine and see exactly how they were constructed.

You’ll want to use this technique to create buildings of your own in Second Life. First, create prims and link them together into larger objects. These larger objects will become the building blocks of your structure. For example, the castle is made up of the following building blocks:

3X3 Cement
3X3 Cement Grass
Battlement
Corner Wall
Corner Tower
Door Section
Floor
Front Door
Roof
Short Wall
Small Corner Tower
Stairs
Wall
Window Wall

You can see several of these building blocks laid out on the lawn in Figure 10.

Each of these building blocks was built using skills already covered in this chapter. For example, stacking several sized cylinders and topping them with a blue cone creates a tower. Putting a wall/window texture on the front and an interior texture on the other side creates walls. The prims for each block are grouped. Except for the door, you’ve seen all the techniques used. The door uses a simple Linden Scripting Language (LSL) program (see my previous article) to allow it to open and close.

Listing 1 shows the Linden Scripting Language (LSL) code that operates the door.

This script in Listing 1 works by establishing two states for the door: open and closed. When a user touches the door, it moves from one state to the other. The door should be a simple rectangular prim. The touch function calls the door function to rotate the door by 45 degrees, which “opens” the door, putting it in the open state. The open state simply waits a preset amount of time (5.0 seconds according to the user settings in Listing 1), and then rotates the door back by 45 degrees, thus closing the door.

The castle uses numerous textures. I could easily devote an entire article to texture creation. One of the easiest methods to obtain textures is to find free ones on the Internet. Once you locate a texture on the Internet, you can upload it into Second Life. For example, to find a “granite texture,” you can use Google to perform an “image search” for the term “granite texture.” You’ll find quite a few textures.

Author’s Note: Before you use a texture make sure that the texture is free. Most web sites that contain textures will state the usage license for their textures. Second Life allows you to use any texture that you have obtained a valid license for, and does not violate their community standards. If you would like to create textures of your own, you should look into programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

By using terraforming, primitives, groups, and textures, you can build anything you can dream up. This article showed you how to first prepare a land site for building and how to create a set of reusable building blocks to construct a building. You also saw where you can obtain the castle building blocks.

Building can be a very time-consuming part of Second Life. However, as you become a more advanced builder you will accumulate a library of common objects that you have created, which will allow you to quickly construct new objects based on what you already have.

Building on What You Know

This article only covered basic options available on the objects. However, you can build a castle even using only these basic options. After you master the basic options you should start experimenting with other options such as hollow and taper. These options allow you to transform the prims even further to create new and interesting shapes. For example, you can hollow out a cube to create a box, with an inside. You can apply a cut path to a sphere to create a hemisphere. The best way to learn these additional options is to create prims and experiment with the available options until you understand first-hand how to transform prims. Happy building!

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Second Life Helps Generate Second Income

Posted by SIM on April 19, 2007

More and more entrepreneurs making money in virtual world
By Christina Friedrichsen – Business Edge
04/20/2007  

When Vancouver fashion designer Nyla experienced Second Life for the first time, she knew that she was on to something.

Nyla (she dropped her last name), owner of House of Nyla, a company that specializes in haute couture for women, was looking for a unique way to showcase her designs and Second Life seemed like the perfect place.

Not only would the online virtual world give her a place to create a 3-D virtual boutique so that customers could see her fashions on 3-D models, it would give her exposure to thousands of people who had never heard of her.

She invested $100 in virtual real estate and was well on her way to creating an online presence in Second Life when she realized that the potential for her company was much bigger than she had dreamed.

What Nyla realized was that Second Lifers are an image-conscious lot and that fashion plays a big role in how avatars (virtual beings) express their identity.

Why not transform real-world fashions from House of Nyla into virtual clothing in Second Life?

Although Nyla is not a graphic designer, she taught herself the computer programs she needed to make it happen.

In the one year that Nyla has made the leap to Second Life, she has opened a dozen virtual stores and is making a living from the income.

Nyla still designs fashions for real life, but her virtual fashions are becoming an increasingly large part of her business.

“I’m making a lot of money … It’s like a virtual slot machine,” says Nyla, who is a graduate from Helen Lefeaux Inc. School of Fashion Design in Vancouver.

At her busier stores, she is getting 100,000 Second Lifers per day and is selling hundreds of items per week.

Her virtual dresses sell for $6 each.

She says one can “make good money here and live off it no problem. This could pay all your bills, your mortgage, everything,” she says.

Her plans include a line of virtual men’s clothing based on the real-life clothing line she has created for her husband.

Nyla is part of an increasing number of entrepreneurs generating income from virtual worlds such as Second Life.

Although many of the individuals make money from creating virtual items, such as clothing, hair or houses, the big money is in real estate and sex (avatars can work as escorts and strippers, and individuals can design sexual props for Second Life), says Julian Dibbell, author of Play Money: Or, How I Quit My Day Job and Made Millions Trading Virtual Loot (Basic Books: 2006).

Dibbell’s book is a memoir about the year he gave up his job as a journalist to make a living buying and selling virtual artifacts in the game Ultima Online.

His goal was to make more income in-world than as a freelance writer. He succeeded.

“By the end I was making $4,000 per month. I could have sustained that and probably would be making more than I do as a writer,” says the Indiana-based author.

A decent living, yes, but nowhere close to the income generated by virtual real estate tycoons such as Second Life’s Anshe Chung, the world’s first virtual millionaire.

According to Dibbell, developers such as Chung purchase “raw” virtual land from Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life) that they use to create virtual communities, usually with a theme. The developers then sell or rent this developed land to Second Lifers.

Although there is money to be made in Second Life real estate, few are as successful as Chung, says Dibbell.

“There are very few making the kind of money Anshe Chung is making,” he says.

Most entrepreneurs on Second Life make just enough to cover their Second Life expenses and maybe “go on an extra vacation each year,” he says.

“For them, the money is not the point in many cases,” he says.

Dibbell says the most successful entrepreneurs, such as Anshe Chung, know what Second Lifers want.

“(Chung) has a keen sense of what people want in Second Life and what they are there for,” he says.

Adam Gillis knows what Second Lifers want.

Gillis, a student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, is taking a semester off to work full time for Galveston.com and Company, a tourism company in Galveston, Tex.

The company has hired him to create a virtual representation of Galveston Island in Second Life.

“It is the first SIM (simulator) commissioned by an official tourism agency, recreating the city of Galveston within Second Life,” he says.

Gillis says Galveston.com and Company approached him after seeing a virtual representation of Ottawa’s Winterlude festival that he created for Second Life last year.

“They saw it and hired me on the spot,” says Gillis.

Gillis, who is also a photographer, says he started out in Second Life showcasing his photography in a virtual gallery.

Not only did he hope to get exposure, his motive was to make money selling virtual photos to Second Lifers who would purchase the digital images to hang in their virtual homes.

“I sold some, but not to the point where it was worth it,” he says. After that, he began designing virtual homes for Second Lifers. As he honed his designing skills, more and more people approached him for custom work.

In January of this year he began working on the Galveston Island project for Galveston.com and Company.

“From the planning to the building, I’ve pretty much done all of it,” he says, adding that his wage is comparable to a designer at a design firm.

Gillis says the company behind the project is hoping that the virtual world attracts tourists to the area.

“They are looking for a way for people to sample the city – to go and get the feel of it, the vibe of it … and to make plans to actually go there,” he says.

Gillis says for those who aren’t ready to pack their bags, there is the option of renting a virtual home on the island for $10 per month.

“We’re already at 95-per-cent capacity,” says Gillis.

As for Gillis, he’s heading there this summer. In real life. For real money.

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Big Spenders of Second Life

Posted by SIM on April 14, 2007

Virtual world residents shell out real dollars for nonexistent clothes, cars, and real estate. Will real-world luxury brands capitalize?
by Douglas MacMillan

Alyssa LaRoche is rolling in Linden dollars, the hard currency of virtual world Second Life. Sure, the money is digital, but it can be exchanged for real U.S. greenbacks, or any other currency for that matter.

Under the alias Aimee Weber, LaRoche designs clothes, plans events, and helps companies set up shop in the virtual world for big consulting fees. But when she recently opened up her checkbook to pay for her avatar’s virtual wedding (yes, it’s a common occurrence), she made a discovery that brought her back to reality: In Second Life, there’s no such thing as a diamond wedding ring.

The problem, you see, is that rare and precious stones as we know them can’t exist in Second Life. That’s because once purchased these items can be easily duplicated, undercutting the basis of their market value. Some virtual jewelers make cubic zirconium rings and earrings that shine convincingly, but you won’t find diamond baubles dangling from the necks and ears of avatars.

Linden Loot

Since there is little economic value assigned to rare items in this online world, sprawling estates and lavish sports cars abound as signs of wealth, or at least for those who are status conscious, as a means of keeping score. (Not too different from the real world.)

“Everyone [in Second Life] is a luxury consumer,” says Reuben Steiger, CEO of virtual world marketing consultant MillionsOfUs. “Very few people go into a virtual world and decide they’re a hobo.” Even virtual hobos wouldn’t have it so bad, since in Second Life having bread on your plate and a shelter over your head are hardly essential.

Bumming around in a virtual world is fun for some, but the vast majority of Second Life residents buy and sell user-generated goods and services, and keep their pockets stuffed with Linden dollars. Virtual currency is bought and sold on Lindex—a currency exchange Web site where users buying in are automatically hooked up with users cashing out.

Last February more than $5 million (that’s Uncle Sam currency) changed hands on Lindex alone. Like real-world currency, conversion rates fluctuate with the economy—as of this writing, $1 is worth 267 Linden dollars.

And just like in real life, if you’re a connoisseur of luxury goods you need to have a fair amount of dinero. In Second Life, there’s evidence of some big spenders.

Last March more than 800 users spent over 1 million Linden dollars, or about $4,000. Ailin Graef, the virtual real estate mogul (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/1/06, “My Virtual Life”) who last November claimed to be the first Second Life-made millionaire, says there is a market for high-priced, high-quality design in homes and other virtual commodities. “There is no real upper limit when it comes to people spending money on art, self-expression, and uniqueness,” she says.

The highest-priced home in Dreamland, her popular residential community in Second Life, goes for about $420. However, she says some “well-off individuals” have paid more than $10,000 for virtual properties.

Status Symbols

Merely living in a big house or wearing a fur coat isn’t enough to stand out from the crowd, so the top spenders look for items with meticulously programmed designs, textures, and animations. Philip Rosedale, CEO of San Francisco-based Second Life creator Linden Lab, has the power, money, and influence to get his hands on just about anything he wants in the virtual world. When asked what personal possession his avatar, Philip Linden, holds most dear, he says he’s most amazed by clever little objects, like virtual wind chimes.

“Think about that for a moment,” he writes in an e-mail, “virtual wind chimes.” Second Life merchants sell wind chimes with lifelike movement and sound, but at about 50 cents, they’re hardly an indulgence in luxury.

A few entrepreneurs have honed in on this demand for uniqueness and quality better than others. A mysterious resident named Starax Stotasky earned notoriety in Second Life from sales of his Starax Wand, a magical object that conjured eagles, demons, and dozens of other fanciful creations.

It sold in limited production for between $60 and $120, and because of its complexity was impossible to duplicate. Yet many residents abused the powers the wand granted—like summoning buildings on somebody else’s land—and new laws were created that rendered it obsolete.

Even though Second Life residents can fly from place to place rather than drive, cars are a popular and cheap commodity—you can buy Scions and Pontiacs for about $1. But an avatar that went by the name of Francis Chung brought to market the Dominus Shadow, a retro two-seater created with painstaking detail both inside and out. At about $40, it’s the most expensive car to be sold in Second Life and an envied status symbol among residents.

Real World Infiltration
The past year has seen a deluge of entertainment, media, apparel, and automotive brands from the real world establishing a promotional presence in Second Life. But seeing little potential in the young, technology-oriented demographic, makers of luxury goods have largely stayed on the sidelines.

That may change if two upscale fashion brands, Lacoste and Calvin Klein, succeed in stirring up profits in their current Second Life campaigns. The French alligator-logo shirt maker recently announced an avatar modeling contest in which the six finalists will share a prize of 1 million Linden dollars.

And to help promote its new CK IN2U fragrance, Calvin Klein has begun distributing “virtual scents,” which make fragrance bubbles dance around happy-in-love Second Life residents. Next up: diamond rings?

To see a slide show of Second Life’s top earners: http://images.businessweek.com/ss/07/04/0416_richlist/index_01.htm

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Coldwell Banker In Second Life

Posted by SIM on April 6, 2007

ESTATE AGENTS TARGET VIRTUAL PROPERTY
BY Sherrilynne Starkie
6 April 2007

THEY say investing in property is like putting money in the bank, writes Sherilynne Starkie.
Does this still hold true when the real estate isn’t land, bricks and mortar but is little more than a few pixels in a virtual world?

One of America’s largest estate agents, Coldwell Banker, is setting up in Second Life, an online virtual world where millions of people get together to socialise and conduct business, with the aim of selling virtual properties.

I can’t say that I’ve met too many estate agents that can write code or spend the necessary hours online to be a bona fide internet geek, but I guess the brand association works.
Instead of buying its own island, the company has invested in a large number of properties on the mainland.

It has ‘developed’ these properties with houses and apartments with a view to selling them on or renting them out.

This isn’t just some online game. Coldwell Banker is a real company that operates in 45 countries and employs more than 120,000 estate agents.

Its Second Life development involves real money changing hands. Although they don’t see the venture as inherently profitable, the company’s executives see this as a way to provide real value and engage with customers.

Apparently Second Life is a bit of a wild west with a lot of cowboy entrepreneurs flogging this and that.

And so, it’s hoped a ‘known’ brand like Coldwell Banker will bring order to the real estate market and will be welcomed by enthusiasts.

Real staff members will provide information about both Second Life and real world properties by operating the company’s avatars.

Visitors to their virtual office will be flown by virtual helicopter to view properties. Coldwell Banker has designed and built houses that will sell for about US$ 20 but buyers will not be allowed to alter them after the purchase.

The estate agent is the latest in a long line of global brands that have set up in Second Life.

Adidas, Nissan, Reebok, Sony, Reuters are already there. Each ‘lives’ in Second Life in its own way.

Some showcase real world wares, others have virtual conferences and client meetings.

There are cinemas, theatres and other entertainment complexes. Or your avatar can sit in Reuter’s atrium and catch up on real world news.

But before you go headlong into Second Life to build a virtual business, you need to have a thorough understanding of the world online communities. Putting all the cool technology to one side, Second Life is essentially a community with a culture of its own.

Linden Labs the company behind Second Life advises people in the corporate world to proceed with caution. Companies need to think about what they can offer the community and think long-term about how they want to interact if they want to be successful, they say.

A presence in Second Life might help a company raise its profile with new consumers, but if that is the main objective, it is probably not worth the effort, unless you are Ann Summers. According to Fortune magazine, most Second Lifers join to hang out in the virtual sex clubs.

But if you think of it as another way to build relationships with your company’s stakeholders — customers, shareholders, employees etc — it can be powerful. Invite people to join in creating the experience; build connections to real world websites and other social media, and you just might strengthen your business.

That said, Gartner recently predicted that Second Life hype was about to peak and there would be a considerable fall-off in interest. But Reuters has quoted analyst Steve Prentice as saying that the technologies inside Second Life are well established and once the predicted backlash has run its course, there will remain a solid and sizable group of Second Lifers.

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‘Second Life’ As Stressful As First

Posted by SIM on April 5, 2007

Developer Finds ‘Second Life’ as Stressful as First
By Gerald M. Gay
04/05/07

Shaun Hull is a “Second Life” entrepreneur, building objects in the online world for users who pay him real money for anything from virtual homes to virtual babies. He started a year and a half ago, when the realm was relatively new and he felt a “God-like ability” to create anything he wanted. Now, however, he’s beginning to view “Second Life” as more a job than a hobby.

There are two types of people on “Second Life”: Those who buy things and those who create the things that people like to buy.

Tucsonan (Ariz.) Shaun Hull falls into the latter.

While residents pump millions of American dollars into clothing, land and other material possessions on the game, Hull — a Linux systems administrator who goes by Hiro David online — spends three to four hours a day holed up in his virtual home, building products on commission for eager “Second Life” consumers.

The creative process involves constructing the objects with the software provided by Linden Lab and then writing scripts, the codes that make the objects act the way they do.

‘I Was Hooked’

Anyone can create on the game, but not everyone has the patience to learn the sometimes-difficult nuances involved.

“When I first started out there were only about 60,000 members, so everything was a lot more open,” said Hull, 28, who joined “Second Life” a year-and-a-half ago. “There were wide open spaces where you could create. You had this God-like ability that you could build anything you put your mind to. That’s what I started out doing. I was hooked.”

Hull has since logged in countless hours honing his craft, building things like his spacious Japanese-style home complete with rice paper walls and his own koi pond with swimming fish and dragonflies buzzing about.

Building Babies

The commission work he has done for others, fulfilling some unusual requests along the way, have covered his monthly gaming dues for more than a year.

“I had one lady who wanted me to make a baby,” Hull said. “One that would cry and have different moods. It was very aggravating. But she paid me a couple hundred (American) bucks, so I did it. Some people go a little too heavy on the realism. It is kind of insane.”

Despite his success in the game, Hull doesn’t see himself being a permanent “Second Life” resident.

“I am at the total whim of my customers,” he said. “I started playing “Second Life” for fun and it has kind of turned into a part-time job, essentially. I’ve been cutting back on projects and I am not sure if I want to do this anymore. It pretty much kills the fun aspect, and both of my lives are stressful enough as is.”

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Real Sales In A Fake World

Posted by SIM on April 2, 2007

Kim Shiffman
March 2007

Question: Who would pay actual money for a virtual product? Answer: Hundreds of thousands of active users of Second Life, the much-hyped computer-generated world created by San Francisco-based Linden Lab Inc.

Second Life “residents” create a computer-generated representation of themselves (called an “avatar”) and spend time almost as they would in the real world: exploring, connecting with others, creating things and—of most interest to entrepreneurs—buying stuff.

Second Life (www.secondlife.com) costs nothing to join. Yet users spend almost US$1 million every day in the in-world currency, Linden dollars, which they buy using real U.S. greenbacks (US$1 = L$266). And they generate most of the content, designing then selling or trading their creations—anything from furniture to high fashion. What’s more, they own the intellectual property rights.

That’s partly why real-world companies have begun throwing money into creating a presence and hawking their wares in Second Life. Retailer American Apparel opened a store selling digital renderings of its T-shirts that players’ avatars can wear. Telus sells mobile phones, complete with in-world features. Although the items sell—curious, considering your avatar comes with clothes and has no real need for a cellphone—revenue isn’t what’s drawing the corporate crowd. Instead, they’re keen to reach a young, tech-forward demographic in a unique environment. According to Joshua Fairfield, an Indiana University law professor who studies the economics of virtual worlds, “People’s attachment to places and objects in the virtual world can transfer to purchases in the real world.”

But to be successful in Second Life, you have to translate your brand in a way that works there, says Reuben Steiger, president of Millions of Us Inc., a Sausalito, Calif.-based firm that helps companies market in virtual worlds. He points to news agency Reuters as a firm that gets it: “Instead of building a chest-thumping monument to Reuters, they asked themselves, ‘What can we do to add value to Second Life?'” The result: Reuters assigned a full-time employee to cover Second Life goings-on, which residents can access for free.

Second Life isn’t a marketplace just for corporations. Nothing Reuters has done would be prohibitively expensive for most entrepreneurial firms. Still, is marketing in Second Life a smart move for an SME? “That’s still an open question,” says self-described e-business and marketing geek Stuart MacDonald, who started Expedia Canada and co-founded Mesh, an annual Web 2.0 conference in Toronto. He says Second Life still has only a limited user base. Moreover, most of the value firms have realized from being there has come from real-world PR and buzz, which will fade as the novelty wears off.

Yet, if you’ve been itching for an innovative way to expose a small but exclusive group of global, tech-savvy early adopters to your brand—and you’re confident your marketing staff can figure out how to truly engage those prospects, not repel them—then Second Life may be worth a second glance.

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Virtual Marketing

Posted by SIM on March 27, 2007

Learning To Market In Virtual Worlds
By Daniel Terdiman
Tuesday, March 27 2007

NEW YORK–Think the recent flurry of big media and technology operations setting up shop in virtual worlds like Second Life is a passing fad? Think again.

Starting on Wednesday, representatives of companies including MTV Networks and its Nickelodeon, IBM, AOL and Disney, as well as institutions like Harvard University, the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control, will gather here for Virtual Worlds 2007, the first major conference designed specifically to promote marketing in virtual worlds to Fortune 500 companies.

“It’s all about the future of marketing and media,” conference organizer Chris Sherman said. “It’s about finding the right partner for whatever partnership you might be looking for.”

The two-day conference comes at a heady time for virtual worlds and 3D social environments. Even as the Virtual Worlds event kicks off, the Accelerating Studies Foundation is readying its formal written report from last year’s Metaverse Roadmap Summit–in which participants were tasked with prognosticating the look and feel of the 3D Web in 2016–and a Congressional committee is nearing completion of recommendations on whether the economies of virtual worlds should be regulated.

Such developments might seem absurd to those people who see virtual worlds like Second Life, There, Entropia Universe and others as little more than games. Yet the list of companies that have staked out space in these virtual frontiers is impressive: Microsoft, Warner Music, Toyota, Major League Baseball, Starwood Hotels, Bain and many others.

That’s why Sherman and his colleagues at Show Initiative, which formerly ran the Austin Game Conference, have decided now is a good time for a conference where media and technology professionals can converge with developers of virtual-world platforms. More than 600 are expected to attend.

“There’s critical mass now,” Sherman said. “There’s a number of people looking at the space; it’s permeated the consciousness of Madison Avenue, as well as Silicon Valley.”

Certainly, one of the main topics–how to profit from marketing in virtual worlds–has drawn its share of skeptics. Their hesitancy centers around the notion that there’s no proven business model for big companies marketing in virtual worlds, and there is little, if any, demonstrated return on investment.

There’s no doubt that those concerns will get a healthy hearing at the Virtual Worlds show. Yet there’s also a level of enthusiasm among participants that comes from the perception that they’re on the cutting edge of what could be the next great marketing canvas.

“It’s not going to be the case that any one company is going to solve a bunch of these issues, and it’s going to take a bunch of companies talking about it,” said Corey Bridges, co-founder of The Multiverse Network, a company that has developed a platform allowing anyone to create their own online game or virtual world. “So even though it’s early in the applicability of this new medium, this show, in particular, has got just a dynamite roster…It’s the best of the best of this market.”

Of course, Virtual Worlds is hardly the first conference devoted to immersive digital environments. Others have included State of Play, an annual event focused on the legal, social and academic aspects of virtual worlds and online games; and the Austin Game Conference, which looks at the latest design and development innovations of such environments.

But this week’s event is the first real business conference devoted entirely to virtual worlds.

Keynote speakers include Jeffrey Yapp, executive vice president of MTV Networks; Colin Parris, vice president of digital convergence at IBM Research; and Matt Bostwick, senior vice president of franchise development at the MTV Networks Music Group.

Panelists, meanwhile, plan to explore such subjects as “Defining your strategy: What does ROI mean to you”; “Integrated marketing: Merging virtual activities with real-world activities; and “Virtual world applications that work.”

Some regular attendees of the other gatherings say they’re excited to go to a place where there’s potential for witnessing change in action.

“For once, I’m actually interested in the subject matter that’s going to be examined,” said Mark Wallace, editor of 3pointD.com, a leading blog about virtual worlds and 3D digital environments. “The panel topics that have been chosen are a lot closer to the kinds of things that the edge thinkers in the space are looking at than they are the kind of mass-market panels you often get at broader conferences, where a lot of what’s going on is audience education, and the real conference goes on in the hallways.”

Wallace, whose blog is a “media partner” of the conference, said he expects to see a high level of expertise on the part of the participants. “It’s almost like this has been set up to be the Davos of virtual worlds,” he said.

At the actual World Economic Forum in Davos this year, Second Life was on many people’s lips–and it is similarly expected to be a major topic of discussion at Virtual Worlds. But there is now a growing list of potential competitors for marketers’ dollars, including Bridges’ Multiverse Network, which is building a virtual-world platform, as well as Areae, a start-up of former Sony Online Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Raph Koster, and There.

The conference will also be a place to see what the third-party companies developing projects in Second Life and other virtual worlds for big clients are up to. And that’s what some attendees are most looking forward to.

“I’m looking to meet with the people who are in charge of levering their existing properties and taking them online,” said John Donham, vice president of production at Areae. “I’m (also) interested in meeting the other developers and seeing what they’re making. It’s a good opportunity to spy.”

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TheBar.com Raises A Glass To Second Life

Posted by SIM on March 26, 2007

Virtual ‘cheers’, provided you drink responsibly
By Clement James
26 March 2007

Real world drinks promoter Thebar.com has introduced a virtual Bar Kit to be syndicated and deployed in bars and nightclubs in Second Life.

Virtual bars and nightclubs are already popular meeting spots for Second Life citizens, or avatars, but such venues offer little built-in interactivity, according to Thebar.com.

The Bar Kit allows patrons to be linked through their drink choices, each of which is associated with a catch phrase and animation.

The catch phrase and animation are triggered when avatars propose ‘toasts’ with their drinks. When one avatar proposes a toast to the room, all avatars drinking the same beverage automatically join in the animation.

Additionally, when one avatar proposes a ‘cheers’ to other patrons, all other avatars with the same drink will raise their glasses and have the option to repeat the ‘cheers’ or join in with an ‘I’ll drink to that’.

Thebar.com has also taken measures to ensure that the Bar Kit will be used responsibly by patrons and owners by building in features that promote responsible virtual drinking.

All bar patrons are asked to submit their age when they order their first drink at any bar.

An avatar who tries to overuse the toast function, thereby causing a ruckus for other bar patrons, receives a friendly reminder animation to ‘drink responsibly’ instead of the usual animation.

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For Sale In Second Life: Amsterdam

Posted by SIM on March 22, 2007

By Mitch Wagner,
March 22, 2007

Amsterdam is for sale on eBay.. It’s one of the most popular areas in Second Life. More than that: It is, to Second Life, what Times Square is to New York, or Fisherman’s Wharf is to San Francisco. It’s one of the first places where newbies go, to look around and check out the scene.

I’ve visited a couple of times myself, in my first couple of weeks in Second Life, but not since. I know only a couple of things about it: It’s really lovely, with lots of attention to detail. It looks a lot like the real Amsterdam (which, alas, I’ve only seen on TV travel shows). Check out the slide show on the auction page, above.

And it’s supposed to be one of the most prominent locations for the sex business in Second Life.

Bidding starts at US$20,000, or you can buy it outright for $50,000.

The owner and developer, who goes by the Second Life name “Stroker Serpentine,” says he’s selling because it’s time to move on.

Tateru Nino wrote a brief, six-paragraph profile of Amsterdam, with photos:

One of the first things that really stands out about Amsterdam is the attention-to-detail. It feels very much like a real place, with signage, advertising, imperfections and litter.

Benja Soon said it made him miss the real Amsterdam, and lauded the accuracy of the design, “If the map went two more blocks to my right, I could visit my old apartment.”

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Gamer Rewards

Posted by SIM on March 6, 2007

Say What? Soon, We’ll See ‘Frequent Gamer Rewards’
CNET News
March 6, 2007

On Tuesday, a theater in the Regal Cinemas multiplex in New York City’s Union Square filled up with advertisers, brand marketers, new-media types, and interested bystanders for the PSFK Conference, a series of lectures and panels organized by New York- and London-based trendspotting blog network PSFK. One of the speakers was David Rosenberg, director of emerging media for Manhattan advertising firm JWT, who was speaking on the subject of the cultural shift caused by video games and online role-playing virtual worlds.

Rosenberg stressed that he believes we are seeing a whole new set of economies with online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life–despite the fact that auction giant eBay recently placed a ban on virtual goods.

He posed a rhetorical question to the audience: “How long is it going to be before credit card companies start giving out frequent gamer rewards instead of frequent flyer rewards?”

It’s an interesting thought. I wonder how many Warcraft players would jack up their American Express spending if it meant they could earn themselves some cool new enchanted swords?

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