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Ten Things the Lindens Could Do to Fix the Mainland


Prokofy Neva
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The Lindens are totally preoccupied with Project Sansar, and don't really care about doing anything new or better for the Mainland, as far as I can tell (but they can always surprise us), or even the private islands, which make up the bulk of their business. But since Legacy SL is still the Lindens' cash cow and will be for some time, it doesn't hurt to lay out what is required by customers to make it work better, retain customers, and make more cash for both the Lindens and those in business.

The Mainland is the black sheep of the SL family and the least of the Lindens' desires to help because it produces the least tier -- there are, what, 5000 Linden sims and 5000 resident sims or something like that, contrasted with the 20,000 odd private islands and homesteads.

Even so, there are some important revenue streams on the Mainland, there are the landing areas for newbies, there are the roads that the Moles have put a lot of work into and the "load testing" that Lindens still get out of this area should they wish to do things like cross sim seams with vehicles -- which of course, they're not going to do any more in Sansar as there will be no contiguous geography. 

When Project Sansar gets up and running, Legacy SL may flush out like a storm drain and follow the pattern we have seen in There and The Sims Online, now both defunct, whereby a sizeable part of the population stormed to the new shiny -- then ebbed back when they missed their friends and suffered the inevitable disappointments and difficulties -- but then flooded in again, ultimately draining out the old worlds and killing them off even though some population remained.

There are two aspects then to the eternal problems of the Mainland -- asking the Lindens to improve things so it works better in a positive way -- Plan A -- and Plan B -- getting the Lindens not to deliberately harm the Mainland and hurry along the process of "cannibalizing" their own product, as Ebbe has wondrously put it. So for now, I'll deal with Plan A and suggest 10 things that need to be done to help the Mainland:

1. Increase the tier in the premium account to 1024 meters and provide a free pack with a start house and furniture. People who buy land and content with their stipends are the "middle class" of SL and a stabilizing factor.

2. End the odd step-ups of tier, i.e. $25 to $40 or 16,000 to 32,000 and allow either incremental steps, or a flat fee that will accommodate any variation, i.e. if someone has a parcel of 1,152 meters, they pay the fee for exactly that and not the "step up" to 2048. The odd step-up is one of the major reasons people don't get more land -- they hate suddenly getting a much steeper monthly bill, or conversely, hate not being able to have flexibility in shedding some of it or gaining some of it in a reasonable way.

3. Allow abandoned land to go immediately to sale only to those already on that sim who own at least 256 m (or 512 m) or more, and only allow it to be purchased by the general public after a 30-day period during which that sim's owners had a chance to buy that land.

4. Mandate that all abandoned land be cleared of its content within 30 days. And also consider mandating that any land that has not had its owner log on to Second Life for 365 days should also be cleared of content. There are too many precious oldbies and beta testers and Linden alts with ugly, stupid sandboxes filled with junk blighting the landscape -- spinning junk, glowing junk, newbie boxes rezzed and discarded. Why can't this go?! At the very least, there could be a mandate that all land that has been left without care by the owner logging in X number of days must have autoreturn put on it. Given that builds go to lost and found in coagulated form, if the no-shows need to put out their spinning turrets they can log back on and do that. The reality is they never do and we should all stop suffering from them.

5. Keep the auctions for particularly sought-after or high-value land or conversely, land that no one ever buys when given the opportunity because the auction is a concentrated notification system that the land is for sale -- in this large a world people can't know everything. But make the auctions transparent as they once were, so that both winners and losers are listed on a dedicated page after the auction. This is important so that people can understand who is dominating the land market and decide on their secondary purchases accordingly. End the practice of automatically assigning the land to the avatar and automatically increasing the tier level; enable the winner of the auction to pick up the land manually so that he can first arrange tier and also have the option to purchase as a group.

6. Continue fixing the roads -- a lot of them are already very well done -- and adding new content. While Ebbe has said that content is only for load-testing, in fact, it is the high-quality sweetener that makes the Mainland worth exploring. There are many well-done areas by the Moles with activities and exploration areas and a legacy of interesting content with a consistent theme (like Magellan) so the Moles should be allowed to go on doing this because it makes the Mainland enjoyable.

7. Customer Service and particularly Concierge must end the practice of refusing to take abuse reports. Linden Lab must treat abuse reports like the weather and merely handle them by a set of protocols rather than forcing people into ineffective "abuse reports" via the viewer which we all know "go nowhere". So if a griefer drops grief prims on physics on 50 sims, hundreds of people shouldn't be forced to file reports one by one for days on end to get rid of the ugly cubes. Instead, the Lindens should simply globally remove them when asked in customer support. CS may want to limit the AR responses to griefing incidents affecting sim performance, and say that they won't adjudicate things like copyright violations or personal disputes with ARs like 'targeted harassment." But there is no reason why they cannot treat the crashing of sims with physics items and other types of sim-relating griefing as merely a technical problem that needs to be fixed, just like if someone said teleports and scripts stopped working and they need a sim reset.

8. Lost inventory must be tackled more effectively and with faster and better protocols. It is absolutely shocking what goes on -- people lose tens of thousands of expensive items like rare breedables and the Lindens seem helpless to figure out why these items -- that aren't really "missing" because they exist as creations in the inventory of their breedable makers, for example -- aren't pointing to an individual's inventory from the asset server. I have tenants who have suffered huge losses and I myself have been plagued by this issue repeatedly, with $3000 skins randomly being lost forever and even notecards used dozens of times a day. This needs to become a priority.

8. End the "scourge mobiles" -- driverless cars allowed to roam all over SL, often out of theme, i.e. buses on the water and trains on the road and boats on the railroad. There is no need to test sim seams or sim performance for driving. Enough data has been obtained. The Lindens already know that they are no longer in the sim-seam business as they are junking contiguous sims in the new world. So globally remove and ban those "testers" who keep persisting in ruining our quality of life with this junk. It is not pleasant to see pods and junky cars constantly driving all over the roads and crashing into our yards.  We are not stick figures in a pretend railroad and village diarama that needs "life" put into it. We have cars and the serendipity of meeting real drivers on the road is one of the pleasures of SL. The sim-crossing works "good eough" to have horse riding or motorcycle riding. Get rid of the scourges and let us live freely in the world.

9. Create more zoned/themed sims. Bay City and Nautilus are hugely valued and way more expensive than the rest of the Mainland (as are parts of Zindra) because the Lindens have gone to the trouble to make nice areas with buildings and put in easements and mandated certain building codes. But these are priced out of the budget of most people and cliques form in them that dominate them and are hostile to outsiders. The Lindens can improve the look of the Mainland, and also get prices down by creating more of these areas with other themes like fairy/elf/woods, modern/deco/grunge, futuristic/space or whatever. Or even simply the suburbia that most people want.  

10. Give more perks to loyal customers. The early adapters got 4096 free for life, but most of them are gone. Those of us who have been here 10 years or more don't even get an SL birthday cake anymore, the Lindens have forgotten to keep this up. We could get 1024 free for life or even that 4096 -- what better way to soak up abandoned land and get the Mainland lively again in its dead parts?

While the traditional rejection of these ideas is that they require too much adjudication or staff time, in fact given how low the population is now -- I think some 30,000 concurrency on many days and 70,000 on peaks with perhaps 750,000-900,000 or something 30-day uniques, most of whom are on private islands that don't suffer any of these problems I've outlined -- it really isn't that big a deal. The Lindens can assign a part of a person or a whole person to be Community Linden, assign some scripters to make land that is abandoned scan for existing owners on that sim and sell only to those names, then dump those after 30 days (surely that is possible with existing LSL functions for getting information off parcels). The auction used to have an automatic system for publishing names and used to go to winners without tiering them up, so this could be restored. 

Other things just require political will and cost nothing in staff time and even reduce it  -- ending the scourges and flipping the ugly prims off the long-time no-show oldbies' land. To be sure, creating themed areas is an investment in staff time for content creation and a certain amount of policing. These areas essentially police themselves now, but not always in a good way. Of course, the Lindens are likely going to want to spend LESS staff time than MORE on the Mainland, which they'd love to see go away. 

And that's where Plan B will come in -- harm reduction -- which I'll address another day.

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I could probably ramble on about lots of these, but for now, a clarification about just one: Is #8 (well, the second #8), the "scourge mobiles," still a problem? We don't want to talk about individuals here, but for the past few months, one notorious source of automated vehicles seems to have stopped (well, the accounts seem to have disappeared, too), and I haven't heard any further complaints about other automated vehicles that still roam some Linden byways.

Personally, I like the ones that remain (including the snowlands "ONSR" monorail and color sims "GSLR" trolley, as well as the pods, a couple ferries, and a few other infrequent SLRR-traversing locomotives), but I don't know how others perceive them. 

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Qie, it doesn't matter if "one" is removed, there are others and they persist.

If you notice, I was talking about roads and about driverless vehicles that go all over.

Not trains, although scourges go on the train rails too. There's a difference between scourge-mobiles that invade roads and any transportation arteries anywhere, and a planned, resident-run train that goes on a schedule or on a set route -- you need not be literalist in perceiving this as about "all" driverless vehicles. The resident-run trains and trolleys are on tracks that don't end up in my yard.

As for the pods, if you saw them on multiple sims as I do everyday you'd be less enamored of them. 

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Prokofy Neva wrote:

8.
End the "scourge mobiles" -
- driverless cars allowed to roam all over SL, often out of theme, i.e. buses on the water and trains on the road and boats on the railroad.

They're gone already. AnnMarie vanished from Second Life a few months ago with all her "drunken vehicles". All her accounts have been cancelled and as far as I know, nobody has heard any news from her.

 


Prokofy Neva wrote:

9. Create more zoned/themed sims.
Bay City and Nautilus are hugely valued and way more expensive than the rest of the Mainland (as are parts of Zindra)

I agree with you in principle. One of the biggest mistakes Linden Lab did back in the early days was to neglect the need for consistent themes. All experience both from SL and other 3D environments of all kinds, shows that it is the themed places that succeed. LL also somehow forgot the last sentence in their slogan. It shuold read "Your World, Your Imagination, Your Neighbor's Nightmare." Before people start to protest: yes, there should be a place for everything in Second Life. But there should be different places for different things. Place Santa's Workshop right next to a troipical paradise and all you get is two unhappy landowners forced to hide beghind claustrophobic privacy screens.

That being said, Nautilus is not a themed region. It was intended as one but the intentions were never followed up and it soon became one of the messiest places in the whole of Second Life. It's a slum and only expensive for being expensive.

Bay City is a ghost town. Last spring more than half the city came up for sale and remained for sale to the end of the year. Today many of the sellers have given up and abandoned their land there but there are still lots of parcels for sale if anybody are interested. I don't know if there have been any buyers at all so far but it there have, it can't have been many.

The fates of Bay City and Nautilus are good examples of the downside to themed regions.

A theme as limited and static as Bay City's can be wonderful for a while but sooner or later it goes out of style.

A broken theme is even worse than no theme at all, if only because you can still see the sad remains of what the place was intended to be scattered among the eyesores. Of course the Nautlius theme was even more limited than Bay City's. It wasn't designed as a residental area at all but rather as a role play continent based on some vague undefined quasi-antique mythology. There was absolutely no way that theme could ever have broad enough appeal to justify a whole continent dedicated to it and that is probably one of the reasons why it failed right from the start.

The two pitfalls that killed Nautilus and Bay City can be avoided though so yes, themed areas spanning several sims would have been the right thing to do.

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Once again, while ONE scourge-mobile author is halted, there are several more at least -- just look out on the roads and waterways and you will see them!

I agree about "Your Neighbours' Nightmare." My long-time suggestion for "themes" was actually more about four rough genres, if you will, like this:

-- Sandbox - anything goes, build what you want, all spinning physics laggy hell breaks loose.
-- Commercial - stores, commerce allowed, or scripted vendors allowed
-- Residential - homes where rules prevail, i.e. no builds over two stories, no building smack at the property line, no scripted commerce
---Educational - collegues and non-profits

I don't know why it was so hard not to long ago, divide the Mainland roughly up in this way, instead of making a crazy quilt of anything-goes sandbox parcels where people trying to make either decent residential neighbourhoods or commercial areas must struggle as a few blight the view.

Often the Lindens in discussions of years ago would invoke 0/1 binary thinking where they would claim that it was "impossible" to decide what was "artistic" and what was "normal residential". Nonsense. A few simple rules -- which the Lindens themselves installed when they themselves made zoned sims!!! - are all you need. In Brown, there is no commerce except in the designated marketplace. In Nautilus, you can't build smack on the borderline such as to bother another person because there is Linden space between the plots. There the Lindens should have barred towers and builds over two stories as well. I think there are rules in Bay City. It's not the endless customer service nightmare imagined because most people follow rules when you *set the tone*. The Lindens are never willing to set the tone.

I disagree that Nautilus is a "slum." Yes, parts of it are blighted but there are still many areas that are still kept nice with the built-in easement a boon and the Linden content.

Bay City doesn't strike me as so "ghosty" when I've visited lately but I haven't scientifically studied it. Yes, a few buy and hold there to extort because for them, tier even of 6 or 12 months on a 1024, say, is more than covered by the hefty sale price -- and they still profit.

When I say "theme," it can be more about "no commercial" or "no spinning junk" or something like that just as much as "ancient" or "elf" -- but I raise the issue of more defined themes just because I think they might be popular and attract customers.

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Prokofy Neva wrote:

Once again, while ONE scourge-mobile author is halted, there are several more at least -- just look out on the roads and waterways and you will see them!

My own land is crisscrossed with Linden Roads and waterways and I still spend quite a bit of time exploring mainland. I'm very well aware of what goes on there.

The green flying buses are gone too. They only lasted for a short while.

That means Yavanna is the only one to offer public transportation across Mainland.

Yes, I do agree that ideally they should have had a look that would blend better in with the environment but there are some practical problems there. They would have to blend in with all the different landscapes they pass, they have to be able to morph into boats when they're on water and they have to be very simple and light weight to minimize sim crossing problems. I'm a builder specializing in low weight realistic looking builds and given all the conflicting requirements I really can't think of any better design solution than the Yava Pods for this.

The Yava Pods offer long distance free public transportation for anybody who wants to explore mainland. They're guided tours even. The value of what they do for mainland and Second Life as a whole more than makes up for their fairly minor visual flaws.


Prokofy Neva wrote:

I agree about "Your Neighbours' Nightmare." My long-time suggestion for "themes" was actually more about four rough genres, if you will, like this:

That was part of LL's plan with the telehubs: commercial districts around the hubs and residental ones further out. Didn't happen quite that way.


Prokofy Neva wrote:

-- Sandbox - anything goes, build what you want, all spinning physics laggy hell breaks loose.

I assume you don't mean "sandbox" in the traditional sense - we already have that of course - but regions where people can own land and build whatever they like. We already have that too actually, Zindra. That whole continent is for sale right now if anybody are interested. Better hurry up though, the wannabe sellers have already started abandoning land.


Prokofy Neva wrote:

-- Commercial - stores, commerce allowed, or scripted vendors allowed

Here's the one made in conjuction with the Waterhead telehub:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Borrowdale/67/134/35


Prokofy Neva wrote:

-- Residential - homes where rules prevail, i.e. no builds over two stories, no building smack at the property line, no scripted commerce

The Linden Homes? No, let's not talk about them. We have to keep some standards for our discussions here. ;)


Prokofy Neva wrote:

---Educational - collegues and non-profits

The official Linden Lab Center of Education:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Campus/155/142/24


Prokofy Neva wrote:

I disagree that Nautilus is a "slum." Yes, parts of it are blighted but there are still many areas that are still kept nice with the built-in easement a boon and the Linden content..

and there are also more than 20 sims there with barren wasteland on the ground and stacks of sky platforms above.

Yes, there certainly are parts of Nautilus where the residents try to maintain the theme and build in harmony with it. I think the problem with Nautilus is that it was made too big. If it had been big enough to accomodate the people actually interested in the concept but not so big you had to fill it up with people just lookign for some generic land, it might have been quite a success.


Prokofy Neva wrote:

Bay City doesn't strike me as so "ghosty" when I've visited lately but I haven't scientifically studied it.

Right now there are 123 parcels for sale in Bay City and they've been for sale for almost a year now. There used to be twice as many but some seller gave up and abandoned their parcels recently. Bay City doesn't look abandoned at first glance partly because many of the parcels for sale have buildings on them, mostly because such a big amunt of the land is Linden owned with permanent Linden builds. But there aren't many people who own or rent land they actually use there anymore.


Prokofy Neva wrote:

I don't know why it was so hard not to long ago, divide the Mainland roughly up in this way, instead of making a crazy quilt of anything-goes sandbox parcels where people trying to make either decent residential neighbourhoods or commercial areas must struggle as a few blight the view.

Linden Lab did try on many occasions. It's easy to see why they usually failed and quite often the projects could have been made to work with a few tweaks. But that's not how Linden Lab used to work. You get an idea that looks brilliant and start building full of enthusiasm - no reality check, no market analyzis - those are just distractions. And most important: no bug fixes! Those are boring. If the idea didn't work, you just leave it as it is and move on to something new and more exciting.

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I agree with most points and especially with that themed mainland areas, both with commercial/elegant, commercial/anything goes; residential/no junk/no banlines/skyboxes only 300+m/etc., as well as themed in the sense of all popular roleplay genres, would certainly be much more attractive than mainland as it is now.

 

From my roleplayer's perspective, different roleplay-themed mainland areas could well be interesting for a lot of roleplayers, as it would make them more 'independent' of a specific sim/the sim/s owner/s, and the roleplay itself wouldn´t have to die or the players spread on other sims, if the owner/s can´t/don't want to keep up the RP-sim any longer.

That would need some work of course, outlining general rules and lore, no banlines, setting up groups for needed IC and OOC communication (set up by Lindens for obvious reasons), working together of the land holders of those areas, so that there´s not say 100 elven castles but not a single tavern or infirmary in the area, etc., but there´s definitely potential there and it would be a rather innovative experiment in roleplay.

People who´d rent larger plots could still set up themed roleplay-rentals for players without premium accounts, and some of those players might decide they´d like to stay and upgrade to premium, so they can have their own small plot and put their own personal house (themed of course ;)) down and own/contribute to the rp-community. The area as a whole could be much bigger than a single sim, if there is enough interest in the genre, and the whole thing wouldn´t rest on the shoulders of a single sim-owner, and it might attract a lot more people, if the roleplay-region was Linden/RP-community owned, with few but clear rules, a 'guarantee' to be still there a week or month later, and more of a democratic thing as a whole.

I've been roleplaying on enough sims, also 'on the other side of the fence', to know that's not as easy as it might sound to some,  and needs people to work together and act as the adults they are about it, with the good of the community in mind, but I think it could be very interesting, and if done right, might actually become a big attraction for internet roleplayers (maybe even something to get -new- people in, if advertised). To me it seems like such an obvious thing to do though, that I guess they either shun the work, or assume there´s more revenue for them in the 'private-single-sim-RP-scene' as it is. Pity, I think it could be a big chance for mainland.

Then of course, with what little information has been parted with concerning Sansar and the future of SL at least for 'the common resident', this might just be no topic at all anyway. 

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Taeem wrote:

 

Then of course, with what little information has been parted with concerning Sansar and the future of SL at least for 'the common resident', this might just be no topic at all anyway. 

The more I know about Sansar, the less I think it's intended for "the common resident" of Second Life. I don't think many of us will find it appealing, and I don't think Linden Lab particularly cares one way or another whether much of the SL population ever finds its way over to Sansar.

That, however, is now. Sansar as a business will more than likely fail. Not because it's a bad idea -- it's about the only thing the Lab can develop with some prospect of becoming a growth property again. But the odds are against it, as with most new products and services, and especially the new crop of HMD hype-chasing virtual world applications (highfidelity very much included).

So that's what I was hoping Ebbe was thinking about, back in the first Lab Chat: How much of SL's user base will remain after a separate marketing team specifically targets them for cannibalization in a desperate, last-ditch effort to prop-up the failing Sansar?

The organization can be prevented from doing that to itself, but without active intervention, it seems a pretty likely end of Linden Lab.

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That's an interesting idea. I agree Security Orbs should have 5 minutes. I also think they should not teleport you home but only bounce you away. 

Of course, until the Lindens address griefing better, it's hard to expect people to do without banning ability.

"Access only" is really a more common annoyance as it essentially "bans everybody" not in a little group.

Why don't people just uncheck "avatars can see you"? I find people don't even know about this. Make yourself invisible, then you don't have to work about intruders.

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I've never been in RP groups so I don't know how much is involved here. But I like the idea of giving people freedom from sim owners. Maybe what the Lindens have to do is just put out the rough sketch of a possible RP sim, make the tools for using them (perhaps have "OOC" functions in a group or something) and then let people just work with those basics to elaborate their own RP. The land could have covenants with rules.

The Lindens always shy away from anything that sounds like governance and making little governments. As a result, they get them anyway in their worst form. But to sell them on the idea, you'd have to have a very efficient thing that doesn't cost them much work.

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  • 2 weeks later...

All good suggestions, but the major one for me is eliminating this fixed tier pricing.

I know the Lindens want to encourage larger sales, but personally I find people forced to cut corners rather than tier up or, in my own case, I'm in the difficult position of having to make tough decisions in order to tier down, as I don't believe I'm getting enough out of my current land for what I'm paying and need to scale back.

Personally I'd like to see them just take the price per square metre of the current tiers and simply charge for what you own. For example, if you want 6,000 square metres you'd pay $25 for the first 4,096 square metres, then an extra ~$7 for the remaining 1,904 square metres at the 8,192 tier price of ~$0.003 per square metre, i.e- the square metre price gets cheaper for each power of two square metres you already own.

In effect the pricing would be the same as it is now for anyone that is right on their tier limit. In the short term this means a reduction in cost for most people, who probably have the odd awkward amount of land use they can't use, but I think in the long run it'd be better as users will be encouraged to buy up small amounts of extra land above their tier.

 

In fact, for most casual land owners 2,048 or 4,096 square metres is a good amount of land, but it's easy to outgrow these, however 8,192 is a more significant commitment if you don't really need that many prims or that much space, which is why the current system really doesn't work IMO.

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It's certainly a popular and longstanding complaint, but I sorta don't get it. Well, for newbies the tier steps look scary, but for folks like us who've been around for ages, well, we already have Premium alts (an old alt's higher stipend makes an annual membership profitable, even without land) and all our land will be group-owned already, and split among a few alts the tier steps can be small.

Even without oldbie alts, an extra premium membership on annual plan, net of stipend and accounting for the 512 sq.m. "bonus" tier, is way worth it for the tier savings when an inconvenient "step" is at hand. There's a little arithmetic involved, but it's not, like, an exercise in LP optimization or anything.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Qie -- he's right, tier-stepping is non-intuitive and unnecessary and hurts sales.

Even with grouped land, a bonus, a discount for owning more than a sim, I still find tier-stepping a pain.

If I have to add a little bit, I can't add at the discount rate of half a sim -- I don't need a half a sim.

So I put a little tier on an alt, but if it goes above $40 there's a big jump to $75. This is hugely annoying. You don't need that land or expense.

Lindens could keep bulk discounts and group tier bonuses and still eliminate stepping.

 

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