Wednesday, January 27, 2010

everything else is a waste of breath

If you like Deviant Kitties hair, keep in mind this week, maybe next, the lag will be HIGH. Miss Vindaloo is having a hair sale on her older styles. Traipse off to Deviant Isle, let things load, and then walk forward to where the sale hairs are.

L$20 per shade pack, L$200 for all colors in that style; that's not bad. As I said, if you like her hair, this is the time to come down!

A little bit about Matthew Albanese, pun fully intended. He makes photorealistic miniatures that frequently can be mistaken for actual photographs of our world. Bottle brushes for pine trees, powdered stained tile grout for mountains, rippled glass for wind blowing over the surface of lake water.

Brilliant concept.

I want to point some eyes to another MMORPG article (what can I say, they've got some good minds over there, thinking things out) on the different payment models used for MMOs over the years. This passage in particular caught my attention, from the Box Price Only section:

This particular revenue model never really caught on for one of two reasons: either it may not have been as financially successful as it could have been using this model and so wasn't repeated or other developers realized that adding an item shop to the free to play model would garner higher profits.

Now, I do grant that Second Life is not, strictly speaking, an MMO. It is multiplayer (perhaps not quite as massively), and there are things to do and things to buy, but no "quests", no "NPCs", in the same sense of EverQuest, World of WarCraft, Runes of Magic, and certainly no baseline level advancement.

But it occurred to me--where's the "item mall" for SL, if we take the model of SL equalling (at least some features of) an MMO?

There are multiple "item mall" concepts in play right now, few of them very successful--but just looking at the past initially, the first two were SLBoutique (later ShopOnRez before being bought wholesale, then phased out entirely) and SLX (later XStreetSL after being purchased by Linden Labs). And the really startling thing, that is different from other more game-designed MMOs, is that for Second Life, the item mall is pretty much funded and stocked by the players, not the company who owns the game. I'd have to ask around for folks who play WoW, to confirm or deny this, but in most other MMOs, there's a tendency towards selling very rare items, or enhanced game-generated items; there's no strict player-made objects for sale.

For example, in Runes of Magic, the Auction House stocks Green Leaf Coats because they're a common item--but due to the proliferation of items that create new rune slots, and variations on upgrade kits, some of those are basic and some have very fun enhancements that are completely individual. One person makes a coat that enhances best Scouts, for instance, with runes that amp up speed and agility; another person will use runes that enhance mana (magic) points available, and up wisdom and intelligence; a third will raise the total value of the Green Leaf Coat until it adds comprehensive stat bonuses and a +3 to armor rating.

Second Life, as far as I know, is unique in that players can freely create (at least until recently) whatever they most desired in world, then sell that object for whatever they thought other residents would pay for it, in world, and online through the online listing services.

So. What do you have when you supply people with almost unlimited creation tools, and take a commission off the top of every listing? A constant steam of micro-payments supporting your company.

Which is fair--as Jon Wood points out in the article, companies make games to make money: it is not unfair or price-gouging for them to want to make money. In point of fact, Second Life also functions in large part on the subscription model, whose biggest benefit to the player is granting the ability to own virtual land; and whose biggest benefit for the company is to guarantee a (mostly) steady revenue stream, of monthly subscription fees and land tier support costs.

Which is all okay as far as it goes, and gives us a mixed revenue stream from which Linden Labs derives support costs: namely, they hope it will be enough to support upgrades to software, hardware, and the costs of paying employees and rent on their own non-virtual office buildings. But there is a catch, here, and it's a big one.

What happens when the company that owns the shopping services out of world, destroys one (and, by everyone I've spoken with, destroys the far easier to use, friendlier to access, and simplistic-search-enabled service), then revamps the other so that everyone who uses the service pays a fee per item listed, then also takes a cut off the top, in addition to charging weekly fees for listing the items at all?

I won't lie to you, most MMOs, in their item malls, get players coming and going--and that's ordinarily fine with most players. To use the example of Runes of Magic again: I have a long, magically-enhanced robe to sell. To list it for other players to see, I:

* open the Auction House in game;
* go to the section for my auctions;
* Drag the item from my inventory into the listing box for the new item;
* Click the History button to get an average of what similar items sold for;
* Adjust the bid and buy prices for the item;
* get presented a cost for listing this item;
* confirm listing of the item.

That may seem like a lot of steps, but really--on virtually any online service, no matter how diverse, that has anything like an item mall, this is mostly how it works. There are more steps, less steps, but that's basically it. From Gaia to Etsy to SL to WoW to eBay to Runes; that's basically the process, anywhere items are listed, somewhere, for sale.

But several months back, SL revised how it was selling items on XStreet. Now it's more like:

* go to XStreet;
* hit "Add New Item" once the proper section of the screen is tracked down;
* Click off the boxes, half with information missing or misremembered;
* add in the name of the item; describe it; price it; add in the prim count if known;
* make sure the picture given is for the right item;
* choose between listing options for that item (starting at L$99 for monthly bold listing of that item, all the way to L$2899 to list it for thirty days on the extra-special homepage rotation);
* hit Update Item;
* THEN realize that after all that work, whether or NOT that item sells, it's going to sell with a 5 to 10% commission, PLUS any listing fee to encourage people to see it, PLUS at least L$10 per month flat fee (for non-freebies) up to L$99 per month flat fee (for freebies alone), regardless of anything else.

People are leaving XStreet in droves, because it's akin to the merchant prince at the bazaar taking you aside and saying, for only three drachmas now, and seven drachmas later, plus of course thirty drachmas per month and my cut of the profits, I'll sell your item for you. It will be easy, you'll love it. You'll make millions of drachmas.

We don't love it. We wonder why we're being charged list fees, commission fees, and surcharge taxes just to list an item that, even if it sells wildly, will generally be priced at L$300 or below (on average, and closer to the freebies/cheapies market, that price drops to L$10 or below).

It's the worst of all possible solutions to the perceived problem.

In other news, the fallout continues over Wallace Linden's post on how we'll manage identity and self in the future--I actually had to read this article twice, then go back and read the original Linden blog post again, to really understand the point.
So--even though I and everyone read the post and reacted as if he did--Wallace wasn't actually saying These are the new rules, you keyboard monkeys. Instead, he was making a convoluted post on the philosophy and potential issues behind separation and maintenance of complex and possibly overlapping net personas?

Yeah. I'd agree, he did a lousy job of conveying that. Wonderful. Will the next incompetent Linden step up? Because man, after Kate, M, Pink and Wallace, how can it get worse?

(Gods, don't answer that. Please don't answer that.)

Speaking of communication on the blogs, in this post the resident in question gave out the entirely wrong information in the first few paragraphs. It turns out later that she was not speaking of system-layer clothing, but of the prim parts she was wearing--in other words, she was still wearing clothing, just not the prim parts that go along with it.

Which is odd, but whatever--until we get to the comments.

The comments list many cases of the exact thing I face off and on, between Emerald (I refuse to use Emerald until it fixes its inventory bug for me and have in fact uninstalled the viewer), Snowglobe and Imprudence--namely, changing any system layer of clothing removes all clothing, requiring either a logout and relog with different viewer, or a total change of all items--eyes, hair, bald cap, shape, skin, putting all all layers of system layer clothing, taking them all off again, and THEN--assuming I'm not in Emerald where I can't see anything that's stored inside a non-system level folder--being able to change into the outfit I want.

This takes time I don't want to lose and patience I don't have. But weirdly, I never thought to bug-report it. I really need to bug-report things more often.


Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle said...

Xstreet charges listing fees in ADDITION to the commission cuts?

Procrastination had kept me from putting stuff up on there before but yeah that's me officially on Ordinal's boycott Xstreet wagon then.

Emilly Orr said...

I don't know for 100%, because I left XStreet, but as far as when last heard, the plan was:

* L$10 charged per month, per item, for all non-'free' items;
* L$99 charged per month, per item, for all 'free' items, plus a L$3 fee per month, per item, minimum commission (that was one suggestion that may not have been implemented, but was there when last checked);
* commission fee when that item, free or non, sells.

So, yeah. Charge you fore, aft, and in the middle. Forget it.

Anonymous said...

"and, by everyone I've spoken with, destroys the far easier to use, friendlier to access, and simplistic-search-enabled service" didn't speak with me, in that case. :-) My immediate reaction when they announced that they were killing OnRez instead of XSL was "Thank God they chose to keep the functional one instead of the pretty one for once." OnRez's search engine was close to useless; conversely, I've never had trouble finding anything on XSL.

Emilly Orr said...

See, and for me and many others...well, let me actually go back and do this in progression:


* graphically uncomplicated
* simple to read
* simple to upload to
* simple to list items on
* simple to search
* somewhat complicated, but easy to repeat, set of steps necessary to categorize things and change permissions on groups of items
* simple to organize your store page as you wanted it to look
* somewhat complex to update and to make changes to initial store page structure
* listed all the new items entered that day on the home page


* workmanlike (even spreadsheet-like) in appearance
* difficult to list items on
* difficult to FIND items on
* difficult to EDIT items
* had to edit items individually, could not change permissions on groups of objects
* if you didn't check off a box, the listing form reacted much like early HTML coding: it just wouldn't update until you found the error ON YOUR OWN


* surface over substance
* impossible to find things on without several searches
* difficult to list things on
* organized in an arcane and confusing fashion
* dropped the new-items-today feature ENTIRELY
* could not change color or import logos for your store page
* no ability to edit groups of items, just individual ones again


* difficult to list things on, but easier than ShopOnRez became at the end
* much cleaner, much brighter graphics and layout in comparison to ShopOnRez (but not SLB)
* somewhat difficult to search on if you didn't know both names of the maker, or didn't know the complete name of the product; searching by general categories to focus in was the only alternative
* difficult to upload to, but again, easier to upload to than ShopOnRez

What I really want back? SLBoutique. That won't happen, because it was bought out and then resold.

Still, meta-Life is slowly growing on me, and Apez is at least all dark and gothic. :p

Anonymous said...

Regarding SLB, I don't disagree.

And I remain interested in your thoughts on the alternative services... I've yanked everything but the protest shirts off XSL and have stopped using it for my own shopping, but have yet to get around to listing anything elsewhere. (Though I've signed up for two of them so far.)

Emilly Orr said...

I should do a round-up, honestly.

I have items listed on Metaverse Exchange, but I had so much difficulty with the interface, I threw out the server in frustration. Then they listed me for a week on the homepage, and people started writing. Damn the timing.

meta-LIFE, other people love, and make great sales with. It's fairly easy to use; haven't sold a thing yet, but hey.

Apez I had a TERRIBLE time configuring properly, both the server and the site, and there's still no good way to link to my items on the service. But I have sold items. (I need to get the vendor reconfigured; I had a working vendor, but then I moved,'s just a matter of tracking it down and getting the right one out.

Cariama is...still Cariama.

Dio said...

As far as the thing with the Wally, I think most serious commentators were perfectly aware that he was simply addressing a larger philosophical question--and actually a pretty good one to ask--but he did invite people to discuss what they thought about the subject.. Not surpsingly, for people reading a Linden blog onthe SL site, a good bit of their opinions on the subject were going to have to do with SL.

It is the specidfic case that they would all be familiar with and concerned about, so OF cCOURSE that's what they chsoe to disucss in this covnersation.

I think part of the problem wass that the Wally tried to start a larger generelerlaized conversation about a tipic that swould have been great to dealw iht on a gernal virtual worlds blog, but by putting it on the site that is the the virtual company town for LL, he MADE it intothe conversation that it turned into.

It simply was a good question, thrown out for consdieration inthe wrong place.

The mess was further compounded by the way he primarily responded to either people he knew or people who weren't hostile. At any point he could have said, "hey, guys, that's great you're thinking about how this might relate in a practical way to your life in SL, but I really wanted to talk about this in a larger more general sense...",

So Ultimamtley the conversation manager started something that was neither a conversation, nor managed.

Yeah, I will be curious to see if he learns anything from this and makes his next "conversation" more focused.

Sphynx Soleil said...

...between Emerald (I refuse to use Emerald until it fixes its inventory bug for me and have in fact uninstalled the viewer), Snowglobe and Imprudence...

You may need to do a complete UN-install of ALL viewers, and completely - and manually, don't depend on the client to do it even when told - delete all cache files in the cache directory.

If it helps, I have multiple cache directories - one for each viewer, so they don't tromple on each other's territory. I would heartily recommend you do the same if you have the drive space. (I think that may be why things haven't blown up quite so badly for me like they seem to have with you.)

I don't HAVE an inventory issue with Emerald, for example - just about all of my issues with clients these days are due to the world being a laggy POS that day, or the client either crashing to the desktop or getting logged out.

Emilly Orr said...

Answering Sphynx first--actually, I was discussing this in der Hut yesterday, and the Baron told me that. Seems that one started off of a Tensai Hilra tip--not surprising, she's a genius--to move the cache of any viewer having problems.

Considering I've uninstalled Emerald, though, I have to now REinstall it, and in the meantime, track down the cache they're TRYING to clear, then move it and try it again.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Dio,

What worries me about the communications skills of the "new Lindens"--Wallace and Pink chiefly among them--is that they seem to be adopting the worst of the extant corporate culture.

I realize, working at the Labs, they're steeped in it, and this probably can't be helped. But the Labs deliberately went out and hired two people with backgrounds separate from SL--because sure, we can say Wallace was involved in SL business matters with the Alphaville Herald, but he also had a background in social media. And Pink, near as I can tell, left eBay for the Labs.

If the experiment was, as I'm tending towards thinking, to find people good at their jobs outside the reinforcing lack-of-communication-go-round that is the Labs, then it failed, because both of these people made the same bonehead mistakes as every other chirpy we-know-what-you-want ain't-this-cool forum blogger.