Sunday, February 7, 2010

she said "like it or not it's the way it's gotta be; you gotta love yourself if you can ever love me"

In a move that should surprise no one, the Labs are killing the SL forums, including the classifieds--and in a further revelation of the obvious, when some form of the forums returns on the ClearSpace non-LL-owned forum/blog, the classifieds? Won't be there.

It's night now, as I rest in the crook of the tree I'd chosen to climb. It is dark and not dark, moonlight through leaves, soft wind moving. Hint of rustle, summer and autumn blending in what should be winter, and is not.

Why? According to Alicia Stella of Massively, "the Lab feels that it provides numerous, non-free advertising options to choose from." Well, then. Guess we'll be fine.

Lighter shadows lay over darker shadows, spotted with slivers of silver on black earth. The red glow from the train yard is the only color I can see, the pale moon's glow leaching color from everything else.

If anyone was on the fence as to whether or not the Labs want to divorce from their current user base, read that statement again. Of course it is completely within the Lab's control to host a classifieds section, or not; they are the owners of the grid, the undisputed owners of all (Linden-generated) content. But it is a decided step away from traditional game, or even socializing space, behavior at large--to wit, that there will now be no form of advertising tied to the Lindens that the Second Life resident does not pay for.

It might be said I don't care. It might be said I delight in inflicting emotional pain on those who love me. It might be said that all I'm designed to do well is to break hearts.

These things might be said, but whoever says them doesn't know me, and maybe never did. Those who think so, would be wrong.


I grant, this may be just me--I stopped being a paying account over the Homestead debacle, though I do pay rent on two parcels and do spend the equivalent, most months, of my premium account fee bringing in textures, taking photographs, and now importing sculpt maps (and at least 20% of that, if not more, I end up ditching anyway, so it's pure profit on the Labs' side). But it strikes me with rather stunning force that if the Labs are this hard up, financially, there are tens of dozens of ideas on better things to do to bring in cash! And top of the list, really, truly, is stop hiring stupid people.

Watching the red glow, though, brighter when my eyes close; I know, for instance, how much of the yard is ablaze. I know how much is burning sodium-bright; I know how many cars have burnt out utterly, to iron dust and fragments of rust. And mayhap it's time and past time for those cars to burn out in the scarlet blaze that consumes all; for if they have left the yard at all, it's been slow, ponderous trundling, pushed by weak engines, to the nearest supply depot for more repairs.

Thus, by default, with the thinnest slice of Occam's Razor involved--there's something else going on. And it irks me to no end that they risk losing chunks of their user base, both formal residents and 'informal' free accounts alike, by continuing to make these...short-sighted, incredibly inept business decisions.

Past a certain point, metal fatigue sets in. Past a certain point, nothing can be repaired. For all we may want it to be mended, eternally, riveted by loving hands, in any world: this is not so. This cannot be.

From the second part of the Why MMOs Fail article by Scott Jennings:

This also means that once the game launches, your players are your customers. Calling them customers is critically important. It implies that you are there to serve them, and not the other way around. You are not the god of your game world, you are a customer service professional, and if you want to keep those customers contributing to your paycheck, you had damned well better act like it.

This is what the Lindens forget, day after day, year after year. That their residents are also their customers; their citizens their cash flow, and the reason cash comes in at all. From the deviants to the debutantes, the furs to the four-figure middle managers. We are all one thriving world; cut one of us, you cut us all.

Drive away one segment, you risk driving away more than you may want to, financially speaking. The potential undertow is a real possibility, not mere hyperbole.

For the moment, I relax, held safe behind leaves and bark. For the moment, I watch my world burn. Because I know some seeds planted can only germinate under specific, and harsh, conditions. Deep cold and ice to crack; acid eating at the hard outer shell; fire, hot enough to burst the casing.

From the first part of Jenning's essay:

Takeaway lesson: never - NEVER - switch out the core of what makes your game what it is while you have paying customers. If you do, they will never forgive you.

Miss Rucker pulled this out for me to reconsider, and I'm glad she did, because it does deserve to be seen. I'm honestly hoping someone at the Labs, for once, happens across this. Because if the game keeps changing, in ways that the paying customers don't like--the paying customers leave. This is true for every game, every social media site, every virtual world on the net and off; change the rules, and at the end of the day, if the players don't like the new rules, they won't play. Hands down.

Perhaps there are some seeds that need such conditions to flourish and grow. And I'll be here to look them over, once the ground cools. A day, a month, a year from now, we'll see what has bloomed, and if I can call it mine, then.

Takeaway lesson from all this, from me? Don't change the rules. Don't upset things to the point where people feel as if it's a whole new game, with new concepts they have to master to do the same things they did yesterday. People will leave. An eighth of the people will bother to tell you; the rest are just...gone, and they won't return, because that game is 'over'.

Don't let SL be over, guys. It's too good a concept to butcher like this. Wake up.

Until that moment...I'll be in the trees.

8 comments:

Lalo Telling said...

Hear, hear!

Candy said...

I'm curious as to what this type of philosphy means for in-group promotion. For example, I am a registered designer for Fabuloulsy Free in SL, and I post a notice once a week for a freebie, with an LM to my shop. Is this advertising? Will the Lab step in and stop this sort of thing? Can they?

-Candy

Emilly Orr said...

As far as I know, all group promotion--as with all group formation, chat, and other group functions--are remaining untouched. Technically, group notices aren't specifically "advertising" in the first place, because they can convey so many things: one single notice can carry a notecard, an object, a landmark--and barring *that*, the text of a notice can contain a SLUrl on its own.

The Labs would have to develop a way to specifically identify group notices used to advertise from group notices sent to...well...notify, and frankly, they're not going to do that, it's sheerly too much work.

Fogwoman Gray said...

This is my biggest curiosity. All the stuff I am seeing come out of the lab of late regarding new acquisitions and developments has almost nothing to do with a 3D virtual world. They are promoting and developing things that are better suited to 2D websites. So where does the 3 dimensionality of Second Life fit into their master business plan? Does it? What real benefit is it for a group of CEOs or students to sit in a 3D room and chat rather than scrolling down a webpage?
I may be missing something really major here and would love to know it if I am. Is anyone else seeing indications that a 3D content rich world of any kind is part of the long term plans of Linden Labs?

Emilly Orr said...

That's an excellent question, and one I'd think more people should be asking.

Better business meetings in SL? What about GoogleWave, where one can upload videos, sketchbook pages, sound files, have conversations with multiple recipients, and preserve the whole thing archived for as long as the project needs.

Whiteboard functionality in SL? Not necessary; GoogleWave again, or stored PowerPoint presentations shipped to multiple recipients again, via standard email, or posted online via YouTube or private server.

Facebook/Twitter/MySpace integration: the residents who really care list their contact info somewhere on their profiles now. Ditto for the real name option, which is just about the single most ridiculous concept SL has EVER come up with.

Voice conferencing features: Um, ever heard of Skype? Works better, too. Works even better if you don't keep SL open, but hey, you *can* keep SL open if you want.

So what is SL good for? Education; it's still BRILLIANT for virtually reinacting lifesaving procedures, medical anatomy courses, midwife training, and some classwork. It _can_ work for business meetings, too; IBM, for instance, regularly has project meetings held on their corporate-access-only land.

SL is also brilliant for art, for recreation, for social interaction, for games, for psychological applications and roleplay, for interactive history applications...in fact, it's good for everything SL is already doing above and beyond the narrow, two-dimensional applications that M Linden seems so fixated on.

It's a puzzle, it truly is.

Astolat Dufaux said...

I think SL is perfect for interactive art & history applications -- imagine bringing the world's best museums and art galleries online, where people from all over the world -- who would otherwise never have the opportunity to visit those places, art or artifacts -- can view, discuss and even participate in historical reenactments, as an example.

We've seen it work -- it continues to work in the RL universities and museums that have set up an online presence in SL.

The problem of course is that as long as LL ignores the copybot issue, SL will always be marginalized.

I can *almost* (but not quite) understand M Linden's desire to bring SL into the "mainstream," but his methods are disturbing -- his actions would seem to indicate that in order to make SL attractive to **people who will pay good money to use it** (as though many of us don't already pay LL good money), he has to strip out everything makes SL unique.

As far as I can tell, he wants to turn Second Life into United Nations Citizen, where residents can buy RL and virtual goods and go back to being good little consumers, not content creators (unless they are vetted by LL, of course).

Lalo Telling said...

@Astolat: I think you'll find that the prediction I made last month about "United Nations Citizen(s)" [they never could make up their mind what the name was!] is coming to pass -- that is, that it's dead before arrival. Even so, your observation is dead-on. You could also use Blue Mars as an example of where the Labsters might be headed -- no content without permission -- except BM has better graphics.

Emilly Orr said...

Lalo,

Which is also why I can't use it. Some day, in the future, when I upgrade from stone knives and bearskins...I might be able to get into Blue Mars and wander around, do more than scan pretty pictures on the net. But to date, my graphics level keeps me from even stepping through the door.

Miss Dufaux,

You're not wrong, and this is what so disturbs me. Okay, every virtual world has growing pains, and fine, their world, their currency, their concepts--whatever helps them sleep at night, I suppose. They want Adult content separated from all other content? Stupid, but fine. They want to wreck sailing as a pastime? Also stupid, but fine. It's their world.

But to make all these changes in the hopes of getting in customers who pay more often...this just kills me. They have paying customers now, who are, in handfuls and by the dozen, dropping away from SL because it's just not fun anymore. And wasn't fun the point, originally? "Your world, your imagination" and all that? And isn't that how the company is still pitching things in promotional machinima?

So many of us are wandering and wondering why we're even here, still. It's not like some of us don't have other things to do. And even the people for whom SL is their life and their livelihood are starting to log in less often...