Sunday, January 22, 2012

swift and sudden, fall from grace

So we have a single-picture release of Katniss' Fire Dress from the Hunger Games, and...well, I'm hoping I'll be more impressed later. Also, I'm a little gobsmacked by their choice of actor to play Cinna--to be truthful, I was thinking someone closer to Austin Scarlett than Lenny Kravitz.

Originally seen on New World Notes came another mention of the SL vampires phenomenon--but this time, from a slightly different direction. And it's one I agree with, quite honestly.

This is the current best-of attempt to lure in the vampiric masses to SL:

(from the Blogger Pictures album)

So, this vampire. I'd love to know both who took this picture, and who's the model. Because I can tell several things wrong right off the bat:
  • Where is she, in Little Silent Hill? This is not a Ridley Scott movie. Clear out the snow effects.
  • It would also be nice to have someone with a little knowledge of attachments, and adjusting same, to have worked with this avatar before the shot was taken? Because right now they look like fang-shaped lower-lip piercings, not--you know--fangs.
  • It would also be nice if they'd have used a vampiric eye that didn't look jaundiced over supernatural.
  • And while we're at it, they couldn't have done a little PhotoShop work, trimmed out that jutting ribcage on her torso? Not exactly aesthetically pleasing.
Then (as they mention in the article) Alicia Cachenaux decided to pull up what she thought was the same outfit (called the Vampire Xyla avatar in the Library, apparently). This was her take, which she says was only lightly PhotoShopped, and took her about twenty minutes all told:

(from the Blogger Pictures album; Some rights reserved, Copyright, Alicia Cachenaux; used
without permission but not altered in any way save machine resizing
(original as downloaded is the same as seen on her site.)

Now, things I noticed about this one:
  • You can emphasize "winter" and "chill" without having floating snow particles. Gosh! Imagination! What an astounding thing!
  • Also, she's got to run shadows on her machine. Which I will admit, makes this picture look phenomenal without a lot of editing. (But truthfully, most folks can't run inherent shadowing on their systems.)
  • She knows how to adjust prim fangs. You'd think Lindens who worked for the Labs would know that, too.
  • It's a lovely pose, it's a lovely background, the extraordinarily jaundiced eyedrops-of-Midori look seems toned down, and even the hair looks good. Amazing.
See what a little effort can do? And I do mean little; that was a twenty-minute shot, start to finish. That's about the time it takes to watch an episode of the Daily Show without commercials, people.

Lindens, you could have put up this picture to advertise for vamps. Why didn't you?

I would like to bring up one more thing from the Iris Ophelia article also linked. It seems staggeringly apparent to me, after six years on the grid, that what the Lindens expect and what they get are two radically different things, but this complaint is more specific than that.

What Linden Lab seems to want is pretty clear: they want people to pay them money. They want people to keep paying them money. They want people to play their games, and keep playing their games, because let's face it, it's not easy to live on the grid and not spend money.

I'm not saying these are bad goals. And more power to them when (though usually if) they happen. But here's where the problem is: the tools they're employing to get these paying customers are woefully inadequate to get those paying customers.

Why? Well, first, they seem to use vintage 2006/2007 avatars for almost all promotional materials, unless they're specifically advertising new products, like the vampire avatar. Why do they do this? Moreover--and this one has baffled me every time I see a Linden--nearly every Linden on the grid is also in a 2006/2007 avatar--if not in a significantly older avatar. I'm sure there's a value to nostalgia, but seriously, when the big redesign for Philip Linden takes him from looking like a Naruto clone in spiky hair and an impossible codpiece to...well, someone who walked out of the Castro district after a particularly vigorous night...I mean, okay, the skin's better (and a custom design); the hair's better (sort of); but the outfit? It's an essentially (and only slightly) better-textured version of his original outfit. Come on, now.

And if that's the thinking of the CEO (at the time), that's the corporate culture. And if the corporate culture is saying things like Never update and don't use an AO and don't use prim hair and stay to system layers...that filters both down to the support staff, and down to the customer base.

Frankly, if you emphasize that money's not needed, you get people for whom money doesn't matter, and from there you get people who don't want to pay to play the game. That's a pretty callous statement, I know, but it's not wrong.

More than that, the tutorial walk-throughs on Orientation Island used to emphasize these things. This is how you walk with an AO; these are clothing layers; these are eyes; this is how to walk, this is how to turn, this is how to interact with an object, this is how to open a box.

Once that was thrown out, the only instruction left is the userbase, and most of them are still telling the random conglomeration of friends and strangers that arrive on the grid several specific, and fairly Linden-unfriendly, things:
  • Get an AO. NOW.
  • This is prim hair. Never wear system hair again. EVER.
  • You don't need to rent land. Just pop a house up at a sandbox. No big deal.
  • Wear fur.
  • Wear fangs.
Is this really what the Lindens want to pass on to their userbase? Because from here, we have to look at the advertising. What's the advertising for SL telling us?
  • If you're not human, you don't count.
  • If you're a vampire, you count, but really, we think of you as human.
  • Water sims are really, really important for all those fun outdoor activities we know you'll love.
  • It's possible to change clothes by activating a swirly particle effect.
  • It's possible to hold hands with an avatar anywhere you want.
  • It's possible to kiss an avatar anywhere you want.
  • Ideally, even more than being human, we at Linden Lab really want you to be white. Even though other skin colors are just fine. But you'll have more fun if you're white.
But break down the bulk of the newcomers to Second Life recently. What are they, in majority groups, identifying as? They're almost always from this list:
  • Furs
  • Vampires
  • Vampire furs
  • Nekos
  • Victorians
Think I'm kidding? Look at the folks around any welcome center. Or even better, look at who's renting land or even buying whole estates after they join the grid? Who are those people? Chances are, they wear fur, or they wear fangs, or both. (And nine times out of ten, within a week, even the "human" appearing girls will be wearing cat ears, anyway.)

So, if you're taking into account the Lindens' stated goals with their advertising, they aren't really working. Even worse, if you're taking into account the userbase's generic and mobile goals, they aren't really working, because in spite of all instruction there are still people wandering around wearing houses on their right hand and complaining that SL's too hard. (And some of these people are using the official SL viewer--I truly think a time must come when the Lindens sit back and say, okay, some people, they're just dumb, and stop trying to drag every single procedure down to kindergarten-speak.)

Ultimately, it leaves us in a very uncomfortable place. Namely, telling our friends to log into SL and join in the game, while ignoring every single image they see on the SL website. And it leaves the Lindens trying to speak to a userbase that really, truly, for all intents and purposes--doesn't exist.

Who's going to pay the bills at that point? That's the question the Lindens really need to be asking.


Serenity Semple said...

RIP Little Silent Hill. I miss half of those really nicely (well for the time it was nice) sims based off things. And if it's a Linden in that pic it wouldn't surprise me, they never seem to know how to fit on things half the time or make an avatar look nice. Even more, use a BETTER SKIN. God, the eloh mods and free templetes look better than that skin. As for the one revamped by Alicia. Brava, you improved on something with probably little effort. I wish LL would just even post pictures that the community makes. It would make the whole world look so much more appealing.

It's so sad that the marketing team, whatever is scrapped together that LL made, is just so bad. You don't need to take a marketing class, have a degree, or whatever to know when something looks better or more intriguing than something else. I also find it shocking how many of them don't know about AOs or use them EVER. It's just so sad, Second Life has (and I mean has) so much possibility if it was taken seriously and done right. I constantly reminise on the times that real companies had interest, but you have to work with them and get them going. A sort of example of this is PlayStation Home. It's pretty much Second Life without user base content, so it's only RL companies that pay them to get in. I'm sure if they can do it, and believe me the avatars on there are terrible, what's stopping LL besides some creative way to get them involved and make them money?

I get why they tend to avoid the types of communities in SL because they have all these negative concepts that go with them. But everything does, even basic humans when you think about it. But also back in the day there used to be furry staff at LL, not anymore. So there went most of your furry consideration. Problems is they don't involve the community and therefore can never show them right in ANY ads.

Emilly Orr said...

Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it on Google, but I keep flashing back to a loading screen I used to see a lot when logging in to SL: the picnic table, with the hot dog on the paper plate. I mean, yes, sure, serious craft went into that hot dog, but the picture wasn't especially remarkable otherwise. And the feeling it always left me with was "come to SL and eat fake food!" Again, is that what they want?

Because here's the thing--restaurants *do* exist in SL. In general, they're nearly always of two kinds. Either:

a) Intimate spaces with lowered lighting designed for couples to have a quiet evening out; or

b) small eating spaces attached to a larger club, where music and social interaction intersperse over the whole space.

I get both types, but I especially admire the first, because essentially, you're paying the restauranteur not for the virtual meal you can't eat, but for the ambiance. And some folks have gone all out to create that sense of heady romance, as well as those few who have gone all out to create an experience you can't have just by flipping out a table with poses and some simple food at home.

But the picnic. The hot dog. I have *never*, not once, seen anyone in a park eating hot dogs. I've seen people in a park on cuddle blankets (I've been those people from time to time, even), and I'm sure in more family-friendly zones than I travel, there are family outings that may involve the concept of the picnic table. But seriously, people do not go into SL to buy up hotdogs on plates and bowls of potato salad and then go out to some random sim and set out picnic foods. That's not how SL works.

Yet again, a prime disconnect moment from the Lindens.