Thursday, July 14, 2011

"But can I still access my av/friends/stuff?" - The Open Grid Dilemma

At current, it seems you have to already know what the OpenSim/Aurora projects are before someone can convince you to visit one. Any time I suggest it to a friend who's spent a lot of time in SL, more like as not, the first thing out of their mouths is "But what about my avatar, and all my stuff?" or "But can I still talk to all my friends?".

But I don't really think that's the main barrier to entry.

It seems counter intuitive, I know- they just said what they wanted didn't they? Yet, we all hear often enough "Ok, I'm gonna log to go on Steam/WoW/CoD/Minecraft for a bit, ttyl." These all still qualify as virtual worlds- but they're leaving their avatar, inventory, and even acknowledging closing off communication channels with their whole SL friend's list to go. Minecraft sees especially more comparison to SL™ in this instance.

Watch what they do, not what they say.

Each virtual world is offering their own particular reinforcing reward, the prospects of which override each other at any given time in priority. So people go round robin, getting tired of one thing, and moving on to another, until they tire of that and go back to the other competing priorities.

So what does this have to do with OpenSim/Aurora?

The turnoff here is that more often than not, what you're basically saying to someone when you discuss an open grid is:
"Here, I have something that looks exactly like SL™, plays like SL™, but has none of the properties that keep you in SL™."
And that's the wrong foot to start off on. What you need to be saying is:

"Here, I have an experience that you can't find in SL™."
And then you shift the reason people login from SL™ style rewards- to your own definition. It could be a community that can't afford to own a sim in SL™, it could be a game that doesn't exist there. Whatever it is, you need to offer a differing experience.

All the technology is certainly there, but to attract more than just builders who understand the value of free reign over a sim, you need to offer an experience that differs enough from their SL™ one to make them feel like they're entering something different- not just relogging.

OpenSim/Aurora offer features beyond what used to be thought possible for any individual. HyperGrid, host-your-own-sim scenarios, obscenely high prim allowances, obscenely high prim linking allowances, the ability to create your own grid with as many sims as your computer can handle- the technology keeps finding new niches that it's versatile enough to fill because of its agile nature.

But it's the available interaction that makes your world different that gives you value.

Raison d'ĂȘtre

So, what is it that gets the average SL™ user to log off the grid for an hour or two to play in another virtual world, but prevents them from playing in another open grid?

Socialization and reward. (In my humble opinion.)

There are people you want to interact with, and a world different enough that its rewards seem unlike the ones you've just exhausted yourself on in the virtual world previous.

You've just had a stimulating intellectual conversation with Scuttlebutt the Gray about violin making, and now you feel like hack'n'slashing stuff in [insert MMO here]. In both cases, the rewards are different, and both enough for you to switch worlds.

Make your worlds different. Focus your communities. Have well defined goals.

My personal laundry list of suggestions?
  • Make a unique game: The architecture and client both allow for scripted objects and HUD's. Take advantage of that!
  • Start a sim building project: Normally for a small community, costs are too high to afford much space at all. With 45,000-80,000 available prims, there's plenty of room to grow.
  • Create an art installation
  • Personal sandbox hangout: Upload costs are getting expensive. You can allow other people to connect to your local standalone with the right configuration. The bonus is, upload is immediate, and you don't have strangers around with wandering eyes.
  • Create a roleplay sim: RP sim's need space for the requisite immersion.
The key is, make sure your newcomers/friends have something to wear, a way to make themselves feel identifiably individual (socialization)- and something to do (reward).

Whether it be talking with other friends, or shooting at zombies. Don't let your sim remain an empty silent build wasteland!

Remember, you can still remain connected to SL™ without running two viewers!

I recommend Radegast. It can minimize to system tray so it doesn't clutter up your taskbar, and still allows you to do a lot of what you normally do in SL (minus the walking around of course- but there's an experimental feature in the latest nightly builds that lets you view the immediate scene around you!)


Anyway, just some thoughts. This is a juicy topic, I'll probably revisit again later :)

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