17 August 2012

SL goes Steam

I have to say I was a bit surprised to read these news on the SL-Blog: Second Life is going to be featured on the game-platform Steam!

"As some sharp-eyed developers have speculated, we’re going to make Second Life available on Steam in the next month or so.

Many of us have friends who are avid Steam gamers, but if you’re not familiar, Steam is a very popular online game platform that offers a wide range of titles (and will soon also offer other software as well)."

It feels always a bit odd for me to see Second Life related with a computer game. Sure on the first glance the similarities are striking. And there is a large community of active role-player using SL. But SL by itself is also a social media and a platform for communication and arts. Just located in a virtual world and with the visual appearance of a computer game as consequence.

Of course LL has a vital interest to keep SL alive. And for this they need active members - the more the better. So I can totally understand LL's move to Steam. Especially when it means a quick and simple access to SL for a broad range of users.

But access is only the first step. What can a newbie expect in SL? Even with my early days in SL being a half decade ago my experience with helping newbies gives me the following impression about two very critical things:

First SL is very complex. This is often enough simply a result of its past. Innovations getting added, but don't replace the "old way". Clothes are a good example for this:
If you have to wear 4 or more single parts just to put some new boots on (shoe-base, alpha-texture and at least 2 attachments) its not exactly what you understand of simplicity and usability.
The use of premade outfits helps in this regard. At least a bit. If you want to mix and match you have again a lot to attach.

Secondly: There is no goal. Many people log in SL the first time and wonder what the hell they can do there ("Everything" might be a quite true, but not really helpful answer). There are no missions, no goals, no enemy to defeat (ok, not counting the occasional griefer).
You see I aim again on the gaming-aspect here. You have to give newbies at least some little goals or prizes to keep them hanging on for the very critical first hours/days. And if LL is using Steam for getting new users, it is likely the newbies expect some kind of "gameplay". In the past LL has missed hard to motivate and keeping interest for newbies. I hope this will change.

There are some more aspects which are unnecessarily complicated like the horribly outdated primcount, the UI, intentory management, chat-windows in the LL viewer etc. Lots of these things have already improved and I strongly welcome the recent innovations (with mesh at the first place) and performance improvements but its still lots of work to do for making SL more accessible.

So Steam by itself won't do the trick. It needs to be (and I assume it is) part of a larger strategy to make SL more attractive. The people not using SL simply don't know what they have missed yet.

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