Second Life Player Retention Week 32

The things the Lab is building are the things we have asked for. Since Rod has been here the number of unresolved JIRA bugs and feature requests has been dwindling as they are fixed and added. While the things may not look exactly like what we asked for or expected, they often are the next step along that road or are more comprehensive features that combine numerous ideas for features to solve a number of problems.

Learning to Sit

However, there is no JIRA feature request for better community. We have lots of requests for tools with which to build better community. The actual community building is up to us.

So… if we are in charge of what Second Life is to become, and it is up to us to build a better Second Life how will we do that?

Example

Some users/residents are putting their ideas and visions into practice. This is the case with The Inspiring Orientation. (LEA26 region) If you have not visited it, give it a try. The builds are impressive and the artists making them talented. I don’t know that these are the best ever, but in my time in SL I have not seen anything better in the way of an orientation area.

I am one that believes a strong visual impression makes a good first impression. I think this orientation area is visually a good first impression. It uses and displays SL Tech very well and some of it is just fun, even if your avatar is covering up her gray. Some of it is beautiful.

However, different appearances to orientation areas have been tried. So, I am not overly hopeful the region’s visuals will provide any new paradigm change leading to more players being retained in Second Life. But, it is a fun experience and the visuals may help in some manner with player retention.

My hope is the overall effort and team work exemplified by the creative people involved in the project will provide a paradigm shift and example for the community. If it breaks the idea for a significant part of the community that the Lab is going to do it for them, it will have provided a paradigm shift I think is needed.

The group organizing the region is The -io- Team. It is in a region supplied by the LEA (Linden Endowment for the Arts). So, I have no idea how long it will be there. But, Arrehn Oberlander tells me another version with improvements based on learning with this build and from feedback is being built in another region, eventually to replace this exhibit.

The group provides this note card to new arrivals in the region/exhibit:

Welcome to the opening of “The Inspiring Orientation”!

Once upon a time six months ago, in a region not so far away, a group of viewer developers, artists, and other SL enthusiasts asked a question:

“What would it be like if a person’s first experience here shows them how interesting and diverse Second Life can be, how much creative expression Second Life enables, at the same time as they learn basic navigation?”

The Inspiring Orientation answers this question by offering small, interactive tutorials using resident created art. The tutorials are linked together to create a combination gallery /orientation course. When the visitor emerges, they have not only gained basic navigation skills, but a basic visual vocabulary of what can be expressed by residents just like themselves.

We believe this combination of artwork from former and current SL residents offers some advantages over traditional approaches to orientation, and hope that these ideas take seed.

Thank You,

- The -io- Team

Special Note to LEA visitors:

We were honored and extremely grateful to LEA for providing a land grant. You might notice that some of the artwork within -IO- has been exhibited before, in other places. What is new is the conception and arrangement of these works in the form of a viewer orientation. We hope you will enjoy it and ponder the possibilities.

If you choose to visit, know that many of the flaws you are likely to find are already being addressed. This is version 1.0. I provided Arrehn Oberlander my thoughts as constructive critique and got a nice email back. Multiple languages, a HUD, rearrangement of the order of lessons, revision of the camera lesson, and much more are being improved.

The group is working with the Lab to improve some of the SL features to support the build. At the end is a jumping off point for TP’ing to places shown in What’s Hot and the Destination Guide. The images displayed are dynamically pulled from the real time data used for the web site versions of Hot and the Guide. You’ll likely find the display devices are a bit fussy about displaying images. Hopefully the Lab can fix the image delivery problem. I might be tempted to build a web site that scraped the images from the Lab’s pages and then delivered them to the devices.

An amazing idea I am rather unsure of is their idea to provide viewer specific art. Do new users actually ever start out in any viewer other than the Linden main release viewer? Also, do icons change from language to language? Whatever, they are looking at including that level of support in some measure in the next build. Arrehn puts it this way:

I see this as untapped opportunity. As SL becomes more mainstream there’s more music communities, art communities, fashion communities, writers, digital artists, etc.. that cross borders between SL’s grid and other social media. Currently it’s a little unfriendly to “follow” someone you may like and respect, but not know too personally from a non-SL environment into SL. Custom viewers can make this easier, can be enable groups or individuals with unusual draw to directly reach out to their non-SL audience and draw them in.

Arrehn explains their groups goal:

Our strategy is to inform in a light, entertaining, interactive way. Most of the -io- staff are veterans of other new user facing projects in SL, and the initial set of questions from people who have just registered with SL is often the same. “What do I do here?” “Where do I go?” and underlying this, “Why should I stay?”. Many people arrive in SL but are unable to immediately understand its value.

There’s a “Goldilocks” issue to be solved here. A dry, practical, skills-oriented orientation may be great at explaining how to use a viewer client, but poor at demonstrating why one should do this in the first place. An orientation that thrusts a visitor directly into a single destinations guide location might be initially intriguing, but then leave the new visitor overwhelmed by lack of basic proficiencies and an unclear method of acquiring them. I think of this as the “I’m feeling lucky!” approach to orientation, in honor of the related Google button. The simplicity is beautiful, but perhaps it would be better if the visitor could see more context.

We’re trying to tread a middle path – safely introduce a diversity of styles, content, and  types of typical interactions SL offers, then quickly bring the visitor to a category-sorted destinations guide area where they can choose their next step – armed with some concept of SL’s major communities and perhaps a few ideas of what they’d like to see more of. The theory is that greater awareness of what’s in SL and how to interact with it will lead to more opportunities for a visitor to make a connection that has personal value.

My personal thinking along these lines is influenced in part by work I’ve done with the US National Park Service. The park service has a goal of insuring valuable treasures are accessible, and also to convey to visitors why they are important and unique. Words, audio, visuals, tactile experiences, other media, and positive social experiences help a visitor make a lasting, resilient bond far more than any one method would achieve alone. We’re getting there in -io-, Right now we have a rich visual, audio, and interactive (virtual-tactile?) experience, and we’re adding more ways to connect the with material, such as videos and supplementary reference material. One also has be highly aware of the context and perspective each visitor personally brings with them, and be willing to adapt and adjust continually over time.

13 thoughts on “Second Life Player Retention Week 32

  1. Very good post Nal, thought provoking.

    I think most people go through stages. A lot of work has gone into the first hours of one’s SL, as is appropriate. After the first day or so of basic learning things change.

    It is clear to me that the most successful path to long term retention is small groups, there really does not need to be a structure although there is usually 1 or 2 somewhat more experienced people (just to set up a group and know of a place to meet). I have no idea how to encourage this other than to do what I am now, my land has several small gathering places.

    Most people I know who have been in SL for a while are not doing what they imagined they would be doing when they started. SL is at it’s heart a fantasy world and it takes time for newbies to realize that and discover within themselves what fantasies they will find fulfilling. For some that is a house behind a tree lined street in suburbia. For others it is somewhere deep in the heart of Gor. Building or art fulfill as many dreams as sex does. The challenge for LL and the greater SL community is to give newbies the safety and guidance they need to find their own path in our many faceted world.

  2. Looking at the Pathfinding project, and how it has disrupted communities which use vehicles, I think the Lindens need to look hard at their planning before we face another upgrade to the Havok physics engine.

    1: The release channels are claimed to be about 10% of the grid, but the Magnum RC used to test pathfinding was 30% of the Blake Sea. The pattern of the test areas was also ill-judged.

    2: All water routes between Bay City and the rest of that continent were interrupted by Magnum RC sims. There was another in the ANPR channel. I only know of one competitive sailing course that was Magnum-safe.

    3: The Magnum RC, on the data I was able to find, is overwhelmingly water sims, not land.

    Given that pattern, it looks as though Pathfinding has only been tested for fish. And vehicle physics has been poorly tested for land vehicles. That’s also consistent with the bug reports still current.

    Could the Lindens have planned the testing better? Yes, I believe they could have greatly improved the quality of the testing they did, by a better choice of test regions, and by providing better information on where these regions were. What plan they had was very good for testing the irrelevant short-term problems of entering and leaving regions running different Havok versions.

    • It is not the PF that has disrupted things. It is running different Havok versions on adjacent regions.

      The information I have is that the RC’s make up about 20% of AGNI, but the RC’s constantly change. For PF there was an additional PF channel set up for the PF Beta. In that process the Lindens looked at creating a channel that covered an entire continent. If they could have done that we would never have different versions of Havok running on adjacent regions. But, some users want to be in and other excluded from the RC’s. After looking at it the Lindens decided there was no politically acceptable way to make an RC continent.

      On top of dealing with user preferences, the Lab just went though a rearrangement of regions and the servers they are assigned to.

      Last I checked PF stops at the waters edge. That Blake Sea had regions assigned PF doesn’t mean they were the only regions in the AGNI based beta. You have me wondering if you read this blog.

  3. Thank you for your very interesting blog article. I am in SL for many years now. I met tons of people and have a very long firendslist. The point is, only very few people I do frequently interact with and have long conversations with. Most people I just met at some point, had fun with them exploring or talking once of twice. With anonymity long time relationships become less likely. So maybe it is not so important to find the single best new friend, but bring people into a community of people that have the same interests. Maybe it would be an idea to ask people already at the signup process a question like “Do you like to explore?”, “Do you like to build stuff?” or “Do you like to party?”, then teleport them to a custom landing point based on their interests. There they get a HUD based tutorial like in Cloud Party, which has basic and advanced chapters which the player can work with at his own convenience, right away or later. Also I liked the idea of getting a reward when finishing the orientation, like a small plot of land, because my own land is what got me stuck in SL. That way they can build their own property, which makes them come back, because they own it and they earned it. Also I think it may be good to have public linden owned community sims that newbies go to during their orientation, since we already asked for their interests. That way they can meet people with similar interests right away and have a place where they can always come back to. Their home. A place for people that are interested in building, could for example host building classes like at builders brewery and provide a large sandbox, a place for people that like to party could have a huge club and live music. All those sims could be provided for free by the Lindens and run by residents.
    But residents could build that today on their own, right? The single biggest problem that makes newbies and oldbies frustrated most is the huge amount of bugs and problems with simple tasks like sim crossing, teleporting, and communicating via IM or groups. The best way to save and grow SL is just to make those features and system work that we already have today.

    • You have noticed that in 2011 and 2012 the major Linden effort has been fixing reported bugs and problems?

      • I read about it, but my personal experience is that I usually cannot cross more than 5 regions without crashing or getting stuck, eventhough I have the newest viewer and a very fast computer. I also notice that people send notecards instead of IMs, because IMs are capped when people are offline. And I notice that there is a Jira entry for large groups that do not load since 2009 and the Lindens just started working on it, eventhough groups are the most important tool to build communities. So the most basic features do not work in a 10 year old product. Somehow I just have the feeling the Lindens work on plenty new features and new products, but what we have does not work properly. This frustration is something that I am used to, but newbies have a much lower tollerance for that. If it does not work, they quit and never think about SL again.
        And then there is abuse reports, which nobody ever seems to read at the Lab. For 2 month now a french guy with at least 5 alts mass spams the profile feed of thousands of residents, which he gathers from my group. The Lindens never did anything. Recently somebody asked me for help with the forum and sent me a link to a website, which looked exactly like the SL log in page. He cloned it, a phishing site. He asked tons of people at SL9B. I reported that. He still did not get banned. The Lindens need to watch closer on this, because this scares newbies away.

        • Don’t trust your feelings when real data is available.

          Have you ever looked at the JIRA stats? There is data on fixes verses incoming new items.

          Your experience with phishing is regrettable. I hoped you learned something. You see AR’s as not being read. What you don’t seem to see is the flood of fake AR’s being used to harass other players. The reality of AR’s is an escalating war of tactics. With free accounts it is hard to keep trouble makers out. Plus the Lab never says what the do in response to an exploit or AR. Your in an area where they are waging a high tech war and you seem to see it as checkers.

          • Ok, I found the Stats. 30 Day Summary Second Life Viewer: 201 issues created, only 114 resolved. Second Life Service: 84 issues created, only 72 resolved. Second Life Website: 45 issues created, only 37 resolved. Now considering that some newly created issues are pretty dramatic, while some of the fixed issues are rather trivial (like changing the label on a button), this is a pretty bad performance and it supports my feeling that Second Life gets more and more buggy every day. For example since I posted my first comment a few days ago, the web profiles stopped working in 50% of all cases and the SL Marketplace produced one server error after the other (ok, the latter has been fixed already).

            • So fixing 56%, 86%, and 82% of the problems reported in a month is poor performance? And what about other areas of the JIRA where fixes exceed reported problems?

              I think you just want to think they are doing poorly.

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  5. Fantastic article!

    There has been a lot of talk about Player retention. However there seems to be less talk about what type of players that are being searched for.

    The way I think is that if the lab wants to attract more “hard core” gamers then they need to make the orientation/welcome process more like a game.

    Whereas if the lab wants to attract creators they need to make the orientation/welcome process more like a tutorial for blender or the like.

    My point being is that (as the lab has found) having a welcome/orientation island in a one setup/size fits all approach is not going to work.

    I thought the Signup api that the lab offered then depreciated was a great idea. Have different account creation websites for different types of users. Then on their first login take them to an area that this specific type of user would find interesting. Be it a shopping mall, or a NASA Sim.

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