Second Life Player Retention Week 32

In SL one place where interaction is ‘intense – as per the study’ is the role play games we have in SL. How does one get people into role play games? There is an ongoing irritation between experienced players and new players. I think that friction exists in all of SL, but I can’t find any studies on that factor.

Learning RP is an ongoing challenge just as learning the SL Viewer is. Most RP games in SL offer RP classes. But, the RP people have a problem too. One needs to be educated in role play before playing, otherwise they are just adding chaos and frustration. Before playing in RP one has no reason to learn RP. Catch-22. SL has the same problem.

More Camera Control

The Inspiring Orientation experiment is endeavoring to provide a motivation for people to stay and learn how to use SL. It also tries to get them hooked up with groups having similar interests. I am hoping someone will explore additional fun ways of interesting people in SL. Somewhere in the process we have to add getting them talking to others.

Arrehn explains they hope/plan to have mentors and helpers participating in the introduction of SL to new players.

Numbers vs Studies

We know that the Lab does numbers. How many of the Lab’s people are analysis that understand statistics as a tool, rather than an answer, is unknown. We know the numbers tell us the mentors and helpers produced more short term users than long term users/residents. So, they closed the welcome areas down and dropped the mentors programs.

BUT, but, but… we have all these studies showing first experience and player interactions are the primary contributors to longevity. What we don’t have is the actual data Lab management used to make the decision. I think chances are good that players left the welcome and mentor regions without knowing what SL is about and how to connect with people of similar interest. Interaction with others stopped when they left welcome areas.

The Teng and Adamic study doesn’t include information on the quality of the interactions. I doubt there was any such information in the data set provide by the Lab. While assumptions are dangerous, I think it is pretty obvious positive experiences are more likely to produce longevity.

The problem the Lab’s management saw in Help Islands and with mentors may will have been the quality of the experience people were receiving. We just don’t know. We can guess and speculate. But, to find out and know we either study revealing data or we experiment. So, hats off to the -io- Team for experimenting.

The Lab has constantly experimented with promotions to get people into SL with some idea of what is inside. They have ridden the Vampire thing. They have tried a number of different styles of building the welcome and orientation areas/islands. What they have not done is find how to change a build so it works to retain players. Eventually it will occur to them that the key to player retention is not to be found in; how the regain is built, what is said there, how simple the viewer is or isn’t, or any number of things that typically occur to programmers and computer types.

The -io- Team is trying a more integrated approach using art to show off SL to create motivation and to use the What’s Hot and Destination Guide to channel new people to areas of SL they find interesting.

Only Part

Still the welcome area and mentors are only parts of the answer. If people left the welcome islands and then shortly left SL, that departure could be seen to indicate something was wrong with the welcome area. But, again I think this tends to be too simplistic an idea and fall in the corporate data analysis blind spot.

Welcome islands and the Inspiring Orientation may both only be half the solution. The more effective solution may be in how we keep people interacting after they leave Orientation.

Your Thoughts

I would like to hear more thoughts on player retention and in particular how you think The Inspiring Orientation or any welcome area could be improved. I don’t want to pick on Orientation, so be constructive. But, what did they do wrong and right?

Did you try to explore the Brass Tube? Did you find the parts of the exhibit I show in some of the pictures?

What did you think of the ‘Sit’ lesson?

What do you think a new user would think of the out of scale furniture in the ‘Sit’ lesson?

How would you encourage more person to person interaction?


Of even more interest to me is how one keeps people interacting after they leave even the best Inspiring orientation.

We have some challenges in that area. As the Firestorm/Phoenix Team found, a significant portion of their users were bullies that badgered new users. A significant number of SL users are griefers intent on annoying other users. Hidden in among the griefers are players that hate the Lab and literally plot to create problems. Add in others that have decided to go vigilante and fight the bad guys. They are soon as much a problem as the the bad guys they hoped to eliminate. However, at least the problem people are a definite minority.

Next we have people ignorant of history contributing to the chaos, I mean both RL and SL history. Humans have been developing community for something like 7,000+ years. We should have figured out how to do this community thing by now. The Federalist Papers are probably the most enlightening documents on the planet in regard to how to control communities or in their case a country. But, they give us nothing on how to be part of a community. That was left to religion. In the twenty-first century many have seen the hypocrisy of organized religion and the problems with theocratic communities. But, we have yet to find a workable replacement for establishing a morality and set of ethics for community members.

…and where is this?

Without knowing history people reinvent the wheel and repeat the mistakes learned by previous generations. To vote in RL we need to understand history. To build a Second Life community we need to understand history and human nature. Human nature never seems to change. History teaches us how humans behave in a given scenario. Once we understand, we can avoid mistakes and move forward at a much faster pace.

We are going to need knowledge to improve player retention. Once we have the knowledge, I think it becomes more obvious that player retention is all about who we are not what we build. When each of us works to improve community by improving ourselves and what we do, we will probably find the key to player retention in SL.

It may be as simple as saying ‘Hi’ to new people. But, surely that is too simple. So, what keeps you interacting with others? How would you change things to encourage more of the behavior that keeps you in SL?

Update: Another viewpoint is here: Full steam ahead for new horizons

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.

  4. Pingback: 5 ways to increase land sales – Hypergrid Business

  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.

  6. Pingback: Firestorm Support Island Opening

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *