How SL Wins the Drama War with Metaplace

by Alphaville Herald on 12/03/09 at 12:37 am

Did LL design the metaverse to create resident conflict?

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk

Robin says HiI ran into a Second Life e-friend in Metaplace on Sunday – Robin Linden Harper had stopped by and left a comment on my profile. When I saw Robin was online, I hopped over to visit the garden world she was building, but we didn’t have much time to talk before she had to leave for dinner.

This was a shame, because I wanted to ask if she had noticed the dramatically lower level of drama in Metaplace compared to Second Life – and if this might have something to do with virtual land scarcity.

A major portion of the Second Life economy – and the Linden Lab business model – presumes the game gods will restrict creation of new virtual spaces to prop up prices in the Second Life fee-for-virtual-land game. This approach has worked well enough to date, and even made some land rental agents like Anshe Chung serious money back in the day, but comes at what may be an unsustainable emotional and economic price.

While isolated islands in SL are typically disconnected from other landowner’s holdings and relatively immune to conflict, the interconnected contiguous mainland has always been a superconducting drama magnet where residents’ visions for the metaverse clash, and land price extortion schemes play out. This is exactly what you might expect when you can’t choose your neighbors.

But why choose to make a synthetic world this way – unless the gameplay was designed to be conflict-driven land churn?

This sort of faux strife may be fun for some of the players, but the game god overhead costs have grown as the Lab fields an in-world governance team and attempts to police land encroachment rules and mediate resident disputes. Metaplace is not like that – by design.

Every Metaplace player has their own private space, can create more spaces, and place teleport links between spaces if they like. You don't fight with your neighbors because you chose who you link to and have control over your own realm.

When I visited sunday evening, I noticed Robin was working on her third garden space – apparently she was treating each of these as rough drafts while experimented with terraforming her land and the Metaplace tools for importing objects from Google’s 3D warehouse. Keeping several draft version of a space is unheard of in Second Life – but is exactly how modern digital media works – consider a wiki or a word processing program – these are not charging you per-page "tier" fees.

Robin Harper

Treating virtual spaces as a commodity has interesting implications for immersive new media. I’ve seen a number of Metaplace players create a series of interconnected worlds as a form 3D narrative media – and nobody is fighting about trees crossing property lines or ban-lines limiting access to other plots of land. Removing player conflict from incompatible neighborhoods may account for the generally calmer tone of Metaplace, but is this practical for Linden Lab?

Metaplace is a web-oriented technology, so the costs to run their worlds should be significantly lower than running LL’s simulators around the clock — Metaplace only activates worlds when someone is present instead of splashing out on kilowatts hours to keep hundreds of deserted regions' hot tubs bubbling while 50,000 security orbs fling wayward avatars away from their owners' private cyber paradice.

Turning off simulators for uninhabited mainland in Second Life would create intermittent holes in the mainland continents, so look for this to happen shortly after the Goreans and Babyfurs sign a permanent peace treaty with the W-Hat goons and the PN griefers.

Until that happy day arrives, Linden Lab will have a lot to answer for when an accounting is made of Second Life’s carbon footprint vs. actual usage – and the psychodrama of barely contained resident rage caused by high land prices and faux land scarcity. Meanwhile, I've been admiring Robin's garden, and thinking about getting a fountain of my own for the Alphaville Herald offices in Metaplace.

11 Responses to “How SL Wins the Drama War with Metaplace”

  1. SusanC

    Mar 12th, 2009

    The downside of free/cheap “land” is that you get lots of deserted areas, the place feels empty, and it’s hard for new players to find where the interesting bits are.

    So if you make “land” free, you need something like a search engine so that players can find the cool places amid the massive amount of junk. But then you get people cheating the search engine rankings, for example with bots camping.

    I realise the Web has a similar problem – and that Google made a ton of money by solving it. It’ll be interesting to see if Metaplace can solve it for virtual worlds.

  2. VooDoo Bamboo

    Mar 12th, 2009

    I am a member of Metaplace as well. I do love Metaplace as it has a nice feel to it however that being said….

    It would seem that with all these VR worlds that are out there 4 very import facts seem to be missed that keeps SL on top even though they are in a down slide currently.

    1. The avatars are the most realistic avatars in any public VR world today with just about endless freedoms.

    2. SL is the only VR world that has a stable, strong economy in place where people can really make some money depending on how much work they put into it. Yes there are a few others out there where you can make money however SL still is way above the rest in this area so for a person who enjoys the VR worlds but needs to make money from it only really has SL at this point and time.

    3. The grid is wide open space. What I mean by this is the fact that when you’re in world you really feel as if you’re in a world not a small boxed area. The one thing that I do not like about Metaplace is that it still seems very restrictive when you’re on land. You do not get that world feeling. My daughter love to play Webkins and I find even their world when watching them play is more of a world feeling then most others. SL more than exceeds in this area.

    4. Freedom combined with tools. SL is a just about anything goes type of world expect for what is not legal RL. This combined with the about perfect tool selections that SL offers makes it rather endless in what can be created in world. Most other VR’s are very restrictive yet with their tools limiting creative juices.

    I would say the top 2 out of the list would be economy and realist avatars.

    Love SL or not the fact remains that even with all the other VR worlds that have been out there and the ones popping up cannot seem to come even close yet to the VR world of SL and I say that with a tear in my eye because I too feel that the Lindens have also done more to hurt the world and the community that makes SL what it is rather then help or improve it.

    I feel that Linden Labs is going the way that Travel! Once did. (

    I have been in the VR worlds for many many years and I remember when Traveler! Was the hottest thing since slice bread? Even MTV had a huge tiki island on there that was full all the time. However the company got the bright idea to abandon its people and direct it more towards the business world… Now it’s a ghost town.
    Let this be a lesson Linden Labs… History repeats itself.

    SL has the technology in place and the power to make SL the very best once again with high logins that are not bots but not until the focus is returned to the community that has made SL great and a bit of a media campaign would not hurt either before its all too late.

    The next time you log into the grid the only thing you might hear is the ambient sound of wind in your avatars ear and a dust bunny prim blowing by.

    ~VooDoo Bamboo

  3. The Duchy of Gukumatz

    Mar 12th, 2009

    Precisely, yesterday I posted questions related to this post in another site :

    What are your feelings regards the price of land from Second Life estate landlords if OpenSim-based grids (Metaplace, HiPiHi, OpenLife, etc) become inter-operable? Will their parcels price decrease even further? Will Linden Lab restrict the release of new land to increase the price of land?

    How the offer of these new virtual worlds will affect Second Life land barons?

    Are they prepared for more competition not only within Second Life but from other grids?

  4. The Duchy of Gukumatz

    Mar 12th, 2009

    Sorry, my previous message is also linked to the Customer Opinion Index ( posted in The Princess of Yaximixche website where we can see the public opinion about some of the big landlords services.

  5. General Drama

    Mar 12th, 2009

    Ya, the most popular “worlds” at Metaplace had like 2 avatars in them at once. WOOOO HOOO!!! TRaffic of TWO!!!!

    The sims there are banal, they make SL’s sims look sophisticated with the ability to view from any angle. You know you’ve done something THE WRONG WAY if you wind up making SL look sophisticated by comparison.

    Tizzers has a Fort Longcat set up there already, cause its free…. in b4 metaplace grief.

  6. DocEigen

    Mar 12th, 2009

    What has been stripped out of SL… is massively inhibiting its growth!

    VIOLENCE needs to be reintegrated!

  7. Duracell Haystack

    Mar 12th, 2009

    I’ve been in SL for several years. I’m an explorer and traveler rather than a builder or business. Visiting popular, active (sometimes laggy) sites is as interesting to me as experiencing the sound of wind and crickets in an empty SL site.

    Am I arguing for the poetry of a desolate, SL town on an early morning? Maybe. Can this space be monetized or is it a quirk, an ineffable SL experience or failure? Not sure. Maybe someone else can decide. I’m just going to keep exploring.

    Oh, and now, after a couple of years of exploring I’m thinking of starting a business in SL. So, it’s not just the poetry of the place.

    But the more I read about the business of SL and the Lindens the more worried I get. The poetry starts to fade. The question I’m asking myself and you is this – “Is SL stable enough now to start a business?”

    Well, that’s a lot of vaguely connected questions and comments. Hope it makes sense.

  8. Karl Reisman

    Mar 12th, 2009

    it’s the economy that generates the traffic. Sure there will be conflict, but there is conflict when ever yu turn anything into a it should be. I’ll probably give metaplace a spin, but if it’s just a WEb based “Stage” then how is it different from “Wolfhome”, or other such web based staged chat rooms?

    As to Carbon Footprint, accounting for carbon footprint is a ploy by the elites to tax the middle class yet again, and to generate a permanent sense of crisis and distraction from the real issues of incompetance or corrupt governance. Don’t buy into the Green B.S!

  9. JayR Cela

    Mar 13th, 2009

    No Sl is not stable, I meet a lot of wonderful people here, and I am sure the employee’s of LL have there hands full, I been a network engineer for a long time, these folks at LL seem to be just lost sometimes. If you cant keep 80,000 concurrent users on line at one time, you got a big problem.
    The only thing that keeps me here is the friends from different parts of the world I have met,and my SL partner. I sorry,but my personal opinion of LL is dismal at best

    JayR Cela :_)

  10. Johnny Drama

    Mar 27th, 2009

    I went there tonight I was let in to be a Beta Tester I do not care for it.

  11. TheGamer

    Apr 2nd, 2009

    this isa closed beta by the looks of it. wait till it goes live. Then pass judgement on it.

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