I’ve been asked before about how someone new to SL manages to find their way around within the naturist community if they so desire. I’ve worked on a post regarding that, on and off, for a few weeks now, with the intention of making it as comprehensive as I can. What began as a post on just the naturist community has expanded itself to attempt to provide search tips for those who wish to pursue any chosen lifestyle or role play within the game.
In the interim, my blogging friends Ever, whose blog Happily Ever Afterr, is here, and Kat, whose blog A Kat and a Mouse is here, have been commenting on the lack of proper assistance for new avatars. Indeed, between the three of us, I think we’re united in our belief that Second Life/Linden Labs (LL) are woefully inept at making the new avatar experience easy and the game is possibly losing new players within an hour of them logging in, due to the difficulties involved. How many are thinking, ‘this is just impossible, forget it!’? Quite a few, I’d imagine.
I’d encourage you to read Kat’s post ‘Game Over‘ to get a true and accurate reflection of how woeful the ‘start up’ experience truly is and pick out a couple of what I felt were stand-out sentences.
…it took about an hour and half to do all this.
Yep! That’s just to explain how to move, and where to go to improve an awful looking avatar who looks like a cross between something Dr. Frankenstein created, someone who has been burned as well as having been in an awful, simultaneous car-crash, and then been beaten around the head with a hammer for a couple of hours!
Let’s be honest here: mesh is awful in many ways. The clothes never fit in the same way pre-mesh clothing did. Mesh skins are in their infancy, ludicrously expensive, and often looks terrible. The hair is a backwards step from ‘flexi’ hair (i.e. hair that moves naturally). And mesh ‘layers’, for me, add a whole new level of difficulty to an avatar. As someone who has tried and failed to master Photoshop and never got to grips with layers there (a fundamental part of Photoshop) I can see how mesh layers and alphas just make the experience woeful for a new player.
After an hour and half of outfitting their avi, they were done.
Tired and more than a bit disillusioned, they have yet to log back in almost 4 weeks later.
I’m unsurprised. SL should be a simple form of relaxation. An alternate world in which to immerse yourself and enjoy. An entire rule book to comprehend at start up is not a good idea.
My take on it is that LL need to strip their new avatars back to the way they used to look. When I think back to my first avatar look -pony-tailed girl in polka-dot dress (below, left)- she, seven years ago, looked better immediately with the addition of a free AO to give her a more natural walk. (For the uninitiated, an AO is an animation over-rider, which allows an avatar to walk in more natural ways).
Why can’t LL include a free, natural AO in a new avatar’s inventory? Or even have it come attached at ‘start up’? Given that there’s a plethora of freebie AO’s out there, just how difficult would it be to come to some sort of licensing arrangement with some of these AO builders? The original builders are happy to give them away as things stand. So why can’t LL advertise the locations of some of these at the Welcome Island? Costs LL nothing. Great advertising for the stores who are providing them (and would encourage other builders to promote their own freebie wares).
Even moving….you need to know that you can bring up camera and movement controls on your screen before moving around properly. Why can’t these controls routinely come up on the screen at start up? Once they’re there, they’re pretty much intuitive to use. But it’s knowing how to bring them up on screen (particularly for non-English speakers). Sometimes you get the impression LL almost deliberately discourage new users.
Some of LL’s new mesh avatars, uniformly awful for the new player, and several of whom appear to be suffering the effects of long-term drug abuse.
Kat and I are united in our belief that it’s absolutely essential to find places that offer freebies, and to be able to upgrade an avatar look A.S.A.P. There’s two reasons for this. One, as outlined above, is that most of the start up avatars look horrible (the ones in the second photograph, SL’s second raft of avis, are probably the best) and two, to engage with the game we need to possess our avatar. By that I mean that we need to claim ownership of it and feel as though it belongs to us and is a reflection on the real us. Having spent seven years tweaking my avatar I can honestly say that ‘Ella’ is an extension of me. While never perfect, ‘Ella’ does look like me, does act, feel, think and talk like me, and does the same things as me. Seven years ago, ‘pony tailed girl in a pink polka dot dress’ did not look like me, nor could I fully inhabit her on-screen presence until I improved her look to suit my needs.
Of course, not everyone needs to indulge in realism in the way that I do. For many, their SL avatar is a fantasised entity, wholly divorced from their real self. And that’s OK. It’s a fantasy world. But they will still maintain a desire to make their avatar a realisation of their imagination, of how they envisage this alt-life to be. Trust me, that’s never done through their start up avatar. How many people do you see running around SL with any of the avatars photographed above? That’s right. None, unless they’re in the very first days of their SL. I can’t imagine anyone over a week or two old is maintaining their start-up avi. Because making it look good, of fitting into the game, is a top priority. And LL do nothing to fulfil this most basic of needs for the new SL avatar.
We’re SL Naturist, so obviously my emphasis lies within the vibrant naturist community SL serves. I recognise that not everyone wishes to be naturist within SL, although I’d equally say there is quite a strong desire for many avatars, particularly new ones, to get naked. Yes…pixel-sex. I’d encourage you to read Ever’s hilarious account of a meeting with another newbie at the Welcome point, to illustrate some players’ needs in that regard!
As a naturist blog, skin (obviously) plays a key part of the gig for us on SLN, so what I’d like to do in ‘Part 2’ is to pick this up from the perspective of a new player who is trying to orientate themselves in the game, and get fitted out cheaply or freely in respect of ‘looking good’. As naturists, though, even we need to get dressed sometimes and zoom around the grid, so I’ll try to add in a list of favourite free clothing (and other freebie) stores where you can improve your avatar’s initial look.
Hopefully, between Kat, Ever and I (or any other bloggers who wishes to join in and see if we can make some sort of comprehensive database for new players) we can ease your journey into SL in a manner that LL seem incapable of doing.
I note that LL are encouraging some form of ‘affiliate/sponsor’ programme right now, whereby you can earn money by introducing new players to the game. To me, this is a recognition that the start up experience isn’t working. The message in that initiative is, for me, that ‘we need your help by being helpers to new players’.
Sure…we can do that. But are you listening, LL? If you wish to improve the retention of new players, then surely the thing to do is for you to read what Ever is saying, what Kat is saying, what Fab Free does, what SL Style Daily Wire achieves, what Canary Beck writes about, what Strawberry Singh writes about, what Caitlin Tobias writes about, what Fashions & Freebies for Men blogs.
These are all trusted voices in the SL blogosphere (and there’s many others too). Maybe it’s time LL’s approach regarding an ‘affiliate/sponsor’ programme needs to be to read and listen to trusted voices in the blogosphere, and apply those people’s thoughts as to how player retention is improved.