Notes From Second Life Views: Part 4

The fourth session of the Second Life Views 1 panel, led by Ryan Linden, Creative Director, focused on the user experience, and included a look at some new designs for the orientation islands.

Notes follow after the break. A final summary for all 4 sessions will follow in a separate blog post.

User Experience – Ryan Linden

Resident ideas
Top 3 things to improve new user experience
– start with simple low lag environment
– (LL) would you trade off a larger download for lower lag?
– (Res) offer choice?
– (Res) might give a false impression of the rest of the world
– (Res) once you have a little more experience you’re more prepared to handle the lag
– auto check the computer and configure it for optimal experience
– (LL) this is done to a point.
– (LL) we autodetect hardware, but hard to detect software since version numbers tend to change. we don’t have a great solution to figure out whether you have a drivers problem.
– (Res) distance is set to default at 128 — should be 64 and network performance should be at 500 or less
– (Res) – a slider that would allow everyone to adjust performance wherever they are. To reduce lag it would change draw distance and other graphics settings.
– help them know what to expect
– language (rez, prim, etc.)
– weather report that shows where lag is currently on the grid
– (Res) appreciates the idea of volunteers, but many people don’t want early contact. need self-paced guided tutorial download from web with instructions to move through the world. should hit interesting experiences and explore key functional skills. tutorials help to set expectations.

Remember that there are very different ways of approaching learning. Some want to point and click, some would use a printed tutorial, some want human help.

Azure islands is building an orientation. Video at each station, but video isn’t a default install.

Top 3 things to make SL more fun
– improve region crossings and vehicle control
– 2D area that serves as a zone with no lag where people with low-end machines could at least experience some part of SL. teleporting together would make things easier for new people.

Follow scripts use apply impulse. large groups defeat these scripts.

– Direct manipulation of the avatar shape. LL – we allowed you to grab a vertex but that didn’t work
– look at Oblivion with Face Gen. new users have a hard time making their av look good with the sliders (Res – one of the least developed systems in SL)
– new avatars in the library (5 types) will be made available in the registration process so people can start with a more unique av
– (LL) – it would be easy to reduce the number of choices
– (Res)- newbies often lose their original avatar that they created because they don’t understand the inventory
– mapping MyVirtualModel to SL avatars would have a real value to the fashion industry

Top 3 things to make SL easier
– UI for new users that toggles to full interface
– more iconic, visual, feedback
– way to give something to someone without going through inventory system
– first land with incompatible builds. could they submit their interests in terms of land type/neighborhood type so they end up in a place where there is a community with common interests
– what got in the way:
– slice stuff off the UI that wouldn’t be needed
– what are the things that are getting in the way now
– collaborative building doesn’t really work; permissions get in the way; choose something that allows two people to share permissions and ownership; very clumsy right now; must be a local experience
-> get feedback on whether group tools increase the ability to collaborate

– need interface tutorial
– search
– better use of the library
– improve info flow to people about news, what’s happening
– group inventory

New Orientation Island
– HUD display needs a compass similar to mini-map
– self-paced tutorial
– some information about the culture of SL
– streaming audio tour guide
– being a little more gamelike is probably a good thing at this stage
– goal is to create comfort, allow success quickly, provide as little or as much information as the individual wants
– need a page greeter or page mentor in the HUD
– basically a visual way to indicate receptiveness to help

About Robin Linden

Be the Change. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ---Mahatma Gandhi
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8 Responses to Notes From Second Life Views: Part 4

  1. Oz Spade says:

    An additional thought I had as to the “basically a visual way to indicate receptiveness to help” topic, what about a “Busy Button” or a “Do Not Disturb” button along with the “page mentor/greeter” button? Could put a graphic over the avatars head or put them into “Busy Mode” (although few people seem to care if you’re Busy or not).

  2. Caliandris says:

    I spend a lot of time helping new residents as a mentor, and I think that nearly everyone forgets how confusing and disorientating it is when you first arrive. The original concept of the orientation islands was a good one… moving people through the experience step by step, and i wonder why that approach was abandoned for the clutter and confusion of help island. Things are badly signposted and adly documented, which means that even people who don’t want contact can hardly avoid it if they want to understand how things work.

    For a long time, things on Help Island have actually made this much worse by stupid implementation of the the things that are supposed to help new residents — for example boxes which, if clicked to buy furry avatars, used to put the wearable parts of it onto the avatar if they didn’t realise they had to uncheck the wear now box. Some of those things have been altered, but some still remain. It is still an unnecessary confusing and complex environment which doesn’t help at all.

    The problem for most is not lack of information, but an information overload which becomes very difficult to control, which is why I would prefer to see intelligent choices made for the new people, delivered to them in ways that allow them to understand and move on, or take their time with each stage, depending upon their learning style and priorities.

    Of course I can see that LL have tried to do this, but Help Island is currently a triumph of style over substance. There are still stupidities: putting a roof over the teleport area so that new people who are just learning how to move about, fly and crash into it immediately. Does it serve any purpose except to look pretty?

    It seems to me that as you allow residents to create the rest of the world, you might trust them with this. Why not dedicate one or two of the help islands to alternative areas, made by a group of volunteers? Giving them temporary management of the land, would allow them to show what could be done. I think this has to come, in the end, because Linden Lab can’t ever employ the number of liaisons required for a world population of millions.

    Better organisation and design at Help Island would pay dividends in the number of retained accounts.

  3. Prokofy Neva says:

    No, I don’t want to see groups of resident cadres who are hand-picked through the biased greeters/mentors/helpers etc system being authorized to handle newbies by being able to themselves eject or ban from land, or eject and freeze them on Linden land, or remove other residents’ content.

    Once that happens, we have resident government. I do not subscribe to this world to have government by other residents I did not pick, and who have far less accountability, training, and knowledge than this game company — that at least has the accurate information on the server side.

    The only fair and reasonable way to do this is either to a) have Linden Lab have professional help-desk staff handle it, who are salaried/benefited/supervised/and *office Lindens* OR to b) contract it out to businesses or non-profit groups inworld, with some kind of competitive bid system reviewed by Lindens. Otherwise, you have a morass. As we do.

    I’d really like to hear the real numbers on what’s happening on OI and HI. Then we can assess what’s happening there. How many original, new, non-alt residents per month? Of these, what percentage opt to skip OI and HI and are randomly taken to infohubs? What percentage do OI? What percentage do both OI and HI and for how long? etc. Then of these, what percentage are still in SL 30 days? 90 days? Which take premium accounts? Of these, which opt to buy land?

    Even if LL considers this proprietary information they can’t share with us for good reason, I hope Philip commissions such a report with the cold, hard facts to really understand what they have there. If it works to have thousands of people barrel through with a very hit-or-miss experience, then leave it alone. If it doesn’t, change it. If 50 percent of the people or more skip OI and HI, why all this fussing about it? If 25 of the 50 percent who stay only zip around HI to pick up freebies and flirt with mentors because they’re alts, why bother? For the sake of the 25 percent who then don’t retain anyway?

    The harsh story here is that the manpower and resources deployed on this operation aren’t yielding the retention rates required to sustain the concept of a million subscribers. So something has to change.

    The Lindens were so quick to dump this idea of having newbies rez into various interesting venues, whether clubs or the Aerodrome. They gave it less than 45 days to test. The people who benefited from it didn’t know enough about it. And it wasn’t fair that only those 3-6 were picked. It should be a program that rotates, is tested over longer periods of 90 days, and which can be applied for rationally against criteria like “do you have 24/7 presence at your venue”, not arbitrarily hand-picked.

    Many people have the belief that newbies are alienated by confusing impressions or by shooting. In fact, there are probably just as many, if not more, alienated by *not enough* shooting and *too predictable* a menu. So given this varying mileage, there have to be different courses charted — and here a sketch and a signpost is needed, not a conveyor belt.

    It’s baffling to me why the entry isn’t a clean, surgical space. Why could any be shot or have any bad experience there? I know when I’ve logged on to other games where I’m killed in the first 30 minutes, I quit. No thanks. So make the entry area non-script with nothing in it but PEOPLE. People who talk, greet, help.

    After all, those grabbing these important front row seats at the newbie stream should be SERVING THE PUBLIC, not doing star turns to buff their resumes.

    Notecards, whatever, can come later, in the next outer circle of orientation hell.

    Confusing spinning sculpture, the giant signs with tekkie lingo like PRESS F1 FOR HELP IS NOW IN THE CLIENT (!) — this has to be cleared away. All that can be deployed later when people have draw distance down to 64, are dressed decently, and can fly.

    Given how many shooters there are, the combat area has to be *right there* to track people right over to it. You can’t be a little big pregant on this one — bite the bullet. And from there, take them to SL combat areas, not other infohubs where they continue to shoot.

    If the Lindens insist on advertising this as a fun game where you can make the weapons and gear yourself, then play war, not just play it with static content as in other games, then they need to provide the substrate for this matter-of-factly.

    Instead, they make the war game in fact be one of “Let’s see how many harried Lindens can chase how many zillions of wily alts”. Just accommodate them a little more: “THIS WAY TO TEST YOUR WEAPONS”.

    The next game dev contest shouldn’t be for one game on one sim, but a game like espionage that can take people all across sims, with very light equipment, and shooting/weapons/kills that affect/are visible in HUDS to, etc. only those opting in to play, not those civilians who don’t play.

    We’ve seen the Lindens’ flat refusal to implement any kind of nuanced policy about push/teleport home (they could easily ban push without warning and teleport home and make some demonstrative arrests, then tell the top security orb and weapons makers in SL that they are responsible for the misuse of their products and will also be banned if they do not provide warnings on all use of them as security orbs and if they do not cease the use of them to teleport home).

    For the sake of a handful of elevators and war games in SL, and for the sake of the windfall profits of a few arms dealers called “security orb manufacturers” we have all had to continually suffer a hugely diminished experience, being cage-bombed in our homes and even on Linden Land, and then bounced to kingdom come by the even *more* aggressive security systems deployed to resist griefing. The push function has little justification. In this vastly sophisticated technical streaming world with its many switches, I don’t get why the Lindens can’t set aside 12 servers where push works, and turn it off everywhere else as a land option, eventually with the aim to give that function to each owner, just as they have safe/unsafe/

  4. Caliandris says:

    I wasn’t suggesting putting the mentors/greeters in charge of policy and discipline, but just the design of a different type of Help Island. There are a number of help islands now, the proof would be in retention rates, which would be easily compared.

    I don’t know how long you spend on Help Island, or in the welcome areas, Prokofy, but the only people I know who wail about guns and being able to shoot them are minors. With experience, they are pretty easy to spot. Most people that I have helped have wanted time, patience, explanations and some structure to the experience when arriving for the first time.

  5. Oliver Primeau says:

    I have also assigned myself the job of helping newbies quite a bit after I arrived myself a couple weeks ago. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve found to do in secondlife. Newbies are curious… they are very affectionate, and yet they usually aren’t clingy – they want to explore with their hands and their eyes and their feet more than they want to ask questions.

    People on the mainland, by contrast are often jaded.

    To compare notes with Caliandris, my first impression when I arrived, was the very thing she mentions… that the orientation island was very nice…and the help island was a lot of clutter. In fact, I went back over to Orientation island to get the most I could out of the tutorials, before going on to help island. However… in retrospect, after spending a lot of time on Help island as well, I feel that help island is marvelous the way it is set up. The only problem is the one way door. Newbies can get off of help island in many ways, accidentally – being booted when help island’s sim crashes… naively teleporting during a game of tag… and 9 times out of ten, I find that they really want to return to help island and explore the tutorials more. It’s unfortunate that they can’t. Although I understand that it’s very important to keep a very peaceful and controlled environment – and perhaps it’s ok to have the one way door – as long as it is clearly explained… and if there are also easily findable analagous places on the mainland for them to get help. Upon going to the mainland, I found that it took days upon days to finally find some scattered duplications of a few of the help island exhibits. And mostly I stumbled upon these places by accident.

    My suggestion is that there ought to be a welcome area on the mainland which is a community project. Here, anybody could come and meet and greet and mentor newbies. And in one section, there would be exhibits to help people who wanted to become mentors, and in another there would be exhibits for the newbies themselves…

    The general notion in ethnically european society is that people will be self centered and into their own life… and not really want to exert the effort to help others. I think that is a misconception. Given the opportunity, and the invitation, I think we could make a very lively welcome project.

    Consider the kind of time and effort which goes into a project like Wikipedia. Why do people put all that work in for free? Well, they get a return on their investment. They learn how to write; they mentor each other… they network and find business contacts… They get friendship, and they get the rewarding experience of changing their world. And far from deteriorating into chaos, as people would have expected… because of a flawed belief in what human nature is… wikipedia just keeps getting bigger and bigger and becomes a better resource, every day.

    People want friends, and they want community. The younger wistfully desire older friends, and people of earlier generations desire the friendship of people of the later generations. THIS is human nature.

    If people are complaining about clueless newbies walking around – this is the answer… A help island with a one way door makes for a very shallow and all too quick kind of introduction to SecondLife.

  6. Tiger Crossing says:

    Making looping audio tutorials for each stage of the orientation tutorial tour will get around people’s tendancy not to read. Changing out audio streaming is handled so that HUD scripts can provide a single-person stream would help this even more, giving a new player simple transport controls to play each part of the tour’s audio. Combined with scripting, a new resident can have as much or as little hand-holding as they need. (Suggest also a script command to create a locator beacon, perhaps limited to HUD use, same as the personalized audio stream.)

    Glad the face customization interface in Oblivion was liked enough to be mentioned in the Views meeting as a good example. I spent a good bit of time coding that. 🙂

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