Mar 19, 2013

Stockholm Syndrome

Wherein Linden Lab was hoping everyone they screwed over would forget the beatings.



I’ve been doing  lot of thinking lately about what my beef with the gaming industry has been since I was in my mid-twenties. I haven’t really played anything in the AAA realm for years, and a lot of it I think has to do with how the games industry (as well as consoles) have essentially turned into screaming douchebags with their hardware and content. Take for instance, Downloadable Content or DLC for short…


Downloadable Content was supposed to be a supplementary to a complete game. That was the point... I mean, you pay full price for a game, and it comes with a beginning and end. The story is complete and you can be satisfied with your experience.



Final Fantasy XIII

Without substance, there is no justification for being high maintenance.


But as time marches on, DLC has become the lazy way of charging for incomplete games (full price) and then milking the rest for more. Maybe the game was screwed up to begin with, had bugs, was unfinished, or whatever... and people pay full price for crap only to find out they didn't even get a complete game and have to pay continuously for the DLC in order to complete the game or story.


Call me crazy, but I think that's probably the reason I really stopped playing modern games or giving a damn about consoles in the current or next generation. Wii, XBox360, PS3, and their next gen versions coming down the road... I don't give a toss.


First of all, there is the crap single player modes. This isn’t true for all games, but more often than not the single player mode may as well have been added on by a 3rd grader with a pack of mislabeled crayons and the adults in the room have to then pretend that little Timmy’s elephant isn’t the colossal and incomprehensible gibberish it is just to save his ego. This is of course assuming that the game was actually designed well to begin with, which in quite a lot of cases (overwhelmingly) they are not. For any semblance of this plague upon gaming, just watch a few seasons of Zero Punctuation (a video of which I’ve provided below).





I like a social game just like anyone else, but I enjoy it more to play a single player experience. Think of it like reading a well written book... I don't want to be forced to join a book club and collectively share the reading experience to get anything out of the book. So games today rely waaaaay too much on the multiplayer experience online and then the single player aspect suffers.


I think it's a balance... you start with a compelling single player experience from start to finish. That's your core game. Then you expand that universe from there with multiplayer online options and DLC which are optional but not mandatory to get the experience you paid for. Neither side of the coin should be tacked on as an afterthought.


A lot of games like SimCity 4 (Surprise, surprise! It’s EA) force you to have an online connection just to play the game even in single player mode, which is asinine... a very bad DRM scheme if anything. Then there are games that you know are just built to milk you constantly for DLC because the main game was half-assed and unfinished. It's really a dick move... one of the reasons I stopped playing the Final Fantasy series altogether at the end of FFX was that it was essentially half a game with no closure unless I bought FFX-2 and I immediately said "hell no". You go through that much work and effort in a game like Final Fantasy only to find out you're playing half the game and you don't get closure in a story... oh, that pisses you off to no end. Not to mention Final Fantasy X-2 sucked ass.




Because EA apparently thinks DRM is the answer to piracy



In all fairness I tried to play Final Fantasy XII (12) and gave up at the onslaught of constant interrupting (unskippable) cutscenes and talking. Take a few steps in, get into a battle and suddenly a character has an interesting and witty story about the monster you’re facing and how he remembers long ago his grand-pappy fought a beast like this… well, half hour later they let you finally hit a button to fight.


I skipped Final Fantasy XI because it only made the FF experience I was pissed about in FFX worse (paying for a game and not getting closure). Except this time they were doing it intentionally by asking for an ongoing subscription fee. So then Final Fantasy XIII came out and by then I simply couldn't be bothered anymore. It would require me to care enough to get a PS3, HD Television, and purchase a game to play on it all. It was a deep investment for a game I likely knew was going to royally screw me over.


It was a good guess because there exists Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XIII-2 which goes back to the FFX and FFX-2 model of having you pay full price for half the game and story.




The other half of your game awaits for a nominal fee…


Don’t get me wrong, they look absolutely stunning… but there is too much bad blood built up for me to be convinced on pretty graphics or mediocre gameplay alone. I need substance…


I already had the first generation PS Portable. The one with the UMD discs and stuff... and I waited patiently for decent games to be available for it... and the offering was abysmal. So I ended up jail-breaking my PS Portable and loading a ton of emulators on it to play NES, SNES, Genesis and Atari. That should tell you something right there.


So the reason I don't get into gaming anymore is simply because I've been burned so much that I stopped giving a damn. There isn’t much in the way of AAA titles that seem to do anything innovative, either… And with game developers actively being anti-social and actively hostile douchebags to their demographics… well, like an abuse victim I finally had enough and walked away despite all the pleas that they really didn’t mean it and they’ll treat me better this time, promise!


Instead, my main games of addiction these days are Tower Defense, the occasional indie title, and of course Minecraft. Tower Defense games aren't as much of a douchebag when it comes to unlockables and DLC... you can play the whole campaign and get the story but if you want extras (that's what DLC should be... extras to compliment but never to make up for lack of content or story) then it's an option.



Minecraft Home

I’m quite proud of this house… and the surrounding town I’ve been refurbishing.



In so much as Minecraft, I paid my fee and got the game. They fully acknowledge it's unfinished and will be constantly worked on. But my payment when it was in beta gave me the right to have indefinite updates for the price I paid. You're not going to see Mojang saying "We're going to release a patch for this and it'll be $10 if you want it". That's abusing their customer trust and good will, which I suppose is why the big names are falling on their faces and the indie scene is blossoming. As far as online gaming, I play on the server and they have additional perks and abilities for donators.


This is a proper way to add DLC or additional content/abilities, by not actively stepping on the existing structure but instead supplementing it with something truly new. I can play Minecraft indefinitely as I see fit in “Vanilla” mode which in itself is a constantly updating and complete game. If I wanted access to say.. Tekkit then I’d donate to the server to get that access. In no way are the server owners implying that my existing base experience should be or is crippled for not donating. In the same manner, Mojang isn’t telling me I have to pay a monthly subscription to keep playing their game or get updates. It’s not even an option anywhere to do that… and the reason is simply because they know it’s a dick move.


That would explain why the indie developers and remakes are doing better in terms of acceptance versus cost of production. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and yes even Minecraft… the trend is going back to the original methodology for game creation, and honoring the customers who make you popular and support you. Celebrating community involvement and innovation is also crucial – again we look at Minecraft and the ridiculous amount of game mods available that extend or change the “shared experience”. Mojang didn’t come in and lock things up tight when they found out there were mods that changed the game… they openly celebrated the diversity and creativity of their community, and even began rewarding them for it.


However, with the AAA titles, the trend is different for the most part. I think it started around the 1990s when everybody decided it was a good idea to make everything 3D and concentrate on graphics instead of gameplay or story. It became more about a glitter pissing contest than actually making good games or having a community around it.






Even today, games like Pac-Man stand the test of time... whereas in 25 years is anyone going to remember or give a damn about Halo?


Honestly... think about it. Not saying that Halo is a bad game by any means, but it's nowhere near going to last 25 years in a legacy like a yellow circle eating dots and ghosts. I think that's why Indie titles are faring better... they are getting back to basics and concentrating on what actually makes gaming fun. That and embracing the community instead of digging a hole so deep nobody will ever find them again, or their precious… precious masterpiece of a game that nobody must touch.


So remember that next time you're playing the next Call of Duty: This Time The Martians Are Attacking, more commonly known as Serious Sam 3: BFE.






Game development is about innovative ideas and the KISS method. Keep it simple, stupid. Don't be a dick with your DLC, and for crying out loud - make a game people can actually play and enjoy on their own before you tack on multiplayer. Otherwise you're just trying to cover the fact that you've made a shit game and hoping nobody notices because they're all too busy tea-bagging players online. The obvious noteworthy point to be made is that it also comes down to how you treat your community…


See, Minecraft started without any intention of modification or custom plugins, etc… they made a game where you could just build and survive via resource use and collection. Seems simple enough… People have made amazing things in Minecraft as a result of this basic functionality, but when the community started opening the code up and modifying it with plugins and mods, texture packs, and more… Mojang embraced it and it has worked amazingly well for them in terms of advancing Minecraft itself (a lot of player created mods made it into the official updates), it created a ton of good will for Mojang, and excellent feedback and press around the world. And of course, they’re filthy friggin rich because of it.


But what happens when you start with a “game” that is built entirely on the premise that users are creating everything, right down to the content itself, and even the 3rd Party viewers which should be celebrated for the diversity and innovation? Essentially, there is no story but it’s entirely DLC… and you put an executive from EA in charge of that ecosystem?




tommy lee

Yeah, somebody actually thought an EA executive was a good choice to run Linden Lab




The Prim Connection


I really can’t talk about gaming and downloadable content without saying something about Second Life. The guy running the place (and I’m tempted to say “into the ground”) is Gaming Jesus… I mean… Rodvik Humble, a man with an EA Pedigree… which if you think about it for more than ten minutes, you realize that pedigree may as well be printed on used toilet paper when you apply it to Second Life. Ask any respectable gamer on Earth what they think about EA… I dare you.


Coming from a company that is notorious as the douchebag of gaming culture should be fair warning that this guy really doesn’t have a clue about virtual environments. If anything, he’s applying EA Logic to Linden Lab… which if you’re a gamer means:


“He’s got his head up his ass when it comes to knowing what the actual customers want and need.”



Gaming Jesus

Gee, thanks Gaming Jesus!



When he came aboard as the CEO, the first thing I said was that I expected him to immediately set off to do everything except Second Life, and instead focus efforts and capital on making video games while looking for a way to fit the square peg that is Second Life into the round hole that is EA video game management. The simplest way for an EA executive to fix the problem is to simply sweep it under the rug, “re-invent” the company, and make a bunch of other video games in hopes that one of them sticks to the wall and they can once and for all stop worrying about Second Life.


It’s classic corporate misdirection.


At first, people thought I was off my nut for saying this. Rodvik insisted he wasn’t going to abandon Second Life and they would continue developing it and improving the experience. Then it turns out that they are more concentrated on all their new game acquisitions and secretly making games for everything else and less worried about Second Life.


After all, I’m still waiting for Mesh Deformer… which by the way the customer base outsourced and paid for because Linden Lab did such a half assed job of implementing mesh on launch, while wholesale ignoring their pleas to add a feature to fix the obvious and glaring fuck-up. That, of course, led to the decision to go batshit insane and start insisting that anything 3rd parties come up with have to be approved by Linden Lab, and shared with them. This way they can hold the reigns and be the Sword of Damocles on whether something gets done or not, instead of the customer base going over their head and making it happen. Classic corporate douchebag behavior in an age of social community interaction and organic ecosystem.


Not like Linden Lab was going to abuse that, right? The JIRA is now essentially toothless and not open to public review. They’ve cut out the ability for viewers to connect to anything but their own system, forcing developers who have made the most innovations on behalf of Second Life to now choose what amounts to allegiance between Linden Lab and Open Sim, or maintain two separate viewers. So much for not breaking shared experience, Linden Lab… You set it on fire and proceeded to piss on it as well as ten years of customer loyalty and innovation. 


But then we saw all the Johnny-Come-Lately apologist posts about how Linden Lab was always a video game company and Second Life is in itself a video game and was always billed that way from the beginning, and all this “Metaverse” talk and application was just a wrong turn somewhere and they really didn’t mean it. It was all a misunderstanding… just like when Mark Kingdon… well, said or did anything.





No, I’m pretty sure Phillip actually meant it when he said it was a Metaverse.



All that line has ever been is a monumental amount of ass-kissing. Like praising the robot overlords when the forces of Earth are taken over. It’s a spineless and cowardly approach at best. After all, those are the same people who were out front waving the “Metaverse” flag loud and proud in the golden age, and now that Rodvik comes along and says “Oh, it’s really a video game company. We’re gonna make video games!” those same people are turning tail saying “It was never a Metaverse… it was a video game all along!” – assuming they removed their lips from Linden Lab’s ass long enough to let those words escape.


If I had faith in any of the leadership at Linden Lab, it was Philip Rosedale. I may not have agreed with everything he said or did, but holy hell is he nowhere near the colossally and intellectually deficient replacements that have taken his place. I think Philip is probably the only person that actually seemed to have a clue about what Second Life is and how to approach things on the whole (including the community). Though I won’t give him total praise… I’m pretty sure they could have done better with the Open Source side of things.


I’m not looking to kiss anybody’s ass – especially when they’re royally and blatantly screwing up what should have been a global domination laid in front of them on a silver platter. So am I looking for brownie points from Rodimus Prime? Hell no… I’m looking to call it as it is, and really it would seem few at Linden Lab have the balls or uterus to open their mouth. It’s turned into a game of “Save my own ass and do whatever the boss of the month wants”.


I’ll tell you why they didn’t bill Second Life as a video game when it came to mainstream: because they realized a video game about absolutely nothing wouldn’t make them money. It was the hype and massive involvement around 2007-08 (Golden Age) that make them a shit-ton of money. It was specifically billing it as a Metaverse that made it popular and flooded to capacity. That’s when the simulator sales were at an all-time high. Times were good… even if there were issues.


Know what started killing Second Life? The minute they started trying to shoehorn it into being something it isn’t, which now resides as a video game again. Linden Lab is a company that is acting more like Sybil than a rational entity. Multiple personalities and can’t make up its mind what the hell it wants to be, mostly because management can’t make up their mind and there aren’t enough people left at Linden Lab that even remember what the company was about originally (or Second Life).


They had the academic involvement… they had brand names in-world, they had reporting news in-world and hell… they had a few episodes of CSI. But that wasn’t enough.. they had to start screwing with the ecosystem and burning bridges.






When they decided it was a video game again and started actively dicking over the brands, and the colleges, and everyone they thought they were too big to need… well, look at the declining simulator sales and tell me being a video game is better than billing it as a Metaverse? In fact, they were doing better as a Metaverse… and each time they try to make it about something else, things start going downhill quick.


It’s pretty obvious.


They cut off the OpenSim involvement, pulled up the drawbridge and declared they didn’t need anybody and they thought it was beneath them to cater to their clients and customers… all of which (mind you) are literally responsible for building the entire virtual world, creating the content, and more…


Problem is, now they’re realizing they’ve royally screwed up and are beginning to understand that they are about to starve. Or at least the dim lightbulb of acknowledgement can only be hoped to have fired off a cluster of remaining neurons and business sensibility in their minds like some straggling peasant in the medieval cow pastures of yore …


No academic involvement.


No real brand names in-world anymore.


No episodes of CSI.


And they’ve managed to take it a step further by stepping on the community itself through offering those useless Linden Homes and all the useless “perks” for being a Premium Member. Every single perk is no more than a sad attempt at “Me Too” syndrome. This is where a company realizes that the open market of services and content offered by the customers happens to be too good for them to not get in on the action themselves. So you see Linden Homes while you can get better from renting space elsewhere (and buying a skybox or house a designer made on marketplace). You see “Premium Gifts” which are all but a joke… Does anyone care about that premium couch? No, not when the word “couch” on Marketplace yields enough results to fill ten IKEA warehouses.


What about “Premium Sims” or Linden whatever the hell they call it?


Nobody cares. They showed up to the party ten years too late (like Microsoft) and thought it was a good idea to jump into a well established market as a player while wholly disregarding the fact that they are competing against better options which have had ten years to accumulate and refine. Not to mention are already generating revenue through sales on marketplace and in-world.


Who loses out for this arrogance and neglect? The new users who don’t know any better but will be pissed when they realize that Premium accounts don’t actually offer anything remotely premium.


Your stipend? You get about what you’d receive if you were a free user and paid for the L$. It’s not a bargain or premium.


Linden Homes? For a little more you get a roomy parcel on a nice island and your choice of pretty much any highly detailed and well designed skybox and house available on marketplace.


Premium Gifts? Yeah… about as premium as getting a toy with your Happy Meal.


Ability to buy land?


Ok… now we’re remotely talking. Except at the end of the day, you’re not really buying the land but renting it. I’ve been on the mainland and it’s not exactly prime real estate, let me tell you. Your own island away from the neighbors and bullshit? You can do that… but if we’re renting it essentially either way, then why pay a premium to rent when you can just rent as a free user?


Buying land then become a premium option legitimately but really only if you’re planning on being a real estate tycoon. There are plenty of Land Barons already who have done that over the past ten years… so it’s kinda stupid now to assume the average person would be interested in a premium account just to rent land from LL.




Not that being the virtual Donald Trump is really something to brag about…



So what do we have left?


Not a lot…


Linden Lab is quietly offering discounts to “select” colleges in hopes to get them to come back, which is again total arrogance on behalf of Linden Lab, and only makes them look worse than they started out for having dropped the educational discount wholesale to begin with. It implies they are in a position to decide who is “good enough” to “deserve” a discount and come play in Second Life again.


Nothing like rubbing salt in that wound, eh Linden Lab?


Problem is that Linden Lab took it upon themselves to pull a lot of dick-headed moves and burn nearly all of their bridges with an arrogance and willful ignorance I haven’t seen since the 90’s and ActiveWorlds.


As a “video game” it’s tanking. That’s why it was repositioned as a “Metaverse” and an open sandbox platform of social and creative interaction instead. The more they apply “video game” tactics to it – marketing, strategy, bundling “packages”, stepping on community toes, and acting like they don’t need anyone… well, the more they are going to end up permanently burning those bridges and good will.


Which, they might already have done in a lot of instances. So I guess Rodvik is doing an excellent job of translating the douche-baggery of EA over to Second Life and scratching his head when people are screaming “What the hell are you thinking?!”


As entertaining as it may be to watch Rodvik eat Humble Pie (like that little word play?) this all stems back to that notion of this widespread plague of assholery in the games industry as the post implies.



Journey into Second Life


The underlying point to all of this comes down to game developers intentionally being douchebags. Not giving people what they want or need from your game or product, and then having the arrogance and audacity to continue screwing them every chance they get. There is little difference between EA mentality and Linden Lab right now, and that’s the problem.


Linden Lab, as a corporate entity and culture, needs to go back to the KISS method. Keep it simple, stupid. That doesn’t mean with twenty different products but instead it means by figuring out what the core of the business for Second Life is from the standpoint of Linden Lab and simply excel at that, letting the rest organically work itself out and make money for them supplementary.






Don’t offer what your community already does. You’re not in this to compete with your community… It is a god-send and blessing that Linden Lab isn’t required to have in-house content development. Game studios around the world love that idea and wish they could just lay off their content designers in-house and let the customers do all the work for them. So don’t squander that.


Instead, look for ways to foster your community to continue building more and creating. Look for ways to bring them together. Be willing to work with them… for real and not some half-assed effort or two-faced doublespeak.


It’s a social community, so doing everything in your power to be antisocial and downright belligerent to them is probably not a good idea. Unless you like the declining simulator trend… in which case, have at it. No community means no content. No content means less experience. Less experi- well you get the point. Screwing the community and being actively hostile to their needs and wants becomes a self-perpetuating downward spiral of failure.


Indoctrination of a new technology or methodology for doing things starts with the hype but also the foresight to know that getting your technology in wide use among the academic and college community is a winning strategy. That’s why Apple Computer and Microsoft went to great lengths to ensure that schools and colleges had their software and computers in the classrooms at the earliest age they could get it in there. Ergo, Linden Lab clearly made the biggest mistake of it’s corporate life when it wholesale cut off the colleges from a discount and refuse (even to this day) to deal with an academic funding cycle instead of Linden Lab’s billing cycle. The most popular and well known corporate marketing strategy on Earth… and Linden Lab dropped the ball.







Apparently Linden Lab is better than Apple or Microsoft now and can’t be bothered to deal with such things which are beneath their stature. Arrogance is what that is, and nothing more.


If Linden Lab wants an influx of fresh money from the purchase of L$, leading to new accounts, then the one thing they would have been expected to do when treating Second Life like a game, they somehow monumentally failed at. Of course, I’m talking about the total lack of Game Cards available at every retail store on Earth whereby gamers can buy (with cash) those cards and use them to redeem a predetermined amount of in-game currency. In that Second Life has no such option is yet again a boneheaded maneuver. When people see a Second Life currency card next to the other game cards on the rack, they start wondering what Second Life is and want to try it out.


Especially now that they can impulse buy those in-game currency cards with cash.


Gemini Dream


Second Life is essentially all downloadable content. Linden Lab shouldn’t be trying to dictate the story. The moment they start with the “we don’t need you” attitude and stepping on toes… they missed the plot entirely because without the “you” there would be no “them”. I think they’ve wholly forgotten that and have gotten cocky and arrogant about it.


Let’s look at this side by side for a moment:




Built Minecraft, charged a flat fee to purchase the game. The game itself is an open ended sandbox environment with some gaming elements whereby a majority of the content is created by the players given the tools at their disposal.




Players build shrines to Notch in Minecraft. I haven’t heard anything bad about Mojang… Ever.



Mojang doesn’t run multiplayer servers. Their community run those servers independently and they are on their own for monetizing or supporting those servers. Mojang, however, embraces the community who run those third party servers and works with them to incorporate that ease of use and ability into their main client whenever possible.


Minecraft has plenty of 3rd party clients like Tekkit, and lite to heavy modifications to the “shared experience” – everything from minor item additions to entire gameplay experience overhauls. Mojang celebrates this diversity and offers the basic Vanilla client and game, allowing and fostering the endless customizability to wholly develop organically via the community. This has led to countless modifications, additional functionality (which Mojang at times stated was impossible such as MatMos dynamic ambient audio) and additions. Mojang embraces the community, their innovations, and determination to help make it a better experience overall.


As of this writing, a total of 9,771,413 have purchased Minecraft and of that total 9,887 have bought Minecraft in the past 24 hours alone. I wonder how many premium accounts have been purchased in the same time frame for Second Life?


Linden Lab


Built Second Life, they offer a free user experience but heavily push for a subscription model Premium Account. The virtual environment itself is an open ended sandbox with some gaming elements whereby a majority of the content is created by the players/users given the tools at their disposal.




Nobody is building a shrine to Rodvik, and there isn’t much goodwill toward Linden Lab.


Linden Lab runs simulators (multiplayer regions) and considers this part of their revenue model, despite statistics showing that this revenue model is failing. The community at one point offered the compelling option of allowing 3rd party regions to run through a connection with OpenSim, but Linden Lab chose instead to cut off ties with OpenSim and run the regions themselves, going so far as to cut all ties with 3rd party simulators and mandating that any client which connects to their service cannot also connect to 3rd party OpenSim as well. Clearly they did not embrace the community or make any real attempt to work with them, and in fact have become openly anti-social and hostile toward them. This in itself is a disturbing and running theme which is leading to their decline.


Second Life has a number of 3rd Party clients like Firestorm and Exodus viewer, however the variation of unique innovations from client to client have now been widely homogenized where once there was a thriving mountain of options.  Any new functionality must be first submitted, then approved by Linden Lab as the controlling force, and such additions or improvements must be pushed out for all 3rd parties to adopt. In no way can a 3rd party make changes to the “shared experience” unless submitted and approved by Linden Lab. In no way does this celebrate the innovation of independent thought or advancement that comes from an organic creative process, and in an opposite manner to Mojang, has divided and caused less innovation instead of more while wholly stifling legitimate advancement of the technology as a whole.


Unlike Minecraft, Second Life has an in-world currency by default and as such players/users are encouraged to purchase in-world currency to spend on digital items, a majority of which are created by other players/users and given or sold via a functional Marketplace whereby Linden Lab receives a percentage of all transactions. In fact, unlike a typical “game developer”, Linden Lab has the distinct advantage of  having the entire virtual world built and maintained by the very users who inhabit it. They even had the opportunity to capitalize on 3rd party regions and grids but somehow did not see that opportunity to reduce their overhead and be paid for it.


Stranger still is the lack of common option available to purchase game cards which are preset in-world currency. These cards are widely available for nearly every game known to man including Farmville and yet a virtual environment with a default in-game currency has no such option available. Indeed, this behavior further cements Linden Lab’s anti-social behavior in that (like everything else) they feel it is somehow beneath them to act like a real company with real marketing plans or work with the customers.


To this day, Linden Lab remains wholly anti-social and at times outright hostile to their community, any possible innovation they may bring, and even their content and services involvement as witnessed by Linden Lab’s wholesale disregard for existing content and service options created by the community whereby Linden Lab themselves offer similar and competing options such as Premium Sandboxes, Premium Regions, Premium Gifts, and Linden Homes in direct opposition to their established user-base of ten years.


Given the option to work and cater to business, branding, and educational sectors, Linden Lab again shows anti-social and often times hostile behavior. This can be seen in their inability to settle on a blanket Educational discount and work with schools or universities appropriately in order to make Second Life technology viable for those use cases. Moreover, given the vast potential to involve real life brands in the virtual world via their own Marketplace and retooling a Premium Account into a Professional account to give professional content creators access to licensed brands, Linden Lab again shows anti-social and hostility, instead demanding to treat Second Life as a game and Linden Lab as a game studio without actual consideration for the prosumer dynamic which they rely on.


Given the opportunity to engage wholly in Social Media whereby a large majority of their userbase interact, they instead chose to be anti-social and arbitrarily hostile in establishing their own walled garden version of a social media feed instead of building the sharing options to Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest (among others) as direct options from within the viewer itself via openly available APIs.


This behavior is wholly narcissistic and arrogant at best. It is openly and unapologetically anti-social and hostile toward business, education and even their own prosumers which are near entirely responsible for the content and experience in-world.


After all of this, is it any wonder that Second Life is declining and Linden Lab is more interested in putting out the life rafts in other games while re-inventing itself as a “games company”?


The core mission of Linden Lab for Second Life, their flagship product, is simple:


“Your world, Your imagination.” –


“And we’re here to empower you to keep creating so we can take a percentage and profit”


Instead of screwing the customers over, being antisocial and hostile, and deliberately burning bridges and stepping on toes… they need to get back to the age old saying from Morningstar and Farmer in 1990:


Work within the system.


Mar 10, 2013

Trust Me

Dilution of ownership in a digital world like #SecondLife


A friend of mine (Yoshiko Fazuku) was recently working on a Dr. Who inspired build in Second Life and as a finishing touch, she needed an Aphrodite statue for it. Being in an age of Marketplace and Mesh, finding one of those statues would effectively be dead simple, and so within an hour or so, she was ready to upload one for inclusion as part of her build. At the time, she was short the 100L to upload it and didn’t want to wait until she put in the extra money, so she asked to borrow the 100L and she’d pay me back. I didn’t have a problem with it, but did say she should just keep the 100L and be on with it.



Aphrodite Statue in SL_001

“Aphrodite” statue in my garden – Provided by Yoshiko Fazuku


In any event, what came about was a mesh version of a statue that looked quite good for SL, and as a thank-you she gave me a copy of it (non-transfer) for my garden. Now, this sort of thing happens a lot in Second Life, where content creators get parts or build kits with a certain terms of use attached and 3D models online come with certain rights for use (license), so I didn’t think anything of it. After all, the onus of proof is on the individual should anyone come along and dispute that authority of use.


But it got me thinking later on as I was invited to the introductory theatre presentation this evening for a new location by Minna Kurka over at the Cube Gallery. I had set it into my calendar to attend, and was interested in putting a blurb up on Google+ for anyone who was interested, but when I asked if she had a snapshot of the location to use for that she admitted she did not.


It wouldn’t be much to pop over to the location and take a snapshot, so I assured her it wasn’t a problem and teleported over only to be confronted with the same statue that I had sitting in my garden at home – except it was mirrored. Where the vines held in the right hand on mine, it was in the left for this statue out front.


Immediately, I thought – “Well, if Yoshiko and Yaiza independently uploaded this mesh, that likely means that neither of them actually made it.”


Other than being a mirrored copy of the same statue, it was effectively the same thing and I asked a very interesting question -


I wonder where the actual source of this mesh is at, and who actually owns it?


Now, this wasn’t to be construed as some sort of accusation against the “owner” of the mesh in Second Life. More accurately it was an honest question of digital lineage which did not have a solid answer, not even to the person who was denoted as the “creator” of that mesh. I had asked the quintessential question that more often than not had no answer.


More importantly, this was like claiming you had the only such statue in Second Life and it was original, only to find out other people have uploaded it as well. Or maybe confidently showing up to a party wearing an outfit only to see somebody else wearing the same thing across the room after you just finished boasting that you had yours custom made.


The jig was up!


Well, this being Second Life, such a simple question which arguably has no proper answer, was construed into the audacity that I was accusing Minna’s best friend of essentially stealing the statue. On first glance, a site I had found with this model had a strict copyright and non-commercial use clause and so I raised a very interesting question about the lineage of the file… it was a question that managed to get me both muted and banned from the theater (and ultimately earning a spot on Minna’s mute list) for even asking.


How dare I ask such a question!?


Indeed, how dare I question the legitimacy of ownership over a file which the self-proclaimed “owner” couldn’t adequately answer themselves, and was passing off as theirs in an independent art gallery collection with no indication to the contrary otherwise for clarification? Other than a terms of use as provided by whatever site they bought it from, is that actually just a guise of authority or is it ironclad proof they have any right to use that file as they are? Therein is the conundrum of the digital world, in that we rarely question those terms of use when we purchase a model from sites like TurboSquid – thinking that those terms are both binding and legitimate.


Truth be told, a lot of times they are not.


In any system that allows 3rd Party uploads of content in an automated fashion, places like TurboSquid operate mainly on the blind trust principle whereby they make the people submitting content agree to (yet another) terms of service. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from uploading tons of content that may be infringing or outright stolen… just ask Linden Lab about that. When a file actually is owned by somebody on those sites and they wish to enforce those terms of use and copyright, then Turbosquid becomes the fallback and (likely) the enforcer. But do those terms of use have any meaning when the person who uploaded it to begin with broke the terms of the site?






An anecdotal consideration is a reminder of and the book 1984 by George Orwell. Arguably, hundreds of thousands of people downloaded that book to their Kindle for reading, and just like our “content creators” in Second Life who see those 3rd party sites and a terms of usage attached, the people made the assumption that if the person who uploaded it didn’t have the right to, then clearly it wouldn’t be available on a site like


So we take those terms of use as gospel, and even point to them as if they have any authority at all in the discussion. After all, it was on a reputable looking model repository website and the terms of use attached to it seem written well enough and professionally. At no point in this chain of logic did anyone think about whether the original uploader of that content actually had the right to do so or set those official reading terms of use.


No more than did anyone bother to question the appearance of 1984 on their Kindle list as a legitimate book for them to download.




Sophie - Sculpture 100% Mesh | Marketplace for 400L



So, when I asked that simple question upon seeing the same statue presented by another person (Yaiza Galicia) in Second Life as (and I quote) “part of the collection at The Cube Art Gallery” the implication is that they made it when their name is on it as the creator and owner. After all, the legitimacy of the entire gallery itself is based on the premise that it is a location for original works by in-world artists. Clearly they did not make that model, which is fine if you aren’t representing yourself as such. But to have it “as part of the collection” is about as disingenuous as you get without outright saying “I made this”.


The bigger question was still having nothing to do with whether Yaiza or Yoshiko was responsible for this mesh, because I knew full well neither were responsible. I was, however, more interested in figuring out who actually was responsible at the root (if possible) and that meant looking for it on a model repository and seeing what the use rights were for it.


There is a distinct difference when you’re actually making the models yourself (or at least the larger premise of the art environment) as the artist versus buying them from a 3rd party site and calling it a day while not exactly going out of your way to tell anyone you didn’t make that artwork, and actually actively blocking people when they ask. It’s the difference between Bryn Oh (who makes her models from scratch) and Yaiza who buys a model from Turbosquid, imports it as is, and calls it a day while charging you 400L for a copy as “part of the Cube Art gallery collection”.


Realistically, I begin wondering at that point about how much of the “artwork” at Cube Art Gallery is actually theirs or bought from Turbosquid and imported. I wouldn’t have thought about that if Minna Kurka didn’t lose her mind when I asked a simple question… it’s the sort of reaction you’d get when you essentially bust somebody red handed and they call security before you tell anyone else for fear that word will get out.


I suppose it never occurred to her that I actually write a well read blog, and questions like this are exactly the sort thing I ask and write about. So if her goal was to just call security and shut me up… she probably did a piss poor job of it.


Putting both Yoshiko and Yaiza aside for the moment, I consider either about as condemned as the many people who bought 1984 for their Kindle. Which is to say almost blameless in this chain – however Yaiza is a lot more shady in practice since it’s just a direct import and sale as-is. Minna made the comment about this being no different than build-kits in SL, to which I had to make the correct analogy instead.


In the case of Yoshiko, she utilized the statue in a truly transformative manner in that it was included as part of a larger build whereby the statue itself wasn’t for sale directly with little or no modification. This is a more common term of usage in build-kits sold on Marketplace and in 3D Model repositories. In the case of Yaiza, that person is essentially selling the statue as-is, which is to say – they bought it from a model repository, and uploaded it to SL as a product on it own. In the world of usage terms, this latter approach is usually a violation while inclusion in larger builds is usually covered.


Maybe Yaiza actually is covered in that clause upon use rights? I’ll go that far for the hell of it, but it doesn’t make it less shady the way they went about it.


There is less of a case of leniency with a direct port of work in this arena, but again it all depends on the terms of use associated with the actual file as you purchased it originally. Therein is the nebulous situation…


If we were to look at the lineage of this model file, we’d likely find it in multiple places online. For instance, Turbosquid, FallingPixel, and of course CGTrader. TurboSquid offering it for $75.00 USD, FallingPixel for 40 euro, and CGTrader for a mere $20.00 USD


The interesting aspect about all three of these repositories is that the terms of use all state the same thing:



(ii) As purchased by a game's creators as part of a game if the Content is contained inside a proprietary format and displays inside the game during play, but not for users to re-package as goods distributed or sold inside a virtual world.




Is either Yoshiko or Yaiza considered a “user” repackaging it as goods distributed or sold? I think it can be safe to say that it applies more to the aspect of “don’t make this object for sale as-is or full permission.”


But let’s put that aside for a moment. I’m still interested in tracing the digital lineage of this statue.


Again, we’re assuming the uploader of the file was authorized to begin with, which if they were not, the terms of use are non-enforceable.


Saying TurboSquid, CGTrader or FallingPixel are any more authoritative on these terms of use than another site is erroneous at best because it starts with the assumption that the person responsible for uploading the file to begin with had the right to do so.


I could, in theory, pay Turbosquid for that mesh or I could just go to and get it. Which brings up an even more interesting point in that their terms of use are more restrictive and non-commercial!




Odalisque Sculpture 3D Models – As listed on 3DModelFree in MAX Format



All the resources on this website are the website users upload!
All the resources are not allowed for commercial use, otherwise you will be responsible for liability!

If resources have violated your copyright, please through email ( to us so that we can delete a timely manner to protect you or your company's rights!



Which may as well be the same exact line a place like TurboSquid would use in their terms of service. If somebody violates a copyright, they can email Turbosquid to take care of it.


But just because nobody has emailed either entity doesn’t make either more or less reputable than the other. The underlying premise for both sites is that all of the content they are providing is user uploaded. We’re just taking it for granted that the person who uploaded those files had the right to do so – maybe giving places like Turbosquid more merit just because they look more professional.


So we could immediately cry out “Well, of course 3DModelFree is the illegal one!” when really we have no more proof of that than the legitimacy of 1984 showing up on Amazon for Kindle. You just make an assumption at that point, and then your basis for legitimacy becomes the premise of that assumption.


In all likelihood, the lineage of this model traces back to DeEspona 3D Models and since TurboSquid and other places have that listed as the content creator, we can call this mystery solved, right gang?






Now we’re making yet another assumption… when people make accounts on websites they can type in whatever they want as a name and contact, so if somebody were to be uploading content that wasn’t theirs and they wanted to go a long time without being busted, it would make sense to write your name on those sites as DeEspona.


Well, clearly the owner of those files, DeEspona, is the one uploading those files on TurboSquid because that’s the name of the artist displayed on the site!


Yeah, as if people are wholly incapable of lying.


I suppose the premise here is that unless you purchase directly from the creator and the creator is actually verified, the legitimacy of any claim you make for your god-given rights as a consumer who purchased that model are about as legitimate as some guy in the back alley handing you a television from a van and telling you it’s totally legit.





Now, the real question has nothing to do with copyright, or whether or not Yaiza or Yoshiko have the right to import that model and utilize it as they are. The premise of all of this was just a curiosity into the eroding of digital lineage for content as it gets absorbed into the Internet.


There’s the interesting aspect of ubiquitous media, in that it becomes harder and harder to trace the origins of those digital items as they spread around – especially when it’s translated into a proprietary format (like SL) and the “creator” isn’t exactly going out of their way to tell you they didn’t make it. This, coupled with the innate ability for people to pretty much just lie and present themselves as anyone they want online (and in Second Life), we constantly make assumptions about people and by association the many things that dealing with said people would allow or affect in our lives.


We no more know that DeEspana as the artist is the same person listed on the TurboSquid profile selling the models, than if you had never met Mickey Mouse and some random drunk wandered by and told you that’s who they were. So basing our rights as consumers on similar identity assumptions for 3rd Party websites seems just as ludicrous.


That being said, I can see how it would be embarrassing when you have somebody else’s mesh sitting in an art gallery and sold by you who is listed as the creator.


In the end, I think it would probably be best if content creators in SL were going to buy models from TurboSquid and just import them for resale in Marketplace, that they at least have the decency to give a disclosure about where they got it from.


If the model is $75 USD on TurboSquid, it’s not going to really hurt you to say so when you’re reselling it in SL for $2.00 USD. It’s not really about whether you are breaking copyrights, or whether you are required to have that disclosure, but instead it’s about being more sincere in what you’re doing with that content.


Putting it as part of an art gallery, with your name on it, when it’s just a direct import from somebody else’s model (and arguably if the MAX file already came with a low poly or mid poly version it required no work before upload) is about as genuine as putting your name on the Mona Lisa and charging $2.00 for a copy.


It would only be right to say “This model is a work done by DeEpana entitled: Hera. You can find the full permission model here:” instead of renaming it Sophie and putting it in an art gallery with your name on it.


That being said, Yoshiko is at least including it as part of a larger build instead of trying to just pass the statue itself off as her own. I’m pretty sure the content creator wouldn’t have a problem with that any more than typical content creators in SL already include that use right by default.


On its own as part of what is touted as an original art gallery, with no indication that they aren’t the creator of that mesh, that is pretty disingenuous… May not be illegal or breaking any terms of use… but in this case it doesn’t make them seem any more legit by actively not saying anything.



But you make Arcade machines!


Am I a hypocrite for asking about the lineage and actual ownership of the statue mesh when I also provide arcade machines in Second Life?


I think in this aspect, the answer is unequivocally “No.”


Unlike Yaiza, I go out of my way to identify who is responsible for every single aspect of those machines up front, and those details are built into every single machine. Each one has a total history attached and a link to the actual company website. The mesh models are created by RobsterRawb Jaxxon, the cabinet plans themselves are open source, and the artwork is sourced from community vector recreations and re-edited (often times heavily) for use in-world. Finalized details and scripting are done by me, as well as quality control in testing before we call it finished. Each is non-copy, which stops “repackaging for resale”.


There is plenty of work to make those machines available in-world, but at no point do we try to hide who is responsible for what. On the flip side, until you read this post – did anyone really know that the statue was made by DeEspana?


That’s called “Lying by omission”.


In any event, I won’t be going to that grand opening after all… which is a shame. I was hoping to see something original for once.