Editorial: Putting Items On the High Fidelity Marketplace—Why Is It So Complicated?

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Why is it so complicated to get an item into the High Fidelity Marketplace? (Image by geralt on Pixabay)

Compared to the thousands of items already for sale on the Sansar Store (14,875 at last count), the High Fidelity Marketplace still looks rather empty in comparison (by my count, less than 600 items). High Fidelity is trying its hardest to encourage content creators to upload more items to its Marketplace. In fact, HiFi is issuing an HFC (in-world currency) bonus for any items uploaded to the Marketplace before Oct. 1st, 2018:

For every item you submit to the Marketplace before October 1, 2018, that is approved for sale, you will receive a bonus of 2,000 High Fidelity Coin (HFC).

In an effort to get some discussion rolling, Philip Rosedale recently posted his musings on the subject to the HiFi discussion forums:

With HFC now being exchangeable for USD at the bank, we’re thinking about how best to help get the marketplace started and lots of people putting up new things for sale. How best should we go about doing that? Any ideas?

Pay HFC for commissioned items, like we’d often been doing on the worklist?

Buy one copy of everything everyone puts up?

Get HF employees to put up some amazing stuff that can then be freely modified?

??

I must confess, that I really don’t see the point of having High Fidelity buy one copy of everything that everybody puts up for sale on the Marketplace. What purpose does that serve? High Fidelity should be encouraging its users to buy items from each other, rather than buying up items themselves!!

It would appear that there are still some impediments and bottlenecks in the whole process of putting an item up for sale in the High Fidelity Marketplace. Some users have complained that the whole procedure is quite awkward.

Even worse, it would appear that every single item has to be reviewed by High Fidelity before it can be approved for sale. One would-be seller received the following response to his uploaded item:

“Unfortunately we do not feel this submission is up to quality standards on the Marketplace and have decided not to approve it at this time. We encourage you to continue improving on this submission and greatly appreciate the work you have put in.”

If High Fidelity is actually going to screen each and every item for quality, they’re going to create a huge bottleneck that will negatively impact the Marketplace. This is one of the fatal mistakes that Blue Mars made. Tell me this: how many staff is High Fidelity going to throw at this quality assurance task? What are the standards to be used for assessing the “quality” of items? Will there be an appeal process for rejected items? This opens up a huge can of worms.

Another person in that same discussion thread stated:

I’ll just bring up my concerns I’ve had for awhile in addition to people from Second Life who I’ve worked with, who have held back due to the security concerns.

I get the knowledge of some people will always be high and as a result will mean their knowledge on how to work around securities will be a never ending battle, but now that the push for wearables has been made, no one bothered to think of the consequences, and as a result, I’ve had a few of my own items copied without full concern. Were they certified, marketplace items? No, but the fact that the same even applies to them degrades my trust and the contacts I’ve met on the topic of putting things into the marketplace.

Now there’s this:

How can anyone put something up when most issues regarding the marketplace, regarding the security for it, and the issues with even the PoP have not been addressed?

Heck, I’ll go even as far as to address the other elephant in the room: as Richardus has pointed out, the approval process is slow, and now suddenly there’s a desire to push people to fix or upload new items, and at that, with a price tag. A consequence I hope someone has predicted are ones who did submit something for approval early only to not have it approved until after the date. If that happens, and word spreads, the trust in the system will only worsen.

These are all excellent points that need to be addressed by High Fidelity, and quickly.

As mentioned above, Proof of Provenance (PoP) is yet another area of concern with the Marketplace. There was a great deal of controversy when this was first proposed, but the document referring to it has since been taken down from HiFi’s website. It’s really not clear to me what the status of this initiative is. Is High Fidelity is still planning to conduct PoP verification services for items listed on its Marketplace? If they are, then what fee will they charge for this service? Everybody seems to have questions, and nobody seems to have any answers.

The online instructions for uploading your content to the High Fidelity Marketplace are split up into several sections, each of which is fairly technical in nature. Take a look for yourself:

Here’s a sample screenshot of a section from the Add Your Item page, complete with instructions on how to edit your .JSON files (yes, you need to know how to edit code!):

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I can certainly understand why some people feel that the whole process is daunting, confusing, and cumbersome.

The overall impression I get here is that there are still significant obstacles standing in the way of content creators who want to place their items up for sale in the High Fidelity Marketplace and earn money from them. Why on earth aren’t Philip Rosedale and his team taking a page from Linden Lab, where they have already set up not one, but two highly successful online stores: the Second Life Marketplace, and the Sansar Store?

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SLUniverse Is Closing

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Yesterday evening, Cristiano Midnight, the owner of the SLUniverse (SLU) discussion forum (the largest and longest-running community site dedicated to Second Life), posted the following message:

So a lot has happened in the past 24 hours. I nearly lost 2.4 million posts and obliterated SLU, got them back, perhaps may have cried a little, then made some decisions about what to do about SLU.

I detailed what I was going through my mind in this post, so I won’t repeat it. However, since writing that, I made some rapid decisions that are already in motion.

First of all, I am launching a new site – VirtualVerse, which expands the scope of SLU to all things related to virtual worlds, whether it is Second Life, Sansar, other VR worlds that are gaining in popularity, or game related worlds like MMOs and open world games. I’ve wanted to become less SL centric, but it has been hard to do that with SL as part of the name.

The SLU forums will be closing within the next few weeks, depending on how long the transition takes. These forums will be archived – they may be unavailable for little while but will come back as a read only forum.

The new site domain is VirtualVerse.one – http://www.virtualverse.one

Why .one? There has been a significant number of new top level domains added, and I considered .cloud, .site and even .ninja, but .one appealed to me the most, since this also is starting over in many ways.

The new forums use Xenforo, not vBulletin. It is much more modern forum software, and fully supports mobile without needing an app. I purchased two gorgeous themes for it, one light and one dark, and have already installed an add on that allows me to add unlimited reaction buttons.

I’m looking into whether or not I can migrate user accounts from VB. If not, I will assist anyone in securing their name on the new site. I’ll have more information soon about all of this.

In the meantime, if you would like to help test out the new forums as I am getting them setup, they are already live.

I’m sure you will have lots of questions, and I still have some things to figure out and a lot of work to do, but SLU is going to live on, just in a different format.

I have been a fairly active member of SLUniverse since Sept. 18th, 2007 (just over eleven years), posting a total of 1,689 posts to various discussion threads in that time. It has always been a fun, free-wheeling place where anything and everything could happen. Some of the discussion threads have achieved legendary status!

I am looking forward to Cristiano’s new venture, VirtualVerse. You can visit it already.

 

Playing Angry Birds on the Magic Leap One

Here’s a short promotional video for the upcoming Angry Birds game on the augmented reality headset Magic Leap One:

TheVerge reports:

Finnish game development studio Rovio is bringing its flagship property, Angry Birds, to one of the most forward-looking devices on the market, the Magic Leap One. First unveiled early last month, the One is the first commercially available mixed reality headset from secretive Florida startup Magic Leap, which has amassed more than $2 billion in funding to create what it thinks is the future of media. The company is not quite there yet, as my colleague Adi Robertson argued in her hands-on impressions of the headset.

But Rovio, in partnership with Swedish virtual and augmented reality developer Resolution Games, is signing on to be one of the earliest game makers to build for Magic Leap’s platform as it evolves. The result of that investment is Angry Birds: FPS (short for First Person Slingshot). The game is your standard Angry Birds experience: you’re given a set of colorful anthropomorphic birds and a slingshot, and the goal is to fling your feathered friends into increasingly elaborate wooden and stone structures to take out nefarious green pigs. Although this time around, the structures, birds, and slingshot appear as virtual and interactive 3D objects existing in the real world.

I spent about 30 minutes playing the game, and I can say that it is a remarkably intuitive, high-fidelity, and an all-around impressive display for Rovio’s first foray into AR. The company worked closely with Resolution Games, which has experience making VR games, to develop the game first as a VR title and then later as a full-fledged AR one that runs exclusively on the Magic Leap One.

Although the field of view for the One is roughly 50 degrees and still quite limited compared to, say, a VR headset, I found that to be about the perfect width and height for a full stage of Angry Birds to exist in front of you on a standard coffee table. So it’s clear Rovio and Resolution designed the game with the One’s FOV top in mind.

Can VR Make Us More Human? A Chat with Peter Rubin and Philip Rosedale

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This evening, I attended a talk in High Fidelity between Philip Rosedale (the CEO of High Fidelity and the founder of Second Life) and Peter Rubin, a Senior Editor at WIRED who has recently written a book about VR titled Future Presence: How Virtual Reality Is Changing Human Connection, Intimacy, and the Limits of Ordinary Life

The premise of the talk (from the event description) was:

Many argue that mobile smartphones and social media have made us less connected to our fellow human beings. VR has the potential to course-correct the isolating nature of much of today’s technology and the opportunity to make us more connected and even more human.

Here’s a livestream of the hour-long talk, which I thoroughly enjoyed (and I even got an opportunity to ask a question at the end!). If you missed the event, I would encourage you to watch this wide-ranging and fascinating discussion about virtual reality and the various social VR platforms, held within High Fidelity.

Does the End of PocketGacha Mean That Second Life’s Economy Is In Trouble? No.

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Image by Mediamodifier on Pixabay

It never fails to amaze (and amuse) me how much I have been blogging about Second Life recently. As I have said before, I never intended to blog about SL at all! This blog was originally about Sansar and Sansar only, and then last January I broadened the scope to include all the newer social VR platforms (High Fidelity, VRChat, Sinespace, etc.). And then, I decided to start sharing my 11 years of accumulated knowledge of how to get the best steals, deals, and freebies in Second Life with you, my readers. And those posts generate a fair bit of traffic, too.

Lately, I have been covering other aspects of Second Life, such as the upcoming ability for Premium Second Life account holders to choose a new first and last name for their avatar. That one blogpost is now by far my most popular, with well over 2,500 views!

As you probably know, gachas are a big, big thing in Second Life. Which is why I was so surprised to hear that PocketGacha was shutting down, even though it had thousands of users and earned lots of money:

  1. Just over $300,000.00 (DOLLARS…not Linden!) were transacted via the two HUDs [PocketShop and PocketGacha] – generating real sales and real money for creators. This is demonstrative proof that those who feel SL is not “real life” are grossly mistaken. Small cottage industry brands (People!) benefit and, in many cases, PocketEvents proudly contributed to their lives and well-being. A number and fact we are very proud of.
  2. Over 30K unique users engaged the two HUD’s during this time. While we have no idea how this compares to other events we can say this: given an average of 30K users on SL at any one time it seems a healthy percentage of the grid at the very least tried and embraced the shopping HUD platform with us.

I used and enjoyed PocketGacha myself, and I loved the convenience of the service. So why are they shutting down? The PocketEvents team explains:

With that said the team has felt of late that now is the time to move on to new ventures. Those age-old words of “always leave a party when you are having fun” never rang so true.

It’s no secret that PocketShop never really resonated with shoppers like PocketGacha. Just like PocketGacha we worked to address the needs and wants that so many voiced. Creators wanted traffic driven to their mainstores. We did that. Shoppers wanted less lag and instant gratification at events without having to fight to TP. We did that too. HUD based delivery of Demos to try in private…check. Just like PocketGacha we looked to be more than an event but a solution to the most common wants. Yet, despite it all, shoppers were less than impressed with PocketShop.

We have spent two months trying to understand if this lack of engagement was a result of anything we did, a failure to properly market the idea, or perhaps a fault of the HUD design. Nothing made sense as those who did use the HUD found it just as easy as the popular PocketGacha HUD. What we surmised is that in the end shoppers better associated us with Gacha and their seeing beyond that was difficult.

There is no doubt as well that SL commerce is changing. The boom-boom days are long in the past. While perhaps the top 1% of brands might still be doing fine (though I’m certain not selling what they once were) the new and emerging brands are finding it harder and harder to connect with shoppers. The drastic drop in new users in SL and an inability to retain these avatars has led all of us to this juncture. In some ways we have reached the point where we are just selling sneakers to each other. Or, to better quote the old adage, “delivering pizzas to each other.” Because, really, how many sofas can one own after years in SL? The people at Linden Lab are smart. I am sure they know this as well and are working on solutions. Let’s all hope.

The finale to this perfect storm is that the world of events is becoming saturated to the point of being destructive to one another along with the brands that try to balance doing them. While the old-line events may thrive to a point (I think, again, not like they once did) new ones arise it seems each and every day and SL is starting to feel like a town of 50K people that has built 50 shopping malls. It’s just too much for the current market.

Wagner James Au calls it a sign of an SL recession, saying:

This closure comes despite Pocket Gacha and a related HUD being used by a reported 30,000 unique users transacting over $300,000.00 “DOLLARS…not Linden!” across the service.  What Pocket Gacha lead developer Oobleck Allagash tells me suggests a larger economic trend I’ve also noted elsewhere — less emphasis on virtual homemaking, and more on Second Life as a social media experience:

“That shopping is being affected, especially in the area of Home and Garden, due to a minimal amount of new users and a lessening interest in creating sim builds,” as he puts it. “After all, how many sofas does a 10-year old avatar need? Photography has been a saving grace to a point but at levels nowhere near what we saw a few years ago.”

In other words, as more and more of the Second Life experience is shifted to virtual fashion/lifestyle screenshots and video on Flickr and YouTube, there’s less need for virtual land, and less need for housewares to furnish that virtual land. All that remains is what’s core to the user — their avatar, and their avatar’s appearance (clothes, mesh bodies, poses, etc).

I’m not sure that I agree with Wagner that Second Life is undergoing a recession, and I also don’t agree with the PocketEvents team’s assertion that there’s simply too many stores chasing too few customers in Second Life. Stores and brands are always going to come and go, and some of the newer ones have been phenomenally successful (as anyone who tried to teleport into the Scandalize store this weekend will certainly attest).

I spent a good chunk of time signed into Second Life over this past weekend, visiting various stores, and I can assure you that there is certainly no shortage of shoppers. Now, mind you, I can only attest to the health of the avatar fashion market as I see it; Oobleck may indeed have a point that the level of SL home and garden shopping has gone down somewhat.

Although Linden Lab certainly has sales figures for the SL Marketplace (which of course they don’t share with us, other than giving an aggregate sales figure at events such as the 15th anniversary), they really have no way of knowing how well items are selling in stores that operate on the grid. All they (and we) have to go on is word of mouth, and the news can be contradictory at best. There has always been, and there will always be, good news and bad news. Some vendors are doing well, and others close down. It’s all cyclical, I believe. New vendors enter the marketplace as older vendors leave it (or, more likely, leave their goods to sit forever on the SL Marketplace; Linden Lab really needs to put a date filter on Marketplace search).

Second Life is constantly evolving and changing over time as it matures. This does not mean that it is in a serious decline. As the recently published academic book Living and Dying in a Virtual World: Digital Kinships, Nostalgia, and Mourning in Second Life states:

At fourteen years old, Second Life can no longer be perceived as the young, cutting-edge environment it once was, and yet it endures as a place of belonging, fun, role-play and social experimentation.  In this volume, the authors argue that far from facing an impending death, Second Life has undergone a transition to maturity and holds a new type of significance.

I do believe that Second Life will endure and that it does have a long and successful life ahead of it, although the overall number of users may continue a slow decline as more people make the move to Sansar and the other new social VR platforms and virtual worlds. Many will no doubt keep a foot in both Second Life and the newer worlds. I know I will!

So, don’t worry; the shuttering of one Gacha HUD does not mean the end of the world.

900 Blogposts!

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Woohoo! Yet another milestone for the RyanSchultz.com blog!

Here are my Top 20 most popular blogposts since I launched this blog on July 31st, 2017:

    1. UPDATED: More Details on the Upcoming Ability to Change Your User Name in Second Life
    2. Pick of the Day: Aech’s Garage, the Ready Player One Movie Experience in Sansar
    3. Second Life Versus Sansar: Why Linden Lab Can’t Win, No Matter What They Do
    4. VRChat Pick of the Day: Club Transcendia
    5. UPDATED: Earning Money Creating Custom Avatars in VRChat: An Interview with Ghoster
    6. Virtual Reality vs. Real Reality
    7. Why Women Don’t Like Social VR: Interview with Jessica Outlaw
    8. Reader Poll: On Which Social VR/Virtual World Platforms Do You Have a User Account?
    9. A Few (Second) Thoughts About the Sudden Popularity of VRChat
    10. Updated: Which Virtual World Boasts the Highest Avatar Capacity Per Region?
    11. Linden Lab Announces a Mainland Price Decrease in Second Life
    12. UPDATED! InWorldz: What Can You Do to Save Your Inventory Before the Grid Shuts Down?
    13. UPDATED: Intellectual Property and Copyright Issues in Social VR Spaces/Virtual Worlds
    14. The Idea of the Universal Avatar
    15. Oasis: A Brief Introduction to a New, Adults-Only Social VR Platform
    16. A Complete List of Every Social VR Space and Virtual World Platform I Have Written About on The RyanSchultz.com Blog
    17. UPDATED: Staramba Spaces—Another Blockchain-Based Virtual World, Built Around Celebrities
    18. Decentraland: Why I Remain a Skeptic
    19. Decentraland Land Sales: Is This a Financial Bubble in the Making?
    20. Exclusive Video: A Guided Tour of Virtual Universe with Jeroen Van den Bosch

On to the next goal: 1,000 blogposts!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free EXMACHINA Male Full-Body Avatar

There are three options for male avatars who are looking for a free/inexpensive mesh head and body, all from Altamura:

  • The two versions of the free Altamura Max avatars at the freebie stores at UniHispana Crea and Ajuda SL Brasil (see here for more details). Note that you cannot remove the head to replace it with another mesh head.
  • The free Altamura Robert avatar from the Freebie Megastore at London City (see here for more details). One advantage of this body is that you can remove the head to use another mesh head with it (like the recent freebie mesh head from Akeruka).
  • The free Altamura Tommy avatar at the Altamura mainstore (you do need to join the Altamura group for L$50 to get this freebie; see here for more details). Again, you cannot remove the head to replace it with another mesh head.

Well, EXMACHINA has just released version 4 of their full-body male mesh avatar, and you can pick up a free demo version at their store. You do have to join the EXMACHINA group for free to use the vendor.

One drawback is that the included shape that comes with it is NO modify, which is a real pain in the ass. However, there are a couple of ways around this limitation. You can click on the Giorgio and Andrew skin and shape panels located on the wall to the right of the demo version vendor, and buy those for L$0 (you must be in the EXMACHINA group). While you cannot use the skin appliers with the free demo version of the EXMACHINA mesh body, you can use the modifiable shapes. Also, there is a L$10 Diego shape available on the SL Marketplace which you can use with this body, and you can modify it as you like. I bought the Diego shape and used it for the pictures below.

Here’s what my avatar looks like with the slightly adjusted Diego shape (I had to play around with the eyes, mouth, nose, torso muscles and arm length a bit):

Exmachina 1 16 Sept 2018Exmachina 2 16 Sept 2018

The avatar comes with the mesh eyes you see here. It also comes in two versions: nude, or with the blue bathing suit you see here. It’s actually quite a nice-looking avatar! Please note that you cannot change the skin colour (remember, this is a demo, not the full version).

The hair is Minato by Argrace, a free group gift (the group is free to join). The AO I used is the Daily sLife free Bento male AO (available free from Tuty’s). The total cost of this avatar is FREE! You can’t beat that!

Another serious limitation with the free EXMACHINA body is that it does not come with alpha sections on the HUD (in fact, there’s no HUD at all!). So, basically, you’re going to have problems getting clothing and shoes to fit, unless they are designed for this body. Note that there are a few clothes for sale, designed to fit the EXMACHINA mesh body without the need for alphas, so you can try those. I did spend another L$250 on a muscle shirt and a pair of jeans, both of which fit this mesh body perfectly!