Advice for Newbies

I recently stumbled across a nice little blog post by Ella Brightside, about her adventures as a newbie in SL. I left her a comment with a little advice, and I have decided to expand on that, into a full post.

Second Life isn’t an easy thing to learn, much less master. And if the truth be known, it’s not for everyone.  It has flaws, many flaws, and it requires a pretty hefty computer to get the best out of it. So here’s my advice for newbies.

First of all, Second Life is not a game (though there are plenty of different games within it).  It is a virtual world in which nearly everything is created and provided by users.  The amount of regions add up to an area about the size of Luxembourg, but the population in-world at any one time is usually around 40,000 which means that the majority of the grid is empty most of the time.  And because there are no quests or tasks to do, you need to be able to entertain yourself without set goals.  You need to be comfortable chatting with people (unless you intend to spend your SL-time completely alone; some do that, and that’s fine too).

There are generally two approaches to SL.  For some (often called Immersionists) it’s a completely different world and their avatar within the world is a separate character from themselves.  For others, (often called Augmentalists), SL augments their real world and is a tool for interaction, in much the same way as Facebook or Skype is a tool. For these people, their avatar is an extension of their real selves. In recent years the latter group has become the most common.  However, problems tend to arise when a relationship forms between two people of opposite persuasions, so it’s worth spending a little time to think about your avatar and what it represents before you begin.  Of course as with anything else in SL, you’re free to change your mind about that too (as I did), but it helps to know where you stand in relation to others so that you can be honest with them.

So you think Second Life is a fit for the type of person you are, now make sure you can run it.  The system requirements are here but in all honesty, if you have just the minimum, you’re going to be in for a pretty poor experience.  One thing not mentioned on the list is your internet connection. It needs to be cabled; SL does not play well on wireless. And you need to be achieving a regular download speed of at least 2mb/s. Ideally you need an “unlimited” data package from your ISP, with no monthly bandwidth cap, as you might find that you’ll burn through your monthly plan in a few days.

Assuming your hardware is up to the task and you’ve signed up and downloaded the viewer (this is the program on your computer that runs Second Life), you’ll find yourself first in “Learning Island”, which teaches you the very basics, how to walk and not much else.  After that you’re sent to “Social Island” which is anything but sociable. My first piece of advice is teleport out of there as soon as you can, and never return.

You’ll find a button on your toolbar on the left that looks like this: Image  This is the Destination Guide and here you’ll find some selected places of interest.  Go to the “Newcomer Friendly” category and you’ll find a list of places dedicated to helping newbies. Four in particular are worth going to.

White Tiger Help Island also called New Resident Services. Go to this one first, before you even look at any of the others. Here you will find a proper self-paced tutorial to teach you the basics of using SL. There is always someone available to help and answer questions. They also have a freebie shopping village which has recently been upgraded with some nice new stuff to get you started. There’s also a nice chillout area, a sandbox to learn building, and they have events on from time to time.

New Citizens Incorporated The best things about this one are the classes and the sandbox. The sandbox is always busy and if you want to learn to build this is one of the best and most fun places to start.  Classes are run daily; go to as many as you can manage to fit into your schedule. There are freebies here but they are mostly old and outdated now.

Caledon Oxbridge Like White Tiger Island it has a self-paced learning tutorial and like NCI it also runs daily classes. Again, go to as many as you can manage. Oxbridge is part of the Caledon continent which is Victorian/Steampunk-themed. There are a few freebies, all in the theme.

The Shelter If kicking back, dancing and socialising is more your thing, the Shelter is a great place to visit. It’s where I started my SL adventures back in 2008 and it’s been running since 2004. Its a little quieter these days than it used to be but there’s usually some friendly “oldbies” (sometimes even me) who are willing to help.

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Me at the Shelter in my first week, 2008

The most important things you need to learn how to do in your first day or two are, in no particular order:

  • Movement; walk, fly
  • Landmarks: using them to teleport, making them
  • Talking to others; local chat and IM
  • Using Search
  • Wearing and detaching clothing and other items
  • Shopping (even for 0L$); how to “buy” an item, how to unpack it.

Speaking of shopping, here’s my advice on Linden dollars and getting money in Second Life.

First of all, you don’t NEED money at all; you can make yourself a decent looking avatar just on freebies.  If this is your plan, use Search to find things like Hunts, Lucky Chairs and Midnight Mania boards to get the best quality freebies. Don’t bother with the big freebie stores like Freebie Galaxy; they’re full of mostly old rubbish that’s been knocking around since 2007.  There are one or two places that still have decent quality freebies; I already mentioned White Tiger but also the Free Dove and the Fab Free HQ have some quality stuff.

Sooner or later though, perhaps sooner if you want an avatar that’s a bit out of the ordinary, you’ll want some money to spend on better, more unusual things.  By far the best way is to purchase L$ with your credit/debit card or Paypal account. US$10 will get you about L$2500 which is more than enough to get yourself a top quality skin, hair and a few outfits.

If purchasing L$ is impossible for you, your options are limited. You can play Linden Realms and earn around L$40 an hour if you log in early when its quiet.  There are some jobs in SL but as a beginner they’re not available to you until you’ve learned how SL works and are comfortable and familiar with it.  Clubs often employ hosts and dancers as well as DJs and these are jobs you could do with little financial outlay – though you may be required to dress in-theme for events so you’ll probably need some money in your pocket already, even for those. Even hosting is not easy, if you do it properly. If you have skills as a salesperson, land agents often employ staff to market, advertise and manage their properties. For that you’ll need to learn the processes for buying, renting and managing land.

Content creation used to be the way for anyone to earn money in SL but with technological advances over the last couple of years, the bar has been raised beyond the reach of most users and you won’t be able to make a profit at content creation unless you are already skilled in something (such as 3d modelling, texture-making, motion-capture animation, scripting) to an already-professional standard.  If you have come to Second Life because you heard it was a way to make money, you’re about five years too late.

Finally, if you’re offered an “easy” way of earning “free” L$, avoid it like the plague.  Such things are usually scams; either they take more money off you than you earn, or they are a way of harvesting your details for spamming you in RL. Worst case, those L$ they’re giving you were purchased on a stolen credit card and accepting them could get your account permanently banned.  The only legitimate and approved source of free L$ in SL currently is Linden Realms.

So for the majority of us mere mortals, your best option is simply to buy L$ with real money from your usual entertainment budget.

Once you start exploring there’s plenty to do; shopping and putting your avatar together, building things, playing games, roleplay, sports, live music, theatre, education, art, support groups, religious groups, clubbing and, of course, sex.

A Picture in Purple

This is another post for Strawberry Sing’s Colours meme, only this time it’s my partner Madison modelling and her favourite colour is of course, purple.  We headed over to Siyu Suen’s lovely sim Carnivale, but if you’re going to visit you’ll need to be quick as it’s going away in a couple of weeks. (Don’t worry, Illusions isn’t going out of business, just relocating to a smaller place).

Madison is wearing:

Dress: Lilac Wine from Icing
Shoes: Judy from Ingenue
Hair: Gloria from Amacci
Jewelry: Krystal from Behira

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Last week I took some more pics at Carnivale: here are just a few. You can see the rest on my Flickr stream.

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Club Noir

Wow! One little comment on Strawberry Singh’s blog and I get half a dozen new followers! I will have to do that a bit more often I think!  So, welcome to all you new readers and hello again to my old ones.

As some of you may know, my partner Madison Talon and I have been running a club for a little over a year now but as some of you are new I thought I’d talk about it a little more.

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Years and years ago, before I met Madison, she used to run the USO club in SL; in the spirit of the RL United Services Organisation set during World War II and one of (if not THE) first and best venue for 40s music; big bands and swing in SL.  But as with most things sadly they must eventually pass. But Madi got me into the music and she just happened to have this amazing skybox in her inventory, called Club Noir.  The most notable thing about it is that it’s all in monochrome; even the trees and grass outside are all grey. Stepping inside is like walking into one of those moody black-and-white movies of the late 1940s and early 1950s. We would occasionally rez it out at Swing Times for special occasions like a rezday or anniversary.  After a while though we decided to keep it up so we rented a parcel for it and it’s now a permanent fixture.

We have two regular DJs at present, each of whom perform once a month: DJ Sword Starfall on the second Sunday of each month who plays some wonderful vintage French music of the 1940s. On the 4th Sunday we have Beathag McMahon, who is well known on the vintage circuit, playing more traditional American swing. But even though we have only two regular events a month, the club is always open and it is a popular place for couples to spend some quiet romantic time together. I live on the same sim and I often see little green dots on the minimap. If I see a person there alone, or a group of people, I will often drop in to say hello.  But if it’s a couple… I figure they’d rather have the place to themselves.

A few weeks ago someone asked me if the club was financially viable; she was concerned that we would quit because we weren’t making enough money.  I told her not to worry because we run the club for love, not profit.  Sometimes donations cover the cost of an event and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t cost as much as I expected because I’m not paying staff (except for DJs), and as long as I continue to be employed in the real world, Club Noir is not going to disappear for lack of money.

I’ll leave you with a landmark and a few pics to enjoy.

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Colours Meme

Strawberry Singh’s meme this week is a simple one. Just wear your favourite colours.  Now, being a redhead, naturally my favourite colour is green. But I’m no model and my inventory is pretty dull when it comes to clothes. After all, one green t-shirt looks much the same as any other. So I decided to let my alt, the lovely Indra, model for this one.

Indra - Green Sari

She’s wearing this gorgeous sari from Zaara in rich emerald trimmed with gold, which happens to be Indra’s favourite colour. At least, that’s the colour she looks best in.  This is one of six colours; all of them deep jewel or earth tones.  I think saris are very sexy – must be something about that exposed tummy.

Indra - Green Sari

The location you can see in the background there is Shektawari, an opulent and highly decorative sim in the Indian style, where she had an encounter with a painted elephant which appears to have gotten itself lost on the wrong continent…

"You do realise you're an African elephant, don't you?"

“You do realise you’re an African elephant, don’t you?”

Did you know you can tell African elephants from Indian ones by looking at their ears and comparing them with a map? An Indian elephant’s ears are the same shape as India, and an African elephant’s ears are the same shape as Africa.

Indra is wearing:

Sari – Zaara – Menaka Sari Deep Green

Skin – Cupcakes – Enigma Tiramisu

Hair – Wasabi Pills – Veronica Nightshade

Jewelry – Eclectica Elizabeth Emerald (necklace & earrings)

Jewelry – Yak & Yeti – Wax Bangles Green

Eyes – Mayfly – Deep Sky Molasses

Shape – model’s own

My “RL” alt

You may remember a few years ago I made an alt to resemble how I looked in real life?  Well, times have changed and I’ve changed, so I’ve been working on him and upgrading his look.

Now that I look more masculine in RL, I have found it much easier to get a male skin that looks right (though finding one that lacked washboard abs and didn’t look like a twink was hard). I eventually found one at Egoisme.

New look

New look

I only wear clothes with this avatar that I own in real life too.  This is a mesh jeans and shirt combo from Hoorenbeek.

Face fuzz

Face fuzz

Just the right amount of facial hair, in exactly the right place. This is part of a tintable set from SAAL.

Surgery scars

Surgery scars

I even made an attempt at surgery scars but they look more like I’ve been drawing on myself with a sharpie.

Finally (and no pic for this cos it’s way NSFW) Janzoe do a set of “herm” genitals that totally look like what a pre-op FTM has.  They’re old and I’d love to see an updated, better-textured version (or a mod version that I can retexture myself), but to exist at all in SL is pretty remarkable really.

Finally here’s a recent pic of me in RL for comparison. Sorry it’s so small, I had to crop it from a family shot.

RL me - Sept 2013

RL me – Sept 2013

New House

Every now and again, maybe once or twice a year, I get the urge to re-model my land and start from scratch. I get bored with the same thing and want to start again.

Having Casidy’s account back reminded me of the first home he rented. It was in the style of a new England/Nantucket beach house; square with coloured sidings (yellow, if my memory serves me right) and it was on the shore of a small lake (more like a pond) in Phyllira, on the Atoll continent.  I’ve seen those houses around in other places but they don’t seem to be for sale any more.  So I bought a more up-to-date mesh one instead, and I’ve spent the last few days  fixing it up.  It still needs some finishing touches, especially outside, but its nearly done. I even have my own beach now.

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Major features:

House & Kitchen: Trompe L’oeil

Kitchen dining table: Bazar

Sofa & Chairs and beach furniture: Lisp

Bed (re-textured): Anpuli

Coffee table & Bath: Lok’s

Computer desk: Naked Mesh

“Blog” pinboard: What Next

All artwork – my own

 

Furry! No, feathery!

Back in 2006, Casidy was a part time furry. Specifically, a gryphon.  I forget where the avatar was from but I put it on today and it looked so dated.  So I trawled the marketplace and found a new one by Black Feather Designs, and gave him an upgrade.

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Here’s the 2006 version

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And here’s the upgrade. Much better.  I might keep him like this.

Madison asked me why he’s wearing pants. That’s because he’s a civillised gryphon.