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: 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.
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.