Wednesday, September 26, 2007

First steps in Second Life

Several people have asked whether I could give any tips on getting started in SL. I've decided to put what I know into a (fairly long) post here and point future questioners at it. Bear in mind that I too am quite new at SL, so my advice is not definitive. (Readers who are not interested in Second Life are encouraged to stop at this point.)

First step My first tip is trivial but utterly crucial, and concerns the very first few seconds before you even enter Second Life: choose a good name and be sure that you spell it correctly, and don't forget to capitalize the first letter. Everything else in SL can be changed later, but your name is immutable and permanent. Go slowly, proof-read twice, ensure that you have got it exactly right.

The basics As a brand-new avatar, your first task is to get to know the game: how to move your avatar (walk slowly, stop often, stay away from edges) and navigate around the environment. The first island that you enter is a kind of tutorial, spend at least one day there until you feel confident. This is a very good place to hang out and learn the game—and I can assure you that you will never again see as many people in one place as you will here. This is the only island that you cannot return to, so don't be in a hurry to leave.

Money You don't actually need it, but you won't get far without it. If you've registered for a premium (pay) account, you will receive a weekly stipend; if not, you will need to gather cash. The best way for a noob newbie [see comments for the clarification] to get some is to search for money trees and harvest them. Most will only give money to avatars less than thirty days old, so you must pursue this right now. There are hundreds of them scattered around SL. Use the Search button or ask people.

Once those thirty days have expired, or once the money trees start recognizing you, phase two begins: camping. There are places which will actually give you money just for staying on their land for X minutes. This is usually done as a lottery: every N minutes an avatar is chosen at random and awarded a dollar or two. The catch is that you (dear Reader) need to be there: SL will log you out if your avatar doesn't move or talk for fifteen minutes or so. It's a slow, boring process unless you can do it with friends. M2 and I often camp together and get paid for talking to each other.

I should mention that camping is deprecated among longer-established players. Try to develop another source of income as soon as you can (practically speaking, this will take you half a year or so to do, so I'd say "carry on camping, wait and see whether you are still interested in SL at that time.")

Talk to people (and animals). You can find out about people by right-clicking on them and choosing "Profile" in the popup. (The corollary of this is that you should spend a few minutes fleshing out your own profile by right-clicking on yourself.)

Two kinds of conversation are possible: Chat is like speaking out loud, anyone nearby can hear what you say, whereas an Instant Message (IM) is seen only by the person whom you address. A further difference is that chat fades away after a configurable amount of time, whereas IM is seen in its own window as a scrollable record; if you send an IM to somebody who's offline, it will be saved and delivered to them when they next log in. A further nice effect is that the IM dialog automatically converts URLs into clickable links, this is the easy way to send someone a link to a website. (The hard way is to write it into a notecard and hand them that; on the other hand, a notecard is permanent.)

Normal speech is simply entered into the field: you say (i.e. type) "Hello, world." and those near you hear (i.e. see)
James Bond: Hello, world.
A convention exists in both kinds of conversation of entering non-verbal cues into the flow by prefacing your text with "/me". E.g. if you type "/me scratches his head." it appears in the flow of conversation as a passive-voice commentary:
Mary Worth: Gee, what do you think?
James Bond scratches his head.
James Bond: Damned if I know, Mary :-)
It's very effective, and will make people think you're a cool, aware, intellectual type—which may not be what you want if you're wearing a Terminator II avatar. Using complete sentences and proper punctuation rather than LOLspeak further enhances this effect. (Actually, it might be good for a Terminator too: many people appear to find properly-composed, carefully-expressed speech slightly intimidating.)

Ignore people One way in which SL is much better than real life, is that you can render people permanently inaudible (you still have to look at them, alas). Right-click on the boor and select "Mute," and your signal-to-noise ratio improves enormously. (The user interface is confusing at this point: a dialog pops up showing who is currently muted. You do not need to do anything here, just close it without making any changes.)

Look around Learning to control the camera position is important, because the default position (behind and above you looking slightly downwards) gives a very restricted view of the world. The scroll button on your mouse zooms in and out; if you zoom in past your own head you enter Mouse-mode, where mouse movement directly steers the camera; exit this by zooming back out or pressing the ESC key twice. There is a camera-control popup in the View menu for fine control, which I usually keep open in the upper-right corner. (Using these controls lets you see your own face.)

Find things There is a map of Second Life (two, in fact: a large map of the whole world and a smaller map of your immediate surroundings) but these are close to useless to you as a newbie. Use the Search button instead. Another way to find interesting places is by asking people, or looking on the "Favourites" page of their profiles.

If you find a place that you wish to return to, set a landmark there (in the World menu) so that you can return. You can give landmarks to other people by drag-and-dropping from your Inventory onto their avatar.

By the way, go easy on the drag-and-drop gift-giving. Less is more: give somebody one useful thing (link, landmark, object, script) and they'll find you generous; give them a half-dozen bits of irrelevant junk and they'll think you a boor.

Find people Again, use the Search button. You can give a calling card (basically, a link to your profile) to anyone by right-clicking on them and selecting "More," then "Calling card." This is low-intimacy and may be done fairly freely.

A "friend" in SL is a high-intimacy special status that should be granted only after careful consideration (though it may be easily revoked). The quickest way of revealing yourself to be a boorish, clueless noob is by offering friendship to a stranger. Don't do it. Do not accept offers of friendship from strangers, either: anyone who isn't prepared to spend a quarter-hour chatting with you before making the offer is beneath your notice. The principle consequence of friendship is that your friend can see when you are online and can locate you on the main map.

Your appearance is controlled in several ways: First there are the clothes that you wear and objects that you carry, which are external to your avatar, as it were. These can be bought (plenty are available for free), and you can also build your own. You put things on and take them off by clicking on them in your Inventory.

However, it's not necessary to buy clothing because every avatar is automatically equipped with built-in underwear, socks, shoes, trousers and/or skirt, shirt and a jacket. You can modify these in the Appearance editor (menu "Edit/Appearance"), but for now I'd recommend leaving them alone.

The second layer is your "skin" which is like a coat of paint under the clothes: your colouring, tattoos, eyeshadow etc. Skins can be bought, but are not necessary as you have basic control over your body's colouring in the Appearance editor. (Note that an applied skin takes precedence over the Appearance editor settings: if you purchase a pale skin, setting "ruddy" or "freckled" will have no effect.)

The third and last layer is your "shape," your actual body. This is where the fun really starts, because nearly every aspect of the body, from height of arch of eyebrow to degree of knock-kneed-ness can be individually controlled.

The most important tip I can give you here is to save your appearance regularly! The Appearance editor has a button "make outfit" at the bottom left which lets you save your current appearance (all three levels) in a named file in your Inventory. (There is no limit to the number of outfits you can save.) If you mess something up later, or want to quickly change appearance, just drag-and-drop the outfit from your Inventory onto your avatar. I name my outfits after people they resemble plus the current date, e.g. my current appearance is "Brian Eno short fatty 24.09.07"

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Blogger Lioness said...

You will b so proud of me. I will go NOWHERE near second life, bcs I know, I simply know I'll become addicted.

September 26, 2007 at 2:59:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Pacian said...

There is of course a distinction between a newbie, who is learning the ropes, and a noob, who does not bother to learn the ropes.

September 26, 2007 at 3:36:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Lioness: yes, it is highly addictive. Beware.

Pacian: well, I never knew that. Thanks for the clarification. I shall amend the post accordingly.

September 26, 2007 at 7:30:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Well, I'm playing around when I should be programming. Lioness has the right idea.
Thanks for the tips. I'll have to find the money trees and start collecting.

September 27, 2007 at 6:57:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous ann marie said...

Hi :) I think this should be shared somewhere. Excellent advice. Now, as alt accounts are going to be treated more heavy-handedly, I would only add that don't use an alt. Ever. The non-capitalized first names are usually alts for, let me try and invent "Alt Account" becomes "alt Account". (This is the transparent sort and less severe than other types of alts).

The proliferation of these is very annoying. I had someone live on my sim who seems to have around 24 alts. Not any more. - Changing places and avatars is much easier so one would want to stick to one account only.

Having a clean SL account also is much more important than many newcomers think, as you may wish to become a volunteer or a mentor or own your estate ... I am not telling what Udge's avatar-account name and birthday are but I was impressed by your rezday:).

- Oh well, learning to build is an important thing, better use the grid and position meters rather than just trying to edit in world mode.

I agree with pacian of course. A n00b, often spelled this way in 1337 (leet) to ironize about n00b behavior and overuse of 1337, which is highly annoying too, is not a nice newbie.

Overall, very good advice. It's very important to keep one's focus on what one really wishes to do in SL because the addiction-distraction factor may be high to some people. Muting people is not nice, but may be needed sometimes, one can always toggle it over later on. Sound time management works there too just as in work and other distractions. You know, say goodbye folks, hit "go home", log out and that's it :)

September 28, 2007 at 3:59:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Oh, and if you do want to start, email Udge first and get his name so that you can put him down as referrer so he can get referral points. (I missed that part, sorry)

September 28, 2007 at 5:30:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Thanks for mentioning referrals, Joe. It would be a kindness and an act of generosity (that costs you nothing) to mention whoever got you interested in SL when you sign up.

September 29, 2007 at 12:14:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Ann Marie: good points, thanks. The "log out" command is probably the most under-used feature of SL.

September 29, 2007 at 12:15:00 AM GMT+2  

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