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Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Offers from Linden Lab and a Problem with PayPal

Hello again, faithful readers!  Today's post is a quickie to talk about a couple of recent developments.

First, we have new offers from Linden Lab for existing and prospective Premium members.  For all Premium members, there's a new Premium Gift.  It's a Pirate Airship vehicle, with plenty of sit positions for captain and crew, and firing guns.  That's nice...but it's also very primmy, with a Land Impact value of 502.  Don't sail into any almost-full parcels, matey!

LL is also repeating their periodic offer of 50% off on a new quarterly Premium membership.  Note that this applies only to NEW Premium members.  You can't cancel your current membership, then sign up again and get the discount.  It only applies to the FIRST quarter.  After that, you pay the regular quarterly Premium fees.  What all this boils down to is that you actually get a better deal if you simply sign up for the annual plan at $72 per year.  But do be aware that LL never gives refunds.  If you decide you want to downgrade back to Basic, you will NOT get a refund of unused time on your membership!  You're locked into whatever period you select until the end of the billing cycle, whether that is monthly, quarterly, or annually.

The Official Blog Post: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Limited-Time-Offer-Save-50-on-Premium-Membership-and-Get-the-New/ba-p/2779820

Everything You Should Know About Premium Membership: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Premium-membership/ta-p/1054477

Last, we have a New Bug.  Some people who use PayPal as their payment method are finding themselves unable to log in, getting the message "Unable to Connect to a Simulator."  If this sounds like you, first go to your Account page and remove PayPal as your payment method.  Then log in.  After you've logged in successfully, you MAY be able to add PayPal back to your account.  Read more about this bug here: https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/BUG-6735?

Oh, and one last tidbit:  N-Core is retiring all their old sculpty shoes, and is offering them at 60% off for a limited time.  There's not a thing wrong with using sculpties for shoes instead of Mesh, so this is a great time to save some money on some of the cutest shoes in Second Life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Linden Lab Clarifies Terms of Service! Or Do They?

Almost a year ago, Linden Lab modified the Second Life Terms of Service.  In that change, they included wording that appeared to many creators to be a sweeping grab of intellectual property rights.

In the ensuing months, there was a great deal of discussion about this, including several open forums held by residents who were intellectual property lawyers in Real Life.  A number of popular creators removed their products from the grid, or even left SL in protest.

Now, finally, LL has modified the Terms of Service to, as a post in the SL blog today puts it, "more closely match our intent."  The blog post also states that LL has no plans to appropriate or re-sell content created by residents.

Although it's taken them the devil of a long time to do it, I have to give LL kudos for this action.  Read about it here:  http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Updates-to-Section-2-3-of-the-Terms-of-Service/ba-p/2777874

And be sure to re-read the new Terms of Service here: http://lindenlab.com/tos

But, despite the soothing, upbeat words of the official LL blog, others are still taking LL to task, pointing out that the new wording does not substantially change the TOS.  And, from a legal standpoint, they're right to do so.  It's the TOS that constitutes the binding agreement between you and Linden Lab no matter what they may say on their blog or elsewhere.

Those of you with nasty, suspicious minds should have a look at this blog post:  http://insertfunnyname.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/linden-lab-whiffs-the-tos-again/

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"The Woman Tempted Me, and I Ate"

The title of today's post is, literally, the oldest excuse in the book.  The Book of Genesis, in fact.  That's what Adam said when God asked him why he'd done the one thing that he'd been commanded not to do.

But you know, as lame as his excuse sounds, poor Adam deserves some sympathy.  Men have always been susceptible to temptation from a woman.  They probably can't help it...it's hard wired into the species, part of the male imperative to spread their genes as widely as possible.  Or, as some of my cruder-minded friends put it, "men think with their dicks."

Why, you may ask yourselves, is Lindal going on about this well-known phenomenon?  I'll tell you in a moment.  But first, let me call your attention to a situation that occurs all too often:  cheating.  Specifically, cheating on your partner -- having sex with Someone Else.  It happens in Real Life, and it happens even more often in the virtual world.

Why more often?  I think there are several factors.  For one, there are not the same sort of consequences as there are in Real Life.  There, cheating can lead to broken marriages, divorce, huge legal fees, alimony payments, loss of reputation, and on and on.  In the virtual world, outside of upsetting one person (your partner) and maybe some of her friends, there are very few consequences to cheating.  And if you are even a little careful, the chances of actually getting caught are slim.

The temptation is, arguably, greater as well.  Second Life is full of stunningly beautiful, exotically dressed avatars.  For anyone who immerses at all, it's almost a certainty that you're going to meet someone (besides your current partner) that you find alluring.  If they seem at all willing, it's terribly easy to let one's libido rule one's actions.

So:  A lot of people cheat in Second Life.  We all know it, we've seen it.  The next question we have to ask ourselves is, "does it matter?"  After all, as I just pointed out, there aren't many social or financial consquences.  We don't have to worry about the kids not having a father.  For gosh sakes, even the sex isn't REAL, it's just people talking over the internet and arousing each other.  What's the big hairy deal? 

Well, in fact it's "no big deal" for a lot of people.  "It's only a game" is an attitude I've encountered many, many times.  However, I don't agree.  Even though the physical, financial, and social costs of cheating don't apply in the virtual world, the emotional consequences do, or at least they do for many people.  The relationships we form in Second Life are real, the emotions are real, the time and effort we invest in them are real.  The hurt from a betrayal of trust is real.  If you partner with someone and agree to a monogamous relationship, your promises and your moral responsibility are real.

I say, cheating on your partner in a virtual world is wrong.  It's bad.  If you do it, shame on you.

Having said that, let's go back now to the subject of temptation.  Some people, it turns out, are so insecure in their relationships that they decide to "test" their partner's fidelity.  They get a friend to flirt with their partner, trying to seduce him (or her...but men are a lot easier to tempt in this way.  See paragraph 2, above.)  Or they will create an alt, and do the same thing themselves.  (Of course, IS it cheating if he cheats on you with...you?  Ow, my head is starting to hurt.)

All too often, the partner who is tempted in this fashion will, in fact, succumb.  Then his partner can feel justified in screaming at him, "YOU CHEATED ON ME, F*CKER!"  Well, of course he did, dear...after you trailed an irresistable bait in front of him.

In this case, while it was certainly wrong of him to give in to temptation, the greater sin lies with the temptress...no, not the friend who actually seduced the poor shmuck, although she gets a share of the blame for participating in this little virtual badger game.  No, the person who is really at fault is the Wronged Woman, the insecure and jealous partner who set the whole scene up in the first place. 

To any immature, insecure folks out there who are thinking that they need to see if their partner is REALLY faithful, I have only one piece of advice: Don't.  You have to let go and trust.  You really do.  Sometimes, your trust will be misplaced and you'll be hurt.  That's a risk in any relationship.  But if you put your relationship to the test, you are far more likely to break it...even if it wasn't broken to begin with.  Or, to put it more simply, "If you can't stand the answer, don't ask the question."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Overkill and Games of Skill

Well, dear readers, it appears that Linden Lab has done it to us AGAIN.

Back in 2007, LL banned gambling in Second Life, to avoid falling afoul of US regulations on internet gambling.  Those of us who were around back then remember what a huge blow this was to the Second Life economy.

But some games, especially the "slot machine" types of games such as Zyngo, were deemed to be "games of skill" and not "gambling."  So, they remained.  There were also a number of popular table games like "Greedy Greedy," which is roughly based on the popular Real Life game of Yahtzee.  And there continued to be a large number of "sploders" at clubs...devices into which you could deposit money, and after a preset time/number of players, would "explode" and pay out random prize amounts to the players.

The slot machines, in particular, seem to me to have been making something of a comeback.  At least, I have been running across an increasing number of "arcades" featuring rows of them.

But in a recent blog post, Linden Lab announced a new policy on "skill games," effective August 1, 2014.  On this date, skill games will only be permitted on "skill gaming regions."  These will be private estate regions...no skill games will be permitted on the Mainland.  Owners of these regions must register as "skill game operators" and pay a nonrefundable $100 registration fee.  In addition, such regions will cost $345 per month (regular estate regions cost $295 per month.)  There are additional costs as well, since LL is requiring that operators and game creators obtain an opinion from an attorney that their games comply with the definition of "skill games."

This last one has me scratching my head, because it seems that what's really needed to make this determination isn't a lawyer, it's an LSL script expert.  But, since the whole issue revolves around LL's legal exposure, I suppose it has a certain cockeyed logic to it. 

I suspect that the greatly increased costs of getting permission to make or have these games will cause most people to simply give them up rather than jump through all the new hoops.  If LL were being honest, instead of titling their blog post "Coming Soon:  Skill Gaming in Second Life," it should have been "Going Away Soon..."

Not everyone will be able to participate in skill gaming.  Residents of about ten or so U.S. states will be prohibited, due to laws in those states.  You'll also have to be at least 19 years old.

Game creators will also have to register with LL, and in many cases will have to revise their games.  Here is why:  The new policy classifies any game which relies on skill, AND requires that the player pay money to play, or can be set to pay-to-play as falling under the "skill gaming" policy.  Unfortunately, many popular games like Greedy Greedy have this flexibility.

This is why the new policy has me all steamed.  I have a small game room in our Mainland rental parcel in the Masocado region.  It has a Greedy Greedy game table, and two other games from the same creator.  All of them have always been completely free to play, to everyone.  They are there for the amusement of tenants and guests.  However, the fact that they could be set to require payment from players means that either the creator will have to provide a revised "free play only" version of the games either as a free update, or as a new version that I would have to purchase.  If not, I'll have to remove the games.

Or, of course, one could argue that because these games do have some element of chance, they are not "skill games" at all, but fall under the Gambling policy instead.  Interestingly, under THAT policy, as long as I keep them free to play, they're allowed.  It's only if I set them to pay-to-play that they become "gambling" under that policy.  So, like most of LL's policies, what seems black and white becomes instead a gray area. 

Of course, LL could change the policy in response to resident input, or issue some meaningful clarifications.  But, um, I wouldn't bet on it.

For Further Reading:
Coming Soon:  Skill Gaming in Second Life (LL Blog Post)
LL Skill Gaming Policy
Skill Gaming Participant Requirements
Skill Gaming FAQ
LL Forums Skill Gaming Thread