Apparently Christmas has arrived – at least around these parts. The Christmas lights have already gone up in the city streets, Christmas music has been pumping out of the speakers in half the shops I’ve visited, and the aisles are chock full of cards, decorations, tree lights and all manner of festive nonsense. My plaintive cries, (and those I suspect of many others), of “No! It’s far too early!”, are falling on deaf ears and I know that the next six weeks are going to be one long, depressing round of pre-Christmas cheer. I like Christmas, really I do, but the relentless, commercialised marketing juggernaut that accompanies it, almost as soon as Easter has passed it seems, absolutely drives me nuts.
It’s one of the reasons that I tend to do all of my Christmas gift shopping as late as I possibly can: Usually Christmas Eve, but it’s not unknown for me to still be shopping for presents right into the new year.
What I didn’t expect however, was some early gifts from Linden Lab… All of a sudden, after what seems like an age of silence from the Labbies, they’ve sprung upon us a whole host of goodies, quite out of the blue; and the best thing about them – like the best type of Christmas prezzies – not only are they unexpected, but they’re also exactly what we’ve been hinting we want for months, and months, and months!
Our first early stocking-filler – new starter avatars. Big deal, you might say, with your 9-year old, carefully designed and customised virtual self, but this new release of noob-friendly creations is exactly what the doctor ordered. They are a big departure from the shockingly inept attempt that was the Lab’s last attempt to upgrade the noobiverse – gone are the mesh avatars that so confused newcomers. Incompatible with clothing, incompatible with body editing, incompatible with making SL a fun and intuitive experience for noobs, and a complete nightmare for anyone trying to help anybody take their first steps into virtual residency…
Noobavatar Resident: Hey, how does I change cltohes?
Friendly WelcomePerson: Simple. You need to find somewhere that does appliers for Linden mesh bodies – which I’m afraid is impossible. Or you can try wearing other creators’ mesh, or even normal clothing, knowing full well that it’ll never fit and bits of you will poke out all over.
Noobavatar Resident: So there are no cltothes I can wear, apart from what I alredy have on?
Friendly WelcomePerson: That’s correct
Nobavatar Resident: Second Life sucks
Friendly WelcomePerson: Yes
So, it’s back to sensible – fairly attractive – system avatars with, wait for it: Mesh clothing! Yay! Smart move, Labbies.
Bubbling under the surface for a while now, we’ve had the promise of another present in the offing, and – much as the new avatars are a bit of a throwback to a better time – so is this. Remember the good old days, when you could sign up to SL from a webpage, and log in to a privately managed welcome area, with volunteer mentors who would talk you through taking your baby steps? Well, those days are back, with the Lindens opening up opportunities for SL Gateways and calls for new mentors already going out to the SL community – you can read more about the Gateways over at the Firestorm blog.
But that’s not all, and in seemingly another attempt to recapture past glories, there’s more that the Lab are doing to improve communication. If you were around in the distant SL past, you may remember and may even have partaken in Office Hours, when the Lindens would descend from their lofty heights and move amongst us lesser mortals to discuss pressing issues, answer questions, and generally be chatty. Well, they’re back! Re-branded Lab Chat (catchy title, huh?), all very 2007, but actually very exciting too.
Wait… There’s another big shiny present the Lab have just produced from behind their back – and this is one you’ll really want to unwrap and get stuck into just as soon as you can: Revamped and revitalised, all new Marketplace search! It’s still in beta for the moment, but this is something we begged and pleaded the Lab to give us for years, yes YEARS!
There are, of course, those who will moan about all of these lovely new things and tell us that SL is dead – frankly, those are the sort of people who would moan about the price of the phone call to claim their prize if they won the lottery – however, their will also be an awful lot of us with great big smiles on our faces, uttering squeals of joy as we unwrap these gifts and see what the Lab have given us!
And, wait… what’s this? Lurking at the very back, hidden away under the tree is another parcel with our name on it. Give it a shake, and you might just guess that hidden inside is Project Valhalla, but it’s not quite Christmas yet, despite what the shops might be telling us, so maybe we should leave unwrapping that one until the Lab tells us we can? But, I’ll tell you what, I’m finding it hard to wait!
I had a dream so big and loud
I jumped so high I touched the clouds
American Authors – Best Day Of My Life