Monday, February 26, 2007

Second Life Strife

Seems that all the media attention Linden Labs has generated for itself is starting to boost their user base higher then they can actually support. Huge amounts of latency during the weekends and other prime timeslots has forced a policy change for the free to play game. Now during times of high latency the game becomes restricted and only players who have actually payed for land or currency can login. For those of you unfamiliar with Second Life, the sims like game is free to play but uses micro-transactions to support itself.

The use of micro-transactions in Second Life combined with accusations of exaggerating its user numbers has offended many fans of more game like MMOs. Despite this negative publicity in the gamer community, a large following of journalists and academics have adopted the game and created great word of mouth for it. As a result Linden Labs has received a decent increase in concurrent users over the last few months. This apparently has created friction between established players within the game and those who are just playing tourist because of the publicity.

The established players have started to organize and use some of the unique features of Second Life to make it difficult for anyone just starting to learn the game. Second Life has a large amount of tools which allow the creation of objects which can have all kinds of different effects in the game. Usually these objects are just virtual merchandise or seedy toys but they can also result in greifing tools. Items can replicate to trap and confuse players, explode and create chaos, or even teleport and knock back player avatars. Recently items that create the game effects of a nuclear bomb are being used to disrupt the land of new players and corporations that have opened up virtual item shops.

The root of all this angst seems to stem from Linden Lab's lack of revenue for upgrading hardware to support more concurrent users. After all most people who try out Second Life only explore the different islands and don't actually spend any real world money on the game. This is why a policy of restricting access to paying members was established during peak latency spikes. However, even with the policy change Second Life is still gaining more users and players are still going to feel more crowded. It seems like a game which used to be just a small time town is slowly starting to grow into a mid-size city.