Anyone who has gotten to know me in real life has inevitably heard me ramble a phrase like, “I was making stuff for the game I play”, or just “…making stuff in Blender.” Sometimes I deem a pal nerdy enough I may reveal to them that the game I play is Second Life. And inevitably, if they’ve heard of it, say something along the lines of “Oh is that still around?”
Second life is a free 3D virtual world where users can create a 3D avatar and quite literally live a second life. All of the content within the virtual world is created by its users called Residents. Second Life has its own economy, you can buy, sell and rent virtual land for your commercial or personal use. You can also create and sell products or provide services for their in-world currency called Linden Dollars ($L). Linden dollars are exchangeable for US dollars or other currencies on market-based currency exchanges.
Fianna Idora rezzed into Second Life in October 2006.
Back then, you could choose your own first name and a last name from a preset list of last names that refreshed on a regular basis. I was already using the online handle Fianna, and I selected Idora as a last name because it reminded me of William Gibson’s novel Idoru (Japanese for Idol). In the book, the Idoru was a virtual pop star named Rei Toei. It seemed fitting.
Creating for Second life was an extension of this skill set I was already developing with programs like Daz|Studio, Poser and Photoshop.
Second Life avatars are customized (skins, clothing etc.) by creating new textures for the avatar models. The default avatar is rigged so that custom animations and poses can be created in programs like Daz|Studio or Poser and uploaded into the Second Life platform.
They also have an in-world, building block (prim) system where you can link and texture primitive objects to create more complex items like buildings, furniture, and additional avatar customization objects including accessories, shoes, jewellery and even hair.
By early 2007, I had created my brand Enchant3D, purchased my virtual land and set up shop. I started with Photoshop creating clothing by customizing the default clothing layers, and creating complex objects like jewellery using their prim building system.
When custom 3D mesh capability launched in 2011 I began to teach myself Blender in earnest in an attempt to improve the quality of the products I was creating. At that time I moved away from clothing and started to focus more on creating props.
The early days of SL were a fun time, the technology was new, the idea of being able to create things all day and make a full-time income from it was intriguing. I set out to learn as much as I could. Luckily, there was at large community dedicated to creator education offering classes in Prim Building, Creating Textures, Scripting, Marketing and later Creating Mesh.
At the height of my career there, I was probably making about $200 a month after expenses. I was also working in SL for an average of 4 hours a day on weekdays and up to 8 hours a day on weekends, roughly 36 hours a week earning a whopping $0.75 an hour.
The thing about digital assets is that you can sell unlimited copies of them in perpetuity. So as long as you price them competitively, you will eventually regain the effort you put in. But to earn a real life income, you’d have to put in a full-time+ effort, continuously releasing new products, marketing them, and networking within the community.
I never found myself in a comfortable enough position to make the leap. I make good money with my day job – and let’s be honest – I like having a guaranteed income. The extra income I did make from SL did allowed me to purchase additional assets and software licenses to help fill out my virtual toolbox. Which was great, but eventually having a real life took precedence and I spent less and less time in-world. Nine years later, I still maintain a small brand presence in SL, and continue to sell my inventory on the Second Life Marketplace: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/6124
The platform that Second Life runs on is actually open source, which means that Linden Labs allows people to install it on their own server and create their own grid. There are an entrepreneurial few who have done just that. Lately, I’ve been making my virtual home at the Great Canadian Grid.
A standard sim at GCG only runs at $25 CAD a month (compared to Second Life where tier is $295 USD). This price point gives me a lot more elbow room to be creative and I always have the option uploading my creations to both grids.
So now that I’ve revealed my not-so-secret, what do you think.. pretty geeky right? Have you had any experiences with virtual worlds you’d like to share? Want to know more? Fire me a comment and we’ll chat!