Friday, February 4, 2011

Getting Started in Second Life - Some (potentially) Helpful Tips

I would have titled this post "All You Ever Wanted to Know About Starting in Second Life But Were Afraid to Ask" however that would be a lie. That post would be much too long for anybody to be willing to read and I suspect the points I am including will stretch the limits of your attention span. So I'm going to try and give a few tips which will help you survive your first hour and, with any luck, make it more likely that you will return and learn to love the place as much as many of us do. Please keep in mind that these are my thoughts only - not an official Second Life tip sheet. :)

If you don't already know this, it's important to remember that Second Life isn't a game. Think of it more like San Francisco or Malta. It's a virtual world where almost all of the content you see is created by its residents. There are games in Second Life and there are locations devoted to Role Play if that's what you want but, entering the world is a lot like visiting a foreign city - you will have to look for those specific aspects of it that interest you while you play tourist and look around.

There is one additional thing I'd like you to keep in mind as you read this and as you begin your journey inworld. Second Life is always changing. One of the biggest recent changes is to the official viewer (you use a browser for the internet and you use a viewer for Second Life). The new one is called Viewer 2 and looks much different than the old one, which has encouraged the creation of more alternate viewers. This means that the people you wind up talking to might not be using the same viewer you are - so bear with them if they can't answer some of your questions.

When you join (register at you will first arrive inworld at Welcome Island (well you do today, this could change). The signage and exercises lead you through the basics of walking, sitting, flying and chatting (all important skills). At that point you are invited to explore the wonders available on the grid (another piece of vocabulary just thrown in there). Unfortunately one of the many things that change frequently in Second Life is the existence of some destinations - so the posters suggesting places to explore can be out of date. Allow me to suggest that you instead spend some time in an intermediate period of acclimatization - a place with people who know how bewildering it can all be and who can help you with questions and tools. I am also going to suggest you use some information sources on the web which will make your Second Life easier.

For whatever it's worth here are my tips for beginning your journey in Second Life:

  • Open a page in your web browser with the viewer interface guide - it will help you find the buttons you want until you've figured it all out. :)
  • When you arrive on Welcome Island check and see if your voice button is activated (happens sometimes as default) - bottom task bar next to "chat". If the green light is on click the button to turn it off. You don't want the world to hear you muttering to yourself as you walk into walls. :)
  • Once you have mastered the 6 basic skills at Welcome Island, go visit NCI - New Citizens Incorporated. There are a number of places which are "newcomer friendly" but these people rate highest in my experience. NCI has multiple locations and there are almost always volunteers present to help. In addition they offer classes and have a lot of freebies available to get you started.
    Copy this SLURL into your location bar and hit enter: Alternatively copy it into your chat window and double click on it - you will be transported to NCI in either case. Landmark this location once you're there - go to World in the top menu, so that you can return easily.
    I spoke with Rowlfe and Aley at NCI last night and they offered the following advice:
    Be patient - if nobody is there when you arrive, they soon will be. There are lots of things to look at and read in the meantime. If somebody is there but doesn't respond to you right away they might be in another window or answering the phone. Wait a while and then ask your question again - they really do want to help.
    If people are standing around chatting, move into the group and watch the conversation for a while. You have to be within a fairly short distance to "see" the chat, so go ahead and just join them.
    If you have a question - ask it. "I need help" always gets a response. :)
    There is a translate function in chat - click the arrow next to it to open the window and then click on "translate". The people at NCI have translators they can give you but please stand still so they can. :)
  • There are 3 maturity ratings in Second Life - general (PG), moderate (mature) and adult. You must be age verified to access moderate or adult content and locations. NCI is PG - rated, so no nudity or weapons.
  • One last tip from the people at NCI - don't spend any money for the first week. You don't want to be scammed just because you were too new to know the stuff you're paying for is over priced or should have been free.

An additional source of great information, and a true grid treasure, is Torley Linden. Torley has created a huge number of videos explaining how things work in Second Life. Some of the older ones won't help you because they deal with the first viewer - but others like "What it means to Rezz" are basics for any version. You can narrow your search to just tutorials for Viewer 2 based on what you're hoping to find. Spend some time with Torley's videos - even us oldtimers learn things from him. :)

Your first step after feeling adequately acclimated is to decide what it is you're interested in. If it's Role Playing use search to find the type you want. If it's live music, art, classes, architecture, building, scripting then search using terms that represent your interests. Wandering aimlessly can be entertaining but I suspect you'll get bored quickly. Start with your interests and you'll have better luck. Oh and if it's sex, get age verified first. :))

One last tip. If you need help ask for it. If you get a rude response, just go find somebody who isn't a jerk. Most people aren't and are more than willing to assist.

Welcome to Second Life. I hope your time here is well worth the initial frustration. It has been for me. :)

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