FROM THE LEADS' DESKS ~ Why Kitely? What about Second Life?

Welcome back to our desks!

Seanchai Library on Imagination Island in Second Life.
Let’s begin this second installment by making one thing absolutely clear: we are not abandoning Seanchai operations in Second Life.  We do not plan to.  Second Life (SL) is the largest virtual reality platform in existence, and there’s quite a ways to go before any of the other grids will overtake it. Linden Labs, whatever you might think of them, are the industry leaders.  We have built up, over the past six years, a solid program, a network of connections and relationships, and a track record of success.  Why on earth would we abandon that?  It would be suicidal foolishness. 

In Second Life, we operate successfully on a shoe string.  Because our program creates traffic, we live rent-free at our 850m square parcel on Imagination Island.  We have never paid rent.  Individual storytellers and presenters cover any expense of costumes, sets, props, upload fees, etc.  That is part of our “donation” towards the featured charity, in addition to our time and talent.  If we had to move operations, there are several places on the grid that have already said they would happily host us under the same terms we already exist.  It is a formula that works.

On the other hand, it has its limits.  As we continue to explore creating increasingly immersive story experiences – an opportunity in what we do that several of us are very interested in – we run into immediate limits in Second Life.  Those restrictions are, to be blunt, money and prims.  A build like last year’s Dickens’ Project takes nearly 3800 prims (incomplete, by the way) and the space to manage them, none of which comes cheap in SL.  To date, we have not been able to break into the Linden Endowment for the Arts or other similar organizations where we could showcase a broader experience.  They do not see us as “artists” but as merely “readers.”  We don’t fit into their rubric.

What do we mean by “increasingly immersive”?  Most of what we now produce in SL is fairly presentational:  people sit in rows of seats inside of an environment and we stand (or sit) before them and present the literature.  That is certainly one way of bringing stories to life, and one that we have been very successful with.  But could there be another means of becoming transported into the story without shifting completely over to role play?  Imagine you were wandering through the different environments visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past and Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol while listening to the original text, presented live.  Imagine exploring an ancient Irish tower house while listening to Gaelic folk tales.  Imagine poking around 221B Baker Street while listening to a Sherlock Holmes adventure. As long as the environment engages you within voice range of the speaker, you can wander, explore, sit and experience the literature just as you do in a more traditional audience-performer setting.

Another consideration for us is that operations in SL are about as big as they can stand to be.  Scheduling, supervising, hosting, promoting are all necessary parts of what we do which take a ton of volunteer hours behind-the-scenes every week.  We are about as scheduled as we can afford to be without the necessity of a full-time person to run the program, and be compensated for it.  That would push the entire business model on its ear.  We don’t want to do that. 

Enter the Kitely Grid.  Suddenly we can have space and prims for a fraction of what it would cost us in SL.  Add to that the recent entry of Kitely onto the OS Hypergrid, and the opportunity to access new audiences expands.  It is not a simple or clean comparison.  As we are learning now in our “shakedown cruise” phase, promoting and producing in this new grid is very different than in SL.  But using what we already know from the last six years, we are rapidly making progress in this new endeavor, and have created a home world that (as Shandon and I like to say) reflects our “greatest hits” of the past six years.

As an example of the differential, when preparing for our recent presentation to Book-It Repertory Theater, we did the math.  To try and do the “Pride & Prejudice” Project in Second Life would cost us over $1000 just for the land and tier.  It would limit us to three months of the build being live to the public – all construction would have to happen in sections off site or in sandboxes – and we would only have one sim and 15,000 prims.  In Kitely, the project would require a mere $153 to cover the land for six months.  In that case, we are talking about a four-sim megaregion with 100,000 prims, which we would pay roughly $50 a month for when it is public, and drastically less when it is not (i.e. when we are building and testing).  With the Hypergrid extending access, the economics of this are incredibly clear.

The Seanchai Home World in Kitely
 As it happens, we are sorry to announce that the Book-It project will not be happening this year.  An unanticipated transition in leadership, tied with their anniversary celebration, has rendered this opportunity untimely.  Not all good ideas are timely ones.  But the door is not closed on this entirely, and we hope to be able to revisit it with them in the future.  In the mean time, there are other projects in Kitely we are now pursuing, and we hope to tell you more about those very soon.

What we envision for the Seanchai Library in Kitely and in Second Life are two different things.  They are experiences which, we feel, should compliment each other not duplicate.  So unless the bottom falls out of Second Life (always possible, but not immediately likely) do not look for us to be leaving unless we find that our presence there no longer has validity or effectiveness.  We invite you to consider joining us in Kitely to further explore and experiment with what is possible for the immersive presentation of live literature in a virtual setting.  It is still all about the stories – how they inspire and inform our lives.

Literally Yours,
~ Caledonia & Shandon

1 comment:

Caledonia S said...

POSTSCRIPT: We are sorry to add, that the recent (7.16) update to the Linden Labs TOS pretty much eliminates any chance of Seanchai pursuing it's partnerships with real world organizations in SL in the future. When the primary selling point to a prospective partner is the promoting of their organizational brand without the barriers of physical environments, such language as is in today's release would send your standard brand-conscious company running for cover. We are sorry to see this door close for good, but we also understand that Linden Labs has to protect its interests. All our projects that have any future potential as a service - provider for educational institutions and non-profits must now, of necessity, be relegated to other grids.