So, I’ve been away for some time. Work and circumstance brought me to the real world for a few years. But it is now a new decade, almost exactly a decade since I first entered Second Life, so I thought I would create a new avatar and start from scratch, just to see how life is for a newbie in 2020.
For this excursion, I will have voluntary amnesia. That is to say, I will willfully forget everything I know about Second Life. Quite easily done, as I haven’t been there for over 3 years and I am starting with a new avatar with no attachments at all and so much have changed.
First up is the registration. Very straight forward. Go to the site and click “Sign Up”. Very much like Facebook, give some rudimentary information about yourself, like email and age and your preferences for your starting avatar, then you’re on your way.
It gives you a link to download the official Second Life Viewer.
The Second Life Viewer looks sleek and has a very self-explanatory design. None of the buttons has labels, instead, they opted for icons. Some of them might be hard to understand for newcomers, but if you hover over them, a label will appear in the language you selected. Very hard to break things, so just click about if you’re unsure.
First time logging in, I ended up in some form of a training area, showing me how to operate the controls and interact with the environment. I had picked the option for “non-binary gender” as a starting avatar, just to see what that would be, as I have seen both the starter male and female before.
Not sure what I expected… Did not expect a clearly female avatar in a bowler hat though.
Linden Lab dropped the ball with this one, I think, but luckily for everyone out there who describe themselves as such, in Second Life, your looks are only limited by your own imagination.
At the end of the tutorial, you get to the Map Dome, which shows you a map of the entire Mainland, the interconnected landmass of Second Life that comprises the majority of the virtual world.
A teleporter takes you to Social Island, so I guess that is where I’m heading next.
Arriving at Social Island, a hud immediately attached itself to my screen, offering more tutorials. This time about how to earn cash prizes. Another hud attached itself displaying my current cash prize balance of 0L$.
I was both worried and intrigued, so I followed the siren’s call down the steps.
As soon as I entered the next tutorial area, the hud let me know that the shops on the island only accepted “Tutorial L$, not ‘real’ L$”, and I understood what the “game” was about. I looked around to get an overview of what they offered but quickly moved on.
The tutorials taught a lot of good things I already knew from before, and you could get some good basic avatar customisation items as rewards, but I did not feel like going through all that for some hair and a pair of shoes. For the purposes of time, I pretended I had gone through the tutorials and ignored them. Wanderlust got the better of me and I wanted to get off this island.
After ending up going in circles around the island, which felt like a maze at times, I ended up in a literal maze. Using the camera tools to zoom out, I accidentally stumbled on the Portal Area, which is the actual way out. Once you know it is there, it is hard to miss, but since everything looks the same and there is no waypoint and no signage and no instructions, you end up running in circles. Anyway, this concluded our introduction to the world of Second Life, now we’re prepared to take on the world. So now we can see if we can gear up.
I jumped into the portal marked Newcomer Friendly and suddenly I was on the Mainland in a place called Caledon Oxbridge. It is a university in the heart of Caledon and it has not changed a bit since we last wrote about it. It was still the lovely place I remember. But it only reiterated the things I already knew from Social Island, so I headed towards the more populated area and asked around for help.
Anyone who has spent any amount of time near the newcomer friendly areas of Second Life knows this is an invitation for immediate spam of the best kind possible. Within minutes, I was well equipped with landmarks, notecards and tips. My newcomer avatar was now up to speed with my decade-old Morphman avatar when it comes to knowledge, and it only took about 30 minutes from the account creation. Let’s see if we can get there in terms of fashion as well.
I started at the Marketplace, the Second Life official website for creators to sell their wares online. It is hard to find good quality free items there since the archive stretches back through the entire history of the platform and the filters leave a lot to wish for. And it does not help that many people do use some rather shady tactics to get you to click on their items. Another thing that makes it even harder for freebie hunters is that there is no section for demos, so demo items are strewn in with all other items.
But I have a trick for that: you can set the filter to “up to 0L$” and the results to “96 items per page”, then search in your browser for “demo”. That will highlight all the demo items, and you can quickly see which items are not demos.
Some heavy scrolling later and I got myself a bento-enabled mesh body and a biker outfit. Now I need myself some hair, better skin and some shoes. Let’s hit those freebie and Midnight Mania groups. Just searching for “freebies for men” and “midnight mania” in groups should yield plenty of groups to join for free. But we don’t just wait. The right offer might not pop up for a long time, so we search in Places for “Lucky Chair for Men” and hop around the stores listed to see if we can snag a freebie or two while waiting.
After about an hour of combined effort between searching and looking out for group messages, I had managed to find enough Midnight Mania boards, group gifts and lucky chairs with my letter on it to get myself a half-decent avatar. It has a Bento Mesh body with baked skin, mesh hair and mesh clothing and a customisable animation override, just like the top-of-the-range paid-for avatars of 2020 does.
It might not look like the prettiest avatars do, but it looks a lot better than I expected, and miles better than even the top-range avatars did when I was a newbie the first time around.
All in all, being new in Second Life in 2020 is not that jarring of an experience if you get some guidance. Luckily, there are plenty of helpful people there, and then you got sites like The Torch: Entertainment Guide to help out if those people are not around. We have a wide backlog of articles on the subject to help you through those trialling first steps, especially if you are on a tight budget, or just don’t want to spend any money before you know what it is all about.