Second Life’s very singular nature makes it somewhat intimidating for new users. The retention rate has
always been fantastically low (somewhere in the teens of percent), because of a somewhat tricky and frustrating interface. Viewer 2 has been a conscious effort on the part of LL to try and relieve that frustration a touch, but it hasn’t really changed how most things are done. Methods of movement and changing clothes remain the same, and it’s usually in the ‘changing clothes’ phase that most folks who aren’t really tech savvy, who are easily frustrated or impatient tend to give up.
I was fortunate in my personal experience in that I had friends already in Second Life who were there immediately to help me begin navigating the interface and understanding how to make things work. I think I would likely have become one of the non-retained if I’d had to fend entirely for myself, and it’s with that in mind that I ended up becoming a volunteer at the Shelter, to try and make that same difficult transition easier for others.
In terms of what to expect from Second Life itself, don’t go in expecting a personal reliving of The Sims. It really isn’t anything like it. Second Life is a massive virtual social space. I often hear newbies refer to SL as a game. It can be, certainly, in some places – but that’s not the beginning and end of what SL is about. You don’t need to immediately find yourself a job and a house at the outset – a common misconception for those new to the experience. And you don’t even need money. In fact, even though the advice from most folks is to simply buy Linden dollars with real money outright, it being the fastest way to get some cash, I really don’t advise doing that until you’ve explored a bit and have decided that yes, Second Life is indeed the kind of virtual world you want to spend time in. The easiest way to make a little cash in SL is to frequent somewhere like The Shelter, which holds dance events on the weekends that can net you Linden dollar prizes. Many clubs around SL do the same, but The Shelter is somewhat unique in its approach, having a specific Newbie category in its dance contests for those avatars under 60 days old – so you’re not competing against 4 year old avatars who have huge closets and better resources!
It’s certainly beneficial, however, to have a place to call ‘home’, if only so you’ve got somewhere relatively private (as much as one can have ‘privacy’ in SL) to change clothes or to unpack items, or just to feel like you ‘belong’. I recommend a collection of sims I came across recently known as Faekin Hall, aka The Gateway To Faery Crossing (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Aetheria/152/33/307). The owners here offer free rooms to avatars for their first 60 days in Second Life, in a very well thought out fantasy setting. If you take advantage of this offer, do stop by later on and donate a few L$ to help keep the place running.
Animation Overriders: For the uninitiated, this is what AO stands for, and it overrides the default, rather unattractive ‘duckwalk’ you start out with. Nobody knows why Linden Lab thought that kind of walk was a good idea, but we’re stuck with it. AO’s, free ones, are generally in plentiful supply for the ladies, and most of them aren’t bad. The men however get the short end of the stick. If your avatar is under 30 days old, you can hop to Long Awkward Pose, Sylva’s Animation Factory or Amacci and get a free AO that will tide you over in the meantime. These are time-sensitive, meaning that they’ll check to see how old you are. If you’ve passed the 30 day mark but still need an AO, check out Bright Corporation’s AO (it’s boxed and in a pile of freebies) or the example at E. Watkins.
One of the other, larger frustrations of SL that I had to deal with was the fact that as a male avatar, there’s extremely limited choices when it comes to freebie attire, clothing and hairs. This is a prime reason many female avatars are actually male in RL – there’s simply more options available to you if you want to be a human.
Even with lindens to spend, it’s an effort to locate stuff for guys that’s decent. The library outfits have, on the other hand, improved significantly since Viewer 2 was launched – and there are far more choices in the Library folder than the ones you will see on the initial Second Life sign-up page. To check them out for yourself, open the Library folder in your inventory, then open the Clothing folder, then Initial Outfits to see the newer offerings. I was impressed with the Male Fantasy option – sculpted prims and generally nicer textures overall give the avatar a much more polished look than the one I myself started out with well over a year ago.
Freebie male skins that are reasonable in appearance are extremely difficult to come by. So far, the best way I have come across skins and clothing that don’t make you look like a ten year old’s attempt at art are through doing hunts such as the Make Him Over Hunt, which has now become the Menstuff Hunt. If you’re interested, it’ll commence on January 29th (check out http://menstuff.stuff-sl.com/ for more info) .