User's Manual

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This "User's Manual" is intended to pull together basic information about Second Life in the style of a software manual. There is much more information available in this wiki and other sources, and links will be provided where possible.


Introduction

Second Life® is a virtual world filled with thousands of 3D places to explore that combines social interaction and 3D graphics in a unique way.

It features a huge amount of user-created content (270 TeraBytes), a convertible currency, and 750,000[1] active users doing almost everything imaginable.

In terms of virtual size and real Dollar economy, it ranks about 178th in the world, and in terms of population 160th.

The software download and account setup are free, although some things, most notably virtual land, have fees to use them.

Because this is the first virtual world of this size and complexity, the software is in continuous development. Occasional bugs, crashes, and downtime can be expected, and frequent software updates.

What You Need to Have a Second Life

Interacting with the Second Life virtual world requires the following:

(1) A Second Life account - Before you can log in, you have to set up an Account with a first and last name, and password. Accounts are available for people 18 years of age or older in the main Second Life area, and for those 13-17 years old in the Teen Second Life area.

(2) A Broadband Internet connection - A speed of 500 kilobits per second is the default software bandwidth. As a service with real time interaction, low latency (ping time) is important, preferably below 500 ms. Although satellite and terrestrial wireless are not officially supported, it is possible to use them. Dial-up is below the minimum bandwith setting of 50 kbps required for the 3D graphics, media streaming, and voice chat when logged in.

Also, typical bandwidth usage of 50-100MB per hour occur, which may be a factor for users with monthly download quotas.

(3) A computer capable of running the Viewer program - The System Requirements gives the details, but the basic idea is that the 3D graphics are generated in real time by your computer, and it has to have a fast enough graphics chip or card to do that. In turn, the rest of the computer system has to be able to support the graphics.

The settings within the Viewer can accommodate a wide range of computer systems. If you are using one at the low end of the system requirements, your 3D view will not be as pretty, but it can be made to work.

Although not noted in the system requirements, about 500MB of hard drive space is needed to install the software, and store downloaded data when you run it.

(4) Installing the Viewer program - Versions are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Windows XP and Vista are currently supported. In addition to the official version, there is a joint open source viewer (Snowglobe), and an assortment of open source third party viewers.

(5) Web browser installed - Some features such as account information are accessed on the web (as is this wiki page). The viewer has a built-in web browser which can be used.

Optionally you may use:

(6) A microphone for voice interaction

(7) Joystick or 3D mouse as a control device

Basic Concepts

Since Second Life is not like any other 3D environment, some basic concepts paticular to it are reviewed in this section. More words are defined in the Glossary.

The Grid - A set of servers hosting connected map regions plus supporting databases and networking. Together they make it possible for a user to log in, see, and interact with the 3D world. The main SL Grid is called Agni. See Grid.

Map Region - Each server on the agni.secondlife.com domain runs several copies of a "Simulator" program, each of which represents one 256x256 meter area of the grid. When you move from one region to another, you are handed off from one server to another, giving the impression of a large 3D world. Currently the main (Agni) grid has about 29,000 map regions.

Technically a map region is a set of data, like a document, or spreadsheet, which can be saved, and reloaded if a server stops running. The Simulator program is constantly updating the data in real time, as users come and go, objects are added and removed, scripts running within the objects do things, etc. Map regions are also sometimes called 'sims' after the program that runs them. However, that term is deprecated and therefor shouldn't be used, in order to avoid confusion. See sim for more details.

Viewer - The program that runs on your computer that connects via the internet to the Second Life servers. It allows you to log in to the grid and then see and interact with objects and avatars around your current "location" in the virtual world.

Resident - An account that most Second Life users have, with a first and last name, profile, account balance, inventory, etc. See Resident.

Avatar - The character that represents a Resident when logged into Second Life, and appears on the 3D view area. Avatars are highly customizable. See Avatar.

Linden Lab - The company that owns Second Life. See Linden Lab.

Linden - Staff member of Linden Lab. Their accounts have the last name "Linden". For example, "Philip Linden" is the account used by Philip Rosedale, founder and Chairman of Linden Lab. See Linden.

User-Created Content - Linden Lab codes the software and hosts the servers that runs Second Life. But most of the items you see when you are logged in are actually created by other users, such as clothes, furniture, weapons, animations, sounds, etc.

The Viewer

The Viewer provides a 3D interactive view, and additional menus, buttons, and windows to perform various functions. It uses your graphics card or chip to generate the 3D view that you see in real time. The data to produce the 3D view has to be downloaded from the servers as you need it for two reasons: First, the total data for the main grid is over 270 Terabytes[2], and second, it changes constantly. This is different than most online games, where the data is provided mostly on an installation disk.

As you travel from place to place, the servers send you data for an area around your current location out to a maximum 'draw distance' you have set. Within that distance, there will be an initial fast download of the area around you so you can see it, then slower updates as things change: other avatars come and go, and objects move and change. More details can be found on these pages:

Getting started with Second Life Has basic information on downloading, installing, and using the viewer software.

Viewer menu - Has information on the six standard drop-down menus that appear on the top left of the screen

Advanced Menu - Has information on the two optional drop-down menus that can be turned on: Advanced and Admin.

Context Menu - These appear when you right click in the 3D view area. Depending on what the mouse was pointing at, the menus will change.

Inventory Menu - The inventory floating window which lists the inventory of items you own has it's own set of drop-down and context menus.

Floating Windows - Many buttons and menu choices open a 'floating window' which appears on top of the the 3D view area. They appear to 'float' over the 3D view, and can be moved around to suit.

The Website

Some parts of the Second Life service are accessed via the website rather than the 3D viewer program. Both the website and viewer use the same account first and last name, and password to log in.

Some of the more important pages include:

Community

  • SL Forums - Discussion forums. Some Linden Staff post here.

Support

  • Downloads - Where to get the Viewer software

Things to Do

Once you have your account and viewer program set up, there are many things you can do. Where you go and what you do are up to you, much as you can surf the web and use it for whatever you choose. There is not a goal, or way to "win" Second Life as there is in some online games, even though it uses similar graphics technology.

Some of the things you can do and hints about how to go about them are listed below.

Meet Other People from Around the World

This can be done anywhere, and any time. Second Life has users from around the world, although certain times of day are more popular for particular real life countries.

World Map 18Aug09.jpg

Finding People on the Grid - The main grid (shown at left) has nearly 29,000 regions, and the online population varies from 40 to 75 thousand depending on time of day. That works out to 1.4 to 2.6 avatars per map region, which is not very crowded. To find people, you need to seek them out. This can be done in several ways:

  • Using the Search button > Places tab. Search for a type of place such as clubs. They are listed in order by traffic score, which is player-minutes per day. High scores mean more players on average.
  • Using the World Map, with the Resident check box activated. Online residents will appear as green dots. A cluster of dots is a group of users in one place.
  • Using Events and Groups. Look for something you are interested in, and show up at a scheduled event, or join a group that interests you. In a group you can see who is online from the group, start an instant message with one of them, or general group chat.

Talking to People Once you Find Them - There are numerous ways to communicate with people in Second Life:

V1.23 Bottom Toolbar Left.jpg
  • Local Chat - Text typed in the lower toolbar can be seen by anyone within 20 meters
  • Instant Messages - Private text chat with one or more people which work anywhere in SL
  • Group Chat - Text chat with anyone in a group you belong to who is online
  • Voice Chat - Uses a microphone for live conversations

Play Tourist

  • Travel the Grid - Second Life is a 3D simulated environment. A number of real world places have been rebuilt here, as well as many more that cannot exist in the real world. Click the photos below for larger versions. The web links will take you to the SL map, from which you can go directly to the location within Second Life.

NY Statue of Liberty.jpg

WTC Memorial & Statue of Liberty

  • Take Pictures

You can take high resolution photos in Second Life. Click this image to see the full 2000x3000 pixel version:

Gardens of Apollo 001.jpg

Go Shopping

There are literally millions of things you can get, many of them free.

  • In World Shopping - You can use the Search Button > All, Classified, or Places Tabs to find items. Simply enter what you are looking for in the white search query box. You can narrow the search by category or maturity rating. Once you find an item, you can teleport to the store, and buy the item. This does require you have enough funds in your Linden Dollar balance.
  • Web Based Shopping - You can shop on a website and have the items delivered instantly to your inventory in Second Life. By far the largest shopping site is the XStreetSL site, owned by Linden Lab, which also owns Second Life.

Listen to Music and Watch Videos

Second Life has the ability to play streaming audio and video within the Viewer program. Many locations in the 3D world have music playing. Clubs often have live DJ's, and live performance events are common. Video streams can also be played, and can often be found in-world in the form of widescreen TV's or movie screens. It does require a good computer and internet connection to play videos in-world

Customize Your Avatar

The 'starter bodies' you get are human, but you can change every part of it, including changing to something non-human like a robot or dragon. Although some people make their avatar look like their real life selves, this is not required. It's called "Second Life", not "Computer animated copy of real life", and in your second life, you can be whatever you want to be, and change your mind and your look in a minute.

Join Interest Groups

Groups are lists of users who want to stay in closer touch for whatever reason they choose: hobby, shared land holdings, friendship, business, whatever. You can join up to 25 "Groups" per account, and groups exist on almost every subject imaginable. If you dont find one that fits your needs, you can set one up with a small fee and at least one other user to populate it (groups with only one member get deleted after a while).

  • Searching for Groups - You can use the Search button > Groups tab to search for groups by name. Many groups are free to join, others have a fee to join. Some groups are private and are not listed in search. You can also see groups listed in people's profiles if they choose to show them in public, and double clicking on the item in their profile will open the group information.

Create Your Own Items

The Viewer program has built in 3D design and edit features. You can create anything from plywood cubes (the default object) to entire multi-map region private estates. Software scripts can be put inside objects to make them do a wide variety of things. Using outside programs you can create animations, textures, and sounds then import them into Second life's database, and incorporate them into your items.

People create items for their own enjoyment, to share with friends, or to sell. Not everyone has the time or skills to create items, and those who do, do not have time to create *everything* from scratch. So a large part of the Second Life economy is built on trading or selling items between users. By this process of "User Created Content", the Second Life world has much more variety than if the staff programmers made everything.

Become a Virtual Land "Owner"

Your inventory always stays with you, and can contain tens of thousands of items and store them at no cost. But if you want to place items in the 3D world, be it a chair, car, house, etc. That you can use, and have other people visit, then you need some virtual land to put it on.

There are public places called 'sandboxes' where you are allowed to place items temporarily. These are handy if you just need to unpack a box of items you got, or want to practice creating things. But for something more permanent, you would need to rent or "buy" some land of your own.

"Buy" and "Owner" are in quotes, because Linden Lab actually owns the servers and databases which make it possible to display the virtual land. To hold land, you will need to pay fees directly or indirectly to Linden Lab. This is similar to hosting a website on a paid server. The amount of "stuff" (measured in primitive shapes or 'prims') you can place on a piece of land is proportional to the land area.

Role Play

Unlike real life which limits the extent of presentation changes to represent a role, Second Life affords endless ways to represent a given role. Role-playing is one of the most popular activities in Second Life. Role_play [[1]]

Footnotes

  1. SLCC Keynote Presentation Mark Kingdon (M Linden), CEO of Linden Lab, 17 Aug 2009, slide 77
  2. SLCC Keynote Presentation Mark Kingdon (M Linden), CEO of Linden Lab, 17 Aug 2009, slide 78

See also