Getting Ready to Learn LSL

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In order to learn Linden Scripting Language (LSL), you have to get started in Second Life (SL). To get started in SL...

You need to create an account and an "avatar". You can use the same entry points that other users rely on. You need to be able to move around and handle the basics before you can write scripts.

Here are 13 "puzzles" to solve while you are getting started. Go through each of these getting started steps (you will normally encounter them in this order during the orientation process, or you can solve them in another order if you prefer.) If you are not derailed by any of these issues, then you will be in good shape to start learning LSL using the LSL Tutorial or some other source. We built a granite slab and a touch globe in our first hours.

1. Create an account

Create an account through the Second Life website.

Second Life feels like a first-person shooter game or The SIMS: you move a doll-like Avatar through the world. You can then choose any name you like, provided it's still available. But SL is not a game, it is like real life in the virtual world. Your avatar cannot be hurt or killed, and you will not get high or low score (though there are games inside SL that can allow you to do such things as well).

There is no need to pay money to join SL. You can join for free, but you will not get any virtual money (L$) until you earn it. Even so, there are free shopping resources where new users can turn, and there are experienced helpers in-world. You do not need to be a premium member to start writing code. Premium membership does help in terms of buying property, and converting real money over to L$.

You need to be 18, and you will get a confirmation email. You need to choose a starting appearance. You cannot log in to the second life client until you have received the email and confirmed your membership.

2. Download and run the client

Download and run the the client application that connects you to SL. It runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, etc.

That is, it pretends to run, well enough. Like other great free but only half-ported Unix applications such as Stellarium, the Second Life client appears in Mac OS X as a virtual Unix word with its own menu bar and much need of Command Click ("right click"). Someone has made some effort to translate key mappings reasonably, e.g., Command C and Command V also mean copy and paste, not just Control C and Control V, but select all left does not mean Home.

As of 11/15/2008, the Linux version (still in Beta) works reasonably well. Although Linden Lab only officially supports 32bit, it is in principle possible to compile a 64bit version yourself.

3. Learn how to really move around

We next learned how to "walk", to "sit", to "stand up", to "fly". We learned how to "search" for "places" and how to "teleport". That was learning enough to begin exploring. We also learned how to use vehicles and drive around.

4. Alter your appearance

We first learned how edit and save and swap in our choice of avatar. That was learning enough to feel reasonably anonymous. You only get one avatar at a time, there is no way to say there are N of you logged in together through one client. Your quasi-public "birth date" is the day you first entered.

If you have already made your way into SL and you are utterly confused, try teleporting to the Orientation Station to go back over the basics. You will also find mentors there (and elsewhere in SL) who can help you out with issues or questions you might be having.

5. Learn to use Second Life URLs

We next learned how to e-mail a postcard, mostly as a way of revealing what the Slurl.com name for a place is. (You may become more proficient at using slurls later.)

Here are some examples: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Encogia/170/218/48/ is an amusement park that tweens we know enjoy: diving pool, Ferris wheel, a carousel, a flume, bumper cars, tours by balloon or helicopter or rocket. The park lends dive skills and dance skills and gives away parachutes. http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Ambleside/99/125/37/ is a village green that gives away popcorn and lemonade, together with eating and drinking skills.

6. Communicate

Try chatting and instant messaging other users. If someone is sending you an instant message, are you able to open the IM window and respond? If you encounter an in-world mentor, are you able to interact with them and ask them questions? The Second Life virtual chat world is a free Lego space with a programmer-friendly user interface. You can solve these easy puzzles (in the order in which you encounter them, or in the order presented here) without having to guess too much from step to step.

7. Learn to Search

Search for land, search for groups, and search for events. Once you are done, you can exit to Help Island. There you can find a lot more information to continue getting started.

You want to develop a "home", and you might consider joining a community as part of that process. You could consider finding communities of people who are thinking of joining Second Life but have not yet. (Google if all else fails.) The experience of sending postcards suggests that coordinating your efforts might let you start with "Linden dollars" ("L$") in hand. You do not get any L$ for free by default (as of 2007-09-01), although you do get L$300 for free as part of a premium membership. The historical exchange rate is somewhere in the vicinity of US$1 per L$250.

8. Notice your performance

Do you experience good performance in SL, or do you have lag issues? Can you use the green and red bar in the upper right corner to monitor your SL network performance? Do you need to downgrade your graphics settings or upgrade your graphics card? Is someone near you doing a large download that is hogging your bandwidth? Do you notice that your performance is adequate in some places, and horrible in others? Or at some hours but not others?

9. Alter your perspective

Second Life also feels like a third-person game through a kind of X-ray vision: using the mouse wheel (or Alt mouse and Ctrl Alt mouse) let you drag your point of view away from your avatar until you press Esc to reset your point of view. The left and right mouse buttons do different things. If you have a single-button Mac mouse, then there are alternative ways to click that you should already be familiar with. There are also on-screen controls that you can use to alter your perspective.

10. Find your way socially

The places you see in Second Life may be haunted by gangs of physically and verbally obscene vandals. (That was our first experience at the front door, but ignoring the gang worked.) Or you may encounter individuals who you personally find offensive, or people who want to push you in a direction that you are uncomfortable or uninterested in going. SL relationships are often fleeting, and it is a good idea to be kind and polite but not to take it too seriously. Develop a thick virtual skin.

Most importantly, you will also encounter some lovely people whom you will immediately like, and people who are just as confused as you are. You will encounter people who are eager to make friends, and people who are attracted to your Avatar and want to get closer. Learn to make friends and to avoid making enemies.

11. Manipulate existing objects

We next learned how to "touch" things, how to "take" things into our virtual backpack ("inventory"), how to drag out copies, how to "take more copies" in, how to "wear" things on my outside rather than my inside. Our "inventory" is infinitely lightweight and small, so far as we can see, e.g., we put a house in it. That was learning enough to enjoy exploring.

12. Create Objects

LSL scripting is done within the context of an object. So before you start writing scripts, you need to know how to create an object. You only need a single primitive object such as a cube or a torus. (Eventually you or someone you work with should know how to build complex and beautiful poly-objects.) There are in-world tutorials describing how to do this, and they are part of the normal orientation process. There are also tutorials both within the Wiki and at external web sites. Try the Creation Portal, for example.

You can buy property where you are allowed to create objects, or you can create them in a publicly-available sandbox area. (Put them into your inventory or delete them when done, it is rude to leave them lying around in public spaces.) The orientation spaces dedicated to learning how to create objects are generally sandboxes. You can join a group or organization, giving you access to places where you will be able to work productively.

13. Start learning LSL

You are ready now to go try to make sense of the tutorials on writing Linden Scripting Language (LSL) scripts that the LSL Tutorial article indexes.

Note: If you think that this page could use improvement, then we need your help. This page is Wiki, please feel free to revise or reconceive. Or post into the Discussion tab an explanation of how the rest of us should edit for you, if we should. Or add links to tutorials like this that exist but we have failed to find. Thank you for helping.

Note: The F1 help for the building tools in world is not yet smart enough (as of 2007-11-02) to give you help in context. Help, negligibly obsolete, for the Object tab of the Create/Edit tool you begin with is at https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Building_Tools. In particular, the checkmark Physical teaches your object to move and roll and bounce, the checkmark Phantom lets other things like your avatar move through object or not and the tab Texture, checkmark Full Bright makes your object glow in the dark.

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