New London: State of the Sim
We’ve had a bit of a turbulent month, as regulars will know, so I figured I’d address some of the events, issues and decisions in one blow!
Last month, we had a downturn in sim income. The sim’s shop, “New London Systems” saw a downturn in sales at a bad time, the sim started to go into arrears and we were in a position where to shut the sim down. Kat was preparing refunds for tenants and plans were to take down the sim in 48 hours. Sim’s are expensive – as any sim owner/renter will know. You need to a good three thousand odd Lindens a day to break even. That’s a painful whack.
There was no appeal to community/visitors/staff to bail the sim. The message was clear – we’re closing the sim. To our surprise, the desire to keep New London going saw a gigantic surge in donations, and to honour that love, we kept going – but I can’t stress that enough, there was no appeal or cry for help.
Well New London is a fairly old bird in Second Life. Not as old as many sims, but it’s got a history. Myself and Kat both felt that this year, New London had achieved all we wanted it to. It was paying for itself pretty much, we had a strong community – very high traffic that was a healthy mix of regulars and visitors. Some were sci-fi enthusiasts, interested in our homage to British Sci-Fi including Doctor Who, we had many London/England fans from all over the world. Traffic was so high in February, we had to gate the number of avatars allowed in sim and one time. For myself and Kat, we felt we’d taken Doctor Who really as far as we wanted in sim, and moved to London, covering most of London’s major landmarks. A good 90% of the sim, if not more was in-house; Kat’s builds, my textures – with some buildings and objects donated or built by other sim regulars (the most famous being Radio Theatre, built by sim Estate Manager Hoipoloi Gurbux). Simply put, we’d done all we wanted. We’d had a year of really great events – a fantastic winter season, a great festival in the summer, and the fun of Halloween/Guy Fawkes in the autumn. Year before that, we’d had the biggest TARDIS Expo we’d ever done, and WhoFEST – the precursor to the New London Festival – was an event that people have never forgotten.
Am I bragging? No lol. Do other sims have such pride, yes of course – and deserved I’m sure. But I don’t really go to many other sims, aside from a cursory jaunt, I just focus on New London – and yes, I’m proud, and simply explaining why I’m proud – and why we were not looking for a longer sim life. New London had already had a great sim life, and myself and Kat – especially Kat given she was running the sim a good year before myself – was ready to retire.
It stayed open because New London regulars wanted it to stay open. That was very touching.
I thought I’d do a Frequently Asked Questions:
So is New London here to stay?
It’ll stay as long as people can fund it, is the blunt answer. Contrary to popular myth, sims don’t have to lose money. New London is proof of that. Neither myself nor Kat have put money into New London for a long time. How? New London Systems.
New London Systems was born out of a mix of curiousity – Kat was enjoying the learning process of some scripting (just as she is now enjoying the process of filmmaking in SL), I was beginning to build and texture myself (and eventually followed her scripting lead). We found that it was a good way to help fund the sim. No profit was ever made, and when the sales started to work, we used the money to buy back the sim which was a good two thirds rented out to private parcels. As of 2012 we have only one parcel renter and a few staff who have paid prim allowances. New London Systems – and those who bought from it – helped buy the sim back. Just like the bleeding liberals we are, we were able to de-privatise the sim and put into public coffers. As New London Systems grew further, it soon was able to just about balance the books. We rarely broke even, but we were just about able to keep the sim just about on the wrong side of arrears – but we managed to keep it going. It wasn’t really donations, it was the shop. If you buy from New London Systems, you are giving the sim public money as we don’t take any money made out of SL. At one time it went to buy back the rented land, now it pays for arrears.
I’ve heard people say we should add more shops to pay for the sim, or rent off large chunks of land to pay for the tier (as if we’d not thought of that, which incidentally we had given that was New London in 2009), but really shops are just a drop in the ocean – they’re good for community, we don’t make much from our shops, we just enjoy their presence. And while we could re-rent land, and make New London smaller, we’ve a model that has proved there is no need while people are into New London and enjoying the products we create. New London Systems is the way forward.
Will you be making any changes?
Yeah. New London Systems is now more focused on new consoles than updating people who bought the previous system.
Let me explain.
New London Systems isn’t other sci-fi stores – though we’re constantly compared. New London Systems is a small part of New London. It has a small core group operating it, and it’s operation is simply to pay for the sim. It’s not a private business, so constant comparisons to shops with similar products are ludicrous.
The point is, myself and Kat were not scripters of the kind required for time ship skyboxes – NLS’ primary product. We created a basic one early in 2010, and then through different co-operatives we’ve upgraded to different systems. We’ve always liked the idea of upgrading previous customers so we have done so the best we can for a small company – but these updates, aren’t really updates. They are upgrades. We moved from a simple system by myself and Kat to a system built by Hyperloom and NLS. Our customer feedback wanted us to go into a direction that Hyperloom weren’t really keen to pursue ideologically, so we parted company amicably and we moved onto a new system again, the T50, which was a blend of NLS, a smaller company called HA! all hosted on the Bad Wolf Inc database with necessary intergration. Very soon it became clear that we were enjoying the fusion of the three products, and Bad Wolf Inc decided to do a full amalgamation with New London Systems. The system became very much Bad Wolf based, with NLS ideology and builds, but it was a new system. None of these are technically updates – v1.0 to v2.0. Updates are fairly straight forward and easy to belt out, but what we were doing were upgrades – taking customers from system to a brand new fusion, run by different people on different vendor systems. Nevertheless we looked to upgrade customers best we could with our limited time and resources as sim runners. Our problem with the T60 is we had an accumulation of upgrades – residual and immediate upgrades spanning two systems previous. We were so busy trying to honour these upgrades, we were no longer producing new products. No new products meant people were waiting on free upgrades. Revenue dried up.
These days, myself and Kat are focused on sim management, sim builds and supporting London based products, but we’ve got a whole range of new builds coming up from a variety of innovative builders, including Bear Thymus, The Diplomat and Cory Trafalgar, theDoctor Mayo, Jon Melendez and Hoipoloi Gurbux. We’ll try and do updates when we can, but our focus is very much the future, not the past as that will keep NLS here.
On top of that we’ll be doing more products that aren’t Time Machine based – London products, products from other sci-fi niches. NLS has been the sim’s strength, we are more driven to feed that strength.
So what’s the Bottomline?
If I was to make one assertion about New London and perhaps what makes it loved, is it isn’t a sim that is trying to show off what it can do, it’s a sim that is there to be a place for people to enjoy. We’re not interested in being the “Best” Doctor Who sim, or the “Best” Sci-Fi sim, or even the “Best” London sim. We’re not interested in being part of the Doctor Who community, London community or whatever – other than being open to decent people from all walks of life. There are too many different sorts in SL to be anything more than what you create yourself, if you ask me. New London is it’s own community. We don’t speak for others sims, they don’t speak for us. We’re not interested/jealous/needful of other sims. We don’t really look outside New London. We’re very proud of the sim, but not because we think we’ve done a brilliant job, but because it’s become a brilliant place to hang out.
In my opinion, sims can become a ball and chain of debt if you do try to be a monument to wonder. New London would be no different if we did that. New London survives without incurring massive costs because the community won’t let it die and are willing to help take the burden.
That’s not to say it’s all on “you”. We’ll do our best to keep churning out great products, events and keep upgrading New London to remain interesting and worth returning to. We will continue to try and keep it fair and honest. We don’t expect people to pay all their money to us, we appreciate every gesture. We know not everyone has a vast supply of cash. 10L can be as touching as 10,000L. It’s all about context.
And if you’ve managed to read all this tl;dr – then you’re a bit looney.
You’re just the type New London loves.