For Whom is this Guide for
This guide is for:
- All those fans of the horror genre that are new to the metaverse in general, and to Second Life in particular
- Fans of horror that already are acquainted with the metaverse and/or Second Life
- Anyone new to the metaverse in general and to Second Life in particular that needs a crash course on how the client works
Before you Start your Horror Metaversal Adventures
To visit the horror metaverse you’ll need three things:
- An account: this will be linked to the avatar you will use to move inside the virtual world. You don’t need to enter a credit card or any other payment method when you create an account. The free plan is enough for basic use.
2. A client: also known as the viewer, is the metaverse’s equivalent of a web browser
3. A list of horror simulators to visit: you can always use the in-world search feature, or even search for horror simulators on the web with a search engine, but to have a curated list of working ones handy makes all the difference. I’ll provide you with one such list below
4. Relatively new hardware that will support the viewer on High or Ultra settings (optional)
Join the Platform
If you don’t have a Second Life account create one now. Go to Second Life’s website and enter your data. In the sign-up process you’re presented with the option to choose a plan. Like I said in the introduction, just to visit horror simulators you don’t need a paid plan.
With a free plan, you can visit any horror sims open to the public and ride some of the horror dark rides. To visit any horror sim open to the public you don’t need any in-game currency.
The rides for which you need in-game currency to ride are so cheap that you can raise the ticket’s amount in a little time; going to a simulator for new users that gives away L$ for free. Like money tree simulators, lucky chair simulators, and the like.
If you don’t want to do that, and you still want to ride a paid amusement, or even buy an in-world horror object then you can inject your avatar with 5-10 dollars worth of L$ and, as I see it, that little ten dollars may end up functioning as a lifetime supply of in-game currency to use in dark rides, ghost train, and similar horror amusements.
As of this writing, ten dollars were exchanged for 3200 lindens. Consider that each ticket for the dark rides costs like 1, 5, 10, or 20 L$ no more than that and you’ll see how I see it as a lifetime supply.
The best thing about this is that you don’t need to be a subscriber to fund your avatar. You just need a credit card. Anyone with an account can do it, even freeloaders. Still, the bottom line is you don’t need money to use Second Life or to enjoy horror stuff in it.
Decide on Client
The registration process offers you to download the official Second Life viewer client. This is what is called the official viewer of the virtual world because the owners of Second Life (Linden Labs) makes it. It’s okay to use and maybe is the way to go if you don’t want any more hassle for today.
Still, some alternative viewers can be of benefit to different kinds of users
- Users that have computers that are barely up to the task
- Users that have a deeper knowledge of hardware
- Users that simply want a different, more retro, configurable or flexible kind of interface
There is a handful, around half a dozen, of different alternative viewers. The ones I’m including below are the only ones I could make work. I’ve used other alternative viewers in the past but I can’t remember much other than one was Snowglobe and the other Imprudence.
The official viewer is the most minimal expression of what a Second Life viewer is. It used to be more granular, like Kokua and Firestorm.
In fact those two alternate viewers mimic the interface of how the official viewer looked before Linden Labs upgraded it to the streamlined current interface design.
While I was doing the research for this guide, I reinstalled the official viewer and had several issues with it. It works, still in my case it had issues that didn’t come up with other viewers. One of them being the in-world web integration (DullahanHost.exe).
There are many things that are superflous for our taks of visiting the horror metaverse; to be able to use surf the web from the client be one of them, so don’t fret if when you install the official viewer some of its functionality is broken.
From personal experience, if you run it on a 64-bit Windows, this viewer by Siana Gearz is bound to give you problems right after you install it.
Namely, it may not start. It’s not unpack-and-run at all, at least it wasn’t unpack-and-run in my systems. You may need to install some obscure versions of Windows libraries like the NET Framework or similar.
Sometimes the program will not start with a simple “The application failed to start correctly”. For me, it was priceless when I had a potato PC, but lately it’s generally finicky. Still, if you can make it run, it works better than the next one, Kokua.
Like the other two viewers covered in this guide, Kokua viewer has a user interface that stuck with the old layout. I mean by this that when Linden Labs upgraded the viewer to the current one, which has an interface that is much different from the previous one, these alternative viewers kept the layout of the old one.
As features, this alternative client moved with the official one and copies many of its widgets, even if it retains the cluttered bottom menu bar is a bit less clutered.
As features, it has social sharing buttons in the floating sidebar, something that the official viewer does not; at least not by default. I can’t use this viewer because while it works okay for second life, it glitches my desktop on exit and the only way I have to fix the glitch is loging off and back in or rebooting the computer, which is pretty much of a hassle.
Firestorm is pretty much the gold standard in alternative viewers.
It has the option of working in six different modes:
- Firestorm: the stock mode of the viewer
- Phoenix: vintage setup. Phoenix Viewer was its previous name, Firestorm is its continuation
- Viewer 6: this mode mimics the interface of Linden Lab’s original Viewer
- Hybrid: I don’t have much info on how this mode works, sorry
- Latency: supposed to help if you’re having latency problems
- Test: renderless
Click here in case you want to see exactly how each mode is different to the others.
This guide assumes you’re not going to have any trouble the first time you fire up the viewer, and that twenty-odd seconds after loading it for the first time you’ll be connecting to the first region.
If you have some problems, like for instance the client stops loading with a status bar half full and you never end up connecting to a region, then refer to the troubleshooting section of this guide.
Then you might be having a connectivity problem that is due to a misconfiguration in the firewall or antivirus software that you use, or in the router if you use one. Please refer to the troubleshooting appendix at the bottom of the guide in that case.
How the Client Works
The trend is towards simplicity, but you always can activate additional widgets and end up with a cluttered interface. By default, you have just a few buttons, an address bar, a tray with currency and status icons, and maybe a sidebar. You can open other widgets like for instance a minimap, or a measuring one, like the lag meter.
You can press CTRL-M to see a map that shows you where you’re standing in the world at that moment. You can also have a minimap show in your screen, like in the picture above.
Pressing CTRL-F you open the search window. You can search for:
- Land Sales
Stock movement features:
- Walk: cursor arrows (you can set WASD for movement too)
- Run: CTRL+R
- Jump: PAGE UP key
- Duck: PAGE DOWN key
- Fly: HOME key
With the mouse wheel, you can zoom out until your avatar becomes smaller than a mouse pointer. Or you can zoom in all the way and see the world from a first-person perspective.
There are two widgets you can enable in the avatar menu that relate to movement:
Move and Camera Controls
In case you want to move around using only a mouse, you can do it by enabling this widget.
If you want to move the camera with the mouse (useful for screenshots), then you can enable this widget. You can rotate the camera with the keyboard only using combinations of ALT+cursors keys or ALT+CTRL+cursor keys, too.
Teleportation and Landmarks
You can travel around walking or using a vehicle, but the standard means of locomotion across large distances in the metaverse is to teleport.
The way to teleport any place is to input the SLURL (Second Life URL) in the SLURL form at the top, between the viewer’s screen and the main menu. The format of Second Life’s URLs is:
The region name is the name of the cell of the grid, X, Y and Z are three numbers that point exactly where in the cell you’re going to teleport to.
Landmarks are the metaverse’s equivalent of bookmarks. When you create a landmark, you generate a link to the place that you can keep in your inventory to return later.
You can take screenshots by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+S simultaneously. You can save the images you capture with this feature to your disk (download it) or to your avatar’s inventory.
However, saving a screenshot to the avatar’s inventory carries a cost of 10 L$, so if you don’t have any funds saving to disk is the only option.
To chat you simply start typing and you’ll see what you’re writing below, in the chat form.
Press CTRL-T to open the chat window. In the chat window you can see other avatars that are nearby, and the avatars you added to your online contacts.
You can chat with your contacts even if they are at the other extreme of the grid.
Press CTRL+I to open your avatar’s inventory. You can find everything you receive, buy or create inside your inventory.
Caching of Resources
Metaverse worlds are different from online games in the sense that in principle, you download and install in your computer only a viewer, that is a program without content.
That, contrasted to the client of other online games when you also download all (or at least a high percentage) of the media of the game’s content. Which means you download everything that appears in the world to your computer, each piece of everything that makes up the world.
But the case of Second Life is different. You only download the media of the simulators you visit and of the objects you wear or use, and maybe also of the avatars you meet. It gets stored in a special folder called the cache folder and you can delete that data whenever you want.
Still, you only delete the contents of the cache folder when you’re having problems with the client or seeing broken or deformed stuff in the sims you visit. The kind of glitches that a rebooting of the computer and/or a restarting of the client wouldn’t fix.
Otherwise, you shouldn’t clear the cache, because if you have a region or a simulator stored in your cache and you clean your cache, when you return to the simulator you had cached, the client has to download the resources all again from zero.
It’s not a big deal, but it’s much more convenient to have your favorite simulators and regions cached and not lag around and have to wait for them to rezz each time you revisit them.
Even if you’re not a technical user, you must configure the client. When you see the options you’ll see the depth of granularity of the options. It may scare you at first but if you think of the settings as groups of options that can be set and forgotten as opposed to groups of options that can be played with, then it becomes very easy.
Caveat: You can jump into the world and not give configuration to the client a second thought.
Still, there are reasons to configure the client before your first login ever.
If you’re sure that your computer is a potato, then I recommend you start with the bare minimum of everything. I mean, even if there are options that you can’t tick out and do away with them completely, then I mean turning all of those off too.
Whatever you’ll see when you log in with everything at minimum is probably going to look horrible, but it’s better if you begin this way and then gradually increase the settings and turn stuff on. I’ll give a scheme below of what I think you should enable first.
If you know that your computer is strong and can handle contemporary video games, then you want to crank all the quality settings up and run the client on high or ultra preset from your first time. If you think that it lags, then read further.
To access the settings open the Avatar menu and then select Preferences near the bottom. The keyboard shortcut to access the menu is CTRL+P.
Network & Files
Be sure to set the maximum bandwidth correctly. This setting is where Second Life shows how old it is. The maximum bandwidth you can give the client is three megabits per second, but you’ll notice that the client discourages you to set it in that setting.
You should crank the slider to somewhere between the Cable and May Cause Issues settings.
Without a doubt, the settings that have the heaviest impact on performance are the graphics ones.
A good starting point to configure the viewer’s graphic settings is to use one of the seven presets. The only thing you have to do is move the slider between the four presets:
Note that there are three intermediate presets between the four main ones:
The objective is to find a balance of the settings that gives you 30 FPS (frames per second) or more with the minimal loss in quality.
Before you begin to mess with the settings, do two things:
- Enable the statistics meter
Press CTRL+SHIFT+1, a window opens. In that window, the statistics meter, you can see how many FPS your client is running.
To test FPS don’t take only one reading as fact. You must test with this meter both in cluttered and empty areas. Also, if possible, later on, you should test with this meter in lonely and crowded areas.
2. Enable the lag meter
Press CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+D. After you press these keys simultaneously, a new menu appears, the advanced menu. Go to the Advanced menu and open the submenu performance tools.
I recommend you enable these two meters, so you can see how activating, deactivating, and changing values in the settings will influence the quantity of FPS (and thus, the speed) the client can process per second.
Explanation of the Lag Meter
Client: yellow or red means something configured in the client is causing a bottleneck
Network: yellow or red means something between your computer and the Second Life server is causing lag
Server: yellow or red means the server is lagging. You can’t do anything bout this other than move to a region without server problems, or log out and return at a different time of the day and see if it’s working better
Note on Dedicated Video Cards
This is redundant, but many may be as disoriented as I once was in this. You should be aware of what kind of video card you have. To know this you must know which consumer segment your video card was targeted to when released, like entry-level, mid-range, or enthusiast.
Roughly, if your video card is old, but when it was new it was mid-range or high-end, then you can follow the gaming rig recommendations below.
If your video card is new and low-end or old and low-end, then I would recommend you approach the configuration process from a no-frills, bare-minimum start, and follow the potato recommendations below.
Why I’m saying this is because if the graphic card is mid-range or high-end, and either old or new, then it’s probable that you’re going to get better performance with higher settings instead of lower ones.
Logically it should be that whatever the processing power of your graphics card, the lower the settings the more FPS you would get, but it doesn’t work that way. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but in my experience, low-end graphic cards benefit from turning settings down, and mid-range or high-end ones give a better performance the higher you set the settings.
Anyway, don’t get all worked up about graphic power. Graphics are a big subject with the grid, but the CPU power mustn’t be overlooked. As I see it, any sub-standard or modest CPU will not cut it.
Two Extreme Configuration Examples
Potato Computer Recommendations
Start from the lowest settings: crank the Quality and Speed slider all way down to Low. Then begin enabling settings and increasing values gradually.
As you go on increasing the settings keep watching the lag meter and the statistics meter to see how much of a performance hit happens due to the settings you enabled or turned up.
If the client runs at or below 20 FPS with the Low preset, then that’s bad news. In that case, try disabling basic shaders and see if that makes a difference.
If your computer struggles running the client on low settings the only settings I can advise you to play with are the sliders on the rightmost side of the Preferences panel. The only exact figure I can give you is Drawing Distance, it doesn’t make much sense to turn it above 128 meters if you’re going to visit indoor locations.
Gaming Rig Recommendations
This is for any kind of gaming rig, low, mid, or high end. Start from the high or mid-high preset (the one at the very center of the slider) and increase settings from there.
I say this is for low-end gaming rigs because even if you have a dedicated video card that is old (and I mean really old, like circa 2010) you will be able to have a wider space for experimentation with the settings.
In my experience, the settings that are performance killers are:
Advanced Lighting Model
Enabling this setting changes the lighting to a model that looks more realistic:
In my personal experience, the Advanced Lighting Model and all the settings that it unlocks when it is enabled are the costlier ones. In my personal case, using an old graphic card that supports OpenGL 3.0 only enabling ALM instantly made my frame rate drop 30 to 35 FPS below to what the client runs without enabling it.
You need to enable the Advanced Lighting Model to enable shadows. Compare the picture above with the one below. The only difference is that the one below has ALM and shadows enabled. Still, the actual difference in how the game looks is abyssal.
Enabling shadows makes all the difference. The graphics become much more dramatic than how they look without them. Warning: enabling ALM and Shadows may reduce your framerate by half.
Another setting that makes the graphics look cooler but takes a similar toll to the one in the two previous settings in the performance.
Your first day in the Metaverse
If you don’t use any of the horror sim addresses I list in the following section then you are going to pop up in a new user landing area. You can do that, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
It’s a big community and to go to a new users’ area on your first day is silly. I see it as too generic and unfocused. You’re going to have an overall better experience if the first place you visit on the Second Life grid is a horror-oriented location.
As a matter of fact, you can even disregard the simulators I recommend in this guide but instead, search for horror with the client’s search feature. In that case, you’re bound to come up with fresh, recent, trending, and possibly even live horror content.
Some good Horror SL Simulators
These are just a few that I happen to have them already curated and reviewed but there are a ton more, especially during October.
There’s a group called SL’s Top Haunted Places Tour and Haunt in Second Life that maintains a directory with a list of more than 100 spooky simulators as of this writing.
The procedure to get the directory is teleporting to what it seems to me is the headquarters of the group, the region hosting Carolyn Avro’s haunted house, and get the note cards from the dispenser in the landing spot when you arrive.
The complete list is six note cards. I copied all the text to a .rtf file to have the whole directory in a single file and not having to mess again with the notecards.
While you’re there, don’t forget to visit Carolyn’s haunted house, one of the finest I ever visited.
Additionally, you can check the group’s Flickr annex here.
Problem 0: I log in to the world, but the client never finishes up the process of teleporting to a region, which means I don’t get to see not the world nor my avatar
Solution 0: It’s either of these:
If it seems that the client tries to connect but can’t do it then the applications I put in the title of this subsection are the first things you must check out.
You must go to the section of your security software and find if it has an application-blocking section. In that section, you must find the client and allow it. In the case of a firewall, on top of giving permission to the client, you might need to open/allow ports. Read the router section below because it explains the ports issue.
If you have both a firewall and a router, you might need to open the ports in the firewall and also forward them in the router. Basically, this means you must allow passage of the protocols to and from the ports that the client uses to connect your client running on your computer to the grid-dispensing server.
Note that I wrote that you might need to open these ports. Actually, the client should work without opening any port. Open the ports in the router only if you’re having connectivity problems.
A port that is not in the table above that you might also need to open is port 21002, for voice signaling (VoIP chat).
Again, opening these ports in your router’s configuration isn’t a must. Still, these are things to look into if you’re having trouble connecting.
Additionally, it’s a common belief that opening these ports, even if you don’t have trouble connecting could help with both lag and crashes problems.
Problem 1: I log in and I land somewhere, but everything around looks deformed like in a surrealist painting
Solution 1: When that happens, just stay without moving around for 1-2 minutes. You must give time to the client to render (to rezz, as it’s known in Second Life’s jargon) the 3D objects around you. You can check your inventory, settings or anything else while you wait for the scenery around you to fully spawn and render.
Problem 2: I see the world around, but my avatar is a gaseous cloud
Solution 2: Same as the previous issue, you must wait for the avatar to rez, which can take a lot for avatars with a lot of trash attached. This shouldn’t be your problem, though, you’re going to be wearing some default clothes only.
Problem 3: Freezes or crashes to the desktop:
a) When I start the client, it crashes to the desktop
b) When I connect to a region the client crashes to the desktop
c) I get frequent random crashes
Solution 3: For any of the those three situations, or similar nonsense, it may be that your cache has become corrupted. It happens. Time to clear the cache.
Problem 4: I had a bad experience with the community. I can’t believe what I saw/heard/suffered.
Solution 4: As soon as something bizarre begins to happen near you, I’d recommend to just teleport out of the location to somewhere else. If a griefer (i.e., someone that gets his kicks by knocking others down) targets you directly then call it a day and go do something else. Sadly, Second Life is a culture broth for the toxic and in the long run, if you never experienced a disgusting event, you still are pretty much a virgin of the metaverse.
Case study: What Worked for Me
I duly researched three clients exclusively to include this section in the article with an analysis of how I perceived them to work.
I decided I need at least two Second Life clients to be competitive as a metaverse media sourcing writer. The reason is that it’s a hassle to have only one.
Say, if I were to use only one client, one that supports saving different configurations, even if that’s a convenience it is not as fast and stable as having two clients, one for each task.
Client 1: Singularity (Focus: Speed)
- To explore new regions and sims I may want to know to write about and source media from
- To move fast when I’m scouting new places or prospecting for sims to research
Client 2: Firestorm (Focus: Quality)
Can function as everyday client too. In my case using the default mid-high configuration, without changing anything I get 50-60 FPS.
I can even use it on high with ALM disabled and get a decent framerate. Still, my focus when using Firestorm is to set everything to the maximum to take screenshots. Sadly, with everything maxed by means of the Ultra setting, I get only 10 FPS.
Cheap Fixes for Struggling Computers
The easiest way to deal with a computer that struggles to run the metaverse with a balance of eye-candy and good performance is to narrow down the cause. Once you identify where the bottleneck is, you just upgrade the offending piece of hardware.
But upgrading is not always an option. You might not have the money or the inclination to buy either a new GPU or CPU and go through the hassle that it means swapping. Maybe your computer needs just a little boosting, and using software to do that may make all the difference.
Using Auto Kill Any Process
This program by Akma solutions stays resident and periodically scans the RAM for its targets. If it finds one of its targets loaded in the RAM automatically kills it. You must add the targets to its configuration, in the section called hit list. Follow the link to the developer’s site to download.
This corn of text above is my hit list, you’ll see some services and processes that you might think are essential, well they’re not for me and Windows runs smoother without them. I always can sync Dropbox or Onedrive or update browsers before loading this program, is not on autostart, and that gives me the freedom of adding essential things like updaters and cloud storage to it.
Using an old Version of Gamebooster
The older, apparently obsolete versions of it are much more useful than this. If you can find version 2.1 of Iobit’s Gamebooster, then that’s the one I use because I think it is the best one.
I couldn’t find a copy of the installer all over the internet. If you don’t care to use it portable and can manage it without it holding your hand, here is a copy of the one I have working. Can’t confirm it’s going to work: download Iobit’s Game Booster v2.1
Here is a copy of the installer of version 2.3, if you don’t trust the above download, I guarantee you this one is an original installer direct from Iobit: download Iobit’s Game Booster v2.3.
Note on newer versions of Game Booster: I’m sure 3.4 has a process list feature in which you can add the process to kill like the kill list of Akma’s booster, but Game Booster is an on-off switch, while Auto Kill is more of a resident scanner assassin that can kill the unwanted processes as they arise without user intervention.
Using Wise Game Booster
This booster by WiseCleaner is a middle ground between say, a program like Razer Cortex and the old Game Booster. It has the capabilities of both, many other optimization options of its own, and the interface is not as streamlined as Cortex. Please follow the link to the developer’s website to download.
If you still don’t know what overclocking is then forget all about it for now. For the sake of your hardware don’t overclock it until you have learned all you need to learn to overclock your specific model of graphic card and/or CPU.
Setting the Client to a Higher Priority
This is a very easy thing to do that has the potential of buying you a bunch of extra FPS.
When you have already loaded the client, you have to press CTRL+ALT+DEL, then open the Windows task manager and then right click on the client.
Then select go to process. Again, right click on the client process and select Set Priority to High or Realtime.
Be warned that this may cause unexpected results, one of which could be hanging the client and/or the operating system.
Note on the Booster Softwares
What I’m proposing here is using the three boosting software at the same time, not picking one and sticking with one. One does nothing, they aren’t perfect, and if you really want to drain all the bloat from the RAM so that your client will run faster, you need to run those three plus the automated assassin.
Sorry, but I haven’t had time to make a study of the latest version of each to see if I could reduce overhead by retiring at least one of the four boosters I use.
Conclusion (Phew! that was some guide!)
I had a lot of problems with the three alternate viewers I covered, and let’s not go into the official viewer that is out of the question for me. All in all, in my personal case I came up with an organization of which viewer to use for which purpose each:
Firestorm is for everyday use when I want to prospect media to source or do research
Leave in mid-high for common use, and make use of the multiple configurations for:
- Mid-high: overall fast rendering
- One Ultra configuration: for screenshots and media sourcing
- One High configuration: for leisure or research
Kokua is for tests, since for me was the one that acted the most. Finicky and overall unstable.
Singularity is for boilerplate sessions, fewer uses than Firestorm, but more than Kokua, with all the settings cranked down to the lowest (~60-99FPS).