Be warned. This is an extremely long, image heavy post!
While I understand this may not appeal to the pure SCA folks that read my site, I've got my virtual readers to think about as well. Someday this site may have to break up into two or three separate blogs to accommodate those opposing interests. But until then, this will still be a confusing mash of the past and future.
Back in the 1950's, authors like Issac Asimov literally created the science fiction genre. Many of the things created in their imaginations (like robots and space travel) became real, years later. In the 1980's it was authors like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling creating worlds where 'cyberspace' and virtual reality co-existed with the real world.
The future, I believe, is here.
I've found some free time lately (or would that be escapism?) to visit the vast and amazing world of Second Life with my avatar, Anahita Veil. I started Second Life, waaaay back in 2004, when it was a mere babe in comparison to the overwhelming world it is today.
You can't help but hear all the media hype about "SL" now, what with so may big companies jumping on the virtual bandwagon as fast as Linden Lab can keep pumping out new SIMs (a 65,536 square meter region) for them to plant virtual headquarters and massive corporate logos on. One SIM (which is not yet open to the public) can be seen from the map feature in the SL user interface and is one big GIANT Red Bull logo.
Even CBS is getting in on the latest machinima craze, by making a promotional clip for "Two and a Half Men" from within Second Life.
In its infancy, SL had no outside advertising. Any resident of SL could create whatever logos and advertising they needed to promote their own content. Of course there were a few who ripped off 'real world' logos, but the most successful residents generated completely original virtual content for other residents to buy.
Every time I return, I stare in open-mouthed amazement at the creations of some of these residents. Unlike online games like World of Warcraft, where you can 'slightly' tinker with your appearance or make items (based on the game) to sell, Second Life is completely created by the users, all based on the underlying script language, LSL. Anything and everything is completely customizable. What follows is a photo show of images taken in just the last few weeks.
I was minding my own business, just flying around looking for interesting builds, when I noticed the Bat Signal. Further investigation proved that there was no cause for alarm.
I wandered a bit more, to find a movie theater that shows real-life streaming movies, all in a very convincing theater environment. Complete with concession stand!
I couldn't get any of the movies to play, so I investigated the projection booth, thinking maybe the camera needed to be activated in some way. And lo, I find Tom Servo. Ah, there's the culprit!
I can watch movies in 'real life' any time I want, right? I thought a better use of my time would be to keep looking for more cool stuff. So I visited a cluster of SIMs dedicated to reproducing New England. Having lived there in real life for 11 years, all I can say is WOW! Nice job! Now all you need is some virtual seagulls dive bombing you for your fish and chips and it's perfect.
After growing tired of New England, I figured I'd search around for another historical genre that interests me, that of the Old West. I guess watching HBO's Deadwood has rubbed off. Now, this is where SL gets really deep. There are SIM's that require you to dress in 1900's turn of the century garb and you have to wear a special badge if you only wish to observe and not role-play. That is because they have gun fights in the streets of town and Indian tribes that will kill you if you mess with them. Just like other online MMPORGs, there are health stats, weapons and bad guys. I figured I'd find the local Doc just in case a stray bullet came my way.
Maybe it was the occasional gunfire, but the finest SL RPG in the virtual west, Sigil, started to weird me out. Thought I'd see Al Swearengen come around the corner any minute. So I packed up my virtual bonnet and left for 'modern' virtual life once again. Searching for pirates ( another favorite pastime ) found me a beautiful virtual model of a pirate ship. There are so many good ships in SL now that I could do a whole post just about them.
The Venture: she flies the banner of Caledon, the name of the SIM on which she's anchored. Inside her hold, I came across a wonderful virtual invention: a real-time global projection of the whole Second Life map. It rotates in time with the game clock and updates as new SIMs come online. Fully user-generated, the Venture is outfitted for virtual travel, but sadly, the oceans do not yet interconnect, so sailing the virtual seven seas is not yet a virtual reality. Yet I am still awed by this feat of virtual cartography...
Heading over to Dublin SIM I found they've built virtual Trinity College. There's even a room where, just like in real life, you can see the Book of Kells open inside a large glass case. I've always wanted to see this in real life, but at least virtual is better than nothing.
Second Life is now being used by architectural firms, marketing agencies, presidential candidates and environmental and activist groups. At Friends of the Urban Forest, you can buy a virtual tree that will grow, and the real world foundation will plant a real life tree in San Francisco.
Remember, all of this was created by the residents, who are real people like you and me. How long will it be before the virtual world starts having a measurable environmental impact on the real world?
At least economically, it already has a foothold. Goldfarming has been around for years, and people have sold virtual magic items and countless other virtual goods on eBay. Virtual game economics are about to take a dive though, as eBay has recently announced that it will ban virtual goods from auction. Thankfully, they are exempting Second Life, which they do not consider 'a game'.
part 2 to follow soon
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Be warned. This is an extremely long, image heavy post!