September 10th, 2005

hoard potato, tv, movies

Barnstormer VR.

A few days ago, I finally succumbed to temptation and loaded Second Life onto my machine. My procrastination was productive: your first Basic Account is now free, without the $9.95-and-then-free-after registration cost they've had for ages.*

Second Life is amusing. A friend of mine said that he'd heard that "you can build a bunch of neat stuff there -- but what else there was to do is somewhat debatable."

That's a fair assessment... that's not entirely fair. Like FurryMUCK, SL a social arena, but it's also a place to Create  Stuff And Show It Off. Much of the socializing is filled with idling as people design and build stuff. That in itself is fascinating, though; if EverQuest and the like are "Massively Multi-Person Online Role Playing Games", SL is a Massively Multi-Person Online Art Installation.

I confess that I'm mostly there to hang out and be impressed by what my artist friends create. I've seen some extremely impressive avatar work, and the scenery is spectacular.

I think of it as Barnstormer VR.

The Barnstorming Era in aviation was in the '20s. There were a lot of cheap, surplus biplanes around, and pilots would become "barnstormers" -- they'd get a plane, keep it together with baling wire, paste, and a mechanical knack, fly around the country and land in farm fields, and offer people rides. It was the first blush of Aviation For The Masses.

Second Life is Barnstormer VR. It's well past the experimental phase, far from a mature technology, but it's one of the first really publically accessible version of the tech. MMORPGs like EverQuest don't let the users create and customize Entirely New Objects, and, while the ability to make custom "skins" and "WADs" for games like Doom have been around for a decade, it was always subsidiary to "game play". In SL, a big part of "the point" is the collaborative creative experience. Like SimCity, it's a "toy", not a "game".

Ironically, because of the fact that there are no "goals" or "adventures" built into the premise, SL has more potential to be what I consider a "Real RPG" than games like EQ, World of Warcraft, or City of Heroes.


*SL is currently making my machine spontaneously reboot, but I think that's just overheating -- time to hit Fry's for some compressed air, or maybe just bring it into Central and say "hey, give this a cleaning. And change the oil and wiper fluid." I'd shrug it off, but my system apparently rebooted last night, when SL, of course, wasn't running at all.
So far, my biggest problem in SL (aside from spontaneous reboots) is simply moving around. I'm just not used to this kind of keypad navigation in a 3D environment; I have a hard time moving from point A to point B, and especially in changing the "camera angle" around me. I have virtually no idea what I look like from the front....
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