Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Day One in Second Life

When I first tell people about the Tech project in SL, reaction is mixed. From those who say "cool!" the major questions are about how they can get involved. But an equally vocal group responds negatively - "That's not a real internship" "So you just play a computer game?" and "SL seems like a waste of time."

I'm not going to lie, time is a factor, and the learning curve can be steep.

Setting up the account takes about an hour. For people like myself, who spend many hours online, this time is not a big deal. But many of my colleagues would find this frustrating at best. For better or worse, I had a Sims addiction several years ago, which actually helped my understanding of avatar creation, as well as my comfort in the virtual 3-D animated environment. For users not used to any sort of gaming, I would recommend spending time playing "in world" to acclimate to the environment.

Finding a place to explore is not always easy, and I hope to include some good starting points in my next post. The Tech Museum is a great place to start, as it not only offers fun things to look at, but the "physical" environment is varied enough to allow you to try out a few things.

Walking: I have yet to learn of any way of walking other than using the arrow keys. Anyone who meets me "in world" would likely think that my avatar had been hitting a few SL pubs. I walk into walls, get lost in corners, and, famously, run up the down-escalator. I'm a mess. Part of me wants to blame it on my lack of video game experience, but I think some of it comes from my lack of spatial-thinking ability. That said, with practice, I am improving. Soon (I hope) I'll feel comfortable enough to weave my way around the museum like a pro. Then I can start leading tours.

Sitting: The Tech offers a few options for sitting.
* Sitting at an interactive: There is currently a lovely interactive exhibit on perspective drawing. As you approach the interactive, floating text above the seats tell you to "sit here." Sitting can be accomplished by right clicking the seat and selecting "sit" from the menu that pops up. Suddenly your perspective changes and you can interact in a fairly real way. A button at the bottom of the screen allows you to stand when you are done. (To my amusement, standing up results in your avatar leaping into the air from a seated position. Avatars, it would seem, are far more energetic than their RL counterparts.)
* Relaxing: No, your avatar does not need to relax. However, last night I found myself needing to step away for a short dinner break. Rather than completely leave SL, I headed up to the terrace, sat my avatar down, and set my status to "away." It is possible to merely stand there while away, but given that other avatars see you - it seems creepy to just be looming there, unresponsive.

Teleporting: There are some areas that SL far exceeds RL. Many people like flying (I'll get to that) but I love teleporting. The Tech is set up with large wall maps, like you would see in any museum, but these maps give you the option of teleporting to any area with the click of a mouse. Very handy when traveling with a group. Also handy when, like myself, you are lousy at walking. Now if only someone can develop this in RL, I could avoid my commute.

Flying: The "thing" that people talk about with SL is flying. Yes, your avatar can fly. Its not just a fun trick. Its actually quite helpful for navigating a new space, or getting the lay of the land. You can only fly outdoors, so in areas like the Tech, its not as useful. But for places like the International Spaceflight Museum (slurl) it is quite handy. Also useful for just exploring. Not as tricky as walking, oddly enough.

I spent the majority of the night really exploring the building and also spent time in the Sandbox Dome building and playing with scripting. Linden Scripting Language (the official scripting of SL) is actually easier than most scripting languages. However, it pays to have at least minimal exposure to another scripting language. My experience is with HTML, but it's limited. However, even a slight familiarity with another language can help you understand the "grammar" of LSL.

That's all for now. More updates soon!

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