Second Life: Exploring virtual worlds

Ok, let’s keep blogging. I love to do this! Mom says this is my only way to have “social life” and I think she’s right. Some days ago I was playing around in the Second Life world; a pretty fun experience full of surprises, I must say.

So, let’s start from the beginning: ¿What’s Second Life? well, it’s a virtual world created by the company Linden Lab. and launched at 2003. But, ¿What’s a virtual world? It’s simple, just imagine any kind of FPS video game like Metal Gear or Unreal Tournament, but without rules and of course, without all those guns and monsters surrounding, just a 3D world where you can walk and go wherever you want interacting with other users (55,403 online, as of this writing).

¿What’s the interesting thing about it? well, there aren’t limits or boundaries and it’s a complete world to explore, with a lot of real world places and others just imaginary. ¿Have you tried Google Earth? I would say Second Life brings you that special sensation you can go any place of the world in just seconds; but don’t lose my point, I mean, Google Earth is about real pictures and Second Life is about 3D virtual worlds.

Anyway, the interactivity offered by 3D virtual worlds is something incredible, after a while, you start to feel you are actually inside, even when the graphics aren’t so realistic. I don’t know how to explain it, but it happens. Mind starts believing things, for example, like you’re going to get hurt if you fall from a building. I’m not saying you’re going to feel everything as REAL, but, in a very small way, you will. ¿Have you ever dreamed that you are falling and then you wake up a little surprised? It’s something like that, but in a smaller scale.

I wonder about the Second Life user experience in the future, when graphics quality and Internet bandwidth increases and the client program support new interfaces like glasses or helmets? What if Second Life is the first, quite primitive version of the real Matrix? ¿What do you think? Time will show us (I guess). I only hope to not have to face control units like Agent Smith telling me: “Mr Sweetwater, we missss you!” (just kidding).

Ok, now let’s talk about the “procedure”: ¿What should you do to join Second Life? It’s simple, just follow these steps:

  • Go to http://secondlife.com and sign up (free of charge)
  • Pick a complete name (first and last) and choose your avatar (the pretty character representing you) and of course, your password
  • Download the client’s binary. They support all the platforms, Linux included!😀
    Note: Don’t forget to check the System Requirements, you need a good 3D video card.

  • Launch the program, log in, and bingo! You are in Second Life!😛

Before keeping on talking about the user experience, I want to talk about a very special note that I found browsing the Second Life’s Blog; it’s a post (2007) called “Embracing the Inevitable”, a cool letter announcing “the availability of the Second Life client source code for you to download, inspect, compile, modify, and use within the guidelines of the GNU GPL version 2. ¿Can you believe it? Definitely, a pretty good referent about how Open Source is changing the way to make business. isn’t it?

Second Life isn’t a small project and big companies like Microsoft, IBM and Intel (among many others) already have “properties” and “islands” inside this virtual world. Although you don’t have to pay to get a basic account, there are a lot of business transactions running around your avatar all the time: premium accounts, land isn’t free, and you can buy any kind of accessories for your character: clothes, shoes, food, objects, whatever and even more, you can pay to change parts of your avatar (something like virtual plastic surgery) or you can do it yourself if you want it, the business models are infinite and everything is virtual, except the money.

But in Second Life you don’t pay with real money directly, it works in the same way casinos work; you must acquire Second Life “coins” to buy things from the virtual world. The official money is called “Linden Dollars” and you can get them from money exchange related websites and from some ATM machines in some countries. Definitely, this seems to be a very profitable business.

I wonder about the way virtual worlds are getting connected to the real world, I mean, every day is harder to recognize what’s real and what’s not. Virtual worlds, virtual people… Gosh! tomorrow you could be reading the blog of someone who doesn’t exist, ¿Who knows? Is The Matrix coming true? Maybe. For now, you can start reading about virtual issues from the real world.

Ok, let’s get back to the virtual fun. About the Second Life client I must say that the interface is pretty clean and easy to use (I hope someone from Facebook read this! what a terrible interface! :S).
Once you have logged in, then your avatar is before you, ready to start walking. You can use the arrow keys from your keyboard or you can try it with your mouse, using the navigation buttons from the interface. If you want to talk to another avatar, you must get close to the target and then type into the chat field as you use in any IM client (e.g. Messenger). Yes, 3D virtual social life😛

But the amazing feature to me, honestly, was the “Fly” option. Your avatar starts to float and fly like Neo does it in The Matrix. I know the graphics quality is low, but the experience is pretty cool.
In the beginning, I crashed into many trees, but finally I learned to fly like a superhero! Just one advice: If you are flying and want to get down and walk, first check what’s below of you. Once, I stopped flying over a lake; bad idea (splassssh!).

Another interesting client interface feature, is the “Search” option. It’s like Google, but just for Second Life, so you can find cities, communities or people inside. Thanks to this engine, you can be teleported to any place you want, of course, virtually😛.
Once you understand the basic rules, you can spend hours inside this virtual world. In my case, I was walking and flying around for three hours. I visited Microsoft, IBM, the Free Software Foundation, Paris, Rome, Hollywood and other many places, included the White Shark territory (Oh! my God! :P).

Ok, I could write a book about this adventure but I’m going to stop right here. To finish, I must say Second Life was a pretty cool experience and I think you should try it too. Virtual worlds are here; no doubt about it. So, if someday you are walking through the Second Life streets and find someone called “Tito Sweetwater“, please, say “Hi!”🙂

Skating time! See you later!

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2 Responses to “Second Life: Exploring virtual worlds”

  1. dandellion Kimban Says:

    Welcome to second life, Cybertito!

    Yes, SL can be a wonderful experience. It keeps me in for two years🙂
    Just remember it’s about the people and their creativity and you’re on the right track.

    I don’t know if you think I am real but I do have a blog. And many other SL residents as well. I know some people that wouldn’t call us real, but virtual lives of avatars extend far out of SL grid itself.

    One thing that I believe (and hope) will interest you. As you said, SL viewer is now opensourced. So the group of residents is forking it in attempt to make a better one, with emphasis on better usability and user experience. Pay a visit to Imprudence viewer site, at least to say hi. It would be priceless to know what new users think about the UI.

    And if you meet dandellion Kimban or see glowing panel of Kimban Bar in Extropia… don’t be a stranger🙂

  2. cibertito Says:

    Hello dandellion Kimban! It was great to find you around SL…
    I hope to come back soon, your place is fabulous and I want to learn more about this new fun world. Thanks for your advices!😛

    Keep in touch🙂

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