I Led Two Lives!

My Adventures in the SecondLife® virtual world

Copyright © Timothy Horrigan 2006-2008

Extra! [July 14, 2015] This page is way out of date, but Second Life is still there, is still worth visiting, and in fact it is running better than it ever has.  But it has turned into something of a backwater.

For More Info see:

One hot day in July 2006, I happened to read a story in the newspaper about an online computer game called Second Life. And, even though I previously always tried to avoid getting caught up in gaming, this time I was curious enough to check it out. And I got caught up.

The game falls into the general category of multi-user role playing games. It is not dissimilar to games like World of Warcraft or The Sims Online although it is not based on a kid's video game.

There is no real violence in the game: there are weapons and explosives but they don't do much. (One day, I did get shot and killed two or three times, but that just meant that I was teleported to a nearby location. I just went right back where I was and get shot and killed by the same guy again.)

Mr. Lee's
Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong: Jiminy (164, 116, 106)

Second Life was a rare case of software getting ahead of the hardware. It has its own client: it doesn't run inside a web browser. (The client may be a precursor of a new generation of 3d browsers: it's about freakin' time for a new generation, I think! The old Netscape model of the mid-1990s has gotten kinda stale, but I digress... ) The client has a very interesting 3d graphics system: it runs slowly but it's still fun to use (and luckily you can move around freely even while waiting for the objects in your immediate environment to download and become visible— or, to use the verb favored by Second Lifers, "to rezz.") The client was also designed from the ground up for 21st century computers, with lots of memory, powerful audio-visual cards, persistent highspeed internet access, etc. The machine on which I started out my journey was a standard-issue 2005-vintage Apple Mac Mini. It represented the minimal platform for SecondLife (though it's pretty damn powerful by most standards): in fact Steve Linden (the Linden in charge of Mac compability issues) once told me (or technically told one of my alts) "It's a miracle SL runs at all on your machine."

Until January 2006, the client was proprietary, but it has now been released under a GNU Copyleft license as an open source product.  The most popular client is now the "Firestorm Viewer" rather than the official one.

The Second Life grid has applications beyond mere gaming. It could be (and is) used for prototyping products, for training first responders, and as a venue for teleconferences— and for some reason the business world seems especially fascinated with the idea of using it for virtual job fairs. I do wonder about some of the practical issues of using the current Grid for quote-unquote "serious" business applications. Many businesses were for many years reluctant even to allow employees access to the world wide web because of all the "junk" out there. Even the relatively serious neighborhoods on the Second Life Grid are rather silly. You can set up your own private island, but your people will wander off it (and there will sometimes be holes in the security which would allow outsiders to wander on.)

Businesses can set up their own separate grids with only serious content allowed, but that's difficult— and employees would still be able to use the clients on their laptops to connect to the Big Grid. And just about anything can happen on the Big Grid.

Another practical application for Second Life is to use it as a virtual movie soundstage. The resolution is pretty good if you have a fast connection and powerful workstations. The imagery at its best is plenty good enough for streaming video or even for analog television. The avatars' body language is quite expressive, although our faces aren't. (We all have beautiful faces, but our facial expressions usually only run a gamut from bemused to befuddled.) Unlike real actors, you can program SL avatars to hit their marks exactly right every time, which makes it easy to edit different takes together. There are ways to vary the facial expressions, even though it is difficult to do so spontaneously. And the default facial expressions are appropriate if you are doing machinama.

Extra Check out this funny video of the original beta version of Second Life:

The Forgotten Liars, a novel by Timothy Horrigan

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