This weekend I got a chance to visit with Maria, one of my best friends
who lives in Amsterdam. We were chatting about what we’ve been up to
for the past year or so since we’ve seen each other, and she asks about
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen Second Life,” Maria admits.
So I fire up the MacBook Pro and I take her on a tour.
The plan was to show her my office in SL, a live event, and some cool builds. But like a typical day in Second Life, things don’t go as planned.
I log in using the OnRez viewer, which I found is more reliable and intuitive to use than the standard SL viewer. Immediately I get bombarded with group messages, one announcing that there is an Obama rally that started an hour ago.
“Oh, can we check out that Obama thing?” Maria asks.
I teleport over to the rally point, only to find that everything is completely grayed out and laggy as hell. I explain that when there are lots of people in the same sim, everything starts to move really slowly. There’s a really idiotic conversation going on in the chat stream. She seems confused by what she is seeing.
“Why are your wings all messed up? And why is that guy asleep?”
After a few minutes of waiting for the sim to load, my viewer crashes. I restart and log back in. Not the greatest virtual tour, so far.
Once back in-world, I take her to a live concert being performed by a Dutch artist Peet Peterman. You can hear his singing coming out of my laptop speakers, as a dozen avatars perform a hokey line-dance. Peet himself though takes forever to load. Finally a furry avatar playing a guitar rezzes into view.
“So how does this work?” Maria asks.
“Basically, Peet is at his computer wherever he is in Holland,” I explain. “He’s singing and playing guitar into a mic that is connected to his computer. That audio is then streamed over the internet to the Second Life server, where it is broadcast live for anyone to listen to in this area.”
“But how do we know this is live and not just a CD?”
“Well, you’ll hear him do shout outs and thank specific people for their tips. People will make requests and interact with him. Trust me, he wants you to know that he is performing live.”
“Interesting. Ok, enough folk music. What about Amsterdam? Can we see virtual Amsterdam?”
I zip over to that sim, which is one of my favorites. As it loads, my viewer crashes again. I switch over to the Windlight viewer.
“Ok, the station centraal looks pretty accurate. But the map is all wrong. There’s no tram line that runs straight like that. And the bridges are curved, not straight over the canals.”
I pull the camera back so Maria can get a view of the entire sim. Then I switch the environment to sunset, which casts the buildings in orange hues. The light on the water sparkles and dances.
“Wow, that’s really pretty,” she says, impressed.
I see that my friend In Kenzo is online, so I send her an IM. She teleports me over to her sim Amo, where she has some tripping floating art hanging in the sky. It’s a gigantic orb full of cascading colors, with thin lines of light orbitting around it.
“This is what Second Life is good for, showing art that wouldn’t be possible to create in the real world,” I note.
In Kenzo and I immediately start chatting about work stuff, and she TPs over Rhiannon Chatnoir and Frans Charming, who we just had dinner with in the real Amsterdam the night before.
“Wow, that looks just like him,” Maria says when she sees Frans’ avatar. “Maybe a bit less geeky.”
We start using voicechat and I have Maria say hi to the other avatars. In Kenzo seems to be having trouble with her computer or her headset, so she logs out two or three times to try and fix it. Voicechat doesn’t seem to be cooperating, so we switch back to text chat.
“So someday, this is all just going to work, right?” Maria wonders. “Computers will be fast enough and everyone will have super-fast internet connections?”
“I hope so,” I reply.
I excuse myself from the conversation and teleport over to Samurai island, one of my favorite sims. I explain that there are entire communities of hundreds and hundreds of people role-playing as samurais and geishas and ninjas, most of whom aren’t Japanese. I zoom out to show the detailed medieval Japanese architecture and then cam in on a couple of ornately dressed avatars, one in battle armor and the other in a crimson ball gown.
“That’s a beautiful dress. Did she make that?” Maria asks.
“Probably not. She probably bought it from one of the thousands of clothing designers in SL. My friend Shai Delacroix makes some of the most amazing dresses. I think she is based in the Philippines.”
After all the technical difficulties and crashes, I expect Maria to be less than impressed.
Instead she says, “That was really neat! Thanks for showing it to me.”