Money for nothing

October 23rd, 2008


I’ve had a Second Life account for bloody ages now. It must be two years at least. In total I’ve probably spent around 3 hours wallowing in the frustration that it has a habit of generating.

Second Life has always had a bit of a problem in that it wants to be Social Networking but it also wants to be a game. In the end it has managed to achieve neither.

The essential problems with it are that it looks rubbish and navigation is a nightmare. I don’t know if it is a result of how long it has been about or if it is an attempt to give anyone access to it. Overall I reckon the graphics are on a par with Duke Nukem which I suppose isn’t in itself a bad thing. Duke Nukem was ground breaking when it came out. Unfortunately it came out in 1996. Second Life was launched in 2003 so it was hopelessly dated when it was released. Charitably Second Life is trying to achieve something different to Duke Nukem. It is trying to create an immersive world where people can interact much like a Massive Mutiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG). Unfortunately Everquest started doing this four years before the launch of Second Life and it looked and worked much much better.

At the end of the day we can all ignore shockingly poor graphics if the experience itself is immersive. Second Life is by no means immersive. I have never come across anything that makes me more angry than trying to bumble around Second Life. Everything is an obstacle. You bounce off the tiniest of objects. You can’t get over the smallest of bumps. When creating an environment surely control is the most basic thing to get right? I have played some very poor games in my time but Second Life has by far the worst control system.

It may not be a fair comparison but I’m going to make it anyway. Why have Linden Lab not looked at Warcraft? When Warcraft first arrived, three years ago, one of the claims they made was that to play the game you would not need to read a manual. This turned out to be very true. Walking about in Azeroth is just simple. Watch any of the numerous Youtube videos to see just how flexible the control system is. It takes minutes of playing to just forget how you are controlling your avatar.

If you compare the minimum spec for Warcraft and that of Second Life  you can see that they are roughly equivalent. In fact you’d probably get away with lower spec graphics card with WOW. Warcraft also obviously deals with substantially greater traffic than Second Life but does it seamlessly.

I accept that this isn’t a fair comparison as Blizzard invested over $100 million in getting WOW right but it should be noted that the effort has paid off by creating an income stream that dwarfs many of the worlds real life economies.

Obviously I’m not banging on about Second Life because I suddenly think that it needs a good kicking after being about for four years. No, I’ve got a reason.

Today saw the launch of Birmingham’s very own Second Life Island

Why? I have no idea.

Digital Birmingham do ask the question “Is Second Life the ultimate digital experience?”. I could have answered that for them fairly easily.

No it isn’t.

It certainly isn’t Half Life 2, It’s not even close to Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriots. Admittedly the concept of Birmingham whoring itself in Metal Gear Solid would have been great.

This is one of those plans that clearly seemed good at the time but the practical application of it holds little value to the people of Birmingham who’ve ended up paying for it.

I’ve just logged onto virtual Birmingham. At the moment there are 68,000 people in the entire world logged into Second Life. Of those 68,000 there are 5 visiting the Birmingham island. I’m one of those 5. 

Having had a bit of a walk round the island I’ve noticed that essentially it is a bit of grass with a canal cut through it. Do you get it? A canal? we have lots of canals in Birmingham. No landmarks have been recreated and actually nothing that you would really think sums up Birmingham.

Overall 2/10. Two for…… having a go?

[edit]Since I wrote this last night I’ve come across a few things written by other people that I think I’d like to address.

Jon Bounds wrote this  before I started writing, if I’d bothered to read it I’d probably have realised he made most of my points only slightly better, and with more fact.

Dave Harte has posted a response to Jon’s post which makes some points but I don’t really agree with them. I do accept the point that a 3D representation of Birmingham itself wouldn’t be that useful but a tiny Rotunda would be nice. Something that instantly says BIRMINGHAM when you arrive.

There is a practical value to exploring the representation of Birmingham in virtual worlds. I think that Second Life is a poor vehicle to use to this end. It is flawed software with a frighteningly small user base.

I would have liked to see Digital Birmingham explore the opportunity of Playstation Home.

Alright I’m talking about a virtual world that doesn’t exist yet but that means it is an untapped opportunity. Sony are frantic to promote the PS3 as more than a games console. To do that they need to work with partners to add that extra element. You can probably see where I’m going with this. If Birmingham had approached Sony at an early stage they could well have got all of this done for free and demonstrated an innovative approach.

This raises the issue of access to a Virtual Birmingham based in Home. It is true that market penetration of the PS3 is small. It is also true that with worldwide sales of around 14 million, all of which will have Home installed for free in the next few months, you will suddenly see the largest Virtual World developing. There have been 1.4 million PS3s sold in UK to date. On an even spread across the country that would give an estimated sale of 2000 units in Birmingham. That is surely far greater than the number of active Second Life users in Birmingham. There were 5 last night.

Well, that’s what I think.[/edit]



Posted in Birmingham, Games | Comments (5)

5 Responses to “Money for nothing”

  1. Money for nothing | SL Blogs Says:

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  2. D’log :: blogging since 2000 » Second opinions on Second Life Says:

    […] comments by BINS, Daz Wright also visits the newly launched Birmingham Island in Second Life. He points out there’s a canal through the island, which seems to be the same […]

  3. Second opinions on Second Life | Adult Blog Says:

    […] comments by BINS, Daz Wright also visits the newly launched Birmingham Island in Second Life. He points out there’s a canal through the island, which seems to be the same […]

  4. dom Says:

    where are your wedding photos

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