Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
1/25/2007
06:24 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Second Life Slowdown

Today, I took off my pants in public and discovered I have no genitals. I also gave myself a new appearance in Second Life. Other than that, the day's gameplay so far has been pretty disappointing.

Today, I took off my pants in public and discovered I have no genitals. I also gave myself a new appearance in Second Life. Other than that, the day's gameplay so far has been pretty disappointing.

SL was just ridiculously slow, very nearly at a halt. It may well be that my three-year-old PC is too underpowered to really use Second Life. I'm pretty sure I'm at least a couple of generations behind SL's recommended minimum hardware. On the other hand, it wasn't this slow Monday or Tuesday, so maybe the SL servers just need more caffeine.

I had planned to spend most of the day touring around Second Life, taking screenshots of interesting places, which I would later assemble into an image gallery when my story package runs.

When playing tourist in a strange place, you need a travel guide, and I have one: Baedeker: A Guide for the Second Life Tourist, a thin but intriguing guide of the best places to go and things to do in SL, named after a real-world series of tourist guides founded in 1827.

But, first, I needed to do something about my appearance, which still closely resembled one of the generic avatars that SL hands out when you first visit. I had in mind changing the appearance to something fantastic: A humanoid figure with green, scaled skin; wild, scarlet hair; and a plum-colored coat like those worn by men in the 18th Century.

I wanted a private place to change my appearance, since I didn't see anybody doing that in public outside the Orientation areas (any more than you see people changing their clothes outdoors in public in real life).

I don't have a home in Second Life, you have to have paid account for that.

However, the place I've been using as a home base, the Shelter in Exile, recommended by Tateru Nino (a second life resident I interviews Tuesday), was vacant, so I just changed there.

Tateru Nino is based in real life in Melbourne, and I suspect it was the middle of the night in Melbourne and everybody was either asleep and logged off SL, or doing something more interesting in SL.

Indeed, it was nighttime in that portion of Second Life; I could see a night sky and full moon outside.

The SL software client includes tool known as an Inventory, which includes a whole lot of information and in-game software artifacts attached to your persona, including body parts you can change, skin, clothing and props. Dirha Summers gifted me with a whole passel of clothes and body types and things two days ago (thanks, Dirha!), and I spent about 90 minutes fiddling around with those.

I found green skin in the inventory, but it was more of a bright green than the kind I was looking for. Nor could I find the kind of coat I wanted. So I abandoned that plan.

When I was done futzing with my appearance, I ended up a human person wearing jeans, a two-strap T-shirt under a black leather jacket, and with more Caucasian skin than I'd had before. The hair is brownish-blonde and full, with a high forehead. I look, as a matter of fact, closely approximate to how I appeared when I was almost 20 years younger and 60 pounds lighter.

My avatar's appearance reminds me of one complaint about SL: "Why does everyone look like in SL as if they were from the front page of People magazine?". While I have seen a few creative and fabulous avatars, especially during my brief visit to Midian, most of the avatars I've seen have been generic figures, looking like they came from a realistic comic book set on a college campus. There's a reason for that: It's easier for the newbie (like me) to create a generic figure than it is to create a more original and attractive one.

Once I decide my appearance is good enough to be seen in public, I resolve to head out to explore. I read over the list in Baedeker's, and decide my first visit should be to Second Life's version of Nantucket..

I teleported to the online Nantucket Yacht Club and waited for the exterior to resolve around me.

And waited.

And waited.

After a while, I shut down all the other applications running on my PC, and kept on waiting. After a while longer, I got out my Treo and started reading Fark to pass the time.

Eventually, I logged off to make and eat lunch, and check e-mail. I logged back on to virtual Nantucket.

And waited.

And waited.

Second Life is spread out over multiple servers, and the larger areas have their own servers. The more popular ones can get slow and unresponsive, just like a Web site that's been hit by too much traffic. Maybe that's what was going on in Nantucket (although I didn't see any avatars around me in the yacht club).

So I tried to teleport out. There was a long wait, during which time my screen went blank except for a thermometer bar reading, "Requesting Teleport." And then the thermometer bar disappeared, and I was back in the still-slightly-unfinished Nantucket yacht club.

I tried teleporting back to the Shelter in Exile (which, you'll recall, had been just about deserted an hour or two earlier), and couldn't do that either.

So, finally, I just dropped out of SL and resolved to do other things.

A very disappointing session.

I'm going to try again this afternoon, but first I'm going to use SmartClose to shut down every non-essential Windows application and process.

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