Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Neat Ways to Get About

Wrtten 21 November, 2006

Neat Ways to Get About

Part 1: Flying

Most of us have dreamed of flying. We wheel and soar on laughter-silvered wings, feeling the wind in our hair as we explore lands known and unknown. And then we wake up to find ourselves hopelessly gravity-bound.

Flying is one of the best things about Second Life. It’s glorious, exactly the same as my dreams, but with better camera control. I soon learned I could swivel the point-of-view and look at myself from the front, behind, to either side, and from below and above as I zoomed along like Supergirl. I could soon zip around effortlessly, but it took me a bit longer to learn how to land gracefully. Until someone told me the E key (or page up) and the C key (or page down) would, respectively, increase and decrease my altitude, I would try to land by toggling Fly off and togging it back on again just before I hit the ground with an ungraceful splat. Usually, I didn’t get the timing right, but nothing was hurt but my dignity.

Flying is fast and easy and handy. You can zip around to look at an object from another perspective or rise to take a perch on the flying buttress of a Gothic cathedral or hover in mid-air, chatting with a friend, or just go exploring. With enhancements like a jetpack, one can fly really fast and go to any altitude. But it’s the shopping experience that benefits the most from flying.

My favorite store in Second Life is PixelDolls, home of the amazing $50L sale-- everything in the store marked down to that price. I bought most of my wardrobe there. PixelDolls has three stories and no stairs or elevator, just an open atrium. That’s a blessing, for most stairs and ramps in SL are difficult to negotiate, and the elevators tend to shake you to pieces. To shop, you simply float gracefully from floor to floor.

Many SL stores arrange their merchandise vertically, and PixelDolls is no exception. To get a good look at the wares, one must elevate oneself to the same level. I love hovering in front of a wall of posters of merchandise, zoomed in to Mouse mode, using the E and C and A and D keys to move from one outfit to another. The SL shopping experience gets my endorphins running, just as shopping does in real life--although I must admit-- I don’t bang into walls nearly as often in real life.

I’ve attached a photo of myself (that’s me with my back to the camera) and my friend Pam Havercamp, who introduced me to PixelDolls’ sale soon after I arrived in SL.

PixelDolls’ sale officially ended on 15 November, but last I looked, the merchandise was still there and the prices were still $50L.

Part 2: Teleporting

There are all kinds of vehicles in Second Life, but they exist primarily for enthusiasts and thrill seekers, for teleporting renders other forms of transportation obsolete. If you drive a car or motorcycle in SL, it’s not because you have to get to work; it’s because you like to drive.

Today, in my first life, I had to drive to Fry’s Electronics to return a DIMM which the salesman had assured me would work with my mother board. It didn’t. I had to drive thirty minutes each way—and in Atlanta traffic. It’s times like that make one wish she could teleport.

And you can teleport in Second Life. It’s fast and easy, although occasionally a TP won’t work because of network issues. Quite simply, you dematerialize from one location and rematerialize in another. It’s fast and painless (but remember to turn Fly on before teleporting in case you find yourself 50 meters in the air! You can retrieve a teleport location from your inventory (savvy Second Lifers remember to Landmark new locations), accept a teleport assist from a friend (or teleport a friend to you), or search for people and places on the interactive map and teleport to them.

The latter practice can be disconcerting. I had been in SL for only a week when I decided to pop in on a friend. I did, and found him in the company of a Lolly. Lollies are avatars that by design resemble children. I’m not certain what was going on, but it wasn’t pretty. I bugged out immediately.

It can be disconcerting to have someone pop in on you, too. The chalet in which I’m living (courtesy of Bill and Pam Havercamp; more on them later) is all glass. There’s nowhere to change without being observed. I’ve begun to select and wear my outfits just before I log off for the night because people tend to pop in when I first come on and they see I’m online.

Still, teleporting is a wonderful thing. In an uncomfortable situation? TP out. Under attack? TP to safe ground. No travel time (or hardly any). Environmentally friendly. And best of all, free.

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