SL 11/11 Victoriana versus Butt-Kickers

[Contextual note: For the introduction to this blog’s switch to musings about Second Life for a while, see Virtual Adjustments from 3/16.]

Wandering through SL, working with the team a little, and searching XStreet for cool clothes and buildings for the quest, some things occur to me. I’ve been discussing and debating the idea of using pure period Victorian style for the setting and costumes, versus using something more punky in the steampunk, less akin to League of Extrordinary Gentlemen than Mad Max. The latter allows for my beloved clunky boots, strange gun-like weapons, burning barrels, and quasi-futuristic styling. The former would have to be true to period style and construction, albeit with the fantastical elements we’re planning like clockwork people and machines that drive one mad. The advantage of the latter is that costumes and objects we use are more flexible – more anachronistic items can be part of overall design. The advantage of the former is that its internal consistency makes selecting things a bit easier, and would be more familiar to participants.

Another advantage of the more futuristic approach is that it’s simply more fun. These crazy combinations of punk and Victorian result in some amazing looks and objects, allowing us to keep things kind of fresh. The period setting has been rather “done” in mainstream movies and the like. The anachronistic approach is just now coming into style, on the other hand. In addition, the punky approach lets us depart from those annoyingly oppressive gender roles intrinsic to the Victorian era – we’ve already changed the gender of the main hero detective. Clearly a woman in 19th century England would never be permitted to be a detective. So maybe it’s already a done deal in my head.

As we continue to get used to this SL thing, there are definitely a few elements of the world that make me cranky. First of all, lag is just horrific. Items, building, decor, clothes all take a really long time to load, so whenever I login I start off bald, partially unclothed, and just weird looking. When flying, I tend to smack into buildings because they appear sometime after I fly near them.

Second, chat, other than local chat, is infuriating. The IM / group chat window is not the same as the local text that scrolls across the screen – instead it’s a separate window that you have to click in and out of as you chat and move around. As compared to WoW, this makes chat even more of a departure from gameplay or actions, and it’s really awkward. By default, the chat window covers local chat, so if I’m in an IM conversation, I can’t see when people speak to me in local chat. Most definitely irritating.

So we’ll be trying to design a space that is immersive and rich, but with a minimum of animated elements. The more moving parts, it seems, the more extreme the lag. I’m hoping for some good mechanical men and women, but overall, we’re definitely going to have to keep things conservative. We’ll limit the NPCs overall, keep the moving gears to a minimum, and leave out the swaying trees. Oh this is going to be so much fun…

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