Wednesday, March 28, 2007

THIS IS SPARTA... in Second Life

Second Life has been much in the news this past year or so. Many pundits of the online gaming world, as well as financial and social observers, have felt spurred to chip in with comments pro and con. I’ve got a theory as to why Second Life, which after years of being almost free to play and still hasn’t garnered as many users as World of Warcraft racked up in the first six months, is a press darling. But that’s for another post, maybe…

Yes, I play in Second Life sometimes. Even there, I’m heavily in what you’d call the “casual gamer” group; even in my wild MUDding days, I was never a 30+ hours per week player. I doubt I’ve spent much time in the heady stratosphere of 20+ hours per week. I’m afraid I’m too easily distracted, especially by table-top-style gaming. This is why I don’t talk about online games that much. They fascinate me as intellectual exercise, they entertain me when I can’t get a better game going, but I’m not the rabid fan some folks are.

Ok, nice long-winded introduction there, Trollsmyth. What the heck does Second Life have to do with Bronze Age warriors? Well, there’s a territory in Second Life, referred to by the locals as a “sim”, devoted to the movie “300”. It’s a very cool little set-up as well. The sim is divided into five small islands. The central island is a large amphitheater which apparently was used for a roundtable discussion with Frank Miller and other notables from the film. One of the other islands, reached by a cute but rather silly little tram system, or by much more expedient flight, is a mock-up movie theater, where I assume clips were shown to the roundtable’s audience. I missed all that cool stuff, and the documentation I got implies it was by invitation only. I’m certainly no Second Life bigwig to get invited to an event like that.

Those are the least interesting parts of the territory, though. There’s a reading room that includes a big, in-game flip book with stills from the movie and production sketches. Kinda neat, especially since your Second Life self can take a copy to enjoy in the leisure of your virtual abode. Cooler than that, though, is the next island, which holds billboard sized side-by-side comparisons of the comic book and the movie. So you’ll see a tall board with a page from the comic where the oracle does her thing beside a still from the movie in wide-screen dimensions of the same scene. Frankly, either are works of art worthy of hanging on your wall. And since the images can both be had for free, you can hang them on your virtual wall.

What? Am I serious? Absolutely, true believers. I’m talking free textures. Granted, I’m not sure how often you’ll feel the need for a texture of Xerxes’ throne, or a phalanx of advancing Spartans. But they are available, and very cool.

But it gets better. The next island is a walk-through reproduction of Sparta. It’s not big, just three buildings and the famous well. You know the one I’m talking about. The one the dude gets kicked into? And yes, you can jump down in the well. The place is fully explorable. They’ve got a Spartan warrior costume and a copy of Gorgo’s costume, both created by AdamandEve, available for free. Both are cool sources for bits for your own look, even if they are unmodifiable. And the buildings are stocked with all sorts of neat little Bronze Aged goodies you can copy for free. Yes, it’s a decorator’s paradise, and who doesn’t enjoy sprucing up their little corner of Second Life?

Not everything is available to be taken, but there are pots, helms, spears, bowls, cheese, and other goodies to give your Second Life dwelling a homey, if obviously a tad spartan, touch. Poke around for a bit, and you can also find an in-game gesture, so you too can kick people into wells while shouting the now famous line.

Liam Kanno (his SL handle), the builder of the village, is understandably proud of the work he did on it. He told me he’s not certain how much longer it will remain up. That’s entirely up to Warner Bros. I have no idea if the sim, called Silverscreen, is owned by Warner Bros. or is a private parcel that’s rented out for the promotion of movies. Regardless, it’s something I’m going to keep my eye on from now on. I can’t see them doing something like this for “Music and Lyrics”, but Harry Potter or one of Shyamalan’s flicks might be a perfect fit for a Second Life promotion.

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