Driving in Second Life

Having now been in Second Life long enough to have become completely bored by sex here I have recently been searching around for something else to tickle my fancy. Apart from parachuting accross Gaeta, (and almost making it accross the straits to Corsica, only let down by lack of altitude) the main appeal recently has been driving. Given that there are 473 pages devoted to car related products on the SL Marketplace website, I’m surprised that the A&E departments in SL aren’t inundated with injured avatars. However, the reality is that owning and actually driving a car in SL are two completely seperate things. Lack of a decent road network is one obstacle, as many of us cannot access a road because of banlines on land over which we must cross to access a road. Another obstacle is the road infrastructure itself. Take the continent I live on, Gaeta. We do have SL Route 7 and 7A, which do, in theory, go around the continent, but frustratingly there are large sections where SL Route 7 becomes a canal, and unless your vehicle is of the amphibious, or submarine variety, you won’t be able to do a circuit of Gaeta.

Running out of road on Gaeta

Things get much better on Corsica, as I discovered very recently. The road goes round the continent. Completely. Corsica has a more European feel to it, (a nice change from the dominant North American influence in SL) with reassuringly European road signs, many of which give warnings of 20% inclines/declines (that’s 1:5 to you who have yet negelcted to go metric!) indicating the hilly nature of the central region of the continent. Obvious attention has been given to roadside landscaping, and informational signposting is well provided, giving distances to rez zones and upcoming sims. Whilst it’s great to have well signposted and marked rez zones, confusingly this information is provided on both sides of the zone itself, so one is never quite sure if one is in the rez zone or not. Why not indicate this by putting a diagonal red line through the rez zone sign indicating the end of the rez zone, rather like that great European idea of doing this with places along the route, you know when you’re leaving, as the sign with the name of the place you’ve just driven through has diagonal red line through it.

On Gaeta, there isn’t much local traffic to worry about, as there seems to be little organised traffic. (Though I did see a bus drive past my house the other day, which may not seem unusual, excepting the fact that my house is on the water’s edge, facing out to sea, and the bus went past on the seaward side! The marvels of SL). It’s different on Corsica, as there is actually quite a bit of organised traffic, local buses and a refuse truck being two, and a tank (!) and a farm truck being the other vehicles likely to be encountered on the continent’s roads. All these vehicles, with the exception of the tank, sadly, are rideables, which is a pleasant, if slow way of travelling the highways. The tank, whilst not rideable, will shoot you if you stand in the way, though it will also confusingly, apologise if it bangs it’s sides into you. I have yet to meet any other vehicle, other than the automatic variety, such as the four just described, it would be nice to meet a fellow traveller engaged on a similar quest, at least it would mean that I wasn’t alone in my questionable sanity.

Light local traffic on Corsica

My choice of vehicles may seem, to those who do not knwo me, a little strange. I have several vehicles in my inventory, but at present my favourites are a tracked rideable car that was either a freebie, or very cheap on the SL Marketplace, and a representation of a motor scooter that has a bit of a cult status in Germany. It’s an SL renditon of the Schwalbe, (Swallow) scooter that provided basic transport in the former GDR. Of course, being SL, the Schwalbe has the ability to fly, rocket assisted, (who said the German’s don’t have a sense of humour?) though in my inexpert hands, this has proven to be more of a liability than anything else – I tend to crash a lot. The tracked car is now my firm favourite, it has three gears, and can be persuaded to climb almost any obstacle, including the pier, just off SL Route 7 at Frostar. First gear is a little slow, so I usually change up to the medium range gear as this allows decent progress. It’s a fun vehicle to drive, and the tracks have a very realistic motion effect. It’s just a pity that it’s a single-seater, as it’s make the basis of a fun vehicle to take friends out in.

Sim crossings are a constant source of complaint, and up until now it’s a problem that hasn’t affected me too much, but now it’s starting to, big time. It is extremely frustrating to have to stop every couple of minutes drive, and wait whilst the servers do their stuff, and you can continue on your way. It’s especially frustrating when there are two sim crossing very close to one another on the road, as this can cause you to become stuck on that crossing, and no way out other than to dismount, take the vehicle back into inventory, and then seek out the next nearest rez zone, and hope you’re on the correct side of the sign. Even at relatively low speed sim crossings can be a problem, at high speed they become positively dangerous for one’s sense of inner calm. I don’t know, and maybe it’s one of those chicken and egg scenarios, but maybe we see few vehicles on the roads of SL because of the frustrastions caused by lag and sim crossings?

Whoops! This was a very bad sim crossing

It also has to be said that many of the vehicles seem to be very difficult to control, and certainly most seem to oversteer quite badly. Some seem to have no sensible speed control, as one car in my collection seems to have only one speed: amazingly fast, for a car that is supposed to be a rendition of a famous early 20th Century car. All these problems are capable of being solved, and I suspect relatively easily, but maybe, just maybe SL is an analogue of our RL to come, where most of us will be able to afford to buy the shiny status symbol that is the motor car, and park it proudly on our driveways, to polish it on high days and holidays, and perhaps, every once in a while, go out for a drive in it, if we can afford to put fuel in it, or, if we shall indeed be able to find any fuel, at any price at all?

I wonder what the railways in Second Life are like…?

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~ by susannahavonside on January 15, 2011.

One Response to “Driving in Second Life”

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