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10 April 2008

My Own Journey to Virtual Reality

I think my own journey begins in the early 1990s when I heard about a (non-computer) device called a Voyager that could alter brainwaves using light and sound. This isn't as cwazee new age as it sounds - I was trying to deal with intense trauma and was trying to get out of a negative feedback loop. OK, so that helped.

Years go by. Then I saw a wee little magazine ad (in 2003?) for something brand new called "Journey to Wild Divine," which utilised biofeedback. So I bought that. It was interesting although like being trapped in a T. Kinkade world, which blew. I never did use it a lot, but the biofeedback aspect is teh kewl.

Then There started and I put mah name down for beta testing. I finally got in for the autumn of 2003. Immediately I read on the forums about something called Second Life, and (oh, dopey me) believed I couldn't sign up as I had dial-up (gasp). I spent a lot of time with my nose pressed against the glass, watching the fireman/schoolmarm video over and over, and wandering around There asking people about Second Life. I remember saying to an English programmer, "In Second Life you can BE A DUCK." That impressed me no end (and rightly so).

I enjoyed exploring in There, but once it had been explored it was boring. Sometimes I'd set up a psychiatrist office near Karuna Plaza and get strangers to tell me their deepest, innermost thoughts (i.e. lie for hilarity purposes). Sometimes a lot of us would get together with our dogs (made by J.J. Ventrella) and play with them, as they had artificial intelligence and responded to commands in their own ways). It was fun to have 25 dogs jumping into the air at one time. I think YadNi told me once he had had 6 dogs or something, in There. There was machinima going on, for which There, with its Voice and synchronised avatar mouth movements (J.J. Ventrella) was well-suited. I didn't make any, as at that time I was making rl video.

Early in 2004 the There company made a chilling announcement that indicated Things Were Not Going Well. I didn't want to suck up the negative atmosphere, plus I was not happy, so I plugged into the net with a fat pipe and hopped over to Second Life. Actually, since SL knew about the There problems, they offered a special deal (SL cost money in those days) for people switching worlds. It was a scandal on the There forums when someone said that in signing up you were expected to give your There password - that accident or mistake was quickly rectified by LL but held up the influx for a few weeks.

In Second Life, after doing the island educational displays (3?) and talking to the parrot, I teleported from the temple and landed at the Welcome Area in the dark. A few people stood about, talking. I walked down looking at the few displays (motorcycle?), then flew off. For the next week I explored everywhere, worked on appearance, experimented. I got a quick education on the forum and by reading all the documentation, which was, unbeknownst to me, outdated. For the next year or so I thought you had to pay to tp or use lighted prims, and so forth, and couldn't quite understand why teleporting never seemed to cost anything although I never used lighted prims so didn't think about that. At that point it was not usual to use lighted prims as we had local lighting, not hardware lighting, and it was a big fps hit. At Gravity Space Station signs said, "Gravity is best viewed with local lighting ON," which we would do once in a while just to see.

I read up all about land and looked at many spots. I put my name in for Land for the Landless, which assigned 1L/m2 512s to new people, and was assigned my plot in Bodega. At that point the land east of me was Anshe Chung for sale signs, south was the marina (same today), west was my neighbour Art, and north, beyond Bodega, was nothing - just a hole. I went through a number of eastside neighbours including an unfinished build, lilone Sandgrain, a big ugly dance club castle (I could hear the constant shouting from my place, so I decided that instead of getting upset I should just go there and dance), a fun mad inventor (I liked him until he built another ugly castle - but then he disappeared and I've always wondered what happened as I truthfully did like him a lot), and the Phyneas Jack Memorial Trust.

I did Burning Life '04, the Winter Festival, always tried to get a spot in Luna ;D, and anything else that came up. After my Burning Life '07 experience I can safely say I'm done with that aspect. The world is too big, now, for such centralised things to be - not just enjoyable but possible. I think it COULD work in this way: focus on events (the events were the best part of BL '07) with an outlying ring of parcels that can be claimed and built on for just one day at a time. Have some kind of automated yer-24-hours-is-up-and here's-yer-build-back flushing action - maybe just retake land after X hours, reset for sale.

I lurked on the SL forum for 6 months before posting. I read EVERYTHING as far as documentation, threads, etc. go. Things have changed an incredible amount. I couldn't begin to come up with a definitive list, but some that mean a lot to me are:

multiple select in inventory
scripted attachments
hardware lighting
floopy prims
better footshadows
inworld media
ripple water
"recent" tab in inventory
tear-off windows
expanded group abilities (not working all the time, alas)
additional group slots
the great icon for unlinked objects taken together (helps a lot)
filling in voids
no default friend map-tracking
define default prim action (i.e. "left-click sit")
p-2-p teleporting
tp back using chat

...and more but my time is up ;D

posted by - 1:00 PM

Well I read it lil Os and you seem in a reflective mood of late :)

In the early 90's I bought a small machine that, via some dodgy looking sunglasses, flashd LEDs in front of your closed eyes in such as way as to alter the rhythm of your brain waves. It was great for helping sleep and bringing on bursts of vivid creativity - I wrote a series of stories about a valley that did not exist outside of the main character's mind, and where he could create content at will. I hadn't thought of that until now.

I remember coming into SL in Nov 06 and spending several weeks not getting it... not just not understanding it as in trying to ride a hover bike and being told I was not the owner, but just not getting it. What was it for? Who were all these people? I had a very strong reaction against it, but could not leave - I loved flying too much :)

I never thought to check the forums - I have never liked forums much - but I did begin to read lots of blogs and soon, over that christmas, I began to get it piece by piece. Still, even then, it took another 4 months or so to really feel part of my new home.

Funny thing, culture shock.


p.s. I always had it in my head that Yadni was a woman. No idea why.

p.p.s. What happened at your Burning Man 07?
I deleted all my old SL clients yesterday - the old lappy is getting full and slow. My oldest (1.12) was dated 19th Nov 06 - the day I was rezzed.

Not a huge amount has changed since I joined, not like for you, but the things I've loved best and have improved my time here have been (in order of what I remember first):

1) Rolling restarts instead of Wednesday shutdowns.
2) Windlight - omg, as the kidz say.
3) Torley's videos. Make that man a knight of the realm, I say.
4) Havok 4 - but only because places don't crash as much, beyond that I've not seen much more of a benefit yet.
5) You :)
Aw, ty :D

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