Friday, August 16, 2013

Becky's Top Ten Real Life Locations in Second Life

by Becky "Sha" Shamen

In real life, I have always been a Designer, Artist and Builder. I have also been big on learning and doing new things. I am the same way in Second Life. From the very start, I have tried new occupations, ever seeking the next been there, done that. I began earning Lindens as a Dancer and in a short time, was breaking club tip records. A Dancer, at one club, showed me how she made a Tshirt, with the club logo on it. Within two months, I opened my first clothing store, for ladies with implants. When you strive to be your best, extra impetus comes frome those that would be "king of the mountain" in your place. Eventually, I had a fat account and had been run out of more clubs than I could keep count of, so it was time to move on. These days, you'll find me at the clubs I call home, sometimes furry, sometimes human, always dressed for the theme and entered in the "best of" contests.

One thing has not changed. From the start, I have enjoyed finding and exploring new sims, that are virtual reproductions of adventures in the real world. Face it, if you have a DJ, dancefloor and a friendly crowd, you have a good nightclub, but if you're going to build Rome, we've got to come away wearing a toga and speaking Latin.

For this article, I searched the Destination Guide for a number of sims, based on real life places. Some of them I had seen in real life, but most I only knew from pictures and stories in books and magazines. I compiled a list of 15 sims, several of which I had already seen in SL and several I had seen in RL and the rest I had only seen in print. I visited all 15, but, for various reasons, culled some of them from this report. Here then are my top ten places and their SLURLs that I'd like to share.

Virtual Oval Office

This link is a gateway to a number of places, made by the same creators. Use the TP cube to get to the Oval Office. There you'll see a small building that contains one room, the Oval Office. Entering, you discover why it's called Oval.

There is furniture, pictures on the wall, and the chief's desk, all made to look as the room is today, with a few twists thrown in. The table, behind the desk, flanked by two flags, has five photos on it; George, Abe, the face on mars and two SL residents, Freecilla Huhn and Michelle Oxygen. You can sit in the president's chair and get an idea of what it's like, being head of the free world. On the desk, there is a phone and a computer. On the computer screen, it seems the prez is downloading the latest version of SL.

On the wall, to your left, is a bookshelf. On the bottom shelf there is a yellow book, that looks out of place. Zooming in, the title is "How to be President, for DUMMIES." Across the room, we see a grandfather clock. The clock doesn't work. It's not keeping up with the times. In the center of the room is a seating area, with 2 couches and chairs and a coffee table. On the table, there is a bowl with three apples (forbidden fruit?).

The Alamo

Having lived 2/3rds of my life in Texas and visited the real Alamo, this was a must see for me. The sim is produced and maintained by members of the University of Texas at Arlington. I tip my cowboy hat to these guys. It's a perfect reproduction of the real deal. Throughout the exhibit, clicking on signs gives you detailed notecards, about the people, things and history that make the Alamo an unforgetable place. I spent a longer than needed time there, in silence, and signed the guestbook, "I remember, Sha".

St. Paul's Cathedral in London

I have had a life long love of the design and construction of large cathedrals and temples. When I spotted St. Paul's, in the destination guide, I just had to add it to my list. When I arrived on the steps of the cathedral, I waited a few minutes to fully rez, before entering. Looking around, I noticed a courtyard below, with some shops. A sign indicated that this build is located on a "SL Public Land Preserve." It also informs that the cathedral can be rented for weddings.

The cathedral is a large stone building on the outside, but it's real beauty awaited me inside. Inside the doors, to the right, is a sign which provides a notecard which lists SL Sacred Places. The list is huge and covers many denominations. If I ever run out of places to explore, this list could keep me going for years. All of the interior surfaces are covered with colorful mosaic tile artworks of Christian themes. If you are planning a wedding in SL or just like visiting ornate churches, by all means give this place a look.

The Statue of Liberty

If I've seen one, I've seen a million pictures and small copies of the Lady Liberty. This was my chance to see a full size 3D replication of it. Alas, the statue was there, but without the island which the real one stands on. The TP landing put me under water, with my cam above the surface.

Before hitting the Home Key, to fly out of the water, I was panning my cam around to see in which direction I would find it and suddenly, in local chat, comes the message, "A fox in water???". Adjusting my cam to see who was chatting me up, I found myself face to face with a cute merman. I have several tails and have explored some of the mermaid hangouts, so took the encounter as a way of learning more about their culture. We chatted for about a half hour and I told him of my previous article about the Blake Sea and gave him a link to the SL Newser. He said he hadn't been there, but the article inspired him to go explore it for himself.

When it was time for him to leave, I flew up to explore the statue. It looked OK from a distance, but, up close it was a bit off. It was like a SimCity avatar, compared to ones in SL. Up close, the size was correct and it did not bother me that it is smaller than it looks in photos, since I already knew that. It might not have made the final cut for this article on it's own, had I not made a new friend there. To quote the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want....."

Acropolis in Athens

Unless you live under a rock, you have probably seen pictures of the Parthenon. Next to the great pyramid, it is likely one of the best known ancient structures on earth. It and the Erehthion sit atop a flat topped hill, in Athens Greece, known as the Acropolis. The Acropolis is the centerpiece of a sim named Greece, which is connected to three other sims, Macedonia, Aegean Sea and Hellas. After inspecting the Acropolis, I did a quick flight around the other sims. They all appeared to have a modern setting, although I could see many avatars on my radar, located at skybox elevations, in Macedonia. I suspect they might be in ancient RP mode. Perhaps one day I'll put my toga on and go have a look. This time, I was only there to see the Acropolis. The rest is, as they say, all Greek to me.

Machu Picchu

I have had the LM for Machu Picchu for years, but returned to take notes for this article. This sim is the work of the Universidad de San Martin de Porres. Since my previous visit, they have added an information center, conference seating, an outdoor  movie theater and a gift shop, with lots of freebies. I suspect the school uses the sim for online classes. Near the landing, you find a box of free helpful stuff, including a panoramic view picture, an area map and interactive HUD, all in Spanish. All the photos that take in the whole site seem to have been taken from the same hilltop location. Flying is allowed, which makes it easier to see it from other angles and check out individual areas.

RMS Titanic (semi formal dress code)

This is another LM that I've had for some time. When I mention the Titanic, I often hear, "Is that sim still going?", to which I reply, yes and as impressive as ever. And guys, if you, like Mick Jagger, can't get no satisfaction, let me give you a valuable tip. Nothing will impress her more than buying her a formal gown and taking her ballroom dancing at the RMS Titanic. This ship is the length of the whole sim and, if you saw the movie, you know, the decor is as fancy as it comes. Signs in a dozen languages announce that the dress code in the ballroom and stern is "strictly formal". Looking for the latest tux or gown, there are pleanty of shops on the dock and on board.

There are other things to see as well. There is a swimming pool, dinning hall, suites to rent and a tour of the ship. The one thing they didn't include? You won't find any pesky icebergs here. And, if fancy cars are a turn on, be sure to take a look at the 1912 Renault CB, on the dock, for a mere $600. I have boats, motorcycles and aircraft by the dozen, in my inventory, but no cars yet. If I decide to go on a continental automobile tour, THAT car will be my choice.

Eiffel Tower and other tourist spots in Paris

This is one of the first adventure LMs I ever added to my collection. Unlike the Statue of Liberty, this structure is WAY bigger than any photograph makes it look. The top level is 247 meters high and the tower is located in the middle of a 4 sim collective of Paris 1900. You can dress the part, but there is no dress code other than no nudity. At the SE leg of the tower, you'll find an elevator TP to take you up to the three levels of the tower.

On level 1 you can find manikins, dressed in 1900 attire, to customize your home or sim, or a scale model of the Eiffel tower, in 6 sizes, 10,20,30 40,50 and 100 meters tall. On level 2, you can read the history of the tower, but only if you read French. From there, there is a spiral stair that leads to another floor where there is clothing for sale and free. On level 3, the top, there is a plank that sticks out, from which you are encouraged to jump off. Free parachutes are given, for those that want a slower descent. I don't think that feature can be found on the real tower, so the SL one is even better than the real thing.

Sistine Chapel
secondlife://VASSAR/166/88/25 (inactive)

This LM has also been a long time favorite of mine. It is, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever seen in SL. Searching for more information, on the net, showed that many others agree. Years ago, National Geographic featured a great article on the real chapel, complete with a fold-out photo of the ceiling. Visiting it in SL is even better, because you don't have to deal with crowds of other tourists. Each time I went, I was the only one on the whole sim. The other advantage of seeing it in SL is that you can fly up to the ceiling and see it as only Michelangelo could.

In preperation for this article, I attempted a TP for another look, to get additional inspiration. SL would not allow the TP, the first few times, which is not unusual, so I tried for a few more days, but got the same result, so I looked for it on the map. The sim was totally gone. Normally, as this kind of thing happens all the time in SL, I would just say, c'est la vie, but not this time. I was so outraged, I wanted to join a protest group, carry signs, wear an "Occupy SL" Tshirt (I actually have one), and roll around, kicking and screeming on the floor. That gives you an idea of just how great this sim is, or was.

We can only hope that the problem is temporary, a hardware problem that they are trying to fix, or a financial problem that donations will soon remedy. If it doesn't come back, perhaps we should all bow our heads and say a silent prayer, then go tar and feather those responsible. But, by all means, if you can't see it in SL, Google it and see what you missed.

Mont Saint Michel in France

When I found this location in the destination guide, it went to the top of my "must see" list. I also knew, intuitively, that I should save it for the last place to research. I could, easily, spend as much time exploring this one sim as I did the entire Blake Sea. The first time I went there, my first impression was, "OMG, this is like a 3D puzzle with a million pieces." It took a long time for my surroundings to rez and I could barely move and checking the stats, found I was dealing with .4 FPS. My normal reaction to this kind of sim is to click my heels three times and go back home, but this place had me hooked, before I ever got there. I was on some kind of grail quest. I adjusted the rabbit ears on my wi-fi antenna, did housekeeping in my inventory, deactivated all my gestures, went only between midnight and dawn, and anything else I could think of to improve my laptop's performance.

I was possessed with getting from the landing to the Chapel at the top of the hill, without flying. I even searched the net for street maps of the real place, to assist my journey. I learned that the road to the top is called Grande Rue, but it's more of a foot path than a street. The rue is narrow, has places on it that climb stairs and is lined with interesting shops. One of the first shops that captured my attention, and, eventually, a good chunk of my change, sells knight's armor, for male and female, that is the best I've seen in SL. I don't do medieval RP, so it's hard to explain why I have a collection of armor.

Lord knows how many hours, nay, days it took, but I did get to the top and made a composite photo to celebrate my victory, showing me at the altar in the chapel and it's location on the mont. However, that's not the end of my exploration. I've still only seen a small portion of the sim. If you go, keep an eye out for the cute girl in shining armor, still searching for the Holy Grail.

Becky "Sha" Shamen

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