Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Avatar in Second Life (Jan 2010)

By Bixyl Shuftan

In December 2009, the much anticipated sci-fi movie "Avatar" by James Cameron reached the theaters, and was a blockbuster hit, drawing huge numbers. People marveled at the groundbreaking special effects used to create the alien "Na'vi" in the film, as well as the planet's beautiful appearance. In Second Life, it was frequently talked about, the tie-in with the name "Avatar" being obvious. Avatars of the aliens were soon made, and before long, roleplay areas.

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James Cameron’s science-fiction movie “Avatar” has taken cinema by storm, setting box office records in the United States and elsewhere across the world. Inevitably, people began making avatars of the alien “Na’vi.” Whenever there’s something big in science-fiction, people are drawn to begin with to recreate it here. With “Avatar,” there was a certain irony to it. There’s the movie’s name, making the “Na’vi” in Second Life “Avatar” avatars. And just like the humans in the movie create “avatars” to go about in an alien world in an imersive and personal manner, people have been doing so with “Na’vi” avatars here in the Metaverse. And of course Second Life avatars tend to be much taller than normal human anyway.

Many of us have already seen the familiar blue, thin humanoids showing up at clubs or other places. As it turns out, there have been efforts at more, trying to recreate the world of Pandora in Second Life.

Probably the most detailed of these Pandora areas is the Pandora Magic sim in Second Life. The entry area has a few freebies nearby, notably the rp combat system. Portals can take you to shops, or straight down to the planet. And given a little time to load, it is a most beautiful sight. Trees standing tall in the air, luminous plants and creatures providing colorful light - notably when seen at nighttime, flowers that make “crunch” noises and temporarily vanish when you walk near.

And of course there were a few Na’vi avatars about, walking here and there. There was also a couple embracing in a leaf boat moving slowly along a river. There were other cuddle poses throughout the sim, for any couples going here for a stroll in the woods. Supposedly some people after seeing the movie are depressed about not being able to visit Pandora for real (Click Here for CNN article). Logging into Second Life and going to Pandora Magic would certainly be one way to ease these down feelings.

Pandora Magic and its sister sim Pandora Hellsgate are the location for a German Na’vi roleplay group, though they don’t seem to have a problem with visitors going about the forest. The language at the starting area was German, though some notecards had English translations. Most of the chat heard was not in English, but there was one who did, commenting, “I think the reason Second Life has gone AVATAR crazy is because the movie related to us in a big way. A lot of us log in to a new body and a new world with unimaginable possibilities. SL is the outdated version. (laughter).”

Going into Search and typing Na’vi or Pandora, one will find other sims. Checking some of them, none led to a forest as lush as Pandora Magic’s, but there were some other roleplay groups. Angels Sanctuary had a Na’vi forest, which while not as detailed as Pandora Magic was better than most other "Avatar" places I saw. Two places had the same design space station, with a free human Hardsuit and 1L hovercraft, though except for demos the Na'vi avatars were a little costly. And some areas, while a nice place to stroll, seemed to have nothing to do with the “Avatar” movie, or were just a place to sell expensive avatars and props.

So if you’re someone who’s seen the movie and wants to relive it, or just want to see a little of what all the hype is about, Second Life offers places and things for you.

kîyevåme, eana-txim.”

"(See you soon, blue butt.)"

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Eventually, the movie was dropped from the theaters, and the chatter among the bulk of Second Life residents faded. But for the roleplayers the movie continued to hold their interest. Checking the map a couple years later, the Pandora Magic area was still around, and there were both buildings for the humans, and a group of Na'vi avatars going about. Five years later, the sim is gone. But a search of sims with the name "Pandora" revealed one with a familiar looking landscape with a huge tree. For some, five years after the movie came and went from the theaters, the movie still inspires them to recreate the scenery here.

Bixyl Shuftan

1 comment:

  1. While some people didn't like the movie as it depicted humans as "bad guys," others found fault with the idea of the Na'vi's relationship with their planet. One real-life friend started work on a sci-fi story (didn't finish) about two races of aliens whom set up a portal on Earth, and shortly after several aliens of a third race in stone age outfits and weapons appear and attack. After they're killed, the advanced aliens tell the humans these "jungle people" hitchike on their portal system sometimes, and are left alone if they leave others alone, and disposed of if attacked. Curious, the humans ask about them, and the advanced aliens offer to let a group travel to their home planet, which they call "Warpion."

    "Warpion" proves to have a thick layer of jungle, and the plants seem to attack or inconvienence the human team at every opportunity, there's a constant feeling of being watched, and they keep having to shoot predators that seem to home in on them and attack as if they knew. When they see a tribe of the "jungle people" (from a distance) they find the remains of members of a hostile tribe, being dismembered and cut up for meat.

    Eventually, the humans learn that the ecosystem really *was* watching them. A huge super-organism that the advanced aliens call a "plantimal" dominates the planet with it's various cloned plants and dominates all other life forms on the planet. It's made a deal with a member of a third advanced race whose stuck around to study it, but sees everything else as to eliminate or balance out when given the opportunity, which the human team finds out when one of them sleepwalks into a giant flytrap. Those species which it thinks are useful but too numerous, it finds ways to cut down their numbers. Whether or not a species is sapient made no difference.

    As for the "Jungle People," while they live in "harmony" with the planet, it means that they live in a state of perpetual war with one another, seeing only their own tribe as "real people" and others, their own species or not, as outsiders to be hunted down and eaten. When the plantimal thinks they're too few, they're less likely to attack. When it thinks they're too many, it encourages them to fight and kill one another. While a few of the Jungle People make it through the portal and are able to escape the plantimal's influence, founding what eventually become bronze age civilizations, the ones on Warpion live lives that are nasty, brutish, and short, in a state of perpetual warfare that the planet sees as the ideal way to keep their numbers in check.