Thursday, April 28, 2011

Basketball in Second Life: The VBA

The Virtual Basketball Association describes itself as " the premier basketball league in Second Life." With the Alpha Cold Area as it’s home base, it's teams compete against one another, and strive to spread the word about their sport to other residents on the Grid. There are about thirty VBA teams, which have the same names as real life ones, such as the Bulls and the Knicks.

I met marketing VP Gladiola Mistwallow in the audience of the Virtual Tonight talk show. She invited me to see their place for myself, and a few days later we met at Alpha Cold. She showed me the arena complex, which besides the basketball court included locker rooms, a players’ workout room with functioning equipment, another workout room for the cheerleader squads, offices for team management, a mall area over the court, a recruitment center, a league club for fans to socialize after-hours, and more. In normal times, the court is plain. For games, a scripted one is rezzed. Near the entrance are the logos for the various teams.

Gladiola also showed me the practice court, which was in a skybox. In playing the game, one has to wear an attachment provided from a dispenser. Basketballs appear from players clicking on the dispenser and choosing to ress a ball. As in real-life basketball, the player can move while dribbling the ball, or stand still while holding it. While the ball is being dribbled, it can be stolen. To shoot the ball into a hoop, usually one has to go into mouselook and hold down the left mouse button briefly. If the player is very close to the basket, he may attempt a slam dunk, which needs no mouselook. Contact with another player results in a foul. The fouled player may make two free throws. Free throws are worth a point each. A basket made from shooting the ball outside the three point line is worth three points. From inside two points.

Later on, Gladiola introduced me to their VP of Development Emerald Ishtari, whom was willing to answer some questions about the VBA and it’s plans.

Bixyl Shuftan: So how did the VBA come to be?

Emerald Ishtari: The idea first came from some football team owners. They felt the sport was becoming “saturated” in Second Life. They decided upon basketball as it was another popular sport.

Bixyl Shuftan: When was it officially started?

Emerald Ishtari: The public announcement was made on December 15th 2010

Bixyl Shuftan: How has the attendance been?

Emerald Ishtari: Attendance has been good. The first game was over 40 people, and we’ve enjoyed a good audience since. Exhibition and recruitment games can have as many as seventy. Sim capacity prevents us from having more, but we keep seeing many different faces every time. We consider this a sure sign of a growing fan base.

Bixyl Shuftan: How easy would you say the game is to play?

Emerald Ishtari: Like basketball in real life, takes some practice and dedication. It’s not easy to be a truly great player. Much depends on the individual. It adds to the roleplay side of things, though.

Bixyl Shuftan: About how long would you say it took most of the team players?

Emerald Ishtari: I would say most got the hang of it after about a week of practice.

Bixyl Shuftan: Gladiola and I talked a little about the teams. I understand some are available for purchase?

Emerald Ishtari: Yes, several teams, three of which are still under development. Besides the teams, there are the dancers.

Bixyl Shuftan: Dancers? Heh, I saw the cheerleaders whom performed at Virtual tonight. ... Do all teams have a cheerleading squad, or just some of them?

Emerald Ishtari: All the teams have a squad of cheerleaders. What you saw on Virtual tonight were cheerleaders from the various teams.

Bixyl Shuftan: I take it they’re quite popular among the guys in the audience?

Emerald Ishtari: (laughter) Yes they are.

Bixyl Shuftan: What are the plans for womens' teams?

Emerald Ishtari: A Womens’ Virtual Basketball Association? Some of the team owners have been asking about that. We will be discussing it further with them.

Bixyl Shuftan: About how many exhibition games will be played until the season start?

Emerald Ishtari: At least one per week. In May, we’ll be setting up a training camp. The official season will start shortly afterward.

Bixyl Shuftan: Have any individual stars emerged among the teams yet?

Emerald Ishtari: I’m not sure how to answer that without showing favoritism. Let’s say that a few players have been shining stars, plus others have shown to be up and coming. Each team has it’s favorite go-to man.

Bixyl Shuftan: Considering SL's glitches, have there been any games in which something went completely unexpected?

Emerald Ishtari: Second Life being what it is, we run into them sometimes. There was one situation in which it threw such a monkey wrench into gameplay, the game was declared a draw and rescheduled. In a sense, it’s like the weather in outdoor sports. You never know what’s going to happen.

Bixyl Shuftan: Of the training camp? Was this for people interested in becoming VBA players?

Emerald Ishtari: It’s for official players, for getting them ‘in gear.’ Those interested in joining up can apply at Alpha Cold.

Bixyl Shuftan: So those interested can practice at the sim, and answer an application?

Emerald Ishtari: Yes they can. They can go to the skybox and play at the court for a while to see how they do. Then they can head to the recruiting center for an application of the team of their choice. They then wait until the team answers them.

Bixyl Shuftan: Do you have any other future plans you'd like to share?

Emerald Ishtari: We’re going to have an event at the Recruiting Center at May 1st, from 2 PM to 4PM. There’ll be a party, with team owners and staff. It’s a chance for those interested to inquire about being on a team.

Bixyl Shuftan: Sounds good. Any final comments?

Emerald Ishtari: Just our motto: “Go hard or go home! This is more than just a game!”

Bixyl Shuftan: Heh, well, thank you for your time.

For more information on the VBA, including times for future games, check out their website:
http://virtualbballassoc.wordpress.com. To get to the arena, head to Alpha Cold (237, 124, 22).

Bixyl Shuftan

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