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: To get to the arena, head to Alpha Cold (237, 124, 22).

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, April 22, 2011

Steampunk Art Show

On April 17, 2011 a steampunk themed art show opened at Kafe Kruemelkram, Ataria (46, 204, 63). There’s enough metal and fire to please a steam aficionado, but the art extends beyond that genre. This exhibit should appeal to anyone who likes modern, experimental, or eclectic art. Well-known SL artists and designers, such as Bryn Oh, Sextan Shepherd, Glyph Graves, Artistide Despres and many others are featured here.

The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Sabrinaa Nightfire, who died a month ago. She created the "Steaming Hot" Festival in 2010, a steampunk art event. The current art show aims to keep Sabrinaa’s vision alive. An exhibit of her metal flowers is on display, with links to her other SL artwork. A tribute and notecard created by Glyph Graves honors her memory, too.

A teleport exists to quickly transport you to the artist of your choice. But a more interesting way to view the exhibit is by walking. The exhibits are placed on metal platforms connected by metal bridges and walkways, which creates a work of art by itself.

I didn’t have a chance to view all of the exhibits, but the ones I saw were excellent. I started with “Nightmare” by Bryn Oh. This artist is a SL favorite, and this exhibit shows why that reputation is well-deserved. Like many of the exhibits, this one is interactive and takes advantage of SL’s features to create a memorable experience. The horse has many interesting steampunk elements, such as a wheel for a hoof, worked into its design. Be sure to sit on the horse to get the full impact of Byrn Oh’s imagination.

Next I viewed “Bio-Mecha”, which is an interesting piece by Sextan Shepherd. The reflection in the mirror gave a surprising and imaginative twist to the sculpt. All of Shepherd’s exhibits were interesting, but “Bio-Mecha” was my favorite.

“Clock Art Deco” and “Stellar Supernova Beta-3” were also created by Shepherd. Be sure to click on the clock, and be prepared to spend some time at “Stellar Supernova Beta-3”. There’s a lot to experience here. Sit in the explorer chair for a memorable trip to planets and the heavens. It took me a few attempts to get this to work, probably because I tend to be technology-challenged. But the colorful images are not to be missed, and I was glad I got it to work.

One of the largest exhibits was a steampunk structure by Daallinii Rae. I couldn’t find a name for this exhibit, but I really enjoyed it. The structure is on multi-levels, with ladders, ramps, and teleports to aid in its exploration. On the house level, you can sit in a basket and rotate around the exhibit. What a great view! There’s even a picnic table so you and your friends can pause to discuss the exhibit.

Next to this exhibit is the Jenney Mand'dson "1915" Scrambler 1.01 by Jenne Dibou. This is a fun steampunk motorcycle with metal workers oiling chains and getting it ready to rev. Be sure to sit on this exhibit, too.

Random music was the focus of a sound-based exhibit created by Artistide Despres. Make sure your sound is on when you are near the six trumpet horns that form this build.

There are more exhibits to be found at the Steampunk Art Show, but I had to save them for a return visit.

Grey Lupindo

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Virtual Medical Doctor

Among the games at Madpea, one of the newest is the Virtual Medical Doctor game, sometimes called VMD for short. For gamers even slightly interested in medical fields and the human body, this game is a must. Even if you’re not, you may find yourself dropping by time to time. The plot: pilot a medical probe called a “Cheiron” which is miniaturized with you in it, and placed inside the patient where you work to cure the illness from within.

Whenever someone has a little pain in Hoshi, they come to the Tupol Hospital. You might not believe it, but there are a lot of patients in the hospital and we simply don't have enough doctors to care for each of them. That is why we need you - help us to get our patients home. We will equip you with the latest medical devices and Poseidon, who speaks 6 different languages, will help you to become a VMD.

Set at Tupol hospital, there are four levels in the building accessible by the elevator. One level is for new residents of Second Life, a guide on how to go about the Grid. Another shows examples of body organs. Another floor is one players will keep coming to: one with the background of the several missions and their patients. One also gets a HUD to help with playing the game.

To head to the game area, one needs to use the teleporter. Then head down the walkway to the scrub room for decontamination. After that, head to the one of three capsules, the game calls them “Cheirons,” programed for the location of your mission. The first two missions are in the brown-coded capsule straight ahead.

The first mission is simple, taking care of a 68 year old man with an upset stomach, "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome." The real purpose is for you to learn how to control the probe. The Cheiron’s computer will guide the user on how to proceed. It is possible to lose by depleting the battery through too many laser shots. The second mission: to get rid of parasites from a case of bad sushi. From there, the cases get more serious, Mission Three for example involving a heart condition.

For players with slower computers, one may have to wait a few moments for the control panel to rez enough to be able enough to read, for those moments you need to inject a drug (for the first two missions, it’s the one on the bottom-right). And once when playing, I didn’t appear back at the hospital right away. But there’s not much to complain about what I can only call a great Second Life game.

And oh yes, one can pick up a doctor's coat and set of medical scrubs while here.

To get to the Virtual Medical Doctor game, head to Tupol Island at (120, 131, 0).

Bixyl Shuftan