The Second Life virtual reality environment is one way to do Collaborative_Design.
Second Life Events
December 17th, 2008 Social
As an experiment, we are going to replace the in-person December 2008 social with a SL event on Wednesday December 17th at 7PM GMT, which is 8PM for most of Europe and 11AM PST. This will be at Jesrad's area: South East corner of the region Everlite.
Patri will give a talk using Second Life's voice chat functionality. This should be enabled by default in the Second Life client, if it is not it can easily be enabled by ticking the corresponding checkbox in the client's preferences (menu Edit: Preferences, or Ctrl-P). When Voice is enabled, the corresponding icon tool should display in the bottom right corner of the viewer window with a Speech button (for press-to-talk) and a volume control.
Note that Second Life has a steep learning curve. We only recommend attendance for current SL users, and those who are willing to put in some time before the social learning SL - otherwise you may find it frustrating. The software can be downloaded for free here but requires registering an account to use with the main virtual world.
New accounts start in the Orientation area, which serves as a simple tutorial, and it is strongly advised that you complete this sequence before trying to navigate to the Seastead design area.
There is a Second Life group dedicated to seasteading (called Seastead design), and an 8096 square meter area of flooded land available to this group's members for building in the South East corner of the region Everlite.
Using Second Life:
How it works
Second Life is a client-server application which has a lot in common with a Wiki, except it is in 3D and you get to see the other people, watching as they edit the world around them.
The client application, the Second Life Viewer, only contains the interface and engine. All the data representing the virtual world and the people ("residents") who live there is streamed over your connection. For this reason, whenever you go some place in Second Life, the surroundings appear gradually: the land elevation and ground texture is displayed, then the bigger and closer objects pop into your view, all while their textures start out a gray blur then focus step by step into detailed pictures.
The virtual world of Second Life is divided into Regions: unique square geographical zones of 256 by 256 meters, each of which runs on a seperate server thread with its own hostname. Each region exchanges information with its geographical neighbours, so you can travel, interact with objects or chat with someone across the border of a region. This is how the whole ensemble of SL servers, or Grid, maintains a single coherent online universe (there is no "sharding" in the sense of other MMOGs where the same virtual place runs in multiple seperate instances, dividing the player population in seperate groups).
Objects in Second Life are built using "primitives" ("prims"), a small number of basic shapes (cube, sphere, cone, cylinder, torus) which can be individually scaled, cut, rotated, hollowed, twisted and textured, then put together to form a single more complex object. This complexity, the number of those elemental bricks or primitives in a given object, is a measure of the "weight", in CPU, memory and bandwidth resources, that an object "costs" to the system, so there is a limit to the number of prims a given place can support, sized after its surface in square meters: the larger the place, the more complex and numerous objects it can contain at most.
Your virtual self
Appearance: Your presence in the virtual world is personified by an "avatar", or player model, which is extremely configurable in two different ways: you can edit the physical characteristics of the humanoid model itself (this is very similar to what you can do in the introduction of games like Mass Effect of Fallout 3), and change its textures ; or you can attach 3D objects of your choice to pretty much any element of the body (each body part doubles as an "attachment point", working like a slot for placing a single object).
Movement: You can move this avatar using the direction arrows or the AESD keys for horizontal movement, and the PageUp/PageDown or keys E and C for going up/jumping and going down/crouching. There are two modes of movement: walking and flying, which you can toggle between with the F key or the Fly button in the bottom toolbar of the interface.
You can also teleport by double-clicking on the Map (accessible through the bottom toolbar). Depending on how the target place's owner set it up, you will end up at the destination or at the closest "teleport point".
Accessories: Just like in many role-playing games, you have your own "pouch", called the inventory, which contains all the things you own that are not currently displayed in the game. Things that are displayed and "present" in the virtual world are said to be "rezzed" to distinguish them from all the "derezzed" things that are stored in inventories. The Inventory has "private" and "public" sections, the latter is called the Library and lists a number of things that everyone has access to courtesy of the game's creators, Linden Lab.
Finding people: The simplest method for finding other people online in Second Life is to open the Map (accessible in the bottom toolbar) and look for the bright green dots. This lets you know how many people are in a given region. While exploring a region, you can also use the Minimap: it will indicate other people on a small moving map - using three different forms of green dots to let you know if those people are at your altitude, lower or higher. You can also search people or groups by name (the Search tool is in the top right-hand corner and in the toolbar). The main map can also display special icons for social events, sightseeing attractions, notable gathering points and historic or peculiar landmarks.
Interacting with the world: Direct left-mouse clicks can trigger a number of actions in dynamic objects of Second Life: activating scripted actions (buttons, doors, gates, tellers, games, and all manners of interface elements), seating your avatar (seats, beds, spas, benches, some simple vehicles, teleporters, etc.), buying the object or a copy of it. Right-clicks open up a "pie chart" submenu that shows actions that are applicable to the clicked element (the inapplicable actions being greyed out).
Your virtual rights
Everything that appears in the virtual world has an owner, and this owner decides what sorts of rights other people may have over it. This ensures that you can have a place just for yourself in this virtual environment.
At he virtual world's level, Linden Lab enforces a simple chart of 6 community standards (No intolerance, no harassment, no assault, no unwanted disclosure of private information, no indecency and no disruption) as well as some US federal and fiscal regulations (no minor resident in the adult world, no casinos, no unregistered financial institutions).
As a new resident, all you own are your avatar and your inventory. You can create new objects only if the place where you stand is set to allow it, and has not exhausted its allotment of "prims". There exist entire regions set up by Linden Lab (or simple residents) to allow creation of objects by anyone: they are called Sandboxes and this is where you will likely spend your building time at the beginning. Main sandboxes can be found by name, searching for "sandbox" in the Map.
Unless you specifically set your objects' rights otherwise, only you can edit and duplicate them, so you do not have to worry about someone "stealing" them from you or vandalizing them in your absence. Just keep in mind that most sandboxes have a mechanism that automatically wipes out everything there twice a day (at 3 AM and 3 PM, usually), so in order to keep objects you have created, you have to pick them up so they are "derezzed" (they disappear from the virtual world) and stored in your inventory.
Money: As a specific part of the inventory, every resident has a L$ balance. These can be used for purchasing land and objects in the entire virtual world. There are several exchanges for this virtual electronic currency (rates are about 265 L$ for 1 USD). Keep in mind that over the years a massive amount of things (vehicles, avatar clothes, furniture, gadgets, textures, sounds and much more) have now become "open-source" and can be bought in bulk for 1 L$ or for free at the many virtual stores specialising in such a trade. This is an expected development since all that makes up Second Life is really just data, and data costs very little to duplicate.
Your edition tools
The Second Life client comes with a number of editing tools that allow creating or editing objects, configuring land, and modifying your avatar's appearance, most of which can be invoked through a right-click on some object (Edit) or land or avatar (Edit Appearance).
The Edit Appearance window is somewhat straight-forward, it lets you pick what part of your avatar you want to edit, and lists the characteristics you may change (nose length, eye color, hair style, foot size, and so on).
The Land / Parcel window is only useful when you own land, so it will not be detailed here.
The Edit (Object) window is the most useful of all, and a little more confusing. It spans different modes of edition: Focus, Move, Edit, Create and Land, represented each by an icon in the top of the window - however you'll want to remain in Edit mode all the time, and use modifier keys to temporarily switch between modes, as it is far more practical.
The Edit tool can be opened through the menubar, pressing Ctrl-3 (Ctrl-4 for the Create mode), by right-clicking an object and selecting Edit (if the object allows edition), or right-clicking on land and selecting Create/Build (if the land allows creation). The "More..." button lets you expand the window to access the extensive edition options. More detail here.
Looking around: Focus lets you move your camera view around: holding Alt and left-clicking somewhere will recenter your view on this point (and track it if it is a moving object or avatar), Holding Alt and holding the mouse button will let you recenter then rotate your view around and closer/away from this point. If you also hold down Shift the view will pan with the mouse, and if you hold down Ctrl it will orbit up and down instead of getting closer or further when you move the mouse up and down. This is very important to master because getting a good look around is essential to building some 3D thing, so practice this during your first hour in Second Life.
When in Edit mode, left mouse clicks will select an object to edit (selection is highlighted in yellow for the main - or "root" - primitive, blue for the rest of the object - or "child" primitives).
- When selected, an editable object will display movement arrows (Move mode is default), color-coded by axis: red for X (front, or East), green for Y (left, or North) and blue for Z (up, or skywards). Click and hold these arrows to move the object.
- Holding Ctrl will switch to Rotate mode, where the arrows are replaced by rings that allow rotating around the same axes as previously mentioned.
- Holding both Ctrl and Shift will switch to Scaling mode, where the arrows and rings are replaced by colored handles for resizing the primitive along its local axes, or grey handles at the corners for scaling it uniformly. Note that the maximum allowed size in any dimension is 10 meters, while the smallest is 1 centimeter.
It is highly suggested that first-time residents of Second Life visit the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives, which is an in-world tutorial explaining very clearly how to use all the Edit options, in the form of a museum tour.
Your communication set
Second Life allows many different forms of communication. The most basic is text-based, and includes both Local Chat and Instant Messaging. These are accessible through the Communication and Chat buttons on the bottom toolbar. Local Chat lets you send text to people and objects around you: whispering has a range of 10 meters, normal chat 20 meters and shouting 100 meters. Instant Messaging is P2P, or works like IRC chatrooms when addressing entire groups of residents. You can initiate IM sessions by right-clicking on someone's avatar and selecting IM, by searching for a specific resident through the built-in Search, and clicking the corresponding button on their Profile window.
Second Life also has voice-chat, but this option is not enabled everywhere in the virtual world. This is controlled by a dedicated button in the lower right-hand corner, along with the streaming sound control.
And lastly, Second Life lets you animate your avatar using emotes in Local Chat (chat command starting with a '/'), or keyboard shortcuts using Function keys. This can be set up through Gestures, a subcategory of inventory files that sit in your Inventory.