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Last Updated: Friday, 3 November 2006, 12:31 GMT
Reporter's Log: A day out in Second Life
The Second Life virtual world has recently hit the one million member mark and real world firms are queueing up to establish themselves in the digital destination.

In this log, reporters from the BBC news website technology desk, spend a day in the cyber world getting to grips with the place and its inhabitants.

Technology correspondent Mark Ward will be taking the first steps into this brave new world.


Second Life screenshot, BBC
I wonder what happens in there?
Flying across the busy landscape of Second Life gives you a real sense that this virtual world is something new.

Every few seconds while flying I came across spectacular buildings, bizarre sculptures or structures or gatherings of people that deserved investigating.

There is a huge amount going on here and in this log I have barely seen the surface let alone scratched it. Many thanks to all those that have messaged me in and out of game - I'm sure I'll get in touch as I need a guide to show me around.

I can see now why it is called Second Life - it would take another existence to find out about everything, sample it and join in.


Cat sculpture, BBC
Second Life has all kinds of strange sights
Flying is the only way to travel.

I'm used to games where avatars have to walk almost everywhere and it is a huge relief to just hit one key, take off and cover huge distances.

Once I'd tried it on "Orientation Island" I had to do it again and again. Even though teleporting is useful flying is a great way to see what is in Second Life.

Once you get off the starting areas in Second Life the world starts to get much busier and it is obvious who are the new folks and who the veterans. All the new folks look the same with minor changes, such as a soul patch, but those who have been here a while have tweaked their avatar.

Once on the main island I saw an angel, a white furry fox and lots of folks in customised clothes.

The newbies seem to spend a lot of time chatting about how to tweak their appearance and get to grips with the game mechanics.

Not me, I'm heading for the wide blue yonder.


Second Life, BBC
Almost every aspect of your avatar can be changed
Now it starts to get complicated. I decided to edit my avatar to make it look less generic and brought up a fearsomely complicated menu system that let me adjust every aspect of the digital me.

While looking for how to edit my looks I did find a menu choice for "fly". Excellent. I look forward to trying that.

I settled for changing the colour of my t-shirt and adding a soul patch. Small changes but they made me stand out. A bit. Especially the bright blue shirt.

Moving on I walked down the hill and learned how to interact with the world and chat to the other residents.

I had my first conversation too. Someone said: "Hello" and before I could work out how to reply asked me how old I was.

Sadly, my trenchant reply of "about five minutes" went unheard as they got bored waiting for me to figure out the chat system and wandered off.


Second Life, BBC
Markbeeb Vostok takes his first steps in Second Life
That was easy.

Signing up was straight-forward, I didn't have to hand over any cash. Once I'd chosen a name I picked what I should look like. I went for a look that Second Life describes as "city chic male" because two out of those three words do describe me.

Then I had to download the Second Life application - a slim 23MB - and install it.

After that the Second Life interface came up and I connected and logged in. Soon after I was presented with a list of acceptable behaviours. Violating any of these "Big Six" behaviours would get me suspended or thrown out.

The six are: Intolerance, Harassment, Assault, Disclosure, Indecency and Disturbing the Peace.

I clicked the list closed and suddenly there I was. A bewildered entrant in a new world. Lots of other noobs were standing round - including one naked female avatar. Now what do I do?

Everyone else seems to be tweaking their appearance so perhaps I should too.


Antarctica, BBC
Antarctica - chllly and remote. Not a great role model
Names are always a problem when joining a virtual world. You want something that captures how you think of yourself and the character you want to play. Hopefully it will be witty but in a way that does not get tiresome.

In games picking a name is easier as you usually take on a role, such as warrior or warlock, which narrows your choices. And if the place you are signing up for is popular, such as Second Life, lots of the names you want to pick may already have gone.

In Second Life you choose your first name but get given a surname. As we are representing ourselves and the BBC the name we pick should reflect that.

I went for Markbeeb Vostok - the first name for obvious reasons and the surname perhaps to suggest I have hidden depths. For those that don't know Vostok is a lake that sits far beneath a glacier in Antarctica. Hmm, maybe it wasn't such a great choice after all.


Screen grab of Second Life, Linden Lab
Second Life membership is growing all the time
I'll say it now: I'm a huge fan of Snow Crash - the science fiction novel that inspired the creation of Second Life. I recently re-read it and discovered it was much better than I remember from the second time. It'll be interesting to see how the virtual reality matches the literary idea.

Also, I have spent time in quite a few online worlds, such as Azeroth where World of Warcraft is set, but most of the time there has been spent killing monsters and gathering loot. I'm curious to find out what people do in Second Life, what type of people they are and whether they grasp the opportunities a virtual existence presents to people.

I keep wanting to call Second Life a "game" though I know that description does not capture what it is really about. I'm preparing to have my attitudes adjusted.

First step though is getting Second Life installed. More when we have lift-off.

The ever-expanding metaverse
03 Nov 06 |  Technology
Online world to get news bureau
16 Oct 06 |  Technology
Security row upsets Second Lifers
26 Sep 06 |  Technology
Security breach hits online world
11 Sep 06 |  Technology
BBC starts to rock online world
12 May 06 |  Technology
Life lessons in virtual adultery
11 Apr 05 |  Technology

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