Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Keying In

Anyone who knows me in Second Life knows I've been on a perpetual, very stereotypically girly quest for quality footwear. SL is littered (in some places, literally littered) with free and cheap clothes, but with some notable exceptions they tend to be low-quality items. Some aren't even a step up from the default "Lindenwear" any avatar can create using the built-in appearance controls; others, I suspect, may be leftovers from earlier days of SL, when dressing up avatars was new to everybody. As clothing designers got more sophisticated—and SL's seemingly huge digital fashion industry took root—perhaps those items ceased being things people would pay for, and became things to be given away to new residents as a bit of a leg up.

Truth be told, I have found some great shoes in Second Life! I have no idea what makers are hip and cool in the SL universe, so I've mostly just followed my nose, sometimes chatting with residents about their favorites, sometimes using SL's built-in Search feature, and sometimes (I admit it!) using the camera control to zoom in on logos on cool things other avatars are wearing. I'm far from a Second Life fashionista, but I've found shoes I like at Shiny Things, Redgrave, Jeepers Creepers Shoes, Novocaine, and a few other places.

But, in real life I practically live in sneakers, so it made sense for my second self to get a decent pair of Chucks. My search somewhat randomly took me to Akeyo—I'd originally gone there because someone said they had unusually high-quality animations, but there, sitting on a table in another room, were a fabulous pair of Chucks. Pricey, but fab. Sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do!

But Akeyo itself proved to be unusual for a so-called store. The retail space itself is set on a set of, well, I guess rocks that resemble 3m high keyboard keys. But the sky! The sky is filled with monstrous, overlapping semi-transparent sheets of…something vaguely crystalline! I don't know what they're supposed to represent, but their shape shifts depending on the viewer's angle: as you turn, some sheets turn transparent while others solidify. Invisible transparent objects are hard to fly through—even with SL super-powers!—but it made for some amazing views.

Nestled above the store was a floating, round…observation post? I don't think it was complete, but it demonstrated something you almost never see in Second Life: strong shadows. Maybe my computer just isn't powerful enough, but the quality of light in the SL universe is very overcast: you can look up at the sky at high noon and see a sun floating there, but if you look down at the ground you won't see but the slightest hint of your own shadow. But this observation post showed strong shadows across the floor, and it as positioned just above SL's perpetual layer of clouds, making for some dramatic lighting.

I quickly realized these weren't "real" shadows at all, but rather a clever use of textures—essentially, the images used to "paint" surfaces of objects—to simulate sunlight. But it's a great effect.

Having busted out of the Akeyo store, I explored a little on the ground around the island…and found a most curious elevator! When touched, it begins shooting giant spores slowly skyward, and if you click one it takes you along for a ride!

Your destination? Something called The Shroom—a giant, hollow mushroom floating hundreds of meters above Akeyo and decked out like some psychedic lounge, complete with bunny rabbits reading fairy tales.

Perfect place to put my feet up and try on my new Chucks. Now where in my Inventory did they go…?

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