Second Life and Virtual Reality
Second Life is 12 years old and an admittedly aging game. Due to a plethora of reasons, including technical problems, high cost of virtual living, troublesome players, adverts by companies flooding the game, or that it’s simply not that fun anymore, Second Life’s player base has more than halved since its’ peak of around 1 million players in 2013. However, there is a new technology in town that may just be able to give Second Life that new lease of life – Virtual reality!
When Second Life was initially conceived, the founder, Philip Rosedale, had envisioned a virtual world that also double as a virtual reality environment for players to immerse themselves into, but there was a problem – at that time, there was nowhere for players to visit. Due to this, he decided to change the direction of the company to developing a user-friendly game on the flat screen for players to create content. Although it is a logical move on the part of the company at that time, the times have changed.
With the impending sales of the commercial version of Oculus Rift at the horizon, it is no surprise that the company behind the world’s largest virtual world game, Linden Lab, is fully embracing virtual reality as the next stepping stone in creating the next generation of a truly immersive virtual world. The best part? You can try it today! Just download the Second Life viewer from their website, plug in your Oculus Rift, turn on the “HMD mode” on from the menu, and you’re ready to go!
With the Oculus Rift, Second Life is more appealing than ever before! Your view is no longer boxed in by the screen and the wider field of view along with the in-built head tracking and stereoscopic 3D allows you to enjoy the beautiful panoramic scenes of the virtual world around you. The default setting is in third person view, but if you fancy a more immersive virtual reality experience, you can merely press the “M” key to switch to first person view. The gameplay will be the same as before, you’ll be using the mouse and keyboard to navigate the virtual world.
Second Life has even created and compiled a nice variety of particularly beautiful locations that you can explore with your new gadget, ranging from the desolate streets of 1920 Berlin or a fantastical island filled with mushroom trees to an incredible underwater world or a lush jungle that you can trek through, in the Oculus Rift destination guide. For those of you who want to get more out of the beautiful virtual worlds in Second Life, this is definitely a golden opportunity for you, so be sure to check these places out!
At the moment, the Second Life viewer provides support for only Mac and Window as Linux support has yet been implemented. Furthermore, it is unsure whether the company would decide to make the viewer compatible to other Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) such as Playstation VR a.k.a. Project Morpheus, Steam VR, Samsung’s Gear VR or HTC Vive. There is also a small problem of the cost. Don’t get me wrong, I know Second Life is a free-to-play game, but the HMD isn’t. Even if you opt for the cheapest and low-end option, which currently seems to be the Gear VR, you’ll still need to shell out a hefty $200 in addition to owning a high-end Samsung smartphone. From recent trends, it may take some time still to drop the prices for these HMDs down to a more affordable level and this means that this virtual reality feature in Second Life can currently be used by players who can actually afford an HMD.
The viewer isn’t exactly perfect as well, as admitted by the current CEO of Linden Lab, Ebbe Altberg. Due to this, the company is currently working on a similar title from scratch that will work better with virtual reality HMDs like Oculus Rift called Project Sansar. Moreover, this project will have far superior graphics and can support bigger crowds unlike the capped player limit in areas in Second Life. Linden Lab hopes to commercially release the game before end of 2016 in conjunction with the release of the commercial Oculus Rift.
So, while we are waiting for Project Sansar, we could still enjoy Second Life as it is, or for players who own an Oculus Rift, they can play Second Life in a more immersive virtual world via the Second Life viewer. The future of virtual reality in virtual world games is upon us and Second Life seems to be at the forefront of its genre yet again. Players of Second Life definitely will have plenty to look forward to next year!