Sunday, September 12, 2010

Third Life

Recently I mentioned (Web) that changes from Linden Lab have encouraged me to spend more time with my Apple iPad, part of my Third Life of living virtual. It's an extension of what I've been doing with my beloved iPod Touch (Web). Of course I read books and listen to music on my iPad, as well as watch videos, play board games, and more, but I have several apps that enhance my Third Life.

Koi Pond, from Blimp Pilots (Web; iTunes on the Web) is back, but bigger and better. Now I can build my own ponds by placing each element just where I want, adjust all aspects of the light and water, plus control sound and wildlife. It's like making a pond in Second Life (SL) without worrying about prims and scripts. This picture is my creation. I could have used one of the pre-made ponds or edited one. The app needs to have an option so that I can watch it without having to occasionally tap the screen to keep the device awake. It's like having a nature sounds generator and a pretty picture all in one.

Pocket Pond (iTunes on the Web) does have a no-timeout option and is more photorealistic but doesn't feel as warm. It is nearly as customizable as Koi Pond out of the box, but with an upgrade more customization is possible and you can catch the fish. I like the thunderstorm feature. Both ponds let you feed the fishies and both are pretty darned relaxing. I can't pick a favorite, but I tend to use Pocket Pond more while by iPad sits on a stand beside my computer. Don't look for the publisher's Web site to be of any help, though. It doesn't acknowledge the app's existence so I didn't even put a link here.

Distant Shores, also from Blimp Pilots (Web; iTunes on the Web) is actually the same app that I have on my iPod Touch, not an upgrade for use on the iPad. By doubling the size the graphics suffer, but "walking the beach" is a bit nicer in that my hand doesn't get in the way as much. The objective is still to find messages in bottles and to gather shells to earn empty bottles for your own messages. With the iPad, creating messages is much easier because the keyboard is bigger. In a way, Distant Shores is a very basic social media app for communicating with random strangers but without the pitfalls of using Chatroulette. I keep hoping that I could actually go inside my hut (pictured here) or run across people, but since I don't have an avatar myself, just disembodied footprints, there wouldn't be much point to that. Hopefully when the app is updated for the iPad's larger screen, the Bimpies will add synchronization between devices. I have messages on my iPod Touch that don't show on the iPad.

Gylder2 (Web; iTunes on the Web) does have an avatar, and as you can see, she's adorable! The orginal Glyder on my iPod Touch was a lot of fun, but soaring on a bigger screen with even more challenges and scenery is a lot more fun. I can spend hours with this app just flying around. I do that in SL, but with my Mac's wireless keyboard and the world's inherent lag, it is something of an effort. With Glyder2 its all fun. There are missions to collect gems and perform specific flying patterns, each letting you earn special clothes or wings, but the sheer joy of the experience is often enough.

Citadel (Web; iTunes on the Web), is all about experience, too, as it is not really a game, but a demonstration of the technology behind an upcoming game. I mentioned it sort of in passing on this blog a few days ago (Web) but didn't say much. If you have an iPad, stop now and get the free download. If you don't, look at the picture and drool. As you wander through a castle's keep and through its outer ward you are treated to a visual feast. It is like being a tourist in a deserted place. Look at anything you want, as long as you want. Sadly, you can't go inside the buildings save for one very spectacular build nor wander outside too far, but like Second Life, there is no set goal to this not-game. The idea is to simply enjoy the environment. Eventually, Epic Games will release some twitch-n-slash title that uses this environment and while I am terrible at "physical" games other than Wii Bowling, I'll probably buy it just to see more of this gorgeous world.

Photopedia Heritage (Web; iTunes on the Web) also has fabulous architecture, but in the form of spectacular photographs from UNESCO World Heritage sites, like Notre Dame de Paris, shown here. If you don't read the in-depth descriptions, delve into the Wikipedia articles, or scan the maps, you will still find leafing through the images a thrill. This is not a virtual life, but real life lived virtually. You'll wonder why your Geography and History classes sucked so much (mine didn't, but I'm that kinda geek) compared to this app. I haven't found any multimedia yet, but I'm still poking around randomly. If you are heavily OCD and want organization then you can have it, but it may not be as much fun as exploring.

Which is why I love Second Life, to get back to our shared world, for a moment. I seldom keep landmarks, but I have a folder of full of them for just "Cool Builds." These are places that are visually exciting, cleverly constructed, or engaging based on the activities. SL is full of places like this. Sadly, like Real Life, it is also filled with "un-Cool Builds" and I find my way back to my iPad.

Cro-Mag Rally (Web; iTunes on the Web) was a free app at one time and I got it to remind myself at how badly I am at this sort of game. I don't drive well when there is a computer involved, wether it be on my iPad or in Second Life or on any console system. But this game is a collection of cute little virtual worlds and despite crashing into everything, never winning a race (I often come in 7th or 8th in a 6 person race), and generally mucking up everything, it is still fun to hold my iPad (or iPod Touch) as a steering wheel and wander about. By luck, I guess, it has become part of Apple's Game Center (Web) so now I can humiliate myself publicly. Or humiliate my brother as our iTunes account is in his name. Social networking and virtual worlds. Who would have thought of it?

I won't bring up Angry Birds (Web; iTunes on the Web) because it isn't really a virtual experience, despite a storyline. Though I suppose I did just bring it up. So I won't mention the Volkswagen-sponsored racing game that works like Cro-Mag, nor the great pinball games, ball bearing-in-a-labyrinth games, or other such things that I play. Goodness knows that unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've heard about the games and other things you can do with iPads and such so you can assume that I do those, too. But they are not part of what I call my Third Life, living virtually outside Second Life. They are just ... life, something we all have to do every now and then.

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