Saturday, 10 March 2007

What's the Weather Like?

It's been a hectic end to the week in The Islands of SL, with several new launches in the space of only a few hours. I've already covered some of them, but now it's the turn of Epic Conditions. I first blogged this about 3 weeks ago, shortly after this 5-sim cluster appeared on the Satellite Map of SL. Since then a huge amount of effort has been expended to bring this island to launch.

So what's it all about? Well, Epic Conditions is a new show from the Weather Channel, that describes itself as "your daily shot of weather adrenaline!" The programme airs on the Weather Channel every Sunday at 9:00pm ET/PT from March 4th to April 1, which, if I'm not mistaken, makes it rather less than a daily shot of weather adrenaline. I assume, therefore, that I am to obtain my fix by visiting the website, watching assorted movies and creating my own mashups. For me, this certainly brings a whole new definition of a "thrill a minute" - and not in a good way (*stifles yawn*).

The concept of the show is to tie extreme sports to weather information - a laudable aim, though whether it will drag in the punters is another matter. And so to the SL island. In effect,
the island is divided into 5 zones - one per sim.

The hub is the main Weather sim, with a reception area, a number of video screens and links off to webpages. To the West of this is the Surf zone, where you can sit by a beach bar and watch surfers play among the mighty waves that crash majestically onto the shore. At least, I assume that's the theory. Unfortunately, owing to the limitations of the SL programming environment these look less like waves, and more like giant blue mittens, pawing their way towards you. Somewhere along the line, my adrenaline level dropped off, and I took advantage of the lifeguard's chair to have a Hasselhoff Moment to myself.

Next I looked at the BMX bike zone. This has a wonderfully grungey meeting space (with obligatory vid screen) called The Bunker. I really liked the gritty textures of this place. From there I picked up my bike and helmet, followed the instructions, and away I went, across this arid, dino-boned desert landscape. The bike is a nice idea, and well executed, but again it just didn't really engage me that much. Maybe if this was hooked into amBX it would be a far more exciting proposition - but right now it feels kinda pedestrian, thanks to the inherent limitations of the enviroment.

Much the most successful, in my view, is the skiing zone. After getting your skis you catch the ski-lift to the top of a very tall mountain. In skiing down, you face all manner of nasty weather conditions, avalanches, cliffs and all that kind of thrill-seeker stuff. It is well executed again, and this time I felt it made good use of the limited SL physics environment.

There is another sim that appears to be a largely unformed, rock-strewn wasteland at the moment. I assume this will morph into something extremely sporting some time soon.

Finally there is a small orientation island, looking like a condensed version of the main LL orientation islands. I wondered whether this was intended for use with the Registration API, but when I checked the website I found no reference to being able to register there. In fact, I found no reference to Second Life at all - which is odd.

A final thought - it'd be nice to have a view of the weather on the Weather sim. I wonder what the chances are of blagging use of the 3D Weather Map from NOAA (in a web x.0 mashup stylee).

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