Thursday, 7 June 2007

Comcastaway on a Virtual Island

A version of this posting first appeared at 3pointD.

Comcast, the largest provider of cable services in the US — and one of the world’s leading communications companies, providing broadband Internet and a host of other digital services — have had »an island« under development in Second Life what seems like an eternity. I have tried on numerous occasions to gain access, since it looks rather intriguing on the Satellite Map view. Last night I gave it another go, and was pleasantly surprised to find myself standing in front of a teleport board, offering all manner of interesting pursuits. I had not picked up any hints that this site was due to open, and certainly the only other person present when I arrived was a developer, beavering away on various bits of fine tuning.

The build, from Millions of Us, is really too much to describe in one post — but I will give it a go. Most of the island is geared toward entertainment, with much for the seasoned traveller to try out. The main feature is a snaking tubular arrangement, which brought to my mind images of a particularly bizarre accident in a pipe factory. This turns out to be a raceway where up to four players can compete against each other, around three laps of the tubular track, in zippy little flying cars. Unfortunately, as a solo adventurer, I evidently didn’t count as a team and it flatly refused to rez me a race craft*. I had more luck outside, where I took the opportunity to ride (and repeatedly crash) a rather skittish jet-ski. Again, a track has been laid out to allow you and your friends to race these unmanageable brute. In subsequent conversation with Kathleen Millionsofus I whinged about the jet-ski and was informed that it had now been "de-tuned" to a level more suited to an old geezer like me.

My favourite spot has to be the pharmacy, with its whiff of 1950s shlock sci-fi movies and Little Shop of Horrors vibe. In the basement you will find a secret lab, where the strange brew “Faster” is whipped up. There are a number of amusing diversions, including “Around the World in a Minute”, that you might enjoy. You can also help yourself to a free labcoat and other mad professorial paraphenalia. To leave the lab you will need to pick up a (free) parachute, as you get catapulted some ridiculous height before gliding gracefully back to earth.

I have only highlighted a few of the points of interest, but there is also a display area, a meeting area and a viewpoint. I looked for the jet-pack station, but I was pushed for time and didn’t find it on my first trip. However, on a second jaunt I was able to grab a jet-pack. This, in turn, leads to the rezzing of a number of floating rings that you need to fly through. I assume there's some kind of points scoring involved, but I didn't spend long enough at it to find out.

This will be a fun place to come with friends and just play — perhaps one for the “Things To Do” group in Second Life. I don’t see much sign of Comcast branding, and the purpose is not clear, but it looks to me like Millions of Us may be applying some of the lessons learned from their successful Pontiac Motorati site to provide a community site in Second Life that tallies with Comcast brand values. This would certainly be a more subtle approach, and indeed has been confirmed by the builders, who added that the theme is linked to the current "Comcastic" TV campaign, featuring (I'm told) a shlock 50s sci-fi theme.

I assume we can look forward to an official launch in the near future.

* It turns out that this was due to incorrect land settings - and should now be fixed.

1 comment:

thorus said...

I have visited the Comcastic! Island too, now, as I also tried to get there many times before ;D

Im still curious about when it opened, as I found the 10th egg for the Microsoft Visual Studios egg hunt there, so I assume it must have been open since they started the hunt .. right ?=)

And I have been there with some friends, so it was some really entertaining visit .. not to mention all the freebies you get there =)