Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Rambling in ExitReality

After my recent post about the name of this new virtual world, I thought I should go for a longer ramble in ExitReality to check it out. It is currently inviting people to join its beta test programme, and so I signed up last week. However, after some initial frustrations I did not return to it until today.

My initial frustrations have been around getting the software to work reliably. I found that on IE7 it was not well behaved. The display was incomplete, performance seemed poor, the HUD ceased to function after I opened a website and I never got a sight of my avatar. On the other hand, the software was much better on Firefox 2: everything displayed (as far as I know), performance seemed OK, the HUD worked and I could toggle my avatar on or off. Nevertheless, the software was flakier than I had expected, and it crashed FF2 on several occasions.

Having had limited success, I went back to it again today, to have another go. This time I went to... well... this blog, Slambling, to see what I would get, since we are encouraged to travel freely on the internet using the virtual world interface. This was very slow, but eventually it presented me with a large hall, containing images and links gleaned from the website. Here's a couple of snaps...

While it was novel seeing Slambling set out like this, I am not sure it really helped much. Apart from the images and links I found it hard to make much sense of what I was seeing, or the layout I was seeing it in --- which seemed to be a mirror-image of the actual site.

I then checked out some of the pre-built places in ExitReality. These look like tests to illustrate what can be built - and quite good fun they are too:

I was unable to access the Online Help - though I don't know if that's because I cocked up my password, or because (as I suspect) I don't actually have access rights to the help server. Therefore, there's a lot I don't understand about the environment. Such as:

  • What are these things I can pick up?
  • What is a skybox? (I'm assuming it's like a private sandbox - is that right??)
  • How do I add places to my favourites?
  • How do I find friends inworld?
The avatar movements are a little awkward. Use the arrow keys - or the right mouse button - to move your avatar. You can tilt the view using the scroll wheel. No flying, no zoom in/out and no animations in your avatar, aside from a lolloping run. You select your avatar from a list of pre-built, pre-dressed characters.

I like the idea of ExitReality (thought not the name) and I think it is full of ideas - though I have no idea what many of these might be since I cannot access the User Guide in Online Help! However, it strikes me that it is too flakey to be out for beta testing. It really needs a good spell of alpha testing behind closed doors. Still... we are where we are, and it is open for public beta. Their blog makes for a reasonable read - though I am struggling to square my own experience with that described.

Anyhow, don't take my word... if you're intrigued, give it a go and let me know what you think.


Peter Miller said...

Looks interesting. I downloaded it, ran it and it fired up FF2 and told me it had failed to recognise ER and sent me off to download again. However, the download did seem suspiciously small (3 Mb)...

Peter Miller said...

After a night and a reboot, it now launches IE and the ActiveX controls run after a fashion (the PC I trialled it on is mid-low end). Like you, I was able to generate a view of my blog. I was also able to rez a few chairs (though not sit on or delete them). I have to say that it doesn't do an amazing amount for me but it is generally less geeky than SL and might be popular with a younger demographic.

Joseph said...

I am trying it out myself and am also frustrated by the difficulty in accessing documentation.

But one thing that strikes me is that this is not just a new virtual space -- it turns the whole web into a 3-D space. Still clunky, but this may be the web3D app I've been looking for.

Aleister Kronos said...

I've not found out about rezzing stuff, and right now I'm not too sure why I'd want to, since I don't have appear to have a permanent personal space.

On the other hand, the magic jiggery-pokery that converted Slambling (or any webpage) into a 3D model is really interesting - even if it is still very rough around the edges.

I can also see how using this approach to immersive brand experience might prove easier to attract visitors than, say, a remote island sim in Second Life.

Rory said...

Thanks for the honest and rather positive write up! The problems you talk about are things we are very aware of and are working very hard to address.

Especially the lack of documentation which means you missed out on customising your site and finding the avatar animation menu which is the button third from the right.

Check out for an example of what can be done with the information taken from a 2d page. The user pict, comments and about me section as well as user flash videos and music are all sourced from the 2d myspace page.

ArianeB said...

I tried this myself. The program is essentially a xml viewer program with chat capabilities, avatar capabilities, and a program that converts 2D websites into 3D websites, usually not very well, unless you are going to one of the prefab pages. Myspace pages work the best.