by Alphaville Herald on 06/03/05 at 5:10 pm
The Second Life Herald is pleased to announce the debut of a new column by Herald Editorial Director and Raving Correspondent Walker Spaight: Off the Grid will appear on a strictly irregular basis, featuring news, thoughts and varied offerings culled from Walker’s wanderings. Enjoy.
To slap an eye on Louise, who has stolen my heart, one might at first judge her a lonely, unexciting sim. A Tringo parlor crouches next door in Abitibi, of course, but from the looks of things, one doesn’t expect to find drama brewing in a combat zone not far from my tier-heavy home. All I had to do to find it was fly south.
There at the edge of the Grid we are a mostly residential bunch. Far from the nearest telehub, many of the builds in places like Louise, Nipigon, Simcoe, Seneca are low-slung and occasionally interesting: a garden house, one of plube Zadoq’s stained-glass mini-mansions. A misty cemetery outside a vampire club. It seems a homestead land, the kind of checkerboard Prokofy hates. One-fourth of an acre and a couple of prims gets you a starter home and a forum post wondering what you’re supposed to do next. Don’t worry, inspiration will descend.
But then there pops up Walleye — nice name for a sim — where a red heart suddenly appears at the top of my screen. On the battlefield, a confederate flag does its best to flutter above a watchtower of rough-hewn 19th-century logs. My hopes are high. Perhaps I’ve stumbled across a virtual Civil War reenactment society. But no, there’s a WWII-era bomber parked nearby and a high-tech weapons vendor on the tarmac (and, more disturbing, a German iron cross flag furled around a flagpole). I’ve never died in Second Life. I don’t think I’d mind. But alas, there aren’t any shooters in sight. Only angry neighbors eager to complain to your Walkering correspondent that they’ve been getting bounced from their builds by stray shots from the combat zone. Or maybe not so stray.
A newspaper serves a civic function, so I promise to investigate. There are green dots nearby, after all, though they seem to be far above us. In fact, they’re close to 300 meters up, just over flying range. But no good virtual reporter travels without at least a Cubey WARP attachment, and I am soon hovering level with a platform bustling with the collective energy one hopes to find in a virtual world. It’s the energy of soldiers and commanders, though, of blue mech suits and gleaming auto-turrets. It’s the Invaders of SL, and they’re about to get their war on.
A selection from the Invaders’ arsenal
Or soon, anyway. The turret needs work before it will automatically fire at any stranger with an attachment in his (or her) hand. But Commander Vade Darkholme assures me that once it does, the Invaders’ conquest of Street City — the 23,040-acre combat zone in Walleye — will begin.
Vade and second-in-command Osmic Edo have thus far assembled an army a dozen strong. Their recruitment technique is the traditional one: they seek cooperation freely given — in return for peace and protection, that is. Terroritorial advance is made similarly: “Kill some people and rez our stuff,” Vade explains. And after that? “Once it’s ours we will find more land.”
Vade Darkholme (right) and second-in-command Osmic Edo
“One moment,” Vade says. “We may have trouble.”
The mech attachments are put away, the double-barreled tank de-rezzed, and suddenly Vade and his crew are vaulting over the rail, descending the 300 meters to the small airstrip, where a soldier has a visitor in his sights. But no shots will be fired tonight. Instead, a deal is struck. It seems the Invaders’ trespasser is a builder with a gripe. Another SL resident has been reselling a plane he built, jacking up the price and slurrying his reputation.
Vade is a commander who thinks on his feet. After a moment’s consideration he makes his play. “I would like you to help us,” he tells the visitor. Vade is in need of a scripter. The visitor is in need of an army’s services. Linden Lab is in need of a way to retroactively deal with the permissions bug and its attendant hacks. By the time the evening’s over, two of the parties will be on their way to satisfied. The rest of us will have to wait for 1.6 (and cross our fingers once we get there).
And so the drama, presumably, begins. One wonders whether Vade and the Invaders have it in them, technically or otherwise, to police their supplicant’s situation. But in a lawless land ruled by whimsical gods, such may be the only recourse. The homestead analogy is appropriate. The social structures of SL resemble nothing so much as the Wild West, where highwaymen and cattle barons relied on 19th-century griefing techniques to get what they wanted, where the limited sway of the U.S. marshal service was routinely enhanced by private firepower.
Where is our Shane, though? Where is our Duke? Street City’s neighbors, wanting nothing but to enjoy their frontier homes, cast about for the man on the white horse, but no one rides in to save the day before the credits roll. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking to wonder whether here, out on the edge of the Grid, they might find their hero. But it’s places like this where heroes are made.
There will always be drama. But how much more compelling would the drama be were a new kind of gunslinger to suddenly appear from Off the Grid?