Second Life’s Pandora Na’vi Roleplay – Breathtaking Beauty and Lag

by Alphaville Herald on 24/02/10 at 7:49 am

Multilingual players use Na'vi speaker/translator to bridge language gap

by Meleth Oakleaf


Like many places in the world SL has caught Avatar fervor. While it was my original intention was to review a single Pandoran role-play environment, a combination of lag and frustration led me to explore the two most highly traffic-ed Pandoran roleplay sims, Pandora – Navi' Planet Avatar and  Pandora Magic.

Both of the sims I visited started with a representation of the human settlement, in the case of Pandora this was the ship orbiting above the Pandoran jungle, in Pandoran Magic the human camp . Both of these sims were bilingual; Pandora being predominantly English and French and Pandoran Magic being predominantly German and English. Both sims use the DCS combat system. Both sims include fully stocked vendor areas with everything a budding Na'Vi or evil Human could want. Though it seems to me that these items are comparatively more expensive than items used in other roleplay sims. Finally both did an amazing job of capturing the beauty of the movie that inspired them.

I also noticed similarities among the avatars inhabiting these sims. The Na'vi seemed to outnumber the humans by a factor of ten to one. I saw a great many exact copies of Jake Sully and Neytiri running around, though to be fair this may be because the majority of Na'Vi that I saw were in concentrated in the starting area. I also noted that the number one common role-play interest, other than Avatar, I saw on the profiles of those around me was Star Wars.


To the casual observer there seemed to be very little distinction to these two worlds, though I'm sure differences become more apparent as you explore each sim in further detail. I did note that Pandora seems to hold a firmer grasp on exact replicas of what you see in the movie while, Pandoran Magic seemed to have concentrated on capturing the spirit of the world. In both cases the breathtaking beauty was severely negativity impacted by the large amounts of lag. I found both sims to be laggy almost to the point of unusable, even being logged off while attempting to navigate around the home tree in one. After three failed attempts to log back into one of the sims, I eventually gave up and returned home rather than deal with the frustration any further.

Despite the lag and beauty I was able to capture the attention of the lovely, blue Tirea Adjani in Pandora Magic and ask her a few questions. I caught up with Tirea twice. Once when she was first beginning to explore Pandoran sims and once after she'd had a chance to get her feet wet, In the interest of brevity I have not included the first interview, but a few questions refer to solutions she has found to problems she encountered in her first few visits.

Mel: So Tirea what drew you to try a Pandoran sim?
Tirea: The fantasy element  was undeniable… having seen the movie I think like most people I loved it while also hating it for being an impossible reality. But in SL I can come close to sort of living that dream.
Mel: You mentioned earlier that you've tried one other avatar inspired sim, what is it about this sim that you find more enjoyable?
Tirea: The issue I had with the first one was that it… had pathways actually. I don't want stone paths guiding me to locations, it ruins the wild sort of… unknown jungle-ish thing
Mel: I can't help but notice the lag that accompanies this unknown jungle. Have you picked up any hints for being about to move without resembling a yo-yo?
Tirea: The market areas are all lagtastical. I've have learned to my cache before going to one and give the jungle adequate time to load,. Lag is inevitable, but it does improve if you let things load at their own pace instead of wandering through barely rezzed area of jungle. I also tend to travel via Ikraan since it's quick and allows me to travel above the super detailed jungle area below.
Mel: Ah I can see how that would help. So what tell me about combat in the Pandora Magic?
Tirea: The combat is dependent largely upon there being people playing humans. And there are far less of those, then there are people playing Na'Vi. Otherwise it's just like and other DCS sim, fast-paced, mildly confusing and laggy. I myself, avoid the human encampment since I know I'm a crappy DCS fighter.
Mel: Earlier you mention that you were having trouble finding people who spoke English in your Pandora Magic, have you picked up any pointers?
Tirea: A translator helps. There's also a free Na'vi speaker/translator, so encouraging people to speak in Na'Vi means we're all seeing the same slightly broken translations into our native language when enter it into the translator thingy. So for example if someone is speaking in Dutch, the translator will take Dutch and turn it into Na'Vi and spit out both versions. So rather than translating Dutch I translate the Na'Vi since then I don't have to have a billion translators open to compensate for all the diff. languages people are speaking.


Mel: So other than this translator, what would you recommend for a new person to grab to try out Pandoran roleplaying?

Tirea: As in technical equipment or in general for playing a Na'Vi character?
Mel: Both.
Tirea: Well, definitely pick up a Na'Vi translator and a combat system. The latter at least so that you can feel all kewl with a weapon you can swing around, hehe.  For your character. You, at the bare minimum,  need a Na'vi skin an some basic clothing. Most of the Sims don't allow obvious nudity. A tail is also a good idea  just to complete the general Na'Vi anatomy.
Mel: How many Lindins did it cost you to get started?
Tirea: I personally spent about 6.5k on stuff, but I made some mistake purchases that cost me. I also indulged a bit, purchasing an ikran and a hometree sleeper as well as two weapons and 1.5k AO. Though, the nice thing about playing in Pandora is once you do get setup, you won't need to be spending tons and tons of money to feel like you fit in with the other people. Frequent outfit changes and things aren't really noticed or necessary.
Mel: Well thank you for your time Tirea, I know the untamed jungle calls you so I won't keep you here any longer.


I really enjoyed both my stays in Pandora, the breathtaking beauty of the world left me in awe. That being said the lag is too much for this pixie to bear. From what I saw. the sims both seemed light on roleplaying and heavy on players wandering through the gorgeous landscape. Though the be fair, in this environment that can be considered a form of role-play. In my honest opinion, the Pandoran sims in their current state are beautiful to look at, but I would give them a bit more time before I considered roleplaying with any regularity in one. Time for the builders to find the right balance of beauty vs lag. Time for more designers to enter the avatar personalization market and drive prices lower. Finally, time  for the movie hype to die down a bit, leaving more dedicated role-players and fewer gawking reporters.

In a personal note, I couldn't help but giggle when the first thing I saw when I teleported into Pandora – Navi' Planet Avatar, was one Navi leading another collared Navi around via a leash. Though it isn't in any way a part of the structure of the sim, I found the irony and the image to be absurd. I'm sorry Scylla I tried.

19 Responses to “Second Life’s Pandora Na’vi Roleplay – Breathtaking Beauty and Lag”

  1. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Feb 24th, 2010

    Visualizations like SL ruin roleplay anyway.

  2. Senban Babii

    Feb 24th, 2010

    I may have missed it but you don’t mention whether a casual visitor can wander round with some kind of “ignore me I’m a tourist” tag?

    Personally I’ve not seen Avatar and don’t really have much inclination to see a film which I honestly doubt lives up to its hype but I’d like to see whether there’s any actual “roleplay” or whether it’s actually more of a place designed to simply recreate a piece of a movie for people to walk round. From what you’ve said here, it’s sounding like the latter. There’s nothing wrong with building a nice sim of course and I’m sure the creators have done a really nice job of it, keeping true to the movie’s details. I just wish people would realise that strapping on some kind of combat hud and dressing in some kind of costume while wandering round a sim is not roleplaying. If anything it has more in common with military re-enactment. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but they’re two distinct concepts.

    I’d love to know if there are actually any genuine roleplaying sims.

    @Alyx Stoklitsky

    “Visualizations like SL ruin roleplay anyway.”

    I have to agree sadly. Genuine roleplaying only needs a couple of people to engage in collaborative storytelling. Even ideas like dice, stats/attributes and miniatures should only be an aid to the roleplay and not the focus of the roleplay itself. SL roleplaying seems to have more in common with Live Action Roleplaying which is more about dressing up and having a fight in a suitable setting than it is about collaborative storytelling. Of course that’s just my opinion and others can enjoy whatever activities they like.

  3. Scylla Rhiadra

    Feb 24th, 2010

    “In a personal note, I couldn’t help but giggle when the first thing I saw when I teleported into Pandora – Navi’ Planet Avatar, was one Navi leading another collared Navi around via a leash. Though it isn’t in any way a part of the structure of the sim, I found the irony and the image to be absurd. I’m sorry Scylla I tried.”

    LOL!! Yes, Meleth you did, and full points to you! I was just preparing to write a laudatory comment when I read your final paragraph … :D

    Well, the absurdity of those particular RPers notwithstanding, this is still very much a laudatory post. Thank you for focusing on a different kind of RP sim, and for providing such a detailed and useful account of both of these places. I’m sure that there are many who will be interested in this kind of RP; it’s truly refreshing to see the Herald providing them with some guidance in find it. Meleth, I owe you a beer or something: nicely done! :)

  4. Inniatzo

    Feb 24th, 2010

    @Alyx Stoklitsky

    “Visualizations like SL ruin roleplay anyway.”

    Sure, and life was better in simpler times without a those damned horseless carriages. All this newfangled stuff where you can like “see” things is only for those lazy kids.

    Look, you’re right, one can have fun with rp just using text. And certainly there have been times when I have been in sl with someone and our avatars more or less just stand there while we type away. And its fun.

    But what happens when you want three people involved. Okay, that’s doable in text. Now, four and six, and some of them are here and the others are over there. With an environment to walk around in, with different clothes to wear, different weapons, different species and all of that, you can look around and see what is going on without having to wait for everyone to type out a 200 line description of what they look like when they walk outside.

    Even with just 2 people the shared visual elements are a good thing. It doesn’t mean its the only way, but it helps to expand the whole environment in which you’re playing in. Yes, sure, you can type it all out, but who is going to type out a total description of each room as you wander through some building packed with details. It doesn’t ruin the creativity. When done well the whole environment makes the whole experience that much better.

    You can roleplay using a telegraph for all I care and if that is your thing, well, good for you. Saying “visualizations like SL ruin roleplay” is silly, and makes me think you’re just not very good at it.

  5. Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia

    Feb 24th, 2010

    “Saying “visualizations like SL ruin roleplay” is silly, and makes me think you’re just not very good at it.”


    Anyway, I went to one of those na’vi sims because I wanted to rp a marine and frag me some blue tree hugging hippies. I was surprised to find that there really were no humans being RPed on either sim. It’s the 3rd RP sim I’ve come across this year where they didn’t have any villains (this year has been outrageously boring for me). Granted, this was about a week after the movie came out, so the sims were brand new back then. Maybe I’ll give it another try. If they let people RP marines, I’ll have to make one of those mech suit thingies or something. I make my best stuff when I make props for RP.

  6. Ric Mollor

    Feb 24th, 2010

    Interesting review but you missed one of the most important questions while interviewing. IMHO it would be priceless to corner one of the so called ‘content creators’ and ask them how they felt about basically copybotting material straight out of the movie for their own personal benefit.

    Or is this all licensed and approved by 20th Century Fox and Cameron? :^) Ubisoft will probably be quite surprised to find that they weren’t the exclusive licensee.

  7. Darkfoxx

    Feb 24th, 2010

    I have to agree with Inniatzo, Alyx…

    The only difference between let’s say text only roleplay, or with the aid of dice and rulebooks as in D&D, and Second Life, is whether or not you have do include descriptions of props, environment, character etc.

    Describing in detail what the room you are in looks like, or how your character looks to someone just entering the room, or even your character’s position, has little to do with *actual* roleplay, EG, what do you do, what do you say, who you are in your role and acting like it.

    And that is about the only thing that SL does VS text only RP: it takes away the need to describe everything, and simply shows it. What comes next, is actual roleplay, how the character behaves in the described, or displayed environment.

    But even in SL, you dont have to rely on it to take care of that part… You can also as Inniatzo said, just stand around anywhere and do your thing, including descriptions as you wish. There’s no need to be on a castle wall in Second Life to RP there, any room in SL will do, as will any room in RL.

    In that regard, SL doesn’t have to affect roleplaying at all, let alone ruin it.

  8. Tux Winkler

    Feb 24th, 2010


    I have to agree with Alyx (and yes I do suck at SLRP) and the reason is simple: you are bound by the limitations of SL creation and the creators vision.

    I am from a time of pen and paper RP (things like shadowrun, cyberpunk, whfrp, etc) and the beauty was each person imagined the scene. It was highly probable that each player saw the environment a little defferent to everyone else.

    But in SLRP it seems more like playing a FPS (or sex which seems to drive everything – I wonder how long until someone sets up a slave/prostitute camp for the NaVi), I don’t think the actual detail of the sim is important when you have little collectives of players shooting the crap out of each other. Of course I am only drawing on my past experience of entering a SLRP sim and being shot repeatedly without any apparent reason (other than having noob stats on my DCS that is).

    I just don’t think a FPS and/or sex amounts to a good RP.

  9. The Skinny Dork

    Feb 24th, 2010

    @Alyx Stoklitsky

    “Visualizations like SL ruin roleplay anyway.”

    I wince whenever I see one of your stupid generalizations, since you are one of the meanest-spirited trolls on any SL-related list, right after Prok and Ann O’Toole.

    In this case, however, I’ll give you a pass because I did laugh as I envisioned my weekly “Nerd Night”: four fat dorks and a skinny one sitting around a table rolling d20s and trying to be dramatic, bad accents and all.

    Visualize THAT. Somebody give me a visualization!

  10. Darien Caldwell

    Feb 24th, 2010

    Yes, telling stories with pictures is wrong. Burn the comics, burn the cinema, down with graphic novels. The caveman that drew a picture on a cave wall should be stoned.

    (for the slow, that is sarcasm)

  11. Meleth Oakleaf

    Feb 24th, 2010

    Senban – I was able to wander about in street clothes without anyone speaking to me about my attire, though both RP Sims ask you to dress appropriately and I was wearing my reporter tag. A low cost option if you want to get into the spirit of things, it to wear fatigues which were the uniform of the humans in the movie.

    Just my two cents about visualizations ruining RP — I think RP is most heavily impacted by what you and those RPing with you choose to do with the tools available to you. Different tools work better in different hands. In addition, a wide variety of people consider themselves RPers and many of them value different aspects of RP. I think the real trick is to find a group of people who’s idea of good RP matches yours.

    $0.02 from Mel

  12. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Feb 25th, 2010

    @The skinny dork:

    Here’s my visualization of this article’s comments:

    I’m sure it will immerse you in the “Alyx Stoklitsky comment experience” like nothing else.

  13. James Cameron

    Feb 25th, 2010

    No! No! You got it all wrong! This took place in MULTIVERSE…. who am I kidding? I picked the wrong pony …

  14. Inniatzo

    Feb 25th, 2010


    “I have to agree with Alyx (and yes I do suck at SLRP) and the reason is simple: you are bound by the limitations of SL creation and the creators vision.”

    This is true, of course, but in a text-based rp, even assuming that each player’s visions of the environment is exciting and novel and all that, difficulties can arise when *sharing* that vision. Let’s say you have a stiletto hidden in your boot. In text you can either type in out, in which case you have to assume the others will play along and not instantly spot it with their uncanny vision. Or you can not mention it and suddenly whip it out, to cries of ‘wtf!’. (And yes, you could have a refree or something, I know, but then the world is being guided by their vision) In SL, if you have it then it’s there. People can notice or notice.

    This happened to me recently. I was dabbling in Gor (and for those don’t like Gor, fine, I get it, I’ve heard it all before) and taken to a sim where they told me to strip and locked me in a cage. That’s pretty typical and I complied – except I didn’t take my boots off. It’s a northern climate, lots of snow, so boots are not unusual. So later I rped ripping the boots apart to find small pieces of metal to pick the lock. Believable? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, I wore the boots, they saw I was wearing them, and no one said ‘hey you’re supposed to be completely naked.’ That sort of thing is hard to do in text based rp.

    Another example is I can run through a town or a landscape, usually being chased sometimes i chase them, and there is a chance I can actually elude them. Now it isn’t perfect, there’s radar and the minimap, but that is hard to do with text based stuff in a way that gives you the same feeling of a realtime chase: no time to think! left or right? turn and run past them? is that door locked? can you squeeze past those containers? And you don’t have to worry about whether or not both parties have the same idea of what the buildings and rooms are like. They’re right there in front of you.

    Now there is nothing wrong with having a text based rp. I like to read books and that’s text and my own imagination. But for a *shared* experience the visualizations help a lot, and the more people you have the more essential it becomes. I’ll bet in your pen and paper rps you had visual aids. It’s the same thing.

    As for the other stuff you mentioned, maybe you have bad experiences with combat because you’re not good at it. If that is something that appeals to you, you probably need to practice, and there must be places to do that. The same might be true of rp sex, not everyone does that well, trust me. :) So, if that appeals to you then you might need to practice that.

    But not all sims have combat and sex. There are some fantasy ones, like Avalon or Avilion or whatever its called that I have been to a couple times. I’ve never seen anything exciting going on there when I’ve been there, but then I like the sex stuff. :) Insilico is a cool place, very cyberpunk and bladerunner, its supposed to have rp, but I haven’t really seen that. But, in places like that just go with friends and run around and have your own rp. If you’re not bumping into a lot of people you can do that easily.

    Go to Insilico and walk around, even inside the big mall area the experience of being there is very powerful and, even better, it can be shared with a bunch of people.

  15. Imnotgoing Sideways

    Feb 26th, 2010

    I’m getting the feeling I’m just about the only one around uninterested in the adventures of Pocahontas Smurf. (=_=)

  16. Mimika Oh

    Mar 28th, 2010

    Roleplaying the noble savage fallacy must run out of material pretty fast.

  17. Sreu

    Jun 16th, 2010

    there are alot of humans playing in Pandora now, I dont know about the other sim.

    text based rp is alot of fun, and has the advantage of the fact that you actually have to know how to type, describe, and rp, vs. point and click.

    That being said, I love just wandering around Pandora by myself sometimes, cause damn it is beautifull. and you just dont get that in text based rp

  18. Stacia Villota

    Jun 27th, 2010

    And even a few neko sometimes… ~.^

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