Monday, July 12, 2010

world of 'worlds' revisited

...and now that I'm actually "there" again, it's all coming back to me. What a strange, strange virtual world Worlds is. It was one of the first virtual places I ever visited, and I was surprised to find out it's still there. I feel like a time-traveller.

The setup has scarcely changed, except that I hadn't remembered just how unbelievably giantpixel super-clunky funky-stiff and crazy of a place it is. I first visited Worlds several years ago; since then I've found my way to Second Life*, a world that sets such a standard of realism and user power (not to mention, sheer size) that nothing else comes even remotely close. The contrast is almost ludicrous.

But back to the world of Worlds. This realm is organized into, well... worlds, as in, a little cartoon image of a cluster of orbs, and then you click on where you want to go. To call each area a world is a bit grandiose, as each amounts to little more than a series of interlocking rooms or a few plots of cartoon terrain. Each world has to be loaded onto your computer separately. Some of the options are a clue as to when the whole thing sort of fell out of interest: Hanson World, for instance (remember those guys?), and an old sign in the cocktail lounge home area that Supports Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Just now, during my years-later revisit, I was able to find my way to a garden, a boxlike affair with zagged chunks of computer rendering the size of toasters arranged into hedges and walls of repeating flowers. I remember it differently.

The funny thing is, for all it's wooden low-rez early VR crude rendering, it still somehow manages to feel like you're somewhere. You feel like you're somebody, too, even though when you first show up they make you walk around as a virtual penguin. It continues to be remarkable to me how little nudging we need to accept an artificial environment, and lock into it.

Oddly enough, all this low-tech rendering and wooden perambulation results in a kind of retro charm, and it forms a new layer of awareness over my decidedly surreal memories from years ago. I'd love to figure out how to get some screen shots because this place just can't be explained.


*By conscious choice, I am not in Second Life with the time-eating frequency of when I first wandered into it three years ago. But readers are welcome, while there, to say hello to an avatar named Reverielarke Wirtanen.

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