Monday, April 26, 2010

My Journey to Heritage Key, Part 1

At the risk of appearing to jump on the bandwagon – largely because I am jumping on the bandwagon – I thought I’d spend some time exploring the work that Rezzable has been doing with Open Sim. (For those who haven’t seen these excellent pieces, Dio Kuhr writes about her experiences here and Ariane Barnes writes here.)

Dio discusses Heritage Key as a learning envrionment, and has a brief interview with Rezzable's CEO, Jon Himoff. I'm no ed-yoo-cater; I'm more of a happy-go-lucky sort, interested in entertaining myself and others, and if I happen to learn something along the way, great. As a result, my perspective is a somewhat different one.

I'll start with a big thank you to Miss Viv Trafalgar, who made sure I was able to log in without trouble and spent a very pleasant hour or more with me (well, it was pleasant for me) showing me the welcome area, the travel center, and the various Stonehenge exhibits - more on those in Part 2 of this series - and pointing out the AO that, among other things, got rid of the horrid duck walk. Miss Viv, who has done extensive work for Rezzable both in Heritage Key and elsewhere, also discussed the ongoing evolution of the software behind the Heritage Key grid. [*N.B. All errors are those of the author, as the disclaimer in academic work goes. In addition, I haven't quoted Viv, in part because, in my scatter-brained way, it didn't occur to me until it was far too late that, gee, some our conversation might be of wider interest but by then it was too late to ask whether she would like to be quoted. Instead, you get my musings.]

Heritage Key is an OpenSimulator (or OpenSim) grid, existing separately from the Second Life grid, so it requires its own registration and avatar creation. OpenSimulator an open source server software designed to host virtual worlds. OpenSim looks a great deal like Second Life - I assume much of that was reverse-engineered from the SL server side - and uses the same communications protocols for client to server communication. As a result, any of the Second Life clients should work with OpenSim.

If my experience in Heritage Key is representative of OpenSim, the platform has come a long way from my earlier experiments with it. I would have login difficulties, suffer frequent crashes, and, during the infrequent times when I could both log in and not crash immediately, the lag was so intense as to render the platform unusable. This time, I've had no trouble logging in, have crashed only once, and performance has been fairly good. It seems to be rougher around the edges than SL, but the developers are no doubt heading rapidly in the right direction.

Heritage Key has its own client, which is a simplified version of a standard SL client. Start by registering at (and that little hyphen is important; otherwise, you find yourself looking at the web page for a RL community in Kissimmee, Florida), create an avatar name - and, wonder of wonders, you're not limited to a menu of last names! - and default avatar, all of which come with some degree of a Steampunk outfit. Download and install the software (for Windows or Mac). The software launches with a click of a button on the HK site, as well as the usual way. Alternatively, one can configure a standard SL client with the "Target" line of properties to: -loginuri . In theory, at least. When I tried this, I logged in but I stayed a cloud. For the moment, I'm sticking with the HK client.

After logging in for the first time, I found myself in the Welcome area.

This is a Roman-style plaza with a central fountain and statues representing various Heritage Key exhibits (e.g., an ibis and mummy) - and possibly future ones - note the terra cotta warrior. Below, the HK Rhianon:

At one end of the plaza is this globe, with teleporters that are set for destinations that appear to be children-oriented:

At the end is an AO vendor and four brass-and-glass teleporters. No clicking to "sit" in order to teleport - just walk in! The destinations: Skills Center, King Tut's Treasure, Travel Hub, and Avatar Center.

The Skills Center is a short tutorial on basic movement, communications, and inventory management. The Avatar Center has male and female avatars, complete outfits, several hair styles, and some individual pieces of clothing. There are changing rooms as well, for the modest. Below, I model the Steampunk top hat and goggles available in the area while standing next to "my" skin and shape. The family resemblance is unmistakable.

The Travel Hub, with its big brass clock as a centerpiece, has an information desk with signs that describe the various destinations. Around the edge of the room are teleporters for the various destinations: Life on the Nile 1350 BCE; Collections Gallery, Tut's Treasure; Valley of the Kings 1920s; Stonehenge Solstice; Stonehenge Portal; and, listed as "opening soon," The British Museum.

In Part 2, I discover intrigue in ancient Egypt!


Breezy Carver said...

lovely blog and photos Miss Rhianon. I am glad the world is growing and doing well as it does look like you enjoyed your tour! breezy did explore on her own Heritage key back in mid July of 2009.
That was early stages ie before it became a working meca for many acquaintance.. ((smiles))

Rhianon Jameson said...

You are a pioneer, Miss Breezy!

If you haven't been back recently, there's a lot to see (all of which will eventually show up here - Watch This Space :) ). Based on my limited experiences with OpenSim grids, I would guess that it's a great deal more stable than it was last year, even as it still has a ways to go.

Viv Trafalgar said...

Thank you Rhianon for the wonderful photos and the great walk around HK - it was very enjoyable indeed visiting with you! I am looking forward to reading part 2. Many thanks from the Rezzable team!

Miss Breezy, you are a great pioneer! A woman ahead of time!

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Hi Rhia,

I'll have to put some time aside to see this as it does look good. I've always steered clear of Rezzable stuff after someone on their team once told me off in the Greenies sim. I don't take kindly to being treated like a naughty schoolkid, even more so when I'm not acting like one and it's sort of coloured my view of them ever since.

Still, time to move on I guess. Maybe I'll try and get there this weekend.

Rhianon Jameson said...

That illustrates the importance of good first impressions, something I wish more companies would take seriously. Still, anyone can have a bad day - God knows I have enough of them, as cranky as I am. :)

Definitely find time to visit. In contrast with SL, there's much more interactivity with the sim itself. Rather than just a pretty scene, a nice building, and a poseball or two, the mini-games provide something to do, and having bots "speak" when you come near rather than using notecards exclusively is a nice change.

On the downside, it's still a work in progress. It's a little sluggish, a little crash-prone (I crashed a few more times since I posted the above), and it doesn't like to TP my hair with the rest of me, for some reason. (Detaching and re-attaching solves the problem.) But, as the saying goes, Second Life wasn't built in a day, either.

Viv Trafalgar said...

@headburro - give me a shout when you're heading over - I'll do my best to roll out the red carpet.

@rhianon - yes, OpenSim still has some beta "features" - resizing linked prims is one I'd warn people about (and control-z... don't even think about it) - but it's got some great stuff going on as well.

HeadBurro Antfarm said...

Heh, I can assure that won't be required :)