CSI New York in SL – The Grid Lives, Long Live the Grid

I’ll scan the reviews and post later on which caught the spirit of the CSI New York ‘launch’.

My initial take is that the CSI New York sims are a wonderful addition to Second Life, and perhaps the metaverse in general. If they’re enough to bring users into 3D worlds who would otherwise not be interested in ‘games’ then I’d say the mission will be accomplished – I was very impressed with the thought process and storytelling that helped the CSI sims to represent an orientation to virtual worlds where there’s enough of a story that it doesn’t feel exactly like a “help island”.

Help Island in Disguise
In games, I typically like to skip the “learn the controls” section – go to a shooting range, learn how to jump – and I skipped much of Help island when I arrived in SL as well. Learn by doing then go back and learn what you did wrong. But there’s enough in the CSI sim storyline that you can skip the instructional stuff (while learning it in spite of yourself) and pick up the clues offered to the first mystery.

In addition to the storyline that backs up what is really not much more than an orientation system at this point is the OnRez viewer, which removes the “scary” building prims stuff and focuses on shopping and moving around. The viewer is a nice piece of work – hard to get used to, much like any new interface, when you’re looking for buttons in the usual places (why did they hide the photo button I wonder?) It has that “squishy” feel we come to love and expect from Internet Explorer, XP, Vista – and the forward/back buttons should be standard in all viewers, including Linden’s.

The CSI HUD is a nice piece of work, allowing you to collect clues and keep track of the storyline. What’s particularly impressive about the sim is the combination of audio and video, including in the HUD – although the screaming signs “CLICK FOR AUDIO” get a bit cloying after you’ve learned to recognize the symbols.

Overall Approach Newbie Friendly
All in all, as a “newbie” intro, I think the approach is a success. Evidently they will build on this with future mysteries and adventures – try to maintain the user base a bit, give reasons and incentives to return. The presence of a large number of helpers/guides was wonderful – although not sure I heard them helping too many people, but at the very least they bought up some nice AVs or the guides spent extra time looking purty.

The Corporate Archipelago
There were some interesting things in the approach, however, that might give a sense of where SL is headed, and I’ve commented on this before – the concept that SL will eventually become a jumbled mess of mainland and that private islands and chains will create their own archipelagos. SL as a commnunity will fragment more and more – different viewers for different communities, different islands (many of them “locked”), and a combination of big “commercial” builds that feel partitioned off from the “real SL”.

If a group of SL users – the “real” ones, were develping a CSI sim, you would get something far less corporate. (The annoying Cisco logos on every sign are overkill – I can almost hear someone from the Cisco ad agency insisting on higher profile for their client not thinking how blatant it is). You would have grittier textures. New York wouldn’t look so cartoony. And there would be a deeper sense of roleplaying and less of a sense of display as if you’re in line at Disney World – “keep them moving, entertain them as they go along the line, and they’ll never realize they spent an hour to get to the “good stuff”.

I didn’t get a clear indication of how a new user is supposed to get OUT of the CSI sim – I’ll go back, but I didn’t see resources linking off to Idea City, or even Yadni’s Junkyard for crying out loud! I suppose the search function is accessible and easy to see – but you have to “double search” to get out of the “all” search function.

Disney Experience
CSI New York does a bit of a disservice to the show itself – too clean, too neat, tooo Disneyesque, the guides are like the hostess at the Keg (chain of cheesy restaurants) – ‘thank you for your reservation [insert name here] we sure look forward to seeing you again [insert name here].

OK, so it’s a good news bad news thing – good news, a great Help island with a more attractive viewer for the “general public”. Bad news, not a “real” intro to the joys of SL which are decidedly anti-corporate, gritty, user-driven. Not a good RP sim, but a neat example of how to tell a story, a la Disney, using a few prims and a modicum of imagination.

But sorry Electric Sheep – there were WAY too many executives looking over your shoulder on this one making sure the sim stayed clean and toed the corporate line – too many ads, too formulaic, and not tapping into the real energy which is SL – the users whose imaginations can often run circles around design by committee.

A Stable Grid – Good Job Linden (rare kudo?)
And congratulations Linden – I shouldn’t have left the real kudos for last, but the grid lives – the CSI sims were relatively lag free and the rest of the grid, the parts I was on anyways, seemed to survive without too much harm. I have no idea what the traffic was like but judging by the green dots they had some nice movement through the CSI islands and it didn’t seem to affect overall stability. Nice job Lindens!


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