Monday, 24 October 2011

Catching Some Zs

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been having some trouble with my internet connection. As soon as I log into SL, the net goes down and Kitti becomes trapped on my screen, severed from the server but held in place by the slow-to-respond viewer, able to walk around and look at things but unable to interact with them. Eventually, the viewer catches up and throws me out, and I have to spend another three hours on the phone to Virgin Media trying to get them to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the filter and yes, I have, of course, tried turning the router on and off again. 

Managing to find a pocket of stable internet time, I logged into SL and decided that I would take a look at the list of recommended places to visit in the destination guide for something to do, since I didn't know how long my luck would last. As it turned out, it didn't last very long - however, I managed to stumble across a sim listing that caught my eye before I was booted from the virtual plane: Nexus, Embracers of Darkness.

Nexus is a zombie-killing sim that is also used by the Bloodlines Vampires for what would appear to be a sim-wide version of the game Capture the Flag. It is some kind of city, covered in red and pink obelisks which, in turn, appear to be covered with Bloodlines Clan tags, and milling around these obelisks with their arms outstretched is a horde of npc zombies. 

Can zombies read? Do they obey signs?
Now, there isn't anything particularly special about that. With my low graphics settings, the zombies are relatively unthreatening, and not much of the city itself seems to materialise on my screen. I have seen npc zombies in SL before, and whilst the concept is quite clever, their existence itself is not really worth a blog post. No - what I find interesting about the Nexus sim is the idea behind it: the intention of imposing a game onto/into Second Life.

As I have said before, I do not personally view SL as a game, but that is not to say that SL cannot be used like a game. In a safe-house across the street from the initial teleport-point, you can pick up a simple HUD that will allow you to register injury should the zombies get you. And the zombies will get you - they are scripted with some kind of tracking programme so that if you walk passed one, ten will magically appear and  waddle after you, murmuring "braaaaains" and breathing heavily. Why do zombies, virtual zombies no less, need to breathe?

The idea is that you take the HUD, and a gun and, presumably, take up a position behind a wall of sandbags (which the zombies apparently cannot get passed) and use the creepy dummies are target practice. If you're really brave, I suppose you could jump the sandbags and run around the city, shooting the zombies, and maybe even the mummies that randomly spawn, as you go. The sim is labelled as being for role-play, and there is, as I have mentioned, a rather large building labelled "Safe House" that offers a refuge for story-creating to take place. The sim is also used, or so it says, by the Bloodlines Vampire Clans (that is, actual SL users, not npcs), both for some kind of virtually-physical game as well as role-playing. 

One of them had to have some nudity going on, hmm?
It seems like an odd juxtaposition to me, zombies and vampires, and I'm not sure that any self-respecting vampire aristocrat would be caught dead (ha ha!) rubbing elbows with the rotting flesh of the Zs next door. Both seem to offer a completely different image of the body in un-death, particularly when you consider that these vampires are, in my experience, often modelled on Gary Oldman as Dracula rather than those creepy window-scatchers from "Salem's Lot". 

Oh drat! Guess I made that picnic for nothing!
But beyond that: how much of a game is this? If you consider "Call of Duty", for example, it is possible to load levels full of Nazi Zombies which you then spend the next ten or so minutes shooting. The zombies head towards you and, if you are well organised, you can control where they will materialise and take them out one by one. If you are not organised, it is possible that you will be overwhelmed with Zs and end up as mushy Z-food. Such, however, is not really possible at Nexus. If you stay behind the sandbags, the scenario becomes target practice, but even if you venture beyond, the zombies move slowly enough to allow you to take them out one at a time. They cannot hurt you unless you are wearing the HUD (which, sportingly, you should be), and it takes a while for them to gang up on you. I am not sure that the resulting scenario constitutes anything like a "game" - or, at least, a fair one.

If you are not wearing the HUD - or even sporting a gun, as I was not -, when the zombies gang up on you, all they can do is push and breathe down your neck. Being pushed around between decaying, scantily-clad meat-bags can be quite infuriating, but I couldn't help but find it funny. I did become quite stuck between them at one point - 

Zombie Sorority?
 - but as soon as I found an opening and began to walk away, they struggled to keep up, and the resulting image made me laugh even more. Between the dominantly female z-horde, and my supermodel AO, the game became something a little more playful and a lot more silly than I think the original sim-owner intended.


Looks like a scene from some kind of music video to me...

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