Update, November 19th: some users on TPVs may find the gun used gun in Quest 3 of Horizons Experience doesn’t work with their viewer. The Lab is aware of the issues, and is investigating options for a fix. For the moment, those affected will need to swap to the official viewer, but only for Quest 3. Full details can be found in llTakeControl issue and the Horizons Experience.
On Tuesday, November 15th, Linden Lab announced a new Mainland community initiative called Horizons. First hinted at during the Meet the Lindens talks at SL13B in June 2016, it became the subject of widespread speculation when two testing environments related to it appeared on the Second Life world map in October, with Patch Linden further stirring up interest by posting some teaser images to his Profile feed.
Picking up on the SL13B hints, I contacted the Lab with the idea of covering Horizons. Patch and his team were very receptive to the idea, and as result, I had the opportunity to tour the regions ahead of the opening, and learn more about Horizons from Patch Linden and Naughty Mole of the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).
In short, Horizons is a new themed Mainland residential community built around a central, 6-region gaming environment called Horizons Experience. As I’ve covered the community aspects at length in New Horizons in Second Life, this article focuses solely on the new six-region gaming experience.
Horizons Experience essentially builds on the Lab’s work with PaleoQuest, the dinosaur themed adventure which opened in July 2015 (see Experiencing PaleoQuest, the Lab’s latest adventure in Second Life). As with PaleoQuest, players are tasked with completing a number of quests and multiple tasks in order to come to the rescue of Magellan Linden’s assistant, Tyrah, who is in deadly peril at the paws of the nefarious Doctor Talpa. Note that the game is on Adult rated regions, but this is not reflective of the games content.
“PaleoQuest was our most recent gaming project that we had put out at scale,” Patch said as we discussed the game ahead of our tour. “We took from that a lot of the game mechanics which people really enjoyed and liked, and we’re including them and a lot of new elements within the Horizons Experience.
“For example, one of the big new features is the ability to participate either as a player in the game or as an ‘explorer’ – someone who is not active in the game, but who can travel through the regions and observe as a bystander. With our other gaming experiences, you’re either in the regions with the intent to play, or you wouldn’t go. As Horizons is part of the Mainland, we felt it was important that people be able to drop in without disrupting the game-play.”
“We’re using different coloured indicator above people’s heads in the game regions to indicate whether they are a player or an explorer,” Naughty Mole added. “If they have a blue ball floating above them, they are an explorer. If they have an orange ball, they are a player. That way, the people in the game know who is who. Obviously, you can’t complete any of the quests as an explorer, nor can you receive any prizes; but you can walk or fly around and watch players (who can’t fly). Oh, and you can still be killed by any of the quest hazards!”
Given that Horizons Experience is sitting in the middle of a residential area where flying vehicles are permitted, I wondered if there was a risk of aircraft interfering with the game. “Flying vehicles can pass over the gaming regions,” Naughty Mole answered, “but they must keep above a certain height. If they are too low, they will get a warning, and if they don’t increase their height, they will be auto-returned and those on board will be transferred to a resurrection hub inside the gaming areas as explorers.”
“The six regions of the experience are all uniquely themed,” Patch resumed, “The first region you go into is the starting region, where residents are introduced to the quest and receive their game HUD. While there they can watch an in-depth tutorial video and background story video, see the payout stations or follow links to the Horizons Experience wiki page for more information. Beyond all this are the five gaming regions, which are linear, like PaleoQuest. Each must be completed before you progress to the next one.”
Horizons Experience can be accessed in a number of ways. Anyone in the Horizons regions can fly to the central gaming regions, or they can use the teleport portals located at the Horizons info hubs and community centres, and which are scattered across the residential regions. Direct teleport via the map is possible, and there is also a Horizons Experience gateway at the Portal Parks.
Naughty added, “When people first arrive, they are given the choice of being a player or an explorer. If they selected ‘player’ they are registered for the game and receive a HUD. If they remove their HUD, they become an explorer. If players leave the game regions, their HUDs are automatically removed. However, all progress up to the point where they removed their HUD is saved.
“Returning players arriving at the start area can use the Portal Room to jump directly to any quest they have previously completed, or go to the Quest they were on when they left the game. So, if someone left while trying the third quest, they can use the Portal Room to get to quests one, two or three, but they will not be able to jump to quests 4 or 5.
“Also, there are HUD kiosks throughout the quest regions, so any player who removed their HUD can get a replacement, and they will be asked if they would like to teleport to their last point of progress. Explorers who have never played the game can also use these kiosks to obtain a HUD, and they will be asked if they would like to teleport to the start of the first quest.”
The HUD (above, left) is easy enough to understand, and can be minimised / maximised with a click on the bottom information bar. The top right of the HUD will sometimes reconfigure itself as a part of a particular quest, and additional HUDs may also be attached and removed as a player progress through the game. All of the quests are against the clock – hence the timer on the HUD; run out of time and you’re back to the local resurrection hub. Completion of a particular quest is indicated by players locating the local access terminal (above, right) and touching it. All progress throughout the game is automatically recorded for each player.
I don’t really want to say too much on the individual quests (although the tutorial video does!); I think it is far better to experience the game than to have it explained. Help is always available through the HUD prompts, Magellan’s voice prompts (if you have sound enabled) and the Help button to the wiki page. Each quest also starts with several information kiosks, which will supply a note card explaining what needs to be done.
The first four quests require the player to complete an assigned task or tasks, working against specific hazards, so of which might be obvious, such as laser-wielding robots, giant machines, and so on; other of which may be far less obvious, such as nasty plants, unexpected rock falls, and little, easily missed robots. The fifth quest involves penetrating Doctor Talpa’s secret lair to rescue Tyrah. When successful, players are teleported back to the start region, where they can receive a random prize / Linden Dollar reward from the payout stations. Once they have done so, their HUD is reset, and they can try their hand again, if they wish.
Note that Linden Dollar payouts require players have payment information on file and payment information used (i.e. they have a payment method registered with Linden Lab, which has been used at least once, such as to purchase L$). , and only one L$ payment is made per player per 24 hours. This statement has been placed in a paragraph of its and expanded, as some readers apparently missed it in its original form.
I’m not a major game player, but I enjoyed my time in Horizons Experience – so much so, in fact, that I later sneaked back to run through the five quests on my own 🙂 . The game play regions are well designed and suitably atmospheric, and there is plenty of space to play as an individual or alongside friends.
During my first run through with Naughty and Patch, we were joined by several other Lindens and Moles to make a tidy number, and the mix of explorers and players didn’t in any way appear confusing – I was far too focused on the task at hand! However, I do wonder how things will go during these early days and weeks, when interest in Horizons Experience will likely be at its peak. Unlike PaleoQuest and Linden Realms, where there are multiple instances of the game, allowing players to be balanced across game play areas, there is only the one Horizons Experience, so things might initially get a little crowded simply as a result of users’ curiosity.
Making an experience like this a central part of a community environment is an interesting idea. Whether it helps attract Premium members into obtaining a house in one of the residential regions or not remains to be seen, so again, it will be interesting to see how this goes.
In the meantime however, the game is there, and is fun to play, either individually or with friends (some of the tasks offer the chance for players to help one another). But don’t take my word it; go take a look for yourself!
- Introducing the Horizons Experience – Linden Lab
- New Horizons in Second Life – this blog
- Horizons Experience starting region SLurl (rated: Adult)
- Horizons Experience wiki page
- Horizons Experience tutorial video
- Horizons wiki page
With thanks to Pete Linden, Patch Linden and Naughty Mole, and also to Dee linden, Keira Linden, Kona Linden, Shaman Linden, Ancient Mole, Magic Mole and Quartz Mole.