The Zenescope Metaverse in Second Life

Zenescope Metaverse – now open in Second Life (image unretouched)

I was one of many who received an invitation to preview the latest partnership activity Linden Lab has entered into as then seek to encourage new audiences into Second Life. Officially opened from 08:00 on Wednesday, August 4th, 2021, The Zenescope Metaverse is the second such experience to open within Second Life recently,  the other having been the (relatively low-key) opening of Film Threat, details of which are available within the Destination Guide.

Zenescope Metaverse has been developed in partnership with Zenescope Entertainment Inc.,  a comic book and graphic novel publisher perhaps best known for series such as Grimm Fairy Tales and its off-shoots, which recount classic fairy tales and gives them a modern twist; the Wonderland series (off-shoots of Lewis Carroll’s books); novels focused on the likes of Van Helsing (which inspired the TV series of the same name), and others, and a range of comics / graphic novels spun-off from a range of film and TV series such as Final Destination, Se7en, Charmed, and Vikings, and more.

All of which would suggest there’s some potentially tasty meat in which fingers, claws, mandibles, etc., can be dug, to provide a tasty filling of fun and Second Life. Or so you’d think – but let’s come back to that in a moment.

Zenescope Meataverse: Jabberwocky (lightly post-processed)

As with the Film Threat experience, the requested way for people to get to the Zenescope Metaverse region(s – there are four at present, plus a fifth the appears reserved for “VIPs”) is via a dedicated Zenescope Portal (In fact the two portal areas are practically clones of one another).  I’ve no idea if Zenescope themselves will be providing a gateway into Second Life from their own website (or at least to the dedicated SL Landing Page, but the portal area includes a couple of video stations that will play Strawberry Linden’s How to Get Started in Second Life video. These bracket the main experience portal, which visitors are invited to walk through to be delivered to one of the Metaverse Experience regions proper.

These regions are – as you would expect – all identical to one another. They are built around a central plaza space, which at the time of my visit was set out for what I assume might be some kind of opening event. Flanking this one two sides are Zenescope merchandise stores offering a mixed of clothing, character outfits, branded t-shirts, avatar accessories  and décor items in a pair of shops (duplicated on either side of the square). Beyond the square, through an archway is a large mansion that appears to hold promise, but outside of “hiding” a quest token, is actually “for another time”.

The quest itself is HUD-based, with the Hub close to the landing point providing the basics and the HUD itself. The idea here is to gather token that will allow your to continue on through to “Chapter 2” of the experience – this region being “Chapter 1”. Around the rest of the region are locations apparently lifted from various Zenescope series  – such as a ruined temple, Rockman’s Fast Food joint, an animated Jabberwocky, etc., which are included in the quest, together with a game of miniature golf and a trip through a maze.

Zenescope Metaverse: a not-so-subtle hint to touch the bunnehs!

There are also freebies to be had for those that mouse around – some obvious, some not so (e.g. the duck you “follow” through the maze, and which sits on the far side. There’s also at least one diversion to another setting, and a couple of points that – like the mansion – are apparently “for future use”, with the Zenescope folk promising “tons of new stuff over the next few months”. And it is with this that I had some problems.

A promise of things to come is always good – but it is the here and now that most people are concerned with; and in this regard, I have to say that exploring the environment as it currently is, left me entirely underwhelmed. OK, so I’m a long-term SL user, so something like this is bound to have a “been there, done that” feel to it. But even trying to put myself in the mindset of an incoming new user familiar with Zenescope and attracted by something “new” to the brand, what is presented here feels empty, and far from the promise of the promo video (embedded at the end of this piece).

Zenescope Metaverse: did I drink from the bottle, or slip into fee-fih-foh-fum land?

Zenescope  clearly has a richness of narrative that could so easily be mined: Grimm, Van Helsing, et al. But outside of the merchandise and a handful of static places in the region, it’s not unfair to say next to none of this is present here. Even the quest comes over as a damp squib: gather you tokens, find the portal to “Chapter 2”, and then discover its promise is – wait for it – “Coming Soon”. Bleah.

And while there is a “reward” for gathering all the tokens, the fact that it is a folder of very mildly amusing signs an avatar can hold isn’t really that rewarding – or really related to anything Zenescope (although they could obviously find use elsewhere). But why not a Zenescope t-shirt or some other trinket of merchandise as well?

Now, in fairness, the set-up could be the result of constraints placed on LL by Zenescope Entertainment. In which case, they are more the fools; because in trying to wear the hat of a Zenescope reader, I have to say that were I entering a 3D world that promises the chance to explore the places I’ve read about, experience becoming a character I love – then frankly, this experience really doesn’t cut it at present. Even the region’s EEP settings (apparently chosen so as not to over-tax incoming users’ machines) is, frankly, bland. Why not something just slightly darker or unusual?

Zenescope Metaverse: the (largely) “for another time” mansion

Of course, some of this may come with “Chapter 2” and beyond. Again, fair enough; but while hanging everything with comments that it is “for another time” and “Coming Soon” might well be a way for Zenescope to test the water, it also runs the risk of invoking a “meh” reaction in their readers and – equally importantly – if they want to attract established SL users to their brand, then that “meh” reaction risks being repeated – as a non-Zenescope reader, I admit I was hardly rushing to find out more about them. Which perhaps isn’t the best of results, either way.

This is made all the more unfortunate, because elsewhere LL have gone the extra mile: there is the dedicated Zenescope Second Life Landing Page mentioned earlier, supported by a dedicated Welcome to the Zenescope Metatverse Second Life community page that is clearly geared towards those coming into SL for the first time. All of which might come to be an under-utilised effort.

But that is just my view; and God knows, I’ve been wrong before! 🙂 . In the meantime, the Zenescope Metaverse is now open, so you can drop in and take a look for yourself, and I’ll just leave you with the promo video.

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