Going down The Well

Loki Eliot is renowned for his scripting and building abilities in Second Life – and rightly so. His ideas, designs and builds stand at the forefront of what can be achieved in-world in terms of games and immersive activities, and he is always quick to embrace new platform capabilities and opportunities.

In The Well: Sollicitius, he brings all of these talents and abilities together to present an immersive and engaging experience, complete with a special guest star.

The Well: continuing the story
The Well: continuing the story

Given the time of year, The Well is a little bit of a horror story mixed into a mystery you must solve. It actually expands on an experience Loki created last year,  which he has now enhanced to include more twists in the story and which makes use of recent SL innovations such as materials processing.

This does mean that the game is best experienced with Advanced Lighting Model active, and preferably with Sun/Moon + Projectors enabled. Loki has placed the entire experience as high up in the sky over his region as he can in order to minimise lag and the performance hit running with shadows enabled can create, so if you have a moderately good graphics cards, it’s worth giving Sun/Moon + Projectors a go if you can. If you still find yourself struggling, try disabling that option, but leaving ALM active. Also, do make sure you have sounds on, they are very much a part of the experience.

The backstory to The Well is that a young boy fell down a well, and he and the rescue team which descended to recover him vanished without a trace. Now, a year later, you have arrived at the scene to join a scientific team sent down to the cavern and caves beneath the well in an attempt to understand what they are and discover what happened to the ill-fated young boy and the rescue team.

Except that, by the time you arrive, the science team has also vanished…

The Well: Yes, he's talking about you being late. Now he and the rest of the team have vanished...
The Well: Yes, he’s talking about you being late. Now he and the rest of the team have vanished…

The Well is a HUD-driven experience, and as such makes for very immersive game play in that there is no need to click on anything in-world once you’ve started; as you move around, the HUD responds to your position and offer-up choices and information – and a few other things as well :). All you have to do is click when a choice is required, or click to clear any message. The HUD cots L$100, and can be purchased from the vendor at the start of the experience.

Note that once started, removal of the HUD means you’ll have to return to the start and begin again. So if you want to enjoy The Well to the fullest, set aside about an hour of your time.

Once worn, the HUD  unlocks access to the experience and presents the opening credits before setting the scene for you. This is very imaginatively done through a BBC News 24-style bulletin.  Once the titles have rolled and you’ve cleared the instructions, you’ll be teleported down into the cavern beneath the well, where your adventure begins.

The Well: Can you help him...?
The Well: Can you help him…?

I don’t want to give too much away in terms of what to expect – that would spoil the fun! Suffice it to say, the main rules are, walk around the opening scenes carefully. There are clues and aides to be found which will help you along the way. The Well make use of SL’s experience permissions, so teleports are prompted as a part of the game’s progression, again making the moves between scenes as seamless as they might be, allowing for the necessary permissions being granted.

As the instructions note, you have a Sanity Meter. This starts off in the green, but will drop down and eventually arrive in the red if you let the Shadows get to you too much. If the meter  reaches zero, you’ll be teleported back to the start. I’m not going to say too much about the shadows, other than they tend to travel in pairs, so if you see one, keep an eye out for the other when dodging! Oh – and you really should have the sound on ready for when they do grab you :D.

The Well: Beware the shadows ... if you can see them ...
The Well: Beware the shadows … if you can see them …

The name of the game in The Well is choices. As you progress through the tunnels, you’ll come across additional caverns where you’ll be given choices. Some may lead you onwards, some may set you back to an earlier part of the game, some might simply put you back where you started just before reaching them. Hence why you need to set aside a reasonable amount of time to complete your explorations.

Those that do find their way to the end face one final choice. To go left or to go right. It sounds simple, but given the nature of the one offering the choice, don’t expect things to perhaps be as straightforward as you might think. Once you have completed the experience, you will be returned to the starting point and offered your reward.

To call The Well a game isn’t really doing it justice, per se. It really is an experience, and an enjoyable one at that. It combines some of the genuine strengths of the platform with some of its latest features to present an entertaining and engaging means of spending a portion of your time in-world. Sure, it can be subject to the vagaries of the platform at times, but there is nothing that really impacts the experience to the point of distraction, and it is clear from the way the various “levels” have been spread around Loki’s region, coupled with the height at which he has placed them, that Loki has worked hard to minimise as many causes of lag which may otherwise occur as possible.

The Well: The caves will lead to a number of mysterious caverns, each with its own look and feel, and also with its own ... perhaps you should find that out for yourself...
The Well: The caves will lead to a number of mysterious caverns, each with its own look and feel, and also with its own … perhaps you should find that out for yourself…

This is the kind of experience which would be ideal for the Oculus Rift. As everything is proximity-based in terms of the in-world interactions, and HUD- based in terms of actual interactions via the mouse, The Well would seem to naturally lend itself to a fully immersive first-person experience. Loki and I briefly discussed this idea after my “rite of passage” through The Well. Sadly, he’s a little hampered in terms of Rifting the experience, as a “Rift-ready” version of the viewer with basic UI support has yet to appear for the Mac. However, the potential is there, and while I’m unlikely to opt for a Rift headset myself in the foreseeable future, The Well has left me intrigued as to exactly how Loki will be working with the headset in the future.

In the meantime, I highly recommend The Well if you’ve not already tried it. It is more than worth the time taken to visit, explore and experience.

Related Links


Dranopia 2: Revolt of the Forgotten

Dranopia, the breedable dragons system developed by Timmi Allen, Leni Galli and Ciaran Maktoum, has added a new chapter to the ongoing saga of Dranopia: The Quest.

In Revolt of the Forgotten, the story is picked-up shortly after the groms have been defeated and the lost souls of the Dranopia ancestors rescued. But a new cataclysm  has engulfed the resting-place of the ancestors’ souls: a great flood has occurred, sweeping away everything before it, leaving only a vortex of swirling water, and the openings to long-forgotten tunnels leading deep into the walls of the gorge, tunnels revealed as earth and stone collapsed under the force of the swirling water below…

Dranopia after the great flood

Revolt takes the mechanics of the original Quest and moves them into a labyrinth of underground tunnels which must be explored while once again flying upon a dragon (either your own or one obtained from the start-point for the quest), and attempting to obtain a range of items along the way.

The essential game system remains the same, but presents significantly more to do. From the start point / rezzing area, you take your dragon (and a game HUD available from the free vendors) and fly through the arch and out over the water. Your goal is to collect as many coins and keys as you can in the game time. Along the way, you can also obtain additional game-play time and restore the health and vitality of your dragon – and you must also avoid various threats and obstacles.

The start area

Moving the game into a tunnel systems adds a new dimension in flying your dragon; the confines of the tunnels mean that camera angles and views are much tighter. Those familiar with operating in the first person (Mouselook) in SL might be at something of an advantage here; as the tunnels twist and turn, rise and fall, seeing what lies ahead is not always easy in third person; adjusting your camera offsets might also help.

Speed is also something to watch, as it is easy to find yourself hitting walls and floors, costing you time and possibly points, or missing branches and turns where the tunnels split and twist.

Down in the depths

The labyrinth comprises a number of distinct forms, each separated from the other via a door. Each contains a key to be found as well as coins, green health hearts and red hearts for bonus time. Both of the latter are of equal importance: the green hearts help restore your dragon’s vitality and handling – if the dragon’s strength drops to zero, then your game is over; you’ll be dropped to the ground and your dragon will vanish. Red hearts help extend you game time, allowing you to collect more coins and keys; you can gain up to 600 seconds at any one time.

Points are awarded for coins, etc., obtained – but are also deducted should you have an encounter with whatever lurks in the passages and tunnels – of which I cannot say more here, you’ll have to discover things for yourself 🙂 – but that fact the points can be lost is another reason for watching your speed. Coins start at 5 points for the blue glass coins, rising to 100 points for the gold coins. Treasure chests can be opened by obtaining the required keys (each of which will gain you 50 additional points).

Game HUD

Given all these elements – coins, keys, treasure, bonus time, health – the game HUD is somewhat more complex that the original, but well-presented and easy to understand. By default it attaches to the top centre of your screen – and that’s probably the best place for it, as it is easy to reference it without blocking your in-world view.

High scores are recorded on scoreboards located at the start area – but you’ll need to have media-on-a-prim (MOAP) running in order to see the scoreboard displays.

I would advise playing the game without running anything else that might be processor-intensive on your computer; I had my anti-virus software start a scan during my time in the tunnels and my ability to fly my dragon in the confines of the passageways completely fell through the floor…

All-in-all, Revolt of the Forgotten builds nicely on the game-play from the original Quest, adding additional elements that should help attract those who played the original game, while providing a nice gaming experience for those who haven’t yet tried the system. There are seven dragons available at the start-point for those that don’t have a Dranopia dragon of their own to rez, and each again has its own characteristics.

Why not hop over to Dranopia and give things a try for yourself?

Dranopia: Revolt of the Forgotten is available on the Virtual Services Sculptie Experiments region.

Enter the dragons!

It’s fair to say that, since their arrival on the grid, I’ve not been a great fan of breedable animals in SL. There’s no particular logic to my position, it’s simply that the idea hasn’t appealed to me.

At least until now. You see, my viewpoint might just be changing, because there’s a new game in town when it comes to breedables – and I use that word both figuratively and literally.

BattleBeast Breedables have been hitting the news of late with announcements appearing on several blogs earlier in the month. They are an interesting concept that combines three popular elements in SL – the aforementioned breedable creatures, combat and role-play.

The breedables in question are dragons – which is why I was initially drawn to the project; I’m a dragon junkie, and have been ever since my father first introduced me to Smaug by way of bedtime stories when I was about seven, through to my discovery of Anne McCaffrey’s wonderful books and beyond..

The BattleBeast website gives a wealth of information on the concept, as well as a well-written backstory. The dragons themselves follow a path that will be familiar to those who have owned breedables before: they are hatched, grow, eat, mate, and so on. They also look pretty cool as well.

Standing with dragons: posing between two full-grown adults (click to enlarge images, as always)

But it is the added dimensions of combat and role-play that set BattleBeast Breedables apart from other systems. Not only can dragon owners breed and nurture their own dragons, they can challenge one another to duels and engage in tournaments that feature much that is familiar to the world of the dedicated combat gamer: experience points, stamina, health – and their dragons will gain experience and additional capabilities along the way. Just like real combatants, dragons will also need time to recover from their physical activities – and as an extension of the breedable element, dragons can be mated or paired to produce offspring that may demonstrate enhanced fighting characteristics.

A young dragon

Both combat and breeding also lead to further elements in the concept: those of role-play and affiliated activities. A lot of thought has gone into this, and it’s clear that the creative team behind the project very much hope that as it grows in popularity, the system will give rise to new and interesting communities, with people focusing on different aspects, be they breeding and selling dragons, developing affiliated products, or providing tournament venues, as well as seeing people own dragons themselves expressly for the purposes of combat.

Dragon riding (image credit: Battlebeast Breedables)

With the public beta for the system now under way, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to meet with the team behind the project – Andi Canare, Wynter Sommer and BattleBeast Resident to talk a little more about the concept, the beta and dragons in general. I kicked things off by asking after progress with the beta itself.

Beta Battlers and Breeders

“It’s going great!” Andi said in reply to my question, “The response has been fun and enthusiastic [and] our group has experienced steady growth – so they are telling their friends! It’s been smooth sailing so far; we’ve been real happy with it.”

“Anyone in the main group can beta – which is about 200 people, I think,” BattleBeast – Battle to his friends – agreed. “People are setting up breeding areas and mating them, doing battles – we get a record of all the matings and battles on our server, so we can track how it’s coming along. Like any new project, there is a core group of the ‘hardcore’ beta testers, and we talk to them every day, and get suggestions, hear about bugs, etc. So far, I’d say we’re very pleased with beta, and very encouraged by the community response we’ve gotten.

“There are many aspects to the dragons,” he continued, “So beta is about confirming stability and adding features in all of them: the HUD, the animations, the flying controls, the mating and birthing, traits…” I asked if there had been any major problems arising from testing to date. “None that I’ve seen, no,” Battle replied, “We’re cautious but very optimistic. We’re in a very good place, in terms of lag, prim-count and manageability of them as breedables.”

When it comes to an end-date, the team are working to a schedule, and are eager to launch – but they’re also aware that it’s important to make sure capabilities and usability as they stand are nailed-down, and that users aren’t going to encounter anything that might upset their experience. As such, while they have earmarked an end-date for the beta, they’re taking the cautious route and not announcing it publicly for the time being – which is a wise path to tread.

Considering Combat

Combat sits very much at the heart of the system, and is something the team plan to evolve. Currently, combat is controlled from the sidelines, so to speak – there is no requirement for people to be mounted on their dragons, although they can if they wish. However, there are plans to add a riding element to the combat in the future should there be a demand to do so. Fights are very strategic in nature, with each player selecting an attack or defence move, and the dragons acting and reacting to these, with scores being kept over a series of rounds – what some gamers might call the “rock-paper-scissors” model. The approach has some advantages in SL – such as reducing lag. It also allows the team to code the dragons with optional attack animations that combatants may choose to use.

Meeting with BattleBeast (l), Andi (c) and Wynter (r) at the BattleBeast Breedables main store

However, more direct interaction, together with more tactical elements are already being considered by the team. “This is a foundation,” Battle explained, “And we’re listening carefully, and we’ll evolve it. We don’t pretend to know all about how people will use the dragons, but we want to be able to help them have choices to do so.”

A key aspect with tournaments is that they can be held anywhere where there is room and where basic rezzing permissions have been set – there is no need for any additional equipment or purchases, although the team are looking at producing a scoreboard, and one of the attractions with the dragons is the ability for others to produce additional equipment and other items through the system’s Affiliate Programme.

This freedom of venues means that users can establish themselves where they please – at home, on friends’ sims, and so on. It also helps open more of the role-play aspects of the system: rather than owning dragons themselves or running the more traditional breedable “farm/stores”, people can provide venues and facilities for owners to meet and trade, where auctions might be held and additional equipment and food purchased or dragons trained – and where tournaments can be held and/or challenges met. “We’re adding a tab on the HUD to let people find other combatants who are on-line to challenge,” Battle added as we talked, “[And] we have a capability in the dragons for a “team” association; so at some point we’ll publicise that, and help people organise teams, guilds, clans, and so on.”

As with other combat systems, levelling-up in BattleBeasts means unlocking new capabilities and traits in a dragon, enhancing its abilities. This also links back to the breedable aspect of the dragons – mating between dragons with enhanced fighting abilities will in turn produce offspring that have greater abilities. Thus, the breeding / combat elements can be seen as a cycle of nature and nurture, with an element of genetics mixed in as well – as the BattleBeast byline puts it: Better Breeding means Better Battle. Better Battle means Better Breeding.

Riding into Role-play

Role-play is seen as an equally important part of the system’s development as both combat and breeding and, as with those elements of the system, the team to receive feedback from their testers when it comes to role-play, as Battle explained, “Role-play is interesting, and an area where we expect our customers to nudge us into where they want the dragons to be. As we grow and our beasts evolve, our dragon owners will play a role in helping us.”

“’What do you need from us?’ will be heard within our group,” Andi added. “It’s all about the BattleBeast Experience.” As such, the team see the role-play opportunities not only linked directly with the combat and breeding elements, as with the examples mentioned above, but also something that might attract role-play groups quite unconnected, initially, with combat or breedable animals in the usual sense. “We’ve had some good pirate and Gorean inquiries already,” Battle informed me, underlining the point.

“We have lots of suggestions about interacting with the dragons, and most of those come from a role-play perspective,” Wynter adds, bringing quick agreement from Battle. “They will follow their owners in flight now… that seemed pretty common, across all RP visions, and we’ve determined that giving a dragon owner the ability to order a dragon to ‘go fly and perch at X’ is a good thing to have, or ‘walk this path’. These are very doable, and we’ll be building on them.” In fact, the team are already involved in LL’s pathfinding project, which may well offer significant additional capabilities for their dragons – or any other animals that may be added to the range in the future; as Battle hinted at as we chatted, “That’s why we’re BattleBeasts, not Battle Dragons!”


In talking to the team, one cannot escape the fact that they view BattleBeasts as very much a collaborative effort with their growing community as much as they view it as a personal project: they’ll take practical suggestions from the community and see what can be done to facilitate them.

“Very much so!” Battle agrees. “We are open to taking this where they [the users / dragon owners] want it to be.”

“We are having a lot of fun getting input and suggestions from our Beta group! Everything is logged and prioritised,” Wynter adds. “Nothing is just thrown out as silly or crazy!”

“And we have a principle of doing this, to enable people to participate in secondary market items,” Battle continues, elaborating on something we’d so far only touched upon. “So if someone wants to make an accessory and it makes sense, we’ll work with them to have the dragon interaction work with their items. We’ve had a great response to our Affiliate Program. From a functionality perspective, it’s hard to see what those things might be. This one here, the Purple Fancy,” he indicates the dragon standing next to us, “We let it out into beta, and people were so excited to see it! We’re eager to see all of the other things already done as hidden traits!”

Purple Fancy

Purple Fancy brings us to back to the dragons themselves. Currently developed using sculpts, an adult weighs-in with a Land Impact of 21 – which is not at all bad, considering the complexity of the models; plans are under way to introduce mesh into the equation as well. In terms of growth, it takes six days for a dragon to develop from a hatchling to adolescent, at which point it can start fighting, and it will reach its full adult size in around 15 days of hatching. Adults can fight for 250 days, and can breed for 180 days. Another additional element in the system that’s not available as a part of beta testing is an “auto-combat” mode, which essentially places a dragon under automated control, allowing it to be used to help train other dragons for combat and tournaments, enabling them to level-up and gain enhanced capabilities prior to entering the arena.


Dragons can be managed through a variety of means: they are fully scripted, so menus can be used to control them and enable various capabilities, etc;  when being ridden, they respond to the normal WASD / keyboard movement/flight controls. Then there is the BattleBeast HUD. This has two primary modes – MANAGE and BATTLE, with buttons to switch between the two – and is, if I’m honest, somewhat on the large size when opened-out. However, clicking on the BattleBeast shield will tuck it neatly away into the top left corner of the screen.

One of the things I personally like in the HUD is the FOLLOW option – by which a dragon will follow you in flight – which can make for some dramatic looking-shots!

Dragons at sunset

The care and attention paid to the project isn’t restricted to the in-world elements: the BattleBeast Breedables website is packed with information and very professionally presented. Like the rest of the project, it is also in a state of evolution; plans are currently in-hand to add a forum for users, as well as to provide front-desk support software and information updates on tournament results, trait discoveries and so on – all under Andi’s guiding hands.

Overall, BattleBeasts is a fascinating project; between them, Andi, Wynter and Battle have considerable exposure to, and experience in, the SL breedable markets, and it is clear this experience has been used to its fullest in developing BattleBeasts. Even so, bringing together breedable animals, combat and role-play in this way is a daring endeavour, the team’s clear and infectious enthusiasm notwithstanding. However, they’re not alone in such enthusiasm – it’s clear from the Group chats that all those involved in the current beta are similarly enthusiastic – dare I say enthralled – by the dragons, and I’ve little doubt that the system will have very wide appeal once officially launched. Plans for this are already in-hand, with a two-day celebration in the works that will feature battles, hunts, live music and festivities.

For my part, I have to say that after spending time flying around with my beta dragons and generally having fun with them, I’m close to being pretty hooked. I’ve wanted to be a Dragonrider since I was about 12 or 13. With BattleBeasts I may yet get the opportunity to be one – all I need to do is find a sim called “Pern” – after all, have dragon, will travel, as they say!

Dawnrider: flying around my sky rock home

Related Links

If you wish to try out the BattleBeast dragons for yourself and assist with the beta programme, sign-up to the BattleBeast Beedables group in-world. Beta packages are available via the Group Notices.

Dranopia: here be dragons – and a quest!

Second Life isn’t a game – or at least, that seems to be the 2011/12 mantra. Well, it may not be – but it is a platform wherein games can comfortably exist, as I’m all too fond of pointing out.

And a new game is set to be added to the list of attractions in SL: Dranopia: The Quest.

Many will probably be familiar with the Dranopia range of breedable dragons, which come in a range of forms to reflect the elements and more, and which have a unique back story into which owners are encouraged to immerse themselves. The dragons are the brainchild of Timmi Allen, Leni Galli and Ciaran Maktoum and can be found at Sculptie Wonder.

Chatting with Leni (far right) and the “bare bones” (!) Timmi Allen (centre)

Dranopia: The Quest adds a new dimension to the Dranopia “legend”, presenting a sim-wide airborne quest which can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they own a Dranopia dragon or not. And I have to say, it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s located on Virtual Services, located immediately adjacent to the “Sculptie” sims.

Like the dragons themselves, the game has a back story: deep in a lonely gorge lie gems of different colours – the souls of ancestral dragons, lost after a catastrophe, and now threatened by marauding groms – spherical creatures with broad mouths and spine-covered ski. These roam through the deep landscape, devouring the gems, feeding off the energy of the souls within. It is down to you, riding upon the back of a dragon, to save the souls, by flying around the sim and gathering points for each gem you touch, while avoiding the groms and other obstacles.

Looking down into the Dranopia Quest sim

While the theme may sound familiar in the wake of Linden Realms, the game is actually very cleverly executed and requires not a little concentration.

To play, you need the game HUD – available from the “how to play” section of the arrivals area, located high-up towards the middle of the sim. You will also need a dragon. If you have a Dranopia dragon of your own, you can use that – there is a rezzing area available. Otherwise you can choose one of the dragons standing close to the start area, or if none are available “hatch” a fresh one from the rezzing egg…

Fly with your own dragon, use one of the available dragons, or “hatch” one to use

Each dragon has its own characteristics and all fly a little differently to one another. Those unfamiliar with flying a dragon are advised to take the Air dragon for its agility. Once you have chosen / rezzed your dragon, it is a case of grabbing hold and taking to the air – use the WASD or arrow keys for direction, and PAGE UP/PAGE DOWN (E/C) for climbing / descending. Just make sure that you pass through the “starting gate” (clearly marked START GAME) to commence the game.

Once through the gate, the sky is yours. You have four minutes per session to collect as many points as you can by locating gems and flying through them (the value of the gems varies according to their colour – so make sure you read the guidelines!); after that, any gems you fly through will not be counted in your session score. Points gained are recorded on the HUD and, if you have sound on, you will also hear a chime.

Heading for a gem

Your HUD will also keep track of the time remaining in your current session of the game; when you’re out of time, you can either end the game (land and dismount – your dragon will de-rez, or return to the start area and land), or you can fly back through the start gate and commence a new session. But don’t keep flying the same dragon too long – they do get tired.

In addition to the screen HUD, you have a hovertext HUD reporting on your dragon’s performance – speed, power, etc. Use this to watch your performance – you may find that slower speeds are more advisable that fast speeds – and don’t forget that dragons can fly backwards (negative numbers) and can hover!

Take care, however – the floating island, the trees and other flora are all solid – hit them, and you’re liable to affect your dragon’s airborne balance and lose some flying control as a result. Most importantly of all where obstacles are concerned, watch out for the gem-hunting groms themselves. Several of these weave their way around and through the sim, hunting gems and trying to stop you; touch one, and you’ll lose all the points you’ve accumulated in your current session, and will have to start again.

Avoiding a grom

Points and Prizes

Points obtained by players are recorded and saved on a scoreboard, and there will be periodic cut-off dates, after which the top three scorers will received prize vouchers of up to L$20,000 which can be redeemed at either the Dranopia or Timmi Allen shops. A further 7 runners-up will each receive a Dranopia starter kit valued at L$1850. The first cut-off date for prizes has been set for the 9th February. All winners and runners-up will be notified by Leni Galli.


Dranopia may not have the expansive feel of something like Linden Realms (which benefits from 12 regions per “island”) – but keeping things confined to the one sim and adding the three-dimensional element of flight makes it fun to play – especially when racing against others to grab your points.

Flight with my dragon…

The flying pose is a little alarming – you’re essentially clinging-on to the little dragon’s eyebrows rather than occupying a saddle or anything, which makes me feel a little sorry for the little fellows – especially when faced with avatars of a larger size!

Gameplay-wise, a lot of the sim is mesh, and so lag shouldn’t be a major issue – indeed, I was playing alongside members of the team and a couple of others and had deferred rendering active, shadows on and the snapshot floater open and still managed to fly with little exposure to lag. I did get a little too low at one point and clip a couple of trees – and did find I lost a degree of flight control, as I’d been warned.

Beware the groms!

The game HUD is not too obtrusive and uses the top left of your screen as the default attach point, although you can obviously move it elsewhere. There are some nice touches to the game as well – the different flight characteristics with each of the dragons and the fact that they can get tired of hauling you around the sky. The groms aren’t too hard to avoid – but snagging a gem may not always be as easy as it sounds, especially when trying to manoeuvre between rocks and plants…

Game HUD

Overall, this is a fun little quest to play – and a very clever means of promoting a product. Kudos to the team on both counts for coming up with the idea. With the new creativity tools arising from Linden Realms in the offing, I do wonder as to how the game might yet develop – one can well imagine the groms becoming somewhat more aggressive if one gets too close!

But even without the AI and other bells and whistles offered by LR, I enjoyed my time being able to preview Dranopia, it was fun to play, whether hunting for points or simply flying around the sim and having a little fun. Doubtless, I’ll be back to see how it develops, or simply to have more fun flitting around the sky on a dragon!


Linden Realms: additional elements

Well, the issues around the receipt of HUDs for the Linden Realms game appear to have been finally fixed, so today I took the opportunity for a quick re-visit to see if anything has changed.

As was rumoured, the quest itself has grown, with additional tasks required of players. These look to be more about guiding you around the island than with helping the mysterious Tyrah – but along the way you get lots of opportunities to collect yet more crystals, which you can in turn convert in L$. In fact, in this respect, the aim of the game does seem to have changed focus somewhat.

Caving can be a shattering experience…

Most of the new elements were in the game during prototyping – although some might have been easily missed. One of these is the Shattered Cavern, which I explored by chance during the beta, and which players are now directed to search. All I’ll say on this is: mind your head and keep your eyes peeled – you might otherwise miss a little bonus.

Other places on the island are also more directly pointed to; Tyrah’s Peak, Whispering Hollow and other familiar names from the signposts around the island are now the focus of very specific explorations that tend to break up the gathering of crystals for the purposes of helping Tyrah make her flares.

One element that does appear to be new – I don’t remember encountering it when rambling around the island during beta, and I can’t find evidence of it on the early screen caps I grabbed of the island – is the Portal Workshop, wherein more crystals can be converted into L$.

Portal Workshop

I might also be wrong in this as well: be it seems that there are more rock monsters to avoid now – at least, I had a lot more fun baiting 2 or 3 at a time…

Performance-wise, the game is holding up well; it took several attempts, but I did manage to get to an island where there were 10+ others playing, and there was no sense of any lag – ah, the benefits of mesh and a basic texturing scheme!

One thing that did surprise me were the number of people either using their Viewer’s fly override to flit around the island, only landing to grab crystals, or using fly to vertically avoid rocks, and those who were running around with personal shields active in order to try to avoid being “bumped” by rock monsters. Come on, people, it’s just a game! :).

Making the Code Available

We’ve yet to see the release of the code used to make the various tools within the game possible – but in some ways this is understandable: the code presents certain issues for LL, as it could be used for purposes that were not the original intention. The unscrupulous could have a field day with the forced teleport system, and the auto-attach HUD could also present opportunities for griefers and spammers alike.

Tiggs Linden

When talking in a group conversation, Tiggs Linden indicated that these issues were very much on his mind, but added in reference to the teleport capabilities, “I think I locked them down pretty tight.” He also joked about having overall control of the system and that as a result, “It will be a fun set of snowball fights this year. I dare ya to hit me!” When I jokingly suggested doing so could see someone teleported home, Tiggs replied wickedly, “Not home, 1000m straight up!”

Whoever said tigers don’t have a wicked sense of fun?!

Even so, there’s still no apparent date as to when the tools will be made available; one hopes that their release is accompanied by a formal announcement given the degree of anticipation many developers have with regards to them.

In the meantime, if you’ve not tried the game, or have experienced problems in receiving a HUD since it was declared open to all, why not give it a go? Just be prepared to see your 15-minute trial turn into 45 minutes of running around as you find yourself muttering, “OK, but this is the last group of crystals I’m gathering…! :).

Linden Realms open to all

Update Dec 2nd:I spoke to Tiggs Linden today regarding the HUD issue, and he has now fixed the problem.

Linden Labs have announced that Linden Realms, the crystal-hunting game is now open to everyone.

Portals are now available across the grid, allowing users to teleport to the game areas.

Some six “island clusters” of 12 regions each have been established to provide space for users to play the game without undue lag. From the map, it would appear another two further “islands” of 12 regions apiece may be under development for further expansion of the game, should they be deemed necessary – or perhaps they’re being prepared for the next Linden Realms project?

Linden Realms 12-region game “island” (l) and another Linden Realm area apparently under development (r)

Note that you cannot teleport directly to the game areas – you must go through one of the designated portals.

Game Portal

I reviewed the game a while back, the objective is to collect crystals, avoid various rock monsters and other obstacles and, as a side benefit, earn L$ (but don’t look to make a fortune – that not the point!).

I took a quick look at the expanded gaming areas earlier, and did find there seemed to be a slight issue: some people were arriving and failing to receive the game HUDs. As these also provide instructions – and the LL blog post announcing the game to be open doesn’t mentioned them at all, I actually encountered quite a few very confused people wandering around wondering what was going on and what they were supposed to be doing. I actually tried the portals at Barbarossa, Eldervale and Degrand – and failed to receive a HUD through any.

Hopefully, this issue will be fixed in short order.

The game is a lot of fun – and there is a rumour further quests may be added; if true, I’m not overly sure it’s a good idea. The aim of the game (from LL’s perspective) is to introduce mechanics and features that are to be made available to all – as such building an entire multi-quest game smacks a little of biting the hand of content creators – who are the people who should be using the tools to make engaging, fun and very different experiences for people to enjoy.

That said, I recommend that if you have 30 mins to spare – and once the initial rush has died down (and the HUD issue fixed), why not give it a try?