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The Environment

“How horrifyingly ugly!” was my first thought when I landed on the grid. And, yes, without putting too fine a point on it, for the largest part, Second Life is ugly indeed. “The absence of zoning and building permits as well as a total lack of city planning have created “a mess of urban sprawl that makes LA look like a utopia. Virtual homes are on the same lots as content shops, and one can’t help but feel lost… …SL has proven itself as evidence that city planning is a necessity because neighbors will build a floating castle next to your gorgeous view of the virtual ocean, without a permit!” However this overall ugliness has not prevented many artists and designers of caliber, some of whom have even fully moved their highly successful Real Life creative practices into Second Life, from generating some remarkable output, both in terms of fashion and object/gadget design as well as artistic installations and architecture. But even when these skilled artists and designers are at work Second Life presents huge challenges: An absence of shadows and of reflectivity make for an environment that poses obstacles that need to be taken into account. The best creative output in Second Life is the one that has made a virtue of neccesity and has somehow incorporated these shortcomings into the visual language itself. Being closely associated with computer scientists that specialize in computer graphics in my RL research I am aware that current bandwidth and rendering capabilities would make the incorportation of ray tracing impossible. Future generations of metaverse will undoubtedly be endowed with shadows and reflectivity and even further attributes such as photorealistic as well as non-photorealistic rendering. But the fact of the matter today is that Second Life, despite being 3D gives a curios impression of flatness, of an almost cartoonish effect, due to the absence of shadows and reflective surfaces. It has to be added that the introduction of Windlight is a huge step in the provision of atmospheric rendering, which is currently going a long way in the alleviation of this cartoonlike flatness of the environment.


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