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Thursday, June 16, 2005

GRINDING THE WORLD

Making the metaverse your skatepark...

The great thing about the Tony Hawk skateboard games—and this is pretty much true of every great game—is that when you’re finished playing them, the experience is so compelling, you see the real world for a time through the scrim of the gameplay. Spend a few hours pulling stunts in digital Tony Hawk land, step away from the Playstation, and for awhile there, the whole world outside looks like a skatepark, with every banister and railing a potential place to grind on, every sloping wall and street ramp your own private Ollie launchpad.

I thought about this after bumping into the latest Jack Digeridoo joint, a superhip, intermittently dreamy skateboard video scored to Beastie Boys and Folk Implosion, featuring sweet grinds from rooftops of shopping malls, and high Ollies off the glass atrium in the Welcome area.

Damn, I realized, these kids have turned a whole MMO into a skatepark.

“I had used the skateboards available,” Tripper Tapioca tells me, “and I just wasn’t satisfied, so I made my own.” Tripper used to skate a lot in real life, so she had that experience base to work from; for reasons she prefers not to publicize, she hasn’t had the chance to skate much lately. So in her copious SL time, she began the month-long task of creating her ideal skateboard.

Her friend Nucleus Baron put together the eight custom animations she’d embed in her deck-- Ollie jump, handstand, and so on-- while she scripted a skateboard with five speed settings. At minimum, the end product is a fun, speedy way of getting around in-world at ground level—faster than running, without the vision limitations that come from getting inside a closed vehicle. (Tripper Tapioca once rode one of her own boards from Hikuelo to Luna on a single trip, something like the SL equivalent of skateboarding from Chicago to Venice Beach.)

But the real challenge is using the momentum and the ingrained physics of your avatar, to get extreme on the environment. When I watched Jack’s video, I assumed the precarious stunts in them were automated. Not so, says Tripper, who explains the method behind her wheels to me from on top of the Eiffel Tower aerodrome in Gray. (Because after all, if you can Ollie from anywhere, why settle for a shopping mall, when you can do it from a rusty air platform that’s 500 meters off the ground?)

“It’s not automatic, that wouldn’t be very fun to me,” she says. Tripper’s a thin brunette sporting a punk T-shirt and a Che Guevara silhouette on the back of her board. “So it’s all basically skill… like ‘Tony Hawk Underground’ in SL.”

The skill, she continues, is mainly in timing and aim. “If you’re trying to grind a high skinny bar, you’ve gotta jump soon enough so that you make it up there, but not so soon that you miss the bar. And aim… you’ve gotta keep your board straight so you don’t fall off the side. Which isn’t easy.” She tells me she’s thinking of buying a whole private island, so she can create an entire skate city, with some kind of points scoring system, so skateboarders can compete with each other, and themselves.

For now, though, they’ll have to settle with the entire grid as their playground. For that, Tripper recommends confidence.

“If you think you can’t make the jump midway,” she advises, grinning, “you miss and fall.”

Speaking of which, creating the smooth camera shots for Jack Digeridoo’s skate video also required creating some stunts of his own. “The camera you see me holding in the video has a script that I can use to move my avatar very slowly,” Mr. Digeridoo tells me. “It works by choosing the direction you want to move, and issuing a voice command to lock the motion along that axis.”

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Comments

Cool! Beats the usual MMO grind.

Posted by: Jim Purbrick at Jun 16, 2005 6:49:16 AM

Where can I pick one of these things up? I'd be glad to fork over good lindens for something like this...

Posted by: spartacus revere at Jun 16, 2005 10:42:44 AM

Sounds cool, i'll have to get in on that.

Posted by: Artemis Fate at Jun 16, 2005 1:36:40 PM

one day i'll catch those skate punks!

Awesome job.

Posted by: hunter at Jun 16, 2005 8:43:27 PM

Mr. Digeridoo? Hardy har har...

It does take practice, there were other people doing tricks but they could't land on anything so they didn't make it into the video.

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