Monday, September 10, 2007

Test Drive

Those of us who like to cruise the highways of SL can now go visit “Peugeot Island” [SLURL] where we can take the Peugeot 308 RC Z for a drive around its virtual racetrack.

This made me wonder, especially as a non-driver, if there was anything to this. What would I get from a virtual test drive that I wouldn't get from just reading an article in some glossy on the 308? I decided to go find
out.

Okay, well, first of all I got an experience. This wasn't a passive train read and there were plenty of other curious folks their doing the same. There were foxy Peugeot staff hanging around to help me in the right direction and answer my questions. I got my free Peugeot Sport Stig outfit and hopped on the track. First thing I noticed was the instrumentation. There it all was in front of me and under my finger tips, if nothing else an indication of the genuine driving experience directly proportional to and AV that is my size and shape. Valuable in itself for someone my size, but nigglingly inaccurate.

So, off I set on their fantasy track, with my speedo HUD and all. Now, I can drive in SL. All those months of Grand Theft Auto have made me a bit of a demon in the virtual driving dept., but I was greatful of a track I couldn't fall off as I shot up the side of a stylised mountain, through water falls and caverns etc. This made me wonder how a newbie would take to this? I bet, personally, it would frustrate the shit out of them.

This was NOTHING like driving a car and pure novelty value. Maybe I was hoping for some classic racing lines duplicated in SL, like the Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, the A87 between Invergarry and the Isle of Skye, even the Llanberis Pas
s. But no. Pity. This HAS been done for the right reason, novelty value. "Ooooh, look, we have a virtual thingy in whatsit space", which is worth doing in column inches alone. Lets say it cost them 8k? Priceless off grid marketing potential for just that.

Shame really. I got very little I couldn't have got in a magazine, though as an SL citizen I did feel catered for (which is something). I looked, but criminally didn't see any social scene to the sim. No music or racing nights, no exclusive owners group to join in-world with virtual drivers present at midnight races etc., no computer game tie-ins or rallying crossovers, shame. Not even a car for sale in world (or I didn't see one anyway). Considering it was dotted with smartly dressed dolly birds waiting to linguisise at me, this seemed a double shame. I began to wonder if there was a Harley Davidson sim out there which had bonfires and hog roasts and actually sold a life style (which, in SL, is probably more appropriate).


Worth checking out is the 3-D model of the 'Flux'. First seen at this year’s Geneva auto show, the very snazzy Flux is the winner of the fourth Peugeot Design Contest.

It’s not the first time a car company has visited our flat little virtual world. Nissan, Pontiac and Scion, Toyota’s youth-focused brand, all have set up shop in Second Life. Each brand lets virtual customers buy and test their vehicles, as well as add a host of customizations. Nissan limits colours and options to what can be found in its real-world vehicle (with the exception of an antigravity button mounted on the dashboard for the blingtards out there). Scion and Pontiac offer much more flexibility, with monster-truck wheels and outlandish paint jobs on the options list. Go consume.

One day, ya never know, something like this might work really nicely. But not today.

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