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Virtual Field Gets Real Sponsor
February 2007

Arizona based paintball accessories manufacturer Custom Products sponsors virtual paintball field in Second Life.

Second Life is a virtual reality universe in which players can chat, communicate, play and take part in a virtual economy.. Developed by Linden Lab, the Second Life VR simulation client and the network that drives it grew to prominence in late 2006, though its roots range back through earlier virtual reality chat engines produced by the company over the last four years. As recently as late February 2007, Linden Lab has claimed over 4 million registered Second Life user accounts, though a December 2006 article of The Guardian estimates approximately 100,000 active users.

Basic accounts to enter Second Life are free, with charges for premium accounts that have greater capabilities. Entering Second Life requires downloading of the Second Life client software from Because the Second Life “world grid” contains sections of what Linden Labs refers to as “mature content,” their registration system automatically directs users aged 13 to 17 into “Teen Second Life,” an entirely separate virtual universe with no cross-connects to Second Life.

With the free client software downloaded and installed, the new user can connect to the Second Life virtual world – it should be noted, that fairly new graphics cards with Open GL support are required – one three year old laptop on which the software was tested for this article had an incompatible ATI Radeon Card. On first launch the user will be transported to a tutorial island, where the basics of getting around in Second Life are covered. From here, the player can select the map function and press the “go home” button to enter the virtual world of Second Life.

Second Life players may make purchases within the game for assorted goods and services, using virtual currency – Linden Dollars (L$.) The Linden dollars can be accumulated and bought and sold between users, and at the time of this writing had a value of approximately L$270 to a single US dollar. With the ability to do commerce, Second Life has caught the attention of companies like Sony, Toyota, American Outfitters and Reebok, who have leveraged virtual dollars toward a real world profit (to the chagrin of some virtual revolutionary terrorists.)

paintballThe business world's interest in Second Life has grown to the point that Reuters news, one of the world's most established news agencies now maintains a virtual office with a full time reporter. Virtual property is a hot commodity in Second Life with several reputable news sources reporting players generating serious real world incomes.

Using the search function for paintball, one quickly finds “Paintball at ATOC.” The “A Touch Of Class” virtual amusement park features numerous activities including DJs and clubs, a casino, and a paintball field. Clicking the teleport button rapidly transports the player to ATOC island, where they can walk around. Located near the sign welcoming players to ATOC is a small glowing ring in the floor, which then teleports them to Jimmy Dingson's paintball arena.

Here is where the virtual paintball games can take place, under Custom Products' banner. To play paintball in this arena, a player must first become a member of the player's group. This comes by finding an existing member and asking for and invitation to join. The player must also obtain a paintball marker.

paintballAt the time of this writing, the “PB Super” marker is available at the field for a mere L$150, and the paintball simulation program for another L$50. Players not willing to drop a US dollar can earn L$1 for every five minutes they spend virtual dancing, painting or serving Chinese noodles on ATOC island – a seventeen -hour dance marathon clearing the price of the marker and software.

This is due to change, because of the Custom Products Sponsorship. Players will soon be presented with the “PB Super” for free and software for free, and an optional “PB Gun Elite” marker customized with Custom Products accessories at a price. After that it is simply a matter of finding players to join up with, and slinging paint between the field's inflatable bunkers.

By stepping in as the sponsor for a virtual paintball field, Custom Products hopes to achieve greater exposure for paintball to an audience who may not yet be familiar with the game. Their support came following an introduction to Second Life from a print contractor, and seeing that a few Second Life users were starting to build paintball fields.

At present. the simulation of paintball lacks the many of the features and realism found in console games like Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball or mods like Digital Paintball for Halflife. However, by being part of a virtual world, Dingson's field serves as an area for people to interact, and discuss as well as play.

paintballThe field's sponsorship is planned to provide for improvements to both the quality of the paintball game simulation, as well as what is available for free to Second Life members, including being able to dress their virtual selves in Custom Products full line of soft goods from t-shirts to hoodies to hats. With a large percentage of Second Life users living in Europe, Custom Products hopes to also make their brand name better known overseas.

One concern some paintball players may have is that since most player's avatars (the 3-D shape used to represent them in Second Life) do not include paintball goggles, the virtual field depicts unsafe paintball games. Addressing that issue, CP's Travis Ducek stated, “There is no risk with not wearing goggles in virtual reality, just like when you play a video games shooting guns you don't have to wear a vest. We absolutely insist that people playing in the real world, have to have goggles on.” Ducek went on to point out that many players represent themselves with non-human avatars – that Second Life is clearly a fantasy world, though the possibility exists for future upgrades to include virtual paintball goggles.

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