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How Second Life Works

Second Life's Tech Specs

As of October 2007, Second Life uses the Havok 1 physics engine. This software simulates real physics within a virtual environment. The physics engine determines how avatars and objects behave within the virtual world, including collision detection (the engine tells the software when two items are touching and how each should react), vehicle dynamics and what animations look like.

The more sophisticated the physics engine, the more realistic simulations using it will be. Linden Lab announced that it is upgrading Second Life to the Havok 4 physics engine. Games that use the Havok 4 engine include Halo 2 and Halo 3, BioShock, Medal of Honor Heroes and Full Spectrum Warrior. As of October 2007, the Havok 4 Second Life engine was still in the beta testing stage.

Residents can hear and view streaming audio and video inside Second Life. Second Life supports audio in MPEG and Ogg Vorbis formats. Streaming video requires the user to install Quicktime. Residents can choose to display video on specific surfaces in the land they own. To do this, they designate the surface's texture as a media surface. If any other surface within that resident's land has the same texture, it will also display the streaming video. Since this can cause confusion, residents should make sure the surface they choose has a unique texture within their land.

­Second Life requires a fairly hefty setup on the user's end. It's compatible both with PCs and Mac computers. Technical requirements for the PC include:

  • A Cable or DSL connection
  • Windows 2000, XP or Vista operating system (Linden Lab recommends XP or Vista)
  • An 800 MHz Pentium III processor or better (at least 1.5 GHz recommended)
  • 512 MB of computer memory (1 GB recommended)
  • An nVidia GeForce 2, ATI Radeon 8500 or Intel 945GM graphics card or better

The Mac requirements include the cable or DSL connection, the same amount of computer memory and graphics card requirements as the PC, and:

  • Mac OS X 10.3.9 or better
  • 1 GHz G4 or better processor

Next, we'll take an even closer look at creating objects in Second Life.