The virtual world aspect is nothing new to us sim pilots. We nailed the virtual concept down many years ago and each year we’ve worked hard to make it better. While the early days were limited to a single player game, over time this has blossomed into what we enjoy today with multi-player groups like FlightSim Nation, Flight Simulator Network and even larger true-to-life experiences with VATSIM and IVAO. With Microsoft Flight Simulator X and add-on scenery such as Orbx Pacific Northwest and Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark, one can be fully immersed in what Microsoft has been calling “As Real As It Gets” for many years. It’s hard to imagine it getting any better than this.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the online virtual community called Second Life. Second Life has been around since 2003 and as of 2010 has an estimated 18 million registered accounts. Yours truly has one of those 18 million accounts, but I’ve not visited the community in over 2 years. At a very high level glance, you register for a Second Life account and install their free client software. Second Life is absolutely free to join and use, but free accounts have many limitations. When you join you create an avatar and move around within the Second Life virtual world. Second Life has become popular in the corporate world as well as the arts, science and religious spaces as well. One can even buy property in Second Life.
I would estimate my account dates back to around 2006 or so, so I by no means can be considered as an early adopter of Second Life. I played around with it on a free account and then upgraded to a paid account and then completely lost interest even before my one-year subscription expired. While it was cool moving around the different virtual areas and meeting people, (I even explored the Titanic) I felt it was missing something to keep me fully engaged. Plus I got the impression I was mainly interacting with kids and very young adults. It got old really fast.
The one element to Second Life that I always thought about was how it might be neat to be able to combine some aspects of Second Life into the Flight Simulator hobby or vice versa. For example, as I stated earlier in Second Life one can buy land. The land purchase can be either already developed or can be undeveloped space. While I never purchased land in Second Life, the idea of being able to do something like this in relation to the Flight Simulator hobby interested me. Of course, I’m not a software designer and never really took the idea outside of my head and shared it with others. Thankfully someone else had the same idea and did act on it.
I recently learned of a project called Andras Field which has been in development for several months and available for download/purchase since 30 June 2010. Andras Field is a fictive airport located in Southern Bavaria, close to the Swiss and Austrian border. The add-on software is available through Aerosoft and as of this blog posting, the current version is 1.10 (full build) with update 1.12 applied on top. Updates are made available as property is sold. More about this later.
Again, as of this blog posting Andras Field is sold through Aerosoft for $27.36 USD. This price is very competitive for all that you get with this add-on product. Andras Field is more than just an airport, it is an entire airpark including a 7,006 foot asphalt runway, 2,000 foot grass glider base and a 6,000 foot water runway. Need space to land your favorite heli? No worries…you’ll find plenty of space at Andras Field to do just that. Still want more?
Andras Field includes all the amenities one would expect in a self-contained airport city. You’ll find servicing facilities, restaurants, hotels and residential properties designed by pilots for pilots. When ready to fly, your airplane can be rolled out of your private attached garage and in minutes you’ll be on the active runway.
But how does all this tie in with Second Life? Well…like Second Life, you can buy commercial or residential property for real money at Andras Park. You can have the developers place a standard house/hangar or you can model your own to have placed on your plot for all to see including your name on the street sign. Updates are made available every ten days or so.
I haven’t decided if I’ll buy some virtual property. But I have had fun with this software add-on.
Until next time…