Sunday, 21 March 2010

Heritage Key VX - A New Historical Virtual World

Heritage Key is a content-orientated online community aimed at those with an interest in history and culture. It features both media resources and an interactive experience. The company behind Heritage Key is Rezzable Productions Ltd, a London-based company, headed up by CEO, Jonathan Himoff, and Director John Griffin, Chairman of Addison Lee,  a large transport company, also based in London.

Available content includes podcasts, streaming videos, news articles, interviews, discussion groups and blogs. The content is often created in conjunction with archaeologists and historians, such as the Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass and John Julius Norwich. Heritage Key combines this content with an online 3D virtual experience, or virtual world, that recreates artefacts and archaeological sites.

The Heritage Key VX provides access to a 3D Virtual World filled with accurate representations of many of the Ancient World's treasures and sites, and the collection is growing.

Built on the OpenSimulator platform, and using an adaptation of the Imprudence 1.2 Viewer, this is one of the best Opensim grids I have ever visited.

Let's start the Tour
Before entering HK you first need to create an account, you do this on the HK website. You then download their Viewer, and you are ready to login.

On arrival you will find yourself in Welcome Alpha, about 50m from the main teleport hub. The reason for this short walk is that I often found staff members on this walkway, only too keen to help out and provide guidance.

Arrival in Heritage Key
The Main Teleport Hub in Welcome Alpha
Even when no-one is on duty the place is filled with helpful notices


The currently available destinations from the teleport hub are:

  • The Skills Centre
  • The Avatar Outfitting Area
  • The Travel Hub 
  • King Tut's Treasures

The teleporters are collision devices, so just walk straight into one or left-click it, and you will be teleported automatically.

The Skills Centre
The Skills Centre

This centre provides all you need to know about using and exploring Heritage Key. It uses a series of tutorials covering

  • How to Use the Information (and hidden details) provided
  • How to Interact, and use your camera and activate media
  • How to Navigave around the HK World
  • How to Communicate with others (explorers and staff members) add friends, and take snapshots
  • How to manage your Inventory
Once you have brushed up on your skills there is a handy teleporter to take you to the The Avatar Outfitting Area.

The Avatar Outfitting Area
Avatar Outfitting Area
Choose your ready-made outfit here

In addition to several ready-made avatars (with shape, skin, hair, and explorer's clothes), you can customise your avatar further by taking (for free) a range of hair styles, pants, shirts, jackets, boots, belts, glasses, and other accessories, with more coming soon. Changing rooms are also provided, the Mens' up at 425m and the Ladies' up at 600m.

The Mens' Changing Room, up at 425m, with pose stand

Once you have got the look that suits you best it is time to do some serious exploring. Fortunately, at the end of the The Avatar Outfitting Area there is another convenient teleporter to take you to the Travel Hub.

 Travel Hub
Travel Hub

As its name implies, this is the main portal to all that Heritage Key has to offer. Intriguingly, it does not ask you where will you go, but rather when will you go.

Currently, the following  are available:

  • Virtual King Tutankhamun
  • The Valley of the Kings
  • Stonehenge
  • Life on the Nile
  • Collectors Gallery
Coming soon are:

  • The Xian (Terracotta) Warriors
  • The British Museum
Travel Hub Teleporters

King Tut's Treasures
This telepoter takes you to the Valley of the Kings, and the digs of the famous Howard Carter.

Valley of the Kings and the Delightful Winged Heron

It was here that I met an explorer from Second Life, named Winged Heron. She told me that Heritage Key was not just about exploring, she also told me about the Quests. This is what she had to say:

Winged Heron, Freelance Reporter, Angelic Explorer and Celestial Poet, reporting for Rock Vacirca and others on HK:

Currently you find me exploring Heritage Key. I met Rock while on tour of the Valley of the Kings. Introduced to Heritage Key, by some friends, I am slowly becoming hooked. As a long time citizen of SL, I am on an exciting quest in the Valley of the Kings located in HK.

Rock caught me searching for the six elusive pages from the diary of Howard Carter, which have been deposited around the Valley of the Kings and in the tomb. He met me as I was looking for the first page, having found the other five. This quest commences at either the first tent to the Valley of the Kings or in Howard Carter's tent. A small hint, once you have located the pages, if you haven't collected these in order, go back and do them in order. The reward is a something wearable and seen in many old movies which were set in Egypt, Morocco and other North African countries. No don't think Lawrence of Arabia, more like the guys in Casablanca but not worn by Humphrey Bogart.

After some successful tips from Rock on alternate viewers, we parted company and I completed the first quest, ten minutes later, finding that damn elusive last page. Finding the Scarlet Pimpernel would have been easier. Only joking, but if a quest was easy it would be an Easter Egg Hunt. In the tomb of young King Tut you will find there is a further quest. This too, like all good quests, must be completed in correct order. Once completed your reward is well worth it.

Quests can also be found at Stonehenge, the first place I explored. I like to do things in historical order. It is much more tidy that way. Next stop will be the actual Tut exhibit in HK.

So what do I like in HK that I can't find in SL? Well I like the fact that historical accuracy is aimed for, especially since the offending potatoes and tomatoes have been removed from the menu at Stonehenge, another quest or set of tasks to be completed. The visual recreations of the sites and artefacts is amazing. The factsheets are also presented in a novel way. And finally, for people who have no chance to travel for various reasons in real life, they can virtually experience the wonders of archaeology and anthropology.  I suspect even the world-renowned archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's answer to Indian Jones, would be pleased with the exhibits, if he had time away from the real thing.

I look foreward to more contributions from Winged Heron in the future.

I also liked the fact that you could take an aerial tour over the Valley of the Kings by Hot-Air Balloon, complete with audio commentary on what you were passing over.

Hot-Air Balloon Tours of the Valley of the Kings

Again conveniently, as I am now starting to take as given in Heritage Key, so well thought out is their design, is a teleporter to take you to the Collections Gallery. Be prepared to be amazed, I mean, really amazed.

Collections Gallery
Dark, moody, and full of Ancient Egyptian atmosphere, the Collections gallery showcase the great treasures uncovered in the tomb of the boy-king, Tutankhamun.

Every piece in the collection can be made full size by clicking on the Enlarge helper, and full audio commentaries are available for each piece too, explaining what the relic is, and its function, and much more besides.

This Gallery has to be seen to be believed
The Famous Mask of the King

Was there really a curse on this Mask?

At the end of the Collections Gallery is a Quick Teleports board, to take you to various destinations, but one which had me intrigued was the Cosmic Gallery, so I headed there next.

Cosmic Gallery
Cosmic Gallery

Boy was I glad that I checked the Cosmic Gallery out! I will not describe this Gallery any further, you have got to travel this path yourself. I have been to a lot of Virtual Worlds in my time, but never anything remotely like this. Quick tip, do not use the quick teleport helpers to get around the Cosmic Gallery, walk the path instead!

There is so much more to see in Heritage Key. I did not have time to visit Stonehenge, and the Life by the Nile region, and with all the various Quests, and new Ancient World destinations to look forward to, this is not a World I am going to tire of anytime soon.

If you missed the Tutankhamun Exhibition when it toured the world, then head over to Heritage Key right now. It awaits.