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Archive for the ‘Building’ Category

The other evening I had a sad and sobering experience. I watched the deconstruction of what was clearly one of the most beautiful sims Second Life has ever known. Ando Joubert, Symphony’s creator, took up the final structures and objects on Symphony, leaving a vast, flat and melancholy wasteland where there had once been a veritable natural paradise, an island of beauty and tranquility in a virtual world that has far too many soulless builds, the pixel equivalents of strip malls and ticky tacky houses.

Symphony was a loving and authentic tribute to the Pacific Northwest Coast, the place Ando calls home in real life. The soaring sea birds, playful otters, basking seals and breaching whales moved within a terrain of native trees and flowers, realistic rocks and ocean waves. It changed with the seasons.  Stone and wood structures artfully dotted the sim, from the hilltop library whose textures came from a building outside Portland, Oregon, to the mill house whose rustic mill wheel moved to the rhythm of water that cascaded from the most exhuberant waterfall in Second Life. Every piece was exquisitely detailed and expertly built.  The mill wheel turned a grindstone; the lighthouse light was rotated by power from gas canisters which turned a wheel mechanism.  The entire sim was a coherent, well integrated whole, a rare phenomenon in Second Life.

But now it is gone.  Irrevocably, it seems.

In its wake is a growing sentiment among many with whom I’ve spoken that Linden Lab doesn’t care about its builders and residents but is looking to make SL a corporate haven. There is a malaise settling in on residents, a sense of hopelessness about the future of this world to which so many have given so much of their time, talent and treasure to build and maintain. Limits on inventory (anathema to builders) and scripts (likewise), the consignment of anything adult to a gulag, the elimination of free items on SL Exchange, despite vociferous protests from blindsided residents . . . all of these and the loss of far too many classic and beautiful SL builds, conspire to lower morale and make some of our most creative talents ask, “Why bother?”

Sometimes people ~ ordinary people ~  not a corporation or the very wealthy, create something of genuine beauty for others to share ~ a unique vision, a place that offers comfort or delight to their fellow residents. In this instance, it was a piece of the American Pacific Northwest, with its woods and wildlife and its magnificent waterfalls and ocean shore. Tomorrow it will be some other treasure that succumbs to the high price tag placed on virtual dreams.

A dear friend of mine said of Second Life . . . the reason it will always fall far short of real life is that in Second Life, there is no place for memories. In real life you can revisit as your heart dictates the place you had your first kiss or heard news that shattered your world. The World Trade Center, though gone, stood on a specific spot, and any of us can go there and have a time of silent reflection. In Second Life you simply can’t go home again. Favorite places disappear and with them the opportunity to share them with new found friends or to reminisce about a lost love or a dear friend who has passed away. And there are places you would love to share with a newbie . . . to demonstrate the magic that’s possible in this amazing world. Places that are gone now. Places like Symphony.

I’m one of those who never saw Second Life as a game, but the demise of Symphony makes me rethink that stance. Despite the much larger and more emotional investment many thousands of us make in this . . . whatever you call it  . . . the real lifeness and respect we come to invest it with . . . it’s this whimsical demise of the best of our created world that pulls Second Life down from the lofty heights of “not a game” to the more mundane . . . “ok, next round, Player #2’s turn.”

That’s what makes me want to propose a “Second Life Virtual World Trust.” I call on Linden Lab and all of us who love Second Life to establish something akin to landmark status for the really remarkable builds that ought to be our collective virtual heritage. We all know the places that constitute our Cultural Treasures in this world. Places that make the “best of” lists for their beauty, their educational value, their creativity or their flawless execution. These are the places that transcend the typical, the ubiquitous, the shoddy, the fly by night. There are plenty of strip malls in Second Life. No need to preserve them. But those places that are treasures ought to have some recourse. Perhaps before they face the wrecking ball, there could be a petition process that would allow the best to be rescued and maintained as part of our collective heritage. Perhaps the corporations that Linden Lab is so actively courting could do in this virtual world what real life corporations do all the time – contribute to the community. Consider corporate sponsorship of the Virtual Trust sims, which will be designated by a committee of skilled artists and builders, longtime residents, and those Lindens who really get Philip’s original vision “Your world, Your imagination.” For a big time corporation, to sponsor a Virtual Trust site at $300 per month would not be a very big deal in the grand scheme of things, and there would be a kick back of good will from grateful residents. Linden Lab would have to set up a mechanism for this, but it would add immeasurably to both the morale and the experience of residents, would create a legacy for future residents, would encourage our artists and would invest corporations in SL as a community rather than just a tool.

This is something for the Lindens to consider, but what about the rest of us? Surely we have a responsibility as well. Call it civic pride or community spirit. All of us have seen tip jars in our wanderings to the special places in Second Life. Sometimes a floating text or proffered note asks, “If you like this, please support us to keep it going.” Sims cost money . . . first to buy at a whopping $1,000 . . . not for the faint of heart . . . and then to maintain month after month at $300 per. That’s a lot, particularly in these hard times, something that only those with steady and disposable income can afford. But what of the talented ones who don’t have the luxury of that kind of money, but who nonetheless create something beautiful for all to enjoy . . . something without a commercial intent?  A freebie.

Next time you see a tip jar in one of those places you love, seriously consider leaving a decent donation. Or face the very real possibility that the next time you click that landmark to return, the place you love won’t be there. If you enjoy a place enough to visit frequently, to bring your friends to, to share with a date or visit often to slough off the cares of the day, ask yourself “is it worth $10 a month to me to keep this place alive?” If 30 people who loved a sim like Symphony each paid $10 a month, less than a movie ticket, the sim would be secure. Symphony could have been saved if the hundreds of SL residents who loved it, who returned again and again, who took countless pictures for their flickr pages, had thought to contribute something to its maintenance. As residents we have to begin to have that ethic or soon the mom and pop type sims will give way inevitably to corporate sims with their bland and conventional sameness. When that happens, the quality of the Second Life experience will be degraded for us all. Consider adopting a sim that you love. Make that commitment, so that the places you love won’t go the way of Symphony.

In one little place in my very human heart there still exists this eternal optimist who thinks with blind hope that Symphony could still be saved. It’s a bit like Peter Pan asking the audience to clap if we believe in Tinker Bell and by our clapping long enough and hard enough, so that her little light comes back to life, Tinker Bell lives for thousands of other delighted children. May it be so for Symphony.

One final note: Thank you, Ando Joubert, for providing all of us who loved her with a place to call home, a place to share with loved ones and new friends, and a place to become inspired by what is possible in Second Life, for those who have time, talent, treasure and generosity to share with their fellow passengers on this amazing journey through a brave new world.  Symphony was a work of genius.

Now, for the record, here is a very small glimpse of what we’ve all lost:

Pacific Northwest Inlet

Farewell Ride

Mill House and Stable

The Old Mill House

Pause for Reflection

Intricate Works - Mill House Interior

Hopper House Gallery . . . Above the Falls

The Lodge and Water Pump

Highest Point and View of Lighthouse

Captain Alcott's Lighthouse - Intricate Works

View from the Top . . . Library, Lodge

Library Interior

"Nothing beside remains ~ boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away."

You can see more photos of this breathtaking build here:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/slsymphony

And so, goodbye . . .

~ Cacie

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Ordinarily this blog focuses on Symphony and its younger sibling, Prelude. However, today I wanted to draw your attention to Ando Joubert’s most recent build, and arguably one of his finest.

Tol Galen is one of a cluster of Elven sims, and as such, called for something fey and magical. I will leave to Ando the description of his creative process and his work with his visionary clients. He promises to write soon . . . but both real life and Second Life commitments are taking his attention right now. In the meantime, I want to share with you some of what you will find when you visit Tol Galen.

Since a picture says a thousand words, today’s post will feature pictures and captions.  Something by Enya or Secret Garden might be nice right about now.

You might want to start on the platform above the Planetarium, overlooking the entire sim.  In an Ando Joubert build, be sure to notice the details.  The sim is themed around a planetarium and there are references to the planetary bodies throughout the build.  Planets, stars and planetary motion are the build’s dominant motif, reflected in everything from teleport stations to lighting fixtures.

Tol Galen Compass Rose Platform

Tol Galen Compass Rose Platform

Down below, Sol is a spacious gallery currently featuring the luminous abstracts and sculptures of SL artist Sunn Thunders.  From Sol you can see the Pathway to the Stars, leading to the viewing platform, beneath which the Planetarium resides.  The viewing platform is where the build began . . .

Classical arches frame the pathway to the platform

Classical Arches Frame the Pathway to the Stars

I have several favorite things on Tol Galen.  Right at the top of my list, is this amazing telescope that Ando crafted, including the pose and a glimpse of the moon within.  Be sure to read the memorial plaque on the  side.

Sol Central Gallery with Ando Joubert Telescope

Sol Central Gallery with Ando Joubert Telescope

Another favorite spot is Summer Night, an ethereal meadow within the planetarium orb, and a wonderful place to get away from the cares of the world.

Summer Night

Summer Night

This is just a wee taste of a very magical place ~ one to visit with someone you love or on your own, and in all moods of your windlight day.

~ Cacie

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Typically, this blog is focused on recounting the adventures of a master builder and SL architect, Ando Joubert, and his newbie builder apprentice . . . me!  As well as reviewing texture and other providers of the tools for building, offering tips for new builders and so forth. 

However, today is a special day for those of us who love Second Life’s high quality content creators.  Today is the day we honor one of our greats – Neferia Abel. 

True to form, I will focus on what this blog is all about . . . building . . . because Neferia is a consummate builder . . . of clothing and of a well remembered beautiful sim, a tribute to her Norwegian homeland.  Sadly, I have no pictures of the old sim, but many fond memories of chilling out in the little Norwegian town at the edge of the sim, or flitting about the Viking ship moored there.  Perhaps you remember it as well.  And then there were the hunts.  Nef is famous for them and for the very high quality treasures she gave away.  I think the first hunt I participated in as a new player was one of hers. One designer offering as many items as some of the collaborative hunts do now.  Amazing!  Generous!

With that in mind, I decided to model one of the goodies from this past Easter hunt.  It illustrates two things that in my estimation make Nef not only a distinguished clothes designer, but also a really great builder:  fantastic texturing and the building of arguably some of the best prim skirts in Second Life.  When you’ve moved in an Ivalde skirt, you don’t settle for anything less ever again.  Quite simply, they are fluid, graceful and beautifully constructed. 

Summer in Ivalde at Symphony

Summer in Ivalde at Symphony

The texture of this lovely dress is subtle and understated, with a lovely old fashioned quality.  The skirt . . . sorry this is a still photo  . . . moves with exactly the right feminine sway.  In this dress, there is eternal summer, when girls of all ages indulge their romantic fantasies.  A dress like this makes that possible.  No, it makes that inevitable!

There are other gowns of hers I love . . . her Marilyn Monroe dresses are to die for, especially the famous Wiggle dress in black, and I have a lovely pale green Edwardian number of hers that makes me feel like Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen.  But you can see, that even in a simple freebie, everything Neferia Abel does is executed with love and painstaking care.  And, novice builders, take note, this is exactly how it should be.  It’s all in the details.  The great builders give painstaking attention to them. 

I was sad to hear of Nef’s real life circumstances that would subtract her considerable talent and great kindness from this world of ours and absolutely thrilled to hear that friends had rallied, so that we would all still be able to indulge our Ivalde habit while she is away . . . hopefully to return in the fall.  Kudos to everyone involved in making that happen. 

Now, if only someone would do the same for Miriel Enfield.  Her extraordinary sim is soon to vanish as well, along with the best eyes, beautifully constructed jewelry, genius vendors, a stunning forest complete with bracket funghi growing on some of the most realistic trees in all of Second Life.  And Miriel made all of it . . . textures, objects, scripts.  That will sadly all be gone soon too.  This is the point in chat where I would type “/me sighs.”

Saying Goodbye at Miriel

Saying Goodbye at Miriel

We can only wish both remarkable and talented women the very best and hope that they will return to share their talents with new generations of Second Lifers.  Ladies, you will be missed in your absence.

~ Cacie

I am wearing

Dress:  Ivalde, Juliette, Lavenderros, Easter Egg 5 from 2009 hunt

Necklace:  Miriel, Limited Edition Heart, Rose Gold (made to support an ill friend)

Eyes:  Miriel, Standard Eyes, Mossy Rock (free)

Shoes:  Pixel Mode, Leeza Stilettos, white

Hair:  Damselfly, Verena, Cinnamon Warm

Skin: Belleza, Belle Medium Smokey Mocha

Nails:  Kunglers, Pearl

Shape:  my own

Poses:  Torrid Midnight

Photos taken on Symphony and on Miriel

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Today seems the perfect day to talk about a wonderful resource for all of us builders in Second Life:  Twisted Thorn Textures . . . and even more importantly, the Twisted Thorn Textures group. 

Perfect because today in the courtyard of TTT, members of the group have displayed photos for a competition offered by Nighty Goodspeed, Twisted’s owner.  Group members were invited to retexture a scale model of the Twisted Thorn Textures main store in whatever style they wished using Twisted Thorn Textures.  To avoid the traditional popularity contest mentality surrounding so many SL competitions, photos were submitted to Nighty who put them on prims arranged around the courtyard.  Members get one vote each and vote by placing a notecard in the entry of their choice.  What a great way to encourage people to choose good design rather than popularity.

A sampling of the texture competition entries

A sampling of the texture competition entries

 

Stop by today to see the photos . . . but you have to be a group member to vote.  The sim is called The Twisted Thorn. 

While you’re there, check out the shops around the courtyard, the main shop, a shop for textiles textures and another for flower and plant textures.

Here’s what I love about Twisted:

  • The weekly half price boards of some of the wonderful textures in the shops
  • Nighty’s willingness to feature the work of other texture artists in her shop
  • The bi-weekly members’ exchange of their works, all free, held in the courtyard
  • The free items Nighty and other members of the group bestow on their fellow Twisties
  • The occasional hunts around the sim for texture sets

But even more, I love the quality of the Twisted Textures and their ingenuity.  This isn’t the largest texture shop in Second Life, but you can count on high quality, and the prices seem more reasonable than others.  Packs are often quite large, offering many color options.  I especially love the exotic woods, which are my go to favorites for furniture.  There are four sets of these with around 30 plus different woods in each.  I’ve learned about wood varieties just by using these textures.  They sell for $500 Lindens each and are well worth the price.  Twisted also carries sculpt packs, which are well worth checking out.

Finally, I love the Twisted group, always so willing to help each other out.  The group chats are a repository of great information about resources for builders, a place to ask for advice in solving a technical problem or finding the best of something whether it’s animations, textures, scripts, vendors or whatever, intelligent conversation about Second Life, and the often witty repartee that gets exchanged on a daily basis with an uptick on weekends.  Group members freely share knowledge and resources with each other.  This is a real community.  Sometimes I just “listen” while I work.  Sometimes I chip in my two cents.  But whatever the case, this is one group I don’t click off, because I continuously learn from them.

With the 25 group limit, I find myself dropping groups as others appear that capture my interest, but I can’t see dropping this group any time soon . . . like never . . . because it’s more than a group, it’s a community.  I give my thanks to Nighty and all the Twisties, Thorne, Seshat, Nissa, Fort, Ludo, and the almost two thousand other members of the group.  If you are a builder or an aspiring builder, you owe it to yourself to check out Twisted Thorn Textures.

And don’t forget the Symphony Photo Competition  is still on.  See the previous entry for details!

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The Emerald City on Wizard

5/5/2009

Wizard is the world of Catalina McCaw, and has seen several incarnations. In this latest one, it is host to the famed Emerald City. As I reimagine Wizard, I will document it from the ground up. Literally!

When Catalina contacted me to create the Emerald City, what I was handed was a Tabula Rasa. A flat, square patch of sand rising a scant meter above sea level! She told me how much space she wanted allocated for the Emerald City, and for all the rest of the sim. I submitted a drawing, and when it was approved, it was time to terraform.

The first draft

The first draft

The first thing I did was carve out the waterways that will course through Wizard. I laid out a grid, whipped out the bulldozer, and dug the interconnected channels that provide each parcel with access to all of Wizard, plus the neighboring sim Paradisos. I made the canals wide enough to allow passage of most SL watercraft, with enough bends to make it look relatively natural. (In all my builds, whether a full sim or a desk lamp, I try to bring a strong sense of realism into play).

Wizard Terraformed

Wizard Terraformed

The next, perhaps most crucial step, was to create the look of the terrain. I raised a couple higher plains and mountains up so I could gauge the effect, and then dove into my frighteningly large texture library. After much trial and error, I found a warmer sand than the SLDefault, a good, rich green for the lowlands, a moss-and-stone middle ground, and a nice gray granite for the peaks. With that step done, it was time to paint the landscape!

Wizard Purple Mountains Majesty

Wizard Purple Mountains Majesty

While the bulldozer is too reminiscent of the old Sim City tool, I tend to think of it more as a paint brush in Photoshop, or the terrain editor in Bryce. I imagine the terrain as a grayscale map, using the various tools such as Raise, Lower, Flatten, Smooth, and the rest to carve my landscape. It’s my hope that someday soon, Lindens will spend a little time improving these tools so that it doesn’t feel like I’m performing brain surgery with a screwdriver!

Wizard reimagined

Wizard reimagined

Update: As of RC 1.23, the bulldozer has taken on much more subtlety – it’s smoothly sizable instead of small/medium/large, and the largest option seems to be about twice as large as the previous “large.” Thanks for the gift, Lindens!

The Yellow Brick Road

5/8/2009

Construction on the Yellow Brick Road commenced, marking the installation of the first prim on Wizard. I tossed in some summer grasses from inventory to get a feel of what it might look like. Next step is to add bridges across the water. Then it’s time for waterfalls!

Ando Joubert - out standing in his field

Ando Joubert - out standing in his field

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OK, OK, I know it’s been a while, but things have been busy for me! A quick update – I’m now the Senior Writer for ICON Lifestyles Magazine, having just submitted my work for the 3rd issue due out in May 1. Stop by the ICON kiosk on Symphony and subscribe – I guarantee it’s a good read!

I’ve also completed the town square on Symphony, and am in the process of setting it all up for commerce. My partner Acacia Merlin is way ahead of me on this – she’s been building like there is no tomorrow, and is rapidly filling up her store, Minuet Designs, with beautiful, inexpensive low-prim accessories for your SL home.

My store, across the plaza from Minuet Designs, is Bauen Precision Instruments. It is in many ways the opposite of Acacia’s store – expensive, high-prim unnecessaries for the home! But there’s a reason I’m proud of my stuff, and for the high prim count – these items are very detailed, realistic, feature unique handmade textures, and (I hope) are very pleasing to look at. Many items are limited editions, such as the Dagurreotype Camera, which you can actually use for photographs. Its aged lense will add a touch of antique to all your shots. (There’s even a HUD included so that you can shoot on location!) Only 20 will ever be sold. There is a display in Bauen, and if you are interested in purchasing one of these, contact me in world via IM if I’m online, or notecard if I am not, and I will give you an individually numbered camera and personalized usage instructions.

Daguerreotype Camera by Bauen Precision Instruments

What else? I just inked a deal with Catalina McCaw to create an amazing build for her on Wizard, one of her beautiful sims. I will update this blog with scenes from the project as I proceed with the building of it, so stay tuned!

That’s all for now, folks. But before I go, let me remind you to stop by Symphony any time – there are many wonders, delights for the senses, horse trails that ring the island, easy sailing/boating, hidden poseballs scattered about, and many more things to discover from the highest hills to the depths of the lagoon. If you would like an exclusive booking at the Lodge for a conference or company retreat, let either me or Acacia know in advance and we’ll set it up for you.

-Ando

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Once Ando lit the creative spark in me to build, thoughtfully guiding my work and sometimes setting challenges for me to meet, I began to fill up the lighthouse studio with things I made. I fell in love with the exotic wood textures at Twisted Thorn — there are four packs with over 30 wood textures in each, and they are amazing! — richly detailed, high resolution, lovely to work with. (I’ll be writing about Twisted Thorn in an upcoming blog.) Those textures led to an armoire, magazine holder, umbrella stand, lamp, and table. A well-done texture can spark ideas.  

Soon after my first successful project, I wanted to create a separate entity for the things I was building, but I also wanted to stay in tune, pun intended, with the spirit of Symphony. Wikipedia provided the perfect resolution . . . the third movement of a classical symphony is the minuet, which is also a lively and elegant dance. So Minuet Designs was born. It seemed perfect for the small decorative accessories for home and avatar that I was drawn to build. All that remained was to grow into it. And that meant weeks of Saturdays and Sundays practicing this new craft.

One thing led to another until, in this creative dance we seem to be doing on Symphony, Ando or I thought it would be nice to perhaps have a shop. And that seemed like a great idea because the lighthouse was becoming so full of things that it was getting harder and harder to find a square meter of space to rez a prim. I was also having more frequent texture emergencies . . . applying textures meant for new pieces on already finished ones that just happened to get in the way. Not to mention  turning the windows into table tops and the wood plank floor into stained glass by overshooting my mark in an overzealous approach to texturing. Patient Ando had to follow in my wake putting things back to rights. 

Something had to give.

As it turned out it was Ando, generous man that he is. He cleared a space on Symphony, and almost overnight put in a town square complete with a shop for me, a shop for him and a coffeeshop, just because “it feels more like a community.” A dancing fountain, working sundial, magazine kiosks, chirping sparrows and trees soon filled the square.  

 

Ando Joubert's shopping build for Symphony

Ando Joubert's shopping build for Symphony

 

Very gratefully, I moved all of my completed projects from the lighthouse to the new shop ~ Minuet. 

Some of the items for sale at Minuet

Some of the items for sale at Minuet

 

To someone who builds with prims in SL, an SL sandbox or studio is not unlike a writer’s blank page. A clean slate, empty canvas, and hopefully some new ideas to fill them soon. The lighthouse stands almost empty now, except for the armoire, which still needs the right door script. You can even get to the circular staircase again, without bumping into tables and lamps in the process. It’s an open, inviting space, just waiting . . .

For now, I’d like to invite you to visit Symphony, to browse Minuet and Bauen (Ando’s shop where you can find precision primwork items that are among the finest in SL — including a highly realistic daguerreotype camera ). Please feel free to wander the beautiful Symphony sim. It was created to be enjoyed. (Symphony 92 111 29, should get you there!)

And the coda?  

If I can do this, so can you. If you aren’t already building in Second Life and are intrigued by the possibilities . . . there is no better time than now to begin. Rez a prim . . .play! Con brio!

~Cacie

 

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