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Archive for the ‘Metaverse’ 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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Prelude

Prelude

Symphony is growing! Please welcome our newest addition, Prelude. I’ve created Prelude in the same geographic vein as Symphony, bringing more of the U.S. Pacific Northwest to Second Life. The terraforming is reminiscent of a volcanic crater formation, common to the Cascade Range from British Columbia to northern California. Unlike Symphony, Prelude will feature little in the way of buildings, offering instead a park-like setting, wildlife refuge, and much more authentic marine biology.

So bring a tent (the only kind of camping you will find in the Symphony Islands), a bottle of wine, and a friend, and come visit Prelude!
-AJ

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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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I seem to have a difficult time explaining to friends and family just what it is about Second Life that draws me in and keeps me there. Maybe if I explain it here, I’ll develop a better sense of how to explain it out there.

One thing people ask, both in and out of world, is “what brought you to Second Life in the first place. It wasn’t any one thing in particular, but a number of elements all coming into focus at roughly the same time – reading Neuromancer by William Gibson; my ongoing love of Photoshop, 3D graphics and animation, and an idea for an animated short; and an article in the Wall Street Journal about a virtual world and economy known as Second Life. Once in world, I learned quickly the craft of building – crudely at first, playing with a friend making mazes in the sky, but from that, I learned the basic tools of SL. My technique improved with each successive house I built, and friends started to ask me to build for them. Sadly, as it does for many, SL got “dramatic,” RL demanded my focused attention, and for a couple months I was largely absent from the grid.

When I returned to SL, I made a conscious decision to not jump back into the same social scene with the same bad actors, or even the same friends, but to start fresh and re-focus on what I truly loved about SL – creating imaginative and interesting structures.

I bought a small parcel high on a hill in Avendale Ruins, one of Mystical Cookie’s wonderful sims, and built what one builds on the highest hills. An observatory, with an antique telescope!

Avendale Observatory

Avendale Observatory

Of course, such a thing used up my prim count, and so, the next parcel over was bought, and a pavilion was raised, overlooking the gorge. It was ideal for dancing on a moonlit night, or wandering among the wildflowers and trees, perhaps taking an afternoon nap surrounded by the sounds of nature. Before long, my prim count was looking pretty low, so the next two adjoining parcels were purchased. As I built first the telescope, and then the pavilion, I began developing a history to match the builds. The pavilion had been erected on the site of the cistern that had provided for the needs of the observatory. That cistern was made obsolete by the waterworks I built on the furthest parcel.

Avendale Waterworks

Avendale Waterworks

The waterworks drew water in from the river, filtered it in 3 large tanks, and provided water for drinking and the hydraulics used to power the movement of the telescope. Note: the texture below for the wall of the intake pipes came from a photo I took of an old cistern in Portland Oregon. Art imitates life!

Intake Pipes

Intake Pipes

Water Treatment Tanks

Water Treatment Tanks

Waterworks Control Desk

Waterworks Control Desk

The space between the Waterworks and the Observatory I devoted to Waterworks Park. Here was a pond surrounded by lush autumn trees, with leaves drifting down and romantic dancing poseballs strewn about for my partner and me, and our guests.

Waterworks Park

Waterworks Park

I began to notice a curious thing as my little slice of SL was born – people started visiting it. Not just friends or family, but people wandering the grid. I’d frequently find people at the pond, or at one of the many dancing locations scattered about the sim, slow dancing with their honey. Avendale is a friendly bunch of sims, and so I took no steps to boot them or even prevent anybody from enjoying that build. What I did do is run out of prims again! This prompted me take that big leap of faith – buying my first sim – Symphony.

More on that later, though. It’s late and time to post. Stay tuned for more as the story continues!

-AJ

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