Jan 282015
 

Morphe Inc

I’m talking to Marsha Wawillow, Editor in chief of SL Goth Magazine, an inworld publication which I covered in a part 1 of the interview. In this part of the interview Marsha gets a little more personal, although she readily admits she’s generally shy. However we start with location, the SL Goth HQ sits in a corner of the home of Morphe Inc. Abel Dreamscape’s wares are readily available around here and they are very pleasing on the eye.

Morphe Inc In The Middle

I ask Marsha, how she got here :

I’ve known Abel Dreamscape for a long time. In the earlier days of the magazine he made gifts for readers as well as did the special event buildings for SL7B. When I left, and returned, I contacted him because I just think he’s so talented, and reliable, and genuine – I trust him. He is our patron here and we are ever grateful for his hospitality.

SL Goth HQ

Marsha took a break from Second Life for around three years but on her return she quickly got back into the swing of things and relaunched SL Goth Magazine with a HP Lovecraft special, so how big a fan of HP Lovecraft is Marsha? Marsha squirms, a little uncomfortably and then answers, somewhat sheepishly :

“I actually do not know very much about Lovecraft, although I did have a big dose with the Special issue and learned a lot. It’s interesting – there’s a HUGE Lovecraft following in Second Life. Very dedicated, and creative fans, who have a strong community. The people in that community are just top notch – storytellers, role players, creators, sim builders, you name it. I’m just always blown away by what comes out of Innsmouth.”

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Jan 282015
 

Interviewing Marsha Warwillow

I find myself inside a gothic building at the HQ of SL Goth, a website and inworld magazine dedicated to all things gothic in Second Life. The magazine describes itself as :

slGoth Magazine is an independent showcase of gothic Second Life residents, places, philosophy, fashion, entertainment and events. The articles are written by resident avatars and cover a variety of topics in the gothic community. It is published monthly in-world and is a wearable HUD which supplies landmarks and gifts from sponsors.

I’m joined by Editior in Chief of SL Goth, Marsha Warwillow. The magazine was launched in June 2009 further editions appeared in July and August of that year. The fourth edition appeared in May 2010, with further editions appearing in June and July of that year and then Marsha took a break from Second Life.

The magazine reappeared along with Marsha in August 2014 with a HP Lovecraft special edition and since then there have been editions in September, October, November and December 2014 as well as January 2015.

I ask Marsha about the return of the magazine, she pauses and then replies :

Well, some people enjoy building and making things in Second Life. Some people DJ, dance, hang out, take pictures, etc. My thrill is making magazines, and I love goth culture, so it seemed a fun way to explore goth/dark SL and learn new things and just basically document it as I went along. 

But it became collaborative, and I do not write at all really any more, it’s based on submissions and people who volunteer to contribute now.

How many people are involved, I ask Marsha, “It varies from month to month, I call it “an open invitation” and send out a theme note, people respond who are interested and have time and are inspired.” she replies.

Marsha On The Couch

Sl Goth has a website and inworld publication, I ask Marsha about the challenges of the inworld version compared to the website, she pauses and then tells me :

Hmm… with the in-world magazine, making edits is a bit harder after it is published, and adding to it. It IS possible to do just a lot more work compared to simply editing the text on a webpage. Also the magazine contains gifts from Sponsors. There’s a bit of a process with that, and it’s not always easy, but worth it.

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Jan 272015
 

Bridge

The City Of Harrison in Second Life is pretty damn stunning. This is an urban roleplay area that spans two regions and manages to pack a hell of a lot in to packed streets which are surrounded by numerous buildings.

City Of Harrison

As with most roleplay regions in Second Life, the trick is to not tag yourself as being into the roleplay if you’re just visiting. City Of Harrison has a very simple way of helping you opt out, there’s OOC tag, there’s nothing to wear, indeed that’s the trick, you simply don’t join their group or wear their group tag. That means you can even join the group, but avoid roleplay by not wearing said tag until you’re ready.

Detailed Streets

So what exactly is going on here? Well this is a good time to head over to their website to find out more :

The City of Harrison is a casual modern urban roleplay environment – that is, we are a modern-day big city aimed at everyone simply living their lives. Unlike many other urban roleplay environments, Harrison does not focus on being “dark” or “dangerous”; rather, we cater to anyone that wants a chunk of a bustling metropolis. Whether you aspire to be a financial magnate or a criminal mastermind – or anything in between – Harrison is the place for you.

There are perks to getting involved in the roleplay, you can rez items and drive around the streets.

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Jan 262015
 

These days Yoz Grahame works for 18F, a USA Government website that bills itself as : “Building the 21st century digital government“. However in a former virtual life Yoz worked for Linden Lab, unsurprisingly he was known as Yoz Linden. However he has also long been harbouring a secret, that may or may not have been closely guarded.

Yoz it seems was involved in keeping a alive a forum that had a life of its own, as reported by Kotaku : The Secret Douglas Adams RPG That People Have Been Playing for 15 Years. The RPG itself, known as Starship Titanic, is, claims the Kotaku article, pretty unplayable these days. The book of the same name was not written by Douglas Adams, it was instead penned by Terry Jones, but the forum? That’s where Yoz comes into play.

Yoz worked for The Digital Village and as part of his work on the website he created an employee forum, that wasn’t just open to employees. Cryptic clues were provided as to the existence of this forum. However Yoz forgot all about it, for around six months, and then decided to take a peek :

Visitors to the forum had created fictional employees and passengers on the Starship Titanic and begun role playing as them. Someone would make up an implausible, Adams-esque scenario, and everyone else would react to it in character, resulting in some enormously complex storylines and in-jokes that developed and diversified over years. And this strange fictional world had appeared entirely spontaneously, without any input from Douglas Adams or The Digital Village. Indeed, Yoz was as surprised as anyone when he stumbled across it: “It was like ignoring the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a year, then opening it to find a bunch of very grateful sentient tomatoes busily working on their third opera,” he says.

The beauty of user generated content, even in forum form appears to have been a sight to behold.

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Jan 232015
 

Ok first of all, as I’m a great believer in ethics in Virtual World Blogging I will declare from the outset that I have no connection with SL Go, or OnLive. At the moment, I’m on my iMac, which isn’t new and I’m struggling to find the bloody hash symbol. This reminds me of the time I was in the United States and phoning home and the phone told me to press the pound sign, which confused the living daylights out of me as there was no £ sign on the telephone, eventually I realised they meant the old pound sign for weight, which is #. Aha alt + 3 on a Mac. Ok, so #Theonlywayisethics

Now on with the show!

I logged into SL Go from OnLive for the first time in ages. This is largely due to the problems I’m having with AMD graphics in Second Life. The results, were quite staggering on my mid 2007 iMac. Now, wait, I hear you say. A 2007 iMac won’t have AMD graphics, this is true, but I was downstairs watching Cambridge United v Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed was that my experience of the wonderful Escapades Island was vastly improved because all of the textures seemed to load right away.

Rickety Market

Wait wait wait! You can’t save Snapshots to disk with SL Go! This is true too, the images in this post were taken on my PC with the regular Second Life client, but here’s the thing, whilst I’m waiting for scenes to rez on my PC, I see the textures loading, they turn from grey and lifeless to being filled in. This doesn’t happen when I’m using SL Go.

Escapades Islands

However I do like my snapshots. So the ideal scenario for me is to be able to use SL Go and a regular Second Life or TPV client and I’d imagine a lot of people are the same.

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Jan 222015
 

Regular readers of blog may be familiar with the fact that I’m a big fan of Storytelling and I’m happy to see quite a few storytelling groups in virtual worlds. Some are in Second Life, some go beyond Second Life’s borders but they all have a story to tell.

In this post I’m going to list some of the forthcoming events from The Alexandrian Free Library in Second Life. The Alexandrian Free Library is a community based group, supporting libraries in Second Life and their members come from lands such as :

Caledon, Winterfell, Steelhead, New Toulouse, New Babbage, Amatsu Shima, West of Ireland, Steeltopia, Deadwood, Al Andalus & Constantinople.

With that said, on with the forthcoming events :

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Philomena Public Library
Philomena Public Library Weekly Book Discussion Club
3:00pm – 4:00pm SLT
Where: Philomena Public Library
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bruda%20Plateau/15/38/57

Description:

A 1903 novel by Frank Norris set in the wheat speculation trading pits at the Chicago Board of Trade Building. Aspects of love, marriage and wealth are included. We get a glimpse of urban life in the early 1900’s.

You are invited to attend the informal discussion. We often assemble in 1900 – 1920 period clothing. We meet over tea and often talk over other topics as well. All are welcome to attend.

Reading Schedule:
January 25th: Chapters VII and VIII
February 1st: Chapters IX, X and Conclusion

A copy of the book can be found in the Town of Philomena Public Library.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Philomena Public Library
Philomena Public Library – Oral Reading
4:00pm – 4:30pm SLT (immediately following the weekly Book Discussion)
Where: Philomena Public Library
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Bruda%20Plateau/15/38/57

Description:

Skilled Sage and Bard Big Red will continue reading from Jules Verne’s “Master of the World.” This is a serialized book and will end with a cliff hanger each week. Red will also read a personal letter written by his uncle during the first world war circa 1916 – 1918.

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Jan 212015
 

Ok ok I thought hard about it but I simply can’t resist, back on March 29th 2014 I wrote :

The problem lies after launch, after people have tore through the content, when people are being asked to subscribe for a third, fourth and fifth month because that’s where many titles find themselves up a certain creek without a paddle.

The issue isn’t just about how good the game is, that’s only part of the battle. Another issue lies with retention and that’s where subscription only titles have struggled over the last few years, which is why so many of them end up turning free to play.

The Elder Scrolls Online faces a real struggle, history is not on its side but maybe, just maybe, it will be the chosen one and prosper, time will tell, but if I were placing bets, I’d bet that their subscription model will be radically different within 18 months.

Fast forward to today and an announcement regarding The Elder Scrolls Online : ESO Heads To Consoles June 9th. Heading to consoles isn’t the issue, although there is some unhappiness about the fact that console players won’t be able to play with PC players, however the really big news is :

In the latest and biggest Elder Scrolls game ever made, you can choose to adventure alone, quest with friends, or join an army of hundreds in epic player vs. player battles as you explore and discover the secrets of a persistent Tamriel. And with Tamriel Unlimited, coming to console on June 9th and PC/Mac on March 17th, 2015, you will no longer be required to pay a monthly game subscription to play ESO.

The official forums are a mixture of people saying “I told you so” and people saying “They’ve sold us out“. The reality of the situation is that you really did not have to be Nostradamus to see this coming.

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Jan 202015
 

Group Picture

There’s an interesting article over at The Wall Street Journal : Practice Personalities: What an Avatar Can Teach You. The article by Robert Lee Holz highlights research from the likes of Stanford University to suggest that not only can our avatars and inworld interactions change the way we behave, they can also be used to change the way we behave via role-playing in areas such as corporate diversity :

As digital experiments in identity, our personal avatars mingle real and virtual worlds in ways that scientists are only beginning to analyze. While data is scarce, emerging technology such as 3-D virtual reality goggles and more immersive computerized experiences promise to make avatars more common. Scientists and psychologists are finding new uses for avatars, including role-playing for corporate diversity training, for business conferences and for teaching.

I’ve seen this discussed before but there is a theory that people often create an extension of themselves when they create an avatar for a virtual world or game experience and that in many ways the customisation choices available reveal far more about a person that they realise. I’m not 100% sold on this theory as I’m often a Dwarf, Drow or Wizard. I would also like to be an Orc … actually some of the powers of those characters would be beneficial outside the virtual world, maybe they’re on to something :

American Scientific Blogger Jennifer Ouellette is quoted as saying :

Your brain will start to incorporate your avatar into your sense of self, the more strongly you bond with that avatar, the more it will impact your behavior in the real world.

Jennifer is very familiar with Second Life and is involved with Virtually Speaking Science, a podcast that takes place in Second Life. I’ve covered Virtually Speaking Science a couple of times.

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Jan 202015
 

Sometimes you see a news item or a blog post in a stream and you wonder if it’s something that has been rehashed from many moons ago. That was my first thought when I saw the story I’m about to blog about, however after delving further it looks like the real deal.

BCM Momentum, the blog for Baylor College Of Medicine informs us : Online program aims to aid in weight loss for women with physical limitations. The program addresses a very serious issue, as Margaret A.Nosek PHD explains :

If you really want to see something rarer than a vegetarian at a rib cook-off, try looking for a woman in a wheelchair at Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, or 24 Hour Fitness. Why are we such rare birds in these environments?

The answer is simple – these programs don’t really understand what it’s like to try to lose weight when exercising is simply not an option.

Therefore there’s a need for women with physical limitations to share ideas on how to lose weight and of course a good way of doing this is to meetup in small groups to discuss methods that may work. However there are times when physical limitations are problematic for people who may benefit from meeting up in a central physical location, so what better way to address this than via a virtual world :

We are now testing this program with small groups of women who have mobility limitations, but instead of making them deal with all the hassles of coming to one location, we hold our meetings in the virtual online world of Second Life.

Whereas this program is aimed at women in the Houston area, it still shows the power and benefits that a virtual world can bring.

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Jan 192015
 

A sign of a healthy market can sometimes be found in the number of vacancies in that sector. Sometimes a number of vacancies can indicate that a company is not the best place to work because there’s a lot of churn. However, let’s be positive here.

Oculus VR and Linden Lab are both hirng and both list plenty of vacancies. Both companies also have plenty of perks. Reuters have reported : Facebook hiring spree hints at ambitions in virtual reality and beyond. Whereas this indicates Facebook hiring going beyond Oculus, there are an impressive number of job listings at Oculus :

Oculus Rift, the maker of virtual reality headsets that Facebook acquired in a $2 billion deal last year, is among the key areas slated for growth, with 54 jobs listed on its website, according to a review by Reuters of listings.

Oculus are advertising positions for Software Engineers, Hardware Engineers, Content, including a game designer, Resaearch, Recruiting, Operations, Sales, Marketing, Design & User Experience, Interns and Co-ops and University Grads, Masters & PHDS. Whereas this doesn’t give us a clear indication of where Oculus are going as a team, it is interesting that they are advertising for Unreal Engine and Unity engineers. Are Oculus planning on making games or are they planning on making sure games work well with Oculus?

Oculus offer some interesting perks :

Perks include flexible hours, free food, happy hours, team trips, free Oculus hardware, and much more. We offer competitive salaries and a full range of benefits including comprehensive health care and 401k.

Some of those perks I’ve seen cited as being a barrier to entry, but I’ll come on to that later. Oculus also state that they are an equal opportunity employer :

Oculus VR, LLC is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Employment with Oculus is governed on the basis of merit, competence and qualifications and will not be influenced in any manner by race, color, religion, gender, national origin/ethnicity, veteran status, disability status, age, sexual orientation, marital status, mental or physical disability or any other legally protected status.

Very noble indeed. As for Linden Lab, their careers page lists around a quarter of the number Oculus do, but that’s still a very healthy 14 positions.

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