Ciaran Laval

Apr 282016

Notre Dame Cathedral

Over at SLUniverse Tatiana Dokuchic explains how an April 1st contact turned out to be no fool :

I was interviewed for this article and didn’t really know what to expect. It didn’t help that the journalist, Morgane Tual, just happened to contact me on April 1st. I had already received an invitation to a new “Marquis de Sade” roleplay that morning and was on the lookout for more April Fool’s fun so when she said she was from Le Monde I took it with a grain of salt.

The article by journalist has now appeared on the website of the famous French Newspaper Le Monde :Absurde, créatif et débauché : dix ans après, « Second Life » est toujours bien vivant, or to put it another way, “Absurd, creative and debauched: ten years later, “Second Life” is still alive“.

Those of us who use Second Life know very well that it’s still alive. Alas I don’t speak French, which is a shame, so my take on the article is based upon usage of Google Translate, which means something may very well be lost in translation. The article does start quite well and this exemplifies that Morgane Tual did actually enter Second Life and take a considered look around :

I expected to find , a decade later, a deserted world, aging technology and a few cobwebs in the corners. It was exactly the opposite.

This is a warts and all article, it doesn’t shy away from the adult content in Second Life and yet it manages to get beyond that and not run screaming that everyone is a freak because adult content exists.

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Apr 262016

NeoVictoria Roleplay

Roleplay plays an important part of Fantasy Faire and this year is no exception with four groups roleplaying within the Fairelands.

The Neo-Victoria Project are offering dark steampunk roleplay by way of The Sidhe and The Soul-Eater :

Thousands of years past, a sidhe failed in their duty and let a nameless terror into the worlds. It cost them their life, but not their soul. That was put into a mechanical marvel, and so began their long service as a sentinel against the darkness.

But after so long, their mechanical body has begun to fail and that nameless evil escapes its bonds. The automaton sends word to the Sidhe Empire for assistance.

Will help arrive in time?

Here’s a video trailer :

Whereas the roleplay has already begun, you’re not too late if you want to catch up. The next scheduled event is Scene 4 – Battle Against the Soul-Eater and takes place between 6pm-9pm on Wednesday April 27th at The Cathedral on The Serenity region.


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Apr 262016

Project Sansar Concept Art

Linden Lab have today announced that applications are now open for creator preview of Project Sansar. The first question on many people’s lips is going to be “What the hell is a creator preview?” The answer, it seems, is pretty straight forward, as the press release informs us :

SAN FRANCISCO – April 26, 2016 – Linden Lab®, the creators of Second Life®, today announced that applications have opened for an upcoming “Creator Preview” for Project SansarTM, the new platform for user-created social VR experiences. Interested 3D content creators can now apply at and accepted applicants will begin to receive invitations later this summer.

So this is a preview for 3D content creators. The application form is pretty brief and asks you questions such as What type of content would you like to create in Project Sansar? Which tool(s) do you use to create content? Which headset(s) will you have access to, if any? There’s nothing overly intrusive in there.

If you’re wondering why Linden Lab are asking questions such as this, then there are clues in the press release :

Slated for general availability at the end of 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and ultimately monetize their own interactive social experiences that can be enjoyed in VR with head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, as well as via PCs and, later, mobile devices. The platform enables professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation, while also solving the complex engineering challenges that have previously limited creating and publishing social VR experiences to just sophisticated professionals.

There’s nothing earth shattering or surprising there, we knew that Project Sansar was being built with VR headsets in mind. The press release also includes some not too revealing, but still interesting, quotes from Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO.

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Apr 232016

Nonprofit Commons

Episode 37 of The Drax Files opens the door on The Nonprofit Commons in Second Life. The episode opens with Drax asking Rhiannon Chatnoir (AKA Joyce Bettencourt) to quickly explain what the Nonprofit Commons is. The answer is that the Nonprofit commons consists over 60 global nonprofit organisations using the virtual world to fight for social good. This sounds very noble.

We get to learn a little about the sort of organisations that are part of the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life with people talking about organisations such as :

Transgender Veterans

Transgender American Veterans Association, which plays a role in ensuring transgender veterans receive care for any medical conditions that may arise and that they are treated with respect and dignity.

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Apr 222016

Caldeonia Skytower Reads

My first day at Fantasy Faire 2016 had been the traditional mixture of awe, mead, more awe, more mead and keeping a beady eye and a worried ear out for Elves, especially singing Elves. So far, so good on that front.

Today, I decided, would be a good day for a beard trim or some culture. I opted for culture, the beard trim can wait. A kindly being pointed me away from the nearest tavern and in the direction of something called LitFest, muttering something about my health. Apparently LitFest is a celebration of all things literary and if there’s one thing a Dwarfin likes, it’s a good old tale or two.

The location of this literary fest was a pavilion, where a crowd had gathered to hear tales from a little red monster by the name of Caledonia Skytower.

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Apr 212016

Me at Tinker's Hollow

My bags were packed days ago, but after making an arduous journey I found the gates locked. Fluttering my eyelashes, offers of much mead or rather menacing frowns would not tempt the guardians at the gates to let me in early, but as of just over an hour ago the day finally arrived when Fantasy Faire 2016 in Second Life open!


Between today and May 1st a wonderful celebration of many things fantasy in the Second Life virtual world will be taking place and I’ll be there to capture moments, as time permits! Pesky thing time, I think the Sci-Fi community should help us out a bit.

The event is also for a good cause as it’s part of the Relay For Life fundraising effort within Second Life, which raises money for The American Cancer Society. Last year Fantasy Faire raised US$ 31,642 as part of that effort, this year, US$5,927 has already been raised as the gates open.


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Apr 182016

Inara Pey recently reported that participation applications for Second Life’s 13th birthday are now open. A thirteenth birthday for Second Life is an extremely impressive milestone, especially when you consider how many people are still surprised that Second Life is still around.

Meanwhile, Fantasy Faire 2016 in Second Life is on the horizon and they will once again be holding a literary festival (Litfest) which will include readings, poetry, discussions and on April 23rd, Shakespeare Day. More details will appear on that page soon.

I’m a fan of storytelling, as I’ve said many times, I’m also a massive fan of Fantasy Faire in Second Life and I always like to delve a little bit into Second Life’s history as Second Life’s birthday approaches. I’ll combine history, storytelling and fantasy to look at an event that took place in Second Life back in 2007, an event that I didn’t know anything about until I read an article by Michael Calia and Mike Ayers : How ‘Game of Thrones’ Became the Most Viral Show on Television. The link to Second Life comes at the start of the article :

In May 2007, a few months after HBO optioned the rights to a book series by George R.R. Martin, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss joined the author for a surprise appearance in the virtual community Second Life.

“Game of Thrones” wouldn’t hit the screen until four years later, but Second Life was a vital hangout for gamers, fantasy role-players and fans of Mr. Martin’s novels. The two producers appeared on screen as digital avatars in a forum moderated by one Beelzebubba Rasmuson and reassured fans that they would remain respectful of the beloved books.

Second Life was of course a lot more popular in terms of media coverage back in 2007.

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Apr 132016

Due to ongoing personal commitments I’m not finding as much time to explore virtual worlds as I would like. This is a great shame, but can’t be helped. This is particularly a shame when it comes to High Fidelity because they are making some great strides and they are being highlighted in an excellent fashion by Caitlyn Meeks, who made the move from the Unity Asset store to High Fidelity in February.

Caitlyn brought us the news that Content Team members Eric Levin & Jazmin Cano won best VR scene at the San Francisco VR Hackathon at  Microsoft’s Reactor Space in March.

Caitlyn has also been talking us through the concepts of creating Mini-Golf in High Fidelity :

This is aimed more at content creators than consumers, but you can see Mini Golf in action here.

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Apr 132016

At the Game Developer’s Conference 2016 Professor Bob De Schutter of Applied Game Design at Miami University, gave an excellent presentation : Beyond Ageism: Designing Meaningful Games for an Older Audience.

Now you may be thinking that virtual worlds are not games, they aren’t, but they contain games and the mechanics of accessing virtual worlds are game like. The presentation Professor Bob De Schutter makes has themes that apply to virtual worlds too and platform providers as well as content creators would do well to pay heed to what he says.

That’s before we get to the sort of games older people play. Professor Bob De Schutter presented research from Quantic Foundry regarding the games people over 50 play. The top three, by gender :

Women over 50

  1. FarmVille
  2. Glitch
  3. Second Life

Men over 50

  1. Railroad Tycoon
  2. Second Life
  3. Microsoft Solitaire

This tells us that a certain virtual world that many of us are familiar with is popular amongst over 50’s. Many of us already knew that Second Life was popular amongst a more mature audience. Plenty of over 50’s also inhabit the likes of OpenSim, High Fidelity and more.

Now, as virtual worlds have an older crowd, the rest of the presentation makes for interesting viewing, it covers issues such as accessibility, ageism and the fact that older gamers want to be challenged, not patronised.

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Apr 062016

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes published an article regarding SH//FT : VR Industry Leaders Launch Pro-Diversity Non-Profit SHIIFT.

This prompted me to take a closer look at SH//FT, where I discovered that SH//FT is :

a non-profit organization that partners with industry leaders in emerging technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality to sponsor and create opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Helen Situ, who is behind this also has a Medium Post about this in which she explains more :

But I’ve noticed something unsettling. There are very few women in virtual reality.

To whoever is reading this, I’m sure that wherever you work, it’s true that the majority of your coworkers are male. In the tech industry, women only represent less than 20% of the workforce. We need to change this.

I’m really a fan of “Whomever” for some bizarre reason, but that’s not important right now! More women in tech and VR is important. I have taken a look at this subject before : Women Probably Don’t Want To Feel All Alone On A Crowded VR Island.

There is, without any shadow of a doubt, a shocking lack of women in tech and we really need to address the reasons why as we move boldly on to the brave new world of VR. I’ve worked in tech for many moons, I’ve worked in tech for many moons in an education environment too and there you see the shocking lack of women in the classroom too.

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