Sep 302014
 

Linden Lab have announced in a blog post that some improvements are heading the way of Second Life. The improvements aren’t exactly what you’d call sexy but they do have the potential to be rather impressive, if all goes to plan.

The first change mentioned is with relation to how graphic settings are detected. Linden Lab are doing away with the old graphics table and using a new benchmark to detect your graphics card instead. On first glance this seems to be more accurate, you may see something like this :

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New Graphics Card Detection

The point of this is described in the blog post from Linden Lab :

Maybe this has happened to you: you got an awesome new graphics card, fired up SL… only to discover your graphics settings are set to Low, and can’t be changed? No more! This Viewer does away with the old GPU table and instead uses a quick benchmark measurement to detect your GPU to assign appropriate default graphics settings on startup. The settings on shiny powerful hardware should really let that hardware shine.

My graphics settings stayed exactly where I expected them to but yes, the new tool did produce more accurate results regarding my graphics card. However if you want to test out this new feature, you will need to download a project viewer, which you can get here : http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Release_Notes/Second_Life_Project_Benchmark/3.7.17.294710/ There’s a Jira issue linked to this entitled Death To The Gpu table but that’s not viewable.

The next change discussed is to do with the login screen, which has been covered brilliantly by Inara Pey already. I recommend reading Inara’s blog post about this because those using the Second Life viewer will see these changes in the near future and Inara’s post has plenty of details on those changes.

The changes currently in the works for the login screen include the addition of a my favourite places dropdown to allow you to login to, well, your favourite places directly from the login screen. This is on top of still having the last location and region option that are already there, but really, read Inara for more information.

The final part of the blog post covers two projects that compliment each other and should bring improvements to the Second Life experience.

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Sep 262014
 

Philomena Library

Philomena is a quite picturesque sim, it has old style buildings, a trolley ride, shops and most important of all, a library! The reason why the library is important is because it is the setting for a a book fair that runs from September 27th until October 4th.

There is also the grand opening of the new Philomena Public Library and libraries should very definitely be supported. I’m not going to talk too much on this subject because there’s a notecard with all the information and I’ll post that under the cut. If you’re already under the cut, it’s the next section!

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Sep 262014
 

Admiring The Bookshelves

Linden Lab continue to impress with their Destination Guide promotion and their latest blog post highlighting the destination guide contains some real gems. One that particularly caught my eye was The Chamber Library and so I popped along for a deeper look and was fortunate enough to bump into the creator and owner Storm Septimus.

The Chamber Library officially opened just a few days ago on September 21st and is already being expanded, with Storm hoping to have a new chamber open by September 29th. Storm has been working tirelessly on this build, filling the bookshelves with notecards for books on subject matters such as Poetics, Dream & Short Stories, Demonology & Horror and Superstition. The works of famous authors such as The Brothers Grimm, TS Eliot, William Shakespear, TS Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, Voltaire, HG Wells and Oscar Wilde are featured. There’s also a section for budding Second Life authors, more on that later.

Looking at work of SL residents

The build brings together two of Storm’s greatest loves, literature and art. Storm explained to me some of the inspiration and work that has gone into the build :

The library was built on the advice of someone who told me …. in SL everything has been done to death , so give them something that they have never seen before. So I have tried. Another chamber should be completed by September 29th, I am almost there on one chamber and there are two more empty but I have a good idea what I will place in them so it should come together quickly.

I commented to Storm that the build was wonderfully atmospheric and it appears that Storm has been getting good feedback about the build, although she also told me that the work she has put in so far has been exhausting.

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Sep 252014
 

USMP In Second Life

When Linden Lab ditched the education discount a few years back a few people felt that education in Second Life was dead. However it wasn’t and has been given a boost in the not too distant past by the return of the education discount and Linden Lab showing a more proactive role in promoting education within Second Life.

This is exemplified by Linden Lab’s blog post : Introduction to Second Life for Educators – a Course in Spanish 2nd Edition.

The course is from the University of San Martin de Porres Perú and is aimed at Spanish speaking educators who want to learn how to use Second Life for education purposes. The blog describes the course as :

The Virtual Worlds Project of The University of San Martin de Porres from Perú starts this September 29th the second edition of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled “Introduction to Second Life for Educators 2nd. Ed.”. The course is free and is designed to train Spanish speaking educators on the use of the virtual world Second Life, and to provide knowledge that allows educators to benefit from its potential, especially in the education field.

The course starts in a few days time on September 29th.

Inside the building

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Sep 242014
 

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has a blog post about Blizzard’s decision to cancel Titan. Titan was a planned new MMO from Blizzard, a long rumoured new MMO, indeed seven years long and it never seemed to see the light of day but it was supposed to be the next big thing.

Hamlet’s article has a link to a Polygon post on the same issue : Blizzard cancels its next-gen MMO Titan after seven years. That article has some great quotes from Blizzard’s co-founder and CEO Mike Morhaime and Blizzard’s senior vice president of story and franchise development, Chris Metzen. Linden Lab should pay careful attention here to what is being said and what has happened. Mike Morhaime is quoted as saying :

We had created World of Warcraft, and we felt really confident that we knew how to make MMOs, So we set out to make the most ambitious thing that you could possibly imagine. And it didn’t come together.

Linden Lab have created Second Life and I’m pretty sure that they feel really confident on how to make virtual worlds. They have now set out to make the most ambitious virtual world that one could possibly imagine, but will it actually come together?

Chris Metzen is quoted as saying :

We were losing perspective and getting lost in the weeds a little. We had to allow ourselves to take that step back and reassess why the hell we were doing that thing in the first place.

Linden Lab need to ensure that they don’t find themselves in this position with their future virtual world, that they don’t find themselves making something that isn’t fun, that isn’t really progressing how they would like it to and that might not be worth their time at the end of the day.

Then there’s the World Of Warcraft factor. World Of Warcraft may be in decline but it’s still quite healthy. The same can be said of Second Life. Chris Metzen confirmed that Blizzard will continue to support World Of Warcraft, indeed he goes further and says :

My hope personally is that we’ll support it forever

Linden Lab have said that they will continue to support Second Life, I’m sure there are people at the lab who hope they will support Second Life forever.

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Sep 232014
 

There’s an interesting blog post on the official Second Life blog : An Inside Look at How The Ops Team Collaborates. Many a support person the world over will notice the lack of references to expletives, head desking, people asking silly questions and people not wanting to part with information because it will delay them in their aim of fixing the problem, even though that short delay means the helpdesk can provide information to end users if end users contact them.

The use of IRC is strong at Linden Lab and the blog post makes a very strong point as to why communications such as that are pretty damn important :

Running an incident response in a chat channel is also an incredibly effective way of passively disseminating information to a wide audience. A large number of people can quietly lurk in a chat channel unlike in a physical space. More formal status updates to various parties, like support, are of course sometimes necessary but enabling those parties to follow along in real time gives them context that would not otherwise be conveyed in a terse status report.

As a final bonus, we are able to respond to a problem at peak efficiency regardless of where anyone is at that moment. Issues don’t wait for office hours to crop up. Being a distributed team, this is really our only option, but it rocks that being distributed is an advantage in incident response.

Whereas in smaller operations the chat is more likely to be by telephone or shouted across the office, with people openly denying there’s a problem whilst the helpdesk phones are ringing red hot. Then there’s the pause, the WTF moment, the end of the denial, the pass the parcel finger of blame experience and then eventually the fix. Then you have the post-mortem which involves everyone agreeing to be more organised and in full communication mode if this happens again, and then forgetting that was ever said five minutes later.

Linden Lab seem to be very well organised and the fact that they use chat means the existence of chat logs, the use of which are explained well in the blog post. Linden Lab can look back over the logs to identify what exactly happened, they can even educate new staff by letting them read old logs too.

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Sep 192014
 

Episode 37 Of The Drax Files Radio Hour has a main feature this week regarding virtual therapy with an interview with Dr Tammy Fletcher. There’s also discussion of some hot topics such as Innsmouth,

However the episode opens with an excellent interview with Jeska Dzwigalski (AKA Jeska Linden), regarding the late Joe Miller with whom Jeska was a work colleague. Jeska talks of the introduction of voice in Second Life as well as talking about how passionate Joe was about Second Life. This is an excellent perspective of the contribution Joe made to Second Life and is well worth listening to. Jeska left Linden Lab quite a while ago now but she’s still a well known and liked name. She also runs a pretty cool site : Geeks With Drinks. Jeska earns extra kudos for knowing the difference between Whisky and Whiskey.

The episode also touch upon a subject close to my heart, Facebook’s absurd real names policy. This time they are mainly talking about drag Queens petitioning Facebook to change their real name policy and allow people to use stage names. Facebook’s real name policy is simply absurd, a name people known as is a far better policy. I’m tired of trying to encourage Linden Lab to embrace Google + now that they allow people to use any name they want to. Facebook has reach, Google + currently has far better ethics in this area.

They talk about many more issues including the High Fidelity Alpha users and a revelation that Draxtor Despres may well be entering High Fidelity for a special broadcast, with a special Draxtor Despres avatar. I hope they realise the perils Of Draxtor’s long hair! This may be more challenging than Rock, Paper, Scissors which they have been having fun with over at High Fidelity.

However the main feature is a fascinating interview with Dr Tammy Fletcher. Dr Fletcher talks about therapy within Second Life. This is a fascinating interview because a lot of people will think that any sort of therapy within Second Life will be artificial, ran by charlatans and not worthwhile.

Yet Dr Fletcher explains not only how therapy in Second Life can be useful and valid, she also explains why Second Life can highlight issues that are specific to spending too much time in Second Life, or using alts, or associated drama and how these are real and not virtual issues.

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Sep 182014
 

Innsmouth Bar And Cinema

Innsmouth in Second Life is a dark place, abandoned in the 1930’s and with a mysterious sea creature off the coast, it’s a town with a secret. However the dark forces that have plagued the town have not put everyone off, there are still a few hardy souls around. However now Innsmouth faces it’s greatest peril yet, a peril that many have fought within Second Life. Innsmouth may very well disappear from the Second Life grid.

A  blog post on the HP Lovecraft Festival site has issued a call for help : SAVE INNSMOUTH SIM in SL. The post explains the very real peril Innsmouth finds itself in :

On September 15th, Darmin Darkes, the owner of the Innsmouth-themed Sim announced the following: “Innsmouth sim is for sale. I’m giving first dibs to you folks in the hopes that someone will want to keep some of the build. Worst case is having to flatten it and sell it. I just can’t afford it any longer. I’m not leaving SL, but I have to cut back my sims. Thank you for your years of support and friendship and the passion you’ve given to Innsmouth. It’s only pixels and I’m sure there are better versions waiting to be built.” — Darmin Darkes

As a result of this notice, a number of Second Lifer have been working together, through a group called, “The Innsmouth Preservation Society,” to help with the upkeep and potentially to purchase this sim, then maintain it.

If you would like to be a part of this important group, please contact Arik Metzer or any member of the group who can invite you. More updates on our progress will be posted here.

**IMPORTANT FIRST MEETING TO DISCUSS THIS ISSUE**: Thursday 18 September 2014 — 2 times: 11 AM SLT and 7:30 PM SLT, both at the Innsmouth SIM .

The first meeting was taking place as I blogged this piece. A second meeting will take place at 7:30 PM SLT today. Whether Innsmouth can be saved only time will tell but it’s a fascinating sim with a theme that is better viewed inworld than in snapshots.

Innsmouth Fair

Innsmouth featured on the Eureka Destination Blog back in February 2010 when Limey Linden spoke to the owner Darmin Darkes. Those Eureka posts were good. Anyway, Limey visited back in 2010 and was impressed. At the time, Darmin, who had been a driving force in creating the sim had purchased the sim for herself. At the time Darmin said :

I’ve just purchased Innsmouth, so it will stay as it is until I think of something to tweak and improve. I hope it lasts forever! I like that it’s so low key… no club or shopping to detract from the atmosphere… but that may have to change. I get so many positive comments from visitors and it pleases me to be able to make something they appreciate so deeply. When you see something you love about SL, you should always try and thank someone.

Alas it seems that that will not be the case and I can completely sympathise with Darmin over her decision.

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Sep 172014
 

A Clockwork Spiral

Welcome to the Clockwork Spiral! This benefit aims to help the National Kidney Foundation, so prepare yourself for sixteen days chock full of steam, diesel and dark Victoriana. Everything opens September 15th at 6:00pm. With music, events and gifts, this is a benefit you won’t want to miss.

Visit in Second Life

A post on the Second Life Blog caught my eye : A Clockwork Spiral – Steampunk Event to Benefit National Kidney Foundation. Intrigued I decided to pop along and take a look around and it’s quite a busy place with people arriving on a regular basis.

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Advert For Event

This is also a place with some impressive scenery. There are stairs in the train station that lead to lower levels, tunnels, strange and mysterious objects in the middle of the streets and much more.

Will Anyone Dare Enter Those Tunnels?

So what exactly is A Clockwork Spiral? Well for more information it’s best to head to the website. There we one can find the press release :

A Clockwork Spiral is a shopping and music event featuring steampunk, steamgoth, dieselpunk, dieselgoth and dark Victoriana in Second Life to help raise money for the National Kidney Foundation.

It will be held September 15th – October 1st, 2014 on Cursed. (It should be noted that Cursed is an Adult rated sim.) The Spiral opens at NOON on September 15th and closes at MIDNIGHT October 1st. Both times are Pacific Time (SLT).

The Spiral hosts 40 merchants bringing in their interpretations of the theme for the visitors to shop while enjoying the atmosphere and the music of the event. As always, Club Gothika’s Mobile Unit will be present in the event area and will be the heart of the music events.

More information at: https://aclockworkspiral.wordpress.com/

So a noble cause indeed. The event itself is advertised as a music/shopping event. I like music, shopping … anyway!

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Sep 162014
 

The word on the street is that some of the High Fidelity team will be heading to Hollywood in a few days for the Oculus Connect event. I would imagine that some of the Linden Lab team may be heading there too. However before that happens, the High Fidelity blog has been been having A Look at Alpha Projects in Hifi. The picture in the blog post is particularly impressive, especially when enlarged.

Dan Hope, who I believe is a new member of the High Fidelity team, highlights the work of three Alpha testers, Judas, AI Austin and Ctrlaltdavid. This is virtual space, so people have virtual space names.

Judas has been working on models created in Blender. High Fidelity currently supports the FBX format, rather than the Dae format that Second Life supports. However as both have their roots in Blender, the basic workflows are going to be somewhat similar. High Fidelity is in the Alpha stage and this is highlighted in the blog post as Judas explains how a recent update has allowed him to import avatars from High Fidelity into Blender without destroying the rig to animate them. However Judas also hits the mark about the nature of virtual worlds in terms of being social platforms. I’ve said many times that Second Life is where it’s at in terms of virtual worlds because Second Life has the people. Any new virtual world has to have that social aspect and Judas acknowledges this in a quote on the blog post :

High Fidelity is about people. A grin, a smile, a hand gesture, a wave — not some pre-recorded gesture — breathe personality into lifeless avatars. [We’re creating] an environment that normal people want to gather in, not because of polycount, latency, or server technology, but because their friends are there. Every game has amazing graphics; HiFi should have amazing people.

Meanwhile in another part of the vast virtual space that High Fidelity engulfs, AI Austin is building I-Rooms: A Virtual Space For Intellectual Collaboration. Again we have a social usage exemplified here as well as the all important collaboration angle that virtual worlds offer so very well. I-Rooms are defined as :

We have developed the I-Room virtual environment—the “I” stands variously for intelligent, information, in- teractive, integrated, and instrumented—a shared persistent space, founded on process methodologies and offering intelligent sys- tems support for interaction and collabo- ration between users, systems, and agents.

AI Austin is also testing the boundaries of what is possible with mesh models in High Fidelity. This includes a Supercar with 575,000 vertices and 200,000. I can see people in parts of the virtual world sphere frowning furiously at this right now. AI Austin also has an International space station mesh that was provided by NASA. As it stands, space is a concept that High Fidelity captures very well. There are a lot of stars in High Fidelity.

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