Mar 042015
 

MadPea Games New Home

Fans of computer games are seeing a lot of news coming out of the Game Developers Conference 2015 this week. Linden Lab aren’t there, as far as I know. They have been there before. However Second Life isn’t widely known for games of the interactive sort. Having said that, there are games within Second Life and MadPea Games are one of the best known developers of games within Second Life.

Start Of The History Trail

MadPea Games have also moved into a new home, on the Consignment sim which they share with Wavie Haller’s Consignment brand. This is a sensible arrangement as the two brands have been collaborating on recent projects such as Buried and Blood Letters.

However one very fascinating aspect of this collaboration is the introduction of a history trail on the sim. The trail contains signposts of previous MadPea Games productions, which when touched, give you a brief glimpse of a moment of MadPea Games history in local chat along with links to youTube videos of their work and a real sense that games can be developed within the virtual world of Second Life.

Respite

For a start there are a lot of signs. They are extremely informative and inform the trailblazing explorer of such matters as :

Before MadPea we were known as Beyond Imagination and brought our first game out in February 2008 called Where the Hell is Harvey Wayne? It was one of the rare grid-wide hunts back in the day, leading to a full sim with puzzles and ciphers to solve.

Since 2008 MadPea have introduced plenty more games and interactive experiences. They have also moved to different places and collaborated with plenty of other brands.

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Mar 022015
 

Floating Boat

Chris Marker was a French photographer and film director. One of Chris’ more famous films was the 1962 film La Jetée, constructed almost entirely from black & white photographs and telling the story of a man sent back in time to research past events to help the future. The story is set in a post nuclear war environment. The film is the inspiration for both the film and TV series, Twelve Monkeys.

Chris was rarely interviewed and was often happy to be represented as a cat. More on that shortly. In his later years Chris turned some of his attention to Second Life. Chris passed away in July 2012 at the age of 91, but his work lives on in Second Life on the sim of Ouvroir.

Ouvroir

The sim of Ouvroir opened in 2008 and was timed to open simultaneously with Chris’ real life exhibition at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich.

The sim was created with the assistance of MosMax Hax aka Max Moswitzer. Then there’s the cat, the real cat was known as Guillaume-en-Egypte, who also became a furry entity in Second Life.

Tower

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Feb 282015
 

Star Trek Museum Second Life

The Star Trek Museum has been in Second Life for quite some time. However the recent sad news regarding Leonard Nimoy has led to Second Life residents deciding now is a good time to visit and it is worth a visit.

This isn’t just a place where you play Star Trek, it’s a place with some very well researched Star Trek exhibits and information. The Star Trek museum teaches science in Star Trek format :

Teaching Real Science in a Star Trek Format since 2006. Beam up to 10-Forward. Explore exhibits on Astrometrics, Engineering, Warp Theory, Starship Design, bridge recreations, TWO working Holodecks & more.

This is also a place where you can learn about the history, philosophy, eating and mating habits of Andorian, Borg, Cardassian, Klingon, Orion, Romulan and Vulcan.

Exploring Star Trek Museum

There’s a full size Enterprise NCC-1701 floating in the sky. For those older folk, this is the ship from the original series! The ship has the bridge, sickbay, captain’s quarters etc.

T'Karath Sanctuary Caves

On my visit I went to the T’Karath Sanctuary caves where there’s a memorial to Leonard Nimoy. A time traveller was paying her respects.

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Feb 272015
 
An Image Should Be Here

Spock On The Map

I can remember being in Second Life one evening when there was a lot of kerfuffle going on in group chat urging people to look at Sandbox Cordova on the map. These things happen, I wasn’t taking much notice and then I decided to take a look. The above image was a genuine view of the Second Life map at that time.

The above golden moment was captured by Imnotgoing Sideways. There’s another example over at SLUniverse complete with a little bit of commentary from the moment. The Lindens may not have found it quite as funny as we did.

The Second Life Science Fiction Convention, which runs until March 1st have started to pay their respects to Leonard Nimoy, forever known as Mr Spock.

Farewell Mr Spock

The United Federation Of Planets are putting up signs to mark the memory of Spock.

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Feb 272015
 

Nylon Outfitters

Episode 27 of the excellent Drax Files : World Makers features Nylon Pinkney, a wedding photographer. However a small twist in the introduction informs us that Nylon is a wedding photographer outside of Second Life but not inside it. There’s a clue on why Nylon made that choice later in the video.

Nylon informs us that she makes clothing, accessories and skins, Nylon even informs us that she once made some of the Second Life starter avatars.

Again we see the Second Life avatar and the real person behind that avatar, which is a technique Draxtor Despres uses regularly and to good effect. Seeing and hearing the real person brings an element of realism to the Second Life experience.

We see Nylon at work, hand drawing textures, which Nylon admits aren’t perfect but Nylon also admits that she isn’t looking for perfect and that’s a good point, imperfections often bring something extra to a creation.

Paper Couture

Nylon’s mainstore is Nylon outfitters  and is based on her sim, Tableau. Nylon also has a more upmarket stores known as Paper Couture. There’s also another brand mentioned in this video, the Wrigglesworth residents which is a line for people who, look a tad older than the traditional Second Life avatar.

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Feb 262015
 

Colin Marchon, who currently attends Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for Film and Television Production, has produced an excellent documentary series : Our Technological Identity Crises. The series consists of three short, but very powerful videos :

The videos are short, each one coming in at around five minutes and they are all absolutely fascinating to me. As this blog is largely about virtual worlds I’m going to concentrate on Part 2, but all three are relevant. Part 2 is a good pick though because it has a brief discussion about Second Life as well as aspects that are dear to Second Life users and beyond, terms of service and identity.

The video opens with Federico Pistono, author of Robots Will Steal Your Job But That’s Ok. Federico has a view on life that some will feel is a bit too extreme, he sees his time away from the keyboard not as being in real life, but as being AFK. This is an interesting thought but I find it a tad too technologically based to embrace it myself.

Then the video moves on to augmented reality and an important question arises, if digital representations are going to surround us in the future, what makes the world inside our computers and phones any less real than the physical world? The point here being, I think, that augmented reality will contain digital representations that will be considered more real than the worlds inside computers.

Francesca Ferrando, philosopher of the posthuman, adjunct at faculty at NYU then adds her thoughts. Francesca talks of how we can connect with millions of other people with a body of your own imagination. The body of your own imagination that Francesca is talking about is your avatar. There have been many discussions about how avatars are in many cases an extension of ourselves. Francesca then makes an interesting comment about Second Life :

I’m telling you the truth, the first time my avatar flew in Second Life, I had chills in my physical body.

An interesting perspective. The flight thing is interesting, I was never bowled over by flight in Second Life, but then again I had played games like City Of Heroes before I arrived. On the other hand, when Gene Roddenberry Junior visited Second Life, he was very impressed by the fact that his avatar could fly.

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Feb 262015
 

In a blog post entitled This One Goes To Eleven, High Fidelity reveal that they have raised a further $11m in funding from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital :

We are happy to announce today that we have raised an additional $11M in funding, in a new round led by Vulcan Capital and with participation from other new and existing investors. This is certainly great news for us, but also great news for the overall VR ecosystem as we continue to see more and more validation from the investing community that VR presents enormous opportunities.

The point about validation is very important. At the moment I see a lot of hype and technologies emerging with regards to virtual reality but the proof of the pudding really lies in investment. Whilst investment is still rolling in, it suggests that many people really do believe that something concrete will emerge.

High Fidelity itself is still progressing at a nice pace. I’ve been impressed by the fact that they haven’t tried to rush into producing a product that isn’t ready for prime time. An article over at TechCrunch regarding the new funding exemplifies the point about High Fidelity’s progress :

The main idea driving High Fidelity forward is the ability to quickly generate a virtual space to meet in and interact with. While the interface is far from final, it’s already at the point where you can pick a template, choose a name, and instantly have a space accessible by others. Each space is essentially a small video game world, filled in with the same 3D models you’d build for a game built with Unity.

Creating your own world in High Fidelity is a lot easier than it once was, you can be up and running fairly quickly these days with some starter content already included. However High Fidelity is still very much Alpha and that should be taken into account if you see or visit a High Fidelity world. The TechCrunch article is well worth a read if you’re interested in High Fidelity. However back to the High Fidelity blog post :

Our next big milestone will be an open alpha version of our system which will allow everyone to start deploying interconnected shared VR spaces.

Although the blog post doesn’t inform us just how far away open Alpha is, it is encouraging to see the High Fidelity team mention this.

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Feb 252015
 

VortexStrut2

There seems to be an impression that Dwarfins only spend time inside Second Life at taverns of a certain build, taverns that serve mead, taverns that welcome bar brawls or taverns that are frequented by female Dwarfins who will drink you under the table. This is a myth, sometimes Dwarfins step outside of their comfort zone and to exemplify this and tie in with Science Fiction being a theme in the Second Life news this week, I decided to head on down to The Vortex Club in Second Life to strut my funky stuff.

Vortex Club

The Vortex Club is one of Second Life’s oldest clubs and was opened on the 3rd March 2006 by Kris Spade and Gemini Enfield. The current build has a distinct Loki Eliot theme to it. There’s also a distinct Science Fiction theme to the build too, with colourful displays and video screens prominent.

The front of The Vortex?

Moving towards the entrance you can see the lights coming from inside, but your first step through the entrance is a bit of a false dawn.

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Feb 242015
 

UWE Education In Virtual Worlds MA

Linden Lab have issued a blog post in which they ask for Second Life based educators to Share Your Educational Success Stories. The post states :

Are you an educator seeing positive results from using Second Life? We’d love to hear from you! Please join us in this Education Forum thread to share your answers to the following questions:

  1. What educational organization do you represent?
  2. How do you use SL in your educational endeavors?
  3. Most importantly, what positive results have you seen from using SL?

From direct conversations, press coverage, and the like, we’ve heard of a number of organizations seeing positive results using Second Life for education, but we’re always eager to hear more and we hope you’ll add your voice to the thread.

Thanks!

There are many educational organisations using Second Life, I’ve covered a few here myself.

Inside the building

Education should be important by everyone, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a student at this moment in time. The use of virtual worlds in terms of encouraging lifelong learning, helping those who find traditional educational surroundings difficult, encouraging those who find gamification appealing, reaching out to people all over the world and educating educators to utilise virtual world spaces are a small example of some of the concepts that make virtual world learning appealing.

Deep Think Open University

There are of course many other reasons as to why education in a virtual world such as Second Life has advantages and hopefully Linden Lab will be able to solicit good feedback regarding compelling use cases.

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Feb 242015
 

Inside Elinor Caiman Sands Exhibit

Authors outside the virtual world at times pay attention to the virtual world. Terry Pratchett visited once for a talk in a promotion of his book Nation. Science Fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson used to pop into Second Life for a talk or two, dressed as a coyote. I’ve talked, more than once, with Nara Malone who has formed community links with authors in Second Life and beyond into OpenSim, especially with projects such as The HyperGrid Stories Project.

Over the weekend whilst roaming around the Science Fiction Convention 2015 in Second Life I stumbled across the works of another author, UK based SciFi & Fantasy author Elinor Caiman Sands.

Elinor has a small exhibit in the Risa sim at the conference, featuring promotion of her books and some Second Life based artwork. Elinor is a fan of alligators, I’m not sure how many of them really exist in swamps in the UK, although legend has it that the UK was indeed once a very swampy land. However she does have experience of the British Labour party, so she should be used to people showing their teeth and trying to snap.

At the exhibition four of Elinor’s e-books are promoted :

  • Europa Spring
  • Elinor’s Little Book of Funny Critters
  • The Martian Ascent
  • Mouse About the House

These are all short stories and were published as Kindle editions in 2014.

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