Sep 242015

Feed A Smile LLIK

Friday September 25th sees the start of a three day celebrity auction in Second Life with the aim to raise funds to help build more classrooms for a school in Kenya. I’m talking about the country of Kenya here, not a region in Second Life!

The celebrity auction is associated with an official charity, Feed a Smile, Live and Learn in Kenya. The charity has been active in Second Life since 2010 and was featured in episode 16 of The Drax Files : World Makers.

Feed A Smile Lavender Field

This weekend’s event is getting some support from other Second Life residents, most notably in the form of MadPea Games who have been blogging about this for some time. A recent blog post explains how the event has been gathering momentum as they announced; We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat! :

Since we released the video from the school in Kenya that we’re fundraising for we’ve had even more well known residents sign up to put themselves on the Auction Block for our star-studded Celebrity Auction. We even have 2 Lindens put their brave avatars forward for the challenge!

I’ll also embed the video at the end of this post.

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Sep 232015

University Of Western Australia

With Machinima, you are getting a glimpse into the soul of the artist, they are not making this film so they can sell tickets at the movies.  They are making this to show you who they are.

That’s the introduction from Jayjay Zifanwe of The University of Western Australia for the latest edition of the Drax Files World Makers series, which is sponsored by Linden Lab. Whereas Jayay is in the main subject of this episode we also see other machinima makers, who have been inspired by the projects the University of Western Australia run and who have gone on to other things in some cases due to that inspiration. At this point I should point out that Second Life, Linden Lab and The University of Western Australia have a lot to answer for, but I’ll come to that later.

Jayjay makes a good point about machinima, it’s a diverse industry because people are diverse and people make machinima. In some ways it could be argued that machinima is diverse because it’s more of an indie scene than mainstream cinema, therefore people will make machinima about subjects that backers would shy away from. There’s a power from an editiorial perspective that machinima can be relatively cheap to make. However, as machinima makers get more talented, get more ambitious and invest in more expensive machinima making techniques, their artistic freedom is likely to be challenged. However machinima is undoubtedly a diverse sphere at this moment in time.

Jayjay informs us that he has a budget with prize pool of over five hundred thousand Linden dollars, that’s around US$2,000. We can see an example of how this prize fund is used in the shape and form of UWA’s Pursue Impossible, which has prizes for artists and machinima makers :

The theme is “PURSUE IMPOSSIBLE.” Artists & filmmakers can interpret the theme as they see fit. What is your impossible? What is the impossible goal you have conquered, or that you have seen your loved ones or your heroes conquer? What are the things you once thought were impossible, but now are able to overcome? How do virtual worlds help you to visualize, create, and push the boundaries of possibility? What are the things which seem impossible now, which you think you will attempt to hunt down? What are the impossibilities of the mind? of the heart? of the soul? Is it the pursuit of the impossible that takes precedence? Or defeating it? You the artist… You the machinimatographer…You decide.

Pursue Impossible is still open, entries close at midnight SLT on October 31st, so if you’re interested you still have time to put something together.

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Sep 222015

Second Life Image - Island Village

Mont Saint Michel in Second Life is a region that is so beautifully picturesque that even Linden Lab use it in their promotional materials. Unfortunately being beautifully picturesque is not enough to keep paying the bills and Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has blogged; Second Life’s Beloved Recreation of Mont Saint Michel Soon Leaving SL for “Economical” Reasons.

Mont Saint-Michel

Hamlet’s post links to a Flickr post from Moeka Kohime, owner of the region, which has a caption with the word “close” and 2008-2015 on it. That Flickr post simply says :

Le Mont Saint Michel SIM 2008-2015 CLOSE

Schedule at the end of September 2015.
Economical reason.

*Edelweiss* is immortal forever :)
I intend to consider the temporary Main store to be Akiba SIM

So fans of the inworld fashion brand Edelweiss need not panic, but for fans of Mont Saint Michel, it is indeed sad news.

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Sep 212015

Project Sansar Concept Art

Whilst reading Nalates Urriah’s blog last week I noticed an article related to Second Life In The News. Inside Nalates’ post was a link to an article on the Financial Times, which at the time I couldn’t read because the FT have this paywall thing going on. However today I discovered that I could read the FT article as long as I answered a one question anonymous survey.

The FT Article is by Tim Bradshaw and Emma Jacobs and is entitled “Second Life eyes second act as virtual reality matures.” Whereas the article does look to the future, it also looks to the past and this is where Linden Lab and Second Life, benefit from the current hype. The article starts off by talking about how magazine covers from over ten years ago that praise Second Life still adorn the walls of Linden Lab’s HQ.

The article doesn’t really reveal anything new, although there is an interesting aspect regarding adult content within the article, with quotes from Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab CEO and Hamlet Au of New World Notes. Ebbe mentions that metadata will be used from start with Project Sansar to filter and sort certain types of content whereas Hamlet points out that adult content is a popular area in Second Life and therefore a source of revenue. Hamlet also talks about companies making the same mistakes in the future of VR as they have done in the past.

Another article on a similar theme by Heather Kelly was published on CNN Money; Company behind Second Life building virtual reality universe. This article also looks back on Second Life, but ultimately points out that Second Life isn’t the future, but this article also makes an odd claim that I haven’t seen anywhere else :

Creating worlds will be more difficult in Project Sansar than Second Life, but Altberg said they’ve made a tool non-engineers can use.

“It’s still extremely difficult to create content for virtual reality. Pretty much anything you want to create, you have to have a sophisticated engineering organization in place,” said Altberg. “We’re trying to solve those problems.”

Most of the quotes I’ve seen about Project Sansar have been about making it easier for people to create worlds, so I’m not sure whether the author has got the wrong end of the stick or LL are admitting that building with third party 3D tools isn’t as easy as building with prims in Second Life. Time will tell on this one, I have seen quotes suggesting that there will be inworld building tools in Project Sansar.

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Sep 182015

Landing Point

The movie version of Canary Beck’s Paradise Lost premieres in Second Life and the world wide web this weekend. Canary Beck kindly provided previews for some people, including bloggers, so I will report that I’ve seen the movie and it’s quite an epic performance, exemplifying well what can be done with Second Life machinima and how performance art in Second Life is a viable use case.

This blog post will not contain a full review of the movie, I haven’t had enough time to take enough notes for that and therefore I would not be doing the production justice if I blogged a lazy review. However I will state that this is an adult production, which contains avatar nudity, both female and male. I will also note that the male nudity appears to pass the mull of kintyre test.

Paradise Lost

Canary Beck has also provided some excellent information for bloggers to share, which makes writing a post a lot easier! Here are some key facts about the production :

  • Paradise Lost contains 14 Scenes (the 14 Movements of Mozart’s Requiem)
  • Paradise Lost has 43 Roles performed by 8 players
  • Paradise Lost runs for 59 minutes
  • Paradise Lost is Canary Beck’s 3rd production, and first feature length movie
  • Paradise Lost (the play) took 3 months to produce and required ±1000 hours in development, the movie took another 3 months to produce
  • In total Paradise Lost cost half a million linden dollars to produce
  • Paradise Lost (the play) premiered on April 5th, 2014
  • Paradise Lost (the play) sold out every performance presented
  • Paradise Lost (the play) received over 100 positive reviews

There are some eye watering figures there to take note of, including the time and cost of a production, but it’s good to have figures such as this released from someone such as Canary who has actually taking an idea from an idea and turned it into a full production.

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Sep 172015

Inside The Office

In part one of my visit to the First United Church of Christ in Second Life I looked at some of the background behind the church and why they have been embracing virtual worlds. In this part I’ll delve a little further about my discussions with Reverend Jerome Newstart (at times referred to as ‘Jer’) and Reverend Becca Kellstrom (at times referred to as ‘Becca’). A point to note here is that there are two other ordained clergy within First UCC SL but I did not talk to those clergy. However Becca and Jerome both pointed out that the other clergy are a big help with the project.

So what sort of services and support can you expect to find at a church in Second Life? “It’s much the same sort of ministry one would do in RL, except that we do a good deal more being the ‘non-anxious presence; than is generally true in RL churches,” Jerome told me, “We also offer two types of services, worship in the sanctuary on Sundays and Thursdays and Psalter services most evenings,” continued Jerome, “Worship is usually gathering music, scripture, a message, community prayer. We use voice for the sanctuary services, with text. The Psalter is done in text only,  and they are centered on the Psalm of the evening. Peace Grove was created for those.”

“Lots of pastoral care and good, deep conversation with folks who are happy, or even relieved, to find us,” Becca added, “With the exception of Thursday at 4pm SLT, all other services take place at 6:30pm SLT right now. We are considering changes, as we’ve long had a request from friends in European countries for an earlier time.”

There we see one of the key differences between virtual world communities and physical world communities. In the virtual world you can attract a global audience, but with that global audience comes the challenge of global audience time zones. However I’m sure most communities would find that a refreshing challenge, First UCC SL certainly seem to enjoy the challenge.

However I had to rewind a little at this point, Jerome had mentioned singing, do people really sing at these services? I mean it’s one thing for people to sing when they are physically together, but are they really singing at home in front of their computers? “No, well, at least not that we hear!”, Becca tells me and then adds conspiratorially, “When I sat next to him at Conference meetings, Jer would only lip-sync, so I only heard my own voice ;-)”.

Jerome isn’t so convinced about people not singing, “At home I suspect they do. I don’t know, I sing in the shower! We use music videos on a viewer during services.”

We move on to First UCC SL’s wider role within the United Church of Christ and I start by asking how the General Synod went when First UCC SL members attended the physical world event in Cleveland, Ohio, earlier this year. “Very well! We got a special shout out to the Synod when we were introduced!” they tell me.

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Sep 162015

Linden Lab have blogged an advisory informing people that they should update their Second Life payment info today. The advice is due to the fact that Linden Lab are transitioning to a new payment processor, as the blog post explains :

Second Life is transitioning to a new payments processor for credit cards. If you use a credit card for Second Life payments and have not added or updated your billing information since July 7, 2015, we strongly encourage you to re-enter your information to avoid any potential disruption of services. If you use PayPal or Skrill for Second Life payments, no action is needed.

The blog post explains how people can update their information, which generally is a pretty painless process.

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Sep 162015

Jerome Newstart & Becca Kellstrom

This will be part one of a two part blog post regarding my visit to the First United Church of Christ in Second Life. In this part I’ll provide some background information on the church, discuss why they came to Second Life and why they feel virtual worlds are an important place for a church. In the second part I’ll take a closer look at what they do and how they embrace diversity in their ministry in Second Life.

I find myself in an office of the First United Church of Christ in Second Life. I’ve been joined by Reverend Jerome Newstart, known as Rev. Dr. Jerold Garber outside of Second Life. Reverend Becca Kellstrom has also joined us. I’ve spoken to Becca on Twitter and I’ve also blogged about First UCC in Second Life before; First UCC SL To Attend General Synod In RL. That post concerned members of the First UCC SL attending the General Synod of the United Church of Christ outside SL and in the physical world in Cleveland, Ohio. However this is the first time I’ve sat down with members of First UCC SL and they made me very welcome.

Their mission statement reads :

First United Church of Christ and Conference Center is founded and exists to be the voice of Progressive Christianity in virtual universes. We live out the United Church of Christ notion of extravagant welcome by providing for all who desire a place to worship and who seek a community of love and acceptance.

We are proud to be a part of the world’s fastest growing LGBT-welcoming church movement, the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ.

Jerome Newstart explained that both he and Becca are actually both ordained UCC ministers. ” We’re actually recognised by the denomination as a church,” Jerome informed me. These people are the real deal, indeed that came up in our conversation, the challenge of people actually believing there is a real church operating within Second Life.

“Some want to be sure we are ‘real.’ I had that happen this morning.” Jerome explains.

“Particularly early on in this ministry, people wanted to verify we were who we said we were.” added Becca. This is unsurprising of course, in virtual worlds people can play many different characters and we see plenty of churches within Second Life which don’t actually have ordained ministers within them, if people are going to embrace their faith, then they will want assurances. In the physical world, a church speaks for itself, people have trust in the building, in a virtual world where anyone with the time and talent can put up a building, it’s more difficult to convince people you are genuine.

Why did First UCC come to Second Life though? Becca explains that this incarnation is the second or third time UCC have had a presence in Second Life, and it’s here that Jerome’s belief that this was the right platform really shines throught, “I saw a need for a ministry that welcomed everyone,” Jerome explains, “When I conceived of this ministry some two and a half years ago I recruited Becca to our RL Board of Directors. She serves as a pastor here as do I. Becca is also our social media person.”

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Sep 152015

Moving away from traditional virtual worlds for a post here, one of my favourite subject matters concerns story telling, in all its forms. On that theme I bring news that graphic novelist Alan Moore, has teamed up with his own daughter, Leah and Ocasta Studios to produce a new Open Source comic book app for the iPad, Electricomics.

Alan and Leah are no strangers to storytelling. Amongst Alan’s work are titles such as Wathcmen, V For Vendetta and From Hell. Leah and her husband John Reppion also have plenty of work to their names including titles based around Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who … not in the same story I should add, although there’s actually potential there.

So what exactly is this app, you may be wondering? Well the basic blurb tells us that Electricomics :

is a digital comics reader app, which gives you free access to innovative digital comics by some of the best writers and artists in the business.

However in terms of the project as a whole there’s far more to it than that. In a blog post announcing the launch of the app, they announced :

Coming very soon, you will be able to go to and download the creator tool to your desktop PC or MAC. It lets you lay out, and package your own comics, and read them in the app.

You can build Infinite Canvas comics, where the reader follows the story from panel to panel in whichever direction it leads. You can make Panel delivery comics, where you have control of the reading experience at panel level, every panel can be a reveal, and the page is fluid, changing.

The professional comics are a jumping off point, we want you to join in, and push forward what is possible for yourself.

So this isn’t just an app for readers, there’s a creation aspect to it too, but there’s more, the app will be Open Source :

Open Source code is used throughout, and full access to our JavaScript library, so if you can see a piece of functionality you could add to it, the code is there to use, and we can add it to the next update.

Whatever is added to Electricomics remains Open Source, and the property of the community using it.

Take it. Make with it. Improve it. It’s yours.

That means there’s a lot of potential here for people to build on the code and go in new directions.

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Sep 142015

A Greeting

The Highlights from The Destination Guide this weekend once again provided many wonderful locations for people to visit and one of those has a definite fantastical fairy tale feel to it.

Fantasy and More

The Allhallow’s Showcase Festival certainly has a Brothers Grimm feeling to it and is described as :

This showcase festival shines on the creativity, imagination and beauty of 12 of Second Life’s most excellent fantasy creators. Each creator was asked to pick their favorite items to feature at the showcase. In addition, they will offer a free hunt item. Event runs Sept. 12-Oct. 31.

The area for the festival backs on to an area promoting a Pumpkin hunt.

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