Aug 182015
 

Project Sansar Concept Art

Linden Lab have published a press release regarding Project Sansar; Linden Lab Invites First Virtual Experience Creators to Project Sansar Testing. I’m not going to publish the press release in full, but I will quote parts of it, starting with :

SAN FRANCISCO – August 18, 2015 – Linden Lab®, the creators of Second Life®, today announced that a small number of creators have been exclusively invited to be the first to help test its new platform for virtual experiences, codenamed Project Sansar.

Slated for general availability in 2016, Project Sansar will democratize virtual reality as a creative medium. It will empower people to easily create, share, and monetize their own multi-user, interactive virtual experiences, without requiring engineering resources. The platform will enable professional-level quality and performance with exceptional visual fidelity, 3D audio, and physics simulation. Experiences created with Project Sansar will be optimized for VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, but also accessible via PCs and (at consumer launch) mobile devices. Users can explore and socialize within Project Sansar experiences through advanced expressive avatars, using text and voice chat.

This isn’t surprising news. Linden Lab have stated for some time that a small number of hand picked creators would be invited to test Project Sansar. The early users are expected to be people who can create architecture and have access to Autodesk Maya, as that’s the software Linden Lab seem to have been using inhouse.

The use of Maya as a tool in Project Sansar was discussed by Ebbe Altberg recently in a video interview with UploadVR :

UploadVR: What does that workflow look like for Sansar?

Ebbe Altberg: For starters, it will be quite technical, you will register, you will log-in, you’ll install this application which includes some add-ons for Maya, and you’ll use Maya to create the content. You’ll create a full scene, very large scenes, and you just publish that and we host that on our servers, and then that experience you can send links out to, and people follow the links and walk into that experience.

UploadVR: Just like that, straight from Maya?

Ebbe Altberg: Straight from Maya, push a button, and then you have a virtual environment that you can share.

People should not get too concerned about this. Project Sansar is in the very early Alpha stage, things can and probably will, change quite dramatically before it’s in beta, or even open Alpha if they have one. At the moment Linden Lab are going with what they know works, which at this stage is Maya.

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Aug 172015
 

Forgotten City

Mandy Marseille, owner of clockpunkish region Forgotten City, has posted the sad news over at SLUniverse that Forgotten City is going offline Sept. 2015. The reasons for the closure are outlined in the post. There’s also some interesting history in Mandy’s post regarding the region and how they tried to make this city thrive.

Toy Soldiers?

Forgotten City, for those who have never been there is described as :

A once great city where the prosperous residents were served by the miraculous mechanical automatons. The people have long since disappeared, but the automatons remained and still take care of the crumbling stone walls, abandoned halls and rusty fences.

The automations generally did not quite come to life, but they still look great and the region is wonderfully atmospheric.

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Aug 152015
 

Avi Arrow & Prokofy Neva

Avi Arrow of The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives has announced that there will be a remembrance and celebration gathering for Lumiere Noir on Sunday August 16th at 1:00pm SLT :

A *Remembrance & Celebration* gathering for Lumiere Noir will be held at 1:00pm (13:00) SLT on Sunday 16th of August at the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Natoma/210/164/28 (G-rated) . Bring fondest of memories and dancing shoes.

Xiola Linden yesterday blogged : Second Life Community Remembers Lumiere Noir – Creator of the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives.

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Aug 152015
 

Back in July High Fidelity lanuched its Stem VR Challenge. The challenge was :

High Fidelity will be awarding up to three $5,000 grants to teams or individuals who, using the High Fidelity platform, can create a unit that is:

  • HMD (e.g. Oculus™) featured
  • High school age appropriate
  • STEM focused
  • Social (can be experienced by >3 people together)

In addition to the dollar amount awarded, grantees will have access to technical support directly from High Fidelity and the option to have their content hosted.

Yesterday High Fidelity announced who the recipients would be, they have chosen two projects to receive the grants. They are T.C.a.R.S: Teaching Coding – a Racing Simulation and FTL Labs PlanetDrop-VR. Both projects look very interesting.

TCars is a combination of code and fun and is described as :

An awesome racing game where you get to interact with JavaScript to customize your car’s handling, create unique power ups and optimize performance through editing the programme code with the use of the Blockly API.

The idea behind TCaRS is explained as one that wants people to learn coding by having fun :

The idea for TCaRS is based on the thought that learning coding can be boring but playing games is fun: “I want to learn to code… but….the road from typing, ‘print my name’ to making ‘Grand Theft Auto’ seems huge and demotivating”

Schools around the world have been using tools like the Raspberry Pi to teach kids coding and it’s an essential part of most High School curriculums these days, but the output from tools like this is often pretty basic-looking.

With High Fidelity, we have the chance to change this by creating the first gaming platform where users get to see and interact directly with elements of the code in order to gain
advantage – so the more you learn, the better you do. And with the benefit of VR to create a genuinely immersive experience.

The people behind TCaRS are High Fidelity Alpha users Thijs Wenker (Thoys in High Fidelity) Programmer / Web Developer (JavaScript, PHP, C#, C++) and Dan Grundy (Judas in High Fidelity) Lecturer in 3D modelling using Blender. There’s a lot more detail in the link.

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Aug 152015
 

Arik Metzger and Riven

The 2015 H.P. Lovecraft Festival in Second Life is now open and early visitors were treated to a visit at the landing point by Arik Metzger, who founded the H.P. Lovecraft roleplay group back in 2012.

LoveFest 2015

A map of the region can be found on Flickr, that gives you information about vendors and other locations such as the cabaret, warehouse, Asylum, Egyptian exhibit and the carnival.

Events and More

Like many events in Second Life, the H.P. Lovecraft Festival has entertainment with the entertainment opening at 8pm SLT today (I think!) with a vintage style mix of dark cabaret and electro-swing by DJ Fitch Lekvoda! I say I think because Google Calendar does odd things with time.

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Aug 142015
 

UWE Education In Virtual Worlds MA

I’m not quite sure what to make of Patrick Hogan’s article over at Fusion; We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life. Patrick does not seem to have done his homework, but I’ll come to that later. The article paints a picture of Second Life from its hype cycle back in 2007 :

Colleges were among those that bought the hype of the Linden Lab-developed virtual world. Many universities set up their own private islands to engage students; some even held classes within Second Life.

Most of these virtual universities are gone –– it costs almost $300 per month to host your own island –– but it turns out a handful remain as ghost towns. I decided to travel through several of the campuses, to see what’s happening in Second Life college-world in 2015.

There are some glaring problems with this paragraph. Linden Lab reintroduced the 50% discount for educational and non-profit organisations in July 2013, meaning the cost is not almost $300 a month. Now there’s no doubt that Linden Lab’s initial to remove the 50% discount and the ageing platform did reduce the number of universities in Second Life, but even a casual glance at the Education & Nonprofits section of the destination guide reveals that there are more than a handful of universities in Second Life.

I’m a bit bemused at the timing of Patrick’s article too, he visited American universities, so term times are probably different to the UK, but the middle of August does not seem the ideal time to go looking for university classes in action to me.

DePaul University

Patrick does make a good point regarding the design choices of universities in Second Life :

The college islands are bizarre. They mostly are laid out in a way to evoke stereotypes of how college campuses should look, but mixed in is a streak of absurd choices, like classrooms in tree houses and pirate ships. These decisions might have seemed whimsical at the time, but with the dated graphics, they just look weird.

And weird is the overall theme of this trip, which begins in Arkansas.

Bizarre is actually good, the idea of a virtual world space should not just be to recreate the physical world space, virtual worlds provide the opportunity to do things you can’t in the physical world, that’s a plus, not a minus.

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Aug 142015
 

Tributes To Lumiere Noir

At the entrance to The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives in Second Life the board conveys some very sad news :

Lumiere Noir, creator of this Library, passed away unexpectedly Monday August 10. He was a genuine spirit and friend to all.

If you wish to send a token object of your condolences, please send it to Avi Arrow and she will place it for you. Thank you.

There are already a few token objects of condolences, including a striking and quite beautiful candle from Jopsy Pendragon, who is part of the Ivory Tower group and also the creator of the wonderful Particle Laboratory.

Information

The Ivory Tower Library of Primitives is held very dear by many Second Life residents, especially the older ones as it’s a place that many of us found tutorials on tricks and techniques to be used in building with prims. The notecard that is available near the entrance informs us why Lumiere create the Tower :

I made this tower in the hopes that it would give you a substantial head start on your arrival here. It contains a lot of tips and tricks of the building system that have taken a good while to develop and collect.

Lumiere was known for his Spy vs Spy style avatar and was the partner of Toshi Tyan.

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Aug 132015
 

The Collection

MadPea Games recently announced; MadPea Changes its Strategy :

There come certain points in life when we have to do a little re-evaluation of who we are and where we are going. After some discussions within the team, we came to the conclusion that we are stopping the UNIA development on THIS platform.

UNIA is a massive production in terms of games in Second Life. Over two years in development and at a cost of over US$12,000 it was a bold production. Unfortunately MadPea Games ran into some unexpected circumstances during development, losing their sponsor and 19 members of their team, including a long standing lead developer.

Greasy Diner

However they were determined to see UNIA through, but going forward, now that they have a smaller team, the focus will be on smaller games. An important point to note here is that MadPea Games are not leaving Second Life. Indeed they are still positive about games in Second Life and have a full roadmap ahead of them :

Our roadmap is already full for the rest of the year and we’re going to spoil you rotten! Our next adventure is being scheduled to launch October 1st and it’ll be epic.

However you don’t have to wait until October to sample something new from MadPea, The Collection launched on August 7th and will run until September 30th.

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Aug 122015
 

An image should be here

The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 31 (sponsored by Linden Lab) features an interview with Professor Tom Boellstorff (pronounced “bell-storf”; the first “o” is silent). Tom is an anthropologist based at the University of California, Irvine. The episode is introduced by Tom saying :

If you’re trying to learn about a culture, the challenge is time and that’s something that applied to the work I’ve done with gay and lesbian Indonesians and it applies just as much when you’re studying something like virtual worlds, you have to live inside the community that you’re studying.

Already I’m interested in what is going to transpire in this interview, time is something I’m always battling with myself and the fact that Tom appreciates that you have to be among a community to study one suggests he’s not forming an opinion based on a few screenshots and a far away view. We also learn that Tom is not new to Second Life, when he first entered Second Life there were only around 2,500 users, this guy is an oldbie.

An image should be here

As an example of how much Second Life has grown since the early days, Tom explains how he decided to fly over all of Second Life in the early days, it took him about a week, at two hours a day. How long would it take these days? I have no idea but the grid is much larger than it would have been when Tom initially joined.

An image should be here

Tom says that in Second Life he is a digital ethnographer. Tom explains that an ethnographer studies how people live and think and that this involves hanging out with people. To this end he used to host weekly chats with anyone who wanted to teleport in. This sounds like the old Linden Office Hours but was quite probably more civil. I wonder if Tom did go to any Linden Office Hours, I’m sure that would tell a digital ethnographer a thing or two about digital communities too, even when they got heated.

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Aug 112015
 

Innsmouth

The 2015 H.P. Lovecraft Festival in Second Life is scheduled to run from August 15th – 23rd. The event promises music, rides, events, a market full of vendors and a multi sim story quest in the shape and form of The Heart of Llhao Story Quest.

Abandoned Vehicles & Buildings

The adventure describes itself as :

This year’s Lovecraft Festival is thrilled to present our multi-sim Lovecraftian Story Quest adventure ‘The Heart of Llhao”

You find yourself at the renowned Miskatonic University of Arkham, Massachusetts, where a recently discovered American Indian artifact, “The Heart of Llhao,” was scheduled to be unveiled to the public. Tragically, the item has been stolen, and the university has become a crime scene investigation.

Inspect the area, gather clues and items of interest, and follow the trail to find and recover this mysterious relic of tribal legend!

This event is designed as an interactive “who-dun-it” with a decidedly Lovecraft-inspired edge.

In addition to the story and journey, there will be freebee items to collect along the way, and prizes to be awarded…

…and, of course, a guaranteed finale to truly honor the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft’s eerie, often horrific, endings!

This sounds rather interesting. The festival also has an added charity angle as proceeds from the event will go to Autcom, The National Autism Committee.

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