Nov 152014

Meeting New Folk

I went to London Ambiguity in Second Life looking for Guy Fawkes and ran away due to a Timelord seeking a Tardis. This was a very odd adventure to say the least. London Ambiguity had been holding a Guy Fawkes exhibition. However I went to the streets of the sim instead and soon ran into a protest Gnome!

Meeting a protest Gnome

I’m not quite sure what he was protesting about but he kept saying “Be wary of Kat Kassner, she will cast a great shadow over you … especially at your height!” I would find out exactly what he meant later in my adventure. However I decided to do a bit more exploring and found myself near a debt collector of Scrooge & Marley.

London Ambiguity Female Bus Drivers

Anywhere with the name Marley in it is likely to be cool is the usual rule of thumb one should apply. However here I also noticed something of a time conundrum as alongside Dickensian splendour I noticed a very modern and equal opportunities employer in the shape and form of Britannia Buses, who proudly boast that their drivers are girls.

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Nov 142014

I’m not a bat or a rat or a cat,I’m not a gnu or a kangaroo.

One of the big myths about Second Life was this evening shattered at Meauxle Bureaux. The lesser spotted Linden was, well, much spotted, as The Lindens arrived in numbers to tour the Linden Department of Public Works home of The Moles. Many residents were there too.

Xiola Linden made graceful, cat like movements, as she awaited the start of the tour near the centre of the region.

Xiola Linden

Gray of the Lab from San Francisco  (AKA Pete Linden) arrived to ensure that nothing untoward was happening. Now at this stage my camera wasn’t working nicely. I asked Strawberry Singh to take photos as I couldn’t get the shots I wanted. Strawberry simply told me “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for“.

This took me back to many fond memories of when I first saw this build at Fantasy Faire 2013, I had trouble taking pics there too.

Gray Of The Lab From San Francisco

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Nov 132014

Tis the season to be a speaker it seems. Last weekend’s events aren’t the end of the event season by any stretch of the imagination and Gigaom are talking up their Gigaom Roadmap 2014 event, scheduled for November 17th – November 19th. There are a couple of posts about this event and I’ll highlight this one first : At Roadmap, Delve Into Virtual World Design With Philip Rosedale.

The article doesn’t give too much away about what Philip may say, which is fair enough, otherwise why would people go and listen to Philip speak? However the article does start off on a controversial footing for those who are still very much engaged in Second Life :

When Second Life launched in 2003, it was the future. Now it is the past, with its once-hyped virtual storefronts and social centers empty (or nearly empty, as 1 million people still log on each month).

It’s possible that it came 10 years too early.

I’ve blogged recently about how some designers are finding those once-hyed virtual storefronts getting a new lease of life due to the number of virtual events. There’s something uncanny about that as I’m blogging here about the number of events outside the virtual world, although many of them are designed to talk about virtual worlds and peripherals. Hmm, this could get quite circular! Anyway, I don’t agree with Signe Brewster’s premise regarding where Second Life is today. Second Life is in a much stronger position than outsiders realise, although it’s certainly not at the peak of its popularity.

Philip Rosedale of course has moved on from Second Life and will be talking about his new venture, High Fidelity. I would imagine he may well cover some of the ground he discussed at the OpenSim Community Conference. Philip spoke well on a number of High Fidelity, OpenSim and Second Life related issues as a keynote speaker at the OpenSim Community Conference and hopefully an official video of that speech will be released soon. There were some technical difficulties with sound, but it’s a speech well worth listening to and involved a very interesting Q&A session too.

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Nov 122014

Draxtor Despres takes his Bavarian brand to the streets of America and utilises SL GO from Onlive on his iPad as he shops, skateboards, sits in the woods and relaxes near the beach whilst exploring Second Life on the go.

The video features voice from Torley, who doesn’t quite get the SL GO tagline! However for those who aren’t sure what it should be, here’s the word from the horse’s mouth :

Your World Anywhere.

Introducing SL Go, the best way to experience Second Life in full 3D on mobile devices. No expensive desktop computer needed—just connect and go on your tablet. Experience Second Life’s full visual performance when you’re away from your desktop. And thanks to OnLive’s state of the art data center, rez into your favorite sims faster than you ever thought possible.

SL GO is available for $9.95 (£6.95) a month for unlimited access or $1.00 (£0.70) an hour for pay as you go access. There’s also a seven day trial available. Now you may be wondering why anyone would want to use SL GO to explore Second Life. Drax of course demonstrates one use case, Second Life on a tablet. Another use case of course is older computers that are struggling with Second Life these days.

The seven day free trial should give you a good idea as to whether you think there’s a good use case for you. Another use case of course would be to explore somewhere such as Meauxle Bureaux whilst on the go too, especially now that it has made the Destination Guide!

Meauxle Bureaux

Meauxle Bureaux is the home of the Linden Department of Public Works, a program focused on improvements related to the experience of living in and visiting the Linden Mainland. This intricate build was lovingly crafted by resident experts for all to enjoy, so come see the ultimate in shared creative spaces!

Visit in Second Life

Hurrah! I said this place should be in the Destination Guide, but there’s more.

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Nov 122014

Warlords Of Draenor. Blizzard’s fifth expansion in the World Of Warcraft series launches tomorrow and in typical Blizzard style, they have launched a mightily impressive PR campaign with Videos, storylines, social media hype and a very angry looking ride in a New York Cab!

Blizzard really are an impressive company when it comes to publicity, their cinematic trailers are superb and one wonders if they’ve ever considered extending those trailers into a longer series on their own, although I’d imagine they are damn expensive to make.

Warlords Of Draenor takes a step back in time to create a new timeline and the rise of the Iron Horde to bring new chaos to Azeroth.

There are obviously going to be new quests, new places to explore, new dungeons, an increased level cap and more. Despite all this and despite the buzz I’m seeing around certain circles, I won’t be participating.

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Nov 112014

The Endgadget Expand NY event this weekend saw Ebbe Altberg going coast to coast as he participated in a panel discussion : Back To Reality VR Beyond Gaming. This panel discussion saw Ebbe joined by Matterport’s Matt Bell and BeAnotherLab’s Marte Roel and has been summarised on Endgadet itself in an article entitled : Virtual reality has a future beyond video games, and it’s already started.

The discussion has also been discussed, eloquently, in detail and with great analysis by Inara Pey in an article entitled : Beyond gaming: looking at VR with Ebbe Altberg and others.

The panel was hosted by Ben Gilbert of Endgadget who introduced Ebbe Altberg as “The CEO Of Linden Lab, who you might have heard of from Second Life and other fun products.” This sort of introduction is exactly why I thought Rod Humble was on the right track in terms of expanding Linden Lab’s portfolio. Second Life should really be a tag line of Linden Lab, not the other way round. However it does emphasise yet again the sway that Second Life has in terms of its name.

Host Ben Gilbert then earns cheers from the virtual world fanbase when he says that the people on the panel are not making video games. You see, some people do understand the difference between virtual worlds and games! Ben also earns some bonus points for realising it’s Linden Lab, not Linden Labs. However he only found that out on the same day of the discussion.

Ebbe indicates that beta testing of Linden Lab’s new virtual world may start around the middle of next year, so watch that space. Ebbe also talks up Second Life well discussing use cases such as education, art and entertainment as well as talking of the economic model and how Linden Lab allow users to create the content.

Ebbe makes a good point about lines between the virtual and real worlds when host Ben Gilbert brings up the issue of the lack of the sense of smell in virtual reality. Ebbe feels there are pro’s and cons and that it’s not about reaching equality between the two spaces. That’s a very important point because I feel some people feel virtual reality will lead to some people being lost in the machine but I really can’t see the feared level of immersion some have being an issue for eons, certainly not in this generation of VR.

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Nov 112014

Inara Pey recently blogged some sad news regarding the Radegast viewer for Second Life and Opensim. Inara linked to a post from the main developer behind Radegast, Latif Khalifa, in which Latif typed :

It saddens me to have to inform you that I won’t be able to continue work on Radegast or my other opensource projects. My health has been deteriorating over the past few years to this point where my use of computers is down to just a few minutes daily. Not being able to work for several years bring its own set of problems.

Radegast is opensource so if there is interest people could continue improving it.

It’s been a great pleasure working with the Radegast and the wider Second Life communities.

The Radegast viewer won’t be as familiar to people as some of the more popular third party viewers for virtual worlds. That is largely because Radegast is a lightweight client that contains some enhanced accessibility features such as text to speech, which makes it a client that people with visual difficulties may embrace and therefore join virtual world communities.

There’s certainly room in virtual worlds for lightweight clients, even if they don’t come with accessibility features. People may just want to check in when they are on the go, so I don’t think this means the end of the road for lightweight clients and it certainly won’t be the end of the road for clients built with accessibility in mind.

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Nov 102014

Dwarfins Welcome Area

Episode 44 of The Drax Files Radio Hour With Jo Yardley features an interview with a Belgian chef by the inworld name of Jaimy Hancroft. Jaimy is the owner of the Second Life brand Death Row Designs and also a creator for the fantastical Dwarfins team.

However what makes this interview interesting is just how much enthusiasm Jaimy has for Second Life. Jaimy talks about how she creates, how she enjoys Second Life herself and has great fun with games within Second Life such as The Cornfield and how she also finds the time to make appearances at events and help noobs out when they land in areas of Second Life that advertise themselves to noobs but probably aren’t noob friendly.

Inside Death Row Designs

In short Jaimy is some sort of RPG wonder woman who seems to be able to bend time and space. However Jaimy also makes some extremely interesting observations, one of which is with regards to the inworld shopping experience and how it’s getting a lift from the number of events that are on the grid these days.

Outside Death Row Designs

Jaimy points out that although she’s not a fan of the deadlines that events create, events themselves are a great way for creators to get exposure. This is interesting because the Second Life Marketplace has damaged the concept of inworld shopping but obviously not to such an extent as some of us may feel. Jaimy feels that over the last couple of years inworld shopping has improved for her store.

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Nov 072014

Over at New World Notes Hamlet Au recently posted : James Cameron: Virtual Reality a “Yawn” Until it Gets Mass Market Growth, Non-Gaming Experiences. The inspiration from the post comes from the following quote from movie director James Cameron regarding virtual reality :

 The question that always occurred to me is, when is it going to be mature, when is it going to be accepted by the public at large, when are people going to start authoring in VR and what will that be?” Cameron said. “What will the level of interactivity with the user be other than just ‘I can stand and look around,'” he elaborated, adding: “If you want to move through a virtual reality it’s called a video game, it’s been around forever.

He has a point, but things are happening with devices such as Oculus Rift and whereas the example I’m going to highlight is game related, it’s game related in a different manner than you may expect. The example I’m highlighting has been talked about on The Road To VR and Gizmodo.

Digital Cybercherries are taking us back to our youth, well some of us, it may be going to a time before you were born for others. They have developed a retro arcade complete with playable arcade machines from the 80’s and early 90’s, playable gameboys, basketball nets, darts, a two lane bowling alley. In short you’re immersed in an 80’s style arcade which you walk through.

Then there’s the icing on the cake, that little bit of extra polish that makes this look so bloody awesome. The retro arcade has cassette tapes with 80’s music which you put into a cassette player and then listen away to those old favourites (or not so favourites). The wonder of this is exemplified in the Gizmodo blog post :

You can even find cassette tapes with ’80s music and stick them into a boombox, then carry it around the arcade with you. Because what’s cooler than playing Missile Command while jamming to The Final Countdown?

Come on, you’ve got to admit that sounds cool!

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Nov 072014

I recently blogged about Meuxle Bureaux in Second Life, home of Michael Linden and The Moles of The Linden Department Of Public Works. I’m not alone in admiring the beauty of this sim, as can be seen from a quick glance on Flickr.

Maddy Gynoid has been there too and blogged about it : Meauxle Bureaux: Neue Heimat für das LDPW. There are some impressive pictures in that post as well as a shout out to someone in a language I’m not familiar with, but I don’t think it’s rude :

Gestern hatte ich im Blog von Ciaran Laval gelesen, dass Linden Lab in den vergangenen Tagen eine Reihe neuer Regionen im Second Life Grid gestartet hat. Eine davon heißt “Meauxle Bureaux” und dient nun allem Anschein nach dem Linden Department Of Public Works (LDPW), sowie den dort arbeitenden Moles und ihrem Chef Michael Linden, als neue Heimat.

I saw Marianne McCann flying off in a helicopter and I also saw Uccello Poultry there. Uccie has also blogged about Meauxle Bureaux. However this brings me to a matter of a technical difficulty I experienced there. I planned to take my snapshots of Meauxle Bureaux last Sunday. Alas the sim would not fully load and what did load, was taking a very long time to do so.

I did the teleport in, teleport out, in, out, in, out, shake it all about trick, but the sim still wouldn’t load. Textures were grey, signs and objects were missing. The problems I was experiencing were not localised to Meuxle Bureaux either. I’m a lot more patient in my old age, I put it down to one of those things and returned on Monday, performance was fine then and has been for me all week. I don’t know if my issues were related to Linden Lab’s new Content Delivery Network but Linden Lab have blogged an update on CDN where they state :

For most users most of the time there has been a big performance improvement in texture and mesh data loading, resulting in faster rez times in new areas. The improvement has been realized both on the official viewer and on third party viewers.

However, we have also seen that some users have had the opposite experience, and have worked with a number of those users to collect detailed data on the nature of the problems and shared it with our CDN provider. We believe that the problems are the result of a combination of the considerable additional load we added to the CDN, and a coincidental additional large load on the CDN from another source. Exacerbating matters, flaws in both our viewer code and the CDN caused recovery from these load spikes to be much slower than it should have been. We are working with our CDN provider to increase capacity and to configure the CDN so that Second Life data availability will not be as affected by outside load. We are also making changes to our code and in the CDN to make recovery quicker and more robust.

Some residents have been feeding back the problems they’ve been experiencing on the official Second Life forums. Some of those problems sound very much like the problems I experienced but I really don’t know if my problems were due to the CDN wobbles.

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