Apr 172015
 

I saw a tweet from Canary Beck the other day about a forthcoming book from Huckleberry Hax. This may well sound like the start of a work of fiction, but I promise you it’s not because Canary has now blogged : Second Life Is A Place We Visit (2015) By Huckleberry Hax. One of the reasons Canary has been tweeting about this is explained in her blog post :

Huckleberry Hax has published a new book and it’s now available for download. I’m especially happy that Huck asked me to design the book cover typography for this work, a second time! And as a bonus, the cover image – taken by Huck – is a scene from my beach at Basilique!

However what is the book about? Whereas Canary explains it very well I think it’s only fair to turn to the author for some explanation :

Huckleberry Hax has been writing about the virtual world of Second Life® for eight years. This volume collects together 42 of these articles, including his monthly column for over two years at the celebrated AVENUE SL lifestyle magazine.

This is a work of non fiction, even if it is virtual world based. However what Canary’s tweeting (no pun intended) has also opened my eyes to is the fact that Huckleberry Hax also writes fiction, and a lot of that fiction is based upon Second Life.

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Apr 152015
 

When the news broke that VICE reporter Cecilia D’Anastasio was looking to hear from Second Life residents regarding avatar identity I was somewhat sceptical. My concerns were largely due to the way the wider media have reported on Second Life in the past and the way the wider media seem to like to be economic with the truth all too often these days. A glaring example of this is the current nonsense going on with the Hugo awards, which has left me despairing about how the media seem more interested in sensationalist clickbait than the actual issues.

However, my scepticism was definitely misplaced as Cecilia’s article is actually quite touching and respectful. The article, simply titled, Avatar IRL, looks into what Lisa Nakamura called, Identity tourism. However as we see from Cecilia’s article, avatars are not merely a mirror of ourselves, they can also be taken away from the keyboards with us.

In the article, Cecilia talks to Veronica Sidwell and we learn that Veronica has adopted the name of her avatar outside of Second Life, and by this I mean that Veronica has legally changed her name. Does this suggest that Veronica was so encompassed by her avatar that her real self became her avatar? Not at all, the article explains that the name change was due to Veronica transitioning from male to female in real life and the name change was a mark of respect for the sim that had given Veronica the confidence to make that transition :

Originally, Veronica was merely an avatar. Now, Veronica Sidwell is a 37 year-old transwoman working as a picture framer in Atlanta, Georgia. Veronica, who would not disclose the name she lived most of her life under, changed her legal name to match her Second Life avatar. It was a gesture of respect to the sim who lent her the confidence to transition IRL from male to female. Veronica’s experience as a female-bodied avatar in a virtual world, she told me, convinced her that she would live a fuller, happier life in womanly form.

The issue of avatar identity and roleplaying are well covered here and it’s not just about Second Life either, World Of Warcraft also gets a mention with regards to the story of Laura Kate Dale : How World of Warcraft helped me come out as transgender.

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Apr 142015
 
Banner Should Be Here

Fantasy Faire 2015

Fantasy Faire 2015 is still over a week away but things are hotting up over on their website with news of a hunt a ballet and literary festival starting to creep out. Fantasy Faire, as we all know (unless you want to be hit by a curse of agony) is the best event in Second Life by at least one country mile.

Dwarfins Bar Brawl

This year’s hunt is entitled : The Lost Lands and as with all good things Fantasy Faire related, it involves telling a story :

This year, we have a rich story to tell, of a lost land, a forgotten Princess and her ten missing Champions. A Queen will share her most precious possession with you, the Hunter, in one last desperate bid to recover her lost child. But is everything as it seems, or are there layers of mystery, magic and compelling characters for the Hunter to discover?

However that’s not all, a teaser video has appeared.

Save The Fairelands, Save us all! More details about the hunt will appear soon, including the cost of the Hud and where the hunt will be taking place.

However if a hunt isn’t to your taste, how about a bit of ballet?

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Apr 132015
 

SL Go from OnLive is of course going, but the ideas behind it and the fact that there are Second Life and OpenSim users who would like to see a similar service developed has been discussed. In my previous post I looked at the work Nebandon Izumi had compteted with regards to getting the OnLook Viewer working with Amazon AppStream for OSGrid.

However there are other people looking at options regarding this too and one of them is Bright Canopy who state :

We render SL on powerful machines and stream it straight to your device

Android, iOS, Chromebook, Mac, Linux, anywhere

Say hello to freedom

Bill Glover of Bright Canopy, has been commenting on Inara Pey’s recent blog post. Bill has also setup a blog : Bright Canopy Blog. The blog so far has a total of two posts, but both of them are absolutely fascinating when it comes to streaming Second Life.

His first blog post was : Notes on Streaming SL With Amazon AppStream, which contained a report of trying to get Second Life working with Amazon AppStream. Although it did work, Bill summarised the experience as :

I’m in a hotel room in Reno for a conference, but I’m grabbing what time I can to do some quick proof of concept stuff.

I setup a stream with the Firestorm and was able to use it from both a Chromebook and an Android phone. It was really very responsive over a hotel wifi network, but there are many caveats.

tl;dr: It works, but it’s expensive and nowhere near being useful for just casually streaming SL without some custom client development and viewer integration.

The link to the blog post has a lot more information and is definitely worth a read. However Bill didn’t hang up his pen there, he’s actually moved on to a second experiment : And Then There Was Frame.

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Apr 112015
 

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes recently pondered Could Linden Lab Replace SL Go With Another Service – Say LiquidSky, Leap Computing, or Amazon App Stream?  The answer it seems, is possibly, because in the comments Diva Canto says :

Today, Nebadon and I have set up OnLook (a derivative of Singularity) on the Amazon AppStream. It was surprisingly easy to set up and it works amazingly well. I’m still in shock.

This changes everything.

To demonstrate this, Diva shared a video that Nebandon Izumi had created :

The video shows a stable looking experience running really smoothly. However for more details on this, it’s time to turn to our favourite Delicia Whipsnaps lookalike, Inara Pey, whose original post of Could the Lab use Amazon AppStream to “replace” SL Go? provided the basis for Hamlet’s question.

Inara has followed this up with another post, Using Amazon AppStream to stream a viewer. In that post Inara talks to Nebadon Izumi about the process of using Amazon AppStream. The process is not straight forward, it’s not like using SL Go where you just login and, well, go. However it is feasible.

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Apr 102015
 

The latest edition of The Drax Files Radio hour (without Jo Yardley this week) features an interview with Dennis Harper of OnLive. Dennis’ role at OnLive was as Product Manager for SL Go, so he knows his stuff.

The interview is a fascinating and emotional one. There are some cold hard truths about what happened with SL Go, why OnLive’s patents were sold, the power of virtual world communities and why a virtual solution for Second Life would still be welcomed by many

We learn early on how the way companies envisage something working, aren’t always the way they turn out. For example Dennis explains that OnLive thought that the people who may want SL Go would be power users, landlords, content creators, people who are in Second Life a lot and may see SL Go as being a good addition. However they soon realised, landlords and content creators often already spend a lot of time working on their home computer, which in many cases is quite a decent spec. The people who ended up embracing SL Go? People on older hardware.

This sort of thing always interests me, it happens a lot, a company think they have a target audience and find out they do have a target audience, but it wasn’t the one they originally envisaged.

However as much as I love (it hasn’t gone yet) SL Go, it’s not perfect and Dennis points out some of the flaws. The number one complaint was regarding voice chat, or more to the point, the lack of voice chat. However Dennis did let us into a little secret. Voice chat via OnLive servers was possible, but only to other OnLive users. Therefore if two people were using SL Go, it would have been feasible to voice chat, but not inside Second Life, the chat would be via their OnLive accounts.

Another issue people complained about was the fuzzy looking world SL Go could produce. The reason for this was that OnLive is 720p, not 1080p, therefore on smaller screens it looks fine but on large monitors, it could get a bit fuzzy.

Dennis also talked with glowing praise about the Second Life community. When SL Go opened their island people would come and visit, they’d join in the chat, some people wouldn’t quite understand what cloud computing was, they wouldn’t understand what SL Go could do, but they would give it a go and then, in many cases, they’d be extremely excited about the results, seeing Second Life in a new light. This was the power of SL Go, but having the inworld island helped people to learn more about SL Go before giving it a try. The richness of the conversations people could have within a virtual world aided their experience.

The other side of the community issue was that Dennis himself was a noob. He had no idea how to use Second Life initially and his comments here are comments that Linden Lab should take note of. The way Dennis learned about Second Life was by someone else showing him how to use Second Life. Someone showed him how to dance, how to groom his avatar, where to go shopping, where to hang out and how to overcome some inworld quirks. Dennis suggests that without that sort of support from other users, he imagines many users may turn away from Second Life before they’ve really got started.

However how about OnLive and SL Go? What really happened, this is interesting indeed.

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Apr 092015
 

Gravesend Bay Welcome Area

Risking life and limb I decided it was time to follow Sir Trevor McDonald and dip my toes into the murky underworld of crime. However unlike Sir Trevor, my visit was to a virtual crime location, namely Gravesend Bay in Second Life.

This is underworld roleplay Second Life style and as in many roleplaying sims in Second Life, a lot of work has gone into the storyline. In this case it revolves around two main families, The Gianni’s and The Morella’s.

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Gravesend Bay Map

The Gianni’s have been involved in an internal power struggle which tore the family apart and allowed their enemies to take advantage. The current storyline leaves The Gianni’s in this situation :

Left with a dilapidated neighborhood, the Gianni Family feels the pressure for the Morella’s to the south and is at the point where they’re willing to do whatever it takes to not only keep what they have but to reclaim what the considered theirs.

However when it comes to The Morella’s, there’s a slightly different story.

Entertainment

The Morella’s watched The Gianni’s tear themselves apart and took their chances. Now the head of The Morella family finds himself in this situation :

The Morella’s gain power, prestige and wealth quickly and continue to use their political connections to push the Gianni’s further north. If they prevail, they plan on finally gaining control of the region and wiping the Gianni’s off the map.

Beyond that there are factions. The Drifters and Ava’s Angels.

Petrol Station

The Drifters are described as :

The Drifters are the group of misfits, meaning doesn’t fit in to a family. This group is mostly composed of bikers, drug dealers, addicts, and homeless people. The drifter are lead by nether family, they answer to a faceless figure. He’s known to most simply as the Kingpin.

Ava’s Angels on the other hand are ladies of the night who are still controlled by The Gianni family. This is an adult region, so adult activities can be expected but it’s not a region that encourages adult activities in plain sight.

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Apr 082015
 

Stage

Courtesy of The Linden Endownment of The Arts, Sapphire “Sapph” Hotaling (Chief Exhibit Builder & Designer) has put together an exhibiton of The History of the Vehicle in Second Life.

The exhibit contains more than 130 vehicles created by 50 Second Life content creators and has examples of vehicles from all the way back in 2005, long before Mesh vehicles were on the grid.

Evolution of Vehicles

A wide variety of vehicles are on display, whereas there are a lot of cars, you will also find trucks, camper vans, bikes, planes and even a horse drawn carriage.. Bear in mind that this is an exhibition with a lot of different vehicles and therefore a lot of different textures, so it may take a little bit of time before everything rezzes nicely, but don’t let that put you off, there’s a wealth of Second Life history and creativity on display here.

Truck

The region is nicely designed, so everything isn’t parked on top of each other, this gives you room to explore and find open spaces away from the traffic.

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Apr 072015
 

With Remnants Of Earth being covered by Kotaku, PC Gamer and Massively Overpowered, amongst others, releasing a game in Second Life at the moment might be good timing. Second Life is also getting some decent publicity for a change in other quarters, although some of that is due to Linden Lab’s as yet unseen nextgen virtual world and the hype cycle around Virtual Reality.

However, long time Second Life game makers MadPea Games will soon be releasing their most ambitious title yet, UNIA. They have already enlisted the assistance of Draxtor Despres to make a promotional video showing the people behind the avatars who want to play UNIA :

The advertisement will be created by the incomparable Draxtor Despres, who is known for his videos depicting the many facets of Second Life and the humans behind the avatars.

MadPea have also been asking : What are you doing to get ready for UNIA? However you may be wondering, just what on earth is UNIA?

UNIA is an action-packed game unlike anything you have seen in Second Life before. Full of puzzles and monsters, it will keep the players on their toes the whole time.

Bold claim indeed.

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Apr 072015
 

Fantasy Faire 2015 in Second Life is just over a couple of weeks away now, but you don’t have to wait until Fantasy Faire opens to join in. A recent blog post on the official Fantasy Faire website informs us : Waiting For Fantasy Faire To Open? Here Are Five Things You Can Do Now!

A View Of Lumenaria

1) Make sure you are following the Fantasy Faire blog.

Well this is a pretty easy one, but it’s also an important one. There are a few ways to keep your eyes on blogs, you can bookmark the Fantasy Faire website. Then there’s the follow feature which is available on WordPress blogs which will email you details.

Then there’s the old fashioned way, note the URL : https://fantasyfairesl.wordpress.com/

Saffia Widdershins

2) Take the “Why I Relay” challenge

Fantasy Faire is part of the Relay For Life fundraising effort in Second Life and the purpose of the “Why I Relay” challenge is for people who want to share their reasons for supporting the Relay For Life event. This is a challenge that is open to anyone, you don’t need to be a blogger.

A way of sharing your reasons has been provided by Catalina Staheli, who is taking portraits of people for the challenge.

Jeff and Penny Keith

For more details read this blog post or take a look at Catalina’s Flickr Page.

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