Nov 212014
 
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Episode 24 Of Drax Files

Episode 24 of The Drax Files : World Makers features MadameThespian Underhill, Actor-director with the Avatar Repertory Theater and Builder/seller of Victorian homes & items, pianos, harpsichords, pipe organs and scripted music. Then there’s more, MadameThespian is one of those rare beasts in Second Life, she’s a Charter Member! Even Lindens get excited when they see Charter Members. Charter Member status means that someone is rather old in Second Life terms, in this case MadameThespian has a rez date of 18th December 2002.

More importantly Charter Members played a very important role in keeping Second Life afloat during its early days. They paid an upfront fee which I believe guaranteed them a 4096m plot for life with no further land fees. However the upfront fee they paid, around USD$160.00, provided some much needed cash to keep Second Life in development.

Outside Theatre

Virtual worlds, explains MadameThespian, are an extension to the ancient art of live storytelling. The Avatar Repertory Theater have produced many shows over the years including original productions and adaptations of existing works.

They build their own sets and create some of their own items but sometimes someone else makes a better item and they take full advantage of the fact that there are plenty of other content creators in Second Life who create suitable wares for their shows.

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Acting in Second Life

MadameThespian comes from, a thespian background. She was a Chicago based actor through most of the eighties but now lives in the mountains of Montana where she is a member of the Montana Shakespeare company. However there are certain areas of acting where the virtual world provides opportunities for actors where the real world may close doors.

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Sep 122014
 

Nara Malone isn’t happy; “It’s like being caught in your curlers” she purrs as I whip out my camera, but there’s a glint in her eye as she stands amidst the scene of an in progress exhibit from Fuscia Nightfire.

Nara Malone

Nara is showing me around the build which is an interactive exhibit featuring machinima, which is playing on the floor and surrounding walls. The finished exhibit will feature the use of Non Player Characters (NPC’s) and Nara has been demonstrating to me just how easy they are to create in OpenSim.

Nara rezes a poseball and then explains the process to me : “I click the ball once it records my appearance, it runs the animation I put in the poseball. I can change those out or run a string. This is our simplest character maker.

With that said Nara clicks the ball and few second later another Nara is in my view, this one sitting down tying her lace, which is the animation inside the pose ball. However how resource hungry are they? Nara explains that they are not that resource hungry at all : “Its just an animation running…very easy resource. We can have 20 or so at a time with 10 users online. We have more complex versions but this is the starter one. We can make them talk, Program them to interact so they are very helpful with storytelling and with the immersion. The characters draw readers in.

Nara is a storyteller and of course her stories must be told. However she’s not alone and the exhibit she’s giving me a sneak preview of is part of her group’s work for the OpenSimulator Conference in November. Whereas the big names are keynote speakers such as High Fidelity’s Philip Rosedale and Oculus Rift’s Steve LaValle, many from the general OpenSim community will be there too and exhibiting their wares.

Nara explains to me that her group will have a total of eight examples of their work running at the conference. Whereas there’s a lot of storytelling, there’s also a lot of scripting involved and Nara tells me that scripting guru Fred Beckhusen is on their team.

So just what are Nara and her team working on? Nara passes me a note with some preliminary but rather ambitious details.

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Jul 172014
 

I’ve mentioned before how much I like the art of storytelling, I’ve also mentioned before how I’m surprised there’s not more storytelling in Second Life and how a virtual world is an environment that could allow for a feature rich interactive storytelling experience.

I haven’t changed my mind on any of the above but this evening I read an interesting post regarding storytelling in different virtual worlds : Why Kitely? What about Second Life? The post is from the Seanchai Library website.

First things first, Seanchai Library have been bringing stories to Second Life for over six years now, they are very much supporters of Second Life and aim to continue in Second Life. The post isn’t a bash Second Life post, it makes an interesting comparison between what can be done in Second Life v what can be done in Kitely and points out the cold, hard, financial realities.

The post talks about the possibilities of immersive storytelling and why Kitely may be a more attractive proposition for that sort of storytelling :

As we continue to explore creating increasingly immersive story experiences – an opportunity in what we do that several of us are very interested in – we run into immediate limits in Second Life. Those restrictions are, to be blunt, money and prims. A build like last year’s Dickens’ Project takes nearly 3800 prims (incomplete, by the way) and the space to manage them, none of which comes cheap in SL.

This is a reality that many a venture in Second Life has to face, be it storytelling, art, roleplaying, money and prims quickly become an issue. When you’re looking to tell an immersive story, it becomes more of a challenge. The room to expand and contract, to rebuild, to have space to manage the operation. Kitely offers a cheaper alternative. However that doesn’t always make Kitely the better option, it’s going to depend upon what you want to do.

The post compares the way different storytelling styles can work in both platforms :

Most of what we now produce in SL is fairly presentational: people sit in rows of seats inside of an environment and we stand (or sit) before them and present the literature. That is certainly one way of bringing stories to life, and one that we have been very successful with. But could there be another means of becoming transported into the story without shifting completely over to role play? Imagine you were wandering through the different environments visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past and Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol while listening to the original text, presented live. Imagine exploring an ancient Irish tower house while listening to Gaelic folk tales. Imagine poking around 221B Baker Street while listening to a Sherlock Holmes adventure. As long as the environment engages you within voice range of the speaker, you can wander, explore, sit and experience the literature just as you do in a more traditional audience-performer setting.

The potential to get more immersive leans towards Kitely due to its lower costs, but traditional sit around the storyteller style storytelling can happily thrive in Second Life. Both are decent ways of telling stories.

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Mar 282014
 

I have been a fan of storytelling ever since I can remember, and before that too. I can remember watching and listening to Jackanory on the beeb as a very young boy, yes I was once a young boy. I can remember my parents reading fairy tales to me as I went to sleep at night to the likes of :

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he live, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread

I’ve read stories, interacted with stories, played in stories and so forth. I’ve long been interested in the art of storytelling in virtual worlds and have recently been taking an interest in The Hypergrid Stories Project, which I think is a wonderful project. However before that I discovered a storytelling venture in Second Life, one that very much impressed me and that was Seanchai Library.

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Inara Pey has been doing some wonderful coverage of Seanchai and it was on Inara’s blog that I discovered Seanchai was turning six years old in Second Life this week.

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Mar 112014
 

I’ve mentioned The Hypergrid Stories Project before, but now Nara Malone, who has a name that sounds like she’s some sort of super sleuth, has unveiled some meaty details about the project. Now this is a catch it whilst its hot deal because in its current form, it’s running until St Patrick’s day.

Now don’t be put off by the fact that this is billed as a Hypergrid stories project, yes it is largely an OpenSim venture, but not exclusively, from Nara’s blog post we can see a list of participating grids and they include Second Life:

Participating Grids

  • Next Reality Grid: Redlight Hotel from Mike Hart
  • Metropolis: Independetly Spoken from Crystal Brewton
  • Craft Grid: Spirit of Arcadia: Cogtown from Virtual Christine, Pitcairn: 111shawn from Shawn K Maloney, Aquarium from Tao Quan.
  • OS Grid: Virunga Mountains: from Debbie Edwards and Fred Beckhusen, Transmedia Learning 1 and 4 from Nara Malone.
  • NarasNookGrid: Greyville, Quarterz City, Siobhan Muir 1, Tina Glasneck 2, Series, Shadowling Manor, and Theria from the Greyville Authors.
  • Second Life: Phaze Demesnes from Debbie Edwards and Fred Beckhusen, Karpov from an anonymous donor.

The project is taking interactive fiction in a new direction, you actually walk into a giant book to follow the story! Then you’ll be teleported to a scene in the story and will eventually find a landmark to the next scene.

The stories are in the short story category, 500 – 1300 words but if you’re not that interested in stories you can follow the poetry trail instead or simply explore the builds.

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Feb 262014
 

I’ve covered storytelling here recently and was pleased to see a post from Inara Pey on the subject : Storyfest 4: Step forward and be heard! Inara’s post in turn links to another post from the organisers of StoryFest 14 : Call for Performers – STORYFEST ’14.

StoryFest ’14 is the fourth chapter in the annual StoryFest event in Second Life, which is quite an impressive feat. The event itself will take place in Second Life on Sunday, March 23rd at “Here Be Pictsies!” in Bran – 10am to 5pm.  . So the real question is, what’s the skinny on the lowdown? Well from the organisers site:

“StoryFest” is a partnership between the Branwen Arts Coop, Seanchai Library, and the Stories Unlimited!, Produced by StoryFest Events.  Our goal is to present a day of stories presented in a variety of live performance forms:  Traditional Telling, Literature, Theatre, Dance etc. 

They are looking for performers and volunteer hosts. If you are a performer you need to know a few things. The first is that these are live storytelling slots, not recordings. Next up you need to know that the slots are mostly going to be in thirty minute intervals, although a few longer slots may be available. Slots can be shared, so if you don’t want to do it all on your own, you don’t have to. However, most importantly, no live stream will be provided by the organisers. Those of you who are already storytelling in Second Life will know what to do about that.

The official World Storytelling Day is on March 20th, so you can engage with that in your usual locations and then attend this event in Second Life a few days later. Although world storytelling day has an official theme of “Monsters and Dragons”, you do not need to tell a story in that theme for StoryFest ’14 in Second Life, although you can if you want.

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Feb 232014
 

Welcome Centre

With many thanks to Talla Adam who is a member of the Opensim Virtual Community on Google+ I have discovered a writer’s colony in OpenSim. I had never been to OpenSim before so the first thing I had to do was to figure out how to get there.

Fortunately for the purposes of this visit, Nara Malone has an excellent blog post on the matter : An Author’s Guide to the Metaverse & How to visit Greyville Colony. After following those instructions I found myself at the Writers and Readers Colony at Greyville. Those who know how to use OpenSim will need to create an account for Naras Nook or go to  world.narasnook.com:8900. I’m not sure how this works with Hypergrid.

The welcome centre has a very useful notecard, which is so useful that it basically writes this blog for me! Now the first thing to note is that this is a work in progress. Nara Malone is the brains behind this, she’s the lady whose blog post I linked to above. The notecard includes details of the mission:

My mission here is to introduce authors to the power of the metaverse and all the ways it can inspire stories and assist in creating and promoting their work. I welcome suggestions and content from authors and readers. I expect to see lots of characters interacting with avatars and roaming all the regions here at Nara’s Nook. I have 16 regions for experimenting, exploring and inspiration. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be finished adding to them.

Inside the welcome centre I noticed notice boards for the following authors : Marilyn Campbell, Tracey Livesay, Nara Malone, Shannon Emmel, Leah St. James, Shara Lanel, Sofie Couch, Alexa Day, Siobhan Muir, Elvie Howard, Tina Glasneck, Kelly Jamieson, Denise Golonowski and Brandi Evans.

There are a number of buildings around and again I’ll use the notecard to describe some of the buildings there.

Writer’s Resource Center: The big brick building is the writer’s resource area. There is a classrooom for workshops, a self-guided tutorial area, and a library. I’m adding content as fast as I can. On the right, as soon as you walk through the main door, you will find information on all the authors currently a part of this grand experiment. There a few freebie objects in the library you might find useful.

Internet Cafe

Internet Cafe: Directly across the street from the landing area is the Dungeon Gourmet’s Internet Cafe. There are laptops there with internet access. Drop in and work on your novel, the page is set to yarn.me, a cloud wordprocessor that works here inworld. It will also allow you to save work to your computer. Try your hand at Yatze. Have a nice couple chat by the fire.

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Feb 232013
 

Second Life is an international community, as exemplified by this official YouTube Video:

This has absolutely sod all to do with this blog post, but I love that accent! Well it has a spurious link, the issue I want to talk about is bringing authors to Second Life. On my Twitter feed I have a few authors, writing is of course all about the imagination, but I think Second Life is missing a trick by not reaching out to the creative talent of authors.

Authors create visions, you can deliver those visions in a 3D world, which Second Life is. So how do we go about encouraging the creativty of authors being delivered in Second Life? We certainly don’t do it via notecards. I’d love to see an improved notecard system that could at least deliver HTML books.

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Dec 052012
 

Tonight at 7pm SLT Caledonia Skytower will be doing a reading of Mircale on 34th Street at Seanchai Library. The reading will be in voice, which means it won’t be suitable for all and the reading is at 7pm SLT, which means it won’t be suitable for all! However that’s the nature of a worldwide platform. However this is a seasonal tale to get you into the spirit of the season.

The story will be read in two parts, with part two on December 10th, I believe! Seanchai isn’t the only place in Second Life that engages in storytelling, indeed we have storytelling on one of my sims, but not anywhere near as regularly as Seanchai does and with nowhere near the variety, but it does happen and I’m happy to see it happening.

I do believe that storytelling and even reading, within Second Life, is an undervalued art. Reading of course has its own pitfalls, texture loading times or reading notecards, it’s not exactly easy on the eye and yet, with 3D props, it has potential to add to the form of storytelling by recreating locations, or readers getting in character.

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Nov 052012
 

So my ususal Monday trick of listening to Digital Human on BBC Radio 4 for blog inspiration failed this week because they were talking about Cyborgs, transhumanism and whether we are all subsconsciously becoming Cyborgs and try as I did, I couldn’t find an angle to get to Second Life from that material, a jolly good listen however.

So I decided, after urgings, to investigate e-books. This was a tale of woe, first of all I tried to get an e-book from Waterstones. However to read e-books on the PC I needed to download Adobe Digital Editions, this was a breeze and now I was cooking on gas, all I needed to do was remember my Adobe password and I could install my soon to be purchased e-book on different mediums, if I didn’t register, I’d only be able to read it on my PC. At this point things went tits up, I couldn’t remember my password. Aha, there’s a password reset request and sure enough, I was informed an email was on its way. Several hours later and I’m still waiting.

So instead I went to Amazon, installed their Kindle for PC reader, realised I’d forgotten my Amazon password… oh heck but this time a password reset request actually worked. The only annoying thing left was having to pay VAT on my e-book, in the UK we don’t pay VAT on physical books but an e-book is considered an electronic service, not a book, even though it is a book, I’ll save that rant for another day, although Remember Remember, the fifth of November is an ideal day for a rant about The Government! The real moral of this story is to remember your passwords.

Then I read a little and decided to quickly take a look at the Second Life storytelling scene and popped to the Seanchai Library.

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