Animated discussion

Well, that was unexpected!

I like to think that I’m pretty much clued up when it comes to all things SL, so I’m a little put out to find that on this particular occasion my finger has quite definitely not been on the pulse – I’m not altogether sure where exactly it has been instead, but rest assured I shall be having stern words with the offending digit in due course.

Those in the know will already be aware that all the virtual talk at the moment is taking place around Linden Lab’s latest offering inworld – currently in beta testing on Aditi‘animesh’ – literally, animated mesh.

To my profound embarrassment, my initial appraisal of the potential of animesh was ever so slightly short-sighted. I can only suggest that my brain has been rather tired just lately, leading to a less than astute reasoning capability and a shortfall in the far-sightedness department. There will, I’m afraid, be repercussions as a result, and a number of brain cells will be called to account at their next performance review, with an expectation that a significant improvement is required in the future, should they wish to retain their jobs!

You see, when I first came across the murmurings about animesh, my initial thoughts were, frankly, pretty dismissive. Suffice it to say that I was thinking along the lines of flexiprims for the modern age… Grass and trees that blow in the wind, swishy hair, you know the kind of thing. All fairly limited applications that, if I’m honest, didn’t really impress me all that much, so it’s fair to say I was pretty dismissive of the whole thing and filed it away in the corner of my brain reserved for SL innovations that aren’t necessarily bad but will never rock my world.

Then I saw, creator of the awesome bento elephant avatar, Medhue Simoni’s video showcasing what’s going down in animesh world.

Oops!

That’s when I realised just how far off the mark my thinking had been, and if you’re lagging behind in the ‘what’s happening in SL’ stakes, I suggest you take look at the video too. (Too long? Try watching from 7 minutes in – yep those really aren’t avatars but animated objects – even dancing Putin and Trump!).

It only takes a little imagination to put together animesh, bento, scripting and pathfinding to come up with a potential gamechanger, and something that I think could be one of the most exciting developments we’ve seen in SL in recent years. Animesh gives us the potential for realistic, interactive NPCs (Non-Player Characters), far beyond anything currently available to creators and could revolutionise the inworld experience. Just imagine NPCs almost indistinguishable from real avatars, animals and other non-human objects that exhibit realistic and fluid behaviours and movement, even whole dance troupes of Putins showing off their Riverdance moves! And that’s not even considering the possibilities that animesh bots could offer for rumpy pumpy and naughtiness!

I can picture a future SL where cities that now stand folorn and empty are populated by ‘people’ going about their everyday business and giving a believable illusion of reality that goes far beyond anything we currently have… And all without a huge increase in lag. It seems almost unreal, yet having seen what is possible already in beta, I can’t help thinking that this really could be the Next Big Thing to bring SL back into contention as the virtual world of choice when the likes of Sansar and High Fidelity finally come into their own, and I think, if SL play their cards right, it’s a surefire winner.

It’s not often these days that I get truly excited about new developments in SL – I’m more used to seeing a steady and sure, but often painfully slow, overall improvement; this however could be a quantum leap for SL, and one that I think is badly needed even though I never saw it coming!

I can’t wait to see what animesh will do when it hits the main Grid – I think that it will bring a lot of surprises.

Although, hopefully, not as big a surprise as not seeing the damn thing coming in the first place!

s. x

Freaky deaky, star speckles and pink butterflies
And life is nice, so nice
I walk into a club and I found paradise
I’m seein stars, I can’t believe my eyes
I’m seeing stars
Paul Oakenfold – Starry Eyed Surprise

 

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Posted in Builder's bum, Linden Love, SL, Techietalk | 2 Comments

A straight line

During a recent conversation inworld I realised a couple of things: Firstly, many people – myself included – may think they have a decent grasp of geography, but can find to their cost, that on occasion they actually know squat; secondly, the quickest way of getting from A to B may well be a straight line, but in the real world, a straight line is sometimes not even an option.

An SL friend was visiting my home country – Wales – and the suggestion was made that they should visit a particular location. Great idea, except the person making the suggestion had wrongly assumed that Wales is a tiny place where everywhere is within walking distance. In fact, what they’d suggested was possibly the craziest journey you could try to attempt around here.

Let me explain: Wales is pretty small, but a heck of a lot bigger than people think. Although it’s fairly conveniently shaped, there’s a pile of inconvenient mountains in the middle which make it far too lumpy to cross with ease, also nobody imagined anyone in the North or East would ever want to go anywhere else, so all the half decent transport links are in the South and West – I say half decent, because even they don’t go all the way, it’s as if they stopped half way to admire the view and decided not to bother going any further.

Anyway, my friend is staying in the South East, and the destination in question is in the North East – about 100 miles as the crow flies, but in reality, depending on road conditions and traffic, between 4 and 6 hours drive. Public transport is no better, requiring a 7 hour journey of around 300 miles – not for the faint hearted… I know I’ve done it! In this particular instance, a straight line is pretty much impossible!

All too often, we can jump to conclusions without knowing the big picture, and what may seem to be a simple journey may be anything but. This certainly holds true for SL – and is often cited as a fundamental reason for the high drop-off rate of noobies after sign up. You log in for the first time, head off to explore and find yourself surrounded by beautiful people, living in fabulous homes enjoying a wide and varied social calendar; they come to the conclusion that these things may be easy to come by and are rapidly disappointed to discover that it’s nowhere near that simple. Disillusionment follows and the rose coloured glasses are soon tinted with the true colours of virtual reality.

It’s not just the noobs though who face those harsh lessons. Even after years inworld, I still fool myself that – if I really wanted – I could be a virtual millionaire, become an expert in mesh design and make it big in the virtual world… After all, how difficult can it really be? Time, and time again I’ve learned the answer to that question is invariably ‘far more difficult than you’d imagine’, and faced disillusionment myself when I realise I don’t have what it takes.

However, it strikes me that maybe I’m looking at things in completely the wrong way. I’ve always said that the journey is every bit as important as the destination – whether you’re taking the circuitous route from South to North, or getting to grips with learning Blender.

Take my job, which requires me to travel extensively, meaning I spend long hours just sitting on the train – in the beginning it was exciting, then it became incredibly boring, but I’ve learned to make the most of my journeys: Looking up snippets of information and fascinating facts about the places I pass through, enjoying the scenery and making the most of the time that travelling gives me… This very post is being written on the train!

Over time, I’ve learned to make my travel miles count and the same must be true of SL. Sometimes that straight line between aspiration and outcomes simply doesn’t exist, and it’s going to take time, the odd wrong turn and restart, some backtracking and a whole load of downtime before you get to your destination, and impatience isn’t going to get us there any quicker.

So, we might as well accept it, and enjoy the journey!

s. x

It’s those big wheels are ready to roll
We’ve be flyin’ high and so low
Lord, and all this madness, ain’t crazy as it seems
Everywhere they stop and stare
I’m just a stranger on this road
Blackfoot – Highway Song

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

Bad hair day

Am I the only person in SL who thinks that hair is becoming needlessly complicated?

It’s bad enough having to deal with hair in the real world, but at least you used to be able to escape inworld and change your avatar’s styles, colors and type with just a few simple clicks, but those days it seems are destined to become just a fond memory of the ‘good old days’.

Back then, in terms of ease of use, SL was – if you’ll exclude the expression – head and shoulders above the fuss and hassle of looking after hair in the real world: A simple click and wear, and the job was done. At its most complex, the most challenging aspect would be selecting the right size hairdo. That’s not to say that virtual hair was in any way perfect, it wasn’t – the very earliest system hair was pretty dire (and not particularly pretty, at that!), and although it certainly did improve over time, we’ve never really managed to come up with a simple, one size fits all, non-glitchy approach to hair inworld. Prim and sculpted hair certainly made for a better look, and flexi hair further improved the situation, but it was never quite the real thing. Real hair doesn’t embed itself in your boobs or magically pass through flesh and clothing, neither does it get confused about where its transparent bits should be!

Now we have mesh hair, which if those who swear by it are to be believed, is the best thing since SLiced bread. Of course, realistically, it isn’t – although like its predecessors, it has its merits and offers a degree of improvement over what we’ve had before. Personally, I’m not a huge fan – in terms of looks, rigged mesh can look every bit as plastic and fake as prim hair, even if it doesn’t poke through your shoulders.

We’re also seeing hair with HUDs far more frequently than we have in the past… HUDs to resize, reshape and recolour; HUDs for dips, ombre, shades and attachments; HUDs with appliers for every mesh body out there. The choices we have for customising and fitting our crowning glory are more numerous than they’ve ever been, but still they are not perfect, and sometimes our inworld hair can be every bit as difficult to control as our real life equivalent.

One of my current favourite hair creators produces gorgeous mesh styles with HUDs that provide a vast array of colours and variations – I love them, but in equal measure, they drive me potty! The reason – every style comes in three sizes, but for some bizarre reason, those sizes simply aren’t consistent across the range. Sometimes they fit, sometimes they don’t: In the extreme cases, bits of my scalp will poke through, even when wearing the largest size – not a problem with old fashioned hair, I’d simply have lifted it up a little, but simply not an option with rigged mesh, so I’m left with lovely hair that I can’t wear, unless I can find a hat to cover the bald patch, or subject my avatar to the SL equivalent of a tribal head shrinking. With regard to the latter option, you can call me old fashioned, but I’m afraid my body is sacrosanct and I don’t change its shape for anything!

Having hair that can’t be edited, no matter how technologically advanced it may be or how much I’d like to wear it is a complete pain in the rear end – sometimes it’s just the matter of a small tweak or a nudge to one side that’s needed to make things perfect, but that’s now denied to us, and it’s just a frustration I can do without.

We spend long enough primping and preening our hair in RL to last us a lifetime, and if I’m honest, it’s getting to be a bit like that inworld too, and I’m not particularly happy if that’s the way that things seem to be going – not just with hairstyles, but with clothing too. I know that SL should replicate real life to some extent, but if we’re going to have a virtual world to escape to, I’d rather not have to contend with some of the more annoying and time consuming bits that really should be totally unnecessary in a virtual life, even if that means sacrificing some of the realism and quality for an easy SLife.

Or perhaps I’m just an old Luddite, stuck in the past… But it’s not such a bad place y’know!

s. x

She comes in colors ev’rywhere;
She combs her hair
She’s like a rainbow
Nena – She’s a Rainbow

Posted in Rants, RL, SL | Leave a comment

The mobile mambo

It’s a peculiar thing, but it seems to me that the vast majority of people are completely unable to remain stationary when taking a mobile phone call whilst on their feet. It’s an affliction that the male of the species seems more prone to, but not exclusively, and those of both sexes- myself included – are sufferers.

Apparently, the human body is not designed to remain still whilst upright and on the phone and feels an overwhelming need to pursue some sort of movement, no matter how aimless or random it might be. The result is a kind of repetitive mechanical dance, which usually involves rocking back and forth, from foot to foot, walking in a tight circle, and the occasional twirl for artistic effect. The moves themselves are executed unconsciously and cease the moment the call is over. It can be quite a sight in a crowded place to see a group of people, unaware of what is going on around them, all following their own private choreography, turning wherever they happen to be into a sort of ad hoc dance floor.

One you’ve noticed it, this strange automatic movement becomes compelling viewing, and the more you watch, the more you get the feeling that you’ve seen all this somewhere before. Then it hits you – you’re observing the bizarre phenomenon of RL animation override!

Yes indeed, that same rhythmic pattern of movement shares an undeniable similarity to the AOs that we employ inworld to make our moments fluid and natural, something that by and large, they manage to do pretty successfully. Getting one’s first proper AO is something of a rite of virtual passage: losing the duck waddle of noobyhood is like taking the stabilisers off your first bike – you suddenly feel all grown up, even though you still have quite a way to go. Of course, not all AOs are equal, and finding the correct balance between animated and realistic can be tricky, especially – and somewhat perversely – when it comes to the difficult art of standing still… Because standing still just looks plain odd.

Most of us will spend far less time worrying about how we look when we’re walking, running or flying than we ever will over how we look when we’re at rest. We tend to pick an AO for the quality of the sits and stands rather than how it expresses our more energetic movements, and we’re far more interested in the subtle nuances that make us seem human when we’re at a standstill than when we’re in motion. It’s the subtle shifting of weight, the breathing, the way our body moves when not under the control of a guiding force – all of these things are important attributes of what goes into making an avatar seem alive and human.

I have a number of AOs and regularly employ perhaps two or three of them in my everyday SLife. As with so many things inworld, I find it surprising just how much others associate those movements with me – just as I tend to associate specific AO movements with friends and associates, and I do notice when they change too. It’s the finer details that matter to me though, and I’m happy with my standing movement – which cycles through a number of different routines randomly, although never the one I want when I’m taking a screenshot! Even so, I’m always on the lookout for something that is more uniquely ‘me’, and I live in hope of finding myself the perfect AO. Maybe one day I will.

However, SL isn’t always about being yourself, and it does no harm to think outside the box sometimes. Many years ago, my previous avatar was given an AO by a kindly stranger, an AO that certainly didn’t reflect my character and, if I’m honest and I saw somebody else using it, I’d probably want to slap them and tell them to stand still – even so, I loved it. Somehow I lost it, and I’ve never been able to find anything quite like it since; and every time I think of it, it’s with a pang of sorrow. It was one of those model poses type AOs, the sort that had me pirouetting about, admiring and inspecting myself, and and basically loving the camera like some sort of SL supermodel… Highly pretentious, rather smug, and altogether awesome! Maybe one day I’ll find it again, who knows?

Until then, I suppose I’ll have to keep watching the antics of those around me in the hope of spotting something that’ll fit the bill, and maybe I should keep an eye on those unwitting dancers in RL on their mobiles, just in case I can steal some ideas from them too?

s. x

Let’s sway
while color lights up your face
Let’s sway
sway through the crowd to an empty space
David Bowie – Let’s Dance

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Too tired to type

I’ve entered the buffer zone recently – the cache of standby posts I’ve built up just so that I can take the occasional day off from writing, should circumstances or my mood require it.

On this particular occasion it’s been very much a case that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, or rather, the flesh is exhausted. I can’t remember any time previously that I’ve felt so drained that I don’t have the energy to put together blog posts, at least not for days on end, but it’s a real struggle right now. I’m putting in long days at work, and they’re pretty challenging and demanding days at that, with long train journeys at both ends of the day. Normally, I’d write during those journeys, but lately I’ve just been falling asleep instead. The change of seasons isn’t helping either – I’ve been on the train 45 minutes this morning, and dawn still hasn’t broken, and I know it will be getting dark by the time I head off to home later.

I think I need to hibernate!

It’s times like this when there’s a huge temptation to fall through the door on arrival back home, grab a packet of noodles as a substitute for proper cooking (eaten straight from the pan – less washing up!), crawl into bed and be asleep before 9pm – I live alone, there’s nothing to stop me from doing it, nothing that is, other than the knowledge that this would be a Bad Thing, and the start of a slippery slide into a Very Bad Thing. Which is where being somewhat addicted to SL saves the day. You see, I am a creature of habit, and unless I have something pressing to do in either the virtual or real world, around about 9pm is when I tend to log in on a weekday. It’s a habit that I wouldn’t say is particularly hard to shake, but it does exert a pull over me when faced with a choice between going inworld to do things, or slobbing around in the sofa doing nothing in particular/heading off for yet another early night. Usually, unless I really cannot keep my eyes open, SL wins.

This I consider to be a Good Thing, since logging in compels me to at least do something; whether that something is chatting and socialising with friends, listening to music or doing something creative, it will require my participation and interaction with the virtual world around me, keeping my brain and faculties active in a way that seems to be oblivious to tiredness and, if nothing else, helps me to feel that I haven’t totally wasted my precious downtime.

Of course, it doesn’t solve the problem of being tired out – I probably could do with a few early nights of quality sleep time, or better still, a few days off from the daily grind – but no amount of sleep seems to make any difference right now, and the chance of any sort of a break is a lost cause, I’m afraid. Maybe I would be better off in bed, but I just know that I would feel that I’m wasting what precious free time I do possess and so, as far as I’m concerned it’s a no brainer. There are few things worse in my mind than a downward spiral of wake-eat-work-eat-sleep…

However, despite its therapeutic benefits, SL isn’t quite so good at masking my current frazzled state… My typing tends to come out pretty mangled at the moment with more than its fair share of typos than is strictly necessary; and that’s when I’m able to keep up with the conversation at all, or even manage to string together a fairly coherent sentence. I keep missing bits of the activity and conversation going on around me; my motor skills are shot to hell and I’ve a tendency to drift off in the middle of a conversa…

And there you have one of the great advantages of writing anything whilst inworld over writing on the train: If you do happen to fall asleep mid flow, there’s nobody nearby for me to dribble on, or to overhear the incoherent mumblings of the semi-conscious zombie that I recently seem to have become!

s. x

Hush, little baby don’t you cry
It is just a lullaby
Dreams of rainbows make you stop
That I am here to wake you up
Brennan Heart & The Prophet – Wake Up! (Over The Rainbow Mix)

Posted in Philosophicalisticality, RL, SL | Leave a comment

Blogging Bytes: 16th October

It’s been a while since I paid a visit to the dark side, so it’s time to put that right.

Coffee shops, and the people that frequent them: Ever sat at a table, enjoying a flat white and an almond croissant, just passing the time of day and people watching?

And ever wondered about the stories of the people around you?

I have…

Alt. life: The Girl At The Coffee Shop

s. x

So one of these nights and about twelve o’clock
This old world’s going to reel and rock
Saints will tremble and cry for pain
For the Lord’s gonna come in his heavenly airplane
Joan Osborne – One Of Us

Posted in Alt. life:, Unlikely stories | Leave a comment

2.4 Kids

I’ve just been an unwilling party to an intensely irritating conversation between an annoying girl on the train and whoever was on the other side of her phone. It was one of those conversations that, even if you were the other party, would drive you to an intense and completely justified desire to murder the person speaking to you…

“He was like, going to pay like for them like, but like their not supposed to be coming anyway like. Like what am I supposed to do, like my family is like real easy going like, but his family is like really needy…”

There are many things wrong with that conversation, quite apart from the fact she droned on and on for the twenty minutes she was on the train, at a volume that was just too intrusive for you not to listen in, and the subject matter – apparently, although it was never totally clear, was one I loathe with a passion – wedding planning. I’m not a violent person, but I was at the point of Googling ‘contract killers’ when she got off, still bemoaning the fact that Angie and David were insisting on bringing their kids, even though like, nobody else was, like.

However, rant over, for that particular annoyance – it’s just not worth the bandwidth to explore further, although there was one particular comment that started me thinking – the one about the needy family.

‘Families’ in SL is a phenomenon that I’ve never been able to fully get to grips with. And this applies to either of the types of families you’ll typically encounter inworld.

There’s the freaky 2.4 prim kid family where ‘mom’ (it just feels right to use the Americanism) had chosen to put herself through the pain and indignities of a virtual pregnancy and birth, the results of which are now proudly boasted about in mom and dad’s profile picks, where they are joined by images of ‘the bestest auntie in the world’ and, inexplicably but invariably, a mention or two of a favourite BDSM club or slave market.

Then there’s the equally freaky SL extended family, again extolled in profile picks, with reciprocal extollation from the various extollees selected by the extoller! These are typically phrased in gushing nonsense-speak, expressed in weird and unreadable ASCII fonts and usually include a dire message in warning to anyone who upsets or otherwise offends a fellow family member. You’ll often see such profiles proliferating amongst wider familial inworld groups and communities such as bikers, vampires and members of Frank’s Elite.

I completely understand that some may feel the need to belong and feel part of a close knit group who care for each other and connect on a deep emotional level; I also understand that for some, the pretence of living as virtual family, complete with babies and relatives, is attractive. Both scenarios are, essentially, role play – but, to my mind it is role play of the creepier and more obscure kind, and it does have the effect of alienating me from those who practice it.

Oddly, maybe, I’m perfectly OK with other types of role play, even though I have no interest or leanings in that direction at all – and, at its heart, isn’t SL just another form of RP anyway? So if you want to do your Gorean furry vampyric BDSM dollification sex play, carry on – I’m fine with it; I’m not interested in joining in, neither do I particularly want to hear about your exploits when you indulge, but whatever floats your boat is fine with me – YKINMK, but feel free to crack on with it if you so wish. However, if it’s SL families that are your thing then that’s something I’m going to feel pretty uncomfortable with, even if there’s no real difference between that and any other type of RP common in SL – it’s simply one of those things I neither understand, nor am I wholly at ease with it – it’s me, it’s not you!

But, what do you think?

s. x

Collecting pieces of my family
In an old pillow case
This one has a skull
But it don’t have a face
Alice Cooper – Pick Up The Bones

Posted in RL, SL | Leave a comment

Glytch: Pants?

I’ve held back on commenting on the ‘exciting news’ about The Lab’s new Grid wide experience – ‘Tyrah: The curse of the magical glytches’ Before going any further, I should make it clear that I haven’t actually checked out the game and it’s pretty unlikely that I will, so don’t think you’re going to get any sort of review or informed criticism today, because you’re not!

Why then am I writing about this at all?

Well, firstly, it’s rather a significant departure from the underlying principles of SL – it’s no longer a case of having a platform where user created content is king – an infinite variety of experiences and possibilities. Instead, we have Linden created and managed content with clearly defined goals and outcomes which, ultimately, is intended to mesh and sit alongside the user-defined world. Secondly, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s a game – certainly not the first pure game that takes advantage of the architecture of SL, and neither is it the first Linden game inworld; but it is the first Linden game intended to span both official and user-created content.

Thirdly, it’s a clear statement of intent about the direction that The Lab are pursuing in their quest to make SL a more attractive prospect for future generations of residents, although whether the focus is on retaining and energising the existing user base, or appealing to new signups is unclear.

What is clear – to me anyway – is that The Lab has invested a great deal of time and effort into Tyrah, and this whole venture has been in the making for quite some time. We saw the initial glimmerings with the creation of Linden realms – essentially a test bed for Experiences and the game model that The Lab has plumped for. It was a clever move to then make Experience Keys available to residents, allowing the Lindens to gauge the appetite for inworld games – such as those developed by Madpea – and to test the potential of Experiences once in the hands of users. Now, fully fledged, we see the end result of those efforts – the question is, to what specific end?

Let’s consider those who have made SL their virtual home. There are a great many of us who will have joined SL from a gaming background, indeed many will be happily indulging themselves with SL right alongside more traditional games and MMORPGS. Whether The Lab’s new adventure is going to appeal to this community is debatable – are those, more attuned to slick gameplay, high quality graphics and fast rendering really going to be attracted to the rather simplistic and ponderous style of Tyrah? I’m not so sure that they will, although those who’ve bought into the Pokemon Go culture may well appreciate the similarities of this inworld equivalent.

Then we have those like me, for whom the very thought of an inworld, Grid wide game is anathema. The closest we’ve ever let ourselves come to gaming in SL is the odd hunt and the thought of anything that erodes that ‘your world, your imagination’ mantra is, frankly, unacceptable. We’ve tried games elsewhere and found them restrictive, annoying and confusing and would very much like to keep anything of the sort well clear from our virtual existence. I’ll be honest with you – I gave Linden Realms a go and gave up even trying to make sense of it within just a few minutes (it didn’t even last as long as Windows 10 did with me!). The freaky cartoon graphics that reminded me so much of Day of the Tentacle (which, to my shame,I also gave up on at a very early stage and never succeeded in finishing), and the hijacking of my avatar’s motor functions at inconvenient times didn’t help either. As for my one and only visit to the repurposed Cornfield… I found myself sickened by the travesty that this once-fabled location had become. Tyrah is not for the likes of me!

That leaves the dabblers… Those with open minds and generous spirits who’ll give most things a fair crack of the whip and will no doubt enjoy pottering around the Grid hunting Glytches – but how long is the novelty going to last before it wears thin and those same people are off dabbling with the latest breedable pet/horse/plant/weird furry critter craze that catches their attention? [Edit: If recent comments in the metaverse are anything to go by, it’s already reaching it’s sell by date!]

Could it be then that Tyrah is The Lab’s concerted attempt to generate new signups and drive retention, bearing in mind that – if what I’ve said above is true – for present SL residents, the new game is likely to have only limited, short term appeal? I have a horrible feeling that it may be, in which case I really can’t see where the logic for this lies. I can’t seriously envisage anyone joining SL just to play Tyrah – not that there’s any real mechanism in place for them to even know about it in the first place; and, even if they did, there are plenty of very good alternatives out there against which the Lindens will find it impossible to compete. Then there’s the issue of the rest of the virtual world: What happens when our noob, fresh from collecting an extensive collection of glytches, finds themself wandering around a resident created sim and the full reality of the big bad virtual world? Not only will they be no better off than they are now, but they will be labouring under the false illusion that they’re part of a simple, easy to understand game where everyone plays by the rules. Oh dear.

I do try to remain positive about the weird decisions that Linden Lab constantly seem to make, but sometimes it’s hard. On the positive side, I daresay that none of the effort and enhancements that have gone into developing Tyrah will have gone to waste, and we’ll all benefit from that, but it still seems to me to fundamentally miss the boat.

You may of course, question whether I could do better, and of course, I’d be the first to admit that I probably can’t, although I do sort of think that – rather than mess about with Experience Keys and bespoke regions – they could simply have gone back to the good old days… Send a few Lindens inworld, then challenge us to beg, borrow or steal their Linden bears! Much simpler, and in my opinion, a whole lot more fun!

s. x

Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names
Peter Gabriel – Games Without Frontiers

Posted in Linden Love, SL, Tour Guide | Leave a comment

The shape of things to come?

Much of my exploring in SL is very much self-directed – I’m a great advocate of the ‘pick a spot on the map and TP’ approach, which can often yield unexpected results, or I’ll harvest locations from the profiles of interesting people I might meet on my travels. Less frequently, my visits will be the result of recommendations or tips from others – although I often find that these aren’t always the niche locations I hope they’ll be… Popular does not always equate to enjoyable in my book!

Recently however, I threw caution to the wind and paid a visit to a sim on a recommendation, and I’ve come away with mixed feelings. Mitsumi-Town is a – still evolving – attempt to faithfully replicate a district in the city of Tokyo, and it manages to do so with impressive success. It feels like the real thing; it’s done on a lavish scale;the attention to detail is stunning; and the degree of realism that its creators have managed to create is admirable. I could go into raptures simply telling you about the detailing on the streetlights and electricity cables! However, in my opinion, it’s fatally flawed and lacks an essential ingredient that is difficult to define – perhaps I could call it ‘soul’?

You see, despite being jaw-droppingly photogenic, hyper-realistic and lavishly set out, the whole place has – for me – an overwhelming feeling of sterility. It is too damn good, too functional and lacks anything that I could connect with on an emotional level. There’s nothing at all wrong with having exquisitely detailed vehicles, parked in pristine streets, but something is missing – you need some car horns, the sounds of traffic, exhaust fumes and… Most of all: People. I spent a decent amount of time at Mitsumi-Town, and whilst I was there, I didn’t see a soul. There were a couple who appeared distantly on the radar, but mostly it was just me – a lonely soul, alone in the city – it all felt very ‘Lost in Translation’. I’m not sure that I like it much.

I do have concerns that this is what the future could look like for virtual worlds, particularly now we know what Sansar looks like. Are we looking forward to beautifully detailed, professionally designed experiences, each floating in their own isolated bubble… Something we can dip into, walk around, then disappear; only running into the occasional unfortunate soul whose visit coincides with our own by accident? My overwhelming impression coming away from Mitsumi-Town was that I’d just visited a proof of concept architectural model, a ‘Hey! Look what we can do’ demo, with none of the fun, anarchy and interaction that typifies SL, and that’s not something I find terribly appealing.

My fear is that virtual worlds could become museums to the future: Lovely to look at, but little else. If I have to visit a museum, I want one with exhibits with buttons I can press, things I can climb on and get inside, that I can touch and handle, not a bland display of impressive, but soulless models – the product of an artist or creator, totally constrained by their own vision and parameters, without the element of the unexpected and interpretive, which the interaction with strangers elicits.

Certainly, my preference results in a messier, more unpredictable, and occasionally broken, experience, but if that’s the price to pay for a world that never fails to surprise, challenge and inspire, then it’s one that I more than willing to pay, even if it means we’ll never have that ‘perfect’ orderly, but ultimately, sterile world.

s. x

”    “
Death In Vegas – Girls

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Winter is coming

It’s rained a bit over the past few days, it’s definitely getting darker earlier in the evening, and I’m finding that my need to have a fan constantly blowing in my vicinity is becoming less of a necessity. The flowers in the garden are looking past their best, and the leaves on the trees are started to lose their summer green. I’ve been picking apples and plums and, just this weekend, I harvested a decent-sized bag full of oak leaves, which are currently stewing in their own juices, having started their journey towards becoming this year’s wine vintage.

I’m no real fan of the cold, wet and dark weather, but then again, I do enjoy living in a country that enjoys distinct seasons, and each of them has something that appeals to me, as well as an aspect that I find less endearing. Autumn is a time I associate – quite literally – with fruitfulness, and sensory pleasures of every variety, and even though the weather may be colder and less convivial than that of its summer predecessors (in theory, at least), it’s not entirely without its charms, and even when it’s not so good, it’s always an enjoyable experience to get out of it, warm up and dry off!

Rest assured, I shall be making effort to get out and about in the evening when the weather is conducive to outdoor activity, but those days aside, this is the beginning of those long SL nights – times when staying in at sitting in front of the computer doesn’t feel such a guilty pleasure and the darker evenings mean more time inworld.

These are the productive days – days when there’s plenty of time to plan, build, explore and write and we can start to look forward to the annual festivals that have become such an integral part of the inworld experience, along with the plethora of hunts, seasonal sims and activities that go along with them.

It’s time to pack away the Summer dresses, crop tops and strappy sandals, and dig out the cardigans and boots from where they’ve languished for months, forgotten in our inventories, waiting for their annual outing – there’s no need, of course, but SL does a fine job of reflecting how we are in the real world and some conventions, even when completely unnecessary are hard to break away from.

We’ll start to see SL subtly change, just as the world around us begins to wear its autumn colours. Our inworld activities will alter and an almost intangible, but gently relentless change will be set in motion. It’s an exciting, although sometimes poignant time in both worlds, but inworld, it’s a time I find fascinating, if only because it’s happens at all – or doesn’t have to, but – like the seasons themselves – SL moves to its own rhythms and patterns, and I think that adds to the world rather than detracts from it. Change happens in both worlds and whilst it may not always be welcome, it is refreshing and necessary…

And I welcome it.

s. x

So when you hear this autumn song
Clear your heads and get ready to run
So when you hear this autumn song
Remember the best times are yet to come
Manic Street Preachers – Autumn Song

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