Second Life

Will Burns (SL username: Aeonix Aeon)

Will Burns (SL username: Aeonix Aeon)

Both in SL and in RL, I’m quite lucky in being honoured with the friendship of knowledgeable people who rise above the typical level of discourse and speak in a down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, manner, with arguments based on facts, logic, and knowledge, rather than fear and “common wisdom” – which, more often than not, is actually common myth. One of these people who have bestowed on me the honour of their friendship is William G. Burns III (SL username: Aeonix Aeon, SL display name: Will Burns), a published academic, and former Vice Chair of the IEEE’s Virtual World Standards Group. A published and respected researcher and professional in the field of virtual reality and virtual worlds in his own right, Will understands the potential – creative, cultural, and commercial – of virtual worlds that very few commentators in Second Life can rival, and he is not one to mince his words. His criticism of Linden Lab CEOs past has always been very severe and, although back then it might have seemed too harsh, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight I can now see he was just calling things the way they were.

Now, Second Life is, as we all know, in slow decline. Many of its old users are gone, either because they no longer care, or because the ongoing global financial woes have priced them out of what is essentially a costly pastime for people with disposable income and time (two things few members of what was once known as the middle class still have), or because they died away. New user retention is, as has always been the case, disappointing, and more and more private regions sink into oblivion like the lost continents of myth and legend. However, SL still has a vibrant economy, which is based on the creation and sale of various virtual goods – from hairdos to cars and from clothing to furniture. And this economy supports a rather expansive ecosystem of merchants, regardless of whether their products are entirely their creation, or based on resources purchased from other markets like CGtrader.

SL’s merchants apply all sorts of different business models, but there is a common denominator: They are extraordinarily precious about their creations, even if they are nothing but very crude retextures of full-perm templates – sometimes even less than that. One look at most content creators’ dire, straight outta Bible, “fire and brimstone”, DMCA warnings is more than enough. In the past, many in-world shops had employed CS- and ToS-violating devices that promised (without delivering, but that’s another story) to “detect” potential copybotters. In other cases, store owners ejected and / or banned store visitors for idling, because they genuinely believed that, if you’re AFK in a store, then you are by definition a copybotter. Almost four years ago, a rather botched amendment to LL’s ToS got numerous content creators up in arms, claiming – of all things – that LL itself was “trying to steal their content”; much hilarity ensued, with several creators even ragequitting SL. It is, thus, an unfortunate fact of Second Life that it is very hard to have a calm, reasonable, and rational discussion on merchants’ intellectual property, on the implied and express licences they need to provide to LL so that the virtual goods can be displayed and sold to the customers, and – eventually – consumer rights. Unfortunately, much of the blame must be put on Philip Rosedale, who, regardless of whatever innovative ideas he may have had, has always been a bit of a demagogue. The promises given in 2003 have essentially been haunting SL ever since, often putting customers and merchants on a collision course, with very little – if any – room being given to the rights of the consumer. Naturally, things were further exacerbated, with the stance of many merchants going to full-on prokanoia with the Great Copybot Scare of 2006, which has never quite gone away.

In more recent times, the suspicion with which SL merchants have traditionally viewed customers has taken new forms: Mesh body creators demand that apparel, jewellery, shoes, etc. created for their bodies be non-modifiable, “to prevent copybotting”, even though permissions have exactly zero impact on a Copybot viewer’s ability to intercept and extract an object. We have the infamous “anti-rez” scripts, which are another form of “anti-copybot” snake oil. And so on, and so on. So, to have an honest, open, no-nonsense discussion on this risky topic, I needed to talk to someone who actually knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t mouth off based on false assumptions and blatant misunderstandings of web-based platforms like Second Life. Inspired by the licensing suggestions he made in this post on his blog, I invited him over to my always work-in-progress café, and we had a lengthy, but most enjoyable and productive, discussion.

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OBR-Logo-2015_300This Valentine’s Day (Saturday, February 14th), One Billion Rising in Second Life will be held once again, as an addition to the campaign held in the physical realm. As a matter of fact, we’re getting very close to the day of the event. As was the case in the previous years (2013 and 2014), the four regions for the event are in place and the artists and personnel are all working round the clock to complete the installations and the stages.

The names of the four regions are Drum, Rise, Dance, and Change. Following the recipe adopted from the first time the event was organised, they are arranged in a square formation, with the massive dance stage occupying the centre to allow as many users to be present as possible, with as little lag as possible. One Billion Rising, of course, is not “all about dance”; dance, as has been explained numerous times before, is used as a way to give the campaign a positive, inclusive, optimistic character. At the OBR regions, victims of gender-based abuse (be it societal or domestic) can be pointed to organisations that can help them. And, of course, people who want to offer their help to such organisations can find out how to get in touch and help others.

As has been the case in previous years, around the stage there is a perimeter where the artists’ installations. More than twenty artists are taking part, and their works, as requested by the organising team, will be inspired by the names of the four regions. Among these displays there will also be an area for the artists of 2Lei, a project that, like OBR itself, aims to raise awareness to women who are victims of violence. 2Lei in Second Life is held as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, held annually on the 25th of November.

Besides the 2D and 3D art installations, this year’s OBR will also feature a picture gallery, a sculpture garden, and a stage for poetry and performances. You can find the full event schedule here.

OBR2015 map

The map of the four regions of OBR 2015. Please click on the picture for the full-size version.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-Jl

 

madpea-logo-sOn Sunday, I received word from MadPea Games Sales and Marketing Director Kess Crystal that the famous in-world game and hunt development studio will be launching their new game (and first for 2015) titled Buried on February 1st. A new gameplay element introduced in Buried is geocaching, i.e. the use of a GPS (Global Positioning System) and other navigational techniques to hide and seek objects pertinent to the game’s goal. At the time of writing, I know very little of the game’s plot – the announcement says it’s a mystery game about the disappearance of a person named Lily. MadPea promise “twists and turns”, which elevate the game from the typical “hunt” genre to a full-on adventure that places the resident-player in the centre of the action. There is also a special opening for bloggers tomorrow (January 30th), but I’m not sure I’ll be able to attend it due to RL commitments.

madpea-buried-pic-01

Buried. Please click on the picture for the full-size version.

As is typical of hunt-like games, there are also prizes provided by various well-known SL content creators, including Livalle (Lindsey Warwick), Warm Animations, Sn@tch, et al. The announcement in full reads as follows:

BURIED is set to bring geo-caching to SL as a brand new game concept

On 1st February MadPea Games will be releasing a brand new concept for in-world games and hunts….Buried.

MadPea has long been known for the range of innovative and immersive games and hunts that capture the imagination of Second Life residents across the grid and from all walks of life. BURIED is a mystery game that will take the player into the world of geocaching to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Lily. With twists and turns a plenty this isn’t just a hunt it’s a full on adventure with the SL resident at the very centre of the action.

Prize Vendors for this game are:

  • !R3VOLT!
  • !bang poses
  • [abrasive]
  • [noctis]
  • {ATW} Against the Wall
  • *katat0nik*
  • +REDRUM+
  • <TrAsHeD>
  • Animated Living/Blue Balls
  • Challis Products
  • Cheeky Pea
  • Consignment
  • Deluxe Body Factory
  • Grafica Poses
  • Livalle
  • MiChIGaN’s ShAcK!
  • Never Totally Dead
  • Noodles
  • Ravenghost Studio
  • Sn@tch
  • TANTALUM
  • This and That Designs
  • Vero Modero
  • Warm Animations

 

BURIED has its own dedicated sim as a base for players with exciting new concepts in game development to see and explore. The sim is also ideal for bloggers and exploration outside of the game play and we’d love to give our press contacts, and bloggers, the opportunity to view the sim and game concept in advance of the start of the game.

We’re inviting you to attend a Press Walkthrough on Friday 30th January at 3pm slt. The sim is closed to the public until the 1st February so if you would like to attend it’s vital that you RSVP to Kess Crystal by 29th January 2015 to be added to the sim access list.

The interest in this hunt from vendors, and players, has been extraordinary and we’re looking forward to bringing you another epic MadPea Adventure.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Kess Crystal in-world or email kess@madpeagames.com.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-IZ

 

On the official One Billion Rising in Second Life 2015 blog, it was announced that the event will take place on the 14th of February, 2015, and its theme will be revolution. The full press release is given below:

On 14 February 2013, one billion people in 207 countries rose and danced to demand an end to violence against women and girls.

On 14 February 2014, we escalated our efforts, calling on women and men everywhere to Rise, Release, Dance, and demand Justice!

Now, on February 14th 2015, we are calling for a revolution for change.

Change can happen if grassroots movements and marginalized communities are in the lead.

 Change can happen if we demand accountability – making sure our justice calls last year are realized.  We are going to continue to demand justice, and will continue to highlight the issues surrounding the social injustices inflicted on women, and to keep highlighting where these issues connect. We will continue to challenge institutions, governments, policies, laws – and make these systems, which are responsible for creating situations of poverty and violence, accountable.

 Change can happen if we harness our creativity and energy. We will highlight, create and envision new, brave and radical artistic initiatives to bring in the new revolutionary world of equality, dignity and freedom for all women and girls. There is nothing more powerful than art as a tool for transformation.

Change can happen if…WE ACT NOW.  AND WE ACT TOGETHER.

OBR-Logo-2015_300In Second Life, we will be marking the occasion (as we did last year) with a twenty-four hour one day event that will allow women and men to gather. There will be music, there will be art installations and exhibitions, there will be poetry sessions, there will be storytelling events, there will be live dramatic performances, there will be dancing – and there will be information kiosks that will share information about organisations devoted to promoting justice for women across the globe, and stories of events that will be happening around the world.

The Second Life event will feature a four-region stage where 200 people can dance together, surrounded by an area of art installations and informational exhibits. A variety of performers will play over the 24-hour period, enabling people all over the world to attend this virtual event no matter their timezone. The regions will have a General maturity rating to allow all residents an opportunity to participate. Pictures are welcome on the event’s Flickr group.

This is not an event to raise money – although you will find information about organisations that need funding. But our primary goals are to draw people together and to raise awareness.

What can you do?

You can attend the event!

 You can send us information about groups known to you that we can add to the informational kiosks. How can you do this? You can write to 1billionrisinginsecondlife@gmail.com or post on our Facebook page.

 You can spread the word about One Billion Rising in Second Life amongst your friends, your communities and through social media.

 You can volunteer to help us organise the event – by completing this form. We need greeters, security, stage managers, media liaison and information processors, who will help build the information that will go into our displays.

 You can add your reasons for rising to our special Why I’m Rising page.

 If you would like to be a sponsor for the event, contact Samantha Ohrberg.

If you would like to be part of our special Press Day, you can complete this form.

We look forward to seeing you all in 2015!

About One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising was the biggest mass action in human history.  The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS.  On 14 February 2013, people across the world came together to express their outrage, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women.

Last year, on 14 February 2014, One Billion Rising for Justice focused on the issue of justice for all survivors of gender violence, and highlighted the impunity that lives at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. Events took place in 200 countries, where women, men, and youth came together to Rise, Release, and Dance outside of court houses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, work places, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not. The campaign was covered widely by media in all corners of world including The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and many more.

Visit www.onebillionrising.org to learn more.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-IS

A huge tree stands in the middle of a clearing, and on its trunk it bears a strange formation that looks a lot like a human face, staring sadly at passers-by; if you look closely at this face, you can even see what seems to be tears flowing from it. Under the tree’s shade, a little squirrel awaits to introduce whomever would be willing to listen to the story of the Weeping Willow Girl, a little girl trapped in this arboreal form.

Flynn the squirrel and the Weeping Willow Girl

Flynn the squirrel (left) and the Weeping Willow Girl (the face-like feature on the tree trunk on the right). Can you break the spell that keeps the little girl trapped as a tree? Escapades (Rated: General)

“There was a little girl who lived on the island called Escapades. She often played with a little faun, mischievous and playful and they had fun together. One day, the two friends snuck into the camp of a voodoo witch and the little faun decided to pick up an ancient book full of magical formulas. When playing hide and seek with a group of other kids the little faun paired up with the little girl, and he really wanted to win the game. He started reading one of the formulas aloud, and to the little girl’s horror, her feet slowly hardened and dug themselves deeper into the ground while the rest of her body changed into wood, leaves growing from her arms and soon only her face was still showing in the middle of the trunk, last remains of simili-humanity in the tree she had become. The faun was sure to win, nobody would ever find the girl. Indeed the faun won his hide-and-seek game, the other kids went back to their homes, and as the time passed everyone forgot about the little girl.”

Such is the prelude of The Weeping Willow Girl, a new adventure game currently in development by Estelle Pienaar (author of the Second Life Play Instinct blog) and Mirtyl Igaly, which I had the great honour and pleasure of being invited to preview and test last week. As I’m sure you’ll have guessed, it’s a children’s fantasy story. It is set on renowned Second Life content creator Loki Eliot’s region named Escapades, and it’s quite ambitious technically, with a view to enhancing its storytelling potential. Estelle has taken into account the capabilities and limitations of SL when determining the game’s genre: It’s an adventure game, which combines familiar SL gaming elements (the “hunts” we know from various events) and non-SL point-and-click adventure games.

What makes The Weeping Willow Girl different from the adventure games we’ve seen so far in SL is that it aims to be the first experience / game where the reactions of the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) will depend on the moment in the game you interact with them, and even on prior in-game events. This makes for less linear storytelling and gives the player the opportunity to visit, and interact with, any NPC at any given moment in the game, with their reactions, and the course the game will take afterwards, making sense when viewed in the context of what has already happened.

Baker Jim (left, behind the counter)

Baker Jim (left, behind the counter) is one of the characters you will interact with in your quest, and quite early in it. Escapades (Rated: General)

As said, I have already played the game. The mechanics behind the interactions between NPCs and player are already in place and work quite well. However, with the game still in pre-alpha state, there are many elements that will need further development. Several dialogues could be further refined, and the same goes for various in-game objects – I am already working with Estelle to help as much as I can, where I can. But, as said, it’s still at a very early development stage. Also, as mentioned before, it’s being developed (as a hobby, no less) by Estelle Pienaar and Myrtil Igaly: They both work on the storyline, while Estelle does the scripting and Myrtil works on the builds. The fact that they’re not a professional team, but two hobbyists, makes their undertaking even more remarkable. Its release is scheduled for Q2 2015.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-I4