Saturday, June 1, 2019

Art in Second Life

What is art? One definition is that a 'piece of art' is a human creation that evokes an emotional response or shows beauty.

There are many artists in Second Life, and their creativity is expressed in many forms: painting, photography, sculpture, dance, machinima, fashion, music, architecture, created experiences, writing, etc.... I also consider fashioning the environment, (land and weather), to be an art. Certainly avatar appearance and fashion can be an art, as is interior decorating. I have even read that one of your first acts when entering Second Life, choosing a name, can be an art in itself.

Some second life artists create mirror images of the real world as art - they take a picture of a real life work and digitally recreate it, but other Second Life artists are not hindered by the realities of gravity, entropy, a shortage of raw materials, or even logic.

I remember the impact of the first 'out of the box' art I encountered in Second Life. It was an installation called "Kolor Fall" by Patrick Faith. I can still remember how amazing it was to fly through an immense landscape of floating shapes as they swirled and changed color.  The region is no longer active, and Patrick Faith has moved on, but you can still see some examples of his work on https://www.youtube.com/user/patrickfaithart/featured. You can also watch a short machinima "Clouds and Remembrance"which includes music and dance.

For what is here, in Second Life, now, I found myself floundering to sort out 'the best' from a list too long to put on one page. I have already blogged about Patrick Moya and Earl Dinkins in previous posts.

 Bryn Oh is an important Second Life artist, and Cica Ghost is another. See photos of her work on flicker. Be sure to visit their installations when they are open.
Bryn Oh's "Skybox" is in the lobby of her current installation. You can walk on all the surfaces.

You can get notices about different art events by joining the Cercle Fafner group. You can also get an "Art Galleries of Second Life" hud from a kiosk found in many galleries. The hud is made by Sasun Steinbeck, herself an artist, and wearing it takes you from one gallery to another. Second Life also publishes a list of art locations in its destination guide.


Part of a large temporary art exhibit - some galleries are on land, and some in the air. 

A Cica Ghost sculpture from her "Yarn World" exhibit being displayed at Wanderlust Art Park. 


Some art galleries will have posters directing you to other art galleries. You could go on forever.

The Wheedle Gallery is one of my favorite 'traditional' galleries in Second Life. Located in historic Calleta, it has three stories of displays aboveground, and an entrance to a maze of tunnels under the region that are frustrating fun to explore.


Wheedle Gallery in Historic Calleta
Some Second Life artists import copies of work they have created in real life to Second Life. When these artists leave Second Life their work still exists in one world. Unfortunately, when an artist creates work that can only exist in virtual reality much of it is lost when they leave.

I already wrote about how Kolor is gone, but another area that seems to be in the process of disappearing is "Scarpyland". The area is listed as "where Scarp Godenot and Artcrash Exoner live and work". It wasn't until I started doing research on this article that I found out that Scarp and Artcrash were avatars of the same person. Scarp was quoted as saying "I have a very clever female alt.". Sadly, Scarp/Artcrash is/are now gone.

'Peristolic Twist Revealed'- a huge kinetic sculpture.

When I first visited it years ago Scarpyland consisted of many areas connected by a group of small sculptures acting as teleports. One area was 'Evil Alien Jungle', another a landscape of massive sculptures,  and there were several others.  Now there are only two sections mostly intact, and the rest are gone or are just floating landscape with large gaps. On the 'Evil Alien Jungle' level I was saddened to find the figure of a small patient cat perched on a table at the edge of nothing.. The most complete area is the sculpture level, where there are huge kinetic sculptures. While copies of some of these sculptures are available on the Marketplace, there is nothing like seeing them all together.


"Evil Alien Jungle" landscape by Scarp Godenot
Last I want to mention LEA, or The Linden Endowment for the Arts. They encourage artists by offering them a place to display their work. The Lea Art Sandbox is full of works in progress.

The sandbox at Lea





















Two regions to visit are Sparquerry and ACC Alpha. There is so much to see there that it is overwhelming. You might start by taking a free ride from the Port of Sparquerry to ACC Alpha.

But there is so much more.... Check out some of the bloggers on the right margin of this blog to read more detailed narratives of different artists and art venues. See it while it is still here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

About Gatchas

Gatchapon in Japan
I'm sure you have seen one of the many 'gatcha' machines here. Although they resemble some of the capsule toy machines you see in the U.S., they differ in many ways.

The principle of the basic gatcha machine is simple - you pay a fixed amount and you get a random item from those pictured on the outside of the machine. Usually they are no-copy and no-modify, but can be transferred.

This being Second Life, what you get usually wouldn't fit inside a capsule - you might get things like a wiggling puppy or an entire castle.You can find the primary gatcha machines in inworld shops, or at special events. Sometimes the gatcha machines will contain items that are a variation of one item (like the same popcorn maker, but in different colors) or it will have items that are part of a defined group (like a coffee shop and all the accessories).The odds of getting 'commons' or 'rares' is set by the machine, with a high ratio of 'commons', to 'rares', and you will usually have to try more than once to get what you want. Some residents pay large sums to get the rare items. Since there are more commons than rares, they usually end up with a lot of duplicates, which has led to a large secondary market reselling gatcha.

The secondary gatcha market can consist of informal exchanges between residents, yard sales, and entire regions set up as shopping districts. You can also find secondary gatchas on the Marketplace. Sometimes they are listed as 'gatcha' or as 'used'.

Pros and Cons of Gatchas:

Cons: You can't pick what you want. I usually look at a gatcha and think "Do I need this?" and "Can I buy it somewhere else?" I've heard a number of residents say that if they really want something in a gatcha they will wait for it to be on the secondary market. Some residents complain that playing gatcha machines is a form of gambling. One of my complaints is that there are some designers whose majority of products are only available from a gatcha machine. If you want that particular Japanese city house or that very adorable kitty, you will either have to play the gatcha machine that has it until you've won it or gone broke, or you will have to look for it on the secondary market.

Personally, I'm not happy with the 'no mod, no copy' part of it because, for example, if I 'win' a pink chair that doesn't match my teal color scheme I can't re-texture it. The photos of the items shown on the outside of the gatcha also are taken under optimum conditions and may not look the same on everyone's viewer. I have been heartbroken after getting an armchair from a gatcha machine and finding that the chair just showed up as a blob until I was practically sitting on it, another time I got a small building that looked like a pile of potato chips from 10 meters away. The worst item I've gotten so far was a pile of snow sized to fit around the base of only one building (a 'rare' in the same gatcha). Who knows what I am going to do with that - I'm certainly not going back to play that machine in a hurry.

Pros: People who like gatchas say that using the gatcha machines isn't gambling, because you always get something. If you are lucky you might get that special rare item for a lot less than it would be sold for. If you just need something like a rowboat, and all the gatcha items are rowboats with variations and you don't care what your rowboat looks like, then the gatcha is your friend. I have also found that it is fun to visit the gatcha re-sellers areas to search for specific items I need (use 'Search') and then comparison shop.

Do I Use Gatcha Machines? Yes I do. Sometimes I am just curious. Other times when I want to thank the store owner who has gone to the trouble of participating in a hunt or has set up his store in an entertaining way I will play one of their gatcha machines rather than just using a tip jar. It is also a good way to find out more about a designers' work.

I've even put together my own gatcha machine*. In this case my gatcha machine dispenses landmark notecards to different locations in Second Life that might be overlooked. The 'moles' of the Department of Public Works made the land and the sea, landscaped it, and added a lot of the public spaces.  They also put in a lot of large and small details that might be overlooked and are fun to find. Some of the landmarks are to locations like a small desert island with one palm tree, or to the location to the start of a puzzle game that spans several islands. 

All the landmarks are to places that are open to the public. I add new landmarks as I find them. My hope is that after visiting a few of these spots residents will be more tempted to go exploring on their own.
The Mystery Landmark gatcha in front of the old Tourist Office.

Other resources:

Designing Worlds had an excellent presentation on gatcha . It was done more than four years ago, but I think it is still relevant.

The Regeneration website mainly focuses on fashion and avatar modification, but I found this excellent article from 2017 when I was finishing up this blog post.

Jo Yardley wrote an article about why she hates gatcha.

I recently re-discovered The Shaman's Hut in Second Life. It offers more extensive information about gatcha collecting and also includes information that may help you recover from gatcha collecting addiction.

--------

*I got a basic machine and then re-textured it.

Note: I have seen both 'gacha' and 'gatcha' used to describe both the machine that dispenses the item, and the item itself. I have tried to use one spelling, 'gatcha', and to distinquish between the gatcha machine and the gatcha product.















Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Mad World in Second Life

The MadPeas are a gaming company that creates immersive game experiences. Most of their games are wonderful, but cost to play. You can visit 'Mad World' for free, though. "Mad World' is an extensive environment depicting a derelict amusement park with an eerie haunted feeling to it. Most of the rides are still usable, even though they seem abandoned. There is even an interactive game of 'Hangman' where you try to guess a word before using up all your tries. There are mini games you can play for prizes. I came away with a sense of wonder over the attention to detail and inventiveness. The sea monster is just one example of the way Madpeas use items from other Second Life designers to enhance the landscape.




Another free MadPeas project is the Ghost Town near the Firestorm resident help center. This is a good place to practice using your camera controls as you hunt down the ghosts of murdered residents to free them from their earthly bonds...

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Greenies - A Part of Second Life History

My first Greenie sighting - he is removing the cap from a bottle of Coke. Saucer in the background.
I came to Second Life too late to see the original Greenie regions, but I saw the first Greenie sculpture at Simple's Zoo. He has several sculptures on display, and there are also a few on display at the Primitive Museum in Ritchie.

Apparently the Greenies were the creation of a group called Rezzable, which at one report had 40 regions (sims) in Second Life. They had one region which simulated a giant kitchen, and next to it a region which represented the adjacent back yard. Avatars who visited felt they had been shrunk in size. In the giant environment the Greenie sculptures depicted the Greenies in various pursuits.  Some people got a Greenie avatar and joined in.

In June 2010 Rezzable pulled up roots and moved to OpenSim, but I have been unable to find any further information about them. Their old blog has either been taken over by a new company, or else they expunged any mention of Greenies in a rebranding. The OpenSim log lists their place in OpenSim as inactive.

I found several blog entries and YouTube videos about the Greenies, just google "Greenies, Second Life".

I also found this interesting comment about a product Rezzable produced called 'Builderbot'. Apparently the idea created quite a bit of controversy. I think the idea of the utility was that you could copy everything on your entire region and keep it in storage or transfer it to another virtual world platform. The problem was, it didn't check permissions, and a lot of people were afraid it would be used for illegal purposes.

Currently Lankarian Lock is offering copies of a dozen of Light Waves' Greenie sculptures on the Marketplace for free.


Monday, April 15, 2019

New Linden Homes on Bellisseria Now Open (Updated 4-17-19)

The new homes on the Bellisseria Continent are finally here!  I had been having a very bad day when I got home and found the announcement.

These homes are available only to Premium members. You have to log in and go to the Premium tab, choose the style of house you want (so far only traditional houses and houseboats), name your place, and then be assigned a site at random. The first available houses were all near the beach, and appeared to be on sand so I abandoned them and chose a small houseboat on an outer corner of one of the docking areas. Later more houses towards the interior began to be assigned, but for now I'm happy, since currently they are out of houseboats.

My new houseboat, "The Wallower"



View from the top deck


Additional information for those unfamiliar with Second Life: 

For years Second Life has been offering a free home to those who signed up for Premium accounts. These homes were in huge subdivisions located on continents that were separated from the Mainland. There were neighborhoods with different styles of architecture and with themed surroundings and community areas. Although many of the surroundings were beautiful and interesting, the houses themselves were becoming outdated. They also were on small 512 plots (new rules give Premium members a 1024 allotment) and there weren't roads or access to other Continents without teleporting.

The new Premium home continent, Belliseria, has been in the works for some time. Residents first noticed the continent on the map back in August 2018, and interest has been high. The first residences were two types - traditional house or houseboat, and each of these types had four variations. They expect new types to be offered in the future.

The new homes offer quite a bit of improvement over the old homes.


  1. - larger lots (although I understand there may be some 512 plots offered in future - maybe       trailer parks?)
  2. - more prims to decorate. The prims in the structure itself don't count.
  3. - ability to add a skybox if you want privacy.
  4. - a choice of four styles of structure within the type you chose - You can change the style of  your traditional house at the mailbox, or the style of your houseboat at the life ring on the dock.
  5. - more roads within the suburban areas, and more community areas like swimming pools.
  6. - the structures themselves are better engineered.
  7. - Best of all, yesterday we were told that they would be eliminating the ability to set up ban lines* in Bellisseria and supplying residents with a free improved security orb** 

*'ban lines' are a privacy device set up by the homeowner that keep other people out. In my opinion they are unsightly, and they are traffic hazards when they are too close to public roads and skyspace. Sometimes vehicles would get stuck on them.
**'security orbs' are another privacy device that have sometimes been set up with 'zero' warning. If you inadvertently find yourself in an area controlled by one of these orbs, you may be summarily kicked out. The new orbs being given out to the new residents of Bellisseria are supposed to be more passerby friendly.



Monday, April 1, 2019

How to Find Free Textures in Second Life

After
This is a summary of a notecard I've written. The notecard (free on the Marketplace) has the SLurls (Second Life Urls).

The newcomer to Second Life usually starts their building practice using prims (short for 'primitives'). Their default texture is plywood, and most things you make look nicer after having some other texture applied.

A good texture can improve even a mediocre build or object. You can also use textures on some clothing so that what you are wearing is unique. This guide is for the person who would like to try playing with textures, but isn't sure where to start.

Look in your inventory first: You already have a lot of free textures there. Just scroll down to "Library" and then go to the different texture folders. The terrain textures, which match the ground in different parts of Second Life,  are particularly useful for camouflage. If you have a parcel on the Mainland, you can click on the 'World' tab, then 'Region Details', then 'Terrain' and you can see what terrain textures will match your ground.

Each of the Linden Communities for premium members also has a small kiosk in the welcome area where you can pick up copies of the textures that were used in that particular neighborhood. I don't know if the new 'Super Secret Project' continent will also have that option, but we'll see.

The texture dispenser for Tahoe Infohub is at Tahoe Springs.  You will land inside the building. The dispenser is outside on the porch overlooking the larger lake.

The texture dispenser for Elderglen infohub is in Elderglen. This time you'll land outside the main building. Go upstairs and to the right to find the dispenser on the left. Also, check out Silent Mole's outhouses (for use of Tahoe residents only).
Textured outfit to match terrain

The texture dispenser for Shareta Osumai infohub is in Shareta Osumai but you can't teleport directly. Walk uphill and after you've gone past the Temple of the Mole Gods you will find the dispenser on the porch of the next building. It's a nice walk.

The texture dispenser for Meadowbrook infohub is not in Meadowbrook, it is in Bucksnort.  For once, you should land right next to it if you teleport.

The DPW (Department of Public Works) has also placed free items used in their building in other places.

In Zindra (The "Adult" continent) I found a dispenser that has modern textures, landscaping items, and some futuristic houses at the Port of Kama City. Go up the stairs and you will see the kiosk on your left.
 
A good resource for textures used by the Linden Department of Public Works is the Mole Mart at Leafminer. There are road textures here, and objects that you might find along roads, like lampposts and hedges.

There are three places in Bay City to pick up textures, houses, and other items.  These are the Airport, the Train Station, and the Community Center.  The Bay City Textures are in fushia containers.  You may want to pick up some other freebies.

Half-Hitch Island - This is a location that seems to have only one landing point. You will land on the pier. You will have to walk towards the land, then through the tunnel to a boathouse. You will find the textures in a crate marked "Slop Bucket"

Resident-Made Textures

Many residents have donated their own textures to the community, and boxes of these textures can be found at different freeby sites.

Torley is an amazing person who has created hundreds of free textures. You can find his textures in several places, but I recommend getting them at Torley Island.

One of the most venerable resources for free textures used to be Yadni's Junkyard. Alas, it is no more. I just put a collection of Myst/Riven textures I got at Yadni's in my Marketplace store (Look for "My favorite freebies")

Worth a look: Freebie Galaxy has Fifteen floors of freebies, but no textures that I could see outside of the paintings on the fourteenth floor. Still, it is worth going to see at least once. Look out for griefers.

The Nix Bazaar at Stillman. Stillman has an interesting collection of freebies which include items that used to be in the old library. I found several boxes of freebie textures on the second floor on the west side.

Newcomer Island: Free textures are now located near the Building Tutorials.

Dreams has some free textures in boxes near the Northwest Corner.

USC Lucky Dip
If you want to see what the leading-edge texture artists are doing, and want to familiarize yourself with the wonderful texture resources there are in Second Life,  I would recommend joining a few "texture hunts" where you will have the opportunity to visit different shops that sell textures.. Since dates and locations change, try looking at someplace like USC Textures. Outside the larger USC building there are other, smaller, texture stores.

Arcadia Asylum made thousands of free objects that she gave away while she was in Second Life. Her fans have set up a freebie site on the Marketplace called "Aley Mart" - after you find the Marketplace shop, look for 'textures'. Note that 'search' in Marketplace is wonky, so try putting in different key words if you don't find the textures right away.
Mieville Pond is a great place to go ito see many of the wonderful things Aley made and to learn more about her..


NCI: More textures are on their freeby board.

I know I've left out some great sites, but I hope this is enough to get you started.

Please note, even the best-curated sites may inadvertently include a "freebie" texture that the original creator meant to be for sale. If you are not sure about a texture you want to use, you can IM the person who is listed as making it to make sure it is all right to use.

Now, before you go out and try to texture everything in sight here are some suggestions -

Example of free texture organizer
First - go to the Marketplace and pick up a free texture organizer to help you manage your inventory. Today I found two free organizers on the Marketplace. The one I had been using was from Rayne Keynes and came with the disclaimer "If you paid even 1L$ for this you were ripped off." I notice there are some not-free texture organizers on the Marketplace that look remarkably similar to the free one I have. Makes you cynical.

Second - Once you've tried out a few free textures, you will probably want to learn more. There is a GREAT course on textures at the The Texture Tutorial building.
Texture Learning Center
There is also a building nearby that sells some of Robin Sojourner Wood's excellent books on how to make and deal with different kinds of textures. She also sells textures and instructions on the Marketplace, and has some excellent on-line tutorials.

Some basic rules for texturing.

1. Don't use a large texture when a smaller texture will do. (512 rather than 1024).

2. Don't texture what you or others can't see.

3. Try to use Library textures before you purchase or make exotic unique textures. Yes, sometimes you have to have a special texture, but don't overdo it. Multiple large and/or unusual textures can cause 'texture lag'.


See the SL Wiki on Texture Usage for more information.


Have fun texturing the castle!









Sunday, March 31, 2019

Changes in Second Life







If you haven't been to Second Life lately, here are some of the changes I've noticed since the last time I was here.

New Bento Project for avatars means that they've added 106 new 'bones' to the avatar frame to expand rigging and animation support, and 15 new attachment points. Most of the 'bones' seem to be in the fingers and face, but there are also bones for wings, hind legs, tail and ....groin.  If you have the right animations you will be able to move more realistically, and clothes made for the new avatars will fit better. Your old clothes and animations might not work so well with the new bodies
The old attachment points from a poster in Caledon.

Although the use of mesh has transformed a lot of things, not everyone is using it, or using it well, and there are people still using sculpts and prims.

Lowered land-use fees. If you pay tier directly to Linden Labs, you should be getting more for your money. The prim limits have also been raised about 150%.
If you choose to be a premium member, you can claim a new Linden home (the new ones look much improved) or if you want to buy a parcel, you can have a plot of up to 1024square meters (the old allowance was 512square meters) without having to pay tier. If you choose the Linden home the lot comes with it, but if you want to live on the Mainland you will have to find and pay for a lot. 

The new Linden Houseboats, with docks.
If you are renting from a second party, they should pass those savings onto you.
One of the new Linden Homes

For 30L a week you can have a place page set up for your region or parcel so that you are easier to find in search. Previously you could only choose "find in search".


You may be able to set more environmental controls for individual parcels, such as setting 24-hour days and different windlight settings.


Mainlanders can now use the Linden Land Auction to sell their own property.


Second Life has started putting video travelogues on their main page.


My brief week's experience has shown me that, even though I have the same old computer, lag seems to be less (I'm using Firestorm).


Some of the mole-managed landscapes seem to have improved, although I'm still seeing the old stock trees and plants in places.

The performance of NPC animals and avatars has become more realistic.


We're supposed to be able to get last names "pretty soon now".


Yavanna Llanfair's free transportation system is still running. I took a pod ride on Route 4 yesterday, and it was a good opportunity to see what the new landscape looks like.  The increased land allotment for Premium members, and the increased prim allowance, seems to have resulted in a few more big ugly buildings, although there are still many 'homelike' structures.


As for Sansar, it seems to be live and active; however, I don't have the computer resources to visit yet. A lot of people thought that Sansar would bleed residents from Second Life, but so far that doesn't seem to have happened much, although Pfaffendahl 1867 did leave.


Ana Imfinity's SLGI transportation system is gone, as are AnneMarie's self-crashing buses and other vehicles. 


A lot of my favorite old places still seem to be there, although some of them haven't updated their content. 



Premium users will have a longer transaction history on their account, and be able to have increased inbox message storage.

Infrastructure is supposed to be moving to the Cloud, which is alleged to improve performance.

There seem to be more sites offering "Skilled Gaming".



The site of the old Tourist Information Office



Sidenote: At first I had been undecided about setting up another Unofficial Tourst Information site. 

Then I went looking at other Tourist Information places and found that my old group, RiverRun Real Estate and Renovation still owns the parcel in Cecropia.

Most of the site is water, but I will try to work with it, and see if this time I don't get carried away.