Saturday, June 16, 2007


I did a random search on "Underground" just to see what came up (I do that often, I'll free associate a word that might be of interest, and see what happens), and the Underground Club in Knightsbridge was one of the things that did.

Knightsbridge is based on the RL area of London, it's a cute little sliver of a city, and, best of all, when you teleport in to the default in the zone, you are met by a treasure chest. Which presents you with a clue to the next one. You can find chests before you find the one you're looking for (and probably will), and I thought most wouldn't give you clues until you'd found the previous. Turns out that in fact, a lot of them were broken and wouldn't give out clues at all, and you can skip ahead whenever (although it may check to see if you've done it all at the end? I don't know, since I got them all). I ended up picking up clues 3, 5, and 6 on my way to 2, because I wasn't really paying attention, and hadn't let everything load so I knew what was what (while it took me a while to find, it was actually rather easy), and I didn't get 4 because it was broken at the time. (It was fixed later in the day, so it does all work currently.) A hunt is a brilliant way to encourage people to actually explore a sim.

I could have done with a map though, perhaps there was one at the entry but if there was it never rezzed in for me (this was also part of my problem in finding clues- my computer and SL do not necessarily get along all the time, and my patience can expire before textures finish arriving), and a handout I could have carried around would have been brilliant. (If I ever do make a sim myself, which is unlikely primarily due to the exhorbiant fees related to land ownership imposed by the Lindens, I would totally steal the treasure hunt idea, and also make sure to provide maps of my sim). I also tend to fly around sims more than walk- not only can I get a nice eagle view of the land, but often things are spread out, and it goes faster. As this is a city, I actually walked the streets and didn't feel frustrated, as I often do in places that don't let you fly (and they do here, I just didn't even feel the need). Of course, I also really enjoyed walking down the middle of the deserted city streets just on principle.

Eventually I found the club, actually underground, off the Tube station. It is a 60s club, and no, I didn't actually stay to check it out, but there were a number of people there on a Saturday afternoon, for people who are in to that sort of thing.

I have joined the Knightsbridge group to keep on eye on these sims- there is also a neighboring Chelsea sim wide sandbox, as well as the start of another build on another of Knightsbridge's borders (this is an island sim, only attached to two other London districts, which haven't been fully realized yet, currently).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Emerald City

In search, Emerald City came up with a number of hits, which condensed into two actual places. The one with the actual sim name is a camping/casino/shops/neko-friendly danceclub area, which does have the redeeming features of a few amusement park rides, and popcorn! It's also very movie based, not surprisingly. (I prefer the books.) It's a neat place to see though, and all the camping not in the casino is "work for your pennies" floor mopping, gardening, etc. which is kind of cute with the Emerald Citizen tags over everyone's heads (I have one of those tags. I actually kept it because I like it, for personal reasons). There are 2 sims diagonal to it, the Scarecrow Fields is currently an empty expanse, and for sale, but the Tinman Forest has a little cabin by the water, and a forest area in the middle with poseballs and all sorts of stuff related to that scene in the movie. I go there to be alone sometimes (not as though you can't go almost anywhere in SL to be alone). If I knew a bunch of people in SL, if I were actually a social person and didn't generally actively avoid people, I would love to have a group where we found strange little deserted areas and just descended en masse to hang out. There's a great little pirate cove I found somewhere (I shall have to see if I can figure out where it was sometime) that would be great for it too, even if it does back onto a mall (you wouldn't know if not for the minimap and flight- there's a nice rock wall between you and it).

The other Emerald City was the one I was looking for- I've joined SL Deathrock and was browsing through other like minded groups, and found mention of someone's shop in Emerald City. Turns out that one is in Big Star (and used to be in Lonsdale? I don't know my SL history), and is a goth/punk hangout, with shops and a nice little hole in the wall club (and sky apartments, I believe. I haven't made a flight assist to be a nosy Nellie yet). The shop area is a bit confusing to make one's way around, but then, they often are with the booth system. It has cute graffiti'd walls around the outside, which I rather like (and even though I'm sure they are repetitive, I didn't really notice). And they share the sim with some Gorean, who has a castle over the mountains, a nasty attitude towards "trespassers," and has turned fly off so once you get there you can't get back out. I was finally able to edge enough out into the river before it got too steep to be able to get out, but really, making it so people can get in and not get out is not the way to make people not crash your pad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


I did look up Protagonist, and there are very few (but far, far fewer than 150), but no Hiro. I'm guessing that was a name that was used up while SL was still pay for a lifetime membership, as I came in just barely after. And, really, I'm quite old when it comes to Second Life, even if I haven't been there for quite some time, a couple of years is millenia in digital worlds. I do wonder if Hiro was even an option though, as I could see it causing some Drama.

When I'm not building in random spots that allow it, I tend towards the sandbox at the Ivory Tower of Primitives. It's got a large sandbox, although it is often plagued by rude people (for instance, someone rezzed a house directly behind me while I was playing with something, and then just left...leaving this huge yellow monstrosity taking up a sizeable chunk of the sandbox). There's a stonehenge you can see just beyond the bounds of one area of the sandbox, and I visited it today. Upon touching the correct stone, and then destroying the little ring, I was teleported to this odd little area, straight up, above the fly height, on the intersection of 4 sims. It was simple, and plain, and still one of the experiences I've had so far that has reminded me most of Second Life's potential...and I'll bet it's been here almost from the start (admittedly, the MUDish quality is some of what really grabbed me, and that it required actual interactivity- participation, not just observation). We're limited by our imagination here, and what do we have? Casinos, nightclubs, malls are where everyone is.

I've actually managed to avoid the vast majority of the virtual sex going on, the only time I've witnessed anything more than the sale of items for (and there is that free bed I picked up at YadNi's Junkyard, that, well, let's just say that that's one item I'm not tearing apart to inspect, and have instead destroyed because I didn't want to jizz stains on me, thanks) was when I first joined SL, and walked in on a group orgy, which was somewhat comical since all the attachments wouldn't texture, but instead it was avatars whose skins I could see, and then a vast expanse of uniform tan where I could almost make out shapes if I really tried. And there...I didn't. All the press suggests that there isn't anything to SL other than sex, and honestly, I think they're wrong. Yes, you're going to find some of it, because people who have the freedom to indulge in an unusual kink with people who are into the same thing will, as well as the ability to indulge in those which aren't possible in real life, be it due to legal or physical restraints. But, as much as that song that spawned endless machinima insists, the internet is not for porn (even if the first thought upon seeing that "You have reached the end of the internet" commercial was, "Wow, that guy has seen a lot of porn"). Neither are books defined by "erotic literature" and bodice rippers, nor are movies defined by pornos. It's getting a lot of press because it is there, and it is such a taboo, and it makes sensationalist news. As far as it getting the "mature content" sticker, it's the lowest common denominator of "adult," and in fact lends towards immaturity quite often.

There are some really great spaces in SL. Take the expansive empire of Caledon, for instance, spanning multiple sims, with a thematic umbrella encompassing all sorts of views. There's also the Wastelands, although I haven't really explored there much (in fact, my earlier building when I was assaulted by the yellow house was while I was trying to outfit myself such that I felt more comfortable there. I haven't explored Caledon a great deal yet either, I'm both saving it to savour, only going on short jaunts to better appreciate it, and I'm not particularly well attired for such a place yet either). There are numerous RPG sims of various themes, game sims (although I'm not really into the shoot-em-ups, I prefer the puzzles- especially with the limited interface allowed by SL. The lack of key bindings for actions pretty much kills all potential game development for me, even though Linden Labs touts SL as a platform for game development. The lack of a decent interface makes it all rather awkward and not worth it, to me), art galleries, all sorts of strange and wonderful places. They're beautiful, and engaging, and what Second Life should be, not a consumer wasteland of malls and casinos filled with afk zombies.

I have started the Mata Hari quest, but after a quite run I've already hit a wall at the Bannister. I'm wondering whether I'm on the wrong track, as I haven't seen any photographs of the runner, or landscapes that I recognize as the other's style. (I've also inspected the bannisters themselves under the assumption that I might be looking for entirely the wrong thing, but that has so far revealed nothing of interest.) However, as frustrating as getting stuck is, I recommend it to anyone in Second Life, even if you aren't going to wear the jewelery that you collect during it, as it is one of those examples of what Second Life can, and should, be.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Snow Crash and Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong

I went to the Freebie Warehouse today, as I'm currently magpieing everything I can get my hands on, for potential use, and more useful, for dissection (especially in the case of scripts). While there I saw a sign to....Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong! This caused much squeeage, and I just had to take a port to one of the outlets. After the first dance camping (Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong appears to be the granddaddy of camping, which was somewhat disappointing, but on the other hand pretty fitting), I tried another, and ended up in Snow Crash (under water, under a building, totally trapped, so I had to port out).

Now, if Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong caused squeeage, seeing Snow Crash as an area was oh so very much more so. Unfortunately it wasn't all that exciting. It's being kept up, obviously, since there's active stuff going on on the sim (one thing with good and bad points about the land ownership system, for things to exist they have to be kept up. So you know things are active, but on the other hand if someone who created something amazingly cool quits, that disappears. Unlike free web services, which keep things somewhat in perpetuity), but it's dominated by retail spaces, and some sort of prim building helper. I did get objects bounced to my inventory by Black Sun, which gave me a smile (I have a tendency to pick an abandoned area of the world that allows building, and build there, instead of sticking to public sandboxes all the time- this time I was in the high rise, and it cleaned up quite quickly). They also do have a free yard sale booth area in Snow Crash, which I rather liked, although it was largely unused. (I know that Protagnist was an early surname, I think I came close to being able to choose it even, if I recall correctly, and I occasionally wonder if Hiro Protagonist still exists, or ever did...I suppose I could look him up in Search.)

While Mr. Lee's dance pads were full, there were 2 other people in Snow Crash as a whole. I often grid hop, checking out where there are concentrations of people...and so far I've exclusively come up with camping spots. Dancing and gambling mostly, with the occasional mall. I dance-camp occasionally, I'm currently leisurely building up capital so I'm more prepared when I get that far- since the offline viewers are only limitedly accurate, I end up wasting a lot on imports trying to get things right. However, I don't really get the camping. Client side, totally, because who's going to turn down free money. And the gambling chairs make sense, they trickle a tiny bit of your losses back to you, so you're encouraged to stay and lose more. Mall camping is supposed to raise traffic, but I can't see how paying people to sit around and not look around helps a bit, especially since there is a culture of mooching off of these things, with your anti AFK device, it mostly strikes one as a scam to build traffic so you can boast to renters, which doesn't really help anyone. But dance there any purpose there other than to make yourself feel popular?

Sunday, June 3, 2007


I've met my first two inhabitants of the world of Second Life. Whilst I was perusing the wares (mostly with an eye towards the freebies, I will freely admit, I am currently poor, as well as currently attempting to divine the mysteries of scripting, and I tend to learn by dissection because I am horribly impatient with all the things I don't care about or already know in proper tutorials) of Ms. Ordinal Malaprop, a pair of birds arrived, and struck up a conversation with me. Mr. E was a lovely raven, of raven size, and prompted me to think of Matthew upon first meeting (which, I found out later was probably not so extremely off, as he reads Sandman), and Ms. K was a large songbird of some type- I fear I am not versed enough on my birds to know which. They are both artists, and transformed to more human selves in the course of our conversation. A few nights later, Ms. K invited me to a stress test of a new nightclub in the wide empire of Caledon, in which my poor device interpreted the world in seconds per frame, not frames per second, however we did not crash the world. Otherwise I have found Second Life to often be almost entirely, if not entirely, deserted where I am, which is a somewhat eerie feeling. I have not yet explored a great deal though, as I am still trying to look a touch better.

I have since imported my first skin, and learned many of the problems with both the offline previewer I have been using, as well as the previewer in game- the human model is interpolated quite differently, especially around the face, so my first try had rather abysmal lips (and my second try, while better, was still not there yet), as well as lighting being completely and totally different. All of the shading I thought was perhaps a touch too contrasty? I cannot see at all, once I am in the grid, unless I am zoomed right in and scrutinizing closely to try to find it. That will not do, so I shall have to up everything and hope that it is not overkill. While the current try is not ideal by any means, I am still wearing it as an improvement upon the default, so at least it is a start.

I have also tried to create a few more prim objects. I have imported my first two sculpties, one from Blender (a rather lumpy and lacking in detail pirate hat- part of that is my fault and just deciding that I was done with it, and a fair part of it is the current compression used on textures, which destroys details something awful. A fix is forthcoming, I hear), and one from Rokuro Lathe (a simple one prim top hat, and is not much different from what could easily be achieved by two regular prims). I have been wearing the top hat, even though it could do with improvement, and have been wishing one could set which part in the day cycle the sky one mirrors in shiny prims is, as the pirate hat looks like a dead fabulous vinyl hat in the middle of the night, but is far less fabulous at any time during the day, especially. Aside from sculpties, I have also built a rather silly black and white ballgown skirt that I am rather fond of even though it is terribly primitive (but a real use for flexi prims!), assorted decorations to adorn the top hat for more formal wear, and an ankh that can be incorporated into various jewelry items. Also, I have tried my hand at my first goggles and monoggle, although the later still needs some serious work in matching up.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Prim and proper

I have delved into the prim system to some degree, to be greeted by massive camera frustration. With the indispensable aid of Natalia Zelmanov's tutorials, I have been able to fuddle my way around a few things. First was hair, as that spiky mohawk needed to go. Second, I tried my hand at a number of ridiculous witch hats (flexi hat! Curved around to eat your head hat!). Third, I needed some earrings for my naked left ear, and the micro prims were required to make things small enough. Fourth, and I am still rather proud of my accomplishment with them, even though they are quite simple, was a pair of winklepicker boots, with straps and buckles. Mirroring the buckles especially was a bit of a math headache, as I find it does not always wish to listen to what I tell it to rotate things and instead fills in arbitrary values it prefers which may or may not have any correlation to what you've instructed, as well as deciding what is x and what is z, although that last is perfectly understandable in three dimensional space once one has started moving around what is x, and what is z, it is still somewhat confusing once one has turned something upside down and backwards a few dozen times.