An Uncertain Destiny in Second Life

An Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny – click any image for full size

Caitlyn and I recently had the opportunity to drop in on Mystic, the Full region on which friends  Boudicca Amat and Anthony Westburn have their home. The occasion of our visit was to mark the completion of Bou’s work in redesigning their land, which covers a little under 1/4 of the region and which is now once again open to public visits.

Once called Hestium – which you can read about here and here – the parcel is now called An Uncertain Destiny, and once again it is a tour de force of Boudicca’s creative talent, bringing together several elements into a cohesive whole whilst also demonstrating you don’t actually need an entire region – Full or Homestead – to create something memorable (particularly with the increases in Land Impact allowances).

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

On arrival, visitors find themselves on a small sand and shingle beach surrounded on three sides by a tiered, rocky landscape. The table-topped cliffs and plateaus offer a lush covering of grass, flowers and trees enjoying the summer rain. These various rocky tiers are connected by stairways and paths, offering a number of potential routes for exploration.

Where you go after your arrival is up to you: simply climb the steps up from the beach and let your feet carry you where they will. To the west sits an old castle keep, now converted into a cosy pub on one side and a little library-come-reading room on the other. A staircase from the pub directs people up to a rooftop café where Bou reads from some of some of her favourite books every Tuesday and Thursday between 15:15 and 16:00 SLT.

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

Beyond this, a path winds up between trees and up more steps, promising the way to the land of Far, Far, Away. No Shrek or Fiona to be found here, however. Instead, there is a cosy Scandinavian stuga sit with its back to another cliff, some mystical ruins nearby.

The mystical feel can also be found on the east side of the parcel, beneath the cliffs of Bou and Anthony’s private home – the only part of the parcel not open to public access. Here sits an ancient stone circle reached via a gabled gate. Close by, and occupying the tops of another plateau, sit a formal garden and a hedge maze. I’ll leave you to discover how to reach them – there is more than one route 🙂 .

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

All of this is brought together by a central garden of wild flowers and shrubs, in which a graceful conservatory sits, the little terrace outside its door open to the gently falling rain. For those preferring to sit in the dry, a  s swing bench can be found nestled under a rock shelf close by, warmed by a little fire. Couples might also find a place to sit in the gazebo of the walled garden a slightly longer walk away and overlooking the beach.

Bou has always had an eye for colour, line, composition and detail, and rain – or as we sometimes call it in England, “liquid sunshine” due to its frequency – notwithstanding, an Uncertain Destiny once again proves this in spades. Not only is it a gorgeous design, wonderfully photogenic and delightfully relaxing, it is filled with wonderful little touches which bring it perfectly to life.

SLurl Details

Sansar via Road to VR: opening “first half” of 2017, monetisation and sundry thoughts

The new Sansar logo (courtesy of Linden Lab)

Sansar. Image courtesy of Linden Lab

In ‘Sansar’ Will Open to All in First Half of 2017 with a New Approach to Virtual Worlds (January 15th, 2017), Ben Lang of Road to VR becomes the latest tech journalist to sit down with Linden Lab to try out and discuss Sansar.  While he covers a lot of what has come to the for in other, similar recent articles, he also provides some further confirmatory / interesting tidbits, some of which allow for a little speculative thinking.

The biggest piece of information is perhaps right up there in the title: Sansar will open in the first half of 2017 (my emphasis). This actually comes as no surprise, as Sansar is a new project, and time frames for new projects of any description tend to slip a little as the work progress. Further, and as I noted in discussing Dean Takahashi’s recent look at Sansar, a degree of slippage appeared to be on the cards when he referred to Sansar opening to the public in “early” 2017, rather than the “Q1 2017” the Lab had previously indicated might be the case.

Ben Lang, Road to VR

Ben Lang, Road to VR

At the top of the article, Lang touches on the aspect of Sansar being focused on “creators” rather than “consumers”.  Again, as I’ve previously mentioned, defining “creator” here is perhaps important.

By and large, “creator” in SL tends  to be used in reference to those who design and make the goods we use to dress our avatars and furnish our land. Outside of lip service, it’s perhaps not a term closely linked with those who obtain land in SL and create environments using the goods they have purchased, rather than building and scripting everything themselves. With Sansar, however, it is pretty clear “creator” is intended to encompass both, and thus perhaps encompasses a broader cross-section of users than might be seen as the case with Second Life.

The focus on “creators” shouldn’t be taken to mean Sansar is “only” for “creatives”. Spaces hosted on the platform will obviously require an audience, be it the public at large or drawn from specific, more niche audiences. It simply means that from a technical standpoint (and most likely outside of the UI), Sansar’s focus is tipped towards those wishing to build environments within it. As an aside to this whole “creator” thing, it’s also worthwhile noting that where previous articles had pointed to around 600 creators being involved in Sansar’s Creator Preview, Lang mentions the number might be around 1,000.

Further into the article, Lang references moving between Sansar spaces, specifically noting “hopping” from one to another via web pages. This is unlikely to be music to the ears of many in SL; however, it’s important to note that this approach is not necessarily the only means to move between experiences.

In the past, Ebbe Altberg has mentioned the potential for “portals” between environments which might be see as “linked” (although it is by no means certain this idea is still be pursued). More particularly, in June 2016, when talking to Mark Piszczor of Occipital about Sansar, he referenced the idea of “teleporting” between Sansar spaces, and more recently we’ve had a glimpse of a Destination Guide style capability in Sansar (apparently called “Atlas”) for moving between different spaces.  So the web page approach might simply be one of several means to get from space to space in Sanar. Time will tell on that.

Inside Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab, via Road to VR

Inside Sansar. Credit: Linden Lab, via Road to VR

When referencing creators being able to monetise their creations, Lang touches on the previously noted ideas of selling virtual goods and creations (up to and including entire experiences) through the Sansar marketplace, and the potential for creators to charge people an entry fee to their experience if they wish. However, beyond this, Lang indicates some of the broader brainstorming going on at the Lab – such as the ability for consumers to pay money to a virtual object which would hold the money and pay it out to its owner at regular intervals.

As Lang points out, this opens the doors to a whole range of potential items – pay-to-play pool tables, vending machines (think broader than the gacha machines we see in SL), rides, etc. So –  and slipping into the realm of pure speculation for a moment – might this allow experiences creators to “rent out” their experiences – say an events venue – to others, and receive a fee each time it is used / instanced anywhere in Sansar, rather than simply selling them for a one-off fee on each copy purchased? The could be an intriguing route to take, if at all possible.

Might Sansar offer the means for experience creators to "rent out" their spaces as a means to monetise them?

Might Sansar offer the means for experience creators to “rent out” their spaces as a means to monetise them? Credit: The O2 Arena

But to come back to Lang’s Road to VR article. He notes that in terms of capabilities, Sansar’s graphics are “actually quite good”, although the physics are lacking. The former is perhaps something of a step down from verdicts passed by other journos, while the latter is promised to be improved in a forthcoming update. He also underlines the “style agnostic” approach to Sansar, which again is a potential differentiator to SL in that creators of experiences in Sansar are likely to have far greater freedom in how they visualise the spaces then build than can be achieved in Second Life.

Overall, ‘Sansar’ Will Open to All in First Half of 2017 with a New Approach to Virtual Worlds, makes for a further interesting read on Sansar, offering some apparent insights that help build the picture of what the world at large might expect once allowed in the platform. Definitely worth a read – as are the comments which follow it.

2017 viewer release summaries: week 2

Updates for the week ending Sunday, January 15th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers



Mobile / Other Clients

  • Group Tools updated to version on January 12 – no release notes provided
  • Lumiya updated to version 3.3.1 on January 13 – Bluetooth headset support & audio controls (release notes)

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Cica’s Burning and poetic musings in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

Burning is the title of Cica Ghost’s latest region-wide build, which opened on Sunday, January 15th. It is a piece which stands in contrast to several of her recent builds in that it is of a darker tone and style. Under a lowering, cloud-heavy sky, lit by a distant sunset, a town burns. The land around it is scorched and aflame, ashen tree trunks, bereft of branches and leaves, point to the heavy sky like gnarled, accusative fingers.

Within the town, the tall buildings are charred, their pain blistered and blackened as flames lick doorways and windows. Some walls carry some of Cica’s usually light and happy stick figures, which here are cast in a new role as poignant reminders that this was once a happier place. A single bridge spans what might be the parched bed of a vanished body of water, offering a way into – or perhaps an escape route out of – the conflagration.

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

The who, what, how and why of the fire’s origin are not revealed. The burning landscape and buildings are an open page on which we can write our own view of what has occurred. However, with all that is going on in the physical world, coupled with the general presentation of Burning, it tends to cause the name Aleppo to spring to mind. So is Burning perhaps a political commentary?

Possibly. But before we decide or judge, Cica provides a possible clue to interpreting the work. It comes in the form of a quote: time is the fire in which we burn. It’s part of a line from  a 1938 poem by Delmore Schwartz entitled, Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day (also sometimes called For Rhoda), which is by coincidence, a poem I know quite well. In it, Schwartz records how we go about our daily lives largely unaware of the uncontrollable passage of time and the fact that, with every moment, we are closer to our own deaths and the deaths of those we love. From childhood through adulthood, we are so often caught within the minutiae of our lives that we lose track of all that is really important – or should be; only in our closing years do we realise what has happened – by which time all may lie burnt by time.

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

So is Cica presenting us with a philosophical piece with Burning? “I didn’t know about the poem,” she told me, “But I came across the line while searching for quotes about fire, and it fitted what I wanted to say.”

The quote in question attributed the line as coming from a character in the movie Star Trek Generations, hence why Cica didn’t make the connection. However, she has perfectly captured the tone and meaning of Schwartz’s poem as a whole, from the melancholy through to the way in which we do hurry through our lives – as exemplified by the visitors Caitlyn and I sat and watched from one of several perches in the installation (hover your mouse around to find them) as they hurried back and forth through the buildings and trees before vanishing.

Cica Ghost: Burning

Cica Ghost: Burning

That Cica has captured all of the nuance within Calmly We Walk…. may have been serendipitous, spinning outward from that one line from the poem, but that doesn’t matter. Serendipity is often the cousin to artistic expression, and the pairing of the installation with the entire poem broadens our understanding and appreciation of Burning. It also perhaps sits with that image of Aleppo which pops into the mind when first arriving. Schwartz wrote his poem shortly before the outbreak of World War 2, a time when towns and cities burned and lives  – and generations – were shattered; thus another layer of poignancy is added to the installation.

SLurl Details

  • Burning (Aggramar, rated:  Moderate)