Daily Archives: December 9, 2011

LL: Don’t fudge. TALK!

Ciaran Laval brings word that Linden Lab may well be making moves to “hide” the server Release Candidate (RC) channels away from casual viewing.

I’ve written in the past about RC channels and how they work, commenting on the three most widely recognised channels of BlueSteel, Magnum and Le Tigre (while there are others on a smaller scale that may come and go according to needs). Currently, one can find out if the region one is on or visiting is running on an RC channel in a couple of easy ways:

  • A pop-up will announce the fact that you are running on an RC channel (or, for that matter, the primary release channel) whenever you teleport to a region running on a different version of the simulator software
  • You can open HELP and the ABOUT option for your Viewer  and see what version of the server software the region you’re in is running

Now that is apparently about to change, and the information removed, hidden, tippex’d out or fudged over in some manner because, apparently, Oskar and others at the Lab feel the information is too easy to find, and people then start complaining about issues they are having and blaming it on the fact that they’re on an RC channel; something which may well have absolutely no bearing on the issues they are experiencing.

Well, I’d like to say I’m sympathetic to Oskar’s plight – but actually I’m not.

The solution to the issue isn’t to simply hide information about the RC channels because it is “too easy” to find. The correct solution is to engage with your users, explain the situation to them and tell them why the RC channel they may be on probably isn’t to blame for their woes.
Hiding the information or fudging it, or whatever solution Oskar and the team comes up with doesn’t remove the problem – it simply obfuscates matters.
There is a forum for server releases. There is a bloody technology section to the Linden Lab’s own blog. So why aren’t the Lab using them? If there is an issue with people understanding the purpose of the RC channels and how they work and so making incorrect assumptions, then is it really that hard to blog / post a couple of educational items on the subject to help enlighten people?
OK, so – as Ciaran points out – doing so might not stop all those complaints about RC channels “causing” people issues – but it’s fair to say it’ll go a long way towards stemming the flow – and it will put information out into the public domain that users themselves can point to and help others understand the nuances of the release process and why problems may well be unrelated (or not) to the server version someone is sitting on.
Rodvik – I’ve asked before, and I’ll ask again – just what have you people at the Lab got against constructive, on-going engagement, using all the tools at your disposal, with your user community as a whole? Precisely when will we see the uptake in improved communications from the Lab you yourself promised us back in May of this year?
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Imagination in a Lost World

Update: Lost World has closed and Beguile no longer exists as a region name.

I’m the first to admit I’m not the world’s greatest SL photographer, but I love finding places in SL that are both interesting to explore and can make excellent backdrops / subjects for photography; and if they have a hint of a story of their own – so much the better.

One such place that combines opportunities for in-world photography with the hint of a mysterious back story is ! Lost World !, created by Lolmac Shan.

This is a fabulous build covering the region of Beguile that calls out to photographers and machinima makers alike.Here you’ll find the ruins of … what? a great house? An Abbey or religious centre? A castle? A once-thriving port? ..

Ancient ruins: ! Lost World !

You arrive in the middle of the ruins, standing at the crossways of two ancient walkways. Before you lies the ruins of a great hall (Lolmac’s store), the roof long gone, the supporting arches starting to collapse themselves. From here, it is up to you as to where you go…

Behind you, a short distance away, the ruins stand sentinel in a losing battle against the encroaching sea; aches stand in isolation, their winged gargoyles facing inland as waves crash against weathered and deformed stone carvings beyond, fallen columns and walls littering the waters, while here and there further fragments of whatever once stood here rise from what has become their own little islands in the fight against the incoming sea.

A little further along the coast stands another building, looking for all the world like a covered dock where ships may have once sought shelter while offloading their cargoes. Here is a hint of a possible religious element to the place: a great winged figure  – an angel? – seems to stand guard before the arches of the building, face set sternly towards the ocean…

Further inland, there are other hints of a religious nature, and what appears to be the remnants of a great abbey, complete with what seem to be a flooded cloisters…

Carved face

But look up and across the quiet, blue water, and the gigantic stone face staring back at you suggests that if this were a place of religion – it might just have been one that embraced violence and strange rites…

It is these contradictions that make ! Lost World ! so alluring; it is if nothing is quite what it seems. Having looked upon the great stone face, with its horned and barbed helm, it is hard not to look on the winged figure on the shoreline and not imagine it to have a more sinister purpose, or at the gargoyles atop the flooded arches without finding them somehow more menacing, as if standing guard to prevent anyone leaving this place…

Guardians – or guarding?

And there are secrets to find within this place, if you are prepared to look; and not all is in quite the ruinous state as seems to be the case…

But even with these sinister or mysterious edges, there is no denying ! Lost World ! is a mesmerizing place, and considerable thought and creativity has gone into its development, making it a marvellous location for filming and photography. The careful visitor is liable to find a veritable treasure-trove of detail while exploring on foot – although at times an airborne look helps one fully appreciate the build as a whole.It may not be as extensive as some, but the balance it exhibits is sublime.

This is a place I love to come to simply because it is so beautiful and yet thought-provoking. It’s a place I can visit and wander and dream up stories; it’s a place I love to photograph, and it’s a place where I can always find some corner or nook, and simply watch the passing world and quietly observe those who also come to visit…

And despite the undertones of sinister mystery, this is also a place for romance in all its many forms. Here you can sit with a loved one and whisper quietly to one another amidst the tumbled walls and pillars, or you can wander together through the trees and along the banks of the waterways, or dance together as the sun sets behind you…

But don’t simply take my word for it – why not pay a visit yourself?

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Linden Realms: additional elements

Well, the issues around the receipt of HUDs for the Linden Realms game appear to have been finally fixed, so today I took the opportunity for a quick re-visit to see if anything has changed.

As was rumoured, the quest itself has grown, with additional tasks required of players. These look to be more about guiding you around the island than with helping the mysterious Tyrah – but along the way you get lots of opportunities to collect yet more crystals, which you can in turn convert in L$. In fact, in this respect, the aim of the game does seem to have changed focus somewhat.

Caving can be a shattering experience…

Most of the new elements were in the game during prototyping – although some might have been easily missed. One of these is the Shattered Cavern, which I explored by chance during the beta, and which players are now directed to search. All I’ll say on this is: mind your head and keep your eyes peeled – you might otherwise miss a little bonus.

Other places on the island are also more directly pointed to; Tyrah’s Peak, Whispering Hollow and other familiar names from the signposts around the island are now the focus of very specific explorations that tend to break up the gathering of crystals for the purposes of helping Tyrah make her flares.

One element that does appear to be new – I don’t remember encountering it when rambling around the island during beta, and I can’t find evidence of it on the early screen caps I grabbed of the island – is the Portal Workshop, wherein more crystals can be converted into L$.

Portal Workshop

I might also be wrong in this as well: be it seems that there are more rock monsters to avoid now – at least, I had a lot more fun baiting 2 or 3 at a time…

Performance-wise, the game is holding up well; it took several attempts, but I did manage to get to an island where there were 10+ others playing, and there was no sense of any lag – ah, the benefits of mesh and a basic texturing scheme!

One thing that did surprise me were the number of people either using their Viewer’s fly override to flit around the island, only landing to grab crystals, or using fly to vertically avoid rocks, and those who were running around with personal shields active in order to try to avoid being “bumped” by rock monsters. Come on, people, it’s just a game! :).

Making the Code Available

We’ve yet to see the release of the code used to make the various tools within the game possible – but in some ways this is understandable: the code presents certain issues for LL, as it could be used for purposes that were not the original intention. The unscrupulous could have a field day with the forced teleport system, and the auto-attach HUD could also present opportunities for griefers and spammers alike.

Tiggs Linden

When talking in a group conversation, Tiggs Linden indicated that these issues were very much on his mind, but added in reference to the teleport capabilities, “I think I locked them down pretty tight.” He also joked about having overall control of the system and that as a result, “It will be a fun set of snowball fights this year. I dare ya to hit me!” When I jokingly suggested doing so could see someone teleported home, Tiggs replied wickedly, “Not home, 1000m straight up!”

Whoever said tigers don’t have a wicked sense of fun?!

Even so, there’s still no apparent date as to when the tools will be made available; one hopes that their release is accompanied by a formal announcement given the degree of anticipation many developers have with regards to them.

In the meantime, if you’ve not tried the game, or have experienced problems in receiving a HUD since it was declared open to all, why not give it a go? Just be prepared to see your 15-minute trial turn into 45 minutes of running around as you find yourself muttering, “OK, but this is the last group of crystals I’m gathering…! :).

Bobbing along, bobbing along…

…on the ocean of the beautiful blue Blake Sea

Or so Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson might have started singing, had they been in receipt of the latest Premium gift from Linden Lab.

Premium gifts have been something of a sore point in some circles, with people taking LL’s promise to offer “regular” gifts as meaning “monthly” gifts – although the two do not actually equal one another. I also suggested that the next gift roll-out would be as we headed towards Christmas, so I wasn’t really that surprised when an e-mail popped-up in my inbox announcing the next gift has been released –  this time a sailing boat.

The boat appears to have been made by someone called Crazy Mole from the LDPW, with scripting (I assume) by Michael Linden. I’m not sure if putting the work “in-house”, so to speak, is to combat critics (such as myself) who have questioned the idea of LL entering into arrangements with content creators for the provision of such gifts. If so, then the approach only partially works – there’s still the question of LL effectively competing (even on a modest scale like this) with established content creators in SL in supplying popular items.

The gift itself – available through the premium vendors, comprises the boat, a sailing HUD and a number of LMs to places where you can go sail. The boat itself is a mesh creation with a physics weight of 12, a server weight of 13 and an overall land impact of 147. It’s rather nicely styled and somewhat customisable.

All at sea…

The HUD provides a compass, a roll indicator, a switch that allows you to use the sails (wind) or the boat’s engine, indicators for the wind speed (when under sail) and boat speed (when under power), and buttons that allow you to change the hull, sail, deck and furnishings textures, as well a help button and a button to minimise it, if you prefer.

Operationally, the boat is restricted to the owner for sailing – so although it is COPY, no rezzing a couple of extras to go racing with friends – but it does include additional seating poses for friends to sail with you. It also requires the HUD to be attached (centre top by default) before boarding, or you won’t be able to sail it yourself…

The HUD

Sailing is essentially a matter of using the arrow / WASD keys and setting off on your merry way. Flicking the HUD to the sail mode will unfurl your sails, and the boat will take on a healthy roll as she picks up speed, when turning, this can result in water seeping through the sides of the cockpit. When piloting the boat, you get a very nice over-the-shoulder view – although this can be blocked as the sails move. A wake effect is also produced, which phosphors nicely at night.

…and under sail….

In terms of customisation, in addition to the retexturing options outlined above (some of which are, I’d suggest, a little bland and fail to live up to their name), the boat includes individual name textures (defaulted to “Linden”) and a flag (bearing the SL logo by default) which can also be customised to suit your taste, if you have suitable textures (I couldn’t resist putting the IPD logo on the flag of my boat). Just remember that if you do this, to make your modified version the default version for rezzing purposes!

I’m still very ambivalent about LL providing gifts in this manner – there are better ways to incentivize (hateful word!) Premium accounts. That said, there is no denying the boat is fun to use – although the land impact might prevent people leaving a version rezzed at their quayside. But – if you want to give SL sailing a go, and you have a Premium account – why not collect your gift and give it a go?