OBR: A time to Rise, a time to Dance – a time to reflect

A stunning view of the main OBR in SL event stage (courtesy of Wildstar Beaumont)
A stunning view of the main OBR in SL event stage (courtesy of Wildstar Beaumont)

Thursday February 14th marked the fifteenth anniversary of V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness through benefit productions of Playwright/Founder Eve Ensler’s award winning play The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. It was marked by the first global movement of music and dance – One Billion Rising –  in which one billion women and those who love them were invited to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and demand an end to this violence.

One Billion Rising was marked in Second Life by a series of activities right across the grid, and centred on One Billion Rising in SL, a special gathering of talent organised by a huge team of volunteers and held in four regions commissioned and sponsored especially for the event.

Meilo Minotaur and CapCat  Ragu's "Cocoon Tree and Ophelia"
Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu’s “Cocoon Tree and Ophelia”

Four 24-hours, the music played across the huge, region-spanning stage standing at the centre of the sims, and people rose from across the grid and around the world to dance and lend their voices to the call to end violence against women of all ages. Eighteen of Second Life’s top artists also leant their talent to the call, providing eighteen thought-provoking works on the subject of women and the violence – physical or otherwise – so many face as they go about their daily lives.

Saffia Widdershin, one of the event organisers, dances at OBR in SL
Saffia Widdershin, one of the event organisers, dances at OBR in SL

As is so often the case, One Billion Rising in Second Life brought out the very best in Second Life, with people giving up their free time in droves to organise and support the event and ensure that it would be a memorable and enjoyable event for all those who participated as visitors. The organisation was near flawless, allowing for the inevitable quirks of SL, and everyone from the organising event staff through the teams of volunteers greeters, helpers and assistants, those providing event security, the builders and landscapers, the artists who provided art, the choreographers, dancers and film crew who participated in the creation the OBR in SL version of Breaking the Chain, those who provide video filming and streaming of the event itself, the DJs and – particularly importantly – the sponsors, and everyone else who participated in bringing the event together are to be congratulated.

For my part, I didn’t get to spend as much time at the event as I would have liked. An unexpected hole in the roof and a solid downfall of snow followed by rain led to a rather unexpected domestic situation on the 13th February, and meant that most of the 14th was spent helping with household repairs. However, this doesn’t mean I can’t still show support. The four regions of OBR in Second Life will be open through until 17:00 SLT on Friday February 15th. So if, like me, your time to dance and raise your hand in support of V-Day was curtailed or otherwise limited, there is still time to see the fabulous stage build by Victor1 Mornington and his team, and witness the 18 outstanding works of art around it.

While activities were centre on "the" OBR in SL event, other events also took place on the 14th February in SL - such as the 2Lei
While activities were centre on “the” OBR in SL event, other events also took place on the 14th February in SL – such as the 2Lei event (image courtesy of Alice Mastrioanni)

Another way to capture the event is to visit the One Billion is SL Flickr group, where people have posted their own pictures of the event. But I really do urge you to tour the regions themselves and see the art pieces on display and take the time to both read the note cards accompanying them and give thought to what they represent, and how we perhaps all too easily accept violence and harassment as an acceptable part of human life.

One Billion Rising in SL features 18 fantastic art installations
Gwen Carillon’s piece for OBR in SL

Of course, One Billion Rising in either real life or Second Life, isn’t going to transform matters overnight. I had planned to comment on this at length – but Saffia Widdershins has already done so very eloquently, and provided considerable food for thought; particularly for those who responded with a degree of hostility towards the event or who sought to denigrate the subject of violence against women through obfuscation and mis-direction. As such, I’ll only repeat the title of Saffia’s post, Events don’t change things, people do, and allow people to read her thoughts first-hand.

Suffice it to say that I do hope this was the first in what will become an annual event in Second Life as well as in Real Life, and that in the future we’ll be able to see it spread to include more venues across the grid, and serve as a catalyst for people to speak out against all forms of violence in the world, whether committed against women, children or men – and in doing so, change attitudes and beliefs the world over where violence is concerned, and for the better.

Kudos and thanks again to everyone who played a part in making OBR in SL happen, and who took part on the day.

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Elrik "Rik" Merlin spins out the music at OBR in SL (image courtesy of Wildstar Beaumont)
Elrik “Rik” Merlin spins out the music at OBR in SL (image courtesy of Wildstar Beaumont)
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Linden Lab launches Versu

LL logoOn Thursday 14th February, when most of us had our attention on One Billion Rising in Second Life, Linden Lab launched Versu on the iPad.

The much-anticipated storytelling app is being made free-of-charge and is bundled with a tutorial, a “scene” and a “full length” story, with other titles to be offered at $4.99 each and offered “periodically”.

The press release announcing the lauch reads in part:

A product of Linden Lab’s acquisition of LittleTextPeople earlier this year, Versu provides unique narrative experiences in which the reader is an integral part of character-driven interactive stories. In Versu, you take on a character with distinct preferences, concerns, and desires, as you explore and change a story through your decisions and interactions with other characters. The characters you encounter are endowed with sophisticated artificial intelligence and have their own unique personalities, motivations, and emotional reactions as you interact with them. The decisions you make and how you treat other characters define your character in the story and influence the narrative, giving each title the potential for many unique experiences to explore. In the future, the tool set used to build these immersive stories will be made available to users, enabling readers to insert their own characters and scenes into the narratives they explore.

The Versu website provides more information on the titles released with the app:

An Introduction to Society: a piece approximately 5 minutes in length and designed as a tutorial / introduction to Versu with a lighthearted theme, covering the basics of interacting with the app – understanding objectives and achievements, playing settings and directing a chosen character. The story involves Lucy, a schoolgirl receiving instruction from her grandmother about how to behave herself in polite society. There are several possible outcomes to the story, as well as a little background on characters who may appear again in future titles.

The Unwelcome Proposal: in this scene, adapted from Pride and Prejudice and which runs some 5 – 10 minutes as a further introducion to Versu, Elizabeth’s cousin Mr Collins is full of reasons why they should be married. She disagrees, but can she convince him her refusal is sincere? Users can play as either Elizabeth or Mr Collins, exploring routes through Austen’s story and drawing heavily on her original text.

The first Versu title, offered at $4.99
The first Versu title, offered at $4.99

The House on the Cliff: a full-length original story running to some 30-45 minutes by Emily Short. An accident to a carriage and mail-coach strand a group of strangers in a desolate stretch of coastland. The only source of shelter is an ancient, rambling estate, where neither servants nor master appear to be at home. Users can pick character from a wide selection and play through the story, forming alliances or finding enemies among the other travelers. Tasks within the story include working to recover from the crash, uncovering the secrets of the estate, and the option to pursue aims unique to the chosen character.

A Family Supper: offered at $4.99, this is a full length story of around 30-45 minutes. The Quinn family is hosting a small house party, but an unconventional guest threatens their peace with sonnets, vegetarianism, and a gift for finding everyone’s sore points. When secrets start coming to light and a corpse appears, it’s up to you to bring about justice – if justice is what you want. Players can choose between one of two characters, Lucy, who is staying with her hosts, or another character who is present only for supper — at the Quinns’ estate. As the evening progresses and things begin to go wrong, help to discover what has really happened, and decide how it should best be resolved — if you don’t provoke your hosts to throw you out of the house first, that is!

Of these stories A Family Supper is perhaps somewhat familiar, given the story outline was referred to briefly when the Versu wesbite was open to public viewing at the start of 2013, so presumably, the other character which can be adopted by users is that of “Miss. Bates”. Similarly, The House on the Cliff would appear to be the ghost story hinted at as well. Where there is a very clear difference between the accidental exposure if the website and the launch of the product, is that the “leak” of the website indicated that Versu would be browser-based, rather than a dedicated app.

While Versu is initially only available for the iPad, a version for Android is promised soon. Going on the launch of Creatorverse, any wait for this to happen shouldn’t be that long – although it is uncertain whether the Android product will be aimed solely at tablets or accessible on devices with smaller screens.

A video released with the launch, explains more about the app and the stories, with insights from creators Emily Short and Richard Evans, as well as an unusually gravel voiced Rod Humble.

An interesting aspect with Versu – and in keeping with the idea of “shared creative spaces” – is that while the initial offerings are authored by the team from LittleTextPeople, users will in the future have the option of writing and published their own Versu stories, as noted on the Versu website:

As a content creator, you’ll be able to create your own characters, improvise new dialogue and gestures for them, and even build entirely new stories and games for others to enjoy.

How this will work, and what options may be included in order for budding authors to monetise their stories is unclear – so eyes need to be kept on the Linden Research and Versu websites to catch upcoming announcements as / when the self-authoring capabilities are launched. However, this does go some way to explaining the references to “user-generated” content found in the Versu Terms of Service during the time when the website was accidentally revealed to the public in January.

Of all the new products the Lab initially announced, Versu is the one that has grabbed my attention the most, although I admit I was surprised by dio, launched at the end of January. The press release, Versu website and launch video have again piqued my interest even if, as a non-Apple user, I’ll have to be patient before I can get my little paws on a version (assuming that the Android version will be playable on small-screen devices as well). Certainly, of all the products launched to date, Versu would seem to have the most solid means of building a reliable (if possibly not overly large) revenue stream from the off, through the periodical release of engaging titles, should the app build up a reasonable following.

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SL project news: week 7 (2): Server-side Baking load test

Server Deployments

the server deployments planned for week 7 all went ahead as scheduled.These comprised:

  • Main channel: (Second Life Server / SLS): received the maint-server package focused on crashes fixes which was  deployed in week 6 to LeTigre – release notes
  • Bluesteel: retained the materials processing project code and received the same fixes and updates being deployed to the SLS channel (above) – release notes
  • Magnum: retained the interest list project code and received the same fixes and updates being deployed to the SLS channel (above) – release notes
  • LeTigre received a new maintenance server update to fix miscellaneous crash modes – release notes. This deployment also included the following:
    • An improvement to the rolling restart notifications so that they appear in an alert format (as with manual region restarts) rather than an easily missed notification. This change will only be apparent in restarts following the code deployment restart (as per JIRA SVC-7759)
    • A fix to an encroachment / return problem:  if you’re banned from the neighbour’s parcel, you couldn’t select  / return items that encroached on your parcel (see JIRA SVC-496)
    • Instant messages are now truncated to 1024 bytes to prevent certain types of delivery failure. Currently, the IM database supports larger messages than the delivery system can handle. This change will enforce a limit of 1024 bytes when processing messages coming into the database as well as those being sent out.

Feedback on all the deployments has so far been muted, with only a couple of issues having been reported via the forum thread,

There is no news on deployments for week 8 (commencing Monday, 18th February), as the meeting to determine upcoming deployments does not take place at the Lab until Friday of the current week.

Server-side Baking (SSB) Load Test

Serer-side baking - load test February
Serer-side baking – load test February 21st

On Thursday February 21st there will be a special load test for Server-side baking, and LL are looking for volunteers to help.

This will take place on the SSB test regions on the beta grid (Aditi), immediately following the Server Beta User Group meeting which take place at 15:00 SLT on Thursdays in  Morris, also on Aditi.

The aim is to place the SSB code under a stress test which is representative of how SSB will be used once it is deployed to the main grid – with people routinely changing outfits, updating their appearance (as SSB handles appearance updates differently to the current service), enter / leave regions running the SSB code (given that the grid will, for a time, be running both the current avatar baking service and SSB as the latter is initially deployed), and so on.

“We have a few other internal stress tests, but wanted to do one with real-world conditions on real connections,” Nyx linden explained when announcing the test opportunity. “The test will run through switching from the old system to the new system, which is a transition where issues may pop up. if enough people are changing outfits simultaneously it should get us some valid data.”

Test Requirements

While final details of the test have yet to be confirmed, key requirements for those wishing to participate in the test are as follows:

  • Participants must be able to log-in to Aditi and attend the Sunshine test regions from 16:00 SLT onwards (participants can attend the Server Beta UG meeting ahead of the test if they wish)
  • Participants must be running the latest version Server-side Baking project viewer (version 3.4.5.270409 or later) – this viewer has been specifically configured to report statistics required by LL for the test
  • Participants should have a number of outfits of system clothing, preferably with multiple layers, which they can swap between during the course of the test. Library outfits are acceptable, but LL are keen for people to use their own outfits to add greater weight to the tests
  • Clearing the viewer cache prior to the test is suggested, but not an absolute requirement.

“if you have specific failures we’ll ask for your viewer logs, otherwise just running through the test will help us gather data,” Nyx added when explaining what is required by way of feedback from those opting to take part.

Aditi Log-in

As has been reported in this blog on a number of occasions, the Aditi grid is itself subject to a number of issues, both in terms of access and inventory support.

If you have not logged-in to the beta grid at all, or in the last several months and wish to participate in the SSB tests, it is recommended that you test your Aditi log-in (you use the same user name and password as you use to access the main (Agni) grid) sooner rather than later. If you find you are unable to log-in, then you should try changing your password. to refresh your Aditi access (this should also update your beta grid inventory).

HOWEVER, be warned that this process isn’t always successful, due to the issues mentioned above, and that it can take up to 48 hours before you can access Aditi, and even then, your inventory may not be successfully updated.

If you have recently updated your password and have reasonable inventory access on Aditi, the recommendation is that you don’t force any inventory update by running a further password change, as there is a risk you may either lose access to Aditi or that you may become subject to inventory change failures.

Those who wish to participate in the load test, and who encounter either issues with their Aditi inventory or accessing the beta grid can, as a last resort, contact Nyx Linden at least 24 hours ahead of the test. Nyx will then endeavour to see if LL can fix matters.

Other Items

Vanishing Regions

Last updated in SL project news: week 6 (2), wherein diagonally adjacent regions fail to render until such time as the observer moves to a region immediately bordering the “missing” region. This has been an ongoing problem for some time, as reported in SVC-8130, and commenting on it at the Server Beta meeting, Simon Linden indicated that the maint-server code deployed to LeTigre may help with some of the issues being encountered, but also admitted, “There’s been some improvement but it looks like there are still bugs to chase there.”

Missing regions: new Maint-server code may help...?
Missing regions: new Maint-server code may help…?

There is a forum post on the matter – if you are encountering this issue in a reproducible manner, and in lieu of SVC-8130 being open to comment, you might want to note your experiences on the thread.

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