A Black Basalt Beach and a little brandy wine

Since coming across Jac Mornington’s work, first with Baja Norte and then with Sol Existence, I’ve been trying to keep an eye out for news on other regions he’s had / having a hand in. At the end of July, Ziki Questi blogged that he’s been working on Black Basalt Beach, Rosy Highwater’s Homestead region of Brandy Wine Island.

Since then, the region has gained the attention of a number of bloggers, and I’ve been trying to resist the temptation to immediately hop over myself and blogging. Trouble is, Jac’s work is to much of a temptation…

Black Basalt Beach
Black Basalt Beach

As one would expect from a project which includes Jac’s hand, Black Basalt Beach is a stunning landscape; a rocky island with a long, sweeping beach on its west side, a tall lighthouse standing guard over rocky outcrops, and tall waterfalls tumbling from the cliff tops above. Everywhere the attention to detail is amazing – and equal credit should go to Rosy as well for this, as the region is very much a collaborative piece developed by her and Jac.

Walk along the beach and you’ll come across all kinds of detail – a bicycle rezzer for those wishing to ease their walking while they explore, pelicans patrolling the water near the lighthouse and basking on pier and sand, cormorants watching proceedings from the rocks, and plenty of places to sit alone or with a companion or companions and watch the world go by.

The lighthouse, reached via wooden pier, offers an wonderful view of the island, and there are walks to be followed, both on the beach and via wooden walkways, leading to more delights and treasures to be found.

Black Basalt Beach
Black Basalt Beach

Follow the wooden walkways around to the south side of the island and you are led through a deep, narrow gorge which cuts-off the south-east corner of the island from the rest. Here stone stairs lead you upwards to precarious-looking wooden bridges which allow you access to the isolated corner of the island and to also reach the top of the island, where there is even more to see.

Up on the top of the island, overlooking the beach, is a Skyline Drive house by Van Auster, perfectly positioned to offer dramatic views to the west, south and north. It is of a cantilevered design which I think it fair to say would have the blessings of Frank Lloyd Wright. The house appears to be open to the public – there are no “keep out” signs of privacy signs outside, and there is a tip jar inside – and it’s worth taking time to go visit; the views from inside are both eye-catching and breathtaking, and the furnishings, etc., complement it perfectly – I particularly like the drafting table with floor plans, which (for me at least) offered a nice little nod to Mr. Lloyd Wright.

Make sure you do take time to explore the rest of the upper reaches of the island; the attention to detail here again makes it well-worth the effort. There are paths to follow, more bridges to cross and touches which will raise a smile (and a camera) wherever they are found.

Black Basalt Beach
Black Basalt Beach

It’s been a long time since I’ve been envious – I mean really envious of people’s designs and builds in SL (giving up my land holdings was, after all, my own choice), but I have to say that visiting Black Basalt Beach is one of those occasions where I found myself thinking I could really live in a place like this in SL. Liara Okiddo’s Garden of Eden was the last place to get my creative juices flowing as I explored, and Black Basalt Beach did much the same. Not that I’m ever likely to once again take-up a large-scale land holding in SL; but both the design here and Liara’s work have me thinking that it might be fun to once again have a suitable parcel where I can have a little play around.

At the risk of a further deviation away from Black Basalt Beach, one thing I have been doing of late is trying to work through my list of SL destinations (found until the Reviews > Virtual Destinations menu at the top of this blog’s pages) and determine what is still open, what has been revised since my last visit and what has, sadly, vanished for one reason or another. I think it is more-or-less up-to-date, although I know that without regular curation it’s liable to fall behind the times again. I’ll endeavour to keep an eye on it around once a quarter in order to keep things up-to-date.

Black Basalt Island
Black Basalt Beach

But that’s the thing with a world as dynamic as Second Life. Things are always changing, and there are always new places to visit as well as old places to return to. All of them can so easily become favourites and entice you back again and again, while other you promise yourself you’ll return to, only to find that when you eventually do, they’ve gone. It can make exploring Second Life hard work, even with a good part of stout boots, and when you’re confronted with a place as beautiful and inviting as Black Basalt Beach, there is a huge temptation just to sit and rest and watch and enjoy.

Which is probably why, should you drop by Rosy’s island, you’ll likely find me idling the hours sitting in one of the hanging chairs in the glass house, or perched with the puffins, watching the tide ebb and flow.

Very thoroughly recommended.

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Blocksworld +1 week: opinions favourable

LL logoBlocksworld has been out a week now. I covered the launch on August 1st, but as I don’t have a iPad, I’m stuck with pining for its possible appearance as an Android app in order to review it myself (even though I haven’t got an Android tablet either *cough*).

This leaves me reliant upon reviews posted elsewhere. So, as with the early appearance of Creatorverse, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Lab’s press page and waiting for a number of reviews to pop-up there. It’s not an ideal way of doing things, but as the likes of 148apps and Kotaku do generally appear in the listings, I decided to see what comes up as well as Googling for reviews.

Overall, and allowing for it being early days, the reactions of reviewers seem favourable. Rob Rich over at 148apps gives Blocksworld a solid four (out of five) stars, noting that the interface is easy to grasp, building is relatively quick and easy to learn, and that the ability to create and build with blocks is something kids the world over can identify with. However, he also notes that there are some inherent weaknesses in the app: vehicles can be difficult to drive, and connecting blocks to build things is limited (you can only connect blocks face-on). As such, he notes that it is fun to play with, but in terms of using it as a form of a game, it’s not so much fun to play.

Mike Fahey over at Kotaku has a fair amount of experience in reviewing the Lab’s products. His reviews are always informative and also lighthearted at times, making them a fun read. It’s actually his reviews I turned to in order to get a handle on both Patterns and Creatorverse before I had access to either. In reviewing Blocksworld he notes that:

Linden Lab is all about creating, or at least they have been since Rod Humble took charge, transforming the company behind Second Life into a company that creates creativity. It was as if Linden Lab only made doughnuts before he arrived, and now they’re making a wide variety of pastries. The delicious, sexy, wildly deviant doughnuts are still there, but then so is Creatorverse and Patterns and Blocksworld and maybe, if we’re very good, some scones.

Blocksworld promotional image (courtesy of Linden Lab)
Blocksworld promotional image (courtesy of Linden Lab)

Like Rob Rich, he comments on the overall simplicity of design and that the UI is very easy to grasp. He also delves more into the mechanics of the app, noting that using it can be approached in a number of ways, from “dive in a build” through to using the supplied “kits” to learn how to build specific items and use specific capabilities.

Interestingly, both reviews touch upon a fact hitherto unmentioned here: that the number of blocks you can use is limited. If you run out, you have to either “win” more or purchase more.

“Winning” additional blocks is a case of using the in-built kits, each of which includes a puzzle / challenge. Build the kit, complete the challenge and your reward is more blocks.

Continue reading “Blocksworld +1 week: opinions favourable”