A town called Calico

"Yeah. I was one of those who voulnteered for the Calico rescue mission. If you can call it a rescue, 'cause that implies there are people needing rescuing..."
“Yeah. I was one of those who volunteered for the Calico rescue mission. If you can call it a rescue, ’cause that implies there are people needing rescuing…”

I was drawn to take a look at Calico after seeing shots of the place on the LivingSL feed which had been taken by Goizane Serenity. This isn’t my usual haunt in terms of SL explorations, but something in Goizane’s images caught my eye, and I had to go take a look.

This is a dark urban region – with the emphasis very much on the “dark” – I couldn’t see a blessed thing with the local windlight! :). Having read the introductory notes, I opted to switch over to something which would keep up the dark/dramatic feel of the place, but which would also let me take a few snaps.

"Spooky? That doesn't come close. The place was deserted. Not a soul ... more than that, not a living thing outdoors; just wrecks of cars and trucks; all of them recent models, but all of them just rusting away, like they'd always been that way..."
“Spooky? That doesn’t come close. The place was deserted. Not a soul … more than that, not a living thing outdoors; just wrecks of cars and trucks; all of them recent models, but all of them just rusting away, like they’d always been that way…”

That you’re in a place overtaken by some local calamity is clear to see when you arrive (when you can see, that is :)); car wrecks litter the road, as do trash, various belongings and, strangely, comic books… Buildings have broken windows; overhead the street lamps glow weakly, and everywhere is a sense of panic. But … where is everybody?

The clues are few and far between. It’s clear that something had caused the people on this strange, forgotten corner of the world to try to leave – and leave in a hurry. It also seems that the authorities tried to stop them. The one road out of town is blocked with heavy concrete blocks and police and military vehicles are much in evidence – including the hulk of a tank, its long barrel pointing ominously back into town.

"In fact everything looked old, y'know? Like it had been deserted for decades - yet there was still electrical power. The lights worked. Or some of them did..."
“In fact everything looked old, y’know? Like it had been deserted for decades – yet there was still electrical power. The lights worked. Or some of them did…”

But of the people who once lived here, the police, the servicemen, the civilians – not a sign. And what happened to the bridge beyond the road block? Ripped asunder, it offers no route to safety; but how did it come to be like this? No storm would cause such damage.

Elsewhere things are equally as strange; there is an odd air of decay about the place, some of it out-of-keeping with things like the modern makes of vehicle found scattered and broken through the town. The buildings are more decrepit than one might expect, and wooden piers seem to be rotting where they stand; even some of the trees look stark and diseased…

"The first place we searched was the hospital. We figured if anyone was alive, they'd be there. But there was nothing. No survivors, no medical staff...no bodies... just notihin'"
“The first place we searched was the hospital. We figured if anyone was alive, they’d be there. But there was nothing. No survivors, no medical staff…no bodies… just nothin'”

Clearly, there are questions to be answered here – and not just with what has happened. Visiting the region, I wasn’t actually sure whether it is intended for future role-play or whether it is meant for photography / machinima. In the end, and having read the About Land notes, I opted for the former, but the place perhaps isn’t ready to go just yet. The notes read:

A long forgotten town on an island, recently discovered after having been abandoned many years ago.  No one knows how the inhabitants vanished or why, only clues that an evacuation gone horribly wrong remain.

"And you know the really weird part? Wherever we encountered the worst of the wrecks and accidents in that town, we only had to look a little to the left or right, and we'd see that church tower, like it was leering over us, daring us inside..."
“And you know the really weird part? Wherever we encountered the worst of the wrecks and accidents in that town, we only had to look a little to the left or right, and we’d see that church tower, like it was leering over us, daring us inside…”

The one thing the place is, is very atmospheric; and if you explore it carefully, you’ll realise that everything that is presented here seems to all focus on the church sitting in what amounts to the dead centre of the town… Could this also be a clue….?

For those looking for an alternative venue to explore – and allowing for the fact that it may well become a role-play centre at some point – The Town of Calico is an interesting and dark diversion, which lends itself to the imagination and the creation of backstories.

Footnote: Pey’s Law is a wonderful thing. I IM’d the owner of A town called Calico about the purpose of the region. RL being what it is, our messages passed each other by, and his arrived just after I published this piece. Here’s what he said:

“At the current time it’s more geared towards photography and machinima.  We’re currently in the process of making it into a fully interactive game with roleplay and combat and survival elements. But as of now, it’s roleplay, photography and whatever else your heart desires. The sim itself is still under heavy construction.  It most likely won’t be actually open to the public for another month or two.”

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Restrained Love 2.8.5.5: “z-offset” height adjustment update

In my week 35 project updates on SSA, I brought word that both Henri Beauchamp’s Cool VL Viewer (V1-style) and Marine Kelley’s Restrained Love Viewer (V3-style) have incorporated a means developed by Henri by which the new “hover” capability from LL can be used to make on-the-fly avatar height adjustments in a similar manner to the old TPV “z-offset”.

However, a slight error with the initial release of the new “z-offset” capability within the Restrained Love Viewer (version 2.8.5.3) meant that any changes made were only locally applied; they were not being passed to the baking service for onward transmission. This meant that while you would see your avatar’s height adjust, no-one else would.

Marine has rectified this with the release of Restrained Love 2.8.5.5. If you’ve already downloaded and installed 2.8.5.3, you’ll need to update for the capability to work correctly. As with Henri’s original implementation, there are a number of up-front points to note how things work, as they have changed from the “old” z-offset functionality:

  • As with LL’s hover feature, that avatar shape must be modifiable (if not, the Z-offset won’t work)
  • There will be a delay in setting the offset and seeing the final result because each change does require viewer / server communications. Multiple quick changes to the z-offset should therefore be avoided, as they may not propagate correctly.

Marine notes that there are a couple of niggles with her implementation, and that care should be taken with height adjustments.

In addition to the time taken for adjustments to propagate through the system, you may find that when they have done so, you avatar may appear a little higher or lower than you originally set. Should this happen, don’t juggle with the slider; wait another second or two and the avatar’s height will make a final adjustment and appear as you intended.

With this update, the slider will also adjust a seated avatar as well, although adjustments don’t show-up on-the-fly; instead you have to make an adjustment and wait for it to propagate via the baking service in order to see your avatar shift (along with everyone else).

The update is available for all three versions of Restrained Love, links below.

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Versu: update and new titles

LL logoIt appears that after moaning a little about the Lab not updating Versu, the Lab has … updated Versu.

Version 1.3 of the “living stories” platform sees Versu freed from the perils of internet connectivity, allowing you to “read on the beach, the plane, anywhere you like!” (subject to roaming agreements, sundry charges and so on and so forth, obviously). A small step, perhaps, but a welcome one, given I’d been worrying that Versu was going the way of Creatorverse and was on a “fire and forget” trajectory.

More particularly, and equally quietly, the Lab added two more titles to the Versu range at the start of August. Whereas the initial stories marking Versu’s launch were all set in the Regency period, the new titles, Office Politics: The Interview and Office Politics: The Launch Party, are comedic pieces set in a modern office environment (“Disruptive Technologies”), which introduce a cast of characters common to both, including:

  • Dave, the overly friendly boss who really wants to be liked and respected
  • Alice, the snarky feminist graphic designer who wishes she could just make art
  • Patrick, the former frat boy who thinks he’s way better with the ladies than he actually is
  • Jordan, the keener fresh out of business school
  • Linus, the quiet senior programmer who resents all the constant distractions from his real work
  • Storm, the ambiguously gendered die-hard fan of the hit TV series, Professor Whatever.
Versu has two new titles in a new setting
Versu has two new titles in a new setting

Both of the new stories are penned by Deirdra Kiai (“Squinky” for short!), a writer, musician and games developer. Commenting on her decision to go the route of a modern setting, she says,

I found the choice of a modern-day high-tech office to be ideal to write for in this system, because of all the meticulous social rules and procedures involved in a corporate setting. I also thought it would be a great excuse for characters of varying ages, backgrounds, and beliefs to come together and clash with one another in interesting and sometimes comedic ways.

An interesting side-point to this is that Deirdra has created an additional game Jamey Beanman’s Burrito Quest, based in the same universe as Office Politics, which uses dio. However, at the time of writing this article, the dio space had been set to private / limited access, and so could not be investigated.

The arrival of new titles for Versu is long overdue, given it is nine months since the app launched, and during that time there has been little or no news on it or its future development from the Lab, although Richard Evans has been talking about the potential of the Versu engine in a range of simulation activities. If the Lab really want to keep interest in the app alive, I can’t help but feel that they should be doing more to ensure that titles are regularly released – and nine months doesn’t entirely fit “regularly” that well. They also need to see a more diverse range of titles produced, and as such these two new pieces  – presumably the first of a series – is a good step in that direction.

There’s still no news as to whether Versu will move beyond the iPad and into the Android, Windows and Linux tablet realms. A move to Android had been promised prior to the app’s launch, but again, whether this is going to be the case is only likely to be discovered if / when the Lab announce it.

In the meantime, for those of you who do have Versu – or at least have an iPad and are looking for a fun, interactive read, go take a look at Deridra’s titles!

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SL project updates: week 35 (1): server releases, group ban list, anti-griefing

Server Deployments Week 35

As always, please refer to the week’s forum deployment thread for news, updates and feedback.

Second Life Server (SLS Main) Channel – Tuesday August 27th

The Main channel received the update package which includes the “grey box” attachment fix, and which had seen previous deployment to some of the RCs. In all, the package comprises:

  • A fix for the “grey box attachment  issue” (non-public BUG-3547, see the details here)
  • An update to for “llListen in linked objects is listening at root instead of linked object local position *after re-rezzing the linkset*”,  (non-public JIRA BUG-3291)
  • Code to block avatars entering a region / objects being rezzed in a region during the last 60 seconds before a restart. In addition, restart warning pop-ups will include the region name
  • Fixes for further simulator crash modes.

Release Candidate Channels – Wednesday August 28th

All three RC channel should receive the same maintenance package comprising:

  • An update to region restarts initiated by region owners or estate managers which will see the region restart after the last avatar leaves, rather than waiting for the full countdown period to complete
  • Preparatory work to support new estate and parcel access controls – these will require a upcoming viewer-side update in order to be visible to users
  • A fix for a physics-related griefing mode
  • A crash mode fix.

The release notes are here: Magnum, LeTigre, BlueSteel.

Commenting on the upcoming estate and parcel access controls at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 27th August, Simon Linden said, “I can’t get into details on the access change but it’s not a huge one, so don’t get too excited about it. We hope to have a project viewer out in a few weeks or so that will have the new code and we can discuss it then.”

SL Viewer Updates

Release Viewer Updated

Following the Monday review meeting, CHUIStorm Release Candidate viewer was promoted to the de facto release viewer 3.6.4.280048, dated August 20th) on the 26/27th August. This viewer includes the latest CHUI updates from the Lab and a number of Snowstorm code contributions from third-party developers, including:

  • STORM-1892 – Add Apply button to the edit content permission floater
  • STORM-1910 – Count of the number of groups a person has joined, and number of remaining group slots
  • STORM-1911 – Go-to line function for the internal LSL script editor
  • STORM-1918 – Part of the group notice attachment box does not allow dropping of assets
  • STORM-1952 – Clicking “Eject” needs a confirmation before execution when ejecting members from a group

The full list of updates are available in the release notes.

The move currently leaves two RC viewers in the release channel: the Cocoa updates for Mac builds, and the next round of updates for Materials Processing, which include goodies such as correct ALM rendering underwater.

Commenting on the removal of the Google Breakpad RC viewer from the list, Oz Linden confirmed that it had been removed as it had done its job, allowing the new reporting mechanism to be tested. As the viewer contains no user-facing changes or anything outside of the Breakpad updates, it has been withdrawn, and the new stats reporting code will be integrated into the viewer code base without requiring a dedicated release.

The mesh deformer project viewer has also been removed from the viewer test builds wiki page. There is not anything untoward about this; prior to the SSA deployment the viewer was already significantly behind the times in terms of merges. As SSA has now been deployed, and the view lacks SSA support, it is currently pointless having it as a publicly available download option.

Group Ban List

Baker Linden supplied a brief update to his work on creating a function to allow group owners to ban people (e.g. known troublemakers) from joining their open-enrollment groups. Speaking at the Simulator User Group meeting, he said:

I’ve still been hooking up the viewer to the server, and can now add people to the ban list. I’m currently working on getting the ban list, which will allow me to get deleting from the ban list working. After that, it’s code cleanup, reviews, and adding server-side verification checks!

To which Andrew Linden added, possibly wryly, “Baker banned me from some groups on the beta grid. I can attest that there is progress there”!

The question was again asked if the capability will allow for banning someone for a set period of time – such as for a week. Baker confirmed that while the ability to do so won’t be in the first release, there is a code stub included which will allow him to add the ability in the future. This is likely to be the case with the ability for a group moderator to add a reason for banning someone from the group if they so wish.

Anti-griefing

As he has now moved away from Interest List work for the time being, Andrew Linden is looking into griefing vectors and ways and means of circumventing them, particularly on mainland. Some of the areas he’s looking at and mulling over in terms of possible actions are:

Andrew Linden - now looking into anti-griefing options
Andrew Linden – now looking into anti-griefing options
  • Allowing estate owners to admin parcel properties (ban lists, object options, etc), without having to take ownership of the parcel
  • Altering the “allow public to build on this land” flag to default to FALSE rather than TRUE when a parcel transitions to a new owner – this is seen as a means of preventing griefers from buildings and hiding hide malicious objects in unattended parcels which can then be used to grief the region / people in the region.
  • Nerf the use of recursive rezzing to prevent griefers getting around autoreturn by creating an object which rezzes a copy of itself, then gives a copy to the rezzed object. The original is then autoreturned, but the copy carries on before creating a copy of itself, and so on.

Andrew is particularly concerned that the third proposal might be damaging to content which may legitimately self-replicate itself (such as items placed by the parcel owner or members of the group the land has been deeded to). In order to prevent this, he plans to apply the nerfing only to objects to which the auto return would otherwise apply.

At the moment these ideas are still musings – although Andrew admitted the code for nerfing recursive rezzing has already been written – and he’ll be having further discussions at the Lab as well as looking at various alternatives / additions (one he mentioned himself was to perhaps have two auto return functions – one for objects whose owners in the region, and one for those lacking owners).

One of the problems here is that in planning to create any additional restrictions on land use, etc., is that people can always raise apparently legitimate reasons why things shouldn’t be done, or offer up ways and means of how changes can be circumvented. However, the fact remains that griefing – particularly on mainland – is once again a growing issue (as those of us have experienced only too well at recent in-world LL meetings). Therefore, change is needed. The skill in the work will be how that change is managed.