The ghosts of castles past

Ghost Castle

During my SL travels, I may have mentioned I have a love of castles. So when I learned that Fuschia Nightfire, in association with Italian Square Gallery & Tanalois Art, was opening a new installation which takes England’s once mighty Corfe Castle as its inspiration, I was immediately intrigued.

Corfe Castle was established by William the Conquer in the 11th Century to command a gap in the Purbeck hills of Dorset (where Fuschia also lives in RL), and it was one of the earliest castles in England to be built using stone when the majority were built with earth and timber.

During a long and distinguished history, it served as both a royal fortress and later as a private residence. However, loyal to the crown in the English Civil War, the castle was besieged by Parliamentarian forces and eventually betrayed from within in 1645. Following its capture, Parliament voted to have it demolished, leaving a striking set of ruins atop the hill where it once stood.

Corfe Castle, Dorset (image: The National Trust)

Ghost Castle, Fuschia’s new installation, which opened on Wednesday April 16th, presents an interactive means of exploring a Norman castle. From the landing point, the visitor – assuming not too many people are already exploring – is presented with the castle ruins much as Corfe is seen today.

Ghost Castle as it appears in ruins
Ghost Castle as it appears in ruins

However, as you draw close to the ruins, things start to happen, with the gate house and curtain walls materializing before you, presenting vistas of the castle as it may have appeared in its heyday. As you pass by them, climbing up towards the keep, they fade away again, new sections of the castle appearing as you pass over or through them.

But as you approach, parts of it are slowly restored as they materise before you
But as you approach, parts of it are slowly restored as they materialize before you

The nature of the installation does make navigation a little difficult, as elements of the castle are necessarily phantom. This being the case, I recommend walking up to the curtain walls and then flying up to and around Henry 1’s great keep. Make sure – as the introductory notes at the landing point advise – that you have draw distance up relatively high and have set RenderVolumeLod (debug settings in the viewer) to around 4.00; both will be necessary for camming out to get good views of the castle.

Work with other visitors, or go in a small group, and you can reveal more of the oritinal structure
Work with other visitors, or go in a small group, and you can reveal more of the original structure

This is a novel and interaction way at viewing historical pieces in Second Life, one which could offer significant opportunities for things like educational recreations. It’s also an installation worth getting a small group together to visit, or while spending time working in cooperation with other visitors is worthwhile, so that you can work together to render more of the various elements of the castle simultaneously and so get more of a feel for how it might once have looked.

If there are enough of you, the full reichness of the castle might eventually be revealed
If there are enough of you, the full richness of the castle might eventually be revealed

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Lab asks for feedback on new Transaction History page

secondlifeOn Wednesday April 9th, I reported (under “Transaction History Oopsie”) on an error with the Transaction History page on people’s SL dashboards which lead to some upset and confusion after the familiar page was replaced with one that failed to show totals, and which had the familiar .XLS and .XML download options replaced by a single .CSV option.

The change lead to understandably negative  forum comments and a JIRA report (BUG-5664).

As a result of the upset, the page was rapidly withdrawn, and as I reported on April 12th, the Lab blogged on the matter, indicating they would be seeking users’ input to the matter going forward.

In line with this, the Lab issued a further blog post on Wednesday April 16th, entitled Try Out the New Transaction History Page, which reads in full:

Last week, we made a new page available as a replacement for the old Transaction History page. Due to your feedback, we rolled back the changes to this page to allow us to gather more feedback, and we are now providing this new page for review, without removing the old Transaction History page.

We have not yet made any changes to the new page, because we would like time to collect your feedback and review it. We have created a wiki page giving background on why changes were made to this page, where the new page is, and how to provide feedback. We will be closing feedback on April 30, 2014, so please take a look before then.

The wiki page repeats the blog post information, and confirms the primary reason behind the change:

The new Transaction History page was created to allow more than 500 transactions to be displayed for Residents with very active businesses.

It also invites people to provide feedback via the original BUG-5664 JIRA report raised by Sera Lok, which is open to comment for feedback.

Please bear in mind when examining the “new” Transaction History page, that no changes have been made to it since it was first revealed on April 9th – it is given purely as an example so that people can better identify and report issues they may have with it when comparing it to the existing Transaction History page.

People have been asked to provide feedback by Wednesday April 30th.

Reading through the comments, some constructive points have been put forward, although the range of comments doindicate the complexity of implementing changes like this, with people falling almost equally either side of individual changes. For example, many feel that providing only a .CSV download isn’t a problem, but an equal number feel that .XLS (and .XML) should be retained, as .CSV can create problems when it comes to processing the data contained n the downloaded file. Were I to be asked, I’d suggest that retaining .XLS (/ .XML) alongside .CSV would offer the most flexible approach. Backwards compatibility and not breaking legacy content (including scripted processes) has long been a watchword for the Lab when making changes to the SL platform – and this attitude should be carried forward with supporting services as well, such as the Transaction History page, to accommodate all those who have processes reliant on receiving their transaction data in .XLS.

What is healthy is that the Commerce Team appear to be listening and making a genuine effort to understand issues and concerns. Coming so long after what seems to have been a deliberate policy of disengagement by the team from merchants in many areas, this is undoubtedly welcome.

One can only hope this willingness is further reflected in how the new page is refined and updated going forward.