Fantasy Faire 2014: as the gates open

Fantasy Faire 2014 has opened its gates. This year, there are no fewer than 11 regions to explore (although at the time of writing, the Palace of Tears had yet to open to public access, and I encountered a considerable amount of lag on the neighbouring Fairelands Junction when trying to sneak a peek over the wall…

As always, there is a lot to see and explore, and I hope to be able to bring a round of updates as the week unfolds. For now, here’s a brief set of highlights, together with some sketches from my pad, grabbed as I explored the regions as a part of the bloggers’ preview.

Asperatus

Created by Beq Janus and sponsored by NeoVictoria (Asil Ares).

Asperatus, a mighty airship built by wealthy merchants and once both their home and seat of commerce. Now, in later years, the Asperatus sits as the mainstay of an unlikely floating colony, drawing power from the turbulent clouds over which it sits and providing a centre of trade as well as a floating home.

From my sketchbook: Asperatus: a floating place of commerce  - just mind those whirling rotors ...
From my sketchbook: Asperatus: a floating place of commerce – just mind those whirling rotors …

As you explore the shops and stores, slung beneath great gasbags and wander the catwalks linking them, keep an eye out for strange goings-on, particularly from Monday May 5th onwards. For it is to Asperatus that a renegade aristocrat and an evil scientist will flee after wreaking havoc in the power centre of the NeoLondon Cathedral. Determined to bring them to justice, a group of NeoVictorians are hard on their heels (role-play to commence in NeoVictoria on Thursday May 1st, before transferring to Asperatus).

Blackwater Glenn

Created by Marcus Inkpen/ Sharni Azalee and sponsored by The Looking Glass

Blackwater Glenn, once a vibrant community, is now being slowly reclaimed by nature as swamplands slowly encroach onto the land and under the old buildings. But not all is in a state of decay as gorgeous flowers and mysterious plants emerge sporadically throughout the swamp and pathways of open water lead to the centerpiece, a giant blossoming tree. Tread the wooden walkways carefully and rest assured that the surviving buildings will not collapse on your head. Traders and merchants still thrive here, and there is the hope of rebirth hidden within.

Blackwater Glenn: I sketched this while avoiding invites from pirates to enjoy a mug or two of grog ...
“I sketched this while avoiding invites from pirates to enjoy a mug or two of grog at their little tavern deep in Blackwater Glenn …”

Be wary of the pirates, however. Forced ashore to seek the means to repair their damaged ship, they have set-up a tavern within the Glenn. You can be sure of a warm and friendly welcome there and enjoy a good mug of grog – but you might also find yourself leaving with your purse missing considerably more coin than you may have spent – if your purse doesn’t mysteriously leave your pocket first!

The Fairy Court

Created by Elicio Ember and sponsored by Cerridwen’s Cauldron.

The Fairy Court, a land of light and dark, of water and tree, where mystical folk offer greetings and wares. Here is a place to tarry and renew under the spreading boughs of the tree of light and dark, its entwined trunks reaching up into the heavens. Wander the pavilions and walkways,  sample the water and the wares. Above all, to be at peace.

"I do not believe my pen in any way does justice to the fair pavilions of The Fairy Court..."
“I do not believe my pen in any way does justice to the fair pavilions of The Fairy Court…”

I confess to having a soft spot for Elicio’s works, which have never ceased to amaze me over the years, and this Fantasy Faire is no exception. Were I to be a creature of myth or fantasy, the Fairy Court is the place I’d call my home among the Fairelands.

Heavenslough

Created by Alrunia Ahn/ Eldowyn Inshan/ Sweetgwendoline Bailey and sponsored by Creators of Fantasy.

To set foot in Heavenslough is to set foot in another world, where the unexpected is to be expected.  down under the leafy canopy, the forest is the home and playground for sprites and secretive fairy folks, where ancient stilt houses sit above the marshlands and platforms and houses sit amidst the leafy boughs of the titanic trees. Above all this, sit rocky plateaus rising into the heavens…

"The sun was kind to me as I sat upon a plateau ledge, sketching Heaven below me..."
“The sun was kind to me as I sat upon a plateau ledge, sketching Heavenslough below me…”

Hope’s Horizon

Created by Jaimy Hancroft and sponsored by Dwarfins

Hope’s Horizon stands, like the fabled Minas Tirith, with its back to the sheer walls of a mountain, its streets winding up through stair and path to houses and stores which cling to the sheer rock, leading the visitor ever upward until at last the high plateau is reached. It is here, above the very clouds themselves, that the Citadel sits, together with the White Tree.

The climb up to the Citadel was long and tiring, but the Sun crowned the evening as a sketched..."
The climb up to the Citadel was long and tiring, but the Sun crowned the evening as a sketched…”

Jaimy Hancroft’s homage to Tolkien caught my imagination from the moment I first read about it, and it does not disappoint. The city is beautifully scaled to present a depth in keeping with the height of the build. The citadel on the mountain’s flat summit is the crowning piece, the echoes of Tolkien clear within the design, which also maintains its own individuality and the mark of Fantasy Faire.

Continue reading “Fantasy Faire 2014: as the gates open”

The High Fidelity architecture of virtual worlds to be

HF-logoI’ve been trying to keep an eye on High Fidelity of late, particularly since things like the SVVR meet-up in March and VWBPE 2014 in April, both of which featured presentations / talks by Philip Rosedale. However, I missed a recent blog post on the High Fidelity site, so my thanks to Nalates Urriah for giving a heads-up about it.

One of the things that has caused people some consternation with high Fidelity is that while there have been various demonstrations and some talk about it using distributed computing (a-la Seti@Home) as an operating model, more precise information on the architecture for High Fidelity has been lacking.

The official blog post, dated Thursday April 24th, goes some way towards rectifying this, by providing a high-level system diagram for High Fidelity and providing some additional notes on the various aspects of how it is hoped the system will work.

How High Fidelity will work - click for full size (courtesy of High Fidelity)
How High Fidelity will work – click for full size (courtesy of High Fidelity)

High Fidelity won’t, as they’ve previously made clear, be providing a virtual word per se. Rather, they are seeking to provide the software and protocols which will allow others to create virtual worlds and connect to one another, and the means for uses to connect to, and move between these worlds as they become available. The idea here is that by providing the means to create fully distributable virtual worlds, harnessing shared computing devices to scale their content and load, thus theoretically making a scalable, global virtual environment with shared resources through which users can travel.

The top section of the diagram denotes those services where High Fidelity hope to generate revenue.

  • The Nameserver allows virtual world domains to be uniquely identified if the owners wish (think DNS) – so that, as a totally hypothetical example, @secondlife could be registered to allow users to quickly discover and access Second Life. The registration service for virtual worlds is optional, rather than required. This service can also supply authentication mechanisms which can be used to both restrict access to a virtual world or allow users a particular virtual world to securely disclose chosen aspects of their identity.
  • The Digital Marketplace is fairly self-explanatory, allowing people to buy, sell and transfer digital goods to and from each other, and move these goods among different virtual worlds.
  • The Currency Server provides the wallet services and other API’s needed to allow people to quickly and easily share their computing devices as well as buy and sell digital goods using a cryptocurrency. Whether the latter will be a recognised cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) or something new, remains to be seen.
  • The Assignment Server, allows people to share their computers with each other to act as servers or as scripted interactive content. It monitors and analyses devices which are made available as servers in order to try to assign them suitable tasks – so that a mobile ‘phone offered as a server might be used to control a scripted agent such as a dog wandering around a virtual world, while a high-end PC might be assigned more intensive tasks. This Assignment Server will also oversee the transfer of cryptocurrency between users, so that those providing their systems to help run a world are compensated by those making use of their computing capabilities to run their world.
High Fidelity 2013 image (via Singularity Hub)
High Fidelity 2013 image (via Singularity Hub)

Another core aspect of the system, which has been covered in various commentaries on High Fidelity, is the use of voxels, and more particularly, the voxel server, which stores and serves the content that is found inside the virtual world. Voxels can be nested within one another, or averaged together, allowing for significant levels of detail to be achieved over distances than is otherwise possible. The voxel server allows elements within a world to be distributed across multiple servers, so for example, an apartment block in a cityscape could comprise apartments which are each running on their own server.

The Voxel Server, together with the remaining elements of the software (the Domain Server which sits at the heart of any virtual world using the software and protocols, the Audio Mixer, Avatar Mixer, Interactive Client, etc.), are available under the Apache 2.0 open-source licence, Further information on them can be found in the High Fidelity blog post, and they can be downloaded from High Fidelity by those who wish to play with them.

The post has drawn a fair number of comments and questions, and as Nalates points-out, they make further interesting reading – particularly Philip Rosedale’s replies (or where some questions are concerned, lack of a reply).

 

Fantasy Faire 2014: Capture a Dream of a Lifetime and be immortalised in print

The 2014 Fantasy Faire photo contest has been launched, the proceeds of which will go to Relay for Life in a very special way.

This year, the theme of the competition is Dream of a Lifetime, and entrants are being asked to submit photos which capture the spirit of each of the eleven sims.

fantasy_photo_contest-1Entries must be submitted between May 1st and midnight SLT on May 11th, 2014, and must comply with the following rules:

  • Photographs are to be taken at your choice of eleven individually themed Sims for this year’s Fantasy Faire   (Read sim information note card for more details).
  • Pictures must be posted in the Fantasy Fiare Photo Contest Flickr group.
  • Twelve entries are allowed per person.
  • Photos may be edited with any photo software of your choosing.
  • Photos must be PG!  We will immediately disqualify any nude or distasteful photo(s).
  • Reminder, no text on photos.
  • Fantasy Faire & Relay for Life reserve the rights to use photograph submissions for event advertisement and publication.
  • Deadline for submission of photos is May 11th, 2014, midnight SLT.
  • Enjoy the Fantasy Faire Sims and have FUN!
  • In addition, contest winners will be required to provide their winning photography with the following dimensions: minimum  1800 pixels high by 2300 pixels wide  at 200dpi.

The Prize

This year the prize is very special: winning entries will appear in a special commemorative calendar which will be produced via Cafe Press and sold in RL to raise money for Relay for Life. All photographs used will be fully credited to the people taking them.

But wait – eleven sims for a 12-month calendar? What of the twelfth? The twelfth photo will be the one the judges of the competition feel best encapsulates the spirit of the Faire, and thus judged to be the overall winner. Not only will this appear in the calendar, it will also appear on the cover as well.

So, good luck to all who enter, and happy snapping!

Keeping up with Fantasy Faire

You can keep-up with Fantasy Faire preparations and activities a number of ways:

Kokua 3.7.6: Breakpad, Merchant Outbox and Voice

kokua-logoThe Kokua team released version 3.7.6.32681 on Wednesday April 30th, keeping to a roughly monthly release run for the last three experimental and full releases.

As always, please refer to the Kokua release notes for the full accreditation of any updates mentioned below.

The new version sees Kokua maintains parity with the Lab’s 3.7.5 and 3.7.6 code base releases, and sees the viewer gain the recent Google Breakpad changes (and fixes for the same from the Lab), as well as the Merchant Outbox fixes and the remaining voice updates for windows and Mac (these libraries ere merged into an earlier release of Kokua, so this release sees the final updates.

Together, the Voice and Merchant Outbox changes comprise the use of Vivox 4.6.x libraries for improved stability & to address Mac Mavericks issues and fixes for accurately detecting Merchant status & improving Merchant Outbox error recovery.

Kokua can now display Received Items as a regular inventory folder, allow the pull-up option is also still displayed
Kokua can now display Received Items as a regular inventory folder, allow the pull-up option is also still displayed

In addition, the release sees a number of TPV and Kokua team updates, the former notably coming from Firestorm. These comprise:

  • An option to display the Received Items section of the inventory floater as a regular folder
  • Hide empty system folders

Check boxes for both options can be found in Preferences > Kokua > Inventory. Note that when the Received Items folder is active, the slide-up Received Items bar at the foot of the inventory panel will remain visible, rather than being hidden (as is the case with the likes of Firestorm).

In addition, the release includes the following updates from the Kokua team:

  • Fixes for several merge regressions from RLVa affecting Kokua functionally
  • Windows: returned functionally of local chat right-click menu music stream title display. This was removed when FmodEx was installed
  • Macintosh: streaming music is now using the FmodEx library and streams appear more reliable than with previously used Quicktime
  • UI enhancements:
    • Fix for the parcel name not changing unless “Show region coordinates” was switched on
    • “Report Abuse” added to right-click context menus for objects and avatars.

This release doesn’t contain the SSA / AIS v3 updates (which are still only at RC status in the LL viewer). The reason given for this is that there are currently no public RLV / RLVa repositories containing a working merge of sunshine-external the SSA / AISv3 code, and Nicky Perian, the Kokua lead, doesn’t feel he is familiar enough with RLV code to go ahead with his own merge. So expect to see SSA / AIS v3 appear in Kokua in a future release.

There is a test version of Kokua which is running SSA / AIS v3, but which does not have RLVa, for those who wish to test the SSA / AIS v3 functionality, which is currently running on the three RC channels in Second Life.

RLV or RLVa?

Up until now, Kokua has used the RLVa API. However, Nicky P is considering swapping to using Marine Kelley’s original RLV API, on the grounds that it maintains a closer parity with the LL viewer. To this end, he has asked anyone who is aware of anyone of performance differences between RLV and RLVa, to please comment in the Kokua 3.7.6 release notes.

 

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