SL project updates week 5/2: TPV Dev meeting, group chat, VMM

Winter Wonderland - race track, rinks and Ferris Wheel
Linden Lab’s new Winter Wonderland: race track, rinks and Ferris Wheel – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Server Beta User Group (SBUG) meeting held on Thursday, January 28th, 2015, and the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, January  30th. A video of the latter is included at the end of the article (my thanks as always to North for recording it and providing it for embedding), and any time stamps contained within the following text refer to both it and the TPV Developer meeting.

Server Deployments Week 5 – Recap

  • On Tuesday, January 27th, the Main (SLS) channel received the server maintenance package previously deployed to Magnum and LeTigre
  • On Wednesday, January 27th, the RC channels should all receive a new server maintenance package comprising an Experience Keys / Tools related fix, and internal Experience Keys / Tools improvements.

It was stated during the TPV Developer meeting that this update saw the support for the Avatar hover Height (AHH) capability extend to all three RC channels, although no mention of it was made in the release notes.

SL Viewer

Tool Chain Project viewer

The Lab issued a new Tools Update project viewer, version, on Wednesday January 28th. This viewer has been built using the new viewer tool chain for Windows and Mac builds (which includes the upgrade to Visual Studio 2013 for Windows and, Xcode (5 or 6) for Mac, and the use of the  autobuild 1.0 process).

Wiki notes for using the new build tools are in the process of being written / enhanced for self-compilers – please note these are a work in progress. Notes on the new autobuild process can also be found on the wiki.

[06:42] It is anticipated that this viewer will progress through to release candidate status, quite probably in week #6 (week commencing Monday, February 2nd).

Maintenance RC Viewer Issues

Users receiving the Maintentance RC, version, released on Tuesday, January 27th, have reported a series of irritating bugs with the viewer:

  • BUG-8324 (and duplicate BUG-8333) reports the appearance of the term “nolink>” in numerous places within the viewer – such as  toasts and notifications – this issue has been imported by the Lab and a fix is apparently in development
  • BUG-8331 – some links containing the text secondlife or lindenlab incorrectly open a Place Profile in the Places panel when clicked
  • BUG-8328 – very jagged pictures created by the snapshot floater
  • BUG-1028 – the fix for MAINT-2056 “Lots of CURL GET FAILED spam in logs when browsing World Map – Beta viewer only” appears not to have fixed the problem, but rather replaced it with an equally spammy message.

Issues with this viewer can be tracked on the JIRA using this filter.

 Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM)

[00:12] Brooke Linden was at the TPV Developer meeting to provide an update on the state of play with the Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM) work, which has been undergoing some beta testing with the project viewer on Aditi.

As a result of this testing, the Lab has been re-visiting the project viewer and incorporating feedback and observations for improvements into it, and are “really close” to having an updated version of the viewer available. When the appears depends on whether the Lab opt to release the updated viewer for limited beta testing on Aditi, or to wait until they’re ready to go with beta testing on the main grid, which is also not too far over the horizon.

The current plan is for more widespread beta testing to commence some time after February 14th (so as not to clash with any Valentines Day sales and promotions merchants may be running between now and Feb 14th), then run the beta for around a month, possibly longer, depending on feedback / issues. After this, VMM support will be deployed as a production tool, and things will move to a migration period which will also last around a month.

All this is still TBC, but a schedule will be posted (presumably via the Commerce / Merchant’s forum) once the Lab has worked through dates and requirements.

Experience Keys / Tools

[03:50] The Experience Keys / Tools project is currently awaiting some final server-side updates to be fully deployed (see the server release notes above). It is not anticipated that the Experience Tools viewer which is currently in the viewer release channel (version will require any further significant updates, so its promotion to the de facto release viewer is pending the server-side updates.

In the meantime, the Lab has already commenced work on a set of enhancement to the Experience Keys / Tools which will further extend capabilities once they are ready to be deployed.

Avatar Hover Height Project

As noted above, server-side support for the Avatar Hover Height project (see my overview for details) is now on all three RC channels, and the plan is to deploy the server code to the Main channel in week #6 (week commencing Monday, February 2nd). Because of this, the current project viewer (currently version is liable to be superseded by a release candidate viewer following the server-side deployments for that week.

Now in a project viewer (and soon to be a release candidate: Avatar Hover Height provides a means of adjusting your avatar's graphical height above the ground / floor / objects, as seen by yourself and others
Now in a project viewer (and soon to be a release candidate: Avatar Hover Height provides a means of adjusting your avatar’s graphical height above the ground / floor / objects, as seen by yourself and others

[18:00] A couple of small issues have been noted with AHH, and which only occur is very specific instances. One is that if an adjustment leaves your avatar floating more than around 1/2 a metre above the ground, an attempt to sit down can result in your avatar going up. In the other, standing on a prim and lowering your hover height into the prim can result in your avatar’s legs buckling as you slide into the prim. On terrain, where there can be limited physical penetration, this can be expected behaviour; but when occurring on a prim, it is suspected that the system may not be accurately assessing your avatar’s position.

[19:38] There have been one or two points of concern raised about the similarity in the name of this function – Avatar Hover Height – causing people to confuse it with the existing avatar hover slider (which will not be retired or removed from the viewer once AHH is fully deployed, as the two capabilities provide different use case solutions). The concerns are being fed back internally at the Lab, and if a name change is thought to be required, it may be slipped into the upcoming RC rebuild for the viewer, or the Lab may opt to wait and see if any confusion does arise.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 5/2: TPV Dev meeting, group chat, VMM”

Getting Buried with MadPea

Buried (MadPea publicity shot)
Buried (MadPea publicity shot)

At 12:00 noon SLT on Sunday, February 1st, 2015, MadPea’s latest grid-wide challenge, Buried launches. Their first major event of the new year, Buried contains all that people have come to love about MadPea’s games: mystery, clue-solving, immersive interaction, and fun. Buried offer all this  – and a lot more, as I found out, when I was, with a small number of other bloggers, invited to preview the game on Friday, January 30th.

Keen MadPea players are probably already aware of elements within the challenge: in keeping with the most popular MadPea games, it is focused on unravelling the mysterious disappearance of a young woman, and contains MadPea’s trademark blend of grid-wide vendor locations (25 in all), rewards, and the introduction of geocaching as a part of the gameplay structure.


Once formally opened, Buried will run for a period of two months, a time frame which reflects the slow burn nature of the  challenge – and I’m intentionally using that word repeatedly. Buried isn’t a hunt, it isn’t even in quite the same vein as MadPea’s  recent mystery adventures such as Blood Letters or the very popular Room 326 / Mad City events involving the Silent Peacock Hotel. It really is an immersive narrative, focused on the missing character, Lilyanna Morano.

Players will begin their investigations at a holiday location amidst a small cluster of remote islands. Here they must uncover the first clues to set them on their way. The aim here is not simply to get people into the “hunt” aspects of the challenge; it is, like the opening chapter of a book or the initial opening of a film or story-arc television series, about setting the scene and establishing the characters.

“What we want to do when the player first comes here is that they well feel the story, and they will really get into who the main character is,” Kiana Writer, who heads-up MadPea and is responsible for writing the Buried story and who took a hand in the opening region’s design, explains. “Who Lily is, how she lives, what she does. So we tried to leave a lot of little clues about her personality to find. They can actually take a boat to and from every island and explore each of them.”

The mysterious C-Me corporation appear to be playing a game of their own - but to what end?
The mysterious C-Me corporation appear to be playing a game of their own – but to what end?

Part of these explorations involve finding the essential element to the challenge activating the game HUD. This is supplied when players arrive on the main holiday island, but will not activate until such time as the first clue has been solved.

Once activated, the HUD reveals the geocaching nature of the game, and introduces you to the other “character” within it – that of the C-Me Corporation.

C-Me is the entity behind the new approach to geocaching Lilyanna was researching at the time of her disappearance – and they would seem to have a very twisted take on the technology.

Exhibiting something of a Mission: Impossible flair for theatrics, C-Me appear to be using geocaching to play a game of their own. snaring people entering their sphere of influence, and then toying with them and sending them hither and thither in the search for C-Me capsules.

But did they arrange for Lilyanna to vanish, or were their machinations merely the catalyst for her causing her own disappearance? The only way to find out is to enter into their game…

Also, should you participate in the challenge, do make sure you have both local sounds and the music stream active when exploring the islands; a considerable amount of work has gone into these not just visually, but audibly as well. Seeing and hearing the environment really is the only way to truly experience it. Do note, also, that because of the slow burn nature of the challenge, the number of people able to access the “holiday island” location is limited to a maximum of 20 at any given time – so patience is also very much part of this challenge.

“Gameplay and immersion is important to us with this game,” Axiomatic Clarity, the man responsible for the overall look and feel to the regions, and who designed the game HUD, explained. “We’ve put a lot of work into the usability of this build. We want people to be able to explore and discover the secrets and clues, and we’ve put in a lot of atmospheric elements, the lighting, the sounds.”

Buried: Lilyanna house
Buried: Lilyanna house

Exploration of the locations on the island is essential; it’s only through investigating Lily herself – the house she’d rented in order to write-up her research, the surrounding islands, and so on, that players will uncover the necessary clues that will both lead them to Lily’s hidden tablet, together with the means to access it once found in order to transfer the data it contains to their own (HUD) tablet. This in turn will draw them into C-Me’s mysterious game, and thus start them on their grid-wide journey of discovery.

I’m not going to give too much more away on the game itself. What I will say is that anyone who enjoys MadPea’s  narrative-lead adventures is bound to enjoy Buried, which will run for around two months following the opening on February 1st. The opening itself will be preceded by a launch party at !Exodus! Rock Club, starting at 10:00 SLT on Sunday, February 1st.

Buried (MadPea publicity shot)
Buried (MadPea publicity shot)

Putting something like buried together is a huge undertaking, as well as Kiana and Axiomatic, bringing the game together has involved the skills of some 20 people from across the globe, testament to both MadPea’s extraordinary reach and desire to bring compelling, immersive activities to Second Life, and to the platform’s own inherent abiliity to host such activities. That both succeed so well is exemplified by the eagerness with which each new game from the company is awaited by MadPea fans and players.

For my part, and while only exposed to a small part of Buried, I found myself entirely drawn into the concept and execution of the challenge. The gameplay in the opening “chapter” on the island where everything kicks-off is completely immersive and requires a level of engagement which encourages the player to seek out more – not because there are prizes from some 25 vendors to be obtained, but because there is a real challenge involved here; you’re seeking to find – possibly rescue (who knows?) a missing person and get to the bottom of just what C-Me is really all about; rewards gathered along the way are actually quite secondary. As such, Buried marvellously builds on the successes of recent events such as the aforementioned Blood Letters and Room 326 stories – and offers an intriguing stepping stone towards MadPea’s upcoming (and completely stunning) UNIA.

Note that SLurls for Buried will be available when the game officially launches. With thanks to Kess and Kiana for arranging the preview and the invitation to attend.

The Drax Files 26: fashioning your life through Second Life

“You’ll know what your avatar looks like when you find your soul avatar. You’re like, ‘that’s it! That’s me. That’s who I am!’.” so opines Absinthe (aka Sinontherocks or AbsintheMontenegro) at the start of The Drax Files: World Makers episode #26.

This might sound like an obvious statement to make; but like many things that may first appear to be blindingly obvious, Absinthe’s comment contains a huge amount of depth; for many of us who come into Second Life, our avatar is such an extension of our personalities, that we can feel confined, or self-conscious or even inadequate until we find that visual look that encompasses what we feel within, but haven’t perhaps found a way to give it expression.

It is also a statement that opens a segment of the Drax Files which, in just five minutes, once again paints a broad and fascinating canvas encompassing matters of self-identity and expression, the power of Second Life as a creative medium, thoughts on the perceptions about Second Life and those who use held by people not involved in the platform, the way in which the platform can spur on into endeavours that reach back out into the real world, and more.

The matter of identity and our relationship with our avatar is encapsulated within the first 73 seconds for the show, as Absinthe talks about her relationship with her avatar – an SL fashion model – and her upbringing, and how the latter informed on aspects of the former’s looks. I actually feel a strong affinity with the remarks made in this part of the video, as Absinthe and I share something of a similar upbringing, and we’ve moved in a similar direction in terms of avatar looks which has little to do with matters of ethnicity or anything like that, but is simply an expression of various facets of our personalities and outlook; the primary difference between her and myself, is it probably took me a little longer to discover my “soul look” with Inara.

Absinthe offers insight into the relationship between person and avatar
Absinthe offers insight into the relationship between person and avatar

From matters of looks, the programme transitions through a glimpse of the world of SL fashion modelling – something which some may look upon as slightly frivolous  / bordering on role-play, yet the fact of the matter is that modelling is one of the central pillars of the fashion industry within SL, which is itself one of the powerful engines of the platform’s economy. Absinthe provides insight into the complexities involved in working as an SL model – including matters of anxiety and nerves which can be experienced prior to a show.

However, the power of the piece  – for me at least – lies in Absinthe’s outlook on life, her work, Second Life and in how, as with others interviewed through this series, this virtual world we inhabit and which is so often sneered up by those outside, Second Life has been both a welcoming hobby and release and the focal point of growth and the catalyst for new opportunities for creative expression within the physical world. In Absinthe’s case, the creation of the Ferosh  project,

Ferosh HQ in-world
Ferosh HQ in-world

Ferosh, which absinthe describes as a “visual art and fashion experience [in which] our photographers, models and designers use products from Second Life to interpret real life fashion trends”. The result is a stunning publication, primarily offered as a e-publication on-line, but which appears to also receive at least some hard copy prints as well, going by the footage in the video.

It is a project that has allowed her to bridge the virtual and the physical in a unique way, not only becoming the medium through which she can explain her involvement Second Life to her family, but one which has also attracted the attention of digital artists from outside of SL who want to be  part of the project – thus opening doors to ways and means of encouraging people to look at the platform with unbiased eyes.

Ferosh has come about as the result of a number of things – not the least of which is Absinthe’s own determination and her zest for life. It has also, I’d venture to suggest, come about as a result of one other thing she has a lot to say about that should be heard – friendship. And it is in her comments on myriad ways in which people are drawn to Second Life, and the manner in which friendships are formed and  – to return to the open element of the show – we can find outward expression of our inner selves, that Draxtor puts together a little magic of his own.

Our avatars are us
Our avatars are us

The images of people alongside their avatars, the clips from earlier shows in the series and clips from the brilliant Login2Life documentary that presents a very poignant and clear message to all who watch the segment.

This is another quite brilliant piece, with a richness of content from both Absinthe and Draxtor that make it a powerful slow burner; I was privileged to watch its development over several iterations, I’ve watched and re-watched the finished item several times – and yet, each and every time I’ve watched it, it has had something new to say to me.

So if you haven’t seen it already, click the Play button below.

OnLive offers SL Go users with an active subscription a free month

SL go logoImportant note: The SL Go service is to be shut down on April 30th, 2015. For more information, please read this report.

If you’re an SL Go user, you’ve probably already seen the e-mail, but just in case you haven’t…

The company has been writing to all SL Go users to let them know that an issue in the SL Go Second Life Viewer (SLV) currently prevents teleporting (although the problem doesn’t affect the Firestorm viewer on SL Go).

“SLV had been running fine for months,” SL Go Product Manager Dennis Harper informed me. “Then all of a sudden… people can’t TP!”

Why this should have happened is unclear. Nothing has been changed at OnLive’s end to cause the problem, and while the Lab has also been involved in investigations, no reason or solution has yet been determined.

As a result, OnLive pro-actively sought to contact all users with an active subscription and offer them a free month’s subscription to the service, as noted in the official e-mail, which reads in part:

We understand your frustration and apologize for the inconvenience. We will give all SL Go subscribers a free month of SL Go to make up for time lost. The next time your subscription renews, you will not be charged.

Our goal is to continuously improve the SL Go experience. We are committed to our community in Second Life and hope that you will continue to enjoy the benefits of SL Go.

Note that the offer applies to all SL Go users with an active subscription at the time the e-mail was sent, regardless of whether you prefer to use the SL Viewer or Firestorm with the service – so while the teleport issue may be a nuisance, there is something of a silver lining to the problem, thanks to OnLive’s commitment to their users.

There’s also further good news on the horizon. Not only are OnLive working as hard as possible with the Lab to fix the issue, they’re also in the process of preparing to update the SL Viewer to the most recent viewer code released by the Lab. No date is yet available for when the update will occur (as OnLive understandably want to get the current problem fixed first), but Dennis assures me they’re keen to see it deployed – I’ll hopefully have more on this in the near future.

About SL Go

SL Go is a streaming service provided to Second life users by OnLive. A subscription-based service providing the means to access Second Life from a low-end PC or Mac computer,  or via and Android tablet or an iPad with the full graphical riches of a Second life viewer running on a high-end computer. In addition, Firestorm for SL Go (currently only available for PCs and Macs) allows the same degree of rich graphics access to OpenSim grids.

If you have a need to access Second Life while away from your main computer, or if you have a low-end system on which you might like to run Second Life with all of its graphical richness, SL Go might well be worth a look. To find out more, and take a free 7-day trial with the service, follow this link.

If you already have an SL Go account, don’t forget use can also get information through the in-world SL Go support group (profile link) in Second Life.

Addendum on the Issue: At the TPV Developer meeting on Friday, January 30th, Oz Linden confirmed that as a part of on-going investigations, the Lab’s QA team have turned up the logging and have been testing the service themselves in order to generate stats on the failures.

They believe they have found the point where things go “really wrong”, which lies within the handshaking between the two simulators involved in the teleport attempt. However, what remains unknown is precisely what is going wrong between the SL Go SLV, and the simulators in order for the simulator / simulator messaging to go so wrong. OnLive’s engineers are also trying to isolate any possible cause for the issue (which does not affect users running Firestorm on SL Go) as well.  

Rod Humble’s Chaphat announces Cults and Daggers

Image courtesy of Chaphat LCC
Image courtesy of Chaphat LLC

Just over a year after departing Linden Lab, former CEO Rod Humble has announced the release of his new game, Cults and Daggers, which will take place under the Chaphat label on February 12th, 2015.

The game, priced at US $29.99, will be made available through the Steam platform. Described as “a sprawling and complex turn-based strategy game set in the Hellenistic era between the death of Buddha and the birth of Christ”, the game will be available for PC and Mac.

In it, players are charged with creating their own religious cult / faith and engage in a secret war for the soul of the world, lest the ancient Gods, unable to rule the world, seek to destroy it. Once they have created their faith, player must travel across the Mediterranean regions, spreading the word of their faith, converting the masses and gaining the support for the nobility. They must compete not only with the ancient Gods, but also the forces of other cults, spies, occult forces and other hindrances and opposition forces. As such, you can also engage in espionage, arm the members of your cult / faith

Cults and Daggers play screen (image courtesy of Chaphat LLC)
Cults and Daggers play screen (image courtesy of Chaphat LLC)

Commenting on the game in the official press release, Humbles says of the game:

With Cults & Daggers, I sought to explore beyond the traditional strategy game model of ‘build and fight’, and offer up a more cerebral experience. At the same time, I wanted players to challenge themselves by navigating the chaotic web created by corruption, religious avarice and betrayal as rival factions vie for power.

The game spans a 400-year period of history, between the death of Buddha and the birth of Christ, and can be played as a single player against the game’s AI, with a multi-player mode for up to four players (hot seat and play-by-e-mail supported). As well as building their own faiths, players can seek to subvert their opponents’ followers, train disciples to become fighters or assassins, gain additional rewards by directly thwarting the plans of the ancient Gods, and more.

Adam Smith, writing in Rock, Paper, Shotgun, says of the game, “I’m absolutely hooked by the theme and the world is an active place, with plagues and wars interrupting my plots”, another he notes a couple of things aren’t immediately clear when playing – although he also notes these isn’t sufficient to put him off, and he’s very keen to try the multi-player options.

A trailer video for the game has also been released on You Tube, so take a look for yourself. And for those of you who like Dance / Electronic music, you might want to have a listen to Mr. Humble’s debut album Outsurge, released last Apirl.

Playing in a Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland - race track, rinks and Ferris Wheel
Winter Wonderland:  race track, rinks and Ferris Wheel

On Thursday, January 29th, Linden Lab announced the opening of the Second Life Winter Wonderland theme park. Encompassing four regions, the park offers a range of activities for regular and premium members to enjoy – and having popped over, I have to say, it’s a lot of fun.

Those with a keen eye may well have noticed that something called “Winter Wonderland” was coming – there has been a gateway under construction at the Portal Parks since before Christmas. These gateways are now open as well, and form an alternative to reaching the Winter Wonderland to the main SLurl provided in the official blog post.

The four regions of the park offer a range of attractions, comprising (taken from the blog post):

  • Village of lights: “Pay a visit to this fantasy styled icy village and enjoy company, calm, and the wonderful winter feel! In the heart of the village you will find a variety of celebratory gifts await you. Be sure to stick around for the fireworks that light up the sky at the top of every hour!”
  • Ebbe, Get Your Gun! - my first encounter at the park was a snowball gun toting Ebbe Linden!
    Ebbe, Get Your Gun! – my first encounter at the park was a snowball gun toting Ebbe Linden!

    Snowball Warzone: “Atop the hill outside the village awaits a great cold wasteland where you and others will buckle down in the trenches of warfare: SNOWBALL FIGHTS! Claim the top of the towers for great vantage, or rule the castle walls with friends. Choose from two weapons, or if you are a Premium member, equip your Premium token for access to the ultimate snowball fight arsenal! You may even catch a Linden or two participating in the snowball shenanigans.”

  • Icy Race Course: “Strap on your helmet, hold tight, and rev those engines! On the outskirts of the Village of Lights are free vendors where you can pick up a snowboard or a mighty snowmobile. Premium members can access upgraded vehicles by equipping their token. Hop aboard and race around the four-region wide race track full of bumps, hills, jumps, and more! Grab a friend and see who can best the turns and cross the lines first. Be sure to turn on Advanced Lighting to see the track nicely lit up as you cruise the snow!”
  • Skatetown Area: “In the heart of this region are two skate arenas for the enjoyment of everyone. Grab a pair of skates from the free vendor, strap them on, and give them a spin! Execute athletic jumps and twirls, and glide your way around the ring. In the front vendors here, Premium members will find an extra prize full of customization options to fit your style and avatar.”
  • Winter Ferris Wheel: “What better way to see the region than to sit, relax, and rotate your way to the top of the view.  The Ferris wheel will give you one of the best – and most romantic – views in the region.”

Both the SLurl provided in the blog post and the Portal Park gateways deliver you to the Village of Lights. Here you’ll find gifts to collect in the village square (check the official blog post for details). Two main paths lead from the village to the major attractions.

Winter Wonderland Village of Lights
Winter Wonderland: Village of Lights

Of course, me being me, I took a short cut and found my way to the snowball fight arena somewhat unarmed. As a result, I promptly got shot by the decidedly well-armed Ebbe Linden and Marianne McCann! Of course, as Ebbe pointed out, arriving in the arena unarmed really is “not the way to show up for a fight!” Snowball fight guns can be obtained from the giver at the foot of the stairs leading up to the arena from the village, and as everything in the Wonderland is Experience Keys based, the gun will auto-detach on leaving the arena area.

Head westward from the Village, and you’ll come to the race course. Here you can pick-up a snowmobile or snowboard and zip around the course on your own or race others – but be warned, both are pretty zippy (the snowboard has a turbofan engine mounted on the back, and the animations include the ability to jump and perform a trick. Trying either of them in Mouselook is quite a challenge! Within the loops of the racing circuit, which crosses the regions of the park, sit the ice skating rinks and the Ferris wheel.

The Snowball Warzone arena
Winter Wonderland: the Snowball Warzone arena

Materials have been used to good effect within the builds, and allowing for the fact i got there relatively early, and possibly before many have read the official blog post, lag was barely noticeable, although the Ferris wheel is a little juddery and possibly a tad slow for most people’s tastes.

If you’re a Premium member, you can hop over the any of the Premium Gift kiosks and grab your tie-in gift, which opens up “upgrades” to the Winter Wonderland activities and gifts. Just wear your ribbon with pride prior to returning to the Wonderland regions!

All told, Winter Wonderland is very well put together, and offers some good fun to be enjoyed with friends  – so why not drop in and see for yourself? My thanks to Alexa, Ebbe and Vitae Linden for the added fun 🙂 .

Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland

Note that the opening of the Winter Wonderland coincides with the Lab’s latest Premium Membership special offer (50% off the first quarter’s payment if you sign-up to the Quarterly payment plan for Premium membership. This run through until  08:00 SLT on Monday, February 16th, 2015.

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