Bright blades in a Gentle Wind

Soyokaze; Inara Pey, January 2015, on FlickrSoyokaze (Flickr) – click any image for full size

Soyokaze (“gentle wind”) is the home and dōjō for the Soyokaze clan, a school for C:SI sword combat, and a RP environment honouring the samurai and the Edo period of ancient Japan. It is also the home of the  Bushido Challenge, which is one of the most involved challenges I’ve yet tried in SL, being both immersive and engaging.

The Soyokaze-ryu can be found on the ground level of the region. Here, set deep within a river gorge, sits a small village, the wooden buildings standing on either side of the gorge, a stone bridge spanning the waters. This place is clearly of of strategic import, as it is overlooked by two stone-built castles.

Soyokaze; Inara Pey, January 2015, on FlickrSoyokaze (Flickr) – click any image for full size

There are opportunities galore for photography here, and clan members offer a warm and friendly greeting. Period costume is not required (indeed, it should be pointed out that the clan is dedicated to preserving the best and oldest of traditions of the Edo period, rather than being set in the Edo period – hence the seemingly odd appearances of things like a soda drinks dispenser, dart board and modern-era gamer’s chairs in some parts of the region). That said, some light role-play does, I’m told, take place within the region at times.

As a centre for C:SI sword combat, the school welcomes enquiries from interested parties, which should be addressed to DomoKun Giotto or Kasumi Hashi. There are a number of combat zones placed around the village, mostly notable the impressive form of the school itself, nestling in the neighbouring valley.   If you’d like to rez props for any photography, rezzing is open, and auto-return set to 21 minutes – but do please remember to pick your bits up if you finish within that time.

Soyokaze; Inara Pey, January 2015, on FlickrSoyokaze (Flickr) – click any image for full size

For those who wish to extend their visit, there is the Bushido Challenge. This involves coming to the aid of Princess Ayuki, trapped in a labyrinth of tunnels by  malevolent spirits, and is – as mentioned at the top of this article – one of the most engaging challenges I’ve attempted in Second Life, and recommend it. But be warned, it does require a fair amount of time (or at least, one or more return visits), and a couple of parts of the challenge can only be solved through the assistance of / co-operation of others.

Assisting the princess is a case of stepping through the teleport portal, found within the village, and then solving seven challenges involving the Bushido code: Gi (justice & morality); Yu (heroic courage); Jin (compassion); Rei (polite courtesy); Makoto (sincerity); Meiyo (honour) and Chu (duty & loyalty). Each challenge is reached through its own portal, starting Gi (although it is possible to take some of the challenges in any order you choose).

Soyokaze; Inara Pey, January 2015, on FlickrSoyokaze (Flickr) – the entrance to the Bushido Challenge

The challenges are all varied in nature, mixing logic, elements of a hunt, learning a skill, solving riddles, exercising good timing, and so on, offering a complex quest in which – for a part at least – you’ll need local sounds audible in addition to having a friend on-hand to assist you. As you solve each challenge, don’t forget to claim your reward from the treasure chests located within each challenge area.

Instructions in places may not be all that straightforward, so if you get stuck and any point, find your way to Princess Ayuki (who stands in one of the tunnels behind a portal), and she’ll offer you some tips / advice.

Can you succeed through the tests offered by the Bushido Challenge and demonstrate all you've learnt?
Can you succeed through the tests offered by the Bushido Challenge and demonstrate all you’ve learnt?

I confess to not yet having completed the challenge, largely down to running out of time during my initial visit, and not having anyone on-hand to assist in the challenges requiring co-operation, so I cannot say how things finish (and wouldn’t spoil it for you, even if I did!). One thing I will say is that, while I enjoyed those elements of the quest I have completed (and look forward to solving the rest), the one part I’ve had a lot of fun with is the archery challenge. Scripted by Yamil Dagger, this is quiet simply a lot of fun, whether or not you’re playing for prizes – indeed, I’ve since been back for another couple of rounds, simply because it is so much fun.

Soyokaze offers an enticing mixture of a photogenic environment,  the chance to join an established C:SI combat clan, and the opportunity to engage in a quest that has just the right mix of fun, frustration and a growing desire to overcome the mischief of the spirits and reach the conclusion.

Add to that the village tavern, which offers a cosy place to meet and talk with friends and clan members, and Soyokaze presents itself as a very engaging place to visit. Very thoroughly recommended!

My special thanks go to どうも (DomoKun Giotto, who has designed the region and is clan Sōke along with Kasumi Hashi) and to Akiko Yuki for their time in making me feel welcome and facing a barrage of questions, to ジョイ (Kimicko), for her assistance with part of the Bushido Challenge quest, and to Yamil, for his encouragement as I took the archery challenge.

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UWA Announces Transcending Borders books available

Launched on Monday July 21st, 2014, the University of Western Australia (UWA)’s Transcending Borders brought together their 7th MachinimUWA and their 5th UWA Grand Art Challenge into one event, with a combined prize pool in excess of L$ 1.03 million.

Transcending Borders challenged entrants to interpret the title of the competition in any fashion they deem applicable, and produce a 3D artwork (in no more than 150 prims) or short film based on their interpretation, be it on transcending borders of space and time, love and loss, nationally or culture or language, or the real and the virtual, and so on. The result was a glittering array of 67 artworks and 38 machinima, representing a broad diversity of interpretations of the theme, with the winners celebrated at a special awards ceremony held on Sunday, December 14th, 2014, which I was honoured to attend as a member of judging panel, and which I reported on here and here.

On Saturday, January 24th, the UWA announced that a special catalogue of the challenge has now been produced. At 212 pages in length and lavishly illustrated, the book covers both the art and machinima challenges, with individuals photographic spreads covering each of the art entries, complete with the artists’ statements on their work, and the machinima entries presented by individual stills from each of the films entered.

Art entries from Transcending Borders are present in 2 or 4 page photographic spreads, complete with notes from the artists
Art entries from Transcending Borders are present in 2 or 4 page photographic spreads, complete with notes from the artists

The book, Transcending Borders has been produced as a part of the UWA Studies in Virtual Arts e-journals (SiVA) series, and can be viewed on-line. Printed copies can also be obtained from the UWA and shipped to you. Those interested in owning a copy as a commemoration of the challenge and of both art and machinima in virtual worlds, should contact Jayjay Zifanwe in-world.

As someone fortunate to have a copy of the last title in the series, Project Freedom, I cannot stress enough how beautifully produced the books in the SiVA series are. Edited by the UWA’s curator, FreeWee Ling, books in the series are compiled and produced with a huge amount of care, and the photographs of the artwork always capture the essence and beauty of each piece.

In the meantime, and if you haven’t done so already, you can see all of the art pieces on display for the time being at the UWA Challenge Gallery, while a list of machinima entries, with links to each film is also available.

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