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.

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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.