Arriving at the Remnants of Earth

The City Skyline - Remnants of Earth
The city – Remnants of Earth

It’s often claimed that Second Life isn’t a game – to which the counter-claim is often, “true, but it is a platform on which games can be created” (I should know, I’ve said it enough times myself!). And the Lab have certainly put a lot of mechanisms in place which allow games to be created – the most recent being the forthcoming deployment of Experience Keys / Tools (although, like everything else in SL, they have potential and uses well beyond games within the platform).

Now there’s a new game in town which demonstrates just how flexible a platform Second Life can be for game-play and role-play. Remnants of Earth, developed by Melna Milos and her team, seeks to bring together immersive role-play and elements of traditional pen-and-paper RPGs such as the use of dice and statistics together with combat, and MMO-style activities such as adventuring and gathering, to present what the creators describe as, “the  first  pen and paper table top game in SL, while still keeping the core features of any other role-play sim. Players can interact with NPCs and other players to accomplish goals, and even engage in heated PvP faction wars.”

Game-play for Remnants of Earth takes place across several different elevations in the region, including the ground-level desert
Game-play for Remnants of Earth takes place across several different elevations in the region, including the ground-level desert

The backdrop to the story is most easily lifted directly from the comprehensive website for the game:

The current year is 2130, mankind has just passed the pre-mature stages of expanding out into the solar system over the years and have established colonies on moons such as Titan, Ganymede, and the Earth’s Moon along with key planets such as Mars, Venus and Jupiter. After the Resource War and the following horrific events of The Gate Incident, Earth has been rendered a mostly barren husk of its former glory devoid of a proper rule of law from the neglect of its former governing body, and is controlled loosely by it while everything else is ruled by either crime, vagrants or corporation military contractors and police for whatever goal they may be shooting for.

Against this backdrop, you find yourself on what remains of Earth, which has largely become – if I might borrow from a certain film franchise – a “wretched hive of scum and villainy”, not only for humans, but for assorted other groups as well: the Drevii, Mytharri, Shivan, Verga’an, and Anshri, who together with the Mutants, Splicers and cybernetic beings / creations, have their own factions in the form of organisations, clans, and syndicates.

Two citizen of the city discuss matters, the droid belonging to one keeping a wary eye on things. Not all exchanges in Remnants of Earth are so peaceful in content ...
Two citizen of the city discuss matters, the droid belonging to one keeping a wary eye on things. Not all exchanges in Remnants of Earth are so peaceful in content …

From these races, you can create a character, forge a role and join with the game. As well as the website and the accompanying wikia, the initial landing point for the game provides visitors and new player with much additional information, such as note cards on various guilds, and initial items required to participate in the game. These include a HUD (which includes your game dice), turn tracker and starter items  – you’ll need to join the RoE group for the latter. There is also an Adventure Pack available for L$ 1,000, which provides tokens for assorted items. – backpack, rifle, sword, personal transport vehicle, mining drills.  If you simply wish to observe things, make sure you pick-up and wear the OOC Observer tag.

If you intend to get involved in playing RoE, do keep in mind that while it is not a requirement, for players to do so, Teamspeak 3 may be used by other players – you can find out more on RoE’s Teamspeak page, which includes a link to the Teamspeak client, and notes on setting it up for use with RoE.

Once suitably equipped, arrivals can make their way through to the shuttle to Earth – click on this and you’ll be transported “Earthside” and the city game play area. This is a richly detailed, full-region city build which offers multiple levels and areas to explore and in which to execute game play.

Are EarthGov's police impartial? EarthGOV is, after all, a mega corporation ...
Are the police in Remnant’s of Earth impartial? After all, the police force is operated by EarthGOV, which itself is a mega corporation where business interests tend to come before governance…

Continue reading “Arriving at the Remnants of Earth”

SL project updates week 14/2: server, viewer, CDN

The Trace Too; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr The Trace Too (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments Week 14 – Recap

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread in the forums for the latest information and updates.

  • There was no deployment to the Main SLS channel on Tuesday, March 31st, due to the inventory issues arising from the week #13 RC deployment – see my update here for details.
  • On Wednesday, April 1st, all three RCs received the same update to the current server maintenance package to fix the issues with Trash failing to purge in non-AIS v3 viewers (see BUG-8877. and my coverage of the recent issues here). Those suffering from inventory fetch failures on RC regions are advised to re-enable HTTP Inventory in their viewers, if disabled (found under the Develop menu).

SL Viewer

Wednesday, April 1st saw the release of the Project BigBird viewer (yes, seriously!), version, which contains the various fixes for attachment issues which the Vir Linden has been working on. Specific fixes offered are listed as (note the MAINT designations are for the Lab’s internal JIRA, and thus non-viewable):

  • MAINT-4351 HUDs and attachments intermittently and randomly detach after teleports, sometimes reattaching on their own shortly after, sometimes staying detached completely, or showing as “worn on Invalid Attachment Point” while still detached
  • MAINT-4653 [Attachment-RC] When using “Add” or “Attach to” to attach multiple attachments at the same time, some attachments fall off and some get attached to the wrong attachment point
  • MAINT-4917 Attaching multiple objects generates multiple bake requests
  • MAINT-4918 Removing multiple attachments generates redundant detach requests
  • MAINT-4919 Attempting to wear an outfit with more than 40 attachments will fail

UDP Paths: HTTP Inventory, Textures and More

As noted at the top of this report, the week #13 RC deployments have been causing some inventory-related issues, one of which –  the Trash purging problem – has been fixed with this week’s RC RC deployment.

The second issue  – failures in inventory fetching following clearing cache on RCs regions – has been caused by a combination of the Lab deprecating the UDP message path for inventory updates and users having the HTTP Inventory option in the viewer (found under the Develop menu – CTRL-ALT-Q) disabled (unchecked).

Given this path has been deprecated, it is essential you keep HTTP Inventory enabled (the Lab will be removing the option from the Develop menu in the future to prevent it being unwittingly disabled).

Speaking at the Server Beta Meeting on Thursday, April 2nd, Oz Linden indicated that the Lab would be taking steps in the future to deprecate UDP messaging is “high on the list” for being deprecated in the future, given that textures have now moved to the CDN.

The CDN and Switching Further Services

While discussing the issue of UDP messaging, Oz again re-iterated the desire to pivot things like fetching animations and sounds away from UDP and onto HTTP, with the aim of provisioning them through the CDN, further lifting the load the simulators currently carry. However, he caveated this with two important points:

  • While this is something he’d like to see done, and is in the plans for SL’s future, the work hasn’t actually be scheduled yet, must less started; therefore it is not something that will be happening in the short-term (or perhaps even the medium term)
  • The Lab is working on a further round of CDN improvements – again, no time scale is available for their implementation – but there won’t be any additions to the data delivered via the CDN until after such improvements have been deployed.

One aspect here is that, in terms of the simulator load and in terms of the vast majority of users, the switch-over to avatar, mesh and texture data to CDN-based services has been a success for the Lab. However, as we’ve also seen, it has resulted in issues for some users, up to and including what is a degraded service due to the actions of at least one ISP.  While the latter is not something the Lab or their CDN provider can directly tackle, it does point to the fact that while off-loading the heavy lifting from the Lab’s servers can make for improvements, it can affect users in other ways.

Hence why the Lab is being cautious in approach, and is continuing to work with its CDN providers to try to improve the service as far as can be done, in the hope of reducing the number of ways in which users might find SL a poorer experience as a result of the CDN implementation. However, exactly what can be achieved and issues mitigated, remains to be seen.

In the meantime, as as per part 1 of this week’s update, if you do feel mesh and texture rendering isn’t what it once was, try following Monty Linden’s interim ideas  for easing things.

Following Giovanna’s Line

Line: Giovanna Cerise
Line: Giovanna Cerise

Wednesday, April 1st saw the opening on Giovanna Cerise’s installation Line, located on Franz Markstein’s region of Otium. A full sim installation Line is a symbiotic piece within the region, offering a means to appreciate Giovanna’s art in an original setting, whilst also – if you’ve not done so previously – exploring the beautiful setting of Otium itself.

Line presents numerous elements of Giovanna’s art in both 2D and 3D, at least one of which is interactive. These are located both indoors and outside, where you’ll encounter them along footpaths, in doorways, on terraces and further out from Otium’s charming village, along the beach or over the water.

Line: Giovanna Cerise
Line: Giovanna Cerise

The focus of the exhibit is an exploration of the concept of the line, perhaps the simplest  expression of artistic intent; one which, as it is drawn, painted or created, might lead anywhere. As Giovanna notes in her introduction to the installation, there is a depth and freedom hidden within the line, whether it is expressed in two or three dimensions – and, in the case of some of the works on display here, through a melding of 2D images to create a 3D piece.

All of the pieces found throughout the village and the region are available for purchase, and those familiar with Giovanna’s work may find some of them familiar, having been featured in previous exhibitions she has presented in Second Life. Their presence here helps to lend a sense of familiarity to the village for those who have not previously visited, as corners are turned or buildings entered, and pieces come into view which are recognised, and so offer a welcome.

Line: Giovanna Cerise
Line: Giovanna Cerise

What I particularly like about this exhibit is the manner in which the pieces on display within the village blend with their surroundings. They are placed against  walls, lie across the cobbles of footpaths and terraces, and so on. Thus on the one hand, there is a distinctly street art feel to them, and on the other they present the feeling that the artist has stolen through the village unseen, leaving these drawings behind to tantalize the locals and attract visitors’ attention, with both of these feelings drawing one onwards through the village to discover what else might be waiting around the next corner, under the next arch or against the next wall.

A number of LMs are supplied with the introductory notes, which can be obtained on arrival via the note card giver. These can help you find some of the pieces on display more easily. However, rather than leaping around the region, I do recommend taking the time to explore on foot (although do keep in mind there are some private homes within the village and off-shore); that way you can not only discover and appreciate Giovanna’s work as you wander, you can also fully experience Otium’s own Mediterranean beauty.

Line: Giovanna Cerise
Line: Giovanna Cerise

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SL Go discontinued as OnLive sells patents

Even ideas around offering Sl Go as a Premium offering, while simple in concept, are potentially less-than-simple to implementUpdate, Friday, April 3rd: An on-line petition has been started to try to persuade Sony to keep SL Go running as a service.  In all honesty, the likelihood of this succeeding is less than slim, but if you would like to add your name to the petition, it can be found here.

On Thursday, April 2nd, it was announced that the SL Go streaming service supplied by OnLive has been discontinued.

The move is part of a wider shut-down of services that will take place on Thursday, April 30th, following a decision by the company to sell its portfolio of patents to Sony Computer Entertainment America.

An official announcement on OnLive’s SL Go website reads in full:

It is with great sadness we must announce that OnLive’s SL Go service will be coming to an end. Sony is acquiring important parts of OnLive, and their plans don’t include a continuation of the SL Go service. However, your service should continue uninterrupted until April 30, 2015. No further subscription fees will be charged, and you can continue to enjoy SL Go on all of your devices until that date.

In our year of SL Go service, we have become quite close to the Second Life® community. Thanks to your patronage and constructive feedback, SL Go became one of OnLive’s most successful services. We know how important SL Go is for many of you, and it saddens us to bring the service to a close. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to you for being a part of “SL Go by OnLive” and wish you all the best.

With warmest regards,

Everyone at OnLive

SL Go provided a means to access Second Life through Android devices, followed by the iPad - something SL users had been hoping to see for years
SL Go provided a means to access Second Life through Android devices, followed by the iPad – something SL users had been hoping to see for years

In a personal address sent out to those with whom he’s been in contact with over the course of the last year or more, OnLive’s Product Manager for SL Go Dennis Harper – someone whom I’ve come to regard as a friend both in-world and through our communications outside of the platform – said:

To my good friends and partners in Second Life,

 It breaks my heart to tell you that OnLive (OL2, Inc) has been acquired and will be closing down the game service, including SL Go.  The official press release is attached.

 SL Go Island will continue to exist for a while, but we have removed the Pay with L$ feature.

 The OnLive and SL Go services will continue to operate in full capacity until April 30.  All services will be free to anyone who has or creates an account.  All prices for the service have been set to $0.00, including SL Go.

 On a personal note; you all have been so supportive of SL Go.  You have my heartfelt thanks for all you have done.  I have made some good friends in SL and it greatly saddens me that this project is ending.  You all have accepted us n00bs into your community and mentored us on what Second Life really is.  I have learned so much!  My sincere thanks to all of you.

This is and unfortunate end, not just for SL Go, but also for everyone at OnLive, a company which had come through a lot to provide a unique on-line gaming service and which has tried to enter a very unique environment with SL Go, and has done so by providing a very successful approach to providing access to Second Life (and OpenSim) to people while on the move through their delivery to Android and iPad devices, and to those using older, lower-specification hardware.

SL Go has also allowed users to enjoy the full richness of Second Life on relatively low-end machines. Following a recent severe hardware failure on my primary PC, SL Go became my primary means of accessing SL for some 2 weeks while the "main" machine was repaired; above, I'm running it on a humble 2 GB win 7/32 Asus PC EE 1201N
SL Go has also allowed users to enjoy the full richness of Second Life on relatively low-end machines. Following a recent severe hardware failure on my primary PC, SL Go became my primary means of accessing SL for some 2 weeks while the “main” machine was repaired; above, I’m running it on a humble 2 GB win 7/32 Asus PC EE 1201N

I’ve been fortunate enough to be somewhat closely involved in SL Go, initially being offered the opportunity to help beta the product, and then in helping to report on and promote the service, and (hopefully) provide OnLive, through Dennis and his team with useful feedback, support and advice.

As such, I’d like to take this opportunity to offer Dennis, Jeff, Shae, Jersey, Robby and everyone else at OnLive involved in SL Go – including Jane Anderson in the US and Mark Bevan here in the UK,  my thanks and my heartfelt best wishes for the future. I do, however hope that we’ll continue to able to see one another in-world, at the very least.

In writing about the situation, in Ars Technica (linked to at the top of this article and in the links section below),  Kyle Orland notes:

Looking back, it seems OnLive was just a little bit too far ahead of the curve, both in terms of market readiness and the Internet infrastructure necessary for streaming games. As low-latency bandwidth continues to become cheaper and more accessible around the world, it seems likely someone will nail the correct combination of business model, game selection, and easy-to-use interface to become the industry’s answer to Netflix. That company will owe a debt to OnLive for getting the ball rolling and proving that streaming gaming was something that was worth trying in the first place.

I couldn’t agree more.

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