Amidst the Ironwood Hills in Second Life

Ironwood Hills; Inara Pey, October 2015, on Flickr Ironwood Hills (Flickr) – click any image for full size

While it draws its inspiration from further afield than Halloween, a visit to Ironwood Hills is nevertheless in keeping with the time of the year, offering as it does a suitably dark and atmospheric place for exploration and investigation.

The work of Cyrus Knight (josman2088) and Jestyr Knight (Zeke Jestyr), the region offers a range of environments, all linked by a common post-apocalyptic theme, with plenty of photographic opportunities (with rezzing available), all of which is loosely based on Silent Hill.

Ironwood Hills; Inara Pey, October 2015, on Flickr Ironwood Hills (Flickr)

This is a forever twilight place, where the sky is leaden, the streets wreathed in shadow and subject to the encroachments of nature. It is a town that has seen better days, still held thrall to whatever has befallen it. Quite what that might be is hard to determine, but the wailing of sirens tends to suggest something destructive, as does the ruined state of some of the buildings. similarly, the distant sounds of fairground music tends to suggest most of the locals departed in a hurry.

Or perhaps some remained. Certainly, when walking the cracked, darkened streets under the few still-working lamps, it is possible to come across echoes of childish laughter, which is not entirely comforting in its tone. Turn a corner here or there, and you may even come across a youngster, perhaps playing hopscotch and strangely indifferent to your presence…

Ironwood Hills; Inara Pey, October 2015, on Flickr Ironwood Hills (Flickr)

Signs of what seems to have been a panicked exodus (or some other upheaval) can be found elsewhere as well: a police car smashed into a fire hydrant, a taxi lying in the local river the local river, the wreck of a truck on the edge of town, victim of an altercation with a tree.

Just when all this occurred is hard to assess. On the one hand, that power still flows through part of the town, allowing street lights to offer some illumination and signs to flicker weakly, offers a suggestion that the calamity is only recently passed. On the other, however, the state of the local vegetation and the way it is encroaching on roads, buildings and vehicles, suggests a fair amount of time has passed since whatever transpired here.

Beyond the town, with its church and drive-in theatre, baseball court and the rest, lay much more to explore. Cross the bridge, for example, and you’ll come to a partially flooded fairground. Perhaps the water here is the result of some natural disaster. Travel further afield, and other things might be brought to light – but I’ll leave these for you to discover.

Ironwood Hills; Inara Pey, October 2015, on Flickr Ironwood Hills (Flickr)

This is a design which makes excellent use of the space available at ground level within a region to present an environment rich in content. So much so that given the ambient lighting and the care put into the design, it is possible to miss things if limiting yourself to just a casual visit. So be sure yo take your time and that your follow all the footpaths, roads, tracks and trails you come across, or you’ll never know where they might lead or what might await discovery.

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Microsoft acquires Havok, the Second Life physics engine

Haovk: acquired by Microsoft
Haovk: acquired by Microsoft

News has been spreading about Microsoft’s acquisition of the Havok physics engine from Intel for an undisclosed sum.

Ciaran Laval was perhaps the first SL blogger to report the news, which has been featured on the likes of the IGN website, Engadget, Venture Beat’s Gamesbeat, and other on-line tech news outlets.

For those unfamiliar with Havok, it is it the physics engine that drives a vast number of computer and console games. It allows these games to simulate effects such as gravity, friction, collisions between objects and other natural forces, without the need for them to be individually coded and accounted for on a per-game basis.

Within Second Life, Havok is used for the purposes of physics simulation, and Havok sub-libraries licensed by the Lab are also used in such aspects of the platform as pathfinding (remember that?) and the official mesh uploader.

As well as being used for in-world physics, Havok libraires are also used within the official viewer (and TPVs which have signed a sub-licence agreement) to handle aspects of pathfinding and mesh uploads (shown here)
As well as being used for in-world physics, Havok libraries are also used within the official viewer (and TPVs which have signed a sub-licence agreement) to handle aspects of pathfinding and mesh uploads (shown here)

Microsoft has been a Havok partner for a number of years, and as a part of the acquisition has promised to allow developers elsewhere to continue to use it, stating:

Havok is an amazing technology supplier in the games industry and the leading real-time physics creator. We saw an opportunity to acquire Havok to deliver great experiences for our fans. Throughout the company’s history, they’ve partnered with Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and many others to create more than 600 games including Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Destiny, Dark Souls and The Elder Scrolls.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok continues our tradition of empowering developers by providing them with the tools to unleash their creativity to the world.   We will continue to innovate for the benefit of development partners.

But, if a long-term partner with Havok, why take the step of purchasing it outright? Jeff Grubb, over at Gamesbeat takes a lead from a part of Microsoft’s announcement of the acquisition, to suggest the company are looking a the potential for cloud-based physics capabilities within multi-player games, as recently demonstrated in the upcoming Crackdown 3 sandbox-style third-person shooter title:

For that open-world crime game’s multiplayer mode, Microsoft is enabling players to go in and destroy skyscrapers and everything else in the world. That mode is only possible through the power of Azure, which means Crackdown 3 developers Sumo Digital and Cloudgine are building a cloud-based destruction engine that probably runs on Havok. Once that’s built, and now that Microsoft owns Havok, it could potentially license that destruction engine out to other developers.

In August, IGN had a demonstration of these capabilities within Crackdown 3, and the results are impressive:

It’s unlikely the Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok will have any immediate or medium-term inpact on Second Life. As it is, the platform currently uses the Havok  2011.2, and so far as has been indicated at various in-world meetings, there are no public plans to update the engine at the moment. Longer-term, it will be interesting to see if / how any new / additional capabilities brought to the engine might come to be deployed in Second Life and / or “Project Sansar” (assuming Havok might be the physics engine used with that platform, something that the Lab has not as yet revealed).

Art with an adult theme in Second Life

The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest: (l) Saritha Gabardini, (r) Yayshe – Dathúil Gallery
The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest: (l) Saritha Gabardini, (r) Yayshe – Dathúil Gallery

The latest exhibition of art to feature at the superb Dathúil Gallery, owned by Max Butoh and curated by Lυcy (LucyDiam0nd), opened on Friday, October 2nd. It is something of a slight departure from the monthly exhibitions held up until now. Rather the focus on the work of a particular artist or artistic coupling, the exhibition features the “top twenty” selection from this year’s  Chamber Society Photography Competition, and which have been selected from a total of over 90 entries overall.For those unfamiliar with it, [the Chamber] is a private members club also owned and operated by Max, and is one of several establishments also located on the same region – Floris – as the Dathúil gallery.

The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest: 2nd place Yum Parkin with Porsheen (l) and Simon Sonneblume (c) behind – Dathúil Gallery
The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest: 2nd place Yum Parkin with Porsheen (l) and Simon Sonneblume (c) behind – Dathúil Gallery

The focus of the club is “to create a deep and erotic atmosphere for role-play and erotic chat for members. We focus on politeness and manners with a twist. Our members expect intelligent, lively conversation and imagination along with beautiful and detailed surroundings.” Membership requires adherence to a dress code, an understood code of conduct, and observation of the society’s rules.

As one might imagine, given the erotic overtures within [the Chamber], the images on display within the gallery  are of a similarly erotic nature, with many among them perhaps NSFW.

The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest: HisOne - Dathúil Gallery
The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest: HisOne – Dathúil Gallery

Now in its third year, the competition awards prizes for the top three entries, which have been awarded to Ziekling Bunnyhug (1st place), Yum Parkin (2nd) and Ossia Xevion and Janet Patton (joint 3rd). The four winning entries are displayed at the front of the gallery space, with the remaining top twenty selections ranged around both the main floor and mezzanine, each piece individually displayed on an easel with the photographer’s name displayed above it.

While nudity is evident in some of the images (hence the NSFW warning above), it is not a common theme to all, and the overall approach of the photographers tends towards subtle eroticism, rather than blatant titillation. In this, as with [the Chamber] itself, the exhibition further gives the lie to the misconception held by some pundits that Adult themed locations in Second life are by default indicative of “pornographic” content.

The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest prizewinners: Ziekling Bunnyhug, Yum Parkin (r) and Janet Patton and Ossia Xevion (r) – Dathúil Gallery
The Chamber Society 3rd annual photography contest prize winners: Ziekling Bunnyhug, Yum Parkin (r) and Janet Patton and Ossia Xevion (r) – Dathúil Gallery

All told, another excellent exhibition from Lucy and Max which offers another window onto the range of creative and artistic talent which exists within Second Life.

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