Firestorm Halloween Hunt to open Gateway

The Firestorm Gateway regions: setting for a special Spooky Hunt, but merchant assistance sought
The Firestorm Gateway regions: setting for a special Spooky Hunt, but merchant assistance sought

Firestorm will be opening their new Gateway regions to the public on Saturday, October 31st, with both a special Halloween party and the launch of their Spooky Nights Hunt, which will run through until Monday, November 30th.

The Firestorm Gateway is one of up to 20 new Community Gateways which will soon be opening as a part of a trial of a new Community Gateway programme initiated by the Lab, and  which I previewed back in September.

The idea is to allow communities and groups within Second Life to build their own gateways focused on bringing new users into Second Life and to help get them started. These gateways will include web pages to attract new users to them, which will include a registration API to allow those users to sign-up to SL and create and account without necessarily having to go through the central registration process at secondlife.com.

While the hunt isn't focused on encouraging new users into Second Life, the Firstorm Gateway regions, once officially opened, are itentded to help incoming users gain familiar with SL, gain support, and experience some of the activities to be found in-world, such as socialising, flying, boating and - as shown here - scuba diving
The Firestorm Gateway regions, once officially opened, are intended to help incoming users gain familiar with SL, gain support, and experience some of the activities to be found in-world, such as socialising, flying, boating, playing games, and – as shown here – scuba diving and underwater exploring

The Firestorm party and Spooky Nights hunt do not mark the official opening of the new Gateway programme as a whole – the Lab will hopefully be announcing this is due course. However, they do present the opportunity for Second Life users to explore the Firestorm Gateway regions, five of which will be featured in the hunt, which will also serve as the first event designed to attract new users to Second Life via Firestorm’s website.

A special stage area has been created for the party on October 31st, which will feature Mankind Tracer and Nance Brody, among others. There will be more details on this announced by the Firestorm team in due course.

The Firestorm Gateway regions also include areas suitable for intdoucing people to role-play, etc. - and you can explore them once the Spooky Hunt opens on October 31st
The Firestorm Gateway regions also include areas suitable for introducing people to role-play, etc. – and you can explore them once the Spooky Hunt opens on October 31st

The Spooky Nights Hunt will take place across the five activity regions of the Gateway, and it is hoped it will provide fun and interaction for both established and new users. Right now, and in support of the hunt, the Firestorm team are reaching out to Merchants who are willing to provide goodies as hunt prizes, with Jessica Lyon, the Firestorm project manager noting:

Although it is a Halloween hunt, the hunt remains open after Halloween. You can make a spooky gift or not.

If you are a Merchant interested in supporting the hunt, please hop over the Firestorm website and the Spooky Hunt application page for further information.

As well as participating in the hunt, newcomers and visitors will be able to explore all six of the Firestorm Gateway regions, which include an orientation region for people new to Second Life and a social area where people can meet and interact (and where questions on using Second Life can be answered). In addition, they’ll be able to participate in any of the activities offered across the regions. These are designed to present a broad feel for the things people can enjoy in Second Life, and include fly aircraft, sailing, jet skiing, scuba diving, playing games, etc. In addition, they can explore a simple role-play environment, or use the sandbox area to learn the basics of building.

The Firestorm Gateway opening will focus on a Halloween party of Saturday, October 31st, followed by a month-long Spooky Nights Hunt in the 5 activity regions of the Gateway

The Firestorm Gateway opening will focus on a Halloween party of Saturday, October 31st, followed by a month-long Spooky Nights Hunt in the 5 activity regions of the Gateway

One of the most important aspects of any Community Gateway is providing volunteers who are willing to spend time in-world providing help and support for new users as they arrive. If you would be interested in supporting the Firestorm Gateway by becoming a mentor there, please send a note card with your name and relevant background information (e.g. whether you have been a mentor in the past, experience in helping newcomers and users, etc.), to Jessica Lyon.

To keep up to date with preparations for the party and the hunt, as well as with further news on the Firestorm Gateway, keep an eye on the Firestorm website. I’ll hopefully have more news on the Gateway programme itself as it is announced by the Lab and / or more Gateways come on-line.

If you are participating in the Gateway trial programme, and would like your Gateway to be previewed in this blog, please use the contact form to drop me a line, or contact me in-world.

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Lab blogs on upcoming improvements for Second Life

secondlifeOn Tuesday, October 20th, Linden Lab issued a blog post highlighting upcoming technical improvements to the service, particularly  viewer-side updates, which will shortly be making an appearance, or which are already available in the form of release candidate or project viewers.

Regular readers of this blog will hopefully already be aware of most of the improvements mentioned by the Lab’s post, as I’ve covered them through various updates and focus articles in these pages.

The first to get a mention is the Project Valhalla viewer, which introduces Chromium Embedded Framework functionality to Second Life to replace the ageing LLQTwebkit functionality, and which I initially previewed here. Commenting on this viewer, the Lab blog post states:

A new age of modern HTML5 content is upon us, and we’re overhauling the way shared media (aka “media on a prim”) works so that you can enjoy all kinds of modern web content within Second Life. Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) is coming to replace the ageing QTWebkit framework. What you can now see in a Project Viewer is the latest released version of Chrome – so it will render all modern web technologies – like HTML5, CSS3, WebGL; has the latest security patches; and will be easy to keep updated to a recent version. What does this mean for your Flash content? What about QuickTime? They may still work, but because both can only be viewed if the user has correctly installed a 3rd party plugin, we can’t  promise support and you shouldn’t expect that it will work for everyone. Standard HTML5 is the way of the future and this Viewer will enable it for anyone. There are still bugs to squash, and we’re iterating quickly to bring you a smooth in-world media and browsing experience. If you have comments about this feature – please post to the forum thread about this topic – located here.

My own quick-and-dirty demo of using a viewer with the CEF code (in this case, the Black Dragon TPV, as I don’t have a video using the Valhalla viewer) to access WebGL content displayed both on prims in-world, and via the viewer’s built-in browser. The WebGL demonstrations are provided via David Walsh (with thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the link), and this video is intended to offer a simple overview of some of the capabilities, which as mentioned in the notes from the Lab are actually far more extensive.

The major take-away from the CEF introduction at this point is that if you make use of media within your products (e.g. TVs, etc.), or as a part of you in-world presence, now is the time to be looking to convert them to using HTML / WebGL, etc., testing them against the Valhalla project viewer, and reporting any issues / highlighting any concerns. The Lab is more like to address matters / consider changes while the viewer is will at project status, rather than when it reaches a release candidate status.

Also mentioned in the post is the new Notifications RC viewer and the Quick Graphics viewer, both of which are both available as release candidate viewers. The former provides a new front-end for handling incoming notifications (and which I previewed here). The latter provides both the new Avatar Complexity functionality (which replaces the old ARC / ADW) and the abilities to create, save and quickly re-use sets of your own graphics presets for use in different environments and settings. Again, I’ve previewed both of these here and here.

The notifications viewer offers a new way of managing notifications and is featured in the Lab's blog post
The notifications viewer offers a new way of managing notifications and is featured in the Lab’s blog post

Additional insight into Avatar Complexity is provided, both through the post and via a link to the Knowledge Base article on it. a request is also given that anyone who has general comments on the capability to please post them to the related forum thread (comments posted to this blog may not be read by the Lab).

Mention is also made of the HTTP updates which have been undertaken by Rider Linden (Project Azumarill) and which are also available in a release candidate viewer. This project builds on the foundations laid by Monty Linden with his HTTP work, further enhancing the use of HTTP capabilities to provide more robust communications capabilities with the simulators and back-end services. Finally – at least in terms of available viewers – the updated mesh importer viewer, recently promoted to de facto release status, gets a mention.

The Quick Graphics viewer allows you to create and save your own graphics presets to suit different requirement,s and which can be quickly loaded and used with just a couple of mouse clicks
The Quick Graphics viewer allows you to create and save your own graphics presets to suit different requirement,s and which can be quickly loaded and used with just a couple of mouse clicks

Also referred to, although it has yet to appear in a project viewer, is a further inventory related project. This is being led by Aura Linden, and the aim is to improve the overall robustness of inventory handling, the work being carried out in two parts, as I was (again) able to preview recently, courtesy of a Third-Party Viewer Developer meeting:

  • The first part will see the  removal of all of the old UDP inventory messaging paths used by the viewer which have already been replaced by more robust mechanisms, but which have until now remained a part of the viewer’s code – this aspect of the work should be appearing in a project viewer viewer soon
  • The second part will comprise a refactoring of the viewer inventory files and functions with the overall aim of making the code more readable and easier to maintain.

As the Lab’s blog post indicates, this project further builds on the on-going work we’ve seen during the course of the last few months to improve inventory performance, reduce the number of inventory losses users may suffer, and provide assistance with inventory-related problems which affect things like logging-in to to SL.

Finally, the Labs blog post also reveals that Flash has now been removed from the secondlife.com website, noting:

Due to the numerous recent security problems affecting Flash, it has been completely removed from our website. A modern way to animate starter avatars in the join carousel and some other exciting news for registration is coming out really soon. Keep an eye out!

This announcement again signifies that while the Shining Project many have ended, and things may have been a little quiet of late, things are still being progressed. As it stands, the notifications updates may well be promoted to the de facto release viewer in week #44 (week commencing Monday, October 26th). In the meantime, the links below will take you to the latest (at the time of writing) versions of the viewers mentioned here and in the Lab’s blog post.  If you find any reproducible issues with any of them, please raise a JIRA, and remember to post any general comments you may have on the viewers to the official forum threads mentioned above.