Trick or Treating in Second Life

Carver's End
Carver’s End

Pulse Games have been bringing Halloween themed games to Second life for eight years. In 2014, they created Don’t Panic, an enticing and fun little adventure-come-hunt built around the story of paranormal investigators and mysterious goings-on, as I reviewed at the time, having previously encountered their 2013 event, System Failure. So when I heard the news their offering for the 2015 Halloween season was open, I was curious to find out what it might be like.

Carver’s End is billed as a trick-or-treat adventure which takes the turn for the worst. as one might expect, participants are out doing the trick or treating as things  get decidedly odd and increasingly gory as they progress  through what might otherwise be the sleepy little hamlet that goes by the titular name.

A Blood Moon hangs over Elm Street Baptist Fellowship, Carver's End (Paster: F. Krueger?)
A Blood Moon hangs over Elm Street Baptist Fellowship, Carver’s End (Paster: F. Krueger?)

Things start innocently enough at the arrival point. Here you’ll need to grab a copy of the free play pack, which includes introductory notes, instructions on game play. Do make sure you heed the notes on minimising lag and divesting yourself of unnecessary facelights. It’s also a good idea to have sound on as well, although essential information is also delivered through chat. There’s also a game HUD in the form of a radio, which you’ll need to wear. With this in place, you’re ready to proceed via the “tunnel” leading to the town.

As Carver’s End uses Experience Keys, you must grant it permission to act on your avatar when you reach the tunnel entrance. The requested permissions are displayed in the dialogue, and as with all Experience keys activities, the permissions granted will be automatically revoked when you leave the game play regions.

"They're heeerrrreee...."
“They’re heeerrrreee….” – the TV has some strange offerings in Carver’s End!

On granting the permissions, you’ll be transported to Carver’s End (population 666). From here on in, what happens and where you go is entirely up to you. As with all Pulse Games, progress is very much as case of explore, touch and listen for hints (given both over your radio (local sounds) and in chat).

And when I say “explore” and “touch”, I mean exactly that; don’t take anything for granted, and take your time. There are prizes large and small to be found (with the black rats in particular handing out hunt prizes), while doors, gates, manhole covers, ladders, and so on may well teleport you to another area of game play.

The game HUD - LEDs mark your progress, and if you get lost, HOME will take you back tot he landing point
The game HUD – LEDs mark your progress, and if you get lost, HOME will take you back to the landing point so you can start over

It is at this point that a small problem does occur. One of the really attractive elements of Don’t Panic, was the fact it was structured around a storyline with a defined starting point and purpose. This, combined with the various ways one could progress through the challenge, made it  and engaging activity.

Carver’s End has a similar free-form approach to it, which offers the same different routes through it, allowing different things to be found over several runs through the town. However, it does lack any underpinning story. This left me leaving a little disappointed with the experience when compared to Don’t Panic; there was little to really keep me engaged to the same degree, which was a shame.

That said, for anyone who does enjoy hunts in Second Life and fancies one with a horror twist, Carver’s End will be open through until mid-November; there’s plenty on offer as you find those little black rats!

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Alchemy 3.8.5: skinning and getting under the hood

Alchemy-logoOn Sunday, October 25th, the Alchemy team announced the release of version of their viewer. This is an update which primarily focuses on a lot of under-the-hood updates and fixes which may not always be obvious to users, but which are intended to further improve viewer stability and improvements. However, it also includes some interesting tweaks as well, of which more below.

As always with any viewer release, please refer to the release notes for details on updates, improvements and fixes, as provided by the development team.

The first noticeable change with this release lies with the version number, which leaps from 3.8.2 from the last release to 3.8.5 – the result of Alchemy (alongside UKanDo and Kokua) pacing the Lab’s version numbers for viewer updates. The idea with this is to make it easier to quickly identify which of the recent releases from the Lab has been merged into a release from any TPV with a matching version number. So in this case, Alchemy is merged-up to the Lab’s 3.8.5 code and the October Maintenance release viewer.

The other major visual change to the viewer with this release is a new skinning option. This allows users to choose the look of the viewer UI skin, and to create their own skins, which they can use on their own or share with others, marking alchemy as the latest viewer to offer support for custom skins.

The option can be found under Preferences > Skinning, and as the release notes indicate, the viewer currently includes just two options at present, in order to keep the install size down: Alchemy’s own dark skin (default) and the Lab’s classic V3 viewer skin.  However, the release notes appear to suggest that further skins may be added to the viewer – or perhaps made available for download through the alchemy website – in due course. There will also apparently be a guide produced, offering users instructions on making their own skins.

The Skinning option, new with Alchemy 3.8.5 allows the use of custom UI skins with the viewer
The Skinning option, new with Alchemy 3.8.5 allows the use of custom UI skins with the viewer

Using a skin simply requires selecting it from the list of available options, clicking the Apply button and then confirming your selection by clicking on Yes in the follow-up dialogue box. Restarting the viewer will then apply the selected skin.

Other Updates

The Alchemy 3.8.5 refresh option allows you to refresh textures / meshes worn by yourself or other avatars
The Alchemy 3.8.5 refresh option allows you to refresh textures / meshes worn by yourself or other avatars

As well as the above, the 3.8.5 release of Alchemy includes:

  • libcurl 7.45.0, boost 1.59, the replacement of C++11 with C++14
  • ALCH-312 – a Refresh option has been added to assist with loading avatar mesh and textures
  • ALCH-278 – the Group list (CTRL-SHIFT-G) now includes an “eye” icon to show if the group can be viewed in your Profile (icon shown) or is hidden (icon not shown) – groups are hidden through the Group Profile floater, as usual
  • ALCH-270 – a message logger and builder for packet and message inspection for debugging and fixing OpenSim. This feature will be locked to developer builds
  • ALCH-297 – the Fast Timers legend is now scrollable by the scroll wheel
  • ALCH-290 – the Destination Guide now updates when teleporting between OpenSim grids
  • Numerous bug fixes and many under-the-hood changes.

There is still no RLV support for Alchemy with this release, which may disappoint some. However, what is there makes for a useful update, and ensures Alchemy stays on par with the Lab’s continuing run of updates and additions to the official viewer.

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