UWA Pursue Impossible machinima: L$41K in prizes for audience participation

Image courtesy of UWA
Image courtesy of UWA / Eliza Wierwight

Saturday, October 31st marked the closing date for submission to this year’s combined 5th University of Western Australia’s (UWA) Grand Art Challenge and MachinimUWA challenge, Pursue Impossible.

The challenge takes its theme from the UWA’s clarion call to students in the physical world to achieve their fullest possible potential by studying with the university. Within the challenge, it calls on entrants to consider what their “impossible” might be. Perhaps it might be something personal, a goal achieved individually or by a loved one or friend. Or perhaps it is consideration of those things we deem to be impossible, but which we may still pursue and conquer as individuals or collectively. Perhaps it is itself a clarion call for us all to face the things we consider impossible and rise above them; or maybe it is an illustration of how virtual environments empower people to visualise, create and push the boundaries of the possible. There are many options and opportunities to consider.

There have been some amazing entries in both the art and machinima elements of the challenge, as I hope my coverage of Pursue Impossible n these pages demonstrates. With the closing date having passed, the task of judging the entries begins, and with it the opportunity for all residents in Second Life to share in the prizes on offer.

On Thursday, November 5th, the UWA announced the launch of the Pursue Impossible MachnimUWA audience participation challenge, with a prize pool of L$41,000. All you have to do to have an opportunity to win one of the five prizes on offer, which range from L$12,000 to L$5,000, is to watch the 45 machinima entries to the competition, then list those videos you think will finish in the TOP 10 in order 1st – 10th, as decided by the official judging panel.

Entries should be made via note card in-world, passed to Jayjay Zifanwe with your name in the title of the card, together with “MachinimUWA VIII Audience Event”. Alternatively, you can e-mail your list to jayjayaustralia-at-hotmail.com. All entries must be submitted no later than midnight SLT on Sunday, December 6th, 2015.

The full list of machinima entries can be found in the UWA’s Audience Event announcement linked to above. Remember, this is not a popularity vote. Your top 10 entry / entries should be your prediction of who the actual top 10 will be according to the official judging panel.

Winners will be announced at the Grand Finale for the challenge, which will be held 06:00 SLT on Sunday, December 13th 2015.

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From a forest cabin to a beach house in Second Life

The Skye Beach House - superb accommodation for Second Life
The Skye Beach House – superb accommodation for Second Life

It’s no secret that I’m an admirer of Alex Bader’s creations in Second Life. I’ve loved his castles since I first encountered one by chance during my travels, and I have a fair few of his landscape and texture sets stuffed into my purse (aka inventory) as well as making a fair amount of use of them on the home island.

One of my favourite items obtained from Alex earlier in the year was his Luxury Forest Cabin, which has been my home since April 2015. It’s an outstanding and stylish design presenting a spacious 2-room living space, fully furnished and packed with detail (and animations) for a land impact of just 55, and a tidy footprint of 23.5 x 21.5 metres. However, as is the way of things in Second Life, it has now been retired to make way for a new house. And guess what? It’s again from Alex.

The Sky Beach House (steps by the pool my addition, using a copy of the original steps supplied)
The Skye Beach House (steps by the pool my addition, using a copy of the original steps supplied)

Truth be told, I’ve been quite taken by the Skye Beach House for a while now, but haven’t had reason to invest in it as I have been very comfortable with the Forest Cabin. However, As a recent encounter has come to be something rather more, the desire to have a new home has grown.

This is a contemporary design with a similar footprint to the Luxury Cabin (24 x 19.5 metres), but benefiting an upper floor to provide a third room. Fully furnished and complete with a swimming pool, the house has an overall land impact of 61, and offers a lot of living space in a compact layout.

Plenty of interior space (sofa, cat and piano not supplied!)
Plenty of interior space (sofa, cat and piano not supplied!)

To cater for beach locations, where the terrain can be uneven, the house and its deck are raised up on legs. This can leave the pool, located at the front of the house, looking like a bit of a brick, but overall, the approach works well and certainly overcame the unevenness of the rock-top location on our little island. Access is via a set of steps leading up to the deck, which has glass railings to two sides and offers a fair amount of space for additional outdoor seating.

Indoors, there is a large lounge which is pre-furnished with armchairs, tables, a dining table and 4 chairs, paintings on the walls, etc. Alongside of this, and up a set of three steps is the second ground floor room which is nominally the bedroom and opens-out onto the pool patio. The third room sits over the lounge and by default comes with armchairs, table and telescope. There are lots of other touches – lighting, picture frames (just drag and drop your own photos), books, etc., which make this a complete out-of-the-rezzer home, while allowing anything to be swapped out as required. A pose system allows for various poses (single and couple) to be used on the deck and on and in the pool

The house atop the island, replacing the Skye Luxury Forest Cabin
The house atop the island, replacing the Skye Luxury Forest Cabin

The house is copy / modify, making any necessary small changes relatively simple. For me, that meant a slight resizing of the pool and the addition of an extra set of steps alongside it to make access to the house easier. Convenience of use also meant shifting the bedroom upstairs, where the balcony also gives a great views of the setting sun :).

As with all of Alex’s work, the attention to detail is exemplary, and the use of materials exquisite; one of the most attractive things about both the Beach House and Forest Cabin is the manner in which the windows naturally “reflect” light, be it sunlight or from a scripted source.

Home sweet home (and note the sunlight reflected in the upper floor windows... I do so like that!)
Home sweet home (and note the sunlight reflected in the upper floor windows… I do so like that!)

All told, this is another fabulous product from Alex Bader, and one we have absolutely no hesitation in recommending.

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Project Sansar: in the news and marketplace thoughts

“Project Sansar” has been getting noticed again. In Dublin, at the 2015 Web Summit, Ebbe Altberg, the Lab’s CEO gave a presentation about  the new platform, the end of which included short video of the platform, which was captured by attendee Janne Juntunen. Following this, at least a couple of articles have appeared in on-line media outlets, with my colleague Ben Lang offering a brief write-up in Road to VR, while Fortune On-line, to which I was directed by Ciaran Laval, also carried a piece.

The Fortune article offers an enticing headline, How ‘Second Life’ Developer Hopes To Deliver The ‘YouTube For VR’, drawing on the Lab’s YouTube / WordPress analogy they’ve used in talking to the media over the last few months, but neither – beyond offering an image captured from “Project Sansar” and which can be seen on the Lab’s redesigned corporate website, has much that is new to those of us following “project Sansar” as closely we can.

An image from the Lab's redesigned corporate web site showing the Golden Gate Bridge model from "Project Sansar", complete with glying vehicles moving around it - a moving versions of which was show at the Dublin Web Summit 2015
An image from the Lab’s redesigned corporate website showing the Golden Gate Bridge model from “Project Sansar”, complete with flying vehicles moving around it – a moving versions of which was show at the Dublin Web Summit 2015

The YouTube  / WordPress analogy is fitting, given that “Project Sansar” is designed to be pretty much a white label environment where clients and customers can come into the platform, develop their virtual spaces and then market them to their users under a brand of their own choosing, complete with dedicated access from the web.

Given most of the statements made in both articles will be familiar to those following Sansar, I was drawn to one statement in particular made by Ebbe Altberg:

We want to make it less expensive and less difficult for creators to get started with Project Sansar, while at the same time enabling them to create higher quality, larger, and more immersive experiences, reach larger audiences,and create much larger business opportunities—whether selling virtual items or monetizing entire experiences. In addition to supporting our community of creators we’ll give them tools to create and support their own communities and serve their customers and audiences. [Emphasis mine.]

The first part of this comment again doesn’t really reveal anything new; however, I’ve highlighted the last past of it because it presents another opportunity for some speculation.

A further image from the Lindenlab.com home page showing a scene which formed a part of the Lab's Dublin Web Summit video
A further image from the Lindenlab.com home page showing a scene which formed a part of the Lab’s Dublin Web Summit video

Yesterday, and thanks to a huge amount of legwork by Vick Forcella, I wrote about the Lab’s subsidiary Tilia Inc, and the filing of a trademark for Tilia, a payment processing system.  Seeing Altberg’s comments about providing “project Sansar” customers / clients tools to … serve their customer and audiences”, I find myself wondering if “Tilia” might be intended to provide “Project Sansar” customers with a further white label environment in which they can build and brand their own marketplace presence and control the goods and services presented to their customers.

Thus, rather than sending their users to a generic “Project Sansar” marketplace where they might be confronted with a plethora of goods, including those from competitors or which might otherwise be unsuitable to their target audience, customers using Sansar could present their users with exactly the virtual good they wish them to see and use, a level of control which could be extremely attractive to the core vertical markets towards which “Project Sansar” seems to be being steered (e.g. education, training, simulation, architecture and business).

Ebbe Altberg presents a short video featuring footage shot from inside "Project Sansar" at the Dublin Web Summit 2015 (image via )
Ebbe Altberg presents a short video featuring footage shot from inside “Project Sansar” at the Dublin Web Summit 2015 (image via Janne Juntunen on Twitter)

In his Road to VR piece, Ben Lang focuses more on the technical aspects of the new platform, pointing-out that style and looks can be an integral part of a game or platform’s longevity, and that in his estimation  of these initial screen shots, “Project Sansar” is hitting the nail pretty much on the head.

It is in the Road to VR piece that we do get an interesting insight. It has been previously indicated that “Project Sansar” will offer ways and means to optimise content to improve performance, rather than just shoving everything down the pipe and little the viewer try to handle it all. In discussing things with Ben Lang, Ebbe Altberg gives some indicators as to how this will be achieved.

We’ll do a lot of things to help users understand how to create performant content. There’s a lot of work yet to do, but we have plans for things like automatic optimization of content, polygon reduction of content that preserves quality at the same time, including showing users that create content some sort of visual indication of how performant their content is going to be across various platforms [i.e. clients].

Both articles offer good light reading on “Project Sansar”, even if they don’t offer anything especially new, with the Fortune articles also underlining a few facts, good and bad, about Second Life.

I remain intrigued by the direction the Lab is taking with their new platform. While it is early days, and given the fact I  still tend to feel “Project Sansar” will end up  niche product  – albeit it a much larger niche than filled by the likes of Second Life and OpenSim today – I also tend to think that the Lab is far more one the right track in their thinking than those behind some of the other platforms currently in development out there.

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P.S. Ben, if you do read this, please check the e-mails, still awaiting a reply vis our discussions!)