The Drax Files 34: life and love through Second Life

Isla Gealach
Isla Gealach

When you’re in a virtual world, it’s not just your avatar, it’s not just the storyline. It’s the furniture in the room, it’s the building around you, it’s the trees you see. That’s what makes immersion possible; that’s what i create, an environmental space.

These are the words of Isla Gealach, known throughout Second Life for her in-world brand of Cheeky Pea, which open the 34th segment of The Drax Files World Makers. But this is not simply an examination of another’s creator’s on-line life and activities in Second Life; anyone who is familiar with this outstanding series of video shorts by Draxtor Despres will know there is far more of a story to tell here.

While Isla’s creative is a focus of the segment, it shares the time very much with her physical world life, because the two share an inseparable intertwining which demonstrates that – contrary to idea that our on-line lifestyles are increasingly isolating us from the “real” (whatever that is) – there are situations and circumstances which occur every single day where people who know one another on-line are drawn closer together, and that that for some, it evolves into a relationship which spans both the virtual and the physical.

Ewan Mureaux
Ewan Mureaux

For Isla, this is clearly demonstrated in her relationship with Ewan Mureaux. Starting out as colleagues collaborating together on Second Life products, Isla designing and creating them with Ewan scripting them whilst also working on SL land deals, the two of them struck up a friendship which eventually led to a real-life meeting which evolved into a relationship spanning both the physical world and the virtual.

In some ways, their story almost sounds like an office romance, with both Isla and Ewan noting that the time they spent working together was as natural as being colleagues working together in the same environment, even if they were actually miles apart and (at that time) only seeing one another through their digital personas. Like work colleagues, they came to know one another working together and that naturally lead to spending time in-world together at social events, and so things grew between them, just as relationships naturally grow between people in any aspect of the physical world.

Given this background, both Isla and Ewan are keenly aware of how digital relationships inform us differently when compared to those occurring purely in the physical world; a fact which can lead to people reaching a greater depth with one another than might otherwise be the case. “Second Life can cut through societal constraints,” Ewan notes, “And it gets more to the heart of who you are.” Isla then adds, “You get a feel for the personality first.”

Isla's Cheeky Pea brand offers many items for house, garden and environment, and is a favourite among many SL users
Isla’s Cheeky Pea brand offers many items for house, garden and environment, and is a favourite among many SL users

It is this ability to make emotional connections which can be as genuine as anything we experience through any other medium, which Isla sees as the real power behind Second Life. It’s a view I agree with fully, because above everything else – the democratising of content, the freedom of creative expression, the myriad of things we can find to do in-world – ultimately, Second Life brings people together. It doesn’t matter if this is as friends, companions, or lovers, as couples or in groups; the platform allows us to form relationships and connections with other which are quite unique and with the power to outlast anything which might be experience through less immersive on-line social environments.

Within this broader story, we do also gain insight into what it means to be an effective successful creator in Second Life. And contrary to the hype which spread about the platform being a place of instant riches which grew up around Second Life back in 2006/7 and which did much to fuel its rapid growth, the reality is far different – as every content creator knows, and Isla encapsulates perfectly:

The illusion that I sit around in my pyjamas all day and eat cake and look at the sky and get inspiration is … not true. My job requires a lot of self-discipline, which I never thought I was capable of. I’m working from the time my daughter goes to school to the time she gets home, when i have to spend the time with her, doing her homework. Sometimes, when I’m on a deadline, I’m working until she wakes up! I don’t have that luxury of not completing things.

Second Life can greatly enrich our virtual lives and our physical lives
Second Life can greatly enrich our virtual lives and our physical lives

However, it is in the way in which Second Life has the power and ability to hugely enrich both our virtual and physical lives where this segment retains its power. Isla and Ewan’s relationship is almost a personification of the ideal that Second Life is a “shared experience” – although not at all in the manner the Lab might have imagined when applying the term to the platform.

Between them, and with Isla’s daughter, who gets to participate in the creative process as well, Isla and Ewan demonstrate very clearly home the platform can bring people together, presenting new opportunities for them to grow on both sides of the digital divide. In this, they are not unique among Second Life users, and there will be others watching this segment and identifying fully with it.

Such is the power of Second Life, that it really shouldn’t be seen as a substitute for the physical world as some who fail to understand the platform and those like it would all to quickly opt to dismiss it. The truth is that Second Life actually does more to eradicate the digital divide for many of us, allowing us free motion, from the physical to the virtual and back again, enhancing our lives in both. This is something Isla clearly understands and appreciates, as she notes in closing out the segment::

I think that in a world where virtual goods and services are becoming more and more important, we shouldn’t neglect excitement for the physical world in our kids. There are so many things you can do in your community; simple family walks, explore your town [and] its history.

At the same time, it’s not helpful to frame virtual reality as an escape. Because look, i live near Edinburgh, which is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I still love to go into Second Life, have fun and express my creativity. You can have a balance of both, right?

Absolutely.

Second Life presents so many ways for us to share in experiences and activities together, on both sides of the screen
Second Life presents so many ways for us to share in experiences and activities together, on both sides of the screen

Given the subject matter of the segment, The Drax Files World Makers #34 takes a slight departure from previous segments. In part, it reverts to the approach to the early shows in the series in which he appears in his digital self, asking questions and providing an initial thrust to the video. However, with this segment, we also see a very subtle shift, as digital Drax is also joined by physical Drax.

By doing this, he adds a gently underlining of the central theme to the piece, again indicating how, for many of us, our identities – physical and virtual – are one in the same, with each informing and enriching the other.

Note: apologies to subscribers who may have received multiple notices about this post, some of which may have had invalid links when clicked. WordPress SNAFU’d on me when first published, and caused additional issues when trying to correct.

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MadPea seek creators’ help for The Ghost Town in Second Life

The Ghost Town - A new MadPea game aimed at new SL users, launching soon at the Firestorm Gateway
The Ghost Town – a MadPea mystery game aimed at new SL users, launching soon at the Firestorm Gateway

During the recent soft launch of the Firestorm Gateway, I reported on the news that MadPea would be joining the Firestorm team as a partner, providing free-to-play games in order to help new users engage with Second Life.

These games are intended to be Experiences-led, and demonstrate some of the many activities those new to Second Life can expect to find in-world, as then learn to find their way around – thus fitting in with the overall thrust of the Firestorm Gateway regions, which offer a range of activities and attractions for incoming new users, as will as practical guidance and support for understanding the viewer and getting to grips with general interactions, etc.

The MadPea team have now announced the first of these games will be launching on December 19th, 2015. Called The Ghost Town. It will see players tasked with  investigating the recent disappearance of local fisherman Big Jimmy. Guided by his journal and equipped with a special camera, players follow the clues left by a mind gone mad and discover the terrible truth behind Big Jimmy’s recent activities. One they have completed the game, player will be rewarded with prizes.

MadPea-Firestorm

It is with regards to the latter point that MadPea are seeking the support of 20 Second Life Creators, as the official blog post from the team explains:

We’re looking for 20 stores to collaborate with us by providing a themed prize for the players.
In return your brand and prizes will be promoted by both MadPea and Firestorm and you’ll be potentially promoting yourselves to your customers of the future before anyone else.

In particular, MadPea are looking for prizes which will help new users practically enhance their Second Life experience, and so are particularly hoping to hear from creators of wearable items such as skins, mesh body parts and accessories, hair, clothing, avatar accessories, pets, wearable vehicles, companions, AOs etc.

Creators wishing to indicate their willingness to be involved in the game and offer prizes should complete in full The Ghost Town prize donation application form, and to do so no later than Saturday, December 12th. Those stores / creators selected by the team will be contacted directly shortly thereafter with information on how to proceed.

In the meantime, if you require more information about becoming a vendor, please contact Tichelle Teebrook in world. For more information about MadPea in general, or their collaboration with the Firestorm team, please contact Kess Crystal in world, or via kess-at-madpeagames.com.

SL project updates 50/1: Server, viewer, issues

Frisland; Inara Pey, December 2015, on FlickrFrisland (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments

There was no Main (SLS) channel deployment on Tuesday, December 8th, following after the update planned for release in week #49 had to be cancelled when a simulator crash bug was uncovered.

On Wednesday, December 9th, all three RC channels should receive the same new server maintenance package, which comprises simulator crash fixes (including one for the issue found during the original final testing of the package in week #49) and implements feature request  BUG-10192: adding constant OBJECT_OMEGA to llGetObjectDetails(), so that it can return a vector matching what is returned with llGetOmega(), allowing applications to determine an object’s rate and axis of rotation.

Viewer Updates

On Monday, December 7th, the Valhalla RC viewer, which comprises the Chromium embedded Framework implementation intended to replace LLQTwebkit for handling media in Second Life, was updated to version 4.0.0.308641. This update includes 13 additional fixes when compared to the previous Valhalla RC version:

  • MAINT-5846 – MOAP audio is too quiet
  • MAINT-5849 – MOAP does not run if parcel media texture is on same face
  • MAINT-5852 – Parcel media url can be hijacked from parcel to parcel
  • MAINT-5854 – Loading http://secondlife.com on parcel media does not login
  • MAINT-5855 – media navigation bars overlap all floaters in viewer
  • MAINT-5856 – toolbar search can be interrupted early get stuck on blank page
  • MAINT-5859 – Terms of Service are not loading in Linux only
  • MAINT-5896 – Add support for viewing PDF files in the viewer
  • MAINT-5901 – Click-to-Walk should work through transparent objects
  • MAINT-5902 – Qihoo 360 Anti-virus blocks SLPlugin.exe and login page web content
  • MAINT-5909 – Japanese can’t be input in CEF
  • MAINT-5911 – Pressing “return” (or “enter”) no longer performs a search
  • MAINT-5941 – Default flash to on by default.

Other Items

Interest List and “Ghost” Prims

there have been reports at the last couple of Simulator User Group meetings about “ghost prim” – objects which have been deleted / killed via llDie, continuing to render viewer-side, even though they have been removed by the simulator, requiring a right-click to remove them from the viewer’s outlook on the world.

Problems like this aren’t new, and many have encountered them, particularly since the core of the changes made to the Interest List. However, positively identifying what is going wrong where in the code, and why it is going wrong has been proving difficult, as the has not been a consistent means of reproducing the problem. However, it now appears that just such a consistent means of encountering the issue has been found, and a JIRA raised. Hopefully, this means that the Lab will be able to dig a little deeper into things and at least rectify the problem for some of the situations where “ghost prims” can be encountered.

Join / Leave Group Failures

There have been significant issues with people attempting to join or leave groups recently – see BUG-10869. The problems are apparently caused by a back-end database overload within the group services,

There are many issues in handling large groups which can be problematic: number of members, number of inactive users, impact of changes to things like established group roles (and the numbers of group members they affect), and so on. These are all largely down to the way the back-end group services were originally designed, something which is not the easiest of issues to overcome, as Simon Linden explained at the at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, December 8th:

It’s a long story, actually, but comes down to scaling issues and design. It doesn’t make sense that we basically treat a group with 100k people in it the same as 10 people . There are some things that just take more time with a large group.

However, Simon is looking into the problems, as he did with the issues of group chat earlier in the year, which so that side of things dramatically improved, but there is currently no ETA on when any fix / fixes might be issued.

No Change Window

Subject to official confirmation by the Lab, week #51 (week commencing Monday, December 14th) is liable to mark the last week in which simulator and viewer releases will be made ahead of the Christmas / New Year “no change window” coming into force, which will probably remain in place until approximately the week commencing Monday, January 4th, 2016.

The no change window is intended to ensure the grid and viewer are both relatively stable, so that the Lab can offer support, engineering and operations staff time off over the holiday period to be with their families and friends.