Free-form role-play in Second Life

Asphyxiation Point; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Asphyxiation Point – Upper Town

Asphyxiation Point wasn’t always the town that you see today. In fact, there was a time when it was nothing more than a small rocky outcrop jutting out of the ocean. The only way to get to it was past straits so narrow that sailors would hold their breaths as they made the perilous trip. And so the rock was named Asphyxiation Point and largely shunned for centuries.

All that changed when two fishermen – Jeremiah Newton and Fredrick Perry – happened to venture past the straits in search of new lobster hunting grounds.

So opens the back story to what is probably one of Second Life’s most immersive urban role-play environments to be opened in recent years. It is an elaborate story, rich in content, which steers the reader through a history which is both palpable and entirely believable; a story sharing the same depth and detail as the region itself.

Caitlyn and I were invited to tour Asphyxiation Point by one of the prime movers behind the role-play environment: Charles Newton Kuluk
Caitlyn and I were invited to tour Asphyxiation Point by one of the prime movers behind the role-play environment: Charles Newton Kuluk

Caitlyn and I were invited to visit Asphyxiation Point by one of region’s Admins and a prime mover in Asphyxiation Point’s development, Charles Newton Kuluk (kuluk).

Prior to his invitation, I’d only faintly heard of the region, knowing little more than it offered urban role-play. Charles was quick to offer more information, including the link to the region’s excellent website, which offers a wealth of detail for the interested visitor to the town.

“Asphyxiation Point was founded exactly one year back on February 22nd, 2015,” Charles said to me as we discussed a visit. “We’ve since grown to over 3000 members and enjoy a high level of both role-play activity and events, and my motivation for inviting you is  primarily to get more people interested in the idea of free-form role-play, and also hopefully break down  some misconceptions as to why a lot of such regions are labelled as Adult.”

As a free-form role-play environment, Asphyxiation Point doesn’t have a set structure on what it is necessarily about. There are no paragraph-heavy rules; common sense in the order of the day. Nor are there any pre-defined factions, political affiliations or anything else which might be found in more rigidly defined role-play environments. Players are free to establish their own factions and affiliations according to their in-game wants and needs; even the combat is role-played, rather than employing any metered system. Instead, the approach to role-play is perhaps best described by borrowing from the website:

A small fishing village turned tourist town, Asphyxiation Point is both beautiful and dangerous. [A place] ​where characters live, laugh and love while crime, despair and conflict brew just under the surface. Will you succumb to the darkness or will you rise above it all? Where will your adventure take you? Who will you be? 

In other words, those joining the role-play here are free to read-up on the back story of the town, develop their character accordingly, immerse themselves in its environments and gain familiarity with ongoing story lines and existing RP, and to naturally engage and role-play with one another. Hence why there is no insistence that visitors employ any observer or out-of-character (OOC) tags.

Asphyxiation Point; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Asphyxiation Point – Lower Town

“We believe in negotiation here,” Charles said of the latter. “So don’t worry about it. Stick to IMs once you leave the landing point. If you are approached in RP, just IM them and let them know you are observing / photographing or whatever.”

One way of keeping up with all that’s going on is to peruse the community’s local newspaper. In it you’ll find reports on the latest happenings in town, reviews on popular places and news on public events, such as the recent Mardi Gras festival. Again, the emphasis here is on community immersion and involvement: helping to make visitors and player feel fully a part of the local community.

Asphyxiation Point; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Asphyxiation Point – the beach and Upper Town to the right, Lower Town and the Red Light District in the distance

Players can further invest themselves within the community through the businesses established as a part of the role-play environment, or by starting their own business (again focused on role-play). A section of the website again provides a comprehensive guide to both, including an overview of the sim-owned businesses (which players can apply to run) located through the four districts of the town.

“Our objective is to promote diversity in RP opportunities and see what happens,” Charles told Caitlyn and I during our visit. “The build is cleaner in looks than a lot of urban RP environments, because we didn’t necessarily want crime on the surface – well, maybe except for some places like the Red Light District. But we did want to give opportunities to the more criminal elements too. The sewers are spread all under town and give folks an alternative path to stay out of the cops eyes.”

Asphyxiation Point; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Asphyxiation Point – The Red Light District

A key factor with Asphyxiation Point is that it is designed to contain role-play within a single region. “we didn’t build for expansion,” Charles stated as we explored. “We knew from the beginning we wanted a single region build. Simply put, the more regions you have, the more diluted your role-play becomes. We wanted to maximise what we could represent in a single region. Which is not to say we cannot expand; a road here, a road there and voilà! But right now, no plans in the works.”

This choice is very much reflected in the overall layout of the region, which as noted above, presents four town districts (five if you count the sewers which can be accessed from numerous points). Each is unique in character whilst at the same time looking and feeling a part of the whole. This gives Asphyxiation Point a look and feel far in excess of its single region size. The individual look and feel of the four districts also allows each of them to develop communities which can grow within them independently of the others, fostering their own wants and needs and forging their own relationships with the rest of the town.

Walking through the Upper Town, for example, with its pristine houses, well-lit streets, it’s hard not to avoid the feeling that this is an insular part of the town, aloof and distanced from the Lower Town and Red Light districts, using the Theatre district as a distinct buffer between it and them. Yet, at the same time, there’s also the feeling that behind the shuttered windows and manicured lawns, some of those occupying the up-market homes in upper Town might regard the presence of the courthouse close by with a prickle of guilt when considering what they may have going on elsewhere in town.

Asphyxiation Point; Inara Pey, February 2016, on Flickr Asphyxiation Point – players can find occupations at a number of region-based businesses such as the up-market Fredrick’s Restaurant, apply to run one of these businesses, or set-up their own, role-play focused business

Asphyxiation Point may not appeal to everyone; there are dark tones here. As Charles points out in this article, crime and sex do make up a part of the goings-on in the town, hence the Adult rating.  But overall the role-play is not sex or violence centric, and it should not be taken that this is the case; Charles estimates that perhaps 10% of the RP is what can be considered 18+, and that is neither gratuitous or excessive.

For those interested in free-form urban role-play, there is much here that is worth checking-out – starting with the website, which is an excellent resource in itself – and not only where the region’s role-play is concerned: it offers one of the best guides to lag in Second Life I’ve read in a very long time – so go, in fact, I’m considering Charles if I can re-print it in this blog as part of the tutorials series.

Even if you’re not into role-play but are curious, Asphyxiation Point makes a worth-while visit if you’re interested in learn more about one of the most popular activities within Second Life.

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4 thoughts on “Free-form role-play in Second Life

  1. This looks so interesting! The sim looks well constructed and I am looking forward to learning more about their role play. I enjoy good role play, which is hard to find, imo, and I like the idea that it isn’t overly structured para required. Appreciate the post. (I’d have ♥’d your feed post on it but there’s a tiny problem with that. 🙂 )


  2. Reblogged this on Diomita and Jenny Maurer’s Blog and commented:
    I haven’t been at Asphyxiation Point yet, but it’s fure sure on my to do list. The post of Inara sounds promising and I like the concept of “Free-form role-play”…. If you visit, please share your thoughts. I’m curios 🙂


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