Return to the Outer Garden in Second Life

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Garden – click any image for full size

It’s been two years since my last visit to The Outer Garden, designed by Bisou Dexler. At that time, the build occupied a sky platform above a quarter region. It now occupies a full region, both in the air and on the ground.

Visits start in the air over the region, on a wintry platform which – for me – brought back memories of my last visit to The Outer Garden. Trees of green or frosted with snow sit on a landscape blanketed in white, through which tracks and paths  – some obvious, some simply  marked by the trees themselves – wind.

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Garden – Winter Garden

Under boughs and alongside tracks lie points of whimsy and rest. Some of these hold strong memories of the former iteration of the garden: an ice cream stand with seating outside of it. Not far away sits an artist’s easel. For the whimsy, giant Christmas decorations are scattered around, while teacup rides appear to have been tossed into the air around an old carousel.

More whimsy can be found in the little club for chicks (the feathered kind), complete with a cabaret floor show, tables and a bar tucked away into a tree trunk. For the romantics, a copse of multi-hued trees hides a cosy snug of a lounge with plush chairs and a canopied bed.

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Garden – Winter Garden

Close to the landing point is a mirror, a teleport; it provides access to three more areas: the skyborne tuki reirou platform, home of 月玲瓏 – The Moon is Serene – the latest addition to The Outer Garden: an altogether intriguing setting.

On teleporting to it, visitors are invited to walk through a garden path which seems to be floating among the clouds. Flowers border a walk  in turn lined by candles and screens, between which sit paper umbrellas. Overhead, rather incongruously, hang lighting grills without a ceiling, together with a hand-pulled cart. All of this points towards a beckoning Moon, inviting you to walk to it.

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Garden – The Moon is Serene

“You go through the moon, to the garden of a picture scroll,” Bisou says of this. “You are a character of the scroll, what kind of story can you tell me? I hope for a good story!” The scroll itself, the huts and grasslands stretched out along it, forms a brightly lit setting, reached by a set of Torii gates winding down from the back of the Moon.

The second destination point is the Rose Garden, located on the ground level. This, for me. also carries with it strong echoes of The Outer Garden as it was in 2015. Within a huge crystal palace is a marvellously atmospheric rose garden with lower and upper levels, halls to explore, and places to relax.

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Garden – Rose Garden

Also on the ground level is the Boat House, another snowy garden spot, where you can take a boat to the Rose Garden – although oddly, instructions on how to get from the Boat House to the Rose Garden can be found at the latter. I assume this is because it may have once been the original landing point. Both face a third ground level area, which given it has no teleport link, may not be completed yet – but it does offer another intriguing setting – complete with diesel locomotive hanging in the sky.

In 2015, I felt that, by only covering a 1/4 region, The Outer Garden was an absolute treasure, a tour de force demonstration that less is very often more when it comes to designing an environment. Despite now being an entire region, this still holds true, largely because of the way in which Bisou has used the space available to her.

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Garden – Winter Garden

For example, the winter garden doesn’t cover the entire area of the region, but keeps to a size of just over a 1/4 of the region’s area, and so reflects much of the feel of the earlier iteration. Similarly The Moon is Serene stands as an independent setting, divorced from the winter garden and the ground, providing an immersive setting – although the use of glow might impact the performance for some.  Similarly, the lighting on the ground allows the developed areas there to stand apart from one another, adding depth to each of them.

As such, it remains a rewarding visit.

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