Aech’s garage: a Sansar Ready Player One Experience

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage – click on any image for full size

Update, January 11th: following my enquiry concerning posting images of Aech’s Garage to the Lab, I received a reply from the Sansar community team, who also posted a  statement to the Sansar Discord channel, which I’m reproducing here, with the relevant comment highlighted for future reference by anyone positing images from Sansar:

We truly appreciate the ongoing support from the community, especially with all the excitement going on this week! We want to clarify that users are not discouraged from posting screenshots from any experience that is open to the public as long as there is no claim to exclusivity, early access, or other potentially misleading statements or claims that are untrue or could be construed as an official statement from Linden Lab or Sansar. We hope you all understand!

With this in mind, I’ve reposted the images in this article

Update: from the comments left by Ryan Schultz following this article, you can see there is something of a kerfuffle over whether or not images from the Aech’s Garage experience can be published. I have contacted Linden Lab on the matter, but have yet to receive a definitive reply one way or the other. To prevent further controversy, and while not having heard of any embargo myself, I have decided to remove the images in the post for the time being. 

Linden Lab recently unveiled two new experiences in Sansar, which I plan to look at in a broader piece on the platform later this week. However, one of them offers a particular attraction as a destination, so I’m leaping in with a look at it here as a part of my Exploring Sansar series.

Aech’s Garage is a joint collaboration between Linden Lab (via their Sansar Studios team), HTC, Intel, and Warner Brothers Entertainment to recreate the film set of Aech’s Garage from the upcoming Amblin Entertainment /  Village Roadshow Pictures film Ready Player One, the motion picture of Ernest Cline’s 2011 best seller.

In the novel and film, Aech (pronounced “H”) is best friend to Wade Watts, the novel’s protagonist – at least within OASIS, the two never having met face-to-face – who operates out of a basement location in the book. For the film, Aech’s base has been moved to a vast garage-cum-warehouse unit, and it is this space that has been recreated in Sansar with the formal title [HTC] Ready Player One – Aech’s Garage.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

For purists, the move might be seen as an annoyance and typical of Hollywood’s tinkering with adaptations for no readily apparent reason. From a visual perspective however – particularly if you are a film buff with a lean towards science fiction – the move is a treasure trove of sights. A long, comparatively narrow building, the garage is partially lit by a low Sun streaming in through the grime layered windows along one wall. This casts a good part of the experience into shadows which I suspect aren’t as quite as intrusive in VR mode as they can be when visiting in Desktop Mode. Klieg lights scattered around the building offer additional pools of light.

Entering via the Sansar Atlas spawns visitors at one of the building’s two ends, and from the start the level of detail is impressive. The lighting is very realistic, while the texturing and finish is superb. There are work bays, metal steps leading up to platforms and elevated work spaces, tools are scattered on work tops, bins, tyres and other detritus of an old working environment fill spaces and rise on tall racks standing against walls and windows. There even a bicycle is leaning against one wall – perhaps to offer someone a quick means to travel up the central aisle space of the building. Good use is also made of Sansar’s recently added audio materials: shoe heels click solidly on the cement floor, but footsteps ring hollowly as heels strike the metal steps when climbing up to or down from the raised platforms.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

But all this is just the apéritif, so to speak. The real feast lies in what can be found within this garage. Depending on which end of the building you spawn, you’ll find yourself either being watched by the Iron Giant from the 1999 film of the same name, or find yourself confronted by ED-209 from 1987’s Robocop – fortunately without its guns focusing on you with an ominous warning that you have 30 seconds to comply. The detail on both is superb, and the Iron Giant really gives a sense of scale. Split into two parts of upper body and head, with legs alongside, it is simply huge.

Nor are these the only models here. Sitting between them, down the sunlit side of the garage are a Mark 2 Viper from Battlestar Galactica (original and re-imagined), suspended from the roof alongside an Earth Defence Directorate fighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and a maintenance pod from the United States spacecraft Discovery One, featured in Stanley Kubrick’s seminal movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

Sitting under these, a little incongruously, is the prized 1961 Ferrari GT California Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) persuaded Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) to snag the keys for from his father in the 1986 teen movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While across the central aisle is a mechanoid loader of a similar kind to those seen in the Alien movies, with a model of Eagle 5 from Spaceballs suspended overhead.

As noted, the visual aspects of this experience are superb, in Desktop mode it leaps out at you, and I’ve little doubt that in VR it will look stunning. What is especially interesting about it is that it is a tie to a forthcoming major motion picture, due to be released on March 30th, 2018, and perhaps marks the first attempt to use Sansar in one of the market spaces where it could have some traction: marketing and PR. It demonstrates a potentially low-cost way of generating public interest in films, etc., by allowing people to not only see trailers and teasers from the comfort of their own home via social media and the likes of YouTube, but to also offer them the opportunity to visit locations from blockbuster films ahead of their release.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

In this particular case, it is entirely fitting that a film which might help promote wider interest in VR is gaining some degree of added promotion from VR. I’m curious to see if Linden Lab / Warner Brothers / HTC plan to do more with the experience between now and the US theatrical release of the film at the end of March 2018, particularly given the way the début – through the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, courtesy of Intel – has been presented to the public at large.

Aceh’s Garage is without a doubt a powerful demonstration of Sansar’s potential, and a delight to visit. However, you plan to do so,  I’d perhaps suggest waiting until after CES 2018 closes on Friday, January 12th, 2018, as right now it is the subject Right now Aech’s Garage is tied to ongoing demonstrations of the HTC Vive at the show.While this is good for Sansar, it means that audio-wise there is a lot going on audio-wise within the experience, and it can get distracting with multiple overlapping conversations, even with Voice roll-off over distances. I frequently found myself getting caught between overlapping conversations and manually muting those I didn’t want to hear (including, I’d add, staff talking bugs and users over open microphones!).

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

Experience SLurl

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A journey into Sapiens in Second Life

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

Sapiens is the title of a new region-wide installation by fractal artist Gem Preiz, which has an official opening at 13:00 SLT on Wednesday, January 10th, 2018.

This is – quite literally – a huge installation. It starts at ground level, on a walkway where visitors can find information givers on the installation and how best to view it. Camming out from this will reveal a large floating cube shape, formed by a 3x3x3 matrix of smaller cubes, which is something of a motif for the installation:  can also be found at the end of the catwalk, where a smaller version acts as a teleport which will deliver visitors to the installation proper.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

The build takes the form of a giant “labyrinth” very industrial in looks (something heightened by the stream venting at various points throughout). More raised catwalks form a grid around huge towers rising from the floor, catwalks and towers alike enclosed by massive walls. The walkways are further enclosed under high ceilings. At various points around this grid of catwalks – such as where they intersect with one another or in the corners of the grid – are platforms, some of which  have square holes at their centres. Above these rise huge shafts, further platforms visible at their tops, and from which square sections may periodically descend to fill the open spaces in a platform below, becoming elevators visitors can stand on top be carried between the levels of this vast complex.

Throughout each level – all of which have a slightly oppressive feel about them due to the repeated fractal designs of floors, walls and ceilings which imparts a feeling of unending sameness – Gem has variously put pieces of his fractal art, forty in all. These are intended to represent four themes: technology, mazes, darkness and confinement. Some many only appear once, others may be repeated; all are meticulous in their design and presentation and are visually captivating. They are not images one sees as one is drawn into them. Most reflect the environment in which they are set: enclosed and confined, limited; other suggest broader horizons and the promise of places we might yet discover.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

There is more here to be seen than may be at first apparent. For a start, depending on which elevators you use, you may find the build seems to have 3 levels – but if you use others, you’ll find it actually has four (I’ll let you decide which lead where…). Also, triangular windows in the corners of the central towers hint at a world beyond the confines of the tunnels and catwalks. This can be seen by flycamming through the walls or by – on two of the levels of the build at least – finding the door marked EXIT, which can be opened with a touch (but do not step through without flying!).

Beyond the doors the labyrinthine effect of the installation is greatly enhanced: great shafts and tunnels seeming to run outward to infinity, standing like great tower blocks interlinked by giant enclosed bridges and walkways, all stretching off into the distance, spherical shuttles scooting along them or rising and descending through them. It’s a giddying display, particularly if you just cam out over the lip of the doorways and cam up / down and around.

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

So what is to be made of all this? Gem offers an explanation in the notes accompanying the installation, which might be summarised as an expression of growth, of overcoming limitations and the shadows of primal (and other fears) we individually and as a race have and do confront. Just as this is a maze of walkways and elevators, so to is the human mind a maze of thought processes which run this way and that, sometimes intersecting, sometimes looping back on themselves, sometimes offering glimpses of what might be. And some lift us a step at a time towards greater understanding, greater abilities, even as we are shadowed by fears (these in the form of the black hands stretching out towards / over some of the catwalks); until finally, we’re ready to break free of the shadows and fears and achieve.

This latter point is beautifully presented on the upper level of the installation’s catwalks, where a golden figure sits, cowering beneath the outstretched hand of primal and other fears – but which offers the way for us to become human, to become reasoned thinkers and creators – as indicated in the final scene of this installation (which also contains for catalogues of the fractal images used within / which inspired the build a teleport cube for returning to the landing point).

Gem Preiz: Sapiens

Complex and challenging, Sapiens offers a commentary on human growth and understanding. It is a theme, Gem informs me, which will be expanded upon in a second build Demiurge, which should open in late February / March time. I’m already curious to see if it will embrace either the Platonic of the Gnostic views of the word – or perhaps combine them both.

Note: fellow blogger Diomita Maurer offers her thoughts on Sapiens, and kindly makes mention of me.

SLurl Details

  • Sapiens (LEA 29, rated: Moderate)