2018 SL UG updates #26/3: TPVD meeting

San Monique; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrSan Moniqueblog post

The majority of the following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, June 29th 2018. A video of the meeting is embedded below, my thanks as always to North for recording and providing it.

SL Viewer

No changes to see out the week, leaving the current pipelines as:

  • Current Release version 5.1.6.516459 and dated June 15th, promoted June 21st – formerly the Pálinka Maintenance Release Candidate – New
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Quinquina Maintenance RC viewer, version 5.1.7.516813, released on June 22nd.
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17th, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8th, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Week #27 Deployments

[2:53-3:29] Animesh is now on all the major release candidate server channels. However, due to the US 4th July holiday occurring mid-week in week #27 (commencing Monday, July 2nd, 2018), it will not be deployed to the Main (SLS) channel, as the Lab wish to avoid “high risk” deployments during the week.

Bugsplat Testing

[3:34-4:08] The Lab is about to start experimenting with viewer crash reporting using BugSplat, a commercial service.

As a part of this, a new release candidate viewer with code for using Bugsplat should be arriving in week #28 (commencing Monday, July 9th); aside from this, code, it will be functionally identical to the de facto release viewer. It will be used to evaluate whether or not to commit to a move to using Bugsplat over the current home-grown Breakpad crash reporting mechanism.

Environment Enhancement Project

[4:40-5:50] The EEP project viewer is seen as being “not too far away”. It is currently awaiting the deployment of the back-end inventory management changes, which are required to support the new EEP inventory assets. This includes a new inventory Settings folder, designed to contain windlight assets.  Please refer to my week #26 CCUG update for more on EEP as well.

[6:13-8:04] It’s not clear when the experience-based LSL support for EEP will be available – probably not during the initial deployment, but will become available as the project iterates. Also things will be set such that during testing, those on regions supporting the new EEP settings will see them; those on regions without the back-end support will see things as they are now (the “old style settings”).

Upcoming Changes

Monday, July 2nd, will see the introduction of the new private region prices, together with the increase in Linden Dollar purchase transaction fee see Linden Lab announces major SL private region pricing restructure for more.

[15:03-16:50] Also coming up is the new land auction system, which will allow users to auction their own Mainland.

The system is currently in the final stages of testing internally, and the current plan is for the Lab to wind-down auctions using the existing system by the end of week #27, then switch to the new system. Initially, only auctions of Linden held land will be available through the new system, but this will be expanded to include land held by users hopefully by the end of July 2018.

The new land auction system will be run through Place Pages, so those having Mainland they want to auction should consider creating a Place Page for it (if they haven’t already done so).

Other Items

  • [8:20-8:46] It appears that once Animesh, EEP, Bakes on Mesh, etc., are all deployed, the focus may be more on server-side updates and work (region crossings?). The easing of viewer-related projects should give TPVs some room to catch up with the Lab, if necessary, although bug fixes, etc., will still be appearing (via Maintenance RC releases).
    • [29:11-29:43] One of these projects will be ARCTan, the project to re-evaluate object and avatar rendering costs. However, this will remain a deliberately slow process.
  • [8:59-9:23] There are still two major open-source contributions to the viewer in development:
    • Camera presets, which will allow users to set and save their own preferred camera presets in the viewer see STORM-2145.
    • Porting of the poser feature from the Black Dragon TPV to the official viewer.
  • [9:32-12:40] As noted in my previous TPVD meeting summary,  there are concerns about unintended consequences of experiences when combined with tools such as avSitter (and / or RLV), and the potential for abuse. A JIRA was raised, but subsequently closed by the Lab. However, the matter is still under discussion internally, and may result in changes to how experiences work to address the issue.
  • The next get-together of everyone at the Lab who works on Second Life to discuss plans and options should be taking place towards the end of July.
  • [18:16-18:37]The latest official viewer sees the minimum object LOD raised from 0.0 to 1.0; this is unlikely to be reversed.
  • [19:00-20:05] The Lab currently has an update to Voice running internally. Vivox are due to deliver a new SLVoice.exe update “real soon”. When this happens, the test Voice viewer will likely move to a public project viewer, with the new SLVoice package.

 

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Return to Chouchou and a musical crossing of the divide

ChouchouMemento Mori

One of the places I’d always enjoyed visiting in Second Life – although I admit it’s been getting on for 4 years since I was last there – is the paired regions of Chouchou, Chouchou V. These form the in-world base for the musical pairing of Japanese pianist arabesque Choche and vocalist Juliet Heberle, together also known and Chouchou. Over the years they gained a strong following in-world and have produced a number of CDs of their musical and original compositions, with samples and tracks showcased through their YouTube channel.

I first blogged about Chouchou – the region – far back in 2012, and it is both surprising and gratifying as to how little has changed over the years. The ground level setting, with its sand banks, shallow waters and teleport ladder rising into the sky remains always as it was, offering a haven of peace presided over by the duet’s music (do have the music stream enabled when visiting).

Chouchou

The teleport ladder provides access to two areas in the sky (both of which can also be reached via direct teleport as weell – SLurls at the end of this article): Islamey and Memento Mori (a third area, Babel, sadly seems to have sadly disappeared at some point in the past).

Islamey offers something of a traditional Japanese garden look, with teahouse built over water and walks under cherry blossoms, all sitting beneath a bright blue sky. This was once the venue for concerts – but to be honest, I’m not sure if this is still the case. But even if not, as I noted far back in 2012, it is a place of quiet contemplation where you can come when you want to give free passage to thoughts and ideas, or when you simply want to find peace and let Chouchou’s music soothe you gently.

ChouchouIslamey

Memento Mori is a place that used to draw me a lot because it is a magnificent build styled after the great medieval cathedrals, and that simply must be seen to be appreciated. It may appear to be a startlingly bright environment when first arriving,  but it is well worth leaving the default windlight set while climbing the stairs from the arrival point up into the cathedral’s great nave; the way the jet black piano is revealed through the surrounding light is almost transcendental in feeling and perfectly suited to the setting.

The intricacy of this build – a joint work dating from 2010 by Juliet collaborating with Miya Grut and with the support of Yuki Aabye for some to the sculpt work – is completely mind-blowing: From the sheer size of the cathedral, through the curling stairways leading to the upper passages, the great bell suspended over the piano as it sits within the space below the great tower to the ghostly pews between the nave and the two outer aisles, the beauty here tends to leave the visitor in awe. It is genuinely a place that has to be visited and seen, rather than written about and photographed.

ChouchouMemento Mori

I was actually drawn back to Chouchou for two reasons. Firstly, to witness Memento Mori once more, simply because it has been so long since my last visit. Secondly, and, more particularly, because reader Silvana Silk e-mailed me with a link to a recent video on Chouchou’s YouTube channel announcing a new set of concerts by arabesque Choche.

A noted and respected classical pianist going by the name of Michal Horák in the physical world, he will – for the first time – be giving a series of concerts in Japan under both his physical world name and his Second Life avatar name. As the notice with the video states:

Up until now, arabesque has been working not only as a composer and a pianist of Chouchou, but also as a classical pianist under his real name Michal Horák. And this fall, for the first time the two names will be combined together. He will have the first piano concert under two names with this title “Michal Horák/arabesque Choche Piano Concert.” The concerts will be held in Tokyo, Osaka and Kagoshima, and Chouchou’s new and second piano album “piano02 opus” expected to be released on December, 2018 will be on presale at the concert venues.

Tickets for the concerts are on sale, and there are links in the video description (in Japanese) to the concert venues – I only with I was in a position to attend one of them. As I’m not, and to mark the occasion in my own small way, I’ve put together a video of Memento Mori. I hope you’ll enjoy it and use it as a reason to visit / return to Chouchou.

SLurl Details and Links

2018 SL UG updates #26/2: CCUG summary

Eri-Ador; Inara Pey, June 2018, on FlickrEri-Adorblog post

The majority of the following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on  Thursday, June 28th, 2018 at 13:00 SLT.  These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Animesh

Project Summary

The goal of this project is to provide a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features via scripted animation. It involves both viewer and server-side changes.

Resources

Current Status

  • On Wednesday, June 27th, server-side Animesh support was deployed to all three of the major release candidate channels – Magnum, LeTigre as well as BlueSteel. Test regions for Animesh are as follows:
  • The Animesh viewer remains at project status, but was updated to version 6.0.0.516979 on Monday, June 25th, 2018. The viewer is liable to remain at project status until the bugs currently being worked on have been resolved. These bugs include, but are not limited to:
    • Encroachment / Position / Offsets.
    • Rigged Mesh Level of Detail / Bounding Box Issues (BUG-214736).
    • Broken Rotations Issues (see below for more).
    • Dynamic bounding box issues: the project viewer (5.1.4.515420) includes updates for keeping dynamic bounding boxes going for rigged avatars (including Animesh). The calculations used in these updates for Animesh attachments “isn’t quite right” and the extent calculations can be incorrect (particularly if an Animesh object is being rendered as an imposter).
  • Vir now has a number of issues related to level of detail which he is starting to dig in to, including BUG-224971.The revised bounding box calculations related to this will be in the next Animesh project viewer update.
  • The z-offset issue with Animesh objects failing to respect z-offset height setting specified at upload for a rigged mesh should now be fixed.
  • It’s been reported that while Animesh objects will show info in the same way as avatars do with Developer > Avatar > Animation Info is enabled, it reports different info to  llGetObjectAnimations()
    • This might be a bug.
    • It might be that the debug information isn’t updated on a frequent enough basis.
    • Either way, a bug report has been requested.

Rotation Issues

These cover a number of areas, including:

  • In one (BUG-139251), when some static mesh objects are converted to Animesh, the visual mesh is rotated through 90 degrees when seen in the Animesh viewer, but the physics mesh isn’t, leaving it perpendicular to the model. This is possibly an orientation issue, with the viewer expecting the mesh to be aligned to +x=forward – which not all mesh modelling tools follow.
  • The second problem is that when linking a series of objects into a single Animesh, then are visually located where the avatar skeleton supporting them is located, but the physics shapes remain in the original location of the objects prior to linking / converting.

Both of these problems predate Animesh, but have been effectively “hidden” because until now, rigged meshes could only be attached to an avatar, effectively masking the issues.

The recommendation for trying to deal with them at present is for Animesh objects to have a non-mesh root object, and associate any physics representation to that non-mesh root object. This should hopefully eliminate the current issues and help ensure that any mesh being propelled via scripts in the root object will move in a predictable manner (.i.e. moves forward when driven forward by a script).

There have been two user-led moves to try to resolve / reduce these problems:

  • Beq Janus and Elizabeth Jarvinen (polysail) have also contributed code to correctly apply the bindpose matrix within the viewer.
  • As the physical rotation issues tend to manifest with Avastar, it is being updates so that models are automatically oriented so that x+ is always forward. This may not help with all legacy content being converted to Animesh, but it should help with new content created via Avastar.
    • Vir has a concern that even with these changes, a  linked Animesh object using mesh items created in different tools might still exhibit unexpected behaviour – that an animation to move the Animesh forward might correctly drive the root mesh, but cause other elements to move (for example) sideways …
    • He also notes that the solutions don’t necessarily address the physics rotation / placement issue.
  • It’s also been suggested the llLookAt provides documentation on what might be regarded for expected object behaviour.
  • It has been pointed out that the orientation of a model can be checked in the mesh uploader preview window prior to upload, although the uploader doesn’t explicitly report an objects rotation.
  • The debate on how best to approach the issues is likely to continue.

Animesh Attachments

  • Animesh attachments are currently limited to one per avatar. This is viewed by some as too restrictive.
  • This limit was set to allow the overall potential for a performance impact of attached Animesh objects to be limited (e.g. going to a club where everyone is wearing 4 or so Animesh attachments – hair, pets, and the like, all with their own skeleton and animation, all doing their own thing, could see the viewer take a significant performance hit).
  • Some are seeing it as a tablets-of-stone limit and are wanting it raised from the outset (to between 2 and 3 Animesh attachments per avatar – in part, this appears to be due to a preference for using Animesh over the additional bones within the avatar skeleton for some attachments).
  • Vir has indicated that the limit will not be increased during this initial deployment of Animesh, but the Lab will monitor the limit, and a possible future increase is not out of the question.
    • It is easier to relax an initial than it is to restrict them after rolling-out a capability – which is the situation the Lab wants to avoid (e.g. by – say – allowing 3 Animesh avatar attachments out-of-the-gate, then having to cut it back to 2 or 1 at a later date,due to the performance impact the capability is having).

Bakes On Mesh

Project Summary

Extending the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves server-side changes, including updating the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures, and may in time lead to a reduction in the complexity of mesh avatar bodies and heads.

This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing Bake  Service.

Resources

Current Status

  • Anchor Linden is continuing to work on viewer-side bugs. In the next version of the viewer, an avatars appearance should correctly update in the Edit Appearance mode when changing applied textures.
  • The project viewer updates are now with the Lab’s QA team. However, and update made to the project viewer doesn’t mean that it will be progressing to release candidate status just yet.
  • As per my previous CCUG summary, the project viewer will not initially have LSL support for Bakes on Mesh – this will likely be added as the project as a whole iterates.

Environment Enhancement Project (EEP)

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements, including:

  • The ability to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds, water settings) at the parcel level.
  • New environment asset types (Sky, Water, Days that can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others.
    • Day assets can include four Sky “tracks” defined by height: ground level (which includes altitudes up to 1,000m) and (optionally) 1,000m and above; 2,000m and above and 3,000m and above, plus a Water “track”.
  • Experience-based environment functions
  • An extended day cycle (e.g a 24/7 cycle) and extended environmental parameters.
  • There are no EEP parameters for manipulating the SL wind.
  • EPP will also include some rendering enhancements  and new shaders as well (being developed by Graham Linden), which will allow for effects such as crepuscular rays (“God rays”)
    • These will be an atmospheric effect, not any kind of object or asset or XML handler.
  • The new LSL functions for finding the time of day according to the position of the windlight Sun or Moon have been completed,and are more accurate than the current options.
  • EEP will not include things like rain or snow.

Resources

Current Status

  • Work is progressing on the project viewer, which should be appearing SoonTM – possibly in the next two weeks, with back-end EEP support available on Aditi (the Beta grid) – supported regions TBD.
  • There is a long-term issue with land ownership on Aditi which is unlikely to be resolved before EEP is deployed to Aditi.  This means that it is likely the Lab will set up a series of test parcels on Aditi and assign them to people manually for testing EEP capabilities at parcel level.
  • It’s not clear how walls and other structure will affect crepuscular rays.

Additional Discussions

Particle System Updates

Particle wizard Tyrehl Byk (learn more about his work here and here) is back in Second Life and looking to produce more of his stunning shows. In the meantime, he has filed a feature request to improve particle capabilities in Second Life (see BUG-214757 – “Within the current llParticleSystem parameters, three new data points would be established that could be referenced by a particle script which would facilitate an exponential change in how particles are seen by SL residents”).

Oz Linden has indicated this is something the Lab would like to implement; however, while the feature request has been imported for tracking in their internal JIRA,they currently do not have the viewer-side resources to take on the work.

That’s one I would like to have had … The hardest part of that one is the viewer side, because that’s where the particle stuff actually happens. So if you’re interested in accelerating that one, Tyrehl, then find a third-party viewer dev who will dummy up the support in the viewer, then we’ll be able to do the server-side relatively easily.

Oz Linden on feature request BUG-214757

So if there is a third-party viewer developer out there who is interested in working with Tyrehl on this feature,please contact him in-world.

Get Animation Length

While not specific to Animesh, but seen as potentially useful, is a long-starting feature request, VWR-12518, “llRequestInventoryData() – Get length of an animation (in seconds)”.

A problem here is that at present, the simulator doesn’t actually read the contents of animations to ascertain what they are doing, how long they run, etc (while there is some analysis carried out during the animation upload process, this information is not retained for later use). So for an idea like this to be implemented would require a considerable amount of server-side work which might also have performance implications, as such this request is unlikely to be implemented unless part of a much large overhaul of back-end animation support.

Next Meeting

The next Content Creation User Group meeting will be held on Thursday, July 19th.

High Fidelity raises a further US $35million funding

High Fidelity, the social VR company established by Philip Rosedale, has netted a further US $25 million in venture capital in a block D round of funding.

The funding was led by Blockchain investment firm Galaxy Digital Ventures (US $20 million), along with Blockchain Capital, Vulcan Capital, Breyer Capital, and IDG Capital Partners. The funding round marks a further investment point for Vulcan Capital, the company founded by former Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In 2014, the company led a block C round of investment in High Fidelity that raised US $11 million for the company. As a part of the investment by Galaxy Digital Venture, co-founder Sam Englebardt will join the High Fidelity board of directors.

We’re happy to announce today that we have raised $35M in a new round of investment led by Galaxy Digital, with additional participation from Blockchain Capital, as well as our existing investors. This round brings the total investment in High Fidelity to more than $70M and will enable us to substantially increase R&D and Hiring.

Part of the High Fidelity announcement of the block D investment round

The involvement of companies particularly focused on blockchain technology is perhaps indicative of High Fidelity’s own promotion and use of blockchain technology. In late 2017, the company announced its blockchain-enabled currency and IP protection plans, which was followed at the end of 2017  and early 2018 by the deployment of their commerce tools, currency and Digital Assets Rights (DAR) capabilities.

Sam Englebardt co-founder and Head of Strategic Partnerships at Galaxy Digital led the company’s $20 million investment in High Fidelity, and joins HiFi’s board. Via everpedia

These tools and capabilities mean that High Fidelity users actually own the digital goods they buy, tying the goods directly to their digital persona. A key factor with the system is that it is completely decentralised, providing a high degree of redundancy and security.

As well as working directly on blockchain technology for their own platform, High Fidelity has also been the prime mover behind the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance (VRBA), a group of early adopter companies aiming to let users’ avatars move freely between platforms and bring their blockchain-linked purchases with them.

This broad-based approach to using blockchain technology  for things like asset management, rights management  and tracking, authentication, etc., as well as for management digital currency flow and exchange within the domain of virtual environments, is the thing that has investors excited as it offers a means of testing the kind of blockchain capabilities that could have far-reaching impact on our ability to interact and do business with one another through digital means (directly and corporately).

Virtual reality may be the first killer app for blockchain. It’s a global phenomenon that fundamentally requires a trustless consensus mechanism for currency, property and identity Ventures. That’s what the new generation of blockchain protocols like EOS enable, and High Fidelity has the vision, team and open platform to lead the worldwide transition from atoms to bits.

Sam Englebardt, founding partner of Galaxy Digital Ventures

In the meantime, with Second Life turning over around Us $700 million a year in transactions, Philip Rosedale doubtless has an eye on the potential of a whole new, and broad-based virtual currently capability – particularly as he sees a market of a billion people in around a decade’s time, engaged in VR spaces to socialise share, create, buy, sell, learn, and so on.

Even without the potential for blockchain outside of these virtual spaces, the $72 million so far invested in High Fidelity seems to suggest people are persuaded by his views and ideas – and the care with which High Fidelity is building-out its back-end systems to achieve their aims, rather than focusing on glossy front-end capabilities which can so often be a focus of user wants, is also perhaps testament to their determination to present a global platform.

High Fidelity recently launch a VR tour of Nefertari’s tomb from ancient Egypt, and experience that somewhat echoes Sansar’s Voyages Live experiences. Credit: High Fidelity

Which is not to say the company is solely focused on back-end work. Recently, HiFi has been promoting a range of new experiences to demonstrate the broad-based social capabilities of High Fidelity, some of which echo moves by Linden Lab with Sansar. These include:

  • Nefertari: Journey to Eternity by CuriosityStream — students and adults enter an Egyptian tomb captured in 3D for a guided tour led by an Egyptologist (not unlike Sansar’s Voyages Live: Egypt experiences and activities)
  • Speaker Series — join the audience in an auditorium for discussions with prominent thought leaders.
  • RUST — a nightclub with live performances from DJs and an audience of people from around the world.

With thanks to Loki Eliot for the pointer.

Note: image of Sam Englebardt updated after K. Jewel pointed out that the initial image was incorrect.

 

 

Dimmie at Caledon National Museum

National Museum of Caledon

The National Museum of Caledon is a venue for art featuring monthly exhibitions and a chance to wander and relax in the neighbouring gardens.

Curated by Star (astarynite), the museum is a grand building in a neo-classical style, well suited to the Caledon environs, sitting with its back to the water, a trellised patio to one side where patrons can relax and enjoy the view over the gardens and appreciate the grand folly topped by a slowly revolving globe of the Earth. Or, should visitors be inclined, there is a short climb to a raised garden where the mind can wander whilst playing the harp.

National Museum of Caledon: Darlingmonster Ember

To my shame, I arrived at the museum towards the end of the current exhibition – I believe each runs through the months from start to close the end – because the current display, entitled What Would Dimmie Do? featurs the photograph of fellow Second Life grid traveller, Darlingmonster Ember, who also happens to be a resident of Caledon.

Thanks for taking the time to drop by and see what I’ve been working on. So many folks in Caledon in their avatars and the places we find on the SL grid. That’s what you’ll find in this showing … So there isn’t a theme here, except perhaps the SL experience of my 10 years …

Darlingmonster Ember on What Would Dimmie Do?

National Museum of Caledon: Darlingmonster Ember

Offered for our enjoyment across both floors of the museum is a selection of pictures by Dimmie, many charting her travels, others focused self-studies, all presented here as something of a historical record. From dark, almost portending studies to a richness of colour and gaiety, this is a selection which evokes a broad range of emotional responses as well as offering both a glimpse into Dimmie’s life and travels and upon some famous places that have appeared in Second Life over the span of time.

Many of the images appear to forego the common practice of post-processing to present almost “raw” studies and views. In an era where capturing scenes from within Second Life seems to be less about using the viewer’s available tools and more about demonstrating a mastery of PhotoShop, this really is a refreshing and natural exhibition – hence again my apologies for arriving so late in the exhibit’s run.

National Museum of Caledon: Darlingmonster Ember

Should you have the time before June fades away, do make the effort and drop in to What Would Dimmie Do?; I think you’ll likely be as entranced at I was in visiting – and keep an eye on Dimmie’s Flickr photostream if you’re so minded as well.  Plus, if you enjoy her exhibition, do leave a comment in the guest book; while an offering towards the continued upkeep of the museum would also doubtless be appreciated by Star.

SLurl Details

SL15B: the spaceship and the Serpent

The Serpent Stage and Auditorium, SL15B

I’ve always enjoyed the infrastructure builds presented at the Second Life Birthday regions; they are always a hallmark of creativity and imagination. Over the last few years, two SLb infrastructure designers in particular have tended to catch my eye: Walton F. Wainwright (Faust Steamer) – who can forget his stunning Stage Left builds of yesteryear – such as his Hindu incarnation of Cerberus from SL13B or the amazing Automaton of SL13B, together with his marvellous Ghost Train welcome area of SL12B in 2015?), and Anthony (ADudeNamed Anthony), who in recent years has produced some stunning designs for the SLB auditoriums.

It is to the builds by these two designer that I found myself particularly drawn during SL15B, as they both offered something just that little bit different within the overall crystal theme for the celebrations.

SL15B Auditorium

For the SL15B Auditorium, Anthony took his lead from science fiction, with the auditorium “building” taking the form of the massive starship USS Crystal, Naval Construction Contract number SL15B. However, this isn’t simply a riff on all things Trek – it’s actually a clever homage to film and TV science fiction in general. The very shape of the vehicle, for example, carries echoes of the Jupiter 2 from the various incarnations of Lost In Space, while it might be said the communications array on the upper hull, together with the black exhaust ports around the stern of the ship carry just a hint of Millennium Falcon about them.

Some of the open hanger bay doors, rimmed in blue similarly suggest Star Wars – remember the bay the Falcon herself was hauled into on approaching the Death Star in A New Hope? And should you peer inside the hanger bays, there seems to be a nod towards Thunderbirds – etched into the rear bulkheads are numbers reminiscent of those found on the front of Thunderbird 2’s mission pods, the bulkhead pylons separating them suggesting the extended legs of somthing waiting to descend over them, a-la Thunderbird 2.

Sl15B Auditorium

The focus of this build is obviously the auditorium, where a range of events took place during the week-long celebrations, including the five Meet the Lindens session (of which more in these pages anon).  However, the auditorium and the hanger bays are not the only elements of the ship. There are also the backstage areas, lobbies for the two “spaceport” forum meeting places, and the innards of the ship’s  life support system (including the ever-critical in so many space dramas, CO2 scrubbers).

However, it is the elevator you should direct yourself towards. This will offer you a ride to the bridge deck, where Anthony presents a slew of inside sci-fi jokes. The bridge itself is clearly modelled on that of most Starfleet vessels seen in various Trek incarnations – but be sure to look closely at the display screens and some of the system panels; the nods and winks across them are legion. There’s the familiar (to Trekkies at least) LCARS displays; references to FireflyStar Wars: A New Hope, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: Generations (“Tractor Beam: Install Tuesday”); 2001 A Space Odyssey; Star Trek: The Search for SpockThe Matrix franchise …  and also references to Second Life itself, and so on.

SL15B Auditorim bridge – an homage to science-fiction in modern film and TV

Flanking the bridge is the Captain’s Ready Room (conventional enough) and the ship’s computer room  – another wonderful nod towards 2001 A Space Odyssey.

By contrast, The Serpent, this year’s Stage Left design by Walton F. Wainwright takes a walk through dark fantasy territory, contrasting nicely with the bling and gaiety of the rest of the celebratory regions.

This is quite simply a work of art. From a base of crystals set in mysterious waters, a tall, dark tower rises into a darkening sky. Lights glow from behind its many windows, while atop its crown of carved serpents a great crystal floats, casting its own dull glow.

SL15B Serpent Stage (Stage Left)

It is scene reminiscent of lord of the Rings – the tower could so easily be an echo of Minas Ithil before its fall into darkness to become the awful Minas Morgul. Reached via a long causeway bridge, sight of the tower is initially obscured by the open coil of a great serpent snake, the head of which, also crowned by crystals and dominated by huge, hypnotic eyes, rises from alongside the tower and moves ponderously back and forth, tongue flickering, as it surveys this fantastical domain.

From around the waters and barren hills flanking the tower’s island, great cluster of crystals rise, as if piercing the land and water from beneath. Similar clusters of crystals, surrounding the heads of yet more serpents burst forth from the tower’s buttress-like corners, while within its great form a single massive hall, illuminated a soft green, awaits beneath a huge crystal chandelier.

SL15B Serpent Stage (Stage Left)

The wealth of detail here needs to be seen to be appreciated, from the tiled motif on the dance floor through the wonderful texturing on the walls inside and out to the very dark majesty of the tower’s tall finger and the awe-striking presence of the great serpent. This is a truly magnificent build which should not be missed.

Be sure to visit both, if you haven’t already done so, before the SL15B regions vanish after July 1st, 2018.

SLurl Details

Both locations are rated General.