Erebos Harbor in Second Life

Erebos Harbor; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrErebos Harbor – click any image for full size

The lowering sun glints off the copper dome of an observatory, skylined to the north of town square. The shutter door is open, cutting a slice of darkness into the curve of the dome, but any telescope that may once have lain within its protection has long since gone.

Seated upon its throne of a high plateau north of the town, the observatory presides over Erebos Harbor, what may have once been a series of impressive terraced gardens set immediately before it. A waterfall tumbles in two deep steps from the high rocks, a sliver of silver against their darker faces, further enticing people to heed the siren call of the high dome and travel north towards it.

Erebos Harbor; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrErebos Harbor

I make no apologies for writing about this build by Leaf (Peyton Darmoset) and Julz (Juliette Rainfall) under the dirty.pretty banner, so soon after visiting Cloudbreak (see: An Indonesian Cloudbreak in Second Life). This is because, like the regions of Cloudbreak, Erebos Harbor is an extraordinary build, quite breathtaking in its design and execution, and fully deserving of an article to itself.

It is, in summary, very much a region of three parts. To the south is a small town style layout, complete with fishing docks and a railway siding. To the west sit two humped islands of rock, reached by high bridges, where homes and beaches might be found. Then, to the north, and dominating the setting, sits the imposing bulk of the old observatory.

Erebos Harbor; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrErebos Harbor

Despite the boutique cafés with their street side parasols or paved gardens, or the warehouse converted to a music venue, the town has a feeling of perhaps being past its prime. Brickwork is careworn, the streets look a little tired, stores lie empty, packing cases on their bare floors, while the garage space at one end of a set of shops has lost both its roof and upper floor.

To the west, the islands are home to the region’s rental properties – predominantly wooden-build cabins and houses overlooking the surrounding sea and water, or descending to cinder beaches on their west side. The rental properties up on the tops of the islands are relatively easy to identify, but do be aware there are what appear to be a rental down on the beach as well, so do please respect the privacy of the tenants. Another private residence also sits down on the west side of the “mainland”, at the edge of the channel separating it from the outlying islands.

Erebos Harbor; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrErebos Harbor

However, it is the observatory that is liable to attract the visitor’s eyes and feet. Impressive from a distance, it is nothing short of stunning when seen up close; Leaf’s vision for the setting is extraordinarily imaginative. While the town below may give hints of having seen better days, this is clearly a place that is well past its prime, and where nature has decided to take up residence – indoors as well as outside. Where the terraced gardens may once have been of a more formal layout, now they are overgrown, any paved paths or lawned walks that may once have connected the stone steps between the different terraces now long gone, replaced with wild grasses or bare ground. In some places, even the stone steps have gone, replaced by wooden walkways and stairs, including those up to the observatory itself.

This is  wonderful home build / kitbashed structure by Leaf which deserves to be seen and appreciated in its own right. Some of the walls are crumbling, the observatory dome no longer protects a telescope, while inside, nature has long since taken a hold on things – although a huge and uniquely finished orrery still operates within the foyer space of the planetarium. Outside, there is a wonderful use of décor in the gardens I freely admit to the way Leaf has converted from the wildlife creations of Hannah Kozlowski into the must far-reaching of statues.

Erebos Harbor; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrErebos Harbor

Scattered across the observatory’s terraces are numerous places to sit, whether by oneself or with friends, and to enjoy a cuddle with a loved one. These include, for the daredevils out there, a bed-like platform suspended over the waterfalls tumbling down the sheer rock face to a pool below. Those seeking a less risky pursuit than leaping down to the platform can enjoy the open-air movie theatre sitting in the lee of the plateau’s west side.

There are a host of little treats to be found throughout Erebos Harbor, indoors and out, so exploration is highly recommended – keeping in mind the private residences to the west of the region. Photographs are welcome at the dirty.pretty Flickr group, and rezzing rights can be obtained by joining the dirty.pretty in-world group. As noted above, this is a truly exceptional region in terms of design and settings, and absolutely not one to be missed.

Erebos Harbor; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrErebos Harbor

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An inside look at Get the Freight Out in Second Life

Get the Freight Out (GTFO) is a popular in-world game among many vehicle users. HUD-based, it allows players to “haul” cargo from by land, sea or air, point-to-point across the mainland continents of Second life, and over their connected waterways and seas (e.g. Blake Sea). In doing so, players can earn in-game (and non-redeemable) “Goal dollars” – G$ and game experience points which allow them to “level up” through GTFO.

Since its launch, the game has grown to encompass, at the time of writing, over 280 different land, sea and air vehicles, and has over 300 “hubs”- the points at which players use to collect / deliver their cargoes – scattered around the Mainland continents of the grid, presenting players with multiple opportunities for collecting and delivering cargoes, with more being added all the time.

In fact, such is the popularity of the game that many vehicle creators are offering suitable vehicles with GTFO support out-of-the-box; no need to convert them for game use, all that’s needed is the game HUD. There’s even a “trial” HUD available for a refundable L$1 for those wishing to try the game; this offers all the features of the “full” HUD, but is limited in how far a player can level-up. All experience points and Goal Dollars earned while using it remain valid should the player go on to purchase the “full” game HUD (L$699).

Originally created and run by Rez Gray, the game changed hands early in 2018, when Rez and Cinn Bouchard (cinnamonmousse) reached an agreement for him to sell her GTFO, including the core assets of the system – the databases, LSL and PHP coding –  together with the in-world assets such as the game HUD, GTFO dock system, groups, etc, together with the rights to expand the game in certain directions. Since then Cinn and her in-world business partner,  Syler Avon (Jaiden Nexen), have been working with a small supportive group of people for the last several months to overhaul GTFO without changing any of the established game mechanics.

That work is about to come to fruition, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Cinn and Syler at the new GTFO in-world headquarters to discuss all that’s been going on since the purchase of the game, and what players and those interested in GTFO can expect to see in the very near future. However, we started the discussion on how they came to be involved in GTFO in the first place, with Cinn providing the background.

We found out about GTFO accidentally after I introduced Syler to sailing in SL. In mid-2017, we got some coastal mainland just off Blake Sea and built a house with a marina with room for all our boats, and we started noticing people arriving in the marina and then leaving, and I got a little nervous about what was going on. So Syler went to ask some of them what was going on, and they said they were loading and offloading cargo for the game, and that’s how we first heard about it.

– Cinn Bouchard on how she and Syler Avon became involved in GTFO

GTFO allows vehicles and vessels and aircraft of all periods and types to haul freight by land, sea and air

Curiosities piqued, Cinn and Syler sought out Rez Gray to find out more. At the time, Rez was – as Cinn put it – “up to his eyeballs” in trying to run and expand GTFO and handle other projects. As a result, they threw themselves in trying to help him with moving things forward. In particular, Cinn, using her background in programming, web design, and coding, became very heavily involved in the game’s back-end support: working on the database alongside Rez, learning how things worked, adding hub locations and vehicles to the games, etc. Syler, went out and placed dock systems, talked to new hub providers, and in group chat, finding out what people were interested in seeing with the system, and growing the sense of community among players.

Over time, Cinn and Syler built a small team of helpers, which they informally called the GTFO Ops Team, who gradually took on more of the general running of the game. A major contributor to the team was Keif Denimore, who overhauled the processes for adding new GTFO hubs and new vehicle APIs (used to identify vehicles and their freight capabilities) to the system. Eventually, with Rez keen to pursue other projects, the arrangement was reached that allowed the game to be transferred to Cinn’s ownership.

Syler and Cinn have been developing a new in-world HQ for GTFO, where people can find out more about the game, the GTFO community, obtain the game HUD, and more

Since taking the game on, the team has been focused on three areas: providing a more robust and capable back-end to the game, complete with a new website; to prepare the way for adding new in-game activities such as smuggling, and adding support for space vehicles; and to expand GTFO’s in-world presence and establish new partnerships. In addition, and as a related project, the GTFO team have been working to expand a more defined sense of community among GTFO players, and present opportunities for informal role-play alongside of the game.

One of the things we decided in taking on GTFO was to keep the game play going as it had been. We didn’t want to cause any major disruptions to people’s enjoyment, so we’ve had a slow transition over to new back-end infrastructure that will allow us to both run the game as people expect it, and expand it a lot more.

– Cinn Bouchard on some of the core decisions made in taking over GTFO

Critical to the initial transition was Ven (VenKellie), as Cinn noted. “His expertise with servers has been invaluable, and helped us move forward in ways I’d only hoped to one day achieve. We’re now developing everything on a cloud-based infrastructure, and we’ve completely overhauled the game on the back-end.” One of the major outcomes of this is a general move away from HUD-centric LSL processing, in favour of back-end processing.

Continue reading “An inside look at Get the Freight Out in Second Life”