Two snowy visits in Second Life

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Hollyee – click any image for full size

There are lots of winter themed regions to visit at this time of year – I’ve already covered a number in these pages for 2018. So many in fact, it’s easy to end up with a mild case of snow blindness :). There is often a tendency to use many of the same elements in such builds – the DRD Polar Express train being one such example. So for this write-up, I thought I’d offer a couple of suggestion that are just that little bit different to the others we’ve visited thus far.

Hollyee is a homestead region designed by Agaras, offering a remote, wild winter setting. Surrounded by tall mountains shrouded in snow and mist, the central feature of the setting is an oval large frozen lake, its surface glittering like a star field and broken by a couple of islands.

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Hollyee

The lake is set within a low-lying, wooded landscape, devoid of paths and get trails, but open to wandering under tree and over snow. The entire feeling is that of a remote mountain lake, well away from any major centres of population – but not so far away as to be totally in the wild.

This latter fact can be attested to by the presence of fresh hay that has been left out on the snow, offering horses places to eat, rather than leaving them to  forage under the snow for grass.  Whether the hay has been put out by a local farmer possibly living just beyond the landscape, or by whoever might live in the little A-frame cabin located in the south-east corner of the region, is up to visitors to decide.

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Hollyee

The horses aren’t the only animals to be found scattered across the landscape. Wander through the snow as you circle the ice and you’ll find deer, rabbits, wolves and even polar bears – the latter both real and made from snow! Birds circle overhead while a lone owl hunts between the trunks of the trees. All of them serve to give the region a feeling of added depth, as does the local sound scape.

A skate giver is available close to the landing point, although if you have your own, you can obviously wear them. There are also skating poses available for use for singles and couples skating, while scattered across the landscape are a number of places for sitting and cuddling.

Hollyee; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Hollyee

The second location I want to mention is Winter Dream. located over the home of Solo Arte, it is once again the work of resident artist there, Terrygold. Like Hollyee, Winter Dream presents a wilderness setting, beautiful in its snowbound, rugged beauty. It’s also another place where having local sounds on is essential to a visit.

Also like Hollyee, central to the design is a frozen lake, a flat expanse of ice from which the occasional hump of rock rises, and towards the middle of which a lone tree stands sentinel, boughs raised as if trying to ward off the steadily falling snow.

Winter Dream; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Winter Dream

Around this lake is a rocky landscape, stepping upwards towards a surround rim of low cliffs. Two structures rise from the snow, the largest a two-storey stone-and-wood cabin, facing the landing point across the lake. Closer to hand, just to one side of the landing point and watched over by two snowmen, sits a wooden pavilion. A fire is blazing in the hearth here, with wooden chairs ranged before it, but the open sides suggest it might not be as warm as the fire might otherwise suggest.

The most direct route to the cabin is across the ice – but it’s also the boring way. It’s more interesting to head either north then east towards the cabin, or go east then north. Both routes will lead you via points of interest: deer at a feeder, outdoor seating areas,  – including an old Ferris Wheel (although it could perhaps benefit from blanket to help keep those sitting in it warm! 🙂 ) and so on.

Winter Dream; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Winter Dream

The eastward route will take visitors over some of the ice, which extends around this side of the landscape. So if you have your own ice skates, you might want to make use of them. It also offers a slight climb up to the cabin – but so does the route running north then east from the landing point. Once inside, the cabin offer a place to dance and a break from the weather by the fire places.

Both Hollyee and Winter Dream are quiet, winter settings waiting to be enjoyed. Both are well presented, although each has its own small niggles. Hollyee has a few floating trees and rocks that can make themselves known when taking photos, while the volume of animated mesh snow in Winter Dream can impact performance (particularly if you run with shadows enabled). So do take note when visiting – but don’t let either put you off.

Winter Dream; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Winter Dream

Really, if the snow hasn’t gotten to you too much, it’s worth grabbing your skates, wrapping up warm and enjoying either of these quiet wintry corners of the grid.

SLurl Details

Advertisements

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise in Second Life

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

Jane and Eloise, the latest installation by Bryn Oh officially opens on Saturday, December 8th. As with much of Bryn’s art, this is an immersive installation that carries both a story and a level of interaction – although the latter is perhaps more of a focus than may have been the case with prior pieces.

I wanted to play with the idea of what art can be in the virtual space … In a museum or theatre we stand back and look at a painting or sculpture, we don’t touch them nor interact usually, while in the theatre the movie tells us a story and we sit and listen. We follow the camera where it leads us and should we wish to open a door or look under a bed.. well that is not part of the experience … With this work I wanted to have a short narrative within an artistic environment focusing on colour, line and form but also creating a gamification of the artwork itself.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

The narrative is that of two sisters – Jane and Eloise – who go fishing on Lake Superior. Theirs is not a happy tale, as they are caught by the changing weather, their boat capsizing on them. Sadly, Jane drowns, witnessed by Eloise, whose life is almost lost as well. Afterwards, Eloise is left tortured by guilt that she survived and nightmares – and the major part of the installation encourages visitors to share in those nightmares and to experience her confusion and distress first-hand.

The first element of the installation is a beach setting – the shoreline of Lake Superior, with changing tents set out on the sand and bathing wagons up to their axles in the water. If you have not previously accepted the Bryn Oh experience (or have revoked it since your last visit), you should accept it when prompted – as it is essential to your participation in the installation.

Travel along the breach and you’ll come to a small vignette depicting the final part of the fishing trip: Eloise, alive, washed up on the shore, the waterlogged canoe drifting just off-shore and Jane, laying just before the waves. Beyond this vignette, out on the horizon, the main part of the installation awaits: the brooding bulk of the maze.

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

The maze is a symbolic recreation of the nightmares that get embedded within our mind after a traumatic experience. It is the mind of Eloise … With a traditional artwork you can then step back and say observe and contemplate [with] this work,  you enter the mind of Eloise and navigate a fairly scary maze trying to find the exit.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

Providing you have accepted the experience, arrival at the entrance to the maze should equip you with a miner’s style lamp with head strap. A sign board on the wall near the entrance provides additional information on how best to enjoy it – in short, if you can’t use the recommended windlight (Firestorm should automatically switch to it), make sure you flick your viewer to at least midnight, enable projectors by turning on ALM and remove any face / body lights you are wearing. In difference to the instructions, you don’t need to have shadows enabled to obtain the projected light from the head lamp – but if you can run with them enabled, it adds considerably to the depth of the experience, allowing you to see it exactly as Bryn intended.

Within the maze, are corridors – patrolled by the demons of Eloise’s subconscious – and safe rooms. The idea is to make your way through the corridors, avoiding the monsters with the aid of the safe rooms. It’s a place best experienced in first-person Mouselook, and running may be required at times! In addition, some of the walls of the corridors include paintings, and elements of Bryn’s art can also be found in some corridors and in the safe rooms.

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise – exploring the maze with Bryn

Along the way you might find what I call mouse holes. The mouse holes are thin doorways that only a single avatar can squeeze through into another hallway, if a monster is coming you can slip through and they can not follow, but if you are with friends then there might be some frantic pushing and screaming as the monster approaches 🙂 The maze can be scary and cause some anxiety, in tests I have watched people who find mouse holes and linger by them afraid to go further out into the maze.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

Bryn invited me to try the maze with her, and I have to confess, it is addictive. If the monsters do get you, you’re teleported back to the start – and they are quite capable of sneaking up behind you! I also recommend having local sounds on; this both allows you to hear the monsters and adds further depth to the piece.

Bryn Oh: Jane and Eloise

This is also a fascinating piece from a technical standpoint as well – and those from the Lab who read this review, I hop you’ll take note of what Bryn has to say vis-a-vis Pathfinding! Essentially, to prevent cheating, the maze rebuilds itself every hour, and as it includes creatures roaming it, it presented special challenges, as Bryn notes:

This work required that a whole new set of scripting was built because other forms would not work with it. For example, pathfinding is a great way to have a monster navigate a maze, except when a maze randomly rebuilds itself. In pathfinding the monster would need to know where each wall is, and then it could move through them.. when you make a new maze every hour the pathfinding creature can’t see those new walls. So a new type of movement had to be created where the creatures would “see” the maze as they move while also looking for people to chase.

– Bryn Oh on Jane and Eloise

All told the development of the maze took some 3 months, and the results are incredible – particularly if you happen to catch the maze rebuilding itself, as I did while exploring with Bryn.

Jane and Eloise has all the classic ingredients from Bryn: narrative, a beautiful use of light and shadow, colour and contrast, interaction and engagement, and despite the sadness of the narrative – offers a game element that when played with others or on your own can get to be addictive.

SLurl Details