Life through Xia’s Diary in Second Life

Diotima Art Gallery: Xia’s Diary

Xia’s Diary, currently open (for a little while longer, at least!) at Diotima Art Gallery curated by Red Bikcin, is an exhibition in images and words that offers reflections on life – both real and virtual – by Xia Chieng.

This is a thought-provoking installation in which Xia offers something of in introspection on her own life – how it has played out in Second Life, and how matters from her physical world life have informed her time in in the virtual and how the latter has caused her to more generally reflect on life as a whole.

My life has been intense, but I’ve never known where to fit. Opportunist and ambitious, my life has taken me to many places and to experience all kinds of situations, some good and some bad. Blinded by moving forward, never look around me or those left behind … When I looked at life through the camera, I felt that I could finally see it. Then he started a new path.

– Xia Chieng, defining Xia’s Diary

Diotima Art Gallery: Xia’s Diary

Twenty-one images – all of them avatar studies (although one has an aspect to it suggesting it might have originated in the physical world) – are presented in the exhibition. Most sit as individual pieces, although there are three that clearly form a single group, and three more are presented in such a way as to suggest they could form a set.

All are accompanied by Xia’s thoughts, the words provided with evocative titles such as Lost HopeOde to Emily, Broken Doll, and so on. They offer frames to the images over which they sit – and a windows into Xia’s thoughts and feelings.

These images are a document of my journey through life, RL and SL, I make no difference. Everything I do is part of my life. Many things are recreated in our mind with our imagination. Maybe it is a way of looking for a meaning and transcending many problems that torment us. A second life can be a second chance. 

– Xia Chieng, defining Xia’s Diary

Diotima Art Gallery: Xia’s Diary

The words, offered white-on-black are as clear-cut and unequivocal as their presentation. Evocative, provocative (as are some of the images), brutally honest, they offer the kind of introspection most of us probably prefer to carry out within our own heads (and most likely in a darkened room) well away from public display.

Thus, Xia’s Diary becomes something of a tour de force of feelings and responses in which we are cast into multiple roles. We are the voyeur and the emotional vampire, illicitly peeping in on the sometimes salacious, often poignantly deep, confessions from the heart and drawing from them. And given these are confessions – honest, down-to-Earth examinations of self, of hopes, of fears, of confusion of need – so too are we cast as the confessional-made-flesh, bearing witness to the opening of a soul. And because these are deeply personal reflections, so too are we given pause to hold up a mirror to ourselves and review who and what we are in life, both physical and virtual.

Diotima Art Gallery: Xia’s Diary

Intense, sometimes dark, expressive, and captivating, one of the more richly narrative and personal exhibitions I’ve recently seen.

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Sansar: user-generated quests release: an overview

Scurry Waters in Sansar shows what can already be done with the quest system, using it to present games and unlock activities

On Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019, Linden Lab issued a Sansar point release containing the first cut of the user-generated quest authoring tool.

Also within the release are a couple of performance improvements:

  • Avatar movement and camera rotation are faster in keyboard turn mode.
  • Panels now retain their positions in the avatar editor.

Quests – Key Points

Quests are seen as a means of generating user engagement within experiences. A basic system – available only to the lab – has been used to provide a flavour of quests / hunts in places like the Sansar Social Hub, but which offer Sansar Dollar rewards.

The new quest system provides an new quest authoring tool directly to experience creators, however there are some key points to note about this first release:

  • Quests can only be linked to experiences owned by the quest creator (so creator X cannot develop a quest for use in creator Y’s experience(s).
  • Quests can be set for an individual experience or across multiple experience – again, providing all the experiences at are owned by the creator making the quest.
  • While it includes a tab for establishing rewards within a quest, this is not active with this initial release.
  • Once the rewards capability has been added by the Lab in a future update, quests will initially be limited to offering up to three objects as rewards, which will be presented to users completing a quest through the Sansar Store.

How quests might be used is down to individual creators. Ideas include:

  • Guided tours of experiences.
  • Simple introductions to a game.
  • Games.
  • Hunts. / actual quests.
  • Leaning experiences.
  • etc.

Obviously, some of these will be more likely to be attractive to users once the rewards system has been added – and may well require more that 3 rewards in order to maintain focus / interest  – and this is something the Lab have indicated they would be willing to review in the future. But even without a reward system, the deployment of the quest system offers creators the opportunity to play with the tools and gain familiarity with them.

Quest creation comprises two parts:

  • Creating the quest data itself, using the authoring tool.
  • Using objects in scenes (experiences) that are directly linked to the quest and use / present the quest data.

The quest can be tested by the creator in the unpublished scene (by building and saving the scene), and it becomes public when the scene is published as an experience.

The Tools

The initial quest system comprises:

Quest Building Basics

There is Lab-supplied documentation on making quests and assigning objectives. the following is a simple overview of the basics.

There are three parts to creating a quest:

  • Define the quest – via the quest authoring tool.
  • Define the objectives for the quest – via the quest authoring tool

Defining a new Quest

Create button > Create Quests > Quest Creator > New Quest.

  • Every quest requires a name (up to 100 characters) and a description (up to 250 characters).
  • Quests can optionally have:
    • A thumbnail image, displayed when a user viewer the quest, and captured using the For A Quest drop-down in the snapshot tool to generate any required image.
    • A completion message up to 250 characters in length, displayed when users complete the quest.
Creating a new quest from within the client. Note that the quests definition fields are show on the right for convenience, but will actually appear in the “middle” Quest Creator panel in the image.

Save the quest when done.

Editing a Quest

The Quest Creators records all quests you have created. To edit a specific quest (e.g. to add / change objectives):

  • Create button > Create Quests > Quest Creator.
  • The list of all your quests will be displayed.
  • Click on the name of the quest you want to edit.
  • The Quest Creator will display the quest and all defined objectives.
  • Edit and save as required.

Defining Objectives for a Quest

Note that when you create a new quest, you will automatically be presented with the option to add objectives to the quest – and you can have as many objectives in a quest as you require.

Select the required quest (if not already selected) > make sure Objectives is selected (default) > Click New to display the objective fields.

  • All objectives require a name (up to 200 characters), and should be set to Active or locked:
    • Set to Active if there is no dependency on the objective (i.e. it can only be completed if pre-requisites are met.
    • Set to Locked if it is dependent on completing certain objectives.
    • Prerequisites can be other objectives, scripted activities etc.
  • An optional  description, up to 250 characters.
Setting an objective in a quest. panel images shown side-by-side for clarity

Save the objective when done.

Adding Objects as Givers and Objectives in an Experience

Notes:

  • All quests require a Giver – the item that sets users on the quest, generally through direct interaction.
  • A quest can have as many objectives as required.
  • A quest should have a completion element.

Basic steps: edit the experience scene in which the quest will appear > add and place an object as the quest giver. Then:

  • Right-click the object and rename the object, if required.
  • Right-click the object > Add > Script.
  • In Object Structure right click on the new script (general “Script1”) > Properties. Then:
    • Set Script to Quest Script Library
    • Set the script type to one of the available scripts (QuestGiver, QuestGiverInteraction, etc).
    • Use the Quest drop-down to select the quest with which the object is to be associated.
    • If setting a quest objective, also set the quest objective with which the object is to be associated (below, right).
Setting an object as a quest giver (left), and as a quest objective (right)

Testing a Quest

To test a quest in a scene:

  • Build and save the scene.
  • Visit the scene.
  • Click the quest giver – the quest should launch > test the objectives.
  • To reset the quest at any time (incl. testing): Create button > Create Quests > select quest > Edit > Reset Quest.

Feedback

A simple, easy-to-understand system (easy enough for me to understand!) with some built-in complexity (see the associated scripting documentation) and with a lot of potential for expansion. As always, check the official documentation for full details on the capability.

A return to Natural Falls in Second Life

Natural Falls, July 2019

Update: It appears this iteration of Natural Falls has closed. SLurls have therefore been removed.

DannChris might be a hamster in Second Life (and love the Maverick profile photo, Dann!), but he’s a hamster with a love of water settings. we discovered this when visiting his Natural Falls V in early 2017 (see Navigating Natural Falls in Second Life) and again with a visit to A L T I T U D E earlier in 2019 (see Gaining a little A L T I T U D E in Second Life).

At the start of July 2019, Dann dropped me a note thanking me for writing about A L T I T U D E which was nice in itself – and to inform me that a new Natural Falls would be coming along soon. More recently, friend and fellow traveller, Miro Collas poked me to let me know it had arrived. So hoping it has retained the watery themes present in the previous builds and within A L T I T U D E, we jumped over to take a look.

Natural Falls, July 2019

Natural Falls has tended to represent, in Dann’s words, a decaying city waterlogged by some disaster – whether man-made or natural or a combination of both (such as humanity’s willingness to acknowledge climate change but stubborn refusal to adequately address it), is up to the visitor to determine.

As with previous builds, the city sits at least knee-deep in water and under the cement conduits of a really elevated railway, the parallel tracks of which sit to the north and south, bracketing the larger part of the city below them.

Natural Falls, July 2019

Getting around is a matter of following the wooden board walks, some of which sit between walls cunningly designed to resemble buildings, adding to the feel that this is a sprawling, flooded metropolis when seen from lower levels.  Power lines are strung along some of this walkways, passing between tall poles that march along the board walks, giving the impression some of the buildings here are still occupied. The walkways don’t however, all interconnect – so if you’re going to explore everywhere (and you should), you’re going to have to be prepared to do a little jumping and / or get your legs wet.

This is particularly true if you want to get down to the little Japanese style market that sits just over (and on) the water, or drop in to the old amusement park the water has claimed as its own, the old roller coaster looking rather forlorn. A slightly worrying aspect of stepping down into the water is the fact that off to the north-east, a couple of massive electrical pylons drip their high-tension power lines in to the waves. Fortunately, neither one is actually connected to a electrical generation system, so there’s no risk of electrocution present with them!

Natural Falls, July 2019

Which is just as well, really, because it is only by wading through the water that you can get to visit what I personally think is one of the most gorgeous motifs Dann presents in his region designs: a fabulous walled and flooded garden. I first saw this in Natural Falls V, and it was  – for a time, and in an expanding form – a feature of A L T I T U D E, so encountering it within this iteration of Natural Falls came as an absolute delight.

“I had to recreate it,” Dann informed me when I noted its presence,  “We had a party at Altitude which needed a special place, but there wasn’t enough LI, so the garden got taken down.” He paused a moment and continued, “I will put it back at some point 🙂 .” If he does, I hope he actually reproduces the garden in some form at A L T I T U D E rather than moving it from Natural Falls, as it makes for an ideal focal point; and with a suitable teleport portal, could even make for a nice link between the two regions.

Natural Falls, July 2019

There are other reminders of past builds to be found here – the old pavilion sitting among the lilies, the great engines slung beneath the elevated railway lines and concrete channel that turn massive propellers – presumably helping to keep the structures aloft.

Also to be found are the more artistic / whimsical statements those who have visited past Natural Falls might find familiar. The figures close to the landing point, for the example, who stand beneath a pained warning: Who Watches The Watchers, even as a haphazard pile of televisions rises close by to apparently keep an eye on them – and while a flying saucer overhead appears to be spiriting some of them away! Then there are the quirky little places to sit waiting to be found, such as atop a set of diving boards, complete with a potted plant. Or, in a touch of delightful and fantastical whimsy, a blue whale slowly circling in the air and offering passers-by a ride, either hanging from the ladder that dangles from his flank or in the garden sprouting  from his back.

Natural Falls, July 2019

Imaginative, rich in detail, quirky, fun, and giving a little tap on the shoulder of ecological conscience, with this iteration, Natural Fall remains a thoroughly recommended visit. Photos can be shared via the region’s Flickr group.