A Hazardous return in Second Life

Hazardous, September 2019 – click any image for full size

We often lament the passing of an established Second Life region; when the news breaks, there are always questions of why and voices of regret. So when the reverse happens, and a long-time favourite returns to Second Life, it’s only right we should celebrate and give cheer – and that’s certainly the case with Hazardous, which re-opened its doors to the public on September 21st, 2019.

Designed and presented by Mandingo Quan, Hazardous was a unique region design when I first visited it far back in 2013, and it remains genuinely so with its re-opening in 2019.

Hazardous, September 2019

For those who remember the region of old, Hazardous still presents its familiar horseshoe plateau of an island rising on sheer cliffs and cut through to its heart by a deep gorge. It is a setting that intentionally sets itself aside from other regions in it looks, as travellers who perhaps have not had the opportunity to visit previously will quickly see.

I’ve been really blessed to have gotten so much positive feedback. Frankly I was one of those who would often talk about the older sims disappearing without realising that mine was one! What really surprised me is we opened up on around two hours notice and we had over 50 avatars arrive, it was really humbling; and the old faces I see now, it really is good to see people back.

– Mandingo Quan discussing the return of Hazardous

Hazardous, September 2019

Much within it remains true to the original: the minimalistic beauty of the U-shaped plateau; the novel means of reaching it from the landing point; the curving stone steps awaiting discovery as they curl down to the waters below. But there are subtle changes: while the landing point retains its novel “teleport” down to the island proper (left-click to stand on the flagstone and enjoy the animation!), the keen-eyed may notice the bathtub has vanished, whilst down on the ground, a new open-air event space sits a short walk from where incoming visitors land.

The latter, Mandingo informed me, is being looked after by Rara Destiny and Grace McDunnough, two talented live performers in their own right, and who will doubtless be holding sets at Hazardous (indeed, Rara sang at the opening on September 21st). For the coming weekend they have a very special performance taking place: ColorfulQuiet (aka CQ or CQ Bravin) is returning to Second Life after a 6-year hiatus and will be appearing at Hazardous on Saturday, September 28th, starting at 14:00 SLT, kicking-off his Love Tour.

Hazardous, September 2019

While the landscaping up on the plateau might be – as I’ve said – beautifully minimalistic, there is actually a lot to see in Hazardous; some of which might be easily missed if not looked for. The most obvious to be seen is the gorge and the board walk winding through it from open mouth to circular well and the river house that sits therein. A cross between café and artist’s studio, the house offers a quiet retreat from the world above – but it is not all that resides in the gorge.

Others, however, are a little harder to find. Take the steps down to the water I mentioned above. These might require a little more vigilance in order to be found. However, the care is worth it as what lies just beyond the gates at the foot of the stairs is worth the visit.

Hazardous, September 2019

In fact, camming over the sides of the cliffs is recommended during a visit, as there are a number of touches around the periphery of the island that might well otherwise be missed. Careful mousing over things is also advised. Doing so might well reveal a hidden spot within the island that awaits discovery – although getting back might also require a little careful camming.

With its subtle sound scape and ability to suit almost any windlight environment, Hazardous has always been a delight to visit and photograph, and it is an absolutely pleasure to see it back in Second Life once more and available for people to enjoy.

Hazardous, September 2019

SLurl Details

2019 SL User Groups 39/2: Content Creation summary

Alternate Reality, August 2019 – blog post

The following notes are taken from my audio recording of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, September 26th 2019 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.

This was a shorter than usual meeting.

ARCTan

Project Summary

An attempt to re-evaluate object and avatar rendering costs to make them more reflective of the actual impact of rendering both. The overall aim is to try to correct some inherent negative incentives for creating optimised content (e.g. with regards to generating LOD models with mesh), and to update the calculations to reflect current resource constraints, rather than basing them on outdated constraints (e.g. graphics systems, network capabilities, etc).

Current Status

Work is continuing on getting the logging and analysis elements of the project up and running. Right now the (in-development) test viewer is described and pouring out a lot of “gibberish” on frame draw rates and all of the attributes in a scene, and the idea is to try to pull this together into a predictive model that is more accurate than the current rendering cost model.

Project Muscadine

Project Summary

Currently: offering the means to change an Animesh size parameters via LSL.

Status

  • Largely on hold while ARCTan is being focused on.
  • A bug whereby physics parameters weren’t being correctly applied has been resolved and a fix should be available in the next viewer update.
    • The default viewer-size avatar animations (fidgets, eye tracking, etc), were disabled for Animesh and have not been re-enabled, this update only applies to physics params.

Environment Enhancement Project

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements (e.g. the sky, sun, moon, clouds, and water settings) to be set region or parcel level, with support for up to 7 days per cycle and sky environments set by altitude. It uses a new set of inventory assets (Sky, Water, Day), and includes the ability to use custom Sun, Moon and cloud textures. The assets can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others, and can additionally be used in experiences.

Due to performance issues, the initial implementation of EEP will now likely not include certain atmospherics such as crepuscular rays (“God rays”).

Resources

Current Status

  • A new graphics resource – Euclid Linden – joined Linden Lab last week. He is currently finding his way around the rendering system and will be working on EEP in the near future.
  • A further graphics expert is due to start with LL in the next month, and once up to speed, they will also be lending support to EEP.

General Notes

  • Script breakage: there have been a number of reports filed concerning script breakage recently (see: BUG-227669BUG-277667 and BUG-227659 for examples). The reports have been noted by the Lab but have yet to be triaged
  • The next CCUG meeting will be on Thursday, October 10th.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Second Life

Museum of Fine Arts

If you’re into fine and classical art, then you are going to want to drop in to the Museum of Fine Arts in Second Life. I confess, I knew little of the museum prior to recently receiving an invitation from Tonem, the museum’s curator to pay them a visit, so I was delighted to be able to accept the offer and learn about the gallery.

Originally founded in Twinity in 2013, the museum moved to Second Life in 2015, where it is located on the Mainland continent of Jeogeot, occupying a palatial and very fitting château (the work of Kaya Angel) that provides 20 rooms of exhibition space, with a further annex to the rear.

Museum of Fine Arts

The goal of the museum is to provide a non-profit educational facility displaying art from the physical world. Each piece presented in the exhibition spaces is a faithful photographic representation of the originating art, with care taken to ensure only pieces that reside in the public domain in their country of origin are reproduced, and that they free from known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighbouring rights.

When the group was founded [2013] there was a debate on the kind of art to include. And the conclusion to not exhibit user created art was for three reasons: the difficulty of establishing provenance; the lack of expertise [at the time] regarding modern art in our group; and the fact that there are many, many art galleries in Second life presents in-world artists and photographers with the ability to display their work, but only a handful available for exhibiting fine and classical art from the physical world.

– Tonem, describing the background to the Museum

As an advocate for the presentation of suitable physical-world art through Second Life, the museum’s focus is something I approve. SL provides the means to create exhibitions that can bring together a wealth of established art from around the globe and present it to an audience in a manner impossible win the physical world without the need for what could amount to a lot of globe-trotting; while for the modern artist in the physical world, it offers the means to reach a global audience in a more immersive and personal manner than images on a web page.

Museum of Fine Arts: German Art in the 19th Century – Caspar David Friedrich

This first point above is particularly true of the current exhibitions at the museum; there is no way on Earth the rich diversity of pieces offered could have been brought together by a single gallery in the physical world. Nor does it end there. Great lengths have been taken to ensure a visit to the Museum of Fine Art is as “real” as possible.

The two exhibitions currently in progress are German Art in the 19th Century, which represents the gallery’s main autumn / winter 2019 exhibit, and Marie Bracquemond One of the Grand Dames of Impressionism, running through until October 22nd, 2019. Each demonstrate the care taken in presenting the art in the museum: the images are correctly scaled one to the next, whilst each has its own information card, a-la a physical world museum. For those who prefer, images can also be left-clicked to have the information text displayed in local chat.

Museum of Fine Arts: German Art in the 19th Century – Adolph Menzel

German Art in the 19th Century includes a wealth of introductory information in the museum’s foyer, and I recommend viewing it before progressing through the gallery’s halls. In all, some 34 German painters are represented, with over 200 individual pieces of art faithfully reproduced. The exhibit follows the evolution of German art from the romantic period (late 18th and early 19th centuries) through to the period of German Expressionism in the early 20th century. There is no set path through the exhibit, But given the volume of art, I would recommend setting aside time to genuinely appreciate it, as it has taken a lot of time and effort to pull things together, as Tonem notes:

Of course, because we can use almost anything in the public domain also makes it more of a challenge! The museum did a lot of small exhibits focusing on particular parts of movements or periods, but the didactic value seemed minimal. Something sweeping like this should be much more valuable to people learning about art – but it was a tremendous amount of work to bring it all together!

Museum of Fine Arts: Marie Bracquemond

The exhibit celebrating the art of Marie Bracquemond can be found in the annex to the rear of the museum, on the Lindal Kidd terrace (Lindal is someone who over the years has leant support and assistance to the gallery).

Alongside Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, Madame Bracquemond is regarded as one of les trois grandes dames of the French impressionist movement. This is a much smaller exhibit, as one might expect given the focus on a single artist, but the works offered within it are again presented with the same care to detail and scale. At the time of my visit, some finishing touches had yet to be made (including the introduction to the exhibition), but this shouldn’t put people off – should you want to find out about Marie Bracquemond, Google is your friend.

Museum of Fine Arts: Marie Bracquemond

The Museum of Fine Arts is a gem of a gallery museum in Second Life, and I thoroughly recommend it to all who have an interest in physical world fine and classical art. I’d also like to thank Tonem for her time with me during my visit, and I look forward to returning in the future and writing about further exhibitions at the gallery.

SLurl Details

Second Life Blogger Network launches

Image courtesy of Linden Lab

There’s been much curiosity over the last few days about the Second Life Blogger Network (SLBN), and I can now help pass on more information about the initiative – which, alongside two other bloggers and Lab staff, I’ve been able to play a modest role in helping to shape.

Officially launched on Thursday, September 26th, SLBN is intended to be a referral service for bloggers producing high-quality, independent blog content to have their work promoted by Linden Lab through a new curated SLBN feed on the Second Life Community Pages and via Linden Lab’s high-visibility Second Life social media feeds and – in the future – on the Official Second Life Viewer log-in page.

How it works is simple and direct:

  • Interested bloggers review the SLBN Terms & Conditions and SLBN Content Guidelines.
  • If a blogger wishes to participate, they complete and submit the SLBN Submission Form to indicate their willingness to participate.
  • Linden Lab staff are then attentive to participating blogs, and when they see a post that is suitable for promotion, they will:
    • Produce a short summary of the post, generally based on the opening few lines of the article, and which includes the first image in the post (if the article does not have any images, a “blog image” supplied by the blogger via the submission form will be used).
    • The summary and image is  then promoted to the curated SLBN feed and to the various Second Life social media channels, etc., together with a link back to the original article and blog.
  • Those reading the various feeds / channels can then click the link through to the article and blog, read it in full and perhaps explore the blog in more detail.

Content that might be considered suitable for promotion through the programme includes technical reports, destination reviews, reports on events (including music and entertainment events) emerging fashion trends, tips and tutorials, reports on Second Life news, and so on.

Those joining the initiative should note that:

  • Not every post from a blog will be promoted by Linden Lab: SLBN is intended to promote several entries during the week from the pool of participating bloggers, with content selected – as noted above – by Linden Lab.
  • Participation in the initiative is on an opt-in basis, free and – importantly – non-exclusive: bloggers can continue to write their own posts in their own style, and continue to use wherever social media, networks and in-world groups of their own to continue to promote their work.
  • However, there are certain standards Linden Lab are applying to the content they will consider for promotion. These are outlined in the SLBN Content Guidelines linked-to above, which should be kept in mind by participating bloggers when producing content they might hope to see promoted by the Lab.
  • Should a logger decide they no longer wish to participate, they can do so at any time using the SLBN submission form. Linden Lab will cease monitoring their blog for potential SLBN content.

The SLBN Badge

Those participating in SLBN can optionally display the SLBN badge (seen at the top of this article and on the blog sidebar to the right) in order to help promote the Second Life Blogger Network through their blog / website. Copies of the badge can be obtained here. When using it, bloggers are asked to:

  • Hyperlink the badge to the Second Life community pages.
  • Include the following statement directly below the badge: Use of the SLBN logo does not constitute approval by or a representation or endorsement from Linden Lab.

Where bloggers place the badge in their blogs is at their own discretion. Those using WordPress can add it using that platform’s image widget tool.

Personal Commentary

As noted, I’ve been somewhat involved in the development of SLBN since Linden Lab first sought feedback on the idea roughly a year ago, and more recently with two other bloggers in providing more direct feedback to the Lab ahead of this launch. Given this, I have a certain positive bias towards SLBN, aided by the fact that it is a referral service designed to help drive traffic to blogger’s sites (while obviously giving LL access to the kind of content that will help them promote Second Life).

How well the initiative works and what additional adjustment may be be made to it in light of things like the response to it, etc.,  will only become clear over time. My own bias aside, I do hope that overall, bloggers will respond positively, and I look forward to seeing how SLBN develops and the content it generates.

Important Links

Whimsies and Dreamscapes in Second Life

Whimsies and Dreamscapes, September 2019 – click any image for full size

We were drawn to Whimsies and Dreamscapes, a Full region using the additional 10K land capacity designed by TwinkleStarLight, on the recommendation of Shawn Shakespeare. And I have to admit, the region certainly lives up to its name and description: this is a setting that is intentionally an eclectic mix of offerings on land, on water and – if you’re prepared to take a dip – under the water. So much so that actually trying to formulate a description isn’t that easy – discovery is perhaps the best way to learn about the various elements. However, I’ll try to offer a little teaser.

First, up the land – which is split into a number of boxy, rocky islands, water channels and low-lying areas of grasslands – has no enforced landing point. The one I’m using here is the one provided (at the time of writing) in the About Land floater, but you can pretty much hope around quite freely. The landing point I’ve used sits on the lowlands of the region, toward the north-west corner. Backed by Whimsies Candy Shop – which might be regarded as a “gateway” to the underwater elements of the region – it offers a good starting point for explorations of the region’s lower grasslands.

Whimsies and Dreamscapes, September 2019

Bounded by water on all four sides, the shop and the lawn before it are connected to the rest of the lowlands be means of a simple wooden bridge passing under a high rocky arch. Beyond this sits a more curious landscape, a place filled with old ruins, a tumbledown retreat on the top of a small hill (looking for all the world like a wizard’s hideaway although it is a fact a cosy little snug), a stone henge, paths and trails and wild gardens stalked by flamingos and a unicorn, and both human and elven houses that again offer places to sit and relax and share time with others.

Scattered through these areas are a number of teleport mirrors. According to the about land description, these are apparently designed to assist in getting around. Unfortunately during our three visits, the mirrors were non-responsive; even joining the local group (there are approximately two inviters you may encounter whilst exploring) failed to wake them up for us. Fortunately, insofar as getting up to the highlands in the region is concerned, there are ways other than teleporting available (although I’ve no idea whether or not the teleports also provide access to places in the sky over the region).

Whimsies and Dreamscapes, September 2019

One of these routes can be found on the south side of the large inland island to the west of the region. Decorated in the form of a graveyard (for Halloween, perhaps?), it can be reached via a set of stepping stones located close to the elven house. Creepy though it might be, the upper part of the cemetery with to one of the region’s more whimsical elements: a mist-covered “sea” that tumbles down the sides of the island on which it sits to the waters below; it is home to the partially sunken and broken hulk of a galleon. That his ship might well be wrecked doesn’t appear to bother the chap floating on a modern life buoy within the wreck; perhaps that’s down to the rum his appears to be enjoying!

A further bridge, this one on southern coast of the cemetery island and a short walk from the stepping stones, gives access to the western extremes of the island. High and low, the land here offers a mix of more garden spaces, a floating house set out as both an artist’s retreat and a place for people to again enjoy time together, and beaches. Steps again lead up to the the tops of the cliffs where the further one travels northwards, the more eclectic and whimsical things get.

Whimsies and Dreamscapes, September 2019

The nature of the region means that I really don’t want to give too much more away in terms of outright description; as noted, this is a place that deserves exploration and discovery. However, when visiting I would suggest that you experiment with local windlight settings; the default offered by the region doesn’t entirely do it justice.

Also, don’t forget the underwater elements! These are perhaps best explored starting with a leap off the pier at the back of Whimsies Candy Shop, and offer a number on little garden spaces connected by narrow pathways between steep sandy slopes that could perhaps benefit from rocky cladding – but land Capacity is Land Capacity! The quirkiness in the scale of some of the items here makes these spaces a further curio of exploration, and I particularly liked the octopus’s garden – and what lies above it. For those who prefer time on the water rather than under it, the pier behind the shop is also one of the places where swan-headed boats can generally be obtained for cruising the region’s channels and bays.

Whimsies and Dreamscapes, September 2019

Unconventional in presentation, rich in detail and with plenty to see and plenty of places to pass the time, Whimsies and Dreamscapes can made for an engaging visit where there camera may well see a fair degree of use.

SLurl Details

2019 SL User Groups week #39/1: Simulator User Group

Nevglide Gaard, August 2019 – blog post

Not a lot to report – the meeting was largely a solstice party with live music. Simon Linden did, however, use the larger-than-usual gathering to monitor animation performance, lag and streaming performance.

Server Deployments

Update, September 28th: a rollback was performed across the grid on September 27th/28th, which apparently moved all regions  back to server release 2019-09-06T22:03:53.530715, first deployed on September 10th, this was due to widespread issues being reported across the grid in relation to the script timing / performance fixes that were deployed – and which revealed a further underpinning issue. See this status update for more.

Please refer to the server deployment thread for updates.

  • On Tuesday, September 24th, the SLS (Main) channel was updated with server release 2019-09-13T20:04:44.530946, comprising minor improvements to starting and stopping regions and EEP updates and fixes, and which was originally deployed to the Magnum RC channel.
  • On Wednesday, September 25th, the RC channels are to be updated with two deployments (no channel details provided):

SL Viewer

The Ordered Shutdown viewer updated to version 6.3.2.530972 on Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

  • Current Release version 6.3.1.530559, formerly the Umeshu Maintenance RC viewer, dated, September 5 – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
  • Project viewers:
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.530473, September 11.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16.
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November 2017 – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.