In the clouds in Second Life

In the Clouds, Nils Urqhart

Currently open at his Rill’Arts Gallery is In the Clouds, a series of stunning physical world images by Nils Urqhart of the French Alps either caught within, or against the backdrop of, cloud-laden skies.

Across just shy of thirty images, Nils paints a stunning portrait of the Alps – which forms one of the world’s stunning mountain ranging – that fully captures their intensely rugged, almost romantic, looks, and does so in a completely beguiling manner.

In the Clouds, Nils Urqhart

By presenting the Alps – slopes and peaks, capped by snow or naked – Nils has created a series of images that not only suggest the mountains are almost living, breathing entities, but that they are entirely otherworldly in their nature.

In the Clouds, Nils Urqhart

For example, in some, they seem to float as islands in the sky, breakers of clouds rolling against their flanks as they seem to float on a sea of white and grey. In others we are offered small glimpses of what life among mountains like this – to look out over forest coated rocky slopes whilst also overlooked in turn by the towering, stern presence of these huge rugged faces.

One of the fascinating elements of this exhibition from my perspective is the aforementioned sense of life given to the Alps through the sometimes rolling, roiling set of the clouds around them. In numerous shots, this play of cloud caught on turbulent winds colliding against the sides of the mountains not only looks like that vast ocean breaking upon the flanks of an island, but also the longs exhales of breath from the mountains themselves.

As always with Nils’ photography, this is a marvellous collection of images that are perfectly presented. Those taken by Nils’ work can also find it available for sale in the physical world through American Fine Arts.

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Future Shock: season 3 of the Second Life machinima series

Future Shock: sci-fi machinima

I first wrote about Future Shock, an ambitious Second Life Machinima series produced by Pryda Parx, in September 2016, when the first part in the series was released, and then revisited the project at the start of 2017.

Since then, the series has grown through a second season, and Pryda has edited the episodes on both together into two special Director’s Cut versions, the first running to just over 23 minutes and the second to a touch over 32 minutes (see Future Shock: the machinima continues, for more on both the Director’s Cuts and the second season).

Now, through November and December 2019, the third and final season of the series is being made available for viewing through Pryda’s You Tube channel.

Future Shock is perhaps one of the most ambitious machinima activities to be attempted in Second Life, a 25-episode story arc split across three seasons of episodes (8, 9 and 8 per season). Set at some point in the future, the story presents a somewhat dystopian / semi-cyberpunk world where technology infiltrates every part of people’s lives, a seemingly protective blanket for all whilst also offering the means for personal gratification and escapism through the intertwining of their physical and virtual lives.

Future Shock protagonist Tracy Grayling

The latter can take the form of immersion into user-defined virtual worlds where dreams and desires are made a reality, and in the physical world, the ability for people to physically augment / redefine / rebuild their own bodies to suit their desires, in a world where everything is defined by a person’s net worth, or IP Credit (draw your own conclusions from the use of “IP”). This IP Credit can be enhanced through a variety of ways – agreeing to complete tasks that are assigned an IP value, for example.

So long as a person’s IP remains positive, then all is well. But should it decline continuously, then things can become hard; and should it zero-out completely, they can find themselves clinically and harshly dealt with. And this latter point is also the case for any who question the apparent benevolence and societal rules of the overseeing technology.

A particular point of uniqueness is the non-linear storytelling technique Pryda has used. The first season, for example, tells the story from the perspective of Tracy Grayling, dropping us into the middle of her life which appears – like the lives of so many – to be self-centred, living in this world of morally questionable ethics, in which people view their time in terms of raising themselves to the next line in a balance sheet, simply to be able to make themselves “better” physically or virtually than their peers. However, is this really so, or is she – wittingly or otherwise – an agent provocateur?

This makes the first season something of a mystery thriller: much is going on, but it’s hard to determine where it is leading. At the same time, we are drawn into the the story via Pryda’s visual technique of contrasting the “real” world, filmed in flat grey and minimal, hard colour (blue, red, white), with the promise of a virtual nirvana rich in colour. In the second season, the events witnessed by Tracy are seen from an entirely different perspective: that of those apparently fighting the controlling technology. This both adds to the depth of the underpinning mystery whilst also given greater context to the first season, making the primary arc of the core storyline clearer.

Tracy Grayling – in avatar form (r) – meets with the leader of the rebels in virtual space

With the third season, the story threads revealed in the first two seasons intertwine and draw us through a further eight episodes to the series climax.

The first part of the third season (and episode 17 overall), Brotherly Assistant is now available on You Tube. While on Thursday, November 14th, there will be a special in-world showing of episode 17 and the premier of episode 18, A Proposition, at the Grand Ballroom, Embrace Aphrodite Island (rated Adult), and the two episodes will be followed by a showing of the Director’s cut of the first season. All who are interested are invited to attend.

I don’t want to say too much about the third season – having been fortunate enough to be offered the chance to view it in advance – simply because I do not want to spoil it for others who have followed the first two seasons, or who wish to catch up with things by watching them now. What I will say is that throughout all three seasons, Pryda has woven a layered story that is worth watching throughout and – considering her own admission that season one was a case of “learn as you go” for her in terms of machinima making – one that demonstrates her growth as filmographer and storyteller.

Should you wish to catch up with the story, please follow the links below.

2019 Simulator User Group week #46 summary

Hazardous, September 2019 – blog post

Simulator Deployments

Please refer to the server deployment thread for news and updates:

  • The SLS (main) channel on Tuesday, November 12th, leaving it on server release 2019-11-01T18:02:37.532376, previously deployed to an RC and comprising: internal script improvements. internal logging changes and improvements to simulator state saves, which should make rolls smoother.
  • On Wednesday, November 13th, there will be two RC deployments

SL Viewer

The Ordered Shutdown RC viewer, version and dated Monday, November 4th, has been promoted to the de facto release viewer.

The Maintenance RC viewer updated to version on Tuesday, November 12th.

The rest of the current viewer pipelines remain as follows:

  • Release channel cohorts:
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version, October 28.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, October 21.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, September 17. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version, July 16.

In Brief

  • There is a relatively new member of the Lab’s QA team for Second Life: Johngalt Linden.