The 23rd edition of Lab Gab will be live streamed on Friday, April 24th at 10:00 SLT (18:00 UK; 19:00 CET). For those who have not seen the official blog post about it, the segment will feature the team primarily behind EEP – the Environment Enhancement Project: Rider Linden, Ptolemy Linden and Euclid Linden.
Rider Linden is a Senior Software Engineer who has been with Linden Lab for just over five years – although his familiarity with Second Life goes back beyond that, as he is one of the many personnel LL have recruited from the ranks of Second Life users. He was responsible for initially defining the EEP project. He then went on to develop the viewer controls for EEP, taking considerable feedback from users along the way, as well as working with the rendering team during the project’s development.
Ptolemy and Euclid Linden are more recent hires at the Lab, both are working on the rendering side of Second Life. Both have been Lindens for around 6-7 months, although I confess I have no idea if their familiarity with SL extends back further than that. Since joining the Lab’s team, both have been engaged in clearing-up the rendering issues with EEP and have been regulars at the Content Creation User Group meetings.
As EEP was officially released on Monday, April 20th, all three are appearing on Lab Gab to discuss EEP – but I have little doubt they’ll endeavour to answer more general questions on the viewer and rendering. If you have a question you’d like to put them, make sure you submit it via the Lab Gab Google form.
As usual, the programme will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, Mixer, or Periscope, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.
On April 19th, 2020, Gem Preiz, the master of the fractal image, opened a new installation in Second Life – one that is a little different to his past installations / exhibitions in that fractals are almost non-existent within it. Instead, with Skyscrapers, he presents an immersive installation that is drawn from one of his many passions: architecture.
In short, the installation presents a region-wide city – but with a difference. Everything in it is represented at 1/10th scale (based on a region’s size). Thus, rather than offering a location just 256m on a side, Gem presents a city that is 2.56 kilometres on a side, representative of a city covering 100 regions. It has been built to reflect the beauty of modern skyscrapers which have a unique impact on Gem, as he explains in the introductory note card:
skyscrapers [are] modern cathedrals which are, like those of the past, the synthesis of all the techniques of their time, dedicated to the collective aspirations of their builders. Incredible technological challenges, they are increasingly integrating the search for an aesthetic that reinforces their impact. They have to be beautiful, since they will be more and more numerous in order to limit the surface of land arable or reserved for ecosystems that will be needed for human housing.
It is also – as he also explains – an exercise in immersion. By using a set scale for this build, and by providing the means to move through it at an equivalent scale, Gem has created an environment that is richly encapsulating, the scale allowing you to travel through the streets and parks of a city some 2.56km on a side.
This is achieved through the use of an option to make your avatar “invisible” via an alpha layer (remove all mesh and other attachments) and then using one of the flying vehicles available at the landing point within the city itself (in turn reached via a teleport board from the main landing point). Three of these vehicles are “self drive”, so you can pilot them yourself, or you can take the red car on a guided tour of the city, its sectors and buildings.
While it is possible to walk and fly around the city as an avatar, I strongly recommend using the alpha layer (your avatar sans all mesh and attachments) and the vehicles. The latter are scripted to move at a speed consistent with the scale of the city, and by hiding your avatar, you gain the distinct impression of the city’s size. If you opt to go into the installation as you are, without using the alpha option, then I still suggest using the vehicles – but switch to Mouselook when doing so to gain a real sense of scale. Note also that a teleport HUD is available from the city landing point, and with will allow you to hop between specific points of interest.
Like a real city, Gem’s is split into various districts, each with its own buildings / architectural styles. Some sections are purely conceptual / entirely futuristic in style, others are more recognisable in style (such as the residential districts, the shopping district with its malls, etc.). Most of the buildings are ultra-modern in look, although some offer stylised designs that embrace the past. Surface and elevated roads cut their way between districts, as do the tubes of what might be taken as a mass transit system, which also separates the main park in the city from the surrounding districts, giving it room to breathe.
However, it is the buildings that are the most fascinating. Some are simple box and cylinder designs, others more sculpted / futuristic in style. However, many owe their inspiration to skyscrapers from the physical world, and it is seeking these out among the towers and districts that can get someone thoroughly engrossed. Gem provides a list of the latter, but during my visit I spotted what appeared to be a number – by happenstance or design – that also appeared to be drawn from physical world counterparts not listed in the note card. These included the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building in Hong Kong, the shape of which appears echoed through a number of blue buildings in the city, London’s Shard, and two graceful golden curves of buildings that put me in mind of the U.N. Building in New York, while a series of paired towers each linked by high-level walkways put me in mind of the Petronas Towers.
I mentioned above that Gem’s Fractal images are “almost” non-existent in this build. The qualifier comes because deep within the city is a large geodome, within which is a series of his fractal images, scaled down from their usual size, each one offering a view of futuristic architecture entirely in keeping with the installation’s theme.
An extraordinary and engaging installation, Skyscrapers is well worth visiting while it remains open.
We came across Devil’s Bend National Park, a region design by Aiden Caudron and occupying a Full region using the full region land capacity bonus, after poking at the Recently Added category of the Destination Guide.
Intended to offer the look and feel of a rugged national park, the setting is an interesting mix of public and residential spaces (the former well scattered across the region so as not to interfere with exploration). Raised into a high plateau, the park is a series of dusty trails running under rich fir foliage and over deep ravines by means of wooden bridges, together with wooden board walks that wind through the ravines and cling to the sides of cliffs as they rise and fall through the park.
The landing point sits at the visitor centre, a small lodge sitting at the side of one of the dusty roads. From here lie a choice of routes – one of which is reasonably short inasmuch as it crosses a bridge to reach two of the rental properties before coming to an end. Taking the road in the other direction is more constructive for explorers, as it winds much further through the park and offers a means to reach some of the wooden walkways.
This is a place with a curious (in an interesting way) feel to it: open spaces, winding trails, and walks that are in keeping with the overall theme of a national park; but at the same time, the rental properties have something of a run-down feel to them; fenced gardens are overgrown, the houses faded by the sun and looking a little the worse for wear.
Meanwhile, the north-east and northern side of the region are closed to public access – that is, the road is unexpectedly blocked by the wreck of a school bus. This appears to be less to do with matters of privacy and more with the fact that a major bridge has partially collapsed. Whether this is the result of an earthquake or rockfall – or both – is unclear; but the damage is such that it does bring the route to an abrupt end. Nevertheless, the use of the wrecked bus to block the road, together with the dilapidated state of the buildings beyond it suggest perhaps another narrative for this northern side of the region.
Follow the roads and the wooden board walks up to the summits of the park, and you may find yourself passing through at least one tunnel boring through the rock. It leads the way to a zip line that can be used for riding past a waterfall and back to the road below. Should you miss the tunnel, you can make your way to the radio mast on the highest peak – but be aware that the radio station close by is now a private home.
I mention the tunnel, as tunnels are very much the secret to the park – threading through its rocky mass is a network of them, together with chambers. Some are interconnected, others run on their own. Whilst most of the chambers do not hold a secret waiting to be found, they and the tunnels add a dimension to exploring the park that can keep visitors engaged for no small amount of time.
Rich in detail and offering numerous opportunities for exploration (and a café where visitors can rest should walking get a little too much), Devil’s Bend makes for an engaging visit. The texture load can have an impact if you’re running with all of the viewer’s bells and whistles engaged (particularly shadows), but this shouldn’t be a reason for not visiting, nor does it detract from the rugged charm of the region.