A little Zen at an Adored garden in Second Life

Adored – For Bambi, June 2021 – click any image for full size

A perusal of the Destination Guide recently brought me to an entry for another region design by Valarie (Zalindah) and dedicated to Bambi (NorahBrent), whose hand can also be seen in a couple of places within the region, and with whom Val has worked with in the past to create virtual spaces.

Adored – For Bambi is another enchanting setting, described as a “Japanese inspired Zen garden”, but which is so much more: a landscape that mixes garden and wilder spaces, water with land, the natural and the fanciful in a marvellous mix of ideas and settings that flow together perfectly and achieve Val’s stated desire to boost spirits, inspire the mind and relax the heart.

Adored – For Bambi, June 2021

The landing point sits within a Japanese pergola located on a short finger of land that extends out into the bay that cuts into the island to form the focal point of the zen garden. A path from the pergola leads to a pair of Torii gates standing guard on either side of the garden’s path as it set out to follow the curve of the bay’s edge and to a small koi house on the shore.

This house offers a charming / romantic retreat, a place to be enjoyed at the end of a visit, especially if accompanied by a loved one. But before turning to it, there is much more to see, as a second path extends beyond the two Torii gates of the garden, pointing the way to northern grasslands.  Here the land is in sharp contrast to the woodlands around the garden and bay: the trees are few, the grass long and turned to gold under the Sun.

Adored – For Bambi, June 2021

The remains of a single, once massive and elm-like tree rises from one side of these grasslands, its few remaining branches still sprouting leaves, the top of its truncated form smoothed and levelled into an elevated platform, tree bark acting as a natural wind break on one side and a set of wooden steps spiralling around the broad trunk to reach it. The nominal shade of this tree and the sea of grass around it has been claimed as the home of a small herd of fallow deer, complete with offspring, that wanders and grazes peacefully.

Across a narrow channel of water cutting into the grasslands, stands the remnants of a stone building, now little more than a pair of incomplete walls. Paired lines of trees close by give the impression the land here may once have been an orchard. but if this were once the case, the denuded and withering state of the trees and the tumbledown nature of the building would suggest that time was long in the past, and building and trees have been left to fade; even the little greenhouse that someone had built into the ruined building has been deserted, the area now home to a frolicking Kitsune.

Adored – For Bambi, June 2021

And this is just scratching the surface of the region’s secrets. Off to the north is a little island with a shelter of its own, whilst back in the woodlands there await more discoveries along the lanterned path that sweeps around the land under the trees to return to the koi house on the shore.

Along this path lie woven arches, Torri gates, places to sit and, hovering in greeting, three little flying monkeys. Such creatures are often not found to be friendly in literature and tale, but visitors have nothing to fear from these three, as they watch the comings and goings quietly and present a small taste of the more fanciful elements of Adored – For Bambi.

Adored – For Bambi, June 2021

The latter is more keenly to be seen just beyond the landing point, where a rocky hill forms a small promontory to one side of the bay, balancing the koi house on the other side. A carpet of fluffy grass offers a way up to the crown of the hill, passing between tall growths of bamboo to reach a bridge that stretches out into the air to where clouds await those seeking a place to sit and watch the orca playing below.

With domesticated dogs, stags and wolves helping to round-out the animal population, and with lanterns floating on the water and through the air, Adored – For Bambi makes for an engaging and restorative visit for the weary of eye or soul.

Adored – For Bambi, June 2021

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SL18B Meet the Lindens: Patch Linden – a summary with video and audio

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 saw the third in a series of Meet the Lindens events take place for the SL Birthday celebrations, featuring Patch Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product Operations.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with selected audio extracts. The full video is located at the end of this article.

Table of Contents

Note that this is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.

The TL;DR List of Key Points

  • Linden Homes:
    • Fantasy theme will be available “soon” – there are a few things still to be finalised.
    • As with the Chalet homes, the Fantasy house styles will come in a choice of “with rooms” or “open plan”.
    • The houses will be made available on a sub-continent that will be a part of Bellisseria, but not physically joined to it.
    • This continent will have its own seasonal cycles.
    • Once it is available, there will be around 3 or 4 more themes to come.
    • Once the role-out of new themes has been completed, there will be something of a refresh of some themes.
  • New User Experience: should surface in the next few weeks. It utilises integrated elements of new on-boarding region design, new tutorials and web content access through the viewer, which also includes UI changes intended to assist new users. The approach is intended to be context-oriented rather than task oriented, as has tended to be the case.
  • New starter avatars: a new fully mesh / Bento / BoM capable starter avatar is under consideration. It  will be intended to ease the process of understanding avatar customisation, etc., whilst giving the basic SL avatar a more modern, complete refresh.  However, it is not intended to compete with existing mesh avatars.
  • Roadmap for the next 12 months: complete the Linden Homes deployment, deploy the New User Experience, develop the new start avatars + the release / testing of the “event tier region” product.

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About Patch Linden

  • Originally a Second Life resident and business owner who joined the platform in 2004, and became a Linden in 2007.
  • Initially worked as a support agent and then as a support liaison. From there he moved to the Concierge team, eventually becoming that team’s manager.
  • Shifted focus to the role of Operations Support Manager for a year, then moved to the Product group, the team responsible for defining the features, etc., found within Second Life.
  • At Product he developed the Land Operations team, which includes the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).
  • In 2018, he established the company’s support office in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • In 2020 he oversaw the move to larger office space in Atlanta, although the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic means the new premises have yet to be used.
  • In 2019 he was promoted to Vice President, Product Operations, and joined the Lab’s management team alongside Grumpity and Oz Linden (see: Linden Lab’s management team expands: congrats to Grumpity, Patch and Oz).
  • Together with Grumpity and Oz, he formed the leadership team overseeing Second Life’s continued development, this team now comprising Patch, Grumpity and Brett Linden.
  • In his management team role, Patch continues to oversee all of the Lab’s user support operations (some 5 teams), including the LDPW.
  • Despite his longevity at the Lab, his is not the longest-serving Linden, nor is he the “oldest” resident-turned-Linden.
  • Sees the most significant changes to SL during his time being: the arrival of voice (2007), Mesh (2010), Pathfinding (2011), Experience Keys (initially 2015, fully in 2019/2020), Bento  (2016/17), Animesh (2018/19) and EEP (2018/19), and Bakes on Mesh (2019).

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Loss of Ebbe Altberg

Patch again expressed comments on the passing of Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s CEO, and again, rather than paraphrase him, is words are in the audio below, lifted from the the 9:09 point of the video through to 14:07 minutes .

As a reminder, those wishing to pay their respect to Ebbe can do so at his in-world memorial (see also: Paying respects to Ebbe Altberg in Second Life).

The Pandemic and Second Life

[Video: 19:05-23:08]

  • Given the Lab has always had a very strong working-from-home ethos and in using the the platform for company work, the transition out of office working was not a major impact.
  • Second Life has seen increases in the GDP, the LindeX and in returning users who having logged-in for some time.
  • Linden Lab recognises that while the platform has been of great help to many around the world during the pandemic, they equally understand that this has also been a period of great stress and potential loss for some.

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Linden Homes and Bellisseria

[Video: 23:52-45:15]

  • The Fantasy theme is being previewed at SL18B – see SL18B: A Look at the Linden Homes Fantasy Theme Preview.
    • Each of the four styles will be offered in both a floor plan version (as seen in the SL18B preview region) and in an “open plan concept” version.
    • The design for the Fantasy theme has been developed with the idea that it can be applied to multiple fantasy themes – elven. human, faerie, etc.
    • The new Fantasy theme will be within a sub-continent rather than an overall part of Bellisseria. It will still be classified as a part of Bellisseria, but will not have a direct connection to the existing Bellisseria regions.
      • It has yet to be determined whether there will be air and / or water connections with the rest of the continent, or whether it will only be linked by some form of portal connection.
      • This continent will have seasonal changes throughout the year. Winter will not have snow, but will see a cold, blue environment.
    • It is hoped the theme will be released Soon™, although there are still decisions to be made and work to be completed – such as the community hub for the theme.
The Fantasy theme of Linden Homes at SL18B under their natural night sky (the day cycle will naturally change on the Fantasy Home regions)
  • Once Fantasy theme has been released, there will be around three or four more themes to come.
    • [49:26-49:50] Two of these themes are being built in parallel to the Fantasy theme, and one of these is almost “content complete”.
  • The Bellisseria community has been integral to the success and growth of the continent.
  • Work has not started on retiring the “old” Linden Homes and their sub-continents, and is unlikely to commence until 2022. LL do not want to start on this until  there is sufficient variety and stock of new homes to appeal to all who still have one of the older Homes.
  • In terms of obtaining a Linden Home, the key is to be patient.
    • New themes are released on a rolling cycle, and their is no need to stand on the edge of regions awaiting their release – in fact, just because region X has been released does not mean region Y next door will be “next”. The system doesn’t work like that.
    • The best way to obtain a home of choice is to watch the Linden Homes page, and then take one as styles become available, and work within the refresh / house change caps that have been set.
  • There is a new development in the works that involves Bellisseria and the Linden Homes. It is not a major project, but will be themed around Halloween.

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New User Experience

[Video: 45:16-48:55]

  • The new New User experience will involve:
    • A completely new region design for on-boarding users, together with updated tutorials.
    • New viewer elements (currently found within the Project UI RC viewer).
    • Web-based support accessed  through the viewer.
  • “Doing things” will be a part of this experience, but will not be the focus for it.
  • Rather, it is recognised that incoming users will have a degree of computer knowledge, including knowledge gained from other games / platforms. So, part of the work has been to study other on-boarding processes and work out what really needed to be done to more easily transitions users coming from other on-line environments into used Second Life and gaining a reasonable grounding in how basic things work.
  • As such, the focus is not so much activity-driven (walk here, pick up that, jump there), but is more context driven, with virtual space, tutorial, web content and viewer all tightly interwoven to drive the process.
  • This should be coming on-stream in a  matter of weeks.

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New Start Avatars

[Video 49:51-54:39]

  • A new all-mesh / Bento-enabled and Bakes on Mesh avatar is being considered as the default new starter avatar.
  • This will likely replace the Ruth avatar (which will not vanish entirely, due to backwards compatibility), and will be a single head-to-toe avatar design that will respond to the existing slider system & intended to make getting to grips with basic avatar customisation easier.
  • A further aspect to the avatar is to help to make the new starter avatar look a lot more modern and more in keeping with other avatar styles in SL.
  • However, it will not be designed to compete with existing mesh avatars, but will be purely to get people to a point where they understand the avatar sufficiently well enough to be able to move on to using more complex avatar options.

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Support and Governance

[Video: 55:12-1:03:11]

Support

  • Support enjoys a very healthy / respected satisfaction rate, with the general turn-around time for enquiries / issues being measured in hours, not days or weeks.
  • User surveys generally give a very high satisfaction rate from those who take them, as reflected in the rewards nominated for support staff by users (and yes, the staff really do get the rewards!).

Governance

  • In difference to Second life hearsay, Abuse Reports are reviewed and where required, actioned.
  • There can appear be a delay in responding to some reports, simply because some issues are more urgent than others (e.g. account hacking is a much more serious issue than name-calling), and the high-priority issues must be dealt with first – particularly if they are time critical (e.g. serious griefing).
  • Some abuse reports  – such as reports of harassment – do take time to  be responded to, simply because the Governance team often has to build-up a chain of evidence, and care must be taken to investigate both sides of the equation.
  • Some reports are not acted upon, simply because they come down to he said / she said situations, where no clear determination can be made, while mechanisms for others (e.g. people being “mean” or name-calling) are within the viewer to allow direct action to be taken – blocking / muting.

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Roadmap for the Nest 12 Months

[Video: 1:05:25-1:14:38]

  • Linden Homes the deployment of the remaining themes,  including a “V2” of a particular home type + implementing “open plan” expansions to the existing Traditional and Victorian Homes.
  • The new New User Experience and new starter avatars, as discussed.
  • A possible new game that may eventually dovetail into the New User Experience, possibly towards the latter part of 2022 (although it may be pushed back).
  • New land products that leverage AWS hardware capabilities.
    • Current focus is on an “events tier region” type designed to support events at peak simulator performance (time dilation at 0.999, simulator FPS at 45.0).
    • An initial version of this product is in use within the SL18B regions, supporting the auditorium and the live stage.
    • The region type has yet to be tested for managing higher avatar numbers – although a good part of this impact is more viewer side then within the client (outside of things like teleport and script handling).
    • There are still decisions to be made on how to pitch and price this product. However it is hoped more information on it will be available in the next few weeks.

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Q&A Session

[Video: 1:16:40-end]

Please refer to the video.