A touch of horror, sci-fi and fantasy in Second Life

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, August 25th: Live from Innfest

2019 marks the 129th anniversary of the “Grandfather of Cosmic Horror and Weird Fiction”, H.P. Lovecraft, and the 10th anniversary of the founding of Innsmouth, the region dedicated to celebrating the genre Lovecraft created.

To celebrate both, Seanchai Library will be a part of the Innfest celebration that marks both anniversaries through until August 27th (read more here), with Caledonia Skytower, Corwyn Allen, Kayden Oconnell, and Finn Zeddmore sharingstories from the Lovecraftian canon over 90 minutes. Included in the series will be:

  • The Hound
  • The Moon Bog
  • The Music of Erich Zann.

So why not join them at the Miskatonic University Library at Arkham?

Monday, August 26th 19:00: Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama

Gyro Muggins reads one of the greatest science fiction novels of human first contact with alien intelligence.

In 2131, a fast-moving object of extremely large size is detected beyond the orbit of Jupiter travelling on a course that will see it pass through the inner solar system to swing around the Sun, before heading out into space. An automated probe launched from Mars reveals the object to be a perfect cylinder, 50 km long and 20in diameter rotating regularly along its long axis and clearly artificial in nature.

The deep space survey vessel Endeavour, her crew untrained for first contact scenarios, is the only vessel that can intercept the cylinder as it uses the Sun’s gravity well to accelerate and bend its path onto a new trajectory. After a high-speed chase, the Endeavour reaches the cylinder – christened Rama by those who first identified it and finds one of the end caps has curious triple chamber airlock systems within it. Through one of them, the crew gains access to the object.

What they find within stuns them: the cylinder is hollow, a 50x16km “tube” the inner surface of which forms a circular world of three parts: a large plain, with six city-like groups of structures scattered around it, a central band of frozen water the crew call the Cylindrical Sea with a single long, thin island (which they dub “New York” due to its superficial similarity to Manhattan island). Beyond the sea lies a landscape of split into cubes and squares, dominated by a group of massive cones extending inward along the cylinder’s long axis from southern end cap.

Initially in darkness and frigid when the Endeavour’s crew enter, the cylinder gradually comes to life, revealing its strange alien nature, where everything appears to be done in triplicate (or multiples thereof). And then, as tensions among the human civilisations across the solar system rise, the “Ramans” appear.

Tuesday, August 27th 19:00: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

So, you think you know the story because of the film? Well, guess again! Disney’s famous 1968 film can best be described as being loosely based on the children’s story by Ian Flemming, the creator of James Bond.

Flemming’s last novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was published posthumously, and initially in three volumes, two months after his death in August 1964. He took his inspiration for the titular car from a series of post-War World I aero-engined racing cars called “Chitty Bang Bang”. They were built by Count Louis Zborowski at Higham Park, in Kent, England, and one of them, the “Higham Special” went on to take the land speed record in 1926 with a speed in excess of 170 mph, after it had been purchased by racing driver J.G. Parry-Thomas specifically for that purpose.

In the book, the car is a Paragon Panther, a powerful 1920s touring car that is restored by Commander Caractacus Pott. At first the car is just that – a powerful 4-seater tourer Pott uses to transport himself and his wife and children around. But then the car starts to exhibit a “personality” and abilities beyond those of any normal motor vehicle. Some of these will be familiar to those who have seen the film, but where the latter options to introduce jealous barons and a wicked Child Catcher, the book offers a more down-to-Earth but equally engaging series of adventures of Commander Pott and his family.

Join Caledonia Skytower to discover the real Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Wednesday, August 28th: Library Closed

No events.

Thursday, August 29th 19:00: The Blue Salt Road

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.

– Child Ballad, no. 113

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

With Shandon Loring, also Also in Kitely – teleport from the main Seanchai World grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI.

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Innfest: celebrating Innsmouth and Lovecraft in Second Life

InnsFest 2019 official banner

I almost missed this – largely because no PR material seems to have been sent out (or at least in my direction), but currently in progress through until the end of August 27th, 2019, is InnFest, a special celebration.

2019 marks the 129th anniversary of the “Grandfather of Cosmic Horror and Weird Fiction”, H.P. Lovecraft, and the 10th anniversary of the founding of Innsmouth, the region dedicated to celebrating the genre Lovecraft created. Thus, InnFest is a double celebration of both Lovercraft’s birth and Innsmouth’s 10th anniversary.

Innsmouth

The festival takes place on and over the Innsmouth region, which itself in modelled Lovercraft’s famous setting as it appeared in his 1931 novel The Shadows over Innsmouth, written in 1931, and which opened on August 20th, 2009, the 119th anniversary of Lovecraft’s birth.

Originally founded and operated by Darmin Darkes and her team, Innsmouth ran successfully for a number of years before hitting some financial difficulties that threatened it with closure (see: A new shadow looms over Innsmouth, September 2014). This prompted AriktheRed – who in 2012 had started organising the annual LoveFest in celebration of Lovecraft’s birth – to launch the Save Innsmouth campaign, which was both successful and saw Arik take over running the Innsmouth region.

This year’s very special celebration take place both on the ground at Innsmouth, and at various locations in the sky over it, and has featured / will feature both SL DJs and live entertainers, including: Archangelo Hellmann, AngelKitty Skizm, Bloodwain Arun, Rosedrop Rust, Larree Quixote, Wald Schridde and Vampink Cuddihy. Films are being shown at the region’s Arkham Theatre, and others evens featuring the likes of Seanchai Library and DRUM, at the Innsmouth Opera House and Miskatonic University (which forms the main lading point for the event). The festival will close with a Masquerade Ball on August 27th at 9:00 pm SLT.

Innsmouth

For details of all events at the festival, please refer to the InnFest event calendar and also to the new festival website.

SLurl Details

2019 SL User Groups 34/3: TPVD meeting

Autumn Trace; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrAutumn Trace, July 2019 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, August 23rd, 2019. A video of the meeting is embedded below, my thanks as always to Pantera for recording and providing it. The key points of discussion are provided below.

This was another  short meeting with a lot of general text chat, not reflected in these notes.

SL Viewer News

[0:10-5:45]

  • Current Release version 6.2.4.529638, formerly the Love Me Render RC viewer dated August 5th, promoted August 12th – NEW.
  • Release channel cohorts:
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Muscatene (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.530100, August 19th.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16th.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.2.3.527749, June th5. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, promoted to release status 29th November 2017 – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8th, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Bakes on Mesh

As per my August 22nd Content Creation User Group meeting notes, the Lab is hoping to promote Bakes on Mesh (BoM) to release status in week #35 – possibly as early as Monday, August 26th, 2019.

Umeshu RC

This is ready for promotion, but has been held back as the Lab want to get Bakes on Mesh promoted to release. Umeshu therefore looks most likely to be promoted in the near future. However, if there are late-breaking issues with BoM, the Umeshu RC could be promoted in its place.

EEP

As well as the rendering issues currently being addressed, there is apparently one new simulator bug that is being investigated.

Voice Viewer

There is an upcoming Voice RC viewer, intended to address various voice drop-out issues. It may also have an update SLvoice.exe binary. This is currently awaiting a fix prior to being surfaced in the Alternate Viewers page / the available viewers index page.

In Brief

  • Bitbucket Used to manage viewer repositories) will be sunsetting support for Mercurial; Linden Lab will therefore be switching to git on bitbucket for their repositories. However, the work is not seen as currently being urgent, with Oz Linden noting (via e-mail):

Clearly, how the TPVs handle this needs to depend on your own plans – particularly whether that’s staying with Mercurial hosted some other way or changing to Git (or something else). We will transition to git within bitbucket, preserving full history and as much as possible the ability to work in both during the transition.

When we have a plan in place, which will take some time, we’ll put it on the agenda.

  • There may be updates to both the Singularity (in progress) and Alchemy (possibly) before year-end.
  • Trivia:
    • Linden Lab have a quarterly internal review mechanism they call Review-O-Matic for setting staff goals and reviews. It is, according to Grumpity Linden, “neatly packaged with a tradition of eating treats”.
    • One Linden staffer owns an alpaca farm. This prompted a brief discussion on whether alpaca are cute pets or food. I opted to go with both, suggesting: The Alpaca (vicugna pacos): Loveable pet or delicious dish?“. I may have caused some distress to Whirly Fizzle, who puts alpaca firmly in the “pet” category 😀 .

Portraits and narratives in Second Life

The Itakos Project: Soul Portrait Collection Summer Black & White Edition – Saveria Rossini

The Itakos Project, operated and curated by Akim Alonzo, has undergone an expansion since my last visit (see: Soul Portraits in Second Life), with a new halls  – the Blue Pavilion – and an extension to the Black Pavilion, as well as a new platform gallery that will officially be opening a new exhibition on August 30th.

The Blue Pavilion sees a follow-on to Soul Portraits linked to above, with Soul Portrait Collection: Summer Black & White Edition. As with the first edition this features images from selected photographers who have submitted their work to the Itakos Project Flickr group. However, as the title implies, this selection features black-and-white images, and which had been submitted by Angelina Corral, Aver Osk, Aimee Cristole, Carolyn Diesel, Gabi Ka, Edie Horngold, Latia Lavecchia, -K- Lynagh, Ktsyakumi Izabela Navarathna, Saveria  Rossini and Sunset Theas.

The Itakos Project: Soul Portrait Collection Summer Black & White Edition – Sunset Theas

Further, and in difference to the first edition, the images here are not restricted to head-and-shoulder images; they instead offer broader perspectives – full body shots, those with more of a background in view, and so on.

This, to me, adds a further depth to this black & white edition; the range of images helps to keep things fresh as one moves through the hall, while the broader perspectives evident in some of the images offer a broader canvas on which the imagine can write its own story to accompany each image. Which is not to say those that do offer more direct facial studies are any the less fascinating; quite the reverse in fact. All of the pieces offered here are remarkable for their depth and ability to stir the imagination into framing a story around them.

The extended Black Pavilion offers the second of two exhibitions by Akim that are currently on display at the gallery (the other being The Matrix, which I reviewed here). And I confess from the start that Akim is fast becoming one of my favourite artists in Second Life.

The Itakos Project: Portraits And Some Other Circumstances – Akim Alonzo

In Portraits and some Other Circumstances he presents a series of colour and black and white female avatar studies. Originally displayed in June 2019, the collection has been expanded by Akim, and includes direct portrait studies and a series of “other circumstances”, which present more sensual studies (that feature nudity, and so should be considered NSFW).

These are pieces that again offer scenes suggestive of wider stories. In this, some offer direct hooks to a possible narrative – such as The Model was Impressed by the Old Camera, which places a faceless, naked subject alongside a camera and adds a very subtle twist of double entendre via the title. Others are more subtle, such as Imagine (Looking away), with its suggestion of the things around us we might so easily miss – or the suggestion of things we are never intended to see, but are nevertheless with us – such as angels who watch over us. Throughout all of these pieces there is a subtle use of pose, eye positioning, model placement soft focus, and so on, that gently draw us into each image, asking us not so much to view it, but explore it and consider what might lie beyond each frame.

The Itakos Project: Portraits And Some Other Circumstances – Akim Alonzo

Within the White Pavilion, visitors can find The Edgy World of M, featuring a collection by Maloe Vansant.

In this collection Maloe offers a series of pieces – most of them, I believe, self-studies – designed to tell us about “an unusual and hidden side of her imaginary world.” Most of them are a mix of dark juxtaposed with vivid, rich colour in what is both a powerful contrast and naturally symbiotic balance.

The Itakos Project: The Edgy World of M – Maloe Vansant

This contrast / symbiosis seems to also reflect an underlying narrative with these pictures – each of which might be considered a passage lifted from a story – the colour perhaps representing the “normality” of a life as it is presented to others – a mask if you will; and the black representing what lies hidden behind those same masks of normality: the hidden desires and thoughts – some of which may themselves be dark in nature (the the references to death and the horrors of removing masks).

These various elements come together quite dramatically, drawing us into that edgy world of M, a place that is rich in tone, theme, and image, and which is also at its heart, both personal (on at least two levels – Maloe’s and the observer’s) and intensely primal.

The Itakos Project: The Edgy World of M – Maloe Vansant

Also on display at the time of writing is Simply Dreaming, a further remarkable collection of art by Awesome Fallen, and which I wrote about in April 2019.

SLurl Details

More Culprit fun in Second Life

Culprit’s Sphynxie and Flying Machine

Culprit owners Eku Zhong and Yure4u Sosa have released a couple more fun items I thought would be worth a write-up: the Culprit Sphynxie and the Culprit Flying Machine. Both are decidedly quirky (hence my interest!) and both are liable to be attractive purchases for some.

Sphynxie is a full animated Animesh companion that attaches to your avatar (just ADD it), and which uses an avatar skeleton that can be animated far more fluidly than other forms of pet. It takes the form of a sphynx cat – the famous coatless (but not without fur; its hairs are just exceptionally short and fine) cat produced as a result of selective breeding, and builds on the work done with the Culprit Mousie (see: Culprit Mousie: a little silliness in Second Life).

Mousie was a prototype – our Animesh début revamped for an older creation I did ages ago. He started out with less features (but he’s been updated). Sphynxie is entirely news, and come with more animations.

-Eku Zhong describing the Culprit Sphynxie

Either someone on the left of this photo has been on the catnip, or just got startled…!

At L$599, Sphynxie is also slightly more expensive than Mousie, with the price difference explained by Sphynxie being more capable.

Supplied in a package containing the cat, a HUD and an instructions note card, Sphynxie is offered in a number of individual hair finishes and as No Modify / No Transfer. Using it is a simple matter of attaching the control HUD and – providing you have no other Animesh items already attached (or no more than one if you are Premium!); you can then ADD the cat to your avatar.

Left to itself, Sphynxie will stand beside you on his hind legs (like Mousie, Sphynxie is anthropomorphic in nature) and entertain himself, moving from pose to pose, looking around, breathing deeply and tail moving quite naturally. A right-click Edit allows you to reposition him – move him a little further away if your AO stands causes you to step on him for example, or to move him to your preferred side, etc. When you walk, he’ll trot along beside you. And, of course, being an attachment, he’ll teleport with you.

However, it’s when you click the HUD that Sphynxie comes into his own. This contains three options: New Name (opens a dialogue box in which you can give your Sphynxie a personal name); Channel (to change the channel over which your HUD communicates with your Sphynxie to avoid clashing with others) and Gestures.

This last one provides access to an extensive range of animations that will play on Sphynxie when selected – so you can have him greet people, respond to a conversation (sometimes a little snarkily – something ideally suited to his somewhat upper class English tone of voice!) sing, dance, perform a few ninja fighting moves – and a whole lot more, a small selection of which are shown in the video below.

Complexity-wise, Sphynxie has a slightly higher cost than Mousie – around 7K on top of your avatar complexity  – but this is by no means excessive. If rezzed in-world he is slightly more resource efficient than Mousie – his LI is 27 and he has a physics impact of 0.5 and server cost of 0.8; however, he will only play his default animations if rezzed like this, and will not be responsive to the HUD. Plus, if you are a Premium member and have Mousie, you can opt to wear them both (as Premium members can have up to 2 Animesh items attached to their avatar) and they will not interfere with each other.

For those who enjoy attachable pets, the Culprit Sphynxie is – like Mousie before him – a fun addition to have, and his animations are likely to keep people smiling.

Culprit Flying Machine – out over the water

Currently on a short-term offer of L$100 as part of the Culprit Fly Buy Friday promotions (just join the store group) is the new Culprit Flying Machine. Designed entirely for fun, it is perhaps one of the most unusual vehicles I’ve used in Second Life – one that in some respects defies description; is it a boat? Is it a plane? Is it – well, I’ll leave it to the pictures to speak for it!

Like many of Culprit’s vehicles, the Flying Machine is supplied with two versions in the box: a “solo” unit you can fly yourself, and a rezzer unit. The latter takes the form of a black base unit that auto-rezzes an initial flying machine (no Mod, as it is a rezzer version) over it, and that will rez a further machine as the previous one is used, with the owner able to set the total number of boats that can be rezzed at any one time (up to a maximum of 12). These machines will also de-rez when the driver stands up, so they leave no clutter.

The Culprit Flying Machine

Seating a maximum of two people, the machine will turn on its engine when the owner (or first person in the case of the rezzer version) sits in it, and the rear “pusher” propeller will start turning. Movement is then achieved using the standard Arrow / WASD keys (depending on your preference and viewer set-up) – Up / W for forward, Down / S for slowing / reverse; Left / A and Right / D for turning.

Any forward  / reverse motion will start the “oars” flapping, making them more like wings, – and like a bee, you’ll improbably hover above the ground and progress in your chosen direction as if being rowed along and pushed by the propeller. Should you reach Linden water, the machine will handle that as well, dipping the rudder slung beneath it as if to help steer. Stop forward / reverse motion, and the “oars” will come to a stop and  the machine will glide to a halt.

And there’s more. Touch the machine and you’ll get the “standard” Culprit vehicle menu. In this you’ll find the Flight option. Click this to check it, and you can actually fly the machine at more than just the default hover height – use Page Up / E to put the nose up and climb, and Page Down / C to put the nose down and descend. Be warned however; if you wish to maintain altitude you must stay in motion. If you stop, the “oars” will stop and – naturally, as you’re deprived of their lift – you’ll start to sink towards the ground until you reach the machine’s default hover height – and if you’re over Linden Water, you will sink!

Culprit Flying Machine – flying over Isla Pey

The menu also allows you to turn the engine off, sound the horn, adjust your seating position (which is not saved in the rezzer version), but I’m not entirely sure if the throttle / gear options work (shift up / shift down).

For the purists, the handling may not feel entirely aircraft-like, but remember this is a fun vehicle. What’s more, with its looks and animations, it would also be at home in steampunk environments as well as being used simply for fun. In all, six colour variants are available and can be purchased – as with Sphynxie from the Culprit main store.

2019 SL User Groups 34/2: Content Creation summary

Scarlett Isle; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrScarlett Isle, blog post

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, August 22nd 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.

Bakes on Mesh

Project Summary

Extending the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves viewer and server-side changes, including updating the Bake Service to support 1024×1024 textures, but does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing Bake Service, nor are they recognised as system wearables. Adding materials support may be considered in the future.

Resources

Current Status

  • An internal meeting at the Lab held immediately prior to the CCUG suggests Bakes on Mesh could be promoted to release status early in week #35 (week commencing Monday, August 26th, 2019).
  • It was therefore requested than anyone intending to test BoM to do so over the weekend and file any issues they find via Jira bug reports ASAP.
  • There are some known issues that will be listed when the project is promoted to release status, and which will be noted in the Bakes on Mesh knowledge base article when BoM is promoted to release status.
  • The major element in understanding how BoM works is understanding how the additional channels supplied for Bakes on Mesh work. These are:
    • LEFT_ARM_TATTOO – baked to left arm.
    • LEFT_LEG_TATTOO – baked to left leg.
    • AUX1_TATTOO – baked to aux1.
    • AUX2_TATTOO – baked to aux2.
    • AUX3_TATTOO – baked to aux3.
  • Unlike the existing channels (head, upper, lower, etc)., these do not have an underlying skin texture associated with them, and so do not have a wearable corresponding to the alpha wearable that can be used with the existing channels to “hide” them.
    • This may be changed in a future update, but for now, it is how Bakes on Mesh will be shipped with the new channels.

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

  • Work continues on rendering bug fixes.
  • There are also some permissions bugs that need to be resolved as well.
  • Overall, it is hoped that these can be resolved and the viewer updated soon, with a view to moving EEP on to release status in the near future.

Animesh Follow-On – Project Muscadene

  • DRTSIM-421 on Aditi (region Bakes on Mesh) has the server-side code to support the new visual parameters LSL code.
  • The project viewer is now available – viewer version 6.4.0.530100, dated Monday, August 19th. This supports the new LSL code as per DRTSIM-421, above.
  • Vir has other commitments coming up (ARCTan?), so progress on updates to this work may be slow for the next several weeks.
  • A potential update is to revise the current throttle (limiting Animesh character to updating twice every 10 seconds). This was put in place to prevent people using the system as an alternative means of animation (and potentially thrashing performance); however, it is considered too slow for testing purposes.

Bakes on Mesh for Animesh

Still being requested, but also still seen as a significant piece of work, as it would require changes not just with how Animesh items are managed but to the entire Bake Service in support of the capability. As such, this is not currently something the Lab is putting on the road map.

Animesh Attachments

Having attach point for Animesh characters and items is seen by come as a higher priority than extending Bakes on Mesh to Animesh. It is also something the Lab could implement somewhat more easily (for some value of “easily” to be determined) than BoM on Animesh. A call was made for possible use-cases included particle support, ability to simple attach clothing items rather than having to rig them (which would conversely limit movement of the item as it wouldn’t necessarily conform to the Animesh body movements), objects such as weapons (for NPCs), etc.