June 2019 marks the 16th anniversary of Second Life fully opening its doors to the public (and, as I’ve previously mentioned, Linden Lab’s own 20th anniversary as a company). As is the tradition, the anniversary will be marked by the Second Life Birthday event, marked by exhibitions, music, entertainment and more taking place across the SLB regions.
On Monday, April 1st, 2019 Linden Lab opened the doors to applications from exhibitors, performers, presenters and volunteers, with the blog post reading in part:
SL16B is coming this summer … This year, we are excited to return to being more involved in the organisation of all the events. In addition to the official Music Fests, costume parties, and Shopping events, of the last few years, we’re also returning to our roots and participating more in the development and planning of the main SLB celebration.
Those wishing to apply to be involved in SL16B as exhibitors, performers or volunteers should follow the links below.
Note that in difference to recent celebration applications, this form covers DJs, live musicians, performance arts, and those wishing to present a lecture or presentation – there is no separate presenters application this year.
When entering times in any of the above forms, please ensure you used Second Life Time (SLT).
The closing date for all of the above applications is Wednesday, May 15th, 2019.
In addition, on March 14th, 2019, Linden Lab announced the SL16B Shopping Event (read here for more). Those wishing to apply to be a part of this event as a merchant should complete the Merchant Application form, no later than Saturday, June 1st, 2019.
The SL16B Shopping Event: scheduled to run throughout the shopping period, this multi-region shopping event is now accepting applications from merchants. Those wishing to participate should ensure they have applied by June 1st, 2019.
We’re all familiar with the Second Life Birthday (or more correctly, anniversary, given Second Life is technically older than the celebrated date), marking the month and date on which the platform opened its doors to the public – June 23rd, 2003.
In 2018, we celebrated the platform’s 15th anniversary – a remarkable milestone given the speed at which software and hardware and platforms themselves can rise to prominence before fading away, replaced by the Next Big Thing.
However, as Linden Lab noted in a March 14th blog post, this year’s anniversary marks another special year:
Sixteen years ago, on June 23rd, 2003, Second Life launched to the public. Though it feels like just yesterday and a lifetime ago at the same time, this year we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go retro and embrace the “Sweet Sixteen” theme for our big party. Sock hops, bowling alleys, and late nights at the diner were a quintessential part of many teenagers lives back in the 1950s, but the 1950s were also a time of political and social change. The world was shocked by the iconic ‘Elvis pelvis,’ and poodle and pencil skirts changed the fashion world forever. Rebellion became the titillating pastime among all that soda shoppe sweetness. It was an era that – like Second Life – rocked and rolled! So, this summer we’re throwing a 1950s themed SL16B with a TON of fun events and happenings. Here is a brief run-down of just a few.
This year the official celebration period will run from Thursday, June 20th, 2019 through to Tuesday, July 8th, 2019, and to mark it the Lab is promising an array of activities, including:
The SL16B Shopping Event: scheduled to run throughout the celebration period, this multi-region shopping event is now accepting applications from merchants. Those wishing to participate should ensure they have applied by June 1st, 2019.
The SL16B Music Fest: popular during recent SLB events, the Music Fest will be returning for 2019, and details on how performers can apply will be forthcoming soon.
There will also be the grand community celebration, plus from the Lab the return of the Swaginator and gifts and parties.
Linden Lab Also Turns Twenty
2019 also marks anther significant anniversary, one that is also worth noting and I would hope (assuming plans aren’t already in-hand) it will also form a part of the SL16B celebrations: the 20th anniversary of the founding of Linden Lab itself.
Linden Research – to give the company its formal name, although it does business under the name of Linden Lab – was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale, the company’s first CEO and former Chief Technology Officer of Real Networks. The company’s original focus was on the development of a immersive virtual reality system comprising both hardware and software known as “The Rig” (which, rumour would have it, still lies in boxes at the Lab’s head offices in San Francisco.
However, unable to develop a commercially viable version of The Rig, Linden Lab turned to software application, producing LindenWorld, the precursor of Second Life.
Initially developed by Andrew Linden, one of the first employees at the Lab (and who would remain with the company until opting to re-join Philip Rosedale and work on the fledgling High Fidelity). LindenWorld wasn’t open to the public, and was more a game than social environment, with a focus on guns and the avatars were made out of prims and carried the name (appropriately enough, of Primitars.
Then in 2001, during a meeting with investors, that Rosedale and his team noticed those at the meeting were particularly responsive to the collaborative, creative potential of the nascent Second Life.
Thus, the objective, game-like focus of the platform’s development shifted towards a more community-drive, social environment, focused on user-created content, and thus Second Life as we know it today was “born”. On March 13th, 2002, Steller Sunshine became the first public resident of Second Life, and the platform’s public beta commenced in October of that year. Then in June 2003, Linden Lab released Second Life to the world at large.
The first Second Life trailer
So … here’s an early “happy Birthday” to Linden Lab itself. While we may not always agree with the company or its decisions, the fact remains that without the Lab, many of us might never have entered user-collaborative, immersive social digital environments. So I hope that SL16B will mark the company’s birthday as much as it marks SL’s anniversary.
Meet the Lindens is now a regular part of the Second Life anniversary landscape. Over the course of the week of celebrations, it gives Second Life users the chance to find out more about the people working at Linden Lab, find out about projects and plans, and the work being carried out on Second Life and Sansar, ask questions about matters of interest / concern to them.
For Meet the Lindens 2018, Saffia Widdershins sat down with six members of the Second Life team, and also with Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg.
The six SL team members attending the sessions were:
Xiola Linden (Community team)
Brett Linden (Marketing)
Keira Linden (Land team) and Patch Linden (Snr Director of Product Operations)
Grumpity Linden (Director of Product for Second Life) and Oz Linden (Technical Director for Second Life).
Each of the sessions was recorded by SL4Live and made available through YouTube as a part of the SL15B sessions.
For those who prefer to read about what was said, I have produced this set of summary articles of the different sessions.
Please note that these are not intended as full transcripts; some topics came up more than once through the week, so I have tried to focus on subjects that were answered in the greatest detail within each session.
Audio extracts are included with each summary. These have been edited to remove pauses, repetitions, etc., with care taken to maintain the overall context of comments and answers.
The full video for each session is also embedded with each summary for completeness, and timestamps are included for each of the topics in a summary, and will open the relevant video in a separate browser tab, at the point at which the topic is discussed.
I’ve always enjoyed the infrastructure builds presented at the Second Life Birthday regions; they are always a hallmark of creativity and imagination. Over the last few years, two SLb infrastructure designers in particular have tended to catch my eye: Walton F. Wainwright (Faust Steamer) – who can forget his stunning Stage Left builds of yesteryear – such as his Hindu incarnation of Cerberus from SL13B or the amazing Automaton of SL13B, together with his marvellous Ghost Train welcome area of SL12B in 2015?), and Anthony (ADudeNamed Anthony), who in recent years has produced some stunning designs for the SLB auditoriums.
It is to the builds by these two designer that I found myself particularly drawn during SL15B, as they both offered something just that little bit different within the overall crystal theme for the celebrations.
For the SL15B Auditorium, Anthony took his lead from science fiction, with the auditorium “building” taking the form of the massive starship USS Crystal, Naval Construction Contract number SL15B. However, this isn’t simply a riff on all things Trek – it’s actually a clever homage to film and TV science fiction in general. The very shape of the vehicle, for example, carries echoes of the Jupiter 2 from the various incarnations of Lost In Space, while it might be said the communications array on the upper hull, together with the black exhaust ports around the stern of the ship carry just a hint of Millennium Falcon about them.
Some of the open hanger bay doors, rimmed in blue similarly suggest Star Wars – remember the bay the Falcon herself was hauled into on approaching the Death Star in A New Hope? And should you peer inside the hanger bays, there seems to be a nod towards Thunderbirds – etched into the rear bulkheads are numbers reminiscent of those found on the front of Thunderbird 2’s mission pods, the bulkhead pylons separating them suggesting the extended legs of somthing waiting to descend over them, a-la Thunderbird 2.
The focus of this build is obviously the auditorium, where a range of events took place during the week-long celebrations, including the five Meet the Lindens session (of which more in these pages anon). However, the auditorium and the hanger bays are not the only elements of the ship. There are also the backstage areas, lobbies for the two “spaceport” forum meeting places, and the innards of the ship’s life support system (including the ever-critical in so many space dramas, CO2 scrubbers).
However, it is the elevator you should direct yourself towards. This will offer you a ride to the bridge deck, where Anthony presents a slew of inside sci-fi jokes. The bridge itself is clearly modelled on that of most Starfleet vessels seen in various Trek incarnations – but be sure to look closely at the display screens and some of the system panels; the nods and winks across them are legion. There’s the familiar (to Trekkies at least) LCARS displays; references to Firefly, Star Wars: A New Hope, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: Generations (“Tractor Beam: Install Tuesday”); 2001 A Space Odyssey; Star Trek: The Search for Spock; The Matrix franchise … and also references to Second Life itself, and so on.
Flanking the bridge is the Captain’s Ready Room (conventional enough) and the ship’s computer room – another wonderful nod towards 2001 A Space Odyssey.
By contrast, The Serpent, this year’s Stage Left design by Walton F. Wainwright takes a walk through dark fantasy territory, contrasting nicely with the bling and gaiety of the rest of the celebratory regions.
This is quite simply a work of art. From a base of crystals set in mysterious waters, a tall, dark tower rises into a darkening sky. Lights glow from behind its many windows, while atop its crown of carved serpents a great crystal floats, casting its own dull glow.
It is scene reminiscent of lord of the Rings – the tower could so easily be an echo of Minas Ithil before its fall into darkness to become the awful Minas Morgul. Reached via a long causeway bridge, sight of the tower is initially obscured by the open coil of a great serpent snake, the head of which, also crowned by crystals and dominated by huge, hypnotic eyes, rises from alongside the tower and moves ponderously back and forth, tongue flickering, as it surveys this fantastical domain.
From around the waters and barren hills flanking the tower’s island, great cluster of crystals rise, as if piercing the land and water from beneath. Similar clusters of crystals, surrounding the heads of yet more serpents burst forth from the tower’s buttress-like corners, while within its great form a single massive hall, illuminated a soft green, awaits beneath a huge crystal chandelier.
The wealth of detail here needs to be seen to be appreciated, from the tiled motif on the dance floor through the wonderful texturing on the walls inside and out to the very dark majesty of the tower’s tall finger and the awe-striking presence of the great serpent. This is a truly magnificent build which should not be missed.
Be sure to visit both, if you haven’t already done so, before the SL15B regions vanish after July 1st, 2018.
The main festivities for the SL15B anniversary celebration are now over; the parties have all happened, the DJ and live performers have left the stages – but the regions remain open to visitors through until July 1st, 2018.
This being the case, and with the numbers packing some of the regions likely to decrease, now is an excellent opportunity to visit some of the resident built exhibits within the anniversary regions, so I thought I’d offer a short series of looks over the next few days at some of the ones that caught my eye.
Celebrating SL’s 15th and Bay City’s 10th
2018 is not only the year in which to celebrate Second Life’s 15th anniversary but also the 10th anniversary of one of the Mainland’s most established and vibrant communities: Bay City.
Developed by Linden Lab and opened for residents in early 2008, Bay City offers an urban-style environment on the continent of Sansara. It is intended to reflect “the American urban experience, between 1940 and 1965, perhaps best typified by Chicago circa 1950 and marked by a distinct deco influence.” Today it is home to the The Bay City Alliance, a resident community founded by those moving into Bay City in 2008, and who promote the Bay City regions, and hold regular events there as well as helping newcomers (to both Second Life and to Bay City) who come to the regions.
Over the years, Bay City has become home to a number of famous landmarks – the Hotel Falmouth, the Channel Island Mental Hospital, Hairy Hippo Fun Land, Bay City Municipal Airport and the Bay City Fairgrounds,to name but a handful within the 40 or so regions of Bay City.
Visitors to the Bay City exhibition at SL15B can discover more about some of these landmarks in Bay City, as well as something of its history. Designed with an eye to detail and presented in the style of a tourist information centre, the exhibit is another fine example of the architecture to be found within Bay City as well as being (for me) exemplifying what makes an engaging SL15B build: it is not pretentious or overstated, it avoids the temptation to try to dwarf surrounding spaces, it avoids lots of glow and / or unsightly textures plastered all around it and it is informative, rather than looking like an advertising hoarding. You might argue that such a build risks being overlooked – I’d disagree, being personally drawn to the more understated and interesting designs.
Corn and Bears
The Cornfield is a place of myth and legend; a place where misbehaving avatars were once sent, back in the early days of Second Life. Sitting under a starry sky, it was inspired by the 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone entitled It’s A Good Life. Avatars deposited in the cornfield were cut off from communication with the rest of the grid, and had only one another and several televisions and tractors for company.
The original Cornfield still exists – to the north and west of Shermerville, but access is restricted. However, there are various duplicates which can appear in-world and are open to the public.
One such duplicate has been used in an experience led game. Another Another is located at the southern end of the SL15B regions. the latter Cornfield offers people a chance to experience (albeit with modern conveniences such as windlight and media on a prim) the life of a citizen confined to the sin bin. It’s also a region where the Lab’s more recent experience-based game, Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches can be played, for those who have a game HUD.
Alongside the Cornfield, and making a popular return to Second Life, is Bear Island.
It was Nicole Linden who started the Linden Bear tradition – having Lab staffers make an in-world bear which residents can request (or sometimes obtain by completing a challenge or receive as a gift). It’s a tradition that continues through to today. The Lab still runs courses for staff on bear making, and many of the available bears are based on Nicole’s original – although some Lindens don’t necessarily make a bear, preferring to have other animals such as a frog or something. Not all of the Linden Bears represent individual Linden staffers – there have been bears to celebrate Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween Bear, and so on – some of which may still pop-up in-world at the appropriate time.
Bear Island is a celebration of this tradition, offering visitors to see many of the bears made by Lindens past and present – and also recapture snippets of SL history (such as the arrival of Viewer 2.0). I confess that I’m not that much of a bear collector, but Bear Island is an interesting place to visit to experience one of the more eclectic aspects of Second Life culture and history.
The Parker Solar Probe
While we’ve not formally met, Diamond Merchant and I share an interest in space exploration and space science. She has in the past presented SLB events with models of famous space probes (such as Cassini, the probe from the mission of the same name which spent 13 of its nineteen-year mission exploring Saturn and its moons).
For SL15B, and on behalf of the Leeward Cruising Club, she presents the Parker Solar Probe mission, and overview of the upcoming NASA mission to the Sun scheduled for launch at the end of July / start of August 2018. Named for physicist Eugene Parker, the mission is billed as the first to “touch” the Sun, as it will come to within 8.86 solar radii (6.2 million km or 3.85 million mi) of the Sun’s photosphere (or “surface”).
I’ll be covering the mission in a Space Sunday report in July and ahead of the launch. For SL15B, Diamond presents another of her beautifully detailed prim models, positioned over the disc of the Sun, with boards around the outside of the exhibition space providing details on the mission, etc. Those wishing to experience the view from the probe and sit n one of several blue spheres placed at ground level around the exhibit. Make sure you have the audio stream on as well to help you drift away in space.
It’s another build that eschews fancy glow, towers and other assorted brashness and instead presents a path winding through a corner of story land, which visitors are invited to follow. Along the way are information boards containing assorted information – including one or two surprising tidbits of information (how about SL being the home of over 300,000 hours of music and entertainment?).
Beautifully executed and with a fair amount to see and enjoy, The XeoRealms makes for a worthwhile stopping point in your explorations at SL15B.
The main festivities for the SL15B anniversary celebration are now over; the parties have all happened, the DJ and live performers have left the stages – but the regions remain open to visitors through until July 1st, 2018.
This being the case, and with the numbers packing some of the regions likely to decrease, now is an excellent opportunity to visit some of the resident built exhibits within the anniversary regions, so I thought I’d offer a short series of looks over the next few days at some of the ones that caught my eye, starting with some of the art exhibits.
Ciottolina Xue – Little Paradise in Second Life
Self-taught in 3D art, Ciottolina Xue is – in the interests of full disclosure – someone whose art I admire and who is a personal friend with Second Life. However, this isn’t why I’m including her in this article – I’m doing so because Little Paradise in Second Life is engaging and beautifully conceived.
Offering a sculpted garden environment, accessed through wrought iron gates, Little Paradise presents paths – some under open sky, others passing under the boughs of trees – that lead visitors around a series of rose-centric sculptures in which scenes of babies (and the occasional adult) are set.
It is, first and foremost, a very personal setting – many of the child sculptures represent Ciottolina’s Second Life persona, with some of them, together with the adult sculptures representing those with whom she has friends, and who have supported her throughout her time in Second Life.
Roses are my sensations; sensations that have taken over with time, passing by and emotions perceived by meeting new people who I esteem today. People who have become fond of me and without Second Life I never would have met. Some of them have become acquired mothers, aunts, uncles and other are precious friends. They support and encourage me in every step I take. People who are very capable in what they do.
– Ciottolina Xue
But just as these little scenes are personal to Ciottolina, so too can they represent all of us: the roses offer us a chance to recapture memories of our times in Second Life and the scenes within them reflect our own friendships and relationships over the past however many years we’ve been active in SL. Similarly, the paths through and around the garden represent our own journey through Second Life.
Little Paradise is designed to be seen in a night setting (accept the parcel windlight on entering if you are using Firestorm or a viewer supporting parcel level windlight, otherwise try setting your viewer’s time of day to midnight); however, it also works under daylight settings as well – as I hope the images here demonstrate.
The Art of Viviena
Located alongside Little Paradise in Second Life is an enclosed art display by Viviena, marking her return to SL15B after illness prevented her being a part of SL14B – she was previously an official photographer at SL11B through SL13B.
Presented under a night-time sky, Vivena offers another garden environment, this one home to her Second Life photography, with individual easels set out along the winding path, each home to one of her images. These are all landscapes, taken from right across the main grid – just click on and image and use Edit to obtain the name of the region if it is not immediately familiar to you.
What is delightful about Viviena’s work is it shows no real sign of post-processing, but instead offers images of Second Life as we can expect to see it in-world. Each picture is perfectly composed, cropped and presented for our appreciation. This makes her work a must-see, whether exhibited in-world, or displayed on website such as the SL15B site, or through her Flickr stream.
As well a presenting their art, the gardens offered by Viviena and Ciottolina allow a perfect escape should exploring the rest of SL15B start having you feeling a little tired.
Thoth Jantzen – Moments of Immertia
Djehuti-Anpu (Thoth Jantzen) is an artist whose work never fails to captivate me. Specialising in mixed media, Thoth’s work is always immersive, interactive and captivating. For SL15B, he presents Moments of Immertia, a multi-layered piece which includes some past work as well a new pieces.
A visit to Moments of Immertia does come with some prerequisites, and the instruction boards in the exhibit explain. In short:
Make sure you have Advanced Light Model (ALM) enabled via Preferences > Graphics – this is essential, but you do not need to have shadow rendering enabled as well.
If you can, raise you viewer’s rendering to High or Ultra (you can reduce draw distance down to about 100 metres to help compensate for the rendering load, if required).
Make sure your viewer is set to auto-play media, and disable your media filter (if your viewer has it and you use it) – you can reset both to your preference on leaving the exhibit.
Allow the parcel windlight settings, if your viewer supports them. If not, set your time to midnight.
To this I would add a small warning. if you are prone to motion sickness or are sensitive to flashing lights, note that parts of Moments of Immertia involve moving and rotating colours and moving optical surfaces which can fill the screen.
Finally, also note that due to the quirks of SL, parcel media textures may not always activate as expected. If you find yourself in what is clearly intended to be an immersive media space and media is not playing, simply toggle the parcel media (movie) button off and back on again.
Virtual environments are should be immersive, providing experiences difficult or impossible to replicate in reality. That’s the point of this exhibit – to provide a few moments of immersion in strange virtual environments – just to give you a “wtf?” moment or two. Some of the displays may even give you pause to reflect.
– Djehuti-Anpu (Thoth Jantzen)
On the ground level of this exhibit sits COVFEFE: The New World Disorder, a (rightfully, in my personal view) irreverent consideration of the mind of the 45th President of the United States, whose head resides within the wreckage of a chess board – symbolic, perhaps of the impact this POTUS has had on the world as a whole. Chess pieces are tumbling through the air, and visitors can become part of the chaos by sitting on any of them, while touching the head poking up through the woodwork will offer some pearls of, um, wisdom from Duh-Donald, which are either direct quotes or concatenations of quotes from the man himself.
I’m so smart, I’m highly educated! I know words … I know the BEST words! COVFEFE!
– Duh-Donald, COVFEFE: The New World Disorder
COVFEFE: The New World Disorder shares the ground space with two more elements: TJ’s Tetrapylon, where visitors might ask the oracle and where touching is again encouraged. Alongside of this is In Surreal Time: Evolutions of a Theme, TJ’s contribution to the First Biennale Digitale part of the Santorini International Biennale exhibition of art and architecture (which is now in its fourth edition).
Directly in front of the latter is the teleport to the remaining elements in the exhibit:
Vertigogo – a mirrored room and observation deck based on materials and projection.
OMFG! and WTF? – massively immersive multimedia environments.
K-Scope 1.0 – TJ’s first immersive media environment and introduced to the public in 2008.
These all require your viewer’s ALM and media options to be set per the notes above.
No amount of worlds can do this exhibit justice, it genuinely has to be experienced – and really shouldn’t be missed (again, remembering the above cautionary note on motion and light sensitivity).
Ginger Lorakeet – Inside Art
There can be few who are unfamiliar with Ginger Lorakeet’s images which allow avatars to become a part of an overall picture. She has presented her work at a number of past SLB events, and is once more present at SL15B with her Inside Art – and this time with a set of images that follow something of a fantasy theme.
Ginger’s images are always well presented, but the ones offered at SL15B are special. Using muted colours and tones well suited to the overall theme, they each offer an entire narrative, and these individual narratives can in places perhaps be woven into a complete story.
Whether or not you’ve seen Ginger’s work at part SLB events or elsewhere, these pieces are very definitely worth the time to visit and try.