A photogenic Dukedom in Second Life

Dukedom, June 2022 – click any image for full size

As regulars to my Exploring series may know, Busta (BadboyHi) is a region designer whose work I enjoy, and I recently had the opportunity – courtesy of an LM passed to me by Shawn Shakespeare – to visit a design he has put together for Kn0cks Shad0ws (Whozyer Daddy) and his Full region, Dukedom.

Designed primarily for photography, the region is divided north-to-south by the presence of an elevated rail line, making this a setting very much of two parts. To the west, and occupying the majority of the region, are wild lands, a place of tall trees, waterfalls, streams and touches of the bayou along the west coast. Along this shore are wooden cabins, shacks and an old houseboat that mix their presence with mangroves, wetlands and a rocky shoreline to suggest a little community eking out a living by finishing – something added to by a number of fishing boats, one of which has seen much better days…

Dukedom, June 2022

This is a place where wildlife abounds. gulls wheel and turn overhead, ibis stalk the mouths of the streams emptying into the coastal areas, alligators bask in the  dirt of the local tracks and ignore the fact potentially tasty seals are not that far away, also basking themselves out of the water; deer watch more domesticated animals – cattle, goats, and geese; peacocks strut their stuff, bids sing in the trees and more. Ways around the coast and through the hunched uplands behind it are marked by rough trails, boardwalks, tree-trunk bridges that span the streams and hard-packed earth paths and steps.

Sitting between the streams and set a little back from the waterfront lies a roughshod deck extending outward over rocky ground from where a glass-fronted cabin sits. At first looking to be a cosy retreat, closer examination with reveal it to be something of an apothecary-come-magic store; a place well in keeping with the bayou vibes exuded by the lands below. Around it are offered several places to sit, including a welcoming cuddle sofa.

Dukedom, June 2022

The sofa and benches around the cabin are a just a handful of all the places people can find to sit and pass the time; places that include swings watched over by baby chimps, and the carving of a giant hand holding a blanket in its palm which begs the question, was it carved over the bank of the stream against which it sits, or has come to reside there after the fact. Back down as the waterside sits a comfortable deck ideal for a small group, sitting alongside a makeshift watchtower.

Further back among the trees awaits more to be found among the trails; with two further cabins being chief among the sights. Each is comfortably furnished and offer welcomes to those passing, and both sit close to where the elevated train line cuts across the region and, beyond it, the purely urban setting.

Dukedom, June 2022

Occupying a little over one third of the region, this urban area sits as a busy, if a little run down, corner of a much larger town. The area under the elevate tracks looks to be undergoing repair / renewal, lots of people are out and about on the streets, a building is being heavily refurbished / rebuilt, cars are everywhere, and a military helicopter is clattering around overhead.

The latter might have been called by the local law enforcement as they attend a rather grisly homicide that has been committed on some waste ground to one side of the town. It’s a scene that – as is the way of things – has drawn a crowd of its own, some of whom are more interested in catching the situation on film and selfie, rather than offering respect for the life lost. But not everyone is drawn to the tragedy; at the back of the waste ground, a skateboarding area has been set-up and is of much more interest to local teens – although perhaps that is also a reflection on modern-day human nature and indifference…

Dukedom, June 2022

Throughout the region there as many points where photography is possible, although sadly, group membership is closed, so no props rezzing available. As an adult-rated region, there are apparently some adult-rated items spotted around – but nothing too obvious that I noticed from my ramblings through the wilds and along the streets.

I would also say that as a Full region with both the private island additional land capacity and with a lot of mesh and textures, Dukedom can hit some people’s performance, so be prepared to make some adjustments to your viewer if required. But that aside, Dukedom has a lot to commend itself; just take your time when visiting – and try not to disturb the sleeping bunny!

Dukedom, June 2022

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Bella’s Nocturne in Second Life

Bella’s Nocturne, June 2022 – click any image for full size

BellaSwan Blackheart is the creative mind behind Bella’s Lullaby, a place I’ve frequently visited and written about down the years; so when Tara (TaraLiaMe) forwarded to me the Landmark of another of Bella’s creations in May, I knew I had to take a look – although admittedly, it’s taken me a while to get to see it and to write about it.

Occupying a 4096 sq m parcel on a Full region, Bella’s Nocturne is a sky build, offering a setting which presents a corner of what might be a little town somewhere in Europe (going on the general aesthetic of the buildings, at least). The Landing Point sits within an enclosed square, what is clearly a communal space in which can be found a fountain, places to sit and enjoy ice cream and appreciate music.

Bella’s Nocturne, June 2022

It is the piano within this square that perhaps offers the best clue to a definition for the setting.

nocturne
nŏk′tûrn″
An instrumental composition of a pensive, dreamy mood, especially one for the piano.

For this is indeed a dreamy setting; a place caught under the cloud-reflected light of a lowering Sun (thus removing it somewhat from the other definitions for nocturne), giving it a n air of calm.

Bella’s Nocturne, June 2022

A narrow alley points away from the square to lead to a broader road sitting at right angles to the alley, but equally caught between tall shops and houses. Walking from alley to street, it is not hard to imagine the melodies of the piano flowing gracefully off the walls of the buildings and over the lengthening shadows, spreading a sense of peace along alley and street, giving cause for cats to snooze on benches and birds to join in with the music as they sing to the closing of the day.

That the buildings are façades makes no difference here; it is the little details along the the street, down the alley and around the square that are important; they offer a sense of place and – more importantly – plenty of opportunities for the photographer. To assist in the latter, the parcel has open rezzing for visitor to allow for props; but (and as I generally remind people) please be sure to pick up you items when you are done!

Bella’s Nocturne, June 2022

At the far end of the street stands a DJ’s twin deck, suggesting a street party might be in the offing, while tucked into a corner of the square sits a little gate, the sign fixed to it giving away the secret that lies beyond: a quiet retreat of a wild garden, a place where bees are encouraged amongst the richness of flowers, and a shaded couch awaits those seeking retreat.

Small without feeling crowded; rich in detail without feeling overloaded and designed to be enjoyed with draw distance dropped down, Bella Nocturne is a cosy, comfortable visit.

Bella’s Nocturne, June 2022

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In The Shambles in Second Life

The Shambles, June 2022 – click any image for full size

The Shambles is the name Tolia Crisp has settled upon for the latest of her Homestead regions designs which she broadly offered to visitors under her Frogmore Land Management group / brand. And for those familiar with the likes of Frogmore and Mousehole, there are elements here that place The Shambles within the same realm of those settings, with much to set it apart and offer a sense of mystery and surprise.

The first of the former of these is that the location is described as being “up the River Foss”; this is likely a reference to the river of that name that flows through North Yorkshire, England, rising close to Oulston Reservoir and meandering roughly south for about 30 kilometres to join the River Ouse in York. This puts The Shambles squarely into Tolia’s theme of English settings, albeit within a location pretty much diagonally at the other end of the country compared to Frogmore and Mousehole with their Cornish locales.

The Shambles, June 2022

However, where Frogmore and Mousehole have their feet pretty much rooted in reality, The Shambles stands well to one side, a veritable potpourri of themes and ideas brought together in a surprising whole that delights the eyes. This is something that is immediately obvious on arrival: sitting behind the landing point platform and hovering over a broad channel that sits between village and an oddly denuded hump of an island, is a strange windmill, held aloft by downward-pointing rotors spinning away beneath it and the metal deck before it. In fact, with its larger sail turning slowly behind it, it looks not so much like a floating windmill as it does a fanciful flying house.

The landing point occupies a tiny islet connected to the village by a metal bridge around which tentacles rise from the coastal waters, adding a touch of Innsmouth to the setting.

The Shambles, June 2022

On the little waterfront across the bridge are hints which, together with the hovering house / windmill, help the setting lean towards the suggestion that is it steampunk themed. Cogs turn slowly on the wall of a cottage as a kind of mobile décor; a great gas boiler pumps heat into the cottage’s interior and, further along the waterfront, what looks to be the face of an old copper clock has been fashioned into a table where refreshments might be taken, watched over by a mechanical messenger owl.

However, it doesn’t take much to realise that the themes here run much broader than steampunk alone; close to the table mentioned above, for example, a poster hangs from the doorway of a magic shop proclaiming Harry Potter is Undesirable No 1, while the waterfront itself is probably awash with the engine noise from the Star Wars-esque flying vehicle which appears to have just passed overhead, zipping between rooftops and the bulbous bulk of a balloon moored by the landing point.

The Shambles, June 2022

Enter the main street of the village, and more of this blending of ideas unfolds before your eyes in ways that are genuinely captivating. A dieselpunk tricycle, driven by a great chugging internal combustion engine turning a pusher propeller awaits a driver; futuristic lasers zap between buildings; a steampunk style airship appears to have wedged itself into the cul-de-sac of the street, neon signs and LCD panels hang from walls…

This is a place where nothing is as it seems and unique elements are waiting to be found everywhere the camera turns. Take, for example, Cordelia Curiosus and the boulangerie adjoining it. Leaving the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference in the name of the former, these initially appear to be ordinary places of business. But look again: the windows of Cordelia’s are aquariums, home to fish and corals, the water held in by a combination of window frames and – magic? Similarly the wall between the two shops is a shimmering face of water held back by something, the boulangerie a further haven for fish, turtles and aquatic plants.

The Shambles, June 2022

More touches can be found across the street, where a host of incongruities are gathering into a little vignette that offers so much. There’s a Victorian-era Bobby standing with his back to a pub cheekily calling itself the Scotland Yard, the walls of will are posted with a reward poster typical of those times and the front page of a newspaper offering the latest on the Whitechapel Murders – and the involvement of one S. Holmes, Esq.

The Bobby himself stands between a set of very futuristic packing cases before which floats a glowing umbrella projected by an equally glowing wand, none of which seems to fluster our good constable in the slightest – and nor does the London Police telephone box very definitely from the 1960s – so very definitely in fact, that one might be tempted to ask if it really is a police telephone box – and thus the entire vignette allows the imagination to take flight.

The Shambles, June 2022

Thus, wherever you roam, down through the village with its little stream and cornucopia of buildings, businesses and photo opportunities, or up on and between the rooftops, there is a lot to appreciate within The Shambles – far more than mentioned here. Yes, it is a little texture-heavy when loading; but it is nevertheless highly photogenic and offers more than a few places to sit down and pass the time. Those in the Frogmore group also get rezzing rights when visiting – but do please clean-up when done!

With thanks to Shawn Shakespeare for the nudge.

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Nature’s Golden Hair in Second Life

Golden Hair, June 2022 – click any image for full size

Golden Hair is a Homestead region held by BruiserBest and open to the public to visit and appreciate. Defined as a being a place “in defence of quiet places”, it is an engaging, very natural setting that reflects Bruiser’s love of nature and animals. It is also a demonstration of what can be achieved within a region to offer a rewarding visit to those who drop in without being in any way top-heavy in either mesh objects or textures.

Sculpted into a curving island which occupies roughly a third of the region’s total land area, Golden Hair gently undulates outwards from a rocky upland flowing into the main island from a northern headland, the slope rising gently until it meets west-facing cliffs, and then dropping away gently on its way to the south.

Golden Hair, June 2022

The top of this hill provides a superb vantage point from which to observe the island’s western and southern aspects. More particularly, tucked into the hill behind its cliff-edge is a small cave which forms the region’s landing-point. This ensures those arriving do not interrupt those already in the region and who may be taking photos, by avoiding avatars suddenly popping-up into the frame.

Both the cave and the rugged ground outside of it reveal Bruiser’s love of animals – a bear stand quietly inside the cave, while outside can be found deer apparently informally guarding the cave’s entrance.

Golden Hair, June 2022

A steam bubbles its way past the cliffs, running from the southern side of the main hill to pass by the cliffs and a small hill on its far bank. Tumbling over rocks and a fallen tree, the stream is a haven for animals seeking a drink, with its lower extent patrolled by a beaver.

The wildlife here is to be found throughout the setting, together with some more domesticated animals. In the case of the latter can be found cats, dogs, goats, horses, sheep, chickens, and a cow; with the former there are birds, the deer, wild boar, wolves, a snake, lizards, hares, and rabbits. However, none of the islands inhabitants have been randomly placed; gathered in groups at various points around the island, they offer little vignettes that are ideal for photography, either in their own right or with avatars suitably posed (rezzing rights can be obtained by joining the local group, 2 hour rez time).

Golden Hair, June 2022

This is a setting refreshingly free from the trappings of civilisation. There are no houses or other significant structures; the paths are – with one small exception where kerbs have clearly been laid to allow the ground to be pounded into a series of broad steps – all entirely natural, either following the line of flat rocks exposed over the years by the passage of the wind, or dusty trails most likely laid down by the passage of the animals to be found here.

The open nature of the region means that exploration is entirely on the whim of the visitor, while the nature elegance of its design presents opportunity after opportunity for photography. Those who look carefully may also spot the island’s more exotic animals, drawn from the world of fantasy.

Golden Hair, June 2022

Finished with an encompassing soundscape in which the heart of nature quite literally beats, Golden Hair might lack places to sit / cuddle, etc., but this is to its advantage as it is very much a setting to be appreciated through exploration and not for plonking oneself down and chatting.

All told, a genuinely engaging setting well worth visiting. My thanks to Shawn Shakespeare for the landmark to Golden Hair.

Golden Hair, June 2022

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Within the Void in Second Life

The Void, June 2022 – click any image for full size

In May, Cube Republic passed me a Landmark to a place I’d never heard of – The Void – A Full region designed by Ninavah Snowflake and home to The Void and Minttea in-world stores. As I’m curious about stores that offer places to visit outside of their central business, I found time to take a look – and found something of an engaging, innovative setting.

Before going further, I’d like to stress a few things:

  • This is a review of the public spaces of the region, it’s neither a recommendation of endorsement of the products sold in either store, none of which I’ve viewed, much less purchased.
  • To access the region, you need to join the region (you will be offered the chance to join on trying to teleport view the SLurl given in this piece). This is necessary as the Experience runs the interactive elements within the region.
  • Some of the teleport and other effects use both light and motion, so those sensitive to bright / flashing white light or rapid motion / flashing should take care.
  • Make sure you have Advanced Lighting Model (ALM – Preferences → Graphics → make sure Advanced Lighting Model is checked).
The Void, June 2022

Accepting the Experience (if you haven’t already) will deliver you to the initial Landing Point; just follow the arrow to the portal and walk through it (be warning: flashing effects!) to arrive at the main hub. This is a setting where geometry is king, and which carries within it hints of Tron and Tron Legacy. Rendered almost entirely in black and white, this artificial landscape exists as islands over a grey body of water, below which machines sit.

Above the water, the setting is dominated by a gigantic cube rotated through 45º degrees to rest on edge on one of the flat islands. Limned in white neon-like light as with the rest of the setting, it is home to the Void / Minttea main store lobby and teleports, and sits flanked by two far more modest islands – one the home of Atherium, and the other, the Portals – which will be the focus of the rest of this piece.

The Void, June 2022

Three teleport disks are ranged before you on arrival, each clearly labelled. However, they are not your usual touch / sit teleports; they are instead collision-triggered. Walk onto / close to one of them and your avatar will be caromed into the air with a vivid, screen-saturating flash and somersaulted through the air, camera capturing the move from several angles. This can be a little unsettling the first time, but you will arrive at your destination safely.

Atherium is pretty much a Traffic Trap – visitors are asked to register with an obelisk that put me in mind of the MCP in the original Tron (albeit without the CGI and lights) and either remain close by or within the region as a whole in order to win the opportunity to pick from a (long) list of rewards.

The Void, June 2022

The Portal island, however, offers the opportunity to walk through three additional portals to further locations. These are:

  • Archive: enter a dark world where a console lit by two arrows pointing in opposite directions awaits. Approach it, and the room around you will turn white, revealing which computer-like objects hang overhead, together with scrolls of hieroglyphs. Use the arrow’s to “page” through the scrolls and touch a scroll to gain a dialogue of diary entries that form an evolving story – each entry will appear in local chat when selected.
  • Muses: a field of green under an azure sky of white fluffy clouds; a place to relax.
  • Dreamscape:   The most engaging element: walk the bridge across a misty void to the far wall. Touch the wall and enter the Chamber of Muses. Touch the device at the centre to rez a number of scenes – and watch the chamber literally spin them into being (with a certain amount of bright light / flashing).

Finding your way back from any point is simply a matter of finding the archway (Portals) or teleport disk.

The Void, June 2022

Immersive, unusual, and cleverly scripted / presented, The Void makes for a visually impressive, unique visit, whether or not you are hunting for movement  / flight / swimming assistance or other avatar accessories.

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Making Memories in Second Life

Making Memories, June 2022 – click any image for full size

The last time I visited a region design by Claudia (claudia74a Orsini) was almost five years ago, when I explored ~Neive~, a charming Homestead design (see: Visiting ~Neive~ in Second Life). So when I received a landmark to visit her current design, it struck me as a place I should go and poke my nose into – and I’m glad I did.

Also occupying a Homestead region, Making Memories offers a setting of multiple parts that roll together to form a whole worthy of exploration.

Making Memories, June 2022
To the south there’s a waterfront area with a paved footpath and road curling around the edge of the island, backed by promenades of brightly-coloured façades suggestive of a holiday town. West of this, and facing high off-region mountains across a water channel, sits a beach that flamingos have claimed as their own, backed in part by a small motel before cliffs rise from the grass and march northwards beyond the end of the sands.

These cliffs rise to form the island’s main peak, topped by a fortified tower / house that has a hint of medieval France about it. Rising above the surrounding trees, this house sits a little roughly on the hill’s crown and is fronted by a waterfall, all of which makes reaching it near-impossible – but visiting it is not the point; it sits as a backdrop to the setting’s east side landscaping.

Making Memories, June 2022

It is here, on the island’s lowlands, that there is the most to be found. A pastoral setting of farmhouses, meadows, a stream with a quaint bridge spanning it to carry the local (foot) traffic, and more, it is where both the landing point can be found and the attention to detail is the greatest, offering plenty of opportunities for photography.

A short walk from the landing point sits the main farmhouse:  a large single-stories, singled room structure that has a balcony along two sides and a cosy, homely interior design ready to welcome visitors. South of this over the bridge sits a barn which has been converted into an equally cosy summer house. A games room / bar occupies its upper floor – although given one side is open to the elements, an excess of imbibing wine might be best avoided!

Making Memories, June 2022

Between and around the house and barn is much more to be appreciated, enjoyed and photographed: animals in the meadows, seating around a fountain, a romantic wishing well, tea for two next to an old ruin or a family meal out in the garden of the farmhouse, walks out over the waters of the coast or around the local pond – and that’s just for starters.

To the north of the island, sitting on a low shoulder of the western hills, is another house. Occupying its own grounds, it lies at the end of the main track and rises as a red-roofed curiosity. Unfurnished and a little rough around the edges, it is again more for backdrop than internal exploration, and it fulfils this role with ease, the wild garden before it again offering the opportunities for photography.

Making Memories, June 2022

Those who fancy a little activity can find it by grabbing duckie bumper boats from the rezzer and paddle around the water to the north, east and west side of the region. Those who prefer something a little quieter, there are at least a couple of hideaway hammock either hidden among the trees or out on a little island.

All told, a pleasing, easy-on-the-eye setting with plenty of photo opportunities. Those in need of props can join the local group for rezzing rights (L$49 joining fee) – but please remember to pick up your items when done!

Making Memories, June 2022

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