Category Archives: Exploring Second Life

An Uncertain Destiny in Second Life

An Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny – click any image for full size

Caitlyn and I recently had the opportunity to drop in on Mystic, the Full region on which friends  Boudicca Amat and Anthony Westburn have their home. The occasion of our visit was to mark the completion of Bou’s work in redesigning their land, which covers a little under 1/4 of the region and which is now once again open to public visits.

Once called Hestium – which you can read about here and here – the parcel is now called An Uncertain Destiny, and once again it is a tour de force of Boudicca’s creative talent, bringing together several elements into a cohesive whole whilst also demonstrating you don’t actually need an entire region – Full or Homestead – to create something memorable (particularly with the increases in Land Impact allowances).

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

On arrival, visitors find themselves on a small sand and shingle beach surrounded on three sides by a tiered, rocky landscape. The table-topped cliffs and plateaus offer a lush covering of grass, flowers and trees enjoying the summer rain. These various rocky tiers are connected by stairways and paths, offering a number of potential routes for exploration.

Where you go after your arrival is up to you: simply climb the steps up from the beach and let your feet carry you where they will. To the west sits an old castle keep, now converted into a cosy pub on one side and a little library-come-reading room on the other. A staircase from the pub directs people up to a rooftop café where Bou reads from some of some of her favourite books every Tuesday and Thursday between 15:15 and 16:00 SLT.

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

Beyond this, a path winds up between trees and up more steps, promising the way to the land of Far, Far, Away. No Shrek or Fiona to be found here, however. Instead, there is a cosy Scandinavian stuga sit with its back to another cliff, some mystical ruins nearby.

The mystical feel can also be found on the east side of the parcel, beneath the cliffs of Bou and Anthony’s private home – the only part of the parcel not open to public access. Here sits an ancient stone circle reached via a gabled gate. Close by, and occupying the tops of another plateau, sit a formal garden and a hedge maze. I’ll leave you to discover how to reach them – there is more than one route 🙂 .

TAn Uncertain Destiny, Mystic; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrAn Uncertain Destiny

All of this is brought together by a central garden of wild flowers and shrubs, in which a graceful conservatory sits, the little terrace outside its door open to the gently falling rain. For those preferring to sit in the dry, a  s swing bench can be found nestled under a rock shelf close by, warmed by a little fire. Couples might also find a place to sit in the gazebo of the walled garden a slightly longer walk away and overlooking the beach.

Bou has always had an eye for colour, line, composition and detail, and rain – or as we sometimes call it in England, “liquid sunshine” due to its frequency – notwithstanding, an Uncertain Destiny once again proves this in spades. Not only is it a gorgeous design, wonderfully photogenic and delightfully relaxing, it is filled with wonderful little touches which bring it perfectly to life.

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A second helping of Hell’s Heaven in Second Life

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0 – click any image for full size

“Stay awhile,” Snoob (SnoobJohnson) and his partner, Mila (Mila Maesar) say in greeting to visitors to their homestead region, The Hell’s Heaven 2.0. “Let  this world  refresh your soul and
melt your worries away …  Explore this cloudy world of changing scenery and enjoy your stay!”

It’s a warm invitation, and there is much to enjoy within the region, which has been beautifully created by Snoob, with touches inspired by Mila to offer photographers and explorers alike with a visual treat – an anyone who has looked at the Flickr group for the region will only be too aware.

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0

This is a land of two distinct parts. To the west sit low-lying marshlands, ankle-deep in water and carpeted in long reeds and grasses through which a water-hugging mist drifts.  Scattered over this lay dilapidated shacks and cabins, their floors flooded and wooden walls slowly rotting, submerged wooden walkways running from nowhere to nowhere outside. Wrecks of cars and pick-ups complete the scenery, together with a couple of rowing boats and the rusting body of an old airboat.

To the east, the land rises abruptly in a series of rocky crags, high ridges and flat-topped plateaus, cutting the land between them into deep gorges, one connected to the next, through which the marshy waters drift and aged trees stand, trunks bent and branches hanging low, like old men needing a cane for support as they watch the passing of time and the world.

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0

Waterlogged paths wind through these grey canyons, leading the way to an old, broken railway line emerging from a boarded tunnel. Overhead, clouds drift across a sky deepening with dusk, their shapes a mix of grey and softly burnished bronze. Between sky and ground, strung across one of the gorges, sits an old chair lift, all but one of the wooden seats fading in the sun, the exception dangling beacon-red beneath the uppermost stretch of taut cable. Do be aware when wandering the canyons, that a private residence lies beyond them in the north-east corner of the lane – please respect privacy there.

A hinterland of rock, reeds, and water, there is a feeling this place has been long abandoned; the cars are rusting, an old fuel pipe and valve leaking oil into the water, adding the glossy touch of alien colours to its surface here and there. But while abandoned, this land is not deserted. Egrets and herons perch here and there, eyes alert for fish – so the waters aren’t that contaminated – while crocodiles rest among the reeds, perhaps also waiting for unwary prey to come a little too close.

The Hell's Heaven 2.0, Rainbow Ridge; Inara Pey, January 2017, on FlickrThe Hell’s Heaven 2.0

The Hell’s Heaven 2.0 – the name a reminder of Snoob’s original The Hell’s Heaven – is very much a place of peace and serenity, with the feeling of decade and passing time adding to its beauty, and not necessarily in a melancholy way. There is a sense of romance to the region, giving it the feel of a setting from an unwritten novel.

Be sure to pay a visit and write your own chapter.

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ragVR: imagination and expression in Second Life

RAG Randt is a content creator and designer who is perhaps best known for his work with MadPea, having worked on many of their games over the years. However, he recently departed the MadPea team to focus on his own work, and as we’ve been friends for several years, having worked closely on a project together, I was delighted to receive an invitation from him to see what he’s been up to within the region he’s been working on for the past few months.

“I’ve been putting together a portfolio site,” he explained as I arrived next to a DC3 sitting at the edge of a long runway, a fitting arrival point for visitors to his island. “Some of it is still under construction, but I’ve opened it to the public.” Called ragVR, the region is a veritable tour-de-force in RAG’s skills as a scripter, creator, builder and environment designer – and makes for a completely engaging visit.

ragVR: arrival

ragVR: arrival

From the airfield landing point, a flight of steps leads visitors to the stunning Art Deco frontage of an elevator tower rising above the sheer cliff face against which it is built. Two kiosks stand before the doors to the tower, one of which invites visitors to click it, thus getting one into the habit of touching similar kiosks across the region to obtain information on the various locations one can visit. The second kiosk provides background information on RAG himself and the region, and should be read.

Summoning the elevator via the button next to the doors will bring the first of many smiles to your face, as the distant sound of the lift clunking and purring into its descent is gradually mixed by music in keeping with the Art Deco look of the tower, which gently grows in volume as the car approaches – as one might naturally expect. When the elevator doors open, so the music naturally increases in volume again, but not painfully so, inviting you to step inside. When you do, you’ll find this is no ordinary elevator. In keeping with the Art Deco look and feel, it retains a skilled (and charming) operator. Touch him to select your destination, and watch him operate the elevator’s control lever.

ragVR: pigs really can fly! RAG's gacha flying pig collection

ragVR: pigs really can fly! RAG’s gacha flying pig collection

On arrival at the upper floor, and with the elevator’s music fading behind you as the doors close, you’ll find yourself on the first part of a self-guided tour of the region and RAGs work. This starts with a retrospective of his early 2D work in SL, which built on his experience as an illustrator. Once again, a kiosk offers background notes on the display, together with a comment that while visitors are free to wander around the region whichever way they choose, the recommended route to take the exit to the left, relative to the elevator station, and follow the path.

Winding between trees and bushes, the path will take you by way of hill, dale and building, around and over the region, and the displays of RAG’s work. To list all of them would be to spoil a visit. However, as a few points of note, there are the gacha goods booths with delights such as RAG’s flying pigs (I have one at home 🙂 ), the MadPea centre where sets RAG build for a number of MadPea games are on display, and the model of the school Live And Learn Kenya  / Feed A Smile are building for Kenyan children, and which was the subject of a major MadPea fund-raising drive.

ragVR: celebrating MadPea

ragVR: celebrating MadPea

“There will be teleporters to skyboxes as well” RAG informed me, “And models of some of the items I will have on sale.” For those interested in the Horizons community, these items for sale will include two house styles designed to fit in with the theme  – and I’ll hopefully have more on these in a future piece on Horizons. “While the region is primarily aimed at people who need a builder, and who want to see what I can do,” RAG said as we wandered the footpaths of the region, “I hope it is also a fun place for people to visit and discover as well.”

Nor do RAG’s skills end with physical objects, be they furniture, creatures, buildings or machines. The entire region design demonstrates his ability to create and landscape an environment, and select windlight settings to add to the overall ambience. Outside of the flora, vehicles, a handful of rocks and tower crane found in the region, almost everything you encounter, including the footpaths, stairways and cliff rocks, have been built by RAG.

ragVR: the LLK / FAS Kenya school model

ragVR: the LLK / FAS Kenya school model

Whether or not you’re looking for someone to execute a custom design or build for you, a visit to ragVR is a demonstration of all that is possible in Second Life from prim (do not miss the Alien Ice Cream!), through landscaping to mesh and scripting. It reminds us that SL can be both an entertaining environment through games and gacha whimsies, and a place which can support physical world activities, such as building a school in Africa.

And if you are looking for a superb brewer of fine mesh, an expert shaper of prims and artisan sculptor of land, then taking a tour a is doubly recommended, as RAG could well be your man. You can contact him about projects and ideas and to discuss rates via IM, notecard or through e-mail (rag-at-ragmedia.com). A website in support of RAG’s work is also in development, and I’ll be adding the URL here once it is up and running.

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  • ragVR (Devil’s Moon, rated: Moderate)

The Sagan Planetarium in Second Life

Sagan Planetarium

Sagan Planetarium – click any image for full size

It’s no secret that I love space exploration and astronomy – hence my Space Sunday series. Both are subjects which fit wonderfully into the niche of virtual worlds and virtual spaces, so I’m always on the look out from locations expressing either in-world. It therefore came as complete surprise to learn about the Sagan Planetarium  courtesy of a Tweet and blog post by Ricco Saenz; so much so that I had to clear all other plans for region visits and move it to the top of my list of places to visit.

The planetarium – obviously named after one of the 20th century’s greatest intellects, the late astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan – is the work of Josh Nitschke and is frankly a must-see visit, whatever your level of interest in astronomy and space exploration. The visitor spaces are split into four areas: the entrance lobby (I’ve used this as the landing point in the SLurls in this article), the Exhibition Hall, the main skydome and an outdoor orrery.

Sagan Planetarium

Sagan Planetarium – Exhibition Hall

The exhibition area provides information boards on galaxies, nebulae, space missions such as Sputnik and the Hubble Space Telescope, and more. However, it is the interactive model of the Sun and the major planets of the solar system which is liable to hold attention. This provides a set of (not-to-scale, for obvious reasons!) models of the major planets from Mercury to Neptune, each with its significant moons (where applicable) and a sets of data panels. Given there is a wealth of information available about the planets, Josh has provided an excellent breakdown for each, although you’ll have to zoom right in to the panels to read it all. Touch the Sun and any of the planets, and you’ll get an annotated cutaway of the interior.

Above these is a model of the solar system going from the Sun to the orbit of Neptune – and this is to a scale of 1 metre to 1 billion kilometres. You can get an idea of the vastness of the space immediately around us, though, as none of the planets are visible in the model; only their orbits are shown, colour-coded – and you’ll have to zoom all the way in to even see the pinpoint of the Sun.

Sagan Planetarium

Sagan Planetarium – Skyhome show: that’s me in white over on the right to give an idea of scale. Note Saturn’s shadow falling across its rings in keeping with its position relative to the Sun

The skydome currently offer a single show – the Solar System. Lasting a little over 34 minutes, this is a multi-media presentation, requiring visitors accept the audio stream narration, written by Josh and given narrated by Phoenix Colter (this can also be obtained in a note card, but trying to read and watch the show is cumbersome; far better to listen if you can). Split into a number of elements, this show takes visitors on a journey through the solar system, from the Sun to the Kuiper belt, going by way of the cosmos at large. It incorporates the solar system’s creation, a look at the Sun and the major planets (and little Pluto – Charon, so far absent due to Pluto’s reclassification as a minor planet), and our emerging understanding of the solar system.

The wealth of information within the show is again extraordinary, and includes interactive elements: you can zoom at touch the planets when they are the focus of the show, for example, and see their interior structures. Two more shows are  – or have been – in preparation for the skydome, one on the Apollo missions and one on the moons of the solar system. Assuming they’re both still in preparation (I’ve IM’d Josh to ask), I look forward to seeing them.

Sagan Planetarium

Sagan Planetarium – Exhibition Hall planetary display

The orrery is located outside of the planetarium building and should not be missed. Beautifully ornate and in full working order – simply pull the control lever – it is the icing on the cake of a superb installation.

This is a fabulous build and presentation – the more so for all the core elements having been designed, written and scripted by Josh himself. As a planetarium, Sagan Planetarium stands head and shoulders above anything of this kind I’ve seen elsewhere. Yes, the presentation may be a little out-of-date courtesy of Dawn, Juno, New Horizons, and Rosetta, but this doesn’t in any way detract from what is presented. Sagan planetarium is a superb demonstration of what can be achieved within Second Life, visually and educationally.

Sagan Planetarium

Sagan Planetarium – the Orrery

I cannot recommend this enough – late though I might be in visiting myself! When visiting, please do consider a donation towards the upkeep of the facility, either directly or via the purchase of one of Josh’s brilliant models on sale in the gift shop.

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