A journey through the Gardens of Shadowfell in Second Life

Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022; click any image for full size

October is here once more, and with it come the familiar round of pumpkins, mysteries, hauntings and region and parcel builds with a spooky twist.  To be honest, I’m not actually much for all the kafuffle that goes with Halloween, as I’ve noted in the past; however there are one or two exceptions to my overall lack of enthusiasm, of which the most notable is probably the annual Calas Galadhon Halloween build – and 2022 is no exception.

Every year, Tymus Tenk, Truck Meredith and the Calas team bring us worlds of wonder to explore in the form of their Halloween and Christmas wonderland builds as an adjunct to Calas Galadahon Park, and each year we are gifted with (generally) two regions of mystical / seasonal delight. Mixing an atmospheric setting rich in places to explore, scenes to uncover, rides to enjoy and events to attend, all knitted together by the weave of environment settings, soundscape and supporting music, these builds are always and genuinely a highlight of Second Life.

Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022

For October / Halloween 2022, the team present Gardens of Shadowfell, a journey to a realms which although probably not modelled specifically after any element of Tolkien’s mythology, carries with it something of a sense of Middle Earth during the Second and Third Ages, mixed with hints of other franchises to offer an engaging potpourri of elements deserving of careful exploration.

As with all of the Calas themed builds, this is one in which it is very important visitors not at least some of the guidelines regarding a visit, all of which can be found at the landing point – with the most important perhaps being:

  • Make sure you Used Shared Environment (via World → Environment).
  • Make sure Advanced Lighting Model is active via Preferences → Graphics).
  • Enable local sounds.
Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022

It is suggested that those who can, should also enable Shadows via Preferences → Graphics.  This is worthwhile if you can, but I would suggest you’re not losing a lot from the experience if you cannot, as the general look and feel of the regions is just as atmospheric with shadows as with. For those who would like to see Shadowfell with shadows enabled, but may find it hard going, pulling any high (128m+ draw distance down could help boost performance – particularly as the overall design of the build works with moderate draw distances.

In terms of exploration, Shadowfell offers two primary means: on foot, following the paths winding through the regions; and via tour boat (available a short walk from the landing point). I strongly recommend you take the time to use both; the paths and trails offer the most comprehensive way through Shadowfell – including a journey through the caverns; while the boat tour misses the latter, it has its own features and views of the setting that are unique. I would also suggest, perhaps, that when exploring on foot, the accompanying music track is turned off during a first visit. Instead, turn the music on for the boat tour (and for subsequent visits); in this way all of the local sounds can be fully appreciated when exploring. Finally, and as per the guides at the landing point, keep an eye out for the eye-in-hand tapestries along the routes – they offer teleport opportunities to additional sit points and locations that you are unlikely to otherwise reach.

Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022

This is a place very much of two halves: the landing point directly adjoins a walk that takes visitors through a dark realm. It’s not Mirkwood by any shape or means – but in places it carries a Mirkwoodian vibe. Here the trail winds under the boughs of bent intertwined trees and along an ancient stone path that passes over strange, misty waters on the back of stone bridges. Follow the route correct through trees and mystical quarry, and it will bring you to the entrance to the caverns.

As this entrance here is open and without a great lake before it, there is no need to ponder riddles before suddenly crying, “Mellon!” or fear what might emerge from the waters behind you. However, the first part of the route through these caverns is not as simple as may appear; and those who fail to Touch at the right place might be fooled into retracing their steps prematurely….

Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022

The caverns proper are one of those places where I wish Second Life allowed us to set music streams via altitude – for within them, we move from a suggestion of Middle Earth and Tolkien to what might be called the Realm of Ridley Scott; a place that ideally suits the music of Jerry Goldsmith, as written for Scott’s 1979 Alien (a film which, the first time I saw it a good few years after its release but still on the big screen, fairly scared me out of my knickers!). These are tunnels made to be walked to the haunting strains of Goldsmith’s theme from that film (in fact I actually did this during a visit, with a little help from You Tube, even allowing for the spiders along a part of the route and their suggestion of Mirkwood again!).

Beyond the caverns, visitors can travel onward to where the path is partially drowned; its stonework visible just under the glowing waves, stairs descending to it and rising on the far side of the water indicating it is still the way forward. Cross the waters brings you to a very different realm (and over a region crossing). If the first part of the journey gives a sense of travelling (in part) through Mirkwood, then here lies a suggestion of that great forest before it fell into darkness, and the times when it was known in elvish as Eryn Galen, or Greenwood the Great.

Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022

Here, while there are still creatures of darkness / mystery lurking, so too are sights more pleasant: rabbits might be found frolicking, whilst further on is a great and wild garden of exotic flowers and plants filled with a sense of a mystic presence. This is a place in which, gardens and ruins alike, there is an unmistakable elven feel – and more than one path to explore. It is also where several of the tapestry teleports can be found – although they are not exclusive to this part of Shadowfell. The platforms and pavilions they access offer a mix of places to sit and opportunities from private dancing.

The individual scenes to be found throughout Gardens of Shadowfell are many and varied – from the Alien-esque elements up in the caverns, to the orcs busily at work through to the zombies wandering here and there and the crocodiles waiting to waylay boat tours and more, time is needed to appreciate all of the detail and care poured into this setting – care and detail that are Ty and Truck’s annual hallmarks. And , of course there are the little touches of humour awaiting discovery – like the Gollum-like alien sneaking his precious way among the face hugger eggs, or the zombie worried about her broken nail or Mickey Mouse, who pops up quite unexpectedly with a happy greeting whilst simultaneously looking a little lost and bewildered…

Gardens of Shadowfell – October 2022

I could wibble on and on about Shadowfell, but in truth, it’s best you go see it for yourself – and check the schedule of entertainments set for the pavilion there as well!

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A Calas Christmas Wish for 2021 in Second Life

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish – click any image for full size

December 2021 has arrived, and with it comes the public opening of the Calas Galadhon winter / Christmas regions, put together by Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith, ably assisted by the Calas team.

There are many things that make the end of the year special: the holidays, celebrations, snow and more – all of which are to be found in Second Life. However, what is unique to SL, and looked forward to every year, are the Calas Christmas regions. A highlight of the season every year, for 2021, the Calas Christmas setting once again returns to a 2-region layout, and as always both are beautifully decorated for  visitors, with lots to see and do, be it wandering, riding, skating, cuddling, photography, or just getting into the end-of-year spirit.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

The theme for this year is A Christmas Wish, and after the last couple of years in the physical world, we’re probably all already wishing for a brighter and more open 2022. In this, the Calas regions get us off to a good start; from the landing point, it’s a short walk to the Arctic Express – a familiar motif for the regions over the years – and thence along the train tracks to where a white stag stands waiting in the train tunnel. However, before anyone can reach the stag, they are teleported to the regions proper.

From here, signposts point the way to the main pavilion, the path itself fairly direct as it winds through snow-laden trees and around the edge of the frozen lake. But while it may be direct, it is not the only route to locations awaiting discovery with in regions, so wandering and exploring is strongly recommended.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

The Pavilion overlooks the traditional skating lake, and provides within it opportunities for dancing and getting into the Christmas spirit by a roaring fire. Close by is the balloon tour gazebo, whilst a little further away is a pavilion set out for fine dining. Meanwhile, across the ice, a smaller pavilion awaits dancers who would like a smaller, more intimate dance area.

The balloon ride offer a skyborne tour of the regions, and it is joined at the ground level by the traditional sleigh rides through the region – these can be found close to the arrival point at the start of the pavilion trail. Also awaiting discovery within the region are a number of romantic spots, indoors and out, such as the cabins among the trees. These can be found via exploration or by grabbing a note card from the giver just inside the entrance to the main pavilion and which contains local LMs.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

Prior to the public opening, Ty confessed to me he tends to drive himself to have the Calas team “outdo” the previous year’s build, which is getting harder and harder to achieve. My response to this is that, really, I don’t think it is necessary; all of the Calas Christmas designs have been richly engaging down the years, and sometimes a sense of less is more is better than trying to pile things on.

For 2021, A Christmas Wish offers an also perfect balance between offering a richness of Christmas cheer and a relaxed openness of winter settings and walks – some with touches of Ty’s and Truck’s usual humour. There are also numerous poses awaiting discovery that further enhance the opportunities for photography that also make it well worth while taking a wander, rather than just heading for the pavilion and the skating. Finally, there is a also a nice use of off-region elements to the setting that allow for a dense of depth without throwing up huge amounts of off-region landscape to distract the eyes.

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

Entertainment will, as always, be presented at the Pavilion, with additional entertainment also available via the main Calas regions; for dates and times, refer to the Calas Galadhon blog in the coming days.

The Calas Christmas regions are always a popular destination, and avatars can place the heaviest load on the viewer, consider keeping your avatar dressed accordingly, use Bakes on Mesh, and avoid outfits that utilise multiple high-res unique textures. Also, to assist the simulators, do lighten your script load..

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

Also, keep in mind that because the regions are popular, you may want to make adjustment to your viewer to help with processing: reduce the maximum number of fully-rendered avatars, perhaps turn off shadow rendering, if used (other than for photography), drop your draw distance, etc.

But above all, enjoy your visit!

Calas Galadhon 2021: A Christmas Wish

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Note that Sincere Estates is rated Moderate.

A Calas Christmas Dream in Second Life

A Christmas Dream – Calas Christmas 2020

Officially opening to the public on Wednesday, December 2nd – although you can enjoy a sneak peek ahead of that by joining the Calas Galadhon in-world group – is A Christmas Dream, the 2020 Calas Galadhon Christmas region put together by Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith, ably assisted by the Calas team.

The Calas Christmas events are now as traditional a part of the end-of-year festivities as turkey dinner and decorated trees, and each year Ty, Truck and team never fail to present an environment that even the most “bah, humbug!” amongst us cannot fail to appreciate and enjoy – and 2020 is no exception, although circumstance means this year things are a tiny bit different from recent Calas Christmases, at Ty noted to me ahead of the opening.

It’s been more of a challenge this year with all going on out there in the real world, but we did want to do another Christmas. Things being what they are [limited region availability and all], we were only able to rent one region this year. But we hope it will lighten the spirit and heart in our visitors.

Ty Tenk, discussing A Christmas Dream

A Christmas Dream – Calas Christmas 2020

The fact that this year’s Calas Christmas is restricted to the one region actually offers a glimpse back to Calas Christmases of times past, before Ty and Truck took to utilising two regions for their winter celebrations. This gives this year’s setting something of a nostalgic feel for those of us who have been enjoying their seasonal hospitality for the last several years.

Perhaps more importantly, whilst limited to just the one region, this year’s setting has lost none of its appeal, both in terms of things to see and things to do, and most of the expected aspects of a Calas Christmas are present: the main landing point with its sleigh tours; the walks and the skating; the Pavilion where events will be taking place through the month; the balloon tour; the places to sit and cosy-up or dance, both indoors, and more.

A Christmas Dream – Calas Christmas 2020

Also waiting to be found are the little touches that make each Calas Christmas so endearing. Wander the snow near the frozen lake, for example, and you will discover that – just for Christmas, at least – a penguin not only has Happy Feet but can fly (or at least take to the air and hover!), whilst a walk further afield might yeti allow you to discover a mythical creature (and yes, I do appreciate he’s is not actually an Abominable Snowman, but I’ll do (almost) anything for a pun, however bad!).

Meanwhile, for those who find the snow and crisp air a little too much hot chocolate can be had from the Calas refreshment stand (watched over by a reindeer) or romantic meal can be enjoyed at the Calas railway carriage. Or, for those who enjoy the winter air and you have a wearable horse, riding is welcomed – although please do keep off the ice, as the presence of a horse might cause problems for the skaters.

A Christmas Dream – Calas Christmas 2020

Entertainment will, as always, be presented presented at the Pavilion – for dates and times, refer to the Calas Galadhon blog once A Christmas Dream is fully open to the public.

The Calas Christmas regions are always a popular destination, so when visiting, please do consider the following:

  • To help lighten the load on resources, it is requested that active scripts are kept below 100Kb. So please, do remove unnecessary HUDs and accessories.
  • Often the heaviest load placed on the viewer is that of heavily-loaded avatars, so p;ease do try to dress accordingly to try to minimise not only your script load, but also your texture load (e.g. by avoiding items that contain multiple unique high-resolution textures).

Also, keep in mind that because the region might be popular, you may want to make adjustment to your viewer for your own enjoyment – reduce the maximum number of fully-rendered avatars, adjust shadows, and perhaps turn off shadow rendering, if used (other than for photography).

But above all, enjoy your visit!

A Christmas Dream – Calas Christmas 2020

SLurl Details

Note that Sincere Estates is rated Moderate.

Visiting spooky Neverland in Second Life

Neverland - Calas Galadhon Halloween
Neverland – Calas Galadhon Halloween

Once again we are entering the twilight months of the year when the celebrations start to stack up: Halloween, Thanksgiving for Canada and America, Christmas and then the New Year. With so much going on, and themed regions popping up across Second Life, a real highlight of this time of year is a visit to the Calas Galadhon themed builds.

Every October and December, Ty Tenk and Truck Meredith bring us fabulous themed builds under the Calas Galadhon name, which allow Second Life users to fully enjoy both Halloween scares and Christmas good cheer. And this year, we have something very special: not one, but two regions offering a spook-tacular visit for Halloween.

Neverland - Calas Galadhon Halloween
Neverland – Calas Galadhon Halloween

Neverland takes its name from J. M. Barrie‘s Peter Pan and gives it a decidedly dark twist. Yes, there are pirates, Lost Boys, fairies and mermaids, but so too are there spiders, alien-esque jungles, imps, and creepy caves, all wrapped up in a journey of discovery. Spread across the full and Homestead sims of Esgaroth and Erebor – the names continuing the Tolkien tradition of naming Calas regions – Neverland is a place to be experienced, not written about; but you will need time to do so, as there is a lot to discover – more than might first appear to be the case – and an expansive tour aboard an elven boat to enjoy.

As is common with Ty and Truck’s builds, the landing point offers plenty of advice to get you started, and the information boards should be read. You can pick up a torch here as well, which may prove useful in your explorations, and the boat tour is sited alongside the boards. Whether you take the tour first or come back later is up to you – but I do recommend you do take it at some point during a visit, as it will reveal sights and places you might otherwise miss.

Neverland - Calas Galadhon Halloween
Neverland – Calas Galadhon Halloween

Travelling on foot takes you through the Pirate Cavern – complete with the steady tick-tick-ticking of a clock, the shadowy form of an enormous crocodile close by – and then through a dimly-lit tunnel where creepy-crawlies lurk, before pointing the way towards the jungle. Your goal here is to find the Portal, the gateway to the Calas Galadhon Halloween events pavilion (where a whole range of entertainment will be taking place throughout October). Signposts will help you along the way, be sure not to miss the other locations the signs direct you towards, be they up winding paths or ladders, over bridges or across fields of rustling grass. And don’t miss the tunnels under the Lost Boy’s camp (and the Lost Boys themselves aren’t quite what you might expect!

There are numerous places throughout Neverland where you can simply sit and catch your breath: camp fires can be found on the edges of gorges, nestled under rocky overhangs or close to the mouths of shallow caves, benches and seats at the sides of pools or under faery canopies. Ty and Truck’s impish humour is also awaiting discovery, while the Mermaid Grotto and the alien gardens surrounding it offer a burst of colour and light in the midst of the darkness and mist.

Neverland - Calas Galadhon Halloween
Neverland – Calas Galadhon Halloween

While instructions on how best to enjoy the build are available at the landing point, I will re-state some of them, and add one or two of my own. If you take the “journey cloths”, with their Cthulhu-like images, keep in mind you may well hop past places to visit – and when taking the boat tour, keep an eye our for clues to places that might otherwise escape a visit on foot later. Do make sure you have local sounds enabled with exploring (there’s also a carefully selected audio stream), and keep an eye out for ladders and bridges and stairs; not all of them may at first be obvious, and some lead to interesting little spots, such as up in the temple ruins.

If you run the viewer with shadows enabled, you may want to flick them off when exploring, otherwise the performance hit can be pretty heavy. The lighting in the region is such that disabling them won’t spoil the visual ambience (just keep Advanced Lighting Model enabled), and should you need shadows for photography, you can always flick them on and then set them back to None when done.

Neverland - Calas Galadhon Halloween
Neverland – Calas Galadhon Halloween

All told, Neverland is another marvellous gift to Second Life residents from Ty and Truck, one in which it a possible to spend an enjoyable hour or two exploring and discovering the various routes around and through the regions. It is very much a destination one which should be on the list of places to visit for anyone who enjoys Halloween – and do please consider a donation towards both the regions and Calas Galadhon as a whole when you drop in.

News on events at Neverland can be found on the Calas Galadhon Park blog, and the regions will be open through until the end of October, after which they will be closed to be made-over for the Calas Christmas theme.

Neverland - Calas Galadhon Halloween
Neverland – Calas Galadhon Halloween

SLurls and Bits

Earth Day and Lindens at Calas Galadhon, April 22

Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, Feb 2016, on Flickr Calas Galadhon – click any image for full size

Update April 20th: Xiola has now blogged on this get-together.

Friday April 22nd marks Earth Day, when events are held all over the world in support of  environmental protection.

First held in 1970, Earth Day is now  marked in 193 countries around the world, and coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. This year, Earth Day will also be marked by the formal signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, negotiated earlier in the year, is due to be signed by 120 nations.Earth-Day

I’ve had my little birds flitting around Second Life, and I’ve heard from one of them that to mark Earth Day in-world, the Lab is planning another Meet the Lindens event for Friday, April 22nd.

The get-together will take place, I understand from around 10:00 through until noon SLT at the marvellous Calas Galadhon Park.

For those who haven’t visited Calas Galadhon, it is a stunning vision of the outdoors, covering 10 regions, and as such is the ideal location in which to get together with staff from the Lab (and perhaps a few Moles). I understand – although this is subject to confirmation – the main Calas landing point will be used for the meet-up.

There hasn’t been an official blog post on the meet-up as yet, but I understand that Xiola will be producing one in the near future – so keep an eye on the official blog for the latest on the meet-up. I’ll be updating this article once Xiola has posted 🙂 .

Calas Galadhon; Inara Pey, Feb 2016, on Flickr Calas Galadhon

Travel to OZ and celebrate Oz in Second Life

OZ Nightclub
OZ Nightclub, Armenelos, Calas Galadhon

OZ Night Club, floating in the sky over Calas Galadhon park,  is one of the most popular romantic music venues in SL. Music in the high art deco-styled night club is from the late 20s, 30s, early 40s with more recent jazz, pop and occasional country to round things off nicely.

Now into is fourth year, OZ has just had something of a revamp, and to celebrate the new look Ty Tenk, Truck Meredith, Kerena, Alicia and Romie are throwing open the doors for a special Wizard of Oz celebration night on Friday, March 4th from 19:00 SLT!

Featuring the music of HammerFLA Magic, the Wizard of Oz Ball invites one and all to come in costume, and the Calas team can’t wait to see everyone. Not only is there music and dancing, there’s also opportunities for photos on the yellow brick road!. Simply step out on the terrace and find your way to the platform with a great OZ backdrop and poses for couples, singles, and groups!

OZ Nightclub
OZ Nightclub, Armenelos, Calas Galadhon

So – don your ruby slippers and click on the SLurl below.

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