Tag Archives: Closed

Exploring Mineral Ridge in Second Life

Mineral Ridge; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Mineral Ridge – click any image for full size

Update: January 16th: Mineral Ridge has unfortunately closed.

In the 1930s, Mineral Ridge was once a wealthy, booming mining town, its fortune drawn from the precious secrets hidden within the rocks of the high plateaus on which it sits. But, as the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Today Mineral Ridge sits as a place well past its heyday, fading and rusting under the sun, a curio for tourists to come and visit, and a place where the dispossessed and – maybe – those on the wrong side of the law – can find a place where they can settle or hide.

Or that’s how you might interpret the back story to this Full region, designed as a group effort principally by Norman Dobler, Aiden Cauldron, and thejunkyard. It’s a relatively new addition to Second Life, but one which is both atmospheric and which makes good use of the available space to create a scenic environment offers plenty of space for exploration as well as reflecting the theme of a once-wealthy mining town now well past its heyday.

Mineral Ridge; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Mineral Ridge

On the highest plateau of this rugged place, sits part of the town: grand houses  – including a villa of distinctly Tuscan looks – doubtless built by those who gained their fortune out of the mines below, but which have all seen better days. Some appear deserted, other still occupied – although whether by the original owners is perhaps open to question.

A road, cracked in places, loops around them, stables sitting between one or two, rough tracks now forming alleys between others. At one end of this road sits a more recent addition to the town – a motel. But even this has the same air of tiredness and age hanging around it as it faces a diner across the street, the offices above that long since abandoned and boarded-up. Only the emergency services building  and the Sheriff’s office around the corner from it, have a feel of upkeep about them.

Mineral Ridge; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Mineral Ridge

As the road twists a noose around the houses, a wide track drops away from it, winding its way down into a sheer sided canyon by way of an ageing farm before splitting under the gaze of an old radio tower, one part offering access to the west side of the region, the other running down into the canyon floor proper. Follow it down towards the latter, and if you keep your eye on the rocky wall beyond the trees and bushes lining the track, you might spot the hidden entrance to the old mines on which the town built its wealth, while down on the canyon floor sit ruins far older than the town.

The west side of the region can be reached not only via the dirt track, but also over an old trestle bridge. This offers a convenient short-cut to the west ridge of the region, a gap in the wire fence, at some point faced with corrugated iron sheets as if it had been armoured, allowing it to once more join with the dusty track, presenting explorers with the choice of visiting a decrepit shack or making their way up to the the old radio tower.

Mineral Ridge; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Mineral Ridge

All told, Mineral Ridge is an interesting and considered design, sitting somewhere between a role-play environment and photogenic region with some little mysterious edges. Photographers looking for somewhere just that little different as a backdrop to their work, in particular may enjoy a visit to the town. Once again, many thanks to Shakepeare (SkinnyNilla) for passing over the LM!

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From a Little Village a Little Town does grow…

In March through April 2014, Cica Ghost has a charming installation on the region of Caramel. Called Little Village, it was a marvellous collection of whimsical little houses with wobbly chimneys, huddled together in groups or standing alone, some on level ground, others precariously straddling little hills, and about which I blogged at the time it was open.

Little Village may have gone from the virtual world at large, but on Thursday, October 30th, Cica opened Little Town, which might be regarded as Little Village all grown-up. And it is another absolute delight of the quirky and the fun.

The buildings here are “life-sized” (in avatar terms) when compared to Little Village, but they all display the same higgledy-piggledy charm. Most are gathered around a town square atop a large flat hill in the centre of the region, although several are scattered more widely afield.

Here you will find tall finger-like houses, their once-bright paint a little faded and warn, sharing space with other structures of unknown intent. Pipes and tubes and horns twist and run between buildings or point skywards while trees and bright patches of flowers add further colour to the scene, as bright balloons drift about the place. There’s even a building that looks peculiarly like a gigantic coffee pot, a pipe-like handle on one side, and the spout formed by a another pipe as it twists it way to connecting with conical neighbouring structure.

While the inhabitants may be conspicuous by their absence, this is a town that is very much alive in its own way; there is motion everywhere as windmills turn in the breeze, cogs and wheels rotate, horns stretch and contract from rooftops, strange spherical objects push their way through pipes; even the odd rooftop rises and falls as if breathing slowly, all of it serving to add a depth and further charm to the whimsy on display.

Getting around is easy: wide steel roads, heavy with rivets, offer various routes around the town and its outlying areas, while steps down from the hill provide access to those places off the main roads, and of course, visitors are free to wander where they like. For those not into walking, there are cars available from a rezzer near the cinema cafe, while a gift giver near the landing point will present you with Cica’s Flying Ventilator, if you fancy getting a bird’s-eye view of the town. And speaking of the cinema – do be aware that some of the buildings can be entered as well – there’s even a cage where you can do Airkix-style “skydiving / flying” :).

Should all the exploring tire you out, Cica has provide a trio of floating beds in the south-west corner of the region, where the weary can rest a while. The field over which the beds floats is also home to Cica’s little flower shop, where you can purchase sets of the flowers which can be seen around the town and region, as can copies of the two mechanical birds sitting under a nearby parasol – proceeds from sales doubtless help towards keeping the sim open.

Given Little Town involves so much motion, something no always captured in a simply snapshot, I’ll leave you with a video of the town in the hope it’ll encourage you to pay a visit and share in Cica’s whimsy!

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Return to a radiant dawn

Dawn of Radiance, Lost Forest; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrDawn of Radiance, Lost Forest, August 2014 (Flickr)

My first visit to Dawn of Radiance, Silvermoon Fairey’s marvellous homestead region, was back in November 2013. Back then, the region was in the grip of winter. Roll forward eight months, and the region is not only basking in summer colours, it has once again been beautifully remodelled, and from the high rocky buffs to the riverside grasslands, it  offers a veritable smörgåsbord of visual delights for those who visit.

A rocky cove in the south-east corner of the region forms the arrival point, a narrow shingle beach between waves and cliffs; with a tall brick lighthouse casting its eye out to sea nearby as a fishing boat rides the breakers a short distance offshore. The little beach offers places to sit, but walk along it and you’ll come to a slope leading you up between the cliffs where eagles have nested, and on to a grassy meadow, which in one direction leads you down to a farm where horses graze.

Dawn of Radiance, Lost Forest; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrDawn of Radiance, Lost Forest, August 2014 (Flickr)

If you go in the other direction from the first meadow, you can make your way up to a rocky plateau dominated by the angular form of a church amidst the ruins of what might be an old castle. A switch back path hugs the cliffs here, the single link between ruins and another sheltered beach below.

Wander through the farm and you have a choice: you can follow the track leading out to the big windmill standing sentinel-like on the headland; or you can take the bridge over the river and explore the grasslands on the far side and walk up to another meadow where more horses graze; or you can follow the track inland.

Dawn of Radiance, Lost Forest; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrDawn of Radiance, Lost Forest, August 2014 (Flickr)

The latter route may take you through a rain shower and some undergrowth, but trust me when I say it’s very much worth taking, whether you turn right and cross the river over the little wooden bridge, or continue onwards, further in the heart of the island; both routes will lead you to places of whimsy and fantasy. Keep an eye out, as well, for another route up to the church and ruins …

Nor is that all; the north side of the island hides another beach, while up on the hills and down between their shoulders lie places to sit, either alone or with a close friend, and simply watch the world go by – or forget about it completely.

Dawn of Radiance, Lost Forest; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrDawn of Radiance, Lost Forest, August 2014 (Flickr)

Such is the design of the region that exploring it feels like you’re on an island that is bigger than an individual region, and providing you don’t set-out to discover everything all at once, it presents a series of delights; just when you think that you’ve seen it all, you turn a corner or pass around a bush and trees, only to find something new and quite unexpected. Hence why I’ve not described some aspects of the island here (although admittedly, one photo is perhaps a bit of a giveaway to what you might come across!); I don’t want to spoil the pleasure of discovery too much.

There is a marvellous blending of elements here as well, which encourages you to feel as if you’re walking through a more expansive landscape; the use of elevation not only physically sets apart the farm from the church with its surrounding ruins; it gives an added sense of distance to your explorations as you find your way up to the heights, climbing above the tree-line and grasslands and into the rocky preserve of an ancient site.

Dawn of Radiance, Lost Forest; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrDawn of Radiance, Lost Forest, August 2014 (Flickr)

The same can be said of the use of hills and woodland to enfold the heart of the island and separate it from farm and ruins; following path or river into the interior not only again heightens a sense of exploration and discovery, it encourages a feeling of stepping into another, hidden realm  – the digital equivalent of stepping through the wardrobe.

With its regional windlight set to the first light of dawn, much in keeping with the region’s name, it almost goes without saying that Dawn of Radiance is a photographer’s delight, and lends itself to a wide range of windlights and sky settings. If you do pop over to take photos, I believe I’m right in saying that joining the group via the board at the landing point will give you rezzing rights for props, and there is a 30-minutes auto-return limit.

Dawn of Radiance, Lost Forest; Inara Pey, August 2014, on FlickrDawn of Radiance, Lost Forest, August 2014 (Flickr)

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Le Botanique: a materially beautiful creation

Le Botanique, Mirriam Brown; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrLe Botanique, Miriam Brown, July 2014 (Flickr)

I first met Liara Okiddo as a result of visiting her home on the Region of Golden Rose back in July 2013, Garden of Eden was a 8192 square metre parcel of land where she had built a compact tour de force of what can be achieved without necessarily needing an entire region of your own in which to create an eye-catching build. It was a truly amazing and verdant design, rich in colour, flora and fauna, creating a tropical island like feel in which she had located her in-world studio and gallery.

In November 2013, Liara extended an invitation for me to see her next project – then a work in progress, Isla Okiddo, her own homestead, which opened to the public in February 2014, forming another visually stunning build where she had again created a wonderful tropical paradise in which she located her gallery and her home.

Le Botanique, Mirriam Brown; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrLe Botanique, Miriam Brown, July 2014 (Flickr)

Sadly, Garden of Eden and Isla Okiddo now only exist in memory and pictures, although they remain two of my top 10 all-time most beautiful locations in Second Life.

More recently, Liara has been working on a new project, which she pinged me about early on (and for which I still owe her an apology, and life, the universe and everything meant I never really supplied the feedback she’d requested). The project opened earlier in July (and which the physical world again conspired to keep me away from) and is another masterpiece.

Le Botanique is a 64 metre square slice of rain forest-like beauty floating in the air above Miriam Brown, and it is a marvel of design and the use of materials – around 75% of the build is materials enabled.

Le Botanique, Mirriam Brown; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrLe Botanique, Miriam Brown, July 2014 (Flickr) – note the beautiful wet sheen to the stone wall in the rain as it reflects the light from the lamp-post above; the beauty of materials

You arrive inside a summer-house in one corner of the forest (do make sure you accept the local windlight, if offered, on your arrival). The staccato beat of rain falling on the glass panels of the roof is your greeting, together with the crackling pop of wood burning in the hearth its accompaniment. A piano from the other room in the house might also add a little harmony to your arrival. But all these serve as background to the lush, rain-soaked slice of tropical splendour which awaits you beyond the sliding doors.

Rain splashes over everything here, pattering across cobbled terrace and wooden walkways alike, leaving a wet sheen over mossy walls, grassy rocks and dripping from the lush vegetation. A wooden bridge passes over a narrow channel of water separating the summer-house from an old terrace where sits a wrought iron garden table and chairs, dripping in the shower alongside a tall green house in which grow where exotic lilies and other plants are growing in rich abundance, sheltered from the rain.

Follow a set of wooden steps from here, and they take you up to the high point of the build, a rocky grotto where sits a table an chairs under a canvas awning.  Elsewhere, stepping-stones guild the visitor across the expanse of rain-speckled water below the summer-house and up to another rocky ledge offering another little seating area under canvas, this one with a touch of romance added: candles on the table, complete with a bottle of wine, two glasses, and a red rose.

Le Botanique, Mirriam Brown; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrLe Botanique, Miriam Brown, July 2014 (Flickr)

All of this exists an in rich spread of flowers and plants, tall trees through which sunlight slants, and over which the rain falls steadily. It’s an amazing sight for even the most causal visitor. However, if you want to experience Le Botanique to the fullest, then you should enable your viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (Preferences > Graphics > check Advanced Lighting Model) option, if it is not already active.

This shouldn’t result in too big a performance hit on your system – you don’t have to enable Shadows as well (which are the performance killer). When you do so, Le Botanique will spring into even greater life as the wet sheen on the rocks and walls becomes visible, and the light from lamps and lanterns is reflected in the wet surfaces around you.

I’ve fiddled around with materials myself in SL and more noticeably on Kitely with Fallingwater, but I’ve done nothing to the depth of Liara’s project. As noted above, the built features the use of materials across about 75% of it, and this has involved Liara carefully selecting copy / mod items which she has then painstakingly retextured with custom diffuse (texture), normal (bumpiness) and specular (shininess) maps, and the results are truly stunning, and incredibly life-like; so much so in fact, that it’s possible to miss some of them without a degree of careful camming, therefore time is the order of the day when visiting.

Le Botanique, Mirriam Brown; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrLe Botanique, Miriam Brown, July 2014 (Flickr) – note the relief on the stone work and on the wooden boards

For those interested in the technical aspects of the build, Liara has created a special Flickr album charting her work on Le Botanique, and to be honest, her photos far outweight my meagre efforts here should you need any visual persuading to make a visit.

I never cease to be amazed and awed by Liara’s work; each of her creations builds on the foundations laid by the last, and each is in turn an incredible and beautifully immersive environment. In this, Le Botanique is no exception. It is simply glorious; a stunning demonstration as to what can be achieved with time, patience and materials, and (again) without needing an entire region in order to do so.

Le Botanique, Mirriam Brown; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrLe Botanique, Miriam Brown, July 2014 (Flickr) – the light of the lamps reflected off the wet surface of the wooden boards

It is, in a word, glorious.

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