Tag Archives: Exploring Second Life (2011)

Black Spot : “All I ask is a tall ship….”

There’s ship lies rigged and ready in the harbour
Tomorrow, for old England she sails.
Fair away from your land of endless sunshine
To my land of rainy skies and gales.
And I shall be aboard that ship tomorrow,
Though my heart is full of tears at this farewell.

-The Last Farewell – Whittaker & Webster

Since starting writing pieces on some of the places in SL I particularly like, I’ve had numerous suggestions and requests relating to places I might enjoy visiting. One such suggestion came from Ayesha Askham-Ezvalt, who pointed me towards Black Spot. As a lover of tall ships (albeit the clipper variety, admittedly), it was a place I had to visit.

Black Spot is one of three sims devoted to tall ships of the pirate / buccaneer type, the other two being Dead Man’s Chest and Ace of Spades. Black Spot and Dead Man’s Chest have been developed by Lia Woodget, with Ace of Spades developed by Giacobetta Oliva. All three form a common theme that showcases Lia’s tall ships and Gia’s tour systems, and you can wander around the ships, take a rowing boat between the various islands and explore Lia’s shipbuilding hideaway.

Black Spot harbour: “All I ask is a tall ship…”

There really is a lot to explore and enjoy here; and Black Spot also makes for a quiet retreat set in the wide ocean. Lia has put a lot of attention on breathing life into the sims, with vessels anchored in the lee of the isles, tied-up alongside wooden quays, or sailing in on the tide.

The ships themselves are magnificent, the hulls and fittings beautifully detailed, and you can explore their decks in turn, decide if the sails should be furled or not, and – if you’re so minded – purchase a copy of any that are for sale. There is enough room below deck on the larger vessels to make them into a highly original home…

“And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking…”

At the quayside on Black Spot island itself, you can explore the smaller vessels Lia builds, or walk around her slip, where another is under construction. You can also wander into the shipwright’s hideaway under the hill of the island, and explore the secrets it hides….

It is here that you can take a boat across the water to Ace of Spades, or you can walk through vaulted chambers, passing stacks of kegs full of rum…or are they full of gunpowder for the cannons outside? There are chests with gold coin scattered around them that leave you wondering whether this is a simple shipwright’s hideway and yard, or whether it really is the secret lair of buccaneers who roam the high seas, looking for unwary prey.

Walk on through dust-laden sunbeams as they fall through hidden windows and climb the stairs to discover books and charts, then up higher to stone turret overlooking the sea, and another ship as she sits at anchor – or is perhaps sailing on around the headland. Here you can sit alone or with a friend, watching as the sun sets out over the ocean, silhouetting the ship and carrying you back to bygone days.

“And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

Back in the cavernous hideaway, as I mentioned, you can find a skiff waiting to carry you across the water to Ace of Spades, and Gia’s island. Take a seat and enjoy a smooth journey as you slip out from under the protection of cavern and cove and across the sim boundary. Here stands and old fort, home to Gia’s tour systems – of which the row boats used to get around the islands are a part. Here, as well, you can take a larger skiff out under sail and tour the waters of the regions – but be wary of the sim boundary when you start out…and don’t spend too long on the water…you might find out how risky sailing can be!

The narrows

If you prefer, you can use another of Gia’s rowboats to reach Dead Man’s Chest – or for the very daring take a ride around all three sims on a witch’s broomstick! However, this also may have its perils…particularly if someone has “parked” a ship along your line of flight…

Dead Man’s Chest is less tamed than Black Spot, the wooded isle offering natural vantage points to admire the harbour or look out over Captain Albus Weka’s fort and store. You can also board the mighty Elysium and wander her decks.

All-in-all there is a lot to see and enjoy when visiting Black Spot, and in some respects, I’ve just scratched the surface – so why not take a look yourself?

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Walking through the past

The past is really almost as much a work of the imagination as the future.

– Jessamyn West

There are times when we all mourn for the past; it’s a place, to paraphrase another saying, we cannot revisit, no matter how much we desire.

Except in Second Life.

Much has been written over the last twelve months about what has been lost in SL, regions, builds, places that stirred memories – and it is true that much has gone. But it is also true that much has been preserved and still stands today as living reminders of what Second Life was, how it began and how far it has come. Visiting them can be a magical mystery tour of delight.

The SL Historical Museum

Contained in a modest build, itself a reminder, perhaps of simpler times in-world, the SL Historical Museum is a goldmine of information and images that offer a unique look back to the earliest years of Second Life. Here are logs from town hall meetings (remember those?). There is also an archive of release notes from the early days which reveal a lot about Second Life’s development. Take these extracts from the release of version 0.2.0, on December 16, 2002:

For best performance, close other applications before running Second Life in order to free up your computer’s memory.  If the computer runs out of memory, Second Life has a tendency to become unresponsive and you will move through the world in 10 second halting steps.

===Improved World Performance===
* Objects come in faster when you are flying.

===Avatar Enhancements===
* Avatar make-up can be applied during customization.
* Underwear automatically removed when you swap outfits so no more unsightly incidences of cotton briefs peeking out from beneath your clothes.
.
.
.
* More reliable sitting behaviors.
* When holding Alt key and moving camera, you can more easily zoom in on objects without losing focus on the object ? it?s magic!

Within the museum you can also discover the meaning behind hippos! and how they became a part of the SL subculture (and still are, just try CTRL-SHIFT-ALT-H!). There is also a gallery of images from the early days – and some of them are real eye-openers. Take the World Map, for example.

Second Life circa November 2002

In the museum you can also find out what it was like to be a Primitar – there is actually a Primitar avatar, complete with HUDs, available, and learn about SL’s original taxi service and why i came into existence (and I have to admit, that’s a part of SL lore that had passed me by!).

The museum is associated with the SL Wikia (not to be confused with the “official” wiki), which provides further and deeper insight into the entire history of Second Life, including the development of avatars, the Viewer, and so on. It was actually through the Wikia that I became aware of the in-world museum.

Orientation Station

Before there was an Orientation Island or Welcome Island or parrots squawking at you, there was the Orientation Station where newcomers could discover and how and what of using Second Life. Created by Yuniq Epoch (who was also behind the original Yamato project), this Japanese castles provided information boards notecards and practices routines (such as putting a beach ball on a table) to help people get to grips with the fundamentals.

The information is now well out-of-date, but you can visit the Orientation Station at Dore – if nothing else, some of the images stand testimony as to just how far SL avatars have come, appearance-wise!

Governor Linden’s Mansion

No trip into SL’s past would be complete without a visit to the home of SL’s mythical Governor. The mansion dates from 2002 and may well look utterly primitive by today’s standards, but back then it stood at the forefront of building techniques within SL.

Here there are no sculpties, no scripted doors (all doors that can be used stand conveniently ajar) and the textures are fairly basic. For those that worry about Land Impact and prim counts on houses today, the Mansion is an eye-opener, where every single step in a staircase is a prim, as is every single cross-member in a lattice roof. Windows are glass-less (although I have no idea as to whether this is because SL didn’t support transparent textures at the time, or simple to save on prims!) and the furniture simple in design.

In the basement are more pages from history – FAQ notecards from 2003, a time capsule stamped “Do not open till June 2004”. On the lawn in front of the mansion you can find a plinth naming some of the earliest Linden employees, including one “Hacker” Philip Linden, the much-missed Robin Linden and Cory Linden.

Governor Linden’s Mansion by Stellar Starshine

The Corn Field

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.

So opened the TV series The Twilight Zone – at least in part. It is from an episode of that series – It’s a Good Life – that SL’s most mythical destination was born: the Corn Field, a place where those avatars who had been bad would be banished to contemplate their wrong-doing.

The star-lit field of corn, cut-off from the rest of Second Life original existed in the Northwest corner of Orientation Island 1. Today, it has been recreated across four sims, all spookily identical, which you can wander through and meet the poor, lost souls.

Mocha Cathedral

Another example of early SL architecture – this one dating from 2004 – is Nephilaine Protagonist’s Mocha Cathedral. The simple, elegantly clean lines of the cathedral were of huge influence to other builders in 2004, especially those striving for a “real” look and feel to their work. Here you can wander through the cathedral, and if you are so-minded, light a prayer candle, naming it for whatever is in your heart.

There are several other examples of early SL to be found around the grid – Baffin Island, the Climbable Beanstalk, the Stillman Bears. Many may seem quaint by today’s standards, but as historical pieces, they help remind us just how dynamic Second Life is. If you have some time you’d like to spend exploring, why not take a dive into SL’s origins via the Destination Guide.

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Calas Galadhon

Dimrill Dale, Misty Mountains, South Farthing, Armenelos, Bay of Balfalas – to anyone familiar with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, these are evocative names, along with Grey Havens, Gulf of Lune, Mirromere and Eryn Vorn. But within Second Life, these sims are not in any way a reproduction of Tolkien’s wonderful Middle-Earth (although I confess that’s why I was attracted to them in late 2010, when I made my first visit).

Calas Galadhon – or “Calas” to those more familiar with it – is the “parent” region to a 10-sim parkland estate owned, curated and offered to the people of Second Life by Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith. Like the other regions in the estate, it should have drawn on Tolkien for its name  – Caras Galadhon – but for an opsie by Linden Lab. Not that the slip-up diminishes in any way the fact that it, and the other regions of the estate make for a must-see destination.

Calas Galadhon – winter scene

The core of the sims represents rural America in the early 1900s – but there is also a touch of the Mediterranean as well in the form of Armenelos, and even a hint of Atlantis. As such, there is much to explore and see, and the sims combine to make a fabulous setting for the romantically inclined or those that love SL photography.

At the moment, four of the ten sims – Glanduin, South Farthing, Dimrill Dale and Calas Galadhon itself – are given over to a winter wonderland, with snow covering the ground, frozen ponds and lakes for skating on, inviting lighting hanging from eaves and glowing through windows while snow-capped mountains make a stunning backdrop. Here you can take a balloon ride with your loved one and friends, or enjoy on your own, drifting serenely over the town before swinging out over Glanduin (where the sim crossing can be a little bumpy!) and the other sims in the estate.

Glanduin

Cross the bridge on the north side of Calas Galadhon, and you enter the summer world of Mirrormere and Grey Havens. Here you’ll find wooded parkland and hills to wander, all with their own secrets to reveal. There are places to sit down and meditate, places to dance with a partner and much on offer for the snap-happy. If you can turn your Draw distance up reasonably high (around 512m), there are some great landscape views to be captured and enjoyed, as well beautiful views across the water to the Grey Havens and Armenelos. Just remember to slide the Draw distance back down to avoid overloading the Viewer!

Walking through Mirrormere

Mirrormere is the home of the Calas Caverns – although to find them, you’ll need to keep a sharp eye open; the teleport point lands you close, but you’ll still have to take a little bit of a look around to find the entrance. The caverns wind under a part of Mirrormere, with little hideaways for romantic trysts, opportunities for swimming, and a tunnel that leads even deeper underground….although if you come via the bridge from Calas Galadhon, you may encounter the tunnel before the caverns…

Calas Caverns

The park continues up through Mirrormere into Misty Mountains, which has a wonderful series of trails and walks to follow, the best of them (to me) leading to marvellous views over to Armenelos, which can also be seen from the northern side of Grey Havens.

Armenelos itself offers an entirely different theme. Modelled on the island of Santorini, here you can climb the stairs to the cliff-hugging, whitewashed walls of the town and wander its narrow streets.

Looking across Armenelos from Grey Havens

The real Santorini – or Thēra, to give it its official name – was once an important trading point for the Minoan civilisation, prior to one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history devastating the island and resulting in the formation we see today, with the great lagoon and the broken rim of the caldera formed by the eruption. A popular theory has it that the eruption – 3600 years ago – gave rise to the legend of Atlantis.

Looking back from Armenelos to Misty Mountains

From Armenelos you can take a motorboat out onto the water, travelling out under the watery caverns of Grey Havens, or around the clifftop village and out into the Bay of Balfalas. As you do so, be aware that you are passing over another of the estate’s secrets: the Lost Gardens of Thera.

Here, in a nod to the legend of Atlantis and memory of the Minoan eruption, you can take the stairs down into the water, grab some scuba gear and explore a beautiful underwater world, moving among ancient ruins – and remnants from more recent times – where fish and rays swim and play.

Lost Gardens

wherever you go in the Calas Galadhon estate, it is evident that Tymus and Truck have gone to great lengths to present an immersive, enjoyable experience – one that extends to the sounds that are to be heard across the sims. In this regard, if you don’t have sound on as a rule when visiting SL, I strongly recommend that you enable it prior to visiting Calas Galadhon. The care with which Tymus and Truck have put together a soundscape to compliment the estate is incredible, and while there is much to be enjoyed without sound enabled, walking / riding through the sims with sound on, and being immersed in the soundscape really adds tremendous depth to the experience.

When you are exploring, keep an eye open for kiosks linked to the Bronx AIDS Services, the non-profit organisation supported by Tymus and Truck and make time to visit the AIDS & HIV learning Centre in Calas itself.

Calas Galadhon is an amazing place to visit and spent time exploring – I’ve deliberately not covered all ten sims here, as I wanted to leave you with places still to explore for yourselves. Given the care and attention put into the estate, it is little wonder that it rates so highly in several categories in the Destination Guide – so why not take time out this weekend and pay it a visit yourself?

Calas Galadhon

And why not visit the Calas Galadhon blog?

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Imagination in a Lost World

Update: Lost World has closed and Beguile no longer exists as a region name.

I’m the first to admit I’m not the world’s greatest SL photographer, but I love finding places in SL that are both interesting to explore and can make excellent backdrops / subjects for photography; and if they have a hint of a story of their own – so much the better.

One such place that combines opportunities for in-world photography with the hint of a mysterious back story is ! Lost World !, created by Lolmac Shan.

This is a fabulous build covering the region of Beguile that calls out to photographers and machinima makers alike.Here you’ll find the ruins of … what? a great house? An Abbey or religious centre? A castle? A once-thriving port? ..

Ancient ruins: ! Lost World !

You arrive in the middle of the ruins, standing at the crossways of two ancient walkways. Before you lies the ruins of a great hall (Lolmac’s store), the roof long gone, the supporting arches starting to collapse themselves. From here, it is up to you as to where you go…

Behind you, a short distance away, the ruins stand sentinel in a losing battle against the encroaching sea; aches stand in isolation, their winged gargoyles facing inland as waves crash against weathered and deformed stone carvings beyond, fallen columns and walls littering the waters, while here and there further fragments of whatever once stood here rise from what has become their own little islands in the fight against the incoming sea.

A little further along the coast stands another building, looking for all the world like a covered dock where ships may have once sought shelter while offloading their cargoes. Here is a hint of a possible religious element to the place: a great winged figure  – an angel? – seems to stand guard before the arches of the building, face set sternly towards the ocean…

Further inland, there are other hints of a religious nature, and what appears to be the remnants of a great abbey, complete with what seem to be a flooded cloisters…

Carved face

But look up and across the quiet, blue water, and the gigantic stone face staring back at you suggests that if this were a place of religion – it might just have been one that embraced violence and strange rites…

It is these contradictions that make ! Lost World ! so alluring; it is if nothing is quite what it seems. Having looked upon the great stone face, with its horned and barbed helm, it is hard not to look on the winged figure on the shoreline and not imagine it to have a more sinister purpose, or at the gargoyles atop the flooded arches without finding them somehow more menacing, as if standing guard to prevent anyone leaving this place…

Guardians – or guarding?

And there are secrets to find within this place, if you are prepared to look; and not all is in quite the ruinous state as seems to be the case…

But even with these sinister or mysterious edges, there is no denying ! Lost World ! is a mesmerizing place, and considerable thought and creativity has gone into its development, making it a marvellous location for filming and photography. The careful visitor is liable to find a veritable treasure-trove of detail while exploring on foot – although at times an airborne look helps one fully appreciate the build as a whole.It may not be as extensive as some, but the balance it exhibits is sublime.

This is a place I love to come to simply because it is so beautiful and yet thought-provoking. It’s a place I can visit and wander and dream up stories; it’s a place I love to photograph, and it’s a place where I can always find some corner or nook, and simply watch the passing world and quietly observe those who also come to visit…

And despite the undertones of sinister mystery, this is also a place for romance in all its many forms. Here you can sit with a loved one and whisper quietly to one another amidst the tumbled walls and pillars, or you can wander together through the trees and along the banks of the waterways, or dance together as the sun sets behind you…

But don’t simply take my word for it – why not pay a visit yourself?

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