Tag Archives: Exploring Second Life (2016)

Winter Flakes in Second Life

Winter Flakes, Sugartown

Winter Flakes, Sugartown – click and image for full size

Winter Flakes sits on a homestead region held by Caledonia Dreamscape. Like many regions at this time of the year, it presents a winter setting, and while – I believe – it is also the home for Caledonia and her partner, Trix Congrego, they’ve opened it up for visitors to enjoy.

“[It’s] a combination of Scottish and Danish winters,” Caledonia says of the region. “We first started Winter Flakes  as we both love winter. Four years on and we are still here;  I think it’s a winter love!”

For those visiting, the region offers an opportunity to wander a snowy landscape, take pictures and simply relax after all the hustle of the holiday period. Think of it as an opportunity for a quiet winter walk in the snow to burn off some of the calories of that New Year’s dinner 🙂 .

The landing point sits at the side of a road which loops around a frozen pond, overlooked by little cottages. For those who might be wondering what happened to Santa over Christmas, the answer might be found in the roof of a little ruined shed to one side of the scene.

A covered stall offers warming hot chocolate and punch for those in the need of inner warmth, standing close to where the road points the way between brick walls and tall beech trees to a set of iron gates, beyond which sits an old wooden mill, sails slowly turning under the snow-heavy sky.

Alongside the mill, snowy ruts indicate  the route of a track that winds its way through more trees to a distinctly Scandinavian cottage. A little beyond this a skating rink is to be found, folded within encircling rocky arms. It sits next to  a very modern cabin which offers a place to warm up after a spin on the ice. Further still to the west, on the far side of a frozen inlet, sits another cottage, facing a church converted for use as a house across the span of a wooden bridge.  A rather glum looking Santa sits on a hill between them, perhaps still awaiting his own Christmas presents to arrive…

Surrounded by rocky peaks topped with fir trees and under a steady fall of snow from cloud-wrapped sky, Winter Flakes presents a simple, uncluttered setting with lots of little touches which should be discovered rather than described, making for a pleasing, gentle visit.

Thanks once again to Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla) for passing me the details!

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Yhorm: a stunning new role-play location in Second Life

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on FlickrYhorm, NeoShoda: the City of Vyhorm – click any image for full size

It stands like one might imagine Tolkien’s Minas Ithil might have looked before Gondor’s fading might failed it, and it fell into corruption as Minas Morgul. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, their flanks cold and hard, the old city of Vyhorm rises into the darkening sky, tier upon tier to a final crowning citadel.

Designed by Stark Osterham (of Insilico fame), the city forms a part of a new role-play environment – Yhorm – he is designing and building with his Second Life partner, Cailin Beorn. Although not officially opening until around mid-January 2017, Caitlyn and I had the opportunity to tour the city and the region thanks to our resident Sim Detective, Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla), who passed on news about the region. Our visit also gave me the chance to chat with Cailin and Stark about Yhorm.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on FlickrYhorm, NeoShoda: the City of Vyhorm

“You are certainly a nerd!” Stark joked when I raised the Minas Ithil comparison. “Yeah, I had some sources that helped with inspiration!”

“It’s definitely Tolkien influenced,” Cailin added. “I’m a huge LOTR [Lord of the Rings] nerd! But this was originally a commission Stark took that fell through, and he’s such and incredible builder, I really went along with his creation.”

“The original design was for a city so large it goes out as far as you can see – but on a single sim,” Stark continued. “I said I’d try, but given the space available, it seemed more natural to go up rather than out, and we went from there.”

The city, and the vast cavern-state of Nurem beneath it, are to be the setting for role-play which brings together an interesting mix of flavours. “It’s a dark medieval fantasy,” Cailin said, “But with steampunk elements – flintlocks, airships, and things – here and there. Roughly, it’s about the curse and corruption which has befallen the old city, the lives of the people living within it, and those who can be found in Nurem. We have a backstory available for those who would like to read more.”

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on FlickrYhorm, NeoShoda: the City of Vyhorm

Vyhorm itself is massive and intricate. It – ans Nurem – are reached via a Welcome Centre landing point, which contains the expected elements for a role-play environment: rules, information on races and factions, etc. There are also two maps indicating the key locations within the city and in Nurem. Clicking on the names of these will teleport you directly to them – providing you accept the NeoShoda experience (which also facilities automatic teleport between Vyhorm and Nurem.

Covering almost the entire area of the region, the city is truly massive. It rises naturally on a series of rocky tiers from the great gates to the citadel of the Dark Chapel, separated from the world by high walls. Caught in a perpetual dusk, lights glitter and gleam from a myriad of windows – towers, houses, places of business – and the streets winding between walls and rock are lit by orbed lamps, their light reflecting off the heavy stone, illuminating doors and stairs, blood-red banners and alleyways.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Yhorm, NeoShoda: Nurem

From the well of the great gates through to its upper reaches, this is a city designed to be defended whilst allowing plenty of room of occupation by its citizens. It rises through districts and areas each with its own unique character. Many of the buildings are shells at this point in time, but that will be changing.

“Long term plans is to expand into the buildings and make them into rentable homes or role-play locations,” Cailin told me. In the meantime, the public locations within the city’s heights provide plenty of scope for interaction: the arena, the public baths, the academy, the barrows, and topping it all, the Dark Chapel itself, wherein grows the fabled NightRoot.

Vyhorm is a realm enfolded in darkness and shadow, teetering on the brink of a long plunge into darkness as corruption steals through its streets and alleyways. By contrast, the cavern realm of Nurem (located on the ground level of the region) is a world of light and warmth. This is where the Hunters reside. Recruited from the Tuatha (which I believe is an elven race), they were once seen as the saviours of Vyhorm, but now they are feared by the people of the city, and allowed into it under sufferance.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Yhorm, NeoShoda: Nurem

While it can be reached from the Welcome Centre, Nurem is connected to Vyhorm in two ways. The first is via the Cavern Gates – rocky arches seemingly leading into rough-hewn tunnels, but which are in fact teleport points allowing transit back and forth. The second is harder on the body – and strictly one way. “There is a large section in the heart of the city,” Cailin said. “If you fall into it, it will also drop you down into the cavern, as Nurem sits directly under Vyhorm.”

Like the city, Nurem spans the entire region, presenting a huge vista of rock and stone fingers rising from the watery floor of the cavern. Bridges span the air between these blunt needles of rock, linking the structures built upon them. These building offer an interesting mix of medieval  and industrial looks, while an airship adds a further juxtaposition between steampunk and fantasy.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Yhorm, NeoShoda: Nurem

Not all of the structures are in good repair; several – notably the central ones – lie in ruins, the bridges radiating outward from them also pitted, holed and broken. Might they have once been bombarded by the city high above? But more ruins rise from the flooded base of the cavern, suggesting some natural cataclysm may have befallen Nurem. Beneath the water lies a further realm of fish and creatures, further emphasising how Stark has made full use of the 3 dimensions presented by a region.

Given their involvement in Insilico and love of role-play, Cailin and Stark have brought a wealth of experience to Yhorm, so those wishing to join in with activities are liable to find things engaging and involved. For my part, I cannot get over the region build; “stunning” doesn’t adequately describe it. Yhorm is one of the most involved, intricate and spectacular designs for a role-play environment I’ve seen in a very long time – all the more so when you consider it is neatly packed into a single region. For the last three days I’ve been back and forth, exploring, climbing and looking, and remain utterly bewitched by its form and feel.

If only I were a capable role-player!

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My thanks to Cailin and Stark for their time, and to Shakespeare for the pointer. As noted in the article, Yhorm is on a “soft” opening now, with visitors welcome – but please note some things my be in a state of flux. An official opening is expected in January, please refer to the website for details.

Silvermoon’s snowy magic in Second Life

Note: I understand from Silvermoon that A Painter’s Link (and with it 50 Words for Snow) might be closing some time shortly after January 6th, 2017.

On December 26th, I wrote about Silvermoon Fairey’s A Painter’s Link, noting the over it she has created a seasonal setting, 50 Words For Snow. The latter is actually one of two wintry designs Silvermoon is offering visitors, the other being December Will Be Magic Again. While separated by teleport, both of these settings in many ways complement one another, giving the appearance of being different parts of the same countryside.

Visitors arriving at, or teleporting to, 50 Words For Snow arrive atop a rocky plateau over which trees denuded of their leaves raise bare branches to the sky, as if trying to ward off the falling snow. Foxes, raccoons and deer wander among the tree trunks, while a path meanders idly through the woodland, enticing the traveller to follow its winding course. However, the keen-eyed may also spot a path close to hand, switchbacking its way down to lower ground.

Those who follow this route may find their way through fir trees and snow to a large house lit from without and within, where kitties rule the roost and wood fires burn bright in hearth and stove. Sitting diagonally opposite the house, in the north-east corner of the region sits a smaller lodge, also under gently falling snow, and with a frozen pond close to hand. Between these two lie opportunities for walking or sitting beside another ice-sheathed pond, a vista of snow-covered land and blanketed hills stretching to the horizon and caught in the soft glow of a lowering Sun.

A lowering sun is also a feature of December Will Be Magic Again, and while brighter and more visible than at 50 Words For Snow, it is nevertheless one of the elements which gives a sense of connectedness between the two. A much flatter place than 50 Words, December Will Be Magic Again is also blanketed by snow which falls gently from the sky, covering track and grass alike, and hiding the frozen waters of a stream from view, leaving its location marked only by rock and bridge.

Across this flat setting, ringed by trees and low hills, lie two houses and what might be a cottage farm. Smoke rises from the chimneys of two, but all are bereft of furnishings. Outside, and casting long shadows to match those of the houses and trees, horses meander and pick at the grass that has managed to poke its way up through the snow. From across the frozen expanse of a pond, keeping to the edge of the tree line, a handful of deer watch all the comings and goings.

There is a serenity about both December Will Be Magic Again and 50 Words For snow which invites a side-by-side visit to both. Each is also the perfect accompaniment when visiting either It’s A New Dawn or A Painter’s Link down, over which they respectively sit. However, as Silvermoon has indicated to me she may actually relinquish A Painter’s Link (and with it, 50 Words For Snow) in the near future, I would strong suggest you plan a visit to either of these two sooner rather than later.

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50 Words for Snow and A Painters Link are located on Salomon Beach, rated: Moderate.

December Will Be Magic Again and It’s a New Dawn are located on Leon Beach, rated:  General.

A Painter’s Link in Second Life

A Painter's Link, Salomon Beach; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr A Painter’s Link, Salomon Beach – click any image for full size

Note: I understand from Silvermoon that A Painter’s Link (and with it 50 Words for Snow, located overhead) might be closing some time shortly after January 6th, 2017.

I’ve always enjoyed Silvermoon Fairey’s region designs in Second Life since I first visited  Dawn of Radiance 2013 (see here, here, and here for some past visits). So I was a little surprised to find an LM sitting in inventory for A Painter’s Link, another of her creations, passed on to me by Silvana Casini but which has been languishing without attention – my apologies to both Silvana and Silvermoon for the oversight.

When blogging about Second Life rural scenes, it’s easy to turn to the term “pastoral” as a description, when there is actually little sign of grazing by cattle or sheep or anything else. However, with A Painter’s Link, the word is appropriate: sheep do indeed safely graze under the watchful eye of a shepherd, while further afield in the gently undulating landscape, horses can be found grazing on the grasslands.

A Painter's Link, Salomon Beach; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr A Painter’s Link, Salomon Beach

That said, attempts to describe the region is words are unlikely to do A Painter’s Link justice; this is a place which should be visited to be truly appreciated. Caught in a mix of  Spring’s warm greens and Autumn’s gold and red, the region presents a world of rustic cottages, old ruins, rolling fields, and country folk of a seemingly bygone era going about their work. Only the presence of a bicycle, an upright telephone and a gramophone, with its great horned speaker indicate the era is likely more recent than the clothing worn by the locals might otherwise suggest.

Wonderfully woven into a whole by a meandering stream and rutted tracks, with pools of water fed by low falls, rugged edges to the hills around them, A Painter’s Link carries within it echoes of the great landscape paintings. There is a certain sense of homage within it towards the likes of John Constable – it is hard not to escape thoughts of The Haywain when seeing the cart and horses in the water, with the cottage close to hand. similarly, aspects of another of the cottages brought to mind The Valley Farm.

A Painter's Link, Salomon Beach; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr A Painter’s Link, Salomon Beach

These echoes and suggestions add immeasurably to the appeal of the region. Together with Silvermoon’s eye for detail and composition, they make A Painter’s Link wonderfully photogenic – although I’m sure better eyes and talent than might have brought this fact to the fore far better than I might. And while the default windlight is ideal for photography, this is very much a place which lends itself fully to a range of lighting environments and experimentation.

Nor is that all; A Painter’s Link is equally as welcome to those simply seeking to enjoy the landscapes of Second Life. There are paths to wander, views to be enjoyed and plenty  of opportunities to sit and appreciate all that is on offer, whether it’s on the little wooden deck, watching the cart and horses, under the shade of a tree and looking up towards one of the thatched cottages or cuddling on the blanket spread with fruits and drink within the garden of a cottage.

A Painter's Link, Salomon Beach; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr A Painter’s Link, Salomon Beach

There is also a wonderful sense of life about the region – not only in terms of the horses, sheep and wildlife, but also in the presence of the locals: the shepherd, the farmer and his wife, the little girl with her goose, the cartsman, and the boy with his kite (who is perhaps placed to suggest he should actually be watching over the horses). All of them bring A Painter’s Link more to life and present it as a series of marvellous vignettes waiting to be caught forever in photographs and paintings.

When visiting, check the sign at the landing point for a folder, and be sure to visit 50 Words for Snow, which is located up in the sky – I’ll have more on it myself next time around.

Note: following the publication of this article, Silvermoon contacted me to let me know she may be letting the region go in the new year – so if you plan to visit, please do so sooner rather than later, and do please consider making a contribution towards Silvermoon’s work, which may help maintain this region, or go towards the upkeep of It’s A New Dawn.

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