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!”

Winter Flakes, Sugartown
Winter Flakes, Sugartown

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.

Winter Flakes, Sugartown
Winter Flakes, Sugartown

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…

Winter Flakes, Sugartown
Winter Flakes, Sugartown

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

50 Words For Snow
50 Words For Snow

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.

50 Words For Snow
50 Words For Snow

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.

December Will Be Magic Again
December Will Be Magic Again

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.

December Will Be Magic Again
December Will Be Magic Again

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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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Namaste: serenity and contemplation in Second Life

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

Far back in the mists of time (by Second life standards!) I visited and blogged Sethos Lionheart’s beautiful quarter region of oriental design, The Snow Lion, which offered harmony and serenity in a tiered garden setting. Such was my appreciation of the build, I missed it when it vanished from Second life.

So it was with the delight of receiving a Christmas gift that I accepted an invitation from Sethos to visit his most recent creation in Second Life, which forms a home for his growing furnishing design business – and more importantly – an interconnected set of locations open to the public with a special purpose.

Namaste, Namaste; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Namaste, Namaste

“I decided to try a region,” Sethos told me, “not for the business – that exists there purely to help fund the region – but because I wanted to dedicated large parcels to the meaningful aspects of my life (both physical and SL), with the hope that others will find solace and comfort in it and come away feeling spiritually refreshed.”

Currently caught in the depths of winter, the region has four potential starting points for people’s visits. There is Namaste (after which the region is named), which for me offered a direct link back to the Snow Lion, and thus a natural place to start my visit. Within it sits a small Chinese style house, perfect for meditation, facing a low pagoda occupying a curl of land which wraps itself around a facing turn of water.

Namaste, Namaste; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Namaste, Namaste

Observe these from above, and you’ll see they form a yin-yang, echoing one of the centrepieces of The Snow Lion. Here, as with that design, the use of water and land to form the symbol perfectly encompasses the philosophical concept of opposites being complementary.  The best place, perhaps to appreciate this yin-yang, is by climbing the stone steps up to another pagoda, occupying a rocky promontory and offering further opportunities for reflection and meditation. Whilst there, do note how the pagoda and fountain are positioned to complete the yin and yang symbols.

“I’ve been meditating every day for the past year and I’ve never felt more integrated with life or more at peace with myself,” Sethos told me. “My hope is that this parcel offers as a quiet place for meditative contemplation and conversation while presenting a visual metaphor for the long process of self-discovery.” To help visitors relax and free their thoughts, Tai Chi balls and yoga mats are offered for visitors to use.

Namaste, Namaste; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Gaia’s Grove, Namaste

“I’ve spent most of my life as a practising pagan,”  Sethos said in introducing Gaia’s Grove, which can be reached from Namaste via the footpath winding through the trees – take the left turn where it branches – or you can follow the snow northwards along the water’s edge. “So Gaia’s Grove is meant to offer a place where one can commune with nature through long walks in the woods, a small temple, and even a version of Stonehenge.  I’ve also included an outdoor ballroom for good times with friends and family.”

The temple sits shaded under trees, reached via a second left turn in the path, its back against the wall separating it from the outdoor ballroom area. It also presents a place of quiet contemplation, with a balcony overlooking the water presenting a place for soft conversation. A short distance away, Stonehenge is offered as it might have looked to those who built it, and sits as a peaceful location amidst the snow.  Open to the air, the ballroom allows plenty of room for dancing under the sun or stars, in a romantic setting.

Namaste, Namaste; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr The dance area, near The Old Stone Church, Namaste

The eastern half of the region is home to Sethos’ store, OM Namo, and The Old Stone Church. “I spent some time as Friar Sethos in Tintagel,” Sethos said of the latter. “Teaching basic Latin to the village children and giving mass each Sunday was some of the best moments in my Second Life. I finally understood in SL what I’d not seen in real life. That the church often is the heart-centre of a community.  So I offer this build as a reflection of that, and a place of sanctuary.  If you do go, visit the graveyard to the right of the church.  I find it particularly serene.”

Connecting the church and store is the second of the regions two large dance venues (a smaller third dance area is located to the side of the church), and a frozen pond awaiting skaters.

Caught within the snows of winter, with trees frosted and white and rolling snow-dusted hills surrounding it, Namaste made for a perfect seasonal visit this Christmas Eve. My thanks to Sethos for extending the invitation to drop in – Caitlyn and I will be back for certain!

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Namaste is rated Moderate.

Hell’s Crossing and the Walking Dead in Second Life

Hell's Crossing: Terminus - sanctuary, or ...?
Terminus at Hell’s Crossing: sanctuary, or …?

Back in June, friends Lυcy (LucyDiam0nd) and Max Butoh, famed for running [The Chamber]  and the always outstanding  Dathúil Gallery, both in the region of Floris, opened a new ventures; Hell’s Crossing, a free-form role-play environment (which you can read about here). At the time of the opening, it was a medieval role-play location; however, Lucy dropped me an IM to let me know things had been changed, and inviting Caitlyn and I to take a look.

As a role-play environment, Hell’s Crossing is intended to be updated from time-to-time, but in doing so, the core theme of crossing danger will always be present. And for this iteration, Max and Lucy has turned to what has become a modern classic: the comic book series turned hit TV show The Walking Dead, with “Terminus” added to the region’s name, reflecting a major location from the series.

Hell's Crossing: Terminus
Terminus at Hell’s Crossing

I have to confess, I’ve neither read the comic books nor watched the TV series, so beyond apocalypse, zombies and survival, I’m in complete ignorance of things. However, a deep understanding of either the show or the comics isn’t required; which Hell’s Crossing includes various locations from the series – the titular Terminus, the railroad tack with sign promising sanctuary at Terminus, an old church, a barn, etc., the emphasis here is fun, not getting buried in the minutiae of the series.

Visitors arrive at one end of the region, where they’ll receive a note card with some background information. Where you go from there is up to you. There’s the railroad to follow, winding dirt track and also twisting trails through the dense woodland. The various locations scattered across the region may (or may not!) offer safety from the zombies, but if you’re in the open, you’re fair game for eating: and if you “die”, you’ll be teleported home.

Hell's Crossing: Terminus - zombies!
Terminus at Hell’s Crossing: zombies!

If you intend to engage the zombies, you’ll need to be armed with a gun capable of causing damage*. If you want to simply explore, set CTRL-R, keep a sharp eye out for movement among the trees and be ready to scoot away. I’m actually not a big fan of shoot-’em-ups, but I admit, there is something addictive about Terminus at Hell’s Crossing. I found myself completely lost in running around and blasting zombies (which explode rather spectacularly, if bloodily, that I genuinely lost track of time.

Quite how much role-play will evolve is hard to judge. Certainly, the safe areas, Terminus in particular, offer scope for groups of people to come together in character or friends  / fans of the show to hop over in “informal” character and mix a little role-play with shooting the walkers.  However, I have the feeling the focus for most is going to be on splashing zombies.  With a points board on the wall just off to one side of the main warehouse in Terminus, there is a subtle encouragement to keep blasting away and engage in a little friendly competition.

Hell's Crossing: Terminus - zombies splashed!
Terminus at Hell’s Crossing: zombies splashed!

For those who do fancy a little RP amidst the shooting, there are a couple of points to keep in mind: Hell’s Crossing: Terminus isn’t intended to be a metered combat environment, and use of weapons against other avatars is frowned upon: the emphasis is on walker shooting. The region is open to rezzing, so weapons should work without a group tag, and props can be rezzed for photo shoots, with auto-return set to 20-minutes. Just make sure you have a means to stop any attempts at zombie photobombing!

All told, Terminus at Hell’s Crossing is a lot of fun. I can say that honestly, as I’ve so far spent around 3 hours there in the last 24, blasting away at things. What was I saying about not liking shoot-’em-ups?!

Hell's Crossing: Terminus - all along the watchtower...
Terminus at Hell’s Crossing: all along the watchtower…

* In editing, I removed a comment noting that the region uses the default damage indicator, rather than any metered damage system specific to the walkers, which means you can be “killed” while still apparently 100% healthy. Weapons-wise, the system isn’t geared to any specific make of weapon. I tried five different systems, and all worked fine. YMMV.

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