A Chocolate Factory in Second Life

Chocolate Factory, December 2020 – click any image for full size

Justice Vought, co-owner of the excellent :Oxygen: (see: Getting some :oxygen: in Second Life), and who earlier in 2020 lightened hearts with his homage to Second Life’s famous Greenies (see: Once upon a (Greenie) time in Second Life) sent an invitation to Caitlyn and I to visit his latest creation, an it is once again a setting that is likely to bring a smile to many faces with its sense of fun and interaction.

To put it in a nutshell (which will undoubtedly be assessed by squirrels…) Chocolate Factory pays homage to 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, and 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore and, most broadly, to Roald Dahl’s timeless story.

Chocolate Factory, December 2020

It does so by presenting visitors with a tour of the legendary chocolate factory (golden tickets available, but actually entirely optional), which takes you from the gates to the factory through its various rooms and assorted places, and back to the the landing point. Along the way, there are rides, things to do and try, and vignettes that pay homage to both films, with perhaps a lean more towards the Gene Wilder version, all of which should be visited with local sounds enabled (the starting point also recommends the audio stream be on, but this isn’t strictly necessary).

The starting point is a little town square where sits a shop in which you can try your hand in obtaining a golden ticket via a L$1-a-go gacha machine. For once the gods of SL fortune were with me, as I got one first go, although Caitlyn received a Wonka chocolate bar she could nibble on while we explored. From here, visitors (with or without a golden ticket) can pass through the warning sign and follow the road towards the factory – reached via a short tunnel – which also offers a chance to pop into Charlie’s house along the way. Once at the factory, visitors should proceed through the gates and into the factory to Wonka’s office, where an Anywhere Door will start them on their adventure.

Chocolate Factory, December 2020

The Anywhere door is the first of the teleports that carry visitors through a series of rooms / locations representative of elements from the story, including a blueberry / bubble room, the squirrel room (where the aforementioned nut assessments take place), the TV room, and so on. These are visited in a certain order (but at the end of the tour there is the opportunity to teleport back to any one of the locations visited, and the teleports between scenes work both ways). note that teleports might be doors, portals of other objects – the latter indacted by 3D arrows.

The Anywhere door delivers you to s Candyland, evocative of the production values fro Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here one can follow the chocolate path over the lush grass and across the bridge spanning the  river of chocolate that flows from high falls to split the landscape before vanishing into a dark tunnel. Candy sticks and multi-hued mushrooms mark the land and giant butterflies flap their wings. Those with quick eyes may spot the Wonka boat rezzer sitting in the flow of chocolate – but don’t be too hasty to rez one and sit: there are numerous things to discover in this seemingly simple garden – from taking the twizzler rope across the river as an alternative to the bridge, to body surfing in the chocolate or simply sitting on a chocolate biscuit love seat – and more besides – be sure to mouseover things carefully, and not always at ground level!

Chocolate Factory, December 2020

When you’re ready to proceed, rez a boat (if you have problems spotting the rezzer, look along the flow of chocolate near to where a group of coloured balloons are sitting, close to the bridge) and jump in – you may have to be quick, as the boat doesn’t hang about. This will take you on through the tunnel ride to the fizzy pop store where you can have a light refreshment (emphasis on the “light” – for which I should perhaps use the American “lite” – you’ll see why whn you ignore the warning and take a bottle!), then follow the teleport arrows through the window and onwards.

I’m not going to spoil things here by describing every place you’ll visit, suffice it to say you’ll encounter the odd Oompa Loompa or three along the way (actually starting in Candyland) and experience (as noted) aspects of the films, each with its own interactive elements, including a further ride atop a Wonka Chocolate Bar to reach the final location and experience teleport.

Chocolate Factory, December 2020

A light-hearted homage, Chocolate Factory makes for a fun visit, and if you’re feeling like you’ve had enough of the year or are feeling the onset of Christmas Blues, a visit could be just the ticket to cheer you up (did you see what I did there? 😀 ).

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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

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Note that Sincere Estates is rated Moderate.

A little Aqua Breeze in Second Life

Aqua Breeze: November 2020

I tend to be very cautious in reviewing regions that have rentals on them, mainly because I don’t like the idea of encouraging visits that may result in invasion of people’s home and privacy. It’s a difficult balancing act, as very often regions do pop-up that are given over to rental properties whilst also enticingly landscaped, but offer very limited public spaces – perhaps a landing point and paths around the region and between the various properties therein. These make it difficult to blog, because of the aforementioned concern over accidental trespass / unintended annoyance.

Some are easier  to blog, however, as they offer the minimum of rentals properties and enough open / public space to offer people the chance to explore without running the risk of encroaching on people’s privacy.

Aqua Breeze, November 2020

Aqua Breeze is one of the latter. Spread across the three islands that the region has been split into a total of seven rentals, offering plenty of space for roaming and photography. An eighth house is also to be found on the largest of the three islands, tucked into the south-east corner. We weren’t too sure if this was also private, as unlike the the actual rental houses, there was no sign at the top of the steps leading down to it – but we opted to treat it as private, in case it forms the home of the region’s owners.

These are Sunny (MinaNava), Christopher (Diafoirus) and Sunshiine (SummerSunshiine), who between them have also landscaped the region to present a rolling autumn setting  – although the About Land description warns of possible snow, so it is possible this may change in the near future.

Aqua Breeze, November 2020

The landing point is a stone bridge linking two of the islands. At the eastern end of this bridge is a little map of the islands, denoting the rental houses and the routes around them. However, the easiest way to discover the island’s secret is to follow the wooden board walks that wind their way over the grass of each island. Some branches of these do lead to the rental houses, but as noted above, a sign alongside the board walk will warn if you are about to trespass – aided by little picket fences on at least one side of each property, so it is hard to stray onto private land.

Scattered across the public spaces of the region are numerous places to appreciate the setting and enjoy yourself. Bicycles can be taken from the rezzer on the stone bridge for those who fancy a ride, and there are a number of places where a dance can be enjoyed. At the western end of the stone bridge is a little playground, together with a bubble rezzer for those who prefer an alternative to riding / walking.

Aqua Breeze, November 2020

Elsewhere, and awaiting discovery are little summer houses – one a possible venue for music events -, a greenhouse that has been converted into a café, picnic spots, and floating above one of the hills, a cuddle bubble, countered by a cuddle boat on the water, with decks extending out into the waters.

Enormous care has been taken to present the region as a natural setting, one tenants and visitors alike can appreciate and enjoy. Keep an eye out for the little details – such as the fox debated whether he should try one of the apples that have fallen in the orchard and the little wooden reindeer in the café, getting ready to celebrate the coming of winter.

Aqua Breeze, November 2020

Opportunities for photographs abound throughout the region – although do (again) keep in mind there are private houses scattered around the islands -, and Aqua Breeze makes for a charming, gentle visit.

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A Little Winter in Second Life

Little Winter, November 2020

Those who fancy a little touch of winter / seasonal cheer and snow but who don’t fancy exploring a full region, might want to drop in Little Winter, Terrygold’s look at the season for 2020.

Terry has been offering these little winter scenes at the end of the year in Second Life for the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed visiting them – although I will confess to missing her 2019 design.

Little Winter, November 2020

Located on a sky platform over Solo Arte, where Terrygold often displayed her art and immersive installations, Little Winter presents a simple, easy to appreciate outdoor setting that starts at a little chapel decorated with little stars, with an outhouse that might be the modern-day equivalent of a stable, housing as it does a tricycle and a motor scooter.

A path winds away from the chapel between shoulders and tables of rock and marked by silver birch trees, eventually arriving at a little cabin facing another barn. The cabin is cosy and warm, the barn a little grotto of waiting presents, guarded by large toy soldiers.

Little Winter, November 2020

Around these are lots of little details to be appreciated, from puppies playing with the reins of a sled to happy snowmen and strutting snow kiwis. As well as these, there are places to sit and cuddle, dances to be enjoyed and various opportunities for photography – or even to make a snow angel.

Watched over by deer, Little Winter is an easy to enjoy setting that doesn’t overly impact system performance or require a huge amount of time to explore and appreciate, making it a relaxing and engaging visit.

Little Winter, November 2020

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Let it Snow! 2020 in Second Life

Let It Snow!, November 2020

With winter on our doorstep, Milly Sharple has once again opened her annual Let It Snow! winter / Christmas themed region for Second Life residents to enjoy, and Caitlyn and I once again received an invitation – although I’m still playing a lot of catch-up on general blogging  due to the physical world occupying a lot of my time at the moment, so it has taken me a fair few days to get to the point of writing about it.

I’ve actually been covering Let It  Snow! on an annual basis since 2014, only stopping during the years Milly took a break from presenting the region, and have always enjoyed our little pilgrimages to see what seasonal delights Milly has served up – as an artist, she has an eye for framing photogenic series of vignettes across her chosen region, often with touches of whimsy design to bring smiles to the faces of those visiting.

Let It Snow!, November 2020

A  visit to the region starts on the north side, where a little village square awaits arrivals, a pavilion offering the warmth of an open fire, a gazebo a place for dancing and, for those seeking something a little warmer, a cosy cottage. Overlooked on one side by a large and warmly-furnished house atop a rocky table,the village is a short walk to a frozen pond ready for ice skaters.

Cut by channels of frozen water spanned by bridges, this year’s Let It Snow! follows Milly’s previous iterations of the region by presenting within its snow-covered landscape a series of interlinked vignettes and scenes, each of which stands on its own whilst also being linked to the rest of the region.

Let It Snow!, November 2020

To describe all of these settings here would be to spoil the opportunity for exploration and discovery, but there are various points within the region I found particularly attractive. Chief among these is the the manner in which Milly has combined The Chapel Ruins from The Looking Glass with pieces by Paco Pooley and Krystali Rabeni to create the site of a ruined chapel, complete with a stained glass window by Milly as a romantic setting with an ethereal edge to it.

Whimsy is added here and there, as with previous designs – such as the snowball-throwing snowman lurking under a tree, while seasonal touches come in the form of the decorations adorning the rooms of the large house, the lights hanging on the trees around the skating rink and so on.

Let It Snow!, November 2020

As well as ice skating, the region offers signs where sleds can be rezzed,  plenty of opportunities for dancing, and even the opportunity to play chess with a companion.

The best way to explore the region is to go where your feet will take you – there are no formal paths (just steps to get up to and down from he raised portions of the landscape). However, when visiting I do recommend you use the region’s environment settings to appreciate i to the fullest – and the sky dome Milly has placed over it – to the fullest.

Let It Snow!, November 2020

With plenty to see and do, and with lots of opportunities for photography, 2020’s let It Snow is as captivating to the eye as past iterations, and more than worth the time taken in a visit.

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The snows of Yukina in Second Life

Yukina, November 2020

Occupying half of a Full region, Yukina is the home of Namanax & Stella (Stella Mahogany), who is largely responsible for its design. Currently sitting within a winter setting, we were directed to it by Shawn Shakespeare, our resident region discoverer :).

The parcel runs north-south,  with the eastern side open to the sea, and the west boundary marked by high cliffs separating it from the neighbouring parcel.

Yukina, November 2020

The southern end of the land is a actually the private home of Stella and Namanax, and while protected by ban lines to prevent trespass, leaving the garden open, it might be a good idea to avoid straying beyond the gabled gates leading up to the house (complete with stone lions guarding the path), in order to avoid the flick-knife armed squirrel  patrols (you’ll have to visit and take a peek into the grounds of the house yo understand this comment 🙂 ).

The main house isn’t the only property on the parcel, however; the public area of the parcel are home to a number of houses and cabins large and small, including one particularly impressive structure rising from the small  lake in the middle of the landscape. All of these appear to be open to the public and are furnished, giving each of them a cosy feel.

Yukina, November 2020

The landing point sits on the east side of the parcel on the dock alongside a boathouse. From here visitors have a choice of routes for exploration, most laid out in the form of snowy tracks that wind their way out and around the houses and cabins. The way around is also marked by by the local wildlife within the parcel, which ranges from the aforementioned squirrels (which are in fact more interested in playing than carrying weapons of any description!) through rabbits, cats, puppies, chipmunks and – most notably reindeer.

All of this makes for a lot to see, from the comfort and warmth of the houses to the scenes along the tracks to the decks that sit alongside a number of the houses (and which offer places for visitors to sit).

Yukina, November 2020

There are also some nice scenic touches waiting to be found – the Christmas tree shop operated by some nattily dressed gnomes being one of the more obvious, although I liked the little hump backed bridge over the still-flowing stream that feeds the (otherwise frozen) lake.  And for those who like a little a little activity during their visits, the lake offers ice shaking;  just look for the sign on one of the tracks that loops by it.

Overall, the setting is well presented and makes for an engaging visit. However, there is a lot packed into this half region, including falling mesh snow (that actually invites itself into one of the houses, drifting through the roof!), all of which can make for heavy going in places due to the volume of mesh, so some might want to tweak their viewer to get the most comfortable level of performance.

Yukina, November 2020

But that said, Yukina offers a rewarding wintertime visit.

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  • Yukina (Cosa Nostra, rated Moderate)