Update, 11:23 SLT, Wednesday, December 14th: The mirror sites are now available – the links are available here.
On Tuesday, December 13th, Firestorm released the much-anticipated Bento update, Firestorm 5.0.1 – which you can read about here.
HOWEVER, such has been the demand for the update, the Firestorm servers have been overloaded, a situation which has left Firestorm without the ability to provide their download and web services.
“This is an unprecedented situation for us,” Jessica Lyon, the Firestorm project lead informed me. “While we have had download problems in the past, we’ve never seen demand on this scale before. It’s repeatedly taken all our servers off-line with the load.”
Because of the demand is preventing people from even accessing the Firestorm web services – the blog, JIRA, etc., – the Firestorm team is asking that people hold-off if they cannot obtain a download or access the Firestorm website, and not to keep repeatedly trying.
Jessica added, “Please, just be patient. Our servers need the breathing space. We are working on adding additional capacity to meet the demand trough mirror sites, but this does take time. When we have these up and running, we’ll let people know through the in-world Firestorm support groups and social media.”
In the meantime, and in an attempt to alleviate the lack of downloads, some people have placed the Firestorm 5.0.1 installers on cloud servers, dropboxes, and other network file sources. While the effort to help meet the download demand is appreciated, the Firestorm team ask that people do not do this, but to wait until Firestorm’s own mirrors are up and running.
“With the best will in the world, not all networked download sites are secure, and there is a chance that by going to some, users could inadvertently expose themselves to the risk of viruses or Trojans,” Jessica said. “At the end of the day, we can only guarantee our download service and its mirrors are secure, and we’d prefer that people wait a little while, rather than expose themselves to any such risk.
“Again, we will notify people via the in-world support groups as the situation improves, and also via Twitter and any other medium we can use.”
On Monday, July 18th, Seanchai Library and the Firestorm team announced a joint venture which will see Voice-based activities take place on the Firestorm Gateway regions as a further step in helping incoming new users understand the breadth and depth of opportunities and activities within the platform.
The new partnership will see the first Voice-based event lead by Seanchai Library take place on August 7th, 2016, when the Firestorm Social Island will be host to the Storyteller’s Sandbox series. Launched during Seanchai Library’s highly successful Crazy Eights season at the Linden Endowment for the Arts, Storyteller’s Sandbox provides a forum for new stories, new storytellers, and new ways to present them.
For this inaugural event at Firestorm Social island, veteran Second Life storytellers including Caledonia Skytower, Dubhna Rhiadra and Shandon Loring will be joining forces with voice talents such as Bryn Taleweaver and Hana Hoo, who have only more recently joined the ranks of Second Life storytellers. Together, they will present a mix of original tales and short stories in a showcase of live virtual storytelling.
“We have been brainstorming for a home for this event ever since we closed Crazy Eights,” said Seanchai Lead Caledonia Skytower, announcing the new partnership. “It is a great forum for introducing new voices to the virtual spoken story community. It also provides more experienced voices a chance to explore the incredible possibilities for immersion in a virtual performance experience. Sets, avatars, effects – there is excellent work being done in all these areas, both from the story-initiated creators, and by visual artists sharing the narratives of their work.”
The new initiative came about as a result of discussions between Caledonia Skytower, another veteran of storytelling in Second Life, R. Crap Mariner – host of the web-based 100 Word Stories Podcast series and Firestorm Project Director Jessica Lyon.
“I heard Jessica Lyon in an interview at the 13th Second Life Birthday, and she called for performers and events at Firestorm’s Community Gateway,” Crap explained. “She even invited me to perform there, but my material doesn’t quite fit the G-rating of their regions. I turned to my friend Caledonia Skytower and suggested that we put together a greater Spoken Word Project. We both look forward to bringing workshops and other events that will introduce the new users to spoken word, and introduce spoken word communities to new audiences, members, and participants.”
The Firestorm Community Gateway user base poses a new challenge for the Seanchai storytellers. Most of the audiences they perform before are established Second Life users who are both comfortable with using SL Voice and familiar enough with its foibles to deal with the frustrations it can create. “Firestorm Community Gateway introduces hundreds of new and inexperienced users to Second Life,” Caledonia said. “We’ll find ways to leverage the power of Second Life and the skill of the ever-present and patient Firestorm Support Staff to quickly diagnose and assist these users with Voice so they can enjoy these performances as part of their early Second Life experience.”
For her part, Jessica Lyon sees the new partnership as a further significant step forward for the Firestorm Gateway project. “We really want to expose new residents to the broad possibilities of all they can be involved with in Second Life: music, role play, art. Of course, spoken word is a part of that,” she said. “Crap and Caledonia complement one another’s skills and are so well-connected in their community. They are the perfect team to be leading this. “I am really excited about what Seanchai Library can bring to our Gateway.”
As well as the Storyteller’s Sandbox series, plans for additional events focused on poetry, writing, and other spoken word and literature opportunities are in development, and I hope to cover all of the activities within this partnership through the pages of this blog.
For those interested in live storytelling can also attend Seanchai Library’s weekly series of events on the Bradley University region and through their website and /or my weekly Seanchai library updates. R. Crap Mariner will continue to produce his daily 100 Word Stories Podcast (link above)and conduct readings in-world at his Clocktree Reading Room.
Firestorm have announced that as from Thursday, January 7th, Firestorm viewer 4.7.1 is to be blocked from accessing Second Life, and those using 4.7.1 are being encouraged to update to a more recent version (or revert to 4.6.9 for the time being if using Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.6) ahead of the block coming into force.
The move is in keeping with Firestorm’s commitment to Linden Lab to only have 3 versions of their viewer (allowing for specific issues which might otherwise come us, as has been the case for Mac users, who have had to face a series of (apparently) Cocoa related issues impacting their ability to use viewers incorporating these updates) active at any given time.
As noted in the announcement, this means that only Firestorm 4.6.9 will remain available for those still using Windows XP or versions of OS X older than 10.7, and this will be blocked some time after the next release of Firestom, which currently looks to be set for some time in February.
Update #3, January 9th, 2016: The testimonials on the landing pages have now been updated with genuine comments and images from Second Life users.
Update #2: I’ve further been informed that the testimonials are intended to the express the sentiments of SL users and are based upon feedback. expressed by SL users. Similarly, the images are in fact stock Internet images. A footnote to the effect that “The consumers above are not actual consumers of the advertised product.” has now been added to each of the landing pages.
Update #1: I’ve been informed by various third parties that the testimonials on the landing pages may not in fact be genuine. I’ve therefore revised this post until I hear further on this matter.
On Monday, December 28th, Friestorm announced the arrival of their Gateway landing pages, and asked Firestom users for their assistance in helping to spread the word about Second Life.
The Landing pages are an integral part of the Firestorm Gateway, which itself forms a part of the upcoming trail Gateways Programme I previewed back in September, and which hopefully will be officially announced as up and running by the Lab in the near future.
In all, six landing pages have been produced, each one of which is intended to showcase a specific aspect of using Second Life, and encourage those new to Second Life to sign-up and log in to the platform. To help with this, Firestorm is asking SL users to share those pages they feel their non-SL friends and contacts would find to be of the most interest and thus sign-up. The six pages have the following topic descriptions:
While one might quibble over the subject titles (role-play and exploring might seem to exhibit a high degree of cross-over, for example), the pages themselves offer a crisp, clean approach to present Second Life, including endorsements from (and photos of) actual SL users.
Each of the pages includes a series of sign-up buttons which carry those interested to the initial phase of sign-up: creating an account – providing a user name, etc.
It’s probably worth pointing out here, and before the conspiracy theorists reach for their tin-foil hats, that this sign-up process uses an API supplied by Linden Lab. This means that, just like all third-party TPVs, none of the gateways in the programme – Firestorm or anyone else – is storing or accessing the sign-up information a new user provides. The information is strictly between the user and the Lab. The only part of the sign-up information which can be accessed is the e-mail address: and that only for as long as it takes for an automated welcoming e-mail to be sent.
Providing the fields are correctly filled-out – error messages will be displayed at the foot of the input fields, although you may have to use the vertical slider to bring them into view thanks to the API – clicking Get Started will move you on to the next page, intended to step the user through downloading, installing and launching the viewer.
To me, this page presents some issues which perhaps need to be dealt with if it is to be as effective as might be hoped – I’ll come back to this a little later.
One thing established SL users are bound to note is that nowhere is there any opportunity for the new user to select an avatar.
This isn’t an oversight on the part of the Firestorm team – it is a result of having to use the “old” user sign-up API, which doesn’t have any hooks into the Avatar Picker seen on the Lab’s own sign-up pages. Thus, the first opportunity new users get to picker the gender of their avatar is after they have logged-in – and even then, they only initially get either the male or female default Character Test avatars which (a long while ago) replaced the infamous “Ruth”.
Obviously, this is far from ideal. First impressions count, and many people seeing their avatar for the first time and comparing it to the glossy images on the landing pages could end up feeling a tad bit aggrieved or disappointed and might even simply log off.
This issue has already been raised with the Lab, so hopefully, something can be done about it, either by providing the updated API with the avatar picker to those involved in the gateway programme, or by the Lab finding the means to present new users coming into SL via these gateways with at least one of the new “Classic” avatars instead of the Character Test versions.
Once they have selected their gender and have seen their avatar appear, the new user will find they’re starting at the start of the Firestorm’s orientation island, where they can start learning to use the viewer, before progressing on to finding out more about Second life in general through the various activities and events operating within the Firestorm gateway regions.
Given that new users are confronted with the Character Test avatars on first logging in (and allowing for the fact this will hopefully be changing), I did find myself wondering if a short lesson couldn’t be provided showing the new user how to access the Avatar Picker and quickly create an alternative look, just to reassure them that avatars in SL really don’t all look like they first see themselves.
Saturday, December 19th, 2015 marks Firestorm viewer’s official 2015 Christmas Party, and with it comes the opening of The Ghost Town, the first in a series of free-to-play games developed by MadPea Games. These games are intened to give new residents coming through the Firestorm Gateway a means to become more familiar with Second Life through active game play.
The Christmas party will kick-off at 14:00 SLT, which will also see The Ghost Town open its gates to players, features entertainment from Mankind Tracer, Changhigh Trinity Sisters Fireshow and DJs. The entertainments area has been arranged so that around 200 people should hopefully be able to access the party, with three points of entry provided: Region 1, Region 2, and Region 3.
The Ghost Town sees players tasked with investigating the recent disappearance of local fisherman Big Jimmy. Guided by his journal and equipped with a special camera, players follow the clues left by a mind gone mad and discover the terrible truth behind Big Jimmy’s recent activities.
“New residents who stay and play in our virtual world are essential to the continued success of our grid,” MadPea say of The Ghost Town. “Whilst Linden Lab continue to work to attract new residents once they join and enter the world, we will be doing our part to ensure that they realise the rich, user-created content that is on offer. We hope that by playing our games new residents will learn skills that will help them over the steep SL learning curve while having some fun and collecting some prizes.”
As with all MadPea games, The Ghost Town is HUD-driven, and as with their most recent games, utilises experience keys to make game play easier. Gameplay takes place within the Firestorm Gateway regions, where they have to collect the images of 20 “ghosts” using the camera (HUD). Once all 20 have been imaged, players are eligible to claim their prizes.
The prizes on offer have been selected on the basis of being of value to new users and helping them enhance their Second Life experience. They have been provided by creators representing the rich choice of content available in Second Life: abranimations®, Apple Fall,, Black Pearls, Bryn Oh, Cheeky Pea, Deadwool, Elikatira, junk. Lapointe and Bastchild, Lilith’s Den, Plastik, Pose O’Clock, Sn@tch, Snowpaws, The Little Bat, TrAsHeD, United Color, WarBug and zombie suicide. The MadPea and Firestorm teams both extend their thanks to all of those who came forward with the offer of prizes.
New players will be drawn into the Firestorm gateway through a series of dedicated web landing pages that are in developments (Linden Lab, and quite separately to the gateway trial programme, also use targeted landing pages to attract new users from specific audiences, so it is an approach which seems to yield results). Obviously, existing users are also able to play the game – hence the launch alongside the Firestorm Christmas party.
So, if you’re in the mood for a party, and fancy a spooky new game – hop over to the Firestorm Gateway regions using the region links towards the top of this piece.
During the recent soft launch of the Firestorm Gateway, I reported on the news that MadPea would be joining the Firestorm team as a partner, providing free-to-play games in order to help new users engage with Second Life.
These games are intended to be Experiences-led, and demonstrate some of the many activities those new to Second Life can expect to find in-world, as then learn to find their way around – thus fitting in with the overall thrust of the Firestorm Gateway regions, which offer a range of activities and attractions for incoming new users, as will as practical guidance and support for understanding the viewer and getting to grips with general interactions, etc.
The MadPea team have now announced the first of these games will be launching on December 19th, 2015. Called The Ghost Town. It will see players tasked with investigating the recent disappearance of local fisherman Big Jimmy. Guided by his journal and equipped with a special camera, players follow the clues left by a mind gone mad and discover the terrible truth behind Big Jimmy’s recent activities. One they have completed the game, player will be rewarded with prizes.
It is with regards to the latter point that MadPea are seeking the support of 20 Second Life Creators, as the official blog post from the team explains:
We’re looking for 20 stores to collaborate with us by providing a themed prize for the players. In return your brand and prizes will be promoted by both MadPea and Firestorm and you’ll be potentially promoting yourselves to your customers of the future before anyone else.
In particular, MadPea are looking for prizes which will help new users practically enhance their Second Life experience, and so are particularly hoping to hear from creators of wearable items such as skins, mesh body parts and accessories, hair, clothing, avatar accessories, pets, wearable vehicles, companions, AOs etc.
Creators wishing to indicate their willingness to be involved in the game and offer prizes should complete in full The Ghost Townprize donation application form, and to do so no later than Saturday, December 12th. Those stores / creators selected by the team will be contacted directly shortly thereafter with information on how to proceed.
In the meantime, if you require more information about becoming a vendor, please contact Tichelle Teebrook in world. For more information about MadPea in general, or their collaboration with the Firestorm team, please contact Kess Crystal in world, or via kess-at-madpeagames.com.