Sunday, September 27, 2009

Orange Island - Thank You and Farewell!

As you've probably heard, Orange Island will be closing this week. This is a personal loss for me as I've spent many enjoyable hours there at workshops, events, showings and more. I've learned a lot, laughed a lot and got to know some really interesting people from all over the world.

The image at the top of this post is from their blog - if you go to that site and click on it you'll discover that it is a collage of photos from the two years that Orange Island has been operating.

The official closing party/session will be on Tuesday, September 29th at 11:00 am SLT in the lower plaza auditorium. Before they announce some of their learnings allow me to share what I think other organizations should learn from them.

  • Have a really good team. Orange's team of Fab Outlander, Eric Arkright, Sarn Aska, Nick Rhodes, Yesterday Demain, Natty Foggarty and Jade Lily is knowledgeable, friendly, multi-lingual, talented, helpful and incredibly fun. They have also been public, available and approachable.

  • Play well with others. Orange has had ongoing relationships with Metanomics, MadPea and Koinup that seem to have benefited all parties and provided value to us, the visitors, as well.

  • Reach out to the community. Orange was always soliciting input and ideas and welcoming the involvement of the community it wanted to support. Those efforts helped grow the community and created a sense of belonging.

  • Look outside your organization for talent and skills. Orange looked for creative people around SL and gave them a venue to share their knowledge with the rest of us. One of my favourite memories is the workshop that Raul Crimson did in the Photo Gallery on creating poses.

  • Have some class! I've never seen or heard of an instance when Orange took a shot at SL or anybody in it. They aren't leaving in a fog of acrimony and they haven't created any drama that I'm aware of.

I'm going to miss Orange Island and the people associated with it. I have very fond memories and I will cross my fingers and hope that they decide to return someday.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A (belated) Love Thursday

No matter what he does, Craig Ferguson makes me smile. Every now and then he does a musical intro to the show. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Von Johin Hiatus

Von has to take 3 weeks for himself in RL for business. So tonight on Muse Isle he did what will be his last concert for at least that long. He played for over 3 hours and was on fire. Over 40 of us lucky fans got to dance and laugh and wish him well. It was a very good time to be in SL. :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

The little orange balloon ......

I went to the Orange Island Photo Gallery party yesterday. If you read me occasionally you'll know I like to go to the photo workshops and exhibits there and was pleased to go the party celebrating the sessions and the presenters. The party was fun and crazy and weird. :) In the photo at the top you'll see Raul Crimson, Panteleimon Aeon and Natty Foggarty.

A part of the fun/insanity of the party was dodging Nick Rhodes' concrete balloons. One woman finally took to dancing with an umbrella over her head.

When I logged in this morning I discovered that Nick had sent me a balloon. Being the naive idiot I am, I rezzed it up in the tower and touched it. Well this one flies. In fact it flies so well I've been chasing the damn thing all over the island.

If you happen to be on Taylor Bay and you happen to see this little orange balloon.......Pop It! I will get even with him. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's All About Respect

This will be another "opinion" piece. And yes, since it is my blog, it will be my opinion. I suspect it will make me seem "old" or at least "old fashioned" but I can live with that. :)

One of the things I'm sure psychologists have a field day with in SL is our ability to create our own "look". Shape, skin, hair, eyes, fur, scales ...whatever we wish. The way we portray ourselves says a lot about what we think of ourselves now or how we wish we were. This breeds, among other things, a type of narcissism. Many residents become obsessed with appearance. You'll notice that we bloggers post a lot of photos of ourselves - mostly I think because we're happy with the way we look. My avatar is pretty close to the RL me in form but she is prettier, younger and has much better hair. :)

Another interesting thing about SL is that, in general, we identify with our avatars. We don't think "I'll just move my avatar over there". No, we think "I'll go over there." Because we do identify with them, the way we dress our avatars and the way we behave says a lot about the inner us.

A female avatar showed up on my island yesterday (my PG island) dressed in a cowboy hat, tight vest, boots, chaps and a g-string. That's right ... chaps and a g-string. I've thought about this a lot in the hours since and reached 3 possible conclusions:

  • She was a hooker looking for customers. Which would be pretty dumb on my island - I would expect her to have better business prospects in Zindra.
  • "She" is a man in real life with a female avatar. Now, a number of men I know do this and there's nothing wrong with it. But every now and then you see a female avatar that you're sure is not a female in real life. The physical proportions are too exaggerated and their clothes take skank to a whole new level. In this case, as in those, they are men who don't "like" women. Oh they want them - and they lust after them, but they don't "like" women and they certainly don't respect them.
  • The third possibility is that it's a woman in real life who doesn't respect herself. Hanging your vajajay out for the world to see while you're shopping is not a sign of high self esteem.

I've spoken before about the need every now and then to ask yourself what you would like to be "known for" in SL. Once you know that, you can make sure your behaviour supports your goal. I really don't believe any woman with self respect wants to be known in SL for the delicate shading of her vagina.

If you don't respect yourself then why would anybody else? So as a simple homework exercise - look at your avatar. Think about what you want others to see. If you don't see it - well, then maybe you need to reconsider some of your choices.

just saying.............

A Musical Mix - Niles Compton and Crap Mariner

I was listening/watching the tape of last night's episode of Paisley Beebe's television show, mostly because I wanted to hear Crap's segment about Tunes in SL. Along the way I enjoyed the segment about the book "The Unofficial Guide to Building Your Business in the Second Life Virtual World" and I'll look to buy a copy. Then, in the usual musical segment, Paisley introduced Niles Compton.

Well........I obviously don't get out enough because I had never heard of him. Niles is a country music singer and last night did a cover of Vince Gill's "If You Ever Have Forever in Mind". I was blown away. I even rewound and listened a few more times and I was still blown away. His smooth, polished and professional voice did more than justice to this bluesy country song. Niles is scheduled to be at the Gaslight on Sunday night at 8:00 pm SLT and I plan to go. You should too! If you don't believe me click on the link to last night's show and give a listen. And if anybody in Niles' camp is reading this - I think a YouTube video of him doing this song would be a really really good idea. :)

If you know Crap Mariner then you know he is has been working on the Tunes in SL project to support live music in SL. If you have heard him in "voice" then you know that when he cares about something he starts speaking fast. The more passionate he is the faster he speaks and he is very passionate about live music in SL. :)

I won't try and speak for Crap here. I will say that he is less than happy about the Linden Lab's efforts in the area of supporting live music. I will also make a suggestion to whichever TV show wishes to address the issue (Metanomics maybe?) that they host a discussion between Crap and a senior Linden. I say a "senior Linden" because it should be somebody with the authority to actually move forward on anything that is seen as a positive initiative. I've seen one sided monologues from both sides on this topic - would be nice to have them talk to each other. Now that would be "must see" TV. :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Heritage Key - a Field Trip

I love great builds - and as much as they might annoy me at times I really admire the Rezzables' work. I also find archeology and ancient buildings/artifacts/cultures fascinating so visiting Heritage Key was long overdue for me. Registration for the virtual world is free and easy. (And yes this is going to be another photo-heavy post ... think of it as slides from my vacation!)

If you have experience in Second Life you will find Heritage Key very familiar and getting oriented and set up was a breeze (nicely laid out as well). There are some really cool teleportation portals (Ok I'm a geek) and the one out of orientation takes you to what will be a full fledged shop.

You will be able to acquire points in a variety of ways and then you can redeem them for items here in the shop. It's still under construction but then so is most of the world. However, you can see the possibilities now. I went through the portal there and found myself in mid air contemplating a balloon ride. :)

Sitting in the balloon triggers the flight and it's fun to be flying over a map.

As you get closer to your destination various details emerge.

I loved the King Tut Virtual that the Rezzables had built in SL and wanted to go see what it looked like now. One of the new additions is a "game". You get your own pick and sites where you can dig for treasure.

Now this is the kind of hunt I can enjoy. :)

Back to King Tut - follow the footsteps to find the entrance to the tomb.

The tomb itself is very small but has some beautiful objects and wall paintings.

The audio information is fabulous. Just click on the appropriate button to receive it. A nice alternative are the links to text information that's available.

Climb back into the Valley of the Kings and look for the Teleportation Portal. It will take you to the museum.

The exhibits are beautifully displayed - seriously, I was very impressed.

Another teleport and I found myself in the (still under construction) "Life on the Nile" exhibit.

I have to admit that I got most excited about the possibilities of the "Life on the Nile" so when I gave them my feedback I included my wishlist:

  • Temple of Karnak
  • Temple of Athena Polias at Priene
  • Angkor Wat

And HELLO! what about the New World? Frankly they're a little Old World-centric (I'm including China in the Old World). I would like to be able to explore these sites as they would have been at their peak:

  • Canyon de Chelle
  • Machu Picchu
  • Chichen Itza
I'll definitely keep going back and I love the main site with the links to archeological news etc. The possibility of walking through ancient streets in various fabulous places of the world is exciting. I hope they build quickly! :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blue Mars - An Amateur's Guide

The open Beta Test of Blue Mars is supposed to begin 12:00 pm HST, September 2 (which should be 3:00 pm SLT). I was one of the hundreds (if not thousands) who participated in the closed Beta Test which ended August 31.

I had heard bits and pieces about Blue Mars and, months ago, when a call went out for Beta Testers I had signed up. I totally forgot about that until I got the email recently inviting me to go wander around and explore. I'm not sure what I expected. One of the reasons I went is that many comments about Blue Mars related to how it would do so many things better than Second Life. I wanted to see this for myself. :)

The "amateur" in the title of this post is me. I'm not a gaming expert (duh!). My experience with virtual worlds is limited to Second Life and the occasional brief foray into some others. I have never played World of Warcraft or any other shoot'em up online game. In fact I've never played a video game (unless Bingo counts). I say all this because, of course, my background colours my view of what I saw. Many of the things I encountered are probably considered "normal" to those with experience in gaming. If, like me, your experience is limited primarily to Second Life then these notes might help you when you go visit Blue Mars. And I do encourage you to go visit. I'll try to limit my "opinions" about what I saw to a small section at the end of this post.

The pictures I've included were actually screen shots. If there's a way to take snapshots inworld I never found it. The rectangular shape of the inworld pics is due to the fact that it isn't (at least yet) full screen.

Let me start with an overview - and again, I'll relate points where possible to what we're familiar with in SL.

  • Blue Mars is composed of "Cities" which would be the approximate equivalent of a continent in SL. The "City" is owned and developed by somebody willing to pay Blue Mars for that privilege. I don't know the price - you have to register as a developer (free to do) and then contact the company to find out. I assume that the pricing will be made public after the beta period.

    To quote the Blue Mars FAQ:

    A City is a themed location where users can play, socialize, and learn. Each city is represented by an independent data and rule set. Each city owner defines the look and feel of their location and sets the rules on what content is acceptable in their city. Cities are tied together by a central city browser that lets players move from place to place. Furthermore, our global participation based reward system allows players to earn points and rewards by exploring and playing in different cities.

    Once the owner has created their City they can (if they wish) then lease "Blocks" (like our regions but the size is about 62,500 sq m.) to other people. Those "Block Developers" can create and (if they wish) then rent out apartments, shops etc., to others. Content Developers can put their own items or services in shops for sale.

  • There are no inworld building tools. Anybody can build (they emphasize) but you must do it offline.

    Again, to quote the FAQ:

    The core Blue Mars client and interface is focused on enjoying the world through play and interaction, not content creation. Rather than force developers to learn new ways to create content through our own proprietary toolset, we support industry standard content creation tools like 3DSMax, Maya, and Flash.

  • I'm sure you've heard how great the graphics are - and they are very nice. A lot will depend on what the individual City and Block developers do. One thing that is terrific is that there is no waiting for anything to rez - this is because the City is downloaded on to your computer.

  • I'm trying not to judge the place based on SL so I'll just say be prepared: there is no flying, teleporting exists only in one City I visited and it was - let's say - limited. Walking is done by clicking the ground in front of your avatar. A white cone appears and the avatar walks to it. If you click the ground beyond a certain distance the avatar will start running. I did discover that at some point during all that clicking and walking the up arrow finally worked and cones started appearing automatically and your avatar kept going.

  • If you change the direction your avatar is walking (again by clicking on the ground in the direction you want it to go) your avatar will move in that direction but your perspective will not change. For example, you decide to make your avatar turn left and proceed in that direction. It will do so, and walk from right to left across your screen. I met somebody who had figured out how to change perspective - right click and use your cursor to cam around. Write that down - because you're going to need it. :)

  • Do not expect to recreate your SL avatar in Blue Mars - at least not initially. The ability to modify your avatar's appearance is very limited. I'm sure that will change - this is still beta.

  • There are question marks on the screen - if you click them you will get packaged help information that may assist you with whatever you're trying to do.

The first thing you have to do is register (easy) and then you download Blue Mars. There were the usual three options (complete, minimal and custom). Again I'm used to downloading Second Life so I picked "complete". I have a 100 mbps connection (although I won't claim the transfer rate is that high) and it took 2.5 hours to download what turned out to be 1.33 gigs. Others I spoke to had download times ranging from 1.5 to 5 hours. What I had on my computer were 4 different "Cities" (I believe there are 5 in the open Beta). I'll talk about them as I walk you through the actual Blue Mars "experience". :)

When you logon you arrive at the main "Central City Browser". In essence billboards which each depict a separate City. You click on the City you want and are transported there. I believe that billboards of all of the Cities will be there even if you don't have them on your hard drive. I don't know what will happen if you choose one you haven't yet downloaded - I assume you would then get the option to do so.

Being fond of landscapes and nature, the first City I chose to visit was the "Waterfall".

I'm sure it's beautiful but I never got much further than the landing point. It turns out it's a timed "game" where you fly around in a type of vehicle. Remember I've never done video games. I did (on my fifth visit) finally get the craft off of the ground and through that ring ....then promptly crashed into the water and gave up. So I went back "home" and picked "Beach City" next.

I walked around for a while - it's very large when you can't fly. But it looks good. I sat down and had a conversation with two nice gentlemen (one of whom had figured out the way to change your perspective). What you can't tell from here is that whoever had done the animations for the chairs went a little overboard. The three of us looked like we really needed to go to the bathroom. :)

I decided not to try to play golf - I was still sore from crashing my plane. So I went to New Venice.

This is a very pretty place even though it was still under construction.

I decided to experiment with the camera while I was here. You'll notice the open menu on the bottom left of the picture - the four "head and shoulders" are the options for your camera. In these two shots I'm using the farthest distance camera option. (Note that the menu has been redesigned and a new "Menu Tray" is operational in the open Beta Test.) I really wanted to try and look close up to something so I walked right up to a pot of flowers.

Then I changed my camera position to the avatar's perspective and got this:

Using the right click/cursor will allow you to swing your camera around but the distance you can move it is very limited.

I'll give you a few conclusions I've reached - remembering this was an early beta, but I think the basic architecture will remain the same.

  • I suspect that each "City" might wind up being a "virtual world". I think users will pick and choose what they will download and that will limit their ability to move around the Blue Mars Universe. Update: To be more explicit - there were a lot of questions about what Blue Mars was ..... a virtual world? a gaming platform? My conclusion is that Blue Mars is a host. It provides some very basic infrastructure but the City Developers will create worlds, online games etc., and set the rules for content and behaviour.

    I have this image in my mind of City Developers standing at the initial login site yelling "pick me". Early adopters will have an easier time getting users to at least test their Cities. Once there is a lot of choice it will be harder and harder to get noticed.

    City and Block Developers will have to provide enough content to attract and keep enough residents to create a community with a viable economy from a Shop Owner's perspective. It will be interesting to see how that works.

  • There is no suggestion of what the maximum concurrency might be in each City but I have trouble imagining hundreds of people at a concert or lecture. Not because the technology couldn't handle it but because you wouldn't be able to see anything. The combination of very very limited camera functionality and all those chat bubbles would make it a less than enjoyable experience. (Just my opinion of course.)

  • There are lots of reasons I love Second Life but the ability to build is number one. I realize that much of what we do is done offline (textures, skins, clothing) but the ability to create objects is something I find impossible to imagine doing without. Until I have decided to learn Maya or 3DS Max (which might happen...someday... maybe) I won't be living in Blue Mars. I will probably go visit, because I expect there will be some extraordinary builds, but I will continue to live in Second Life.

There are a lot of things I haven't said about my opinion of Blue Mars. I really think you should go see it for yourselves and reach your own conclusions.