Looking at Virtual Harlem

This week’s Virtual Artists Alliance PhotoHunt was in Virtual Harlem. Predictably enough :) I used myself as a prop:

PhotoHunt shot from Virtual Harlem

That’s me, in the lovely dawn light, outside the virtual Cotton Club. Virtual Harlem (on the Second Life region of the same name) is as far as I can tell more a museum and educational thing than an operating living place (the thing with the words on it in the lower mid-right of the picture is a floating historical sign, and the trolley that goes around the place speaks a perpetual guided tour), but it has a few scenic spots, including the Cotton Club, the Apollo, the Savoy, and some nice residential streets.

Here’s the Photohunt page on VirtualArtPedia (which is worth sniffing around on). Note that I think the start time listed on that page may be wrong; SL residents interested in taking part in the Photohunt should join the Virtual Artist Alliance group in SL, and check out the Notices. (The VAA was one of the first groups I joined in SL, and I think I was one of the first people to join it; I should tell that story sometime!)

My submission didn’t win (or place, or show) this week, but I’m pretty used to not winning VAA things; my tastes and those of the voters seem to be pretty different! (I did really like the picture that came in second in the PhotoHunt this week. Not that the 1st and 3rd place ones were bad, they just weren’t the ones that I liked the best.)

Speaking of which :) here’s the VAA posting about the 24 Challenge that I talked about here the other day, including nice pictures of all the entries.

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TEAR DOWN THE WALL!!!

It’s sort of silly to be recommending something after it’s over, but WTH it’s my weblog, I can do whatever springs to fingers.

TEAR DOWN THE WALL!!!!

The other evening Phinn IM’d me to remind me that I kept saying I wanted to see the very notable “The Wall V-2” and well hey it was the last night so it was now or never, so I made room in my Busy Social Calendar and I went and it was really amazing and memorable and afterwards they invited us all to go up and dance on the fragments of the wall so there I am up there doing that.

Pretty neat, eh? :)

The whole thing was very very well done and highly effective. Lots of great scripted events, like shattering glass, entire-stage color changes (except, mostly, for The Wall itself, which sat there grey and graffiti covered and ominous), moving spotlights, character puppets, mostly sinister, that I couldn’t tell if someone was wearing or if they were being operated or scripted or what, costumed dancers, and generally all sorts of things. As well as disturbingly relevant Dubya voiceovers scattered through the soundtrack.

Good performances in SL are just wonderful. Visual / audible / mental / social delights, and all from the comfort of one’s easychair. A good RL event involves vastly more sensory input and “realness”; but it’s also vastly harder to get to, and in many ways vastly more limited. I say profoundly. :)

Vanity, thy name is Dale

Second Life Profile Pic, 2008/08/24
New profile pic, woot!

See botgirl wondering why we allatime post pictures of ourselves to flickr; in this case it was (obviously) that I happened to cam around so I was looking at Girl Dale from the front while wearing this hair and skin, and I thought “this beauty must be shared with the world!”. (And I meant to airbrush out that place where a piece of her hair sticks through her shoulder; darn.)

Girl Dale’s hair from ETD (Rachel), skin from Celestial Studios (Charmed: Rubies, I forget the shade number). Necklace is Miriel’s “Luna” in silver, earrings from somewhere or other, tanktop from the Subclub at PIER. (That’s “submarine club”, you filthy perverts. For the other kind of sub club I usually go to Twisted Orchid, although I admit I haven’t done extensive comparison shopping.)

Boy Dale is in the usual Naughty Designs Gabriel (Early Tan, Shaven) skin, and Diversity Hair. He’s now got one other skin and one other hair that he likes; I should take a picture in those sometime. Nice fishnet top and ankh pendant from I forget where.

Ownership in Entropia Universe

This is going to be mostly a boring dry post looking at the stuff from the Owners and Holders post, only in the context of Entropia Universe. (I haven’t tried EU yet myself, but I had a long conversation with a long-time player about this stuff and more.)

But before I write down that stuff, mostly for my own record keeping and cogitating purposes, I want to just sort of generally bring Entropia Universe to your attention. I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to it, assuming it was just sort of yet another Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game thing, like WoW only with space stations instead of castles or whatever. But after talking to my EU contact (who is, he says, one of the leading miners in the game), it seems like it has some bizarrely different aspects.

In particular, it seems to be tied into real-world money considerably more tightly than even Second Life. The unit of currency (the unfortunately named PED, for “Project Entropia Dollar”) is officially pegged to the US dollar, at 10 PED to the US$. Just playing the game is free. But (according to my source) what you can do for free is actually pretty boring, and you’re going to get envious of all the people going around doing the interesting things, and rather than patiently gathering zebra sweat or whatever for months to get cool things that way, you’re going to buy some PED with RL money and continue from there. Which isn’t really all that different from SL (although these days there’s an awful lot of non-boring stuff that you can do in SL without buying any Lindens with RL money).

But since EU is an RPG rather than an open-ended world, there are lots of funny implications of this. My source says that for instance there are only about 30 or 40 of the most powerful healing device in EU, everyone knows who currently owns them, and on the rare occasion that one becomes available it will sell for like ten or fifteen thousand US dollars.

Ten or fifteen thousand US dollars.

For a really good virtual first aid kit.

This boggled me, and although I believe my source is honest, another part of my brain thinks there must be something else going on here. I asked why anyone would spend thousands of real dollars for a virtual first aid kit, and he said that it’s actually a good investment, because having one of those can make the difference between losing and winning when battling one of the huger monsters in the game, and defeating one of those huger monsters can get you some really good stuff, which you can then sell to other people for lots of real-world money, more than recouping your investment in the healing kit. Of course then we have to wonder why those people are willing to spend all that money for those things. Where exactly is the value-add that makes this not be a case of people taking in each other’s virtual washing? (And paying money to the owners of EU when their laundry baskets need maintenance.)

Why, for instance, did someone reportedly pay 100,000 US dollars for rights to the asteroid orbiting Entropia? How is the value of that so much more than the value of any of (say) the asteroid or space-themed or dragon-themed locations in Second Life, which would (I think!) have cost to much less to control? (The Wikipedia article linked there has good information relevant to this and other questions, and is worth a read.)

But anyway! Mostly I want to write down what my source said about the ownership model, before I forget.

Items are type-based, as in WoW; every vial of zebra sweat is like every other one. There isn’t much in the way of user-created content, except in the sense that one can attach items to other items in order to make them more powerful. (I may have forgotten to mention that WoW has this also; some of the higher-level items have “sockets” into which various other items can be inserted to boost their powers.) Every item is owned by a particular person at any time (he says that people often wish that items could be owned / controlled / shared by groups, but they can’t). Any object can be traded to another player using a trade dialog that I imagine is similar to WoW’s (and Everquest’s and…). Objects can also be sold to vendor terminals or whatever they’re called, for a standard price, as in WoW.

There is no concept of loaning an item in the game mechanics; if you give something to someone else, they own it. Unlike SL or WoW, there’s a limited mechanism for theft: if say you’re in a specially-designated PvP combat area, and you do some mining there and find some “stackable items” (things like bits of copper ore I expect), and then someone attacks and defeats you, they can loot those stackable items from you (but not the rest of your stuff).

So, in SL terms, everything is nocopy nomod transfer, except for the ability to attach things to each other for enhancement purposes, and there’s the interesting addition of very limited player-looting.

I have no doubt got some of the details wrong here, or failed to ask some important questions, so anyone who knows more about this aspect of Entropia Universe (or the aspects that I started out this post with, or anything else) is more than welcome to comment and correct or expand on this.

Free Lindens!

(The title is a Clever Play on Words, exploiting the ambiguity between “Lindens” as a nickname for the currency of Second Life (actually “Linden Dollars” or something), and “Lindens” as the AVs with a last name of “Linden”, who sort of run the place. Droll, eh?)

In some random Group IM the other day someone mentioned having heard something from a Linden, and someone else expressed amazement that a Linden had actually talked to someone, and said “are they still even on the grid?”.

The answer is yes! Lindens are all over the grid, and while they’re often invisible and/or very busy (as when they’re fiddling around trying to keep things working, or fix problems, or investigate griefing complaints), there are also times when they’re just sitting around waiting for Residents to wander over and say Hi and talk about stuff. Some of these times are official Office Hours, lots of which are listed on the Wiki page of the same name.

So here I am at an Office Hours, hobnobbing with the Gods:

At Whump Linden's Office Hours

That’s Leyla Linden (the girl with the enthusiastic hair) and Whump Linden (the lil cyborg) in the foreground, and some boy’s back and me (the redhead in the center), at Whump’s Office Hours yesterday.

Office Hourses vary wildly in style, scope, crowdedness, and interest. Anyone looking at the transcript of the session pictured here might conclude that we spent an hour on saying Hi, engaging in pointless chatter, and exchanging about eight sentences of actual information. They would be entirely correct. :) I missed Zero Linden’s office hours on Tuesday, and in looking at the transcript afterward, I was glad I did: fifty-five minutes of saying Hi and making silly jokes about obscure computer languages, and maybe five minutes of actual substance.

On the other hand some other Zero and Whump office hours have actually delved rather deep into actual technical and design and architecture topics, the last Blue Linden office hours that I was at had lots of interesting discussion about Main Grid and Teen Grid issues, and once when I went to a Kate Linden office hours I was the only one there, and we spent awhile (I didn’t try to keep her for a whole hour) talking about Second Life in general, what it’s like to be a Linden, and so on. That was great fun.

So Lindens are out there, and they’re approachable and free. Go to an office hours and grab one for yourself today!

24 prims, 24 hours

The Virtual Artist Alliiance had a 24-hour challenge, in which each artist had 24 hours to build a work of no more than 24 prims, based on a haiku: “Further up the stream / some children very busy / paper boats pass by”.

VAA 24-hour challenge, Dale Innis

This is my entry. It didn’t win, but I like it alot! The suggestion to use a simple childlike theme, and to have some of the boats be kites, were from Michelle, to whom this piece owes alot.

(This is one of my first artworks in SL that don’t include either a script or a particle system. You can’t really tell from this static flat shot, but the paper-boat kites are sticking out into the air at various angles. Note that one kite-flyer is apparently standing a bit apart from the others, and has a different-colored boat.)

Now we will walk around and look at some of the others! Jeannie Nishi’s piece was right next to mine:

VAA 24-hour challenge, Jeanni Nishi

I liked it alot; I think I probably voted for it even. :) Note that there’s a poseball in the piece, so you can sit in it and become part of the work. I love that idea, and was considering it for mine. (Since this one was right nextdoor, I think I’m glad I decided not to do that!)

Also next to mine was Senka Beck’s (I remembered to turn Midnight on for hers, as I really ought to have done for all the others):

VAA 24-hour challenge, Senka Beck

It’s very very pretty, radiating simplicity and a kind of purity while also (unlike mine!) being high-quality workmanship. Note the starry particles (which were stationary in the work; I really need to sit down long enough to figure out how to do that with particles!).

One of my other favorites was Juanita Deharo’s, over on the other side of the area:

VAA 24-hour challenge, Juanita Deharo

I thought it was wonderful and funny! The boat there moves across the sand, between all the staring naked people (it’s a rotating mostly-transparent texture). The source of the boat is revealed in the next snapshot, taken from around the back:

VAA 24-hour challenge, Juanita Deharo (back)

The boats turn out to be coming from this boy, who is presumably further up the stream from the staring naked people. Is he smiling just because he’s happy to be making the boats, or because he’s imaging the discomfiture (or is it amusement?) of the naked people on the beach?

None of these pieces won the challenge, although I liked them better than any of the pieces that did win. The winners were chosen by voting among whoever chose to show up and vote, and that can of course produce… odd results. :)

I hear a rumor that there may be a “Judges’ Choice” award also, based on the opinions of a particular known group of people. The outcome should be interesting if so.

SL Name Watch

Here’s a random little fun site o’ the day: slnamewatch dot com uses the Second Life API (or screen-scraping or something; I don’t know!) to keep track of the list of last names that are available to new Second Life residents. You can also sign up (via a Google Group) to get notified (at most once a week) when new names are added to the list, and you can look at a report for a particular last name (like say Innis) about how many people with that name there are, when that name was last available, and so on.

The main use of this is clearly ego-surfing. :) I’ve also signed up for the group (we’ll see how long I stay signed up), in hopes that if they ever make my RL last name available (which is entirely possible although it hasn’t happened yet) I’ll see the notification and have at least a tiny chance of swooping in in time to get an alt with my RL name (how cool would that be?).

(Although there are like four thousand Innises among the current Residents, I only really know one other one, and she mostly only contacts me to borrow money. Which reminds me…)