My Virtual World avatar is now A TEENAGER!

On Sunday my Virtual world persona reached the scary age of thirteen, and so came an onslaught of well intended friendly advise about puberty… all over again .

It’s now been one year since i made the switch to an all mesh Bento avatar in Second Life and during that year i have steadily made new outfits and accessories for it.

This time last year i was excited about Animesh and it’s still not released. Linden lab were always sloooowwww, but not in Sansar it would appear.

During the year i managed to port my Loki Mesh avatar to Sansar, all be it, on the back of a robot. I got a few cheers for that fact i look exactly like i do in Second Life, but then that was one of the aims when spending 2017 creating the Mesh Loki, the ability to platform hop.

Things are not feeling great in Second Life at the moment. My optimism is working hard to outweigh my lack of confidence. I finally started the much needed rebuild of Escapades Island drawing from the past few years experiences building at Fantasy Faire and all i’ve learnt about Experience Keys. But in the end Escapades Island will only survive if others deem it worth calling home and handing over cash to pay the tier.

My work in creating avatars and accessories hasn’t been as successful as i’d liked. My biggest issue has been a reluctance to list things on marketplace. I keep finding excuses to delay having to type out all that crap.

So my fourteenth year could be the make of break year for me. I don’t know if Escapades will survive and i don’t know if i can sustain anything anymore.

But then i am thirteen now, perhaps i am just suffering teen angst.

It’s time to change things

All this talk of VR and Sansar could lead you to believe i don’t do anything anymore in the biggest user created Virtual World.

Following Fantasy Faire i’ve been slowly building up accessories for my Kid avatar range, built a new mega store and created BMX bikes. I scanned in some old shoes that seemed to be perfect for Second Life Kids and once i feel ready i plan to promote my Avatar range properly. Before that though i need to deal with the Escapades Island Issue.

About a year ago i sat down with some of the Islands plot renters/owners and discussed possible ways to breath new life into the island. Nothing lasts for ever, everything marches on and old places need to be injected with fresh relevance. 

It’s coming up to Escapades Island’s 8th year of existence and if i’m truthful the Island has never been finished, never lived up to the original ideas proposed. There was plans for lots of Role-play groups, games and events but this in the end never really materialised. The island never reached the planned potential, partly due to how people use the island and partly because my own ideas were too big for the platform to meet. 

So with that in mind i proposed to rebuild parts of the island with the goal of giving the island a refreshing boost. The idea is to rebuild around how we now know people are using Escapades Island with the hope of giving a better more story driven atmosphere of the island. Currently its a hotchpotch of different concepts that never fully reached completion. 

 

Pro Plots and Basic Cabins rethink.

In the beginning there was Pro Plots and Basic Cabins. It was expected that people who wanted to build big projects on the island would rent a pro plot while those who didn’t have much interest or skills in building could rent a basic cabin much as they did on Goony Island. 

The Basic Cabins seem to do well, you choose your spot and you deck it out with your own items. I’ve watched people take great creative care in setting up their cabins spaces. 

Some pro plot renters have made a place of their own and have remained there from the start. i really appreciate this and don’t want them to change at all. 

The Fae forest and the John king tavern have ended up becoming ‘sponsored’ plots leading me to wonder it it were not better for users to ‘sponsor’ a place on escapes that already comes with a story behind it rather than an empty flat plot or boring empty building with now story behind it.

 

Places of importance that will be re-developed.

Nemo Beach

This was the original beach created back in the days of Goony Island. The shape of the beach hasn’t changed much , but i would like to expand it a bit more by removing the old Shop building and reduce the size of the clubhouse repurposing it as a small beach side shack. The Goony Clubhouse would be moved to Rickety Station to what is currently called the Town Hall where we have weekly meetings. 

The Mountain

The volcano mountain is the centre of the original mythology. Back when it was Goony Island, the islands were in a ring and there was stories of the Volcano exploding at some point. Then the not of time was re-tied and the island was transformed back to before the volcano exploded.

The mountain was made hollow with he plan to place all sorts of fun inside it. This never happened and instead i discovered it was better to teleport people to cave systems elsewhere. So i would like to rebuild the mountain entirely and note have it hollowed out. The mountain would be bigger and more detailed with more nooks to explore. It might not even be a volcano any more and instead have something else to discover at its peak for when we burn the wicker man. As for the Inferno and bone organ, it’s possible to create a more atmospheric version of these secret places using the Experience Keys system to teleport explorers to rooms rather than having the mountain hollowed out. The Cliffside Cabins should remain as they are but the waterfall might receive a facelift.

Rickety Station.

Originally envisioned as being a town of ‘Rickety’ market buildings, this area of the island really didn’t become anything like what was planned and was very hard to sell plots. What i would like to do here is turn the centre of the island into a small Spielberg style abandoned research town beside a road that curves up a hill. The places was mysteriously abandoned years ago. The buildings will have hidden spaces for users to set up a home, and bigger spaces to rent for shops if they wish. But the over all goal here is to bring a more unified atmosphere and mystery to the story of the island instead of the randomness that’s been there before.

The Goblin Village.

A fun little place to bash Goblins. One of the more atmospheric changes i’d like to do with Escapades is make it less high fantasy, so while King Goblin and his gang will still live on the island, their village will be completely rebuilt along with the Mountain. Instead of the huts and stone buildings , their village will have a more natural vibe, such as creepy stone Trees with symbols. For visitors this will ad a more mysterious perhaps darkness to the side of the mountain.

The Goondocks

Originally set up as a series of plots with remade pirate themed buildings they were always difficult to get rented. The original Escapades Concept was of different gangs on the island, one of which was a pirate gang but this idea of themed gangs never took hold. The only building there that was of use was the John King Tavern which still gets visitors today. I would like to update the john king experience with the modern XP tools. As for the Goondocks area, i am thinking of dropping the pirate theme but keeping the area as small abandoned dock. The Tavern would remain, but i would create a more picturesque cove with cabins and the odd sponsored building. One such building would lead to the sky pirates platform high in the sky and elaborate on the levitation crystals.

The Meadow of contemplation, Cutterstone Gorge and Fae Forest.

It would be nice to make all these areas seem more integrated. At the moment they all seem like plots next to each other. I would like to make the Fae forest seem more seamless and even expand up to Rickety Station. The Mine shaft that tunnels under the Cutterstone gorge could be filled in and have users teleported to an underground cave system that joins with other entrances on the mountain using XPtools.

Hawkins Bay

Originally the main village for all the Basic Cabins. It used to have a kids pirate fort on top until i ran out of prims and had to remove something fast. It still has the tunnel that lead from the fort down into the strange cave. I would like to rebuild the cave area to look more natural and maybe make Hawkins a more interesting place to live. 

Clifton House

The old building is one of the last remaining builds to use sculpt. If i rebuild it i will make it a possible Sponsored spot

 

A simplified overall Story to Role-play

back in the day there was all these plans for different gangs on the island, Timerascals, SeaPups, Darkagers and Tronics, each with a founders backstory and a themed area to live in. This was asking far to much of the Users so we’ll be simplifying the story of the island so everyone can just be who they wants and live where they want. 

What Has Come before

It all started thousands of years ago, a god known as the Dagda created the island to conceal his earth born son from the harm humanity could do. The boy called Mabon lived on the island which changed and formed around his imagination until found and brought back to earth by a legendary King. 

Remnants of Mabons many adventures still remain on the island as do the lesser Sidhe who maintain the islands power. Over time the island has called out to other children in need of escape. Some of which stay for only a while, others have stayed for years never raging a day. 

The Lost Kids.

Visitors to the Island can spend all day exploring the islands many secrets trying to work out what it all means. Those who stick around can try and make sense of it all by placing items to make it feel more like home. It can be a struggle for some to find clothes and food, building shelters either in the abandoned cabins or in other spaces dotted about the island. Some kids have become quite nomadic while others still retain their innocence living alongside the mysteries of the island.

The Rickety Station

The island has occasionally been discovered by accident and in once instance a scientific colony was placed on the island to learn it’s secrets. The Richard Ketty Research Station (known by kids as Rickety Station) is an abandoned small town in the centre of the island. Who built it and why it was abandoned is a mystery. The Rickety Logo seems to appear on all manner of strange looking abandoned technology laying about the island covered in grass and moss. 

Mood Board of how i’d like Escapades to feel after the rebuild.

 

Tools For Plot Owners and Sponsors

A simplified set of tools will be developed for the Plot owners and Sponsors to allow them to easily create interactive objects on the island. These are all things i’ve already created so know are possible.

Portal Kit: Allows you to create automatic teleportation between rooms so you can have secret rooms hidden high in the sky for visitors to find.

Bashable Kit: Allowing you to create items that can be bashed open revealing gifts. 

Story Kit: Allows users to click and receive an auto attaching hud that tells information about you place, objects or even a story.

Discord Server: For those who want expanded group features never added to Second Life’s limited group functions.

The rebuild will start on Monday the 10th of September straight after this years 8th Anniversary weekend and you can go visit the presentation in Second Life to look at a large model of the proposed changes. 

It’s lonely being a MacOS VR User

This time last year i was waiting for apple to release a new Mac any Mac as a sign of there being continued progress from apple in the desktop market. I’m fed up with Apples obsession with shiny health trinkets and Music. Apple did finally release a new iMac but to my surprise they also demoed support for VR, specifically the Vive Headset. Big shiny tech media articles shouted with enthusiasm that VR had finally come to MacOS. 

A year later and you’d be forgiving for thinking it was all just a dream. The XLab demo showcased at the Apple event is no where to be seen and the supposed HTC Valve support for MacOS is not mentioned at all on their website. But Mac DOES support it, i know because i made my own experiences for it.

 

SteamVR Supports Mac

SteamVR does have a MacOS Version of its client. It’s over a year old now and still does not include many of the features the Windows version has enjoyed for years now. There is no SteamVR Home feature and the built in menu (when it works) has no point because there is only one mac native VR game (as i know) called Blobby Tennis.

 

UNITY Supports MacOS

Unity3D supports the creation of VR applications native to MacOS. Once you figure out which version of unity to use (2017.2) and make sure its using Metal2 api, it’s actually quite simple to set up a template using the easy to configure SteamVR plugins and templates pack. I made a few kool tests creating spaces with a temple, animated objects, tracking a vive tracker. I let my Nephew explore a massive minecraft cathedral i downloaded from Sketchfab.

 

But no ones developing VR for MacOS

All the major Virtual World VR experiences such as VRchat, HighFidelity, Sansar are windows only, which i guess is understandable if i am the only Mac VR user in the village. (Technically HiFi allows mac support in desktop mode) 

It’s frustrating, especially when im using a Mac to make content that can be used in these spaces. I created a VRchat Avatar easy and uploaded it to VRchat then had to reboot into windows in order to try it out. 

My VRchat Avatar, the space suit ended up in Second Life too.

Bootcamping Windows on my mac is what alot of people have told me to do, and thats fine for a while but ive learned that bootcamped VR on a mac takes a resolution hit and is no way as clear an image as when run natively in MacOS. 

In October last year many tech news sites reported that the latest version of Parallels Desktop which runs windows in a window on Mac OS had gained VR support. This turned out to be fake news, as not only does it not work, the Parallels website has no documentation mentioning VR support.

 

WebVR saving the day?

The one place where a Mac user might find VR Support is WebVR that allows VR Users to access VR experiences via a web browser cross platform. At the moment the only MacOS supporting WebVR Web Browser is Firestorm Nightly. A the time of writing this MacOS WebVR support has been broke in the latest version 62, in order to run WebVR with SteamVR you have to download version 59.0a1. One step forward 3 steps back.

 

It’s lonely being a Mac VR user

I would like to put aside more time to explore VR on MacOS. I want to make my own Aech’s Garage, a specific demoing and building space where i can work on new ideas. Maybe I could build little MacOS VR Experiences and make a killing on Steam, but maybe there is no point if i’m the only Mac VR enthusiast. Eventually one of these VR worlds will open up to Mac users and allow me to then export across my experiments. Until then i’ll be tinkering in my VR Garage and perhaps posting WebVR.

CALLING ALL KID AVATARS THIS IS #FANTASYFAIRE2018

At fantasy Faire there is a role-play group for Kid Avatars and ANY kid avatars can join the gang to role-play a story as it unfolds over the coming week.

This year the group will be playing the Magpies, a bunch of michevious street kids who pick a pocket or two. They live amongst a busy bazaar market deep underground in what was once a prison but now is known as the Bazaar Dungeon.

All through the Fantasy Faire week there will be role-play events to help the story evolve while helping raise funds for ‘relay for life’.

To take part in the Fantasy Faire Magpies role-play week…

• Simply turn up at the Magpies Nest at Fantasy Faire SLURL HERE! Fantasy Faire officially opens 9am SLT on Thursday April 19th.

• There is a Role-play starter Kit that includes Magpie cloak, gloves and hat to help you become a magpie. (all proceeds of which goes to Relay for Life)

• There is an event board with a schedule of times that encounters or music events will take place.

• Have fun and explore the rest of Fantasy Faire as one of the Magpies!

For more information check the Fantasy Faire Magpies page.

 

The event schedule. The first main encounter starts on Saturday 21st allowing plenty of time to get into a character and explore you Magpies home.

My hopes for Second Life and other things in 2018

Last year i left 2016 rather optimistic for 2017 and wrote a list of things i’d hope to do this year. I said i would take a step back and get more involved in things. As it turned out many of those things did not happen, but thats not because i decided not to, but because 2017 was a year of constant unexpected delays.

And to finish the year i have had a cold, headaches, blocked nose and a sore throat all through the holidays delaying even the little final things i wanted to do. So i’m now hoping that as the new year approaches this dam cold will finally die along with 2017.

So here is my list of things i hope to achieve in 2018…

 

1. Start to truly experiment with VR.

At the forefront on the theme of delays during 2017 was VR. Last January the only VR headset i had was the PSVR and boy was i having fun with such amazing experiences as Resident Evil and Farpoint. But I’m far from mainstream when it comes to VR, i’m a Second Life user, i dream of getting down and dirty with creativity in VR. There were many factors in 2017 that didn’t allow me to just jump into VR, for one i am a Mac user, another was price of hardware. Slowly and surely Apple added VR support to new Macs and VR Headsets finally cut costs so that by the end of 2017 i finally have the set up and am looking at 2018 as the year i get to, as Star Lord would say ‘Build some crazy shit’.

I plan to start by creating a sort of VR workshop in Unity3D that is mapped to may actual real studio but not looking exactly like my room, a workshop full of stuff that i love, a place where i can tinker on VR gadgets and characters. From there i might be able to export my experiments to High Fidelity or Sansar.

2017 was the year the new VR Virtual World of Sansar finally opened up and i did explore and try to use it, but with no mac support i’ve turned my attention now to Unity to experiment in VR. Second Life is still the best Virtual World out there where all my friends still are and i’m able to do far more interesting stuff than i currently can in Sansar. For instance i cant even make my own avatar in Sansar yet.

 

2. Release the Bento Avatar & rebuild my clothing empire!

In 2015 linden Lab announced their new Bento Avatar system. Two years later and i still haven’t released my first bento Avatar. This is all because of the Blender Plugin ‘Avastar’ which took over a year to develop but while i moan about how long it took and how many sleepless nights it caused me in 2017 i have to explain that this plug in is amazing, and as complex as it is, it actually makes the creation of Bento avatars much easier. It lead me to realise just how un-friendly Second Life has become to some creatives.

So early in 2018 i hope to finally release my Bento Kid avatar. There are still a few beta testing and adjustments needed on the Basic Free Ruthus version, plus i need to create some custom ethnicities and skin textures for the planned Pro versions.  Then of course i hope to spend 2018 getting back to making clothes using my new toy Substance Painter.

 

3. Be a part of Fantasy Faire again.

Last year i just helped with the Roleplaying side of things at Fantasy Faire which was great fun until my nephew gave me a horrible cold to battle through. This year i would like to be a region builder for Fantasy Faire again. I learnt a lot about how the faire works in 2015 and would love to contribute something very different to the faire possibly utilising the new Animesh feature if Linden Lab somehow get that finished before April (yeh right).  I’ve yet to ask if they need any more region builders.

 

4.  Tell more Tales, organise more Roleplays

This was on my list last year and really will probably be on the list every year. Strip me of all my tools and what you’ll have is a story teller. At the start of 2017 i was fully committed to creating a New Babbage Chronicles Story Game. I was creating multiple illustrations and writing pages and pages of plot only to suddenly stop as preparations for Fantasy Faire and the need to try and stop my clothing business from collapsing by working on a Bento Avatar took precedence. Then as Avastar development went beyond its predicted release date and other events came along the Babbage Chronicles started to collect dust.

That’s not to say i didn’t create any story experiences this year. Fantasy Faires tale of stone frogs and malicious bards was a joy to help bring to life and The final chapter of  T H E  W E L L  seemed to entertain and freak out those who played it. There was also the Escapades Anniversary revealing of the Founders Tale.  I’m still not sure when i will return to working on Babbage Chronicles but the hope is that once the Loki Bento Avatar is released i can get back to doing other things, Babbage Chronicles possibly being one of them.

 

5. Rebuild Escapades Island.

Half way through 2017 i had this really odd feeling. I’d been to see the long awaited Sansar and i had explored the immersive realms of VR, and Linden Lab made tier cuts plus added more prims to Second Life Regions.  I had logged into Second Life and was standing at the memorial stone for my old friend Sven Homewood looking out over Escapades Island. i was considering all that i had learnt in in creating things in Second Life, what works, what does not work so well, and what i had hoped to do on the island and what i now know is not possible on the platform. I began to think about Escapades Island relevance.

Now that i know what second life can do, perhaps i should rethink what the island is for those who live here, and perhaps try to simplify its themes encoring the residents to contribute to it’s mysteries and bring a synergy to the whole island.

I plan to create a presentation of plans and concepts for this rethinking of Escapades Island early in the year in order to get the residents on board since without them the island would certainly not exist.

 

6. Become a 3D Printer Nerd

In 2017 i randomly backed a Kickstarter for a 3D Printer that actually turned out to be mega awesome indeed. The Dagoma Neva printer will hopefully path the way to 3D printing models that i then plan to paint old school style.

 

I’ve experimented printing temples, Fidget Spinners and star wars snow flake decorations but next year i want to do some proper action figure prints. Thats why for Christmas i got lots of paints and grey colour filament. I love this whole idea of creating something thats ends up being both digital and physical. Printing out my Loki Bento avatar as an action figure would be just amazing to do.

 

Things i did not accomplish in 2017

I wasn’t on the Drax files, but im pretty irrelevant to his show now he’s moved to Sansar :-p (i’m kidding!)

I hoped to get into 3D Scanning during 2017, but while the Bevil3D Scanner turned out to be a complete waist of time i did experiment with Photogrammetry, the process of using many photos to calculate 3D volume. The results of which i used to create parts of T H E  W E L L  experience and who knows, might get used for the rethink of Escapades Island.

I also did not get my PrioVR Mocap suit which was a kickstarter thats 3 years lates. I keep getting promises that i’m next for shipment, but if it’s to arrive it wont be until 2018 now.

 

Happy New Year

2017 felt like a right sludgy year where one step after another seemed to take forever. My hope is that 2018 will be the year where the giant rusty cogs of progress start to move again and i get to do some really exciting things in Second Life as well as other platforms. Hope everyone has a great new year 🙂