Peak Nostalgia in a Virtual World

I have faint memories of an open desert landscape. Somewhere in the centre i am sat with new friends i had recently made, i don’t remember their names, i cant remember if all these years later they are still my friends, lost amongst my contacts lists. We were all dressed as pirates and pretending to be drinking and smoking, an act of rebellion against adulthood, it felt great being in a care free gang, like those kids in that film i once watched, the Goonies.

And thats where it all started 2006 in the virtual world of Second Life, my road of nostalgia in virtual reality. I created a group called the SL Goonies and for a while it seemed to bring similar minded people together to reminisce about those things in our past that made our childhoods beam with warmth, and here in Second Life we could actually revisit, replicate and hang out in that warmth. 

And that’s how it was for many years. I thought we were the only ones doing the nostalgia thing, but then it went mainstream and like most things excessive has become a somewhat negative thing. Today nostalgia is used to break through to your inner child to either sell you stuff or worst convince you everything was better in the past to the point where nostalgia is seen as a hurdle stopping us from moving forward and an attempt to turn the clock back. Nostalgia is also increasingly being seen as lazy reuse of old ideas and that to be nostalgic is to lack originality. 

People who see my avatar, see what i build, and they see all the things i’ve dragged into Virtual Reality with me, i positively beam with the nostalgic things i celebrate and this has lead to people remembering me when they’ve watched Stranger things or read Ready Player One.

I’ve been using Virtual Worlds for so long now that i’m nostalgic of the the first time i was nostalgic in virtual reality. I will always be nostalgic, i’ll always mine those inspirations for my future art, but right now, post the Ready Player One movie, the mainstream idea of Nostalgia feels like something has peaked.

Everyone is nostalgic about something, wether it’s the 80s, the 60s what ever time you picked up influences. it’s a part of unlocking and understanding what makes you who you are, and last time i looked, self actualisation is still seen as a great thing to achieve. 

In VR 3rd Person becomes companionship

Back in the day there was a popular argument for why Second Life is not VR. The argument all stemmed from this idea that with 3rd person there is a ‘disconnect’, that you cant feel fully immersed in VR unless in first person. 

I do not subscribe to this line of thought and in my experience i see 3rd person in VR as an opportunity to enhance feelings of empathy and companionship like never before.

In Second Life i spend all my time in 3rd person controlling my avatar that i have carefully and lovingly customised over the past 12 years. Through him i interact with my friends from around the planet. My friends can see what I’m currently into at any time due to what I’m wearing or what gadget I’m holding. Animated gestures can further express my mood through my avatar. This over time has led me to feel very connected to my Avatar, i am him and he is me, but is he me or is he his own separate identity? Sometimes i talk to my avatar as if he is a friend, other times i communicate as if i am him. It would seem that my interaction with my avatar is in a sense flexibly 1st and 3rd person.

When Second Life experiment with a VR enabled viewer it was interesting how this changed things. In mouse look (1st Person) i felt i was my avatar looking around like i was there myself which is what most neoVR types were excited about. But you could also have 3rd person VR view of your avatar as if like a spirit peering down on your avatar and suddenly it was like looking upon another person that you have known for a very long time. When my avatar looked back directly at me it was a strange feeling and one thats been nagging me ever since because most VR experiences totally dismiss 3rd person as something you should NOT do in VR.

Yet on the PSVR there have been a few experiments with 3rd person. Robot Rescue part of the Playroom VR mini games had you controlling a little robot in a platformer scenario. It felt like i was remote controlling a robot like a toy and was essentially 3rd person in VR but the added feeling of presence enhances an emotional connection between the user and the 3rd person character.

This was further explored in the up coming game ‘Moss’ which i managed to play a demo of this week. In Moss you play a helpful spirit or god following a tiny warrior mouse. You control the mouse like any other 3rd person game but the genius is that the mouse acknowledges you with waves and squeaks and due to the immersion of VR the mouse appears like a real living character. I found myself becoming very protective of the character and also found myself waving at it and cheering it on even though i was the one controlling it.

What if 3rd Person in VR can actually be more powerful in tapping into empathy than 1st person? In Resident Evil i remember feeling terrible and apologising to a character after i hit her with an axe so it’s not like you don’t feel empathy in 1st person. With 3rd person though i feel we get an extra connection to the character because we are controlling, guiding the character. Playing the Moss demo gave me a feeling of companionship, i wasn’t just playing a game as a mouse, i was going on an adventure with a mouse who i needed to assist and keep safe.

In Social VR 3rd person seems often an after thought for desktop users to join the party. Social VR in 1st person is somewhat an extroverts paradise, 3rd person in VR could help introverts as they let their avatars bridge the anxiety divide for them.

As a user of Virtual Worlds or MMORPGs how do you perceive your avatar/character? Is it you, a separate own identity or  flexibly between both?

My optimistic list for Second Life in 2017

Well that was a crazy year, and while for many real life resembled a heavily griefed region in 2007, i left the year feeling quite optimistic with Second Life. So here is my 2017 list compiled with a reflection of 2016.

1. Continue to rebuild and develop Escapades Island.

You can’t really build a place in Second Life then expect it to just sit there remaining relevant all by it’s self or can you? Some places during 2016 ran into trouble, disappeared then reappeared, all thanks to the dreaded high tier prices… all so they say. Escapades had the best year ever with regards to support from it’s renters and also benefiting from Linden Labs buy back grandfathering and prim increases in a sort of parody fortune switcheroony of Uk reality.

I used SL13B celebrations as an excuse to rebuild the Castle ruins while also adding a small adventure game inside the Mountain. People enjoyed the experience when it was free, but i got a lot of grief from people who felt once they had played the experience that the payment for the pass  was too much.


2. Babbage Chronicles becomes a proper gaming system.

After the Escapades anniversary finished i put all my resources into working on the New Babbage Chronicles. This was something i have been wanting to do ever since the last big Steampunk Roleplaying ‘Dark Aether falls’ in 2011 but i had to wait for Linden Lab to release XPtools and also learn to script what i wanted.

During the autumn i finally released a small test story ‘A Girl Meets a Boy’ which gives a good idea how things will progress. Using minimal discrete HUD system, the Babbage Chronicles will allow it’s players to explore New Babbage and uncover hidden stories. With the groundwork finally in place i will spend 2017 promoting to more users and building more stories to offer players in Second Life to investigate.


3. Help with Fantasy Faire.

In 2016 i created a whole region for Fantasy faire called Echtra. Not only did i have great fun building the muddy gloomy atmosphere but i was blown away by those who took up the roleplaying and helped uncover the mystery behind the place. It was the most magical satisfying experience of the year for me.

In 2017 i will be taking a step back. I will probably get involved with the roleplaying organising and prop building, but i won’t be doing a region this year. Thats not to say i won’t put myself forward next year 🙂


4. The Loki Bento Avatar.

In 2015 Linden Lab announced Project Bento and everyone including myself assumed i would create a new Bento Loki Avatar in 2016. This didn’t happen. About half way through the year i decided to wait for Avastar to finish their very important big update to include Bento Skeletons in the Blender workflow. It soon became apparent that Bento would not be released until the end of the year, so i made the choice to halt all avatar and clothe making until the 2017.

With my first Mesh Avatar i made a lot of mistakes. Avastar was still in it’s early years and now offers a much more flexible and stable feature set combined with Linden Labs new Bento Skeleton system. Usually i’d be all over the new features but decided to wait. Once Avastar is complete i dive head long into creating a new avatar for myself and then create new clothing.


5. Tell more Tales, organise more Roleplays

With he groundwork in place for the Babbage Chronicles Story game system thingy, i hope to also create other mini story adventures for places like Escapades and Geminis Vortex City (try to time it with the new Bladerunner). Last minute additions to XPtools such as ‘ForceSit’ lead to Egnog the Christmas Troll being able to eat you, an ability that wasn’t possible a few months ago, not that you would have noticed that :-p

How simple it is to adapt the system to other themes will determine wether i decided to release the XPtools story system for others to grab and create their own. It also kinda depends on how easy Linden Lab make it for others to gain XP keys.


6. New Technologies

I’m expecting technology to get more expensive not cheaper. The prospects of me getting an HTC Vive or Oculus in 2017 are slim, but there are other technologies i backed before Brexit that i hope will usher in new creative paradigms for me in Second Life. One is a 3D Scanner called the Bevil. Apparently being shipped and should arrive any day now, this device will 3D scan physical objects which i can hopefully use via Blender in Second Life.

Another device is the PrioVR motion suit which also has apparently shipped. The PrioVR boasts the ability to allow your body to be mapped in a VR game, but im more interested in using it to record motion capture for use in quickly creating poses and animations for Second Life. There is also Leapmotion which has been around for a while now but has become slightly more relevant with Project Bento what with the possibility to motion capture hand gestures.


7. Be on Drax Files.

Years ago Draxtor pleaded for me to be in one of his world maker videos and my reply was that ‘im not ready yet’. If you are going to be profiled on your work, you want to at least have the work completed, and for years it felt like nothing was completed, everything felt like an experiment for a bigger thing to come. But with Escapades Island fully rented, and New Babbage Chronicles close to being what dreamed it would be…. maybe just maybe i’ll be ready to be in a Drax Video.


Sketches from 2016

Throughs he year i create a lot of sketches while planning projects for Second Life. Here is a video of just a few from 2016. Have a great year!

Sketches 2016 by lokieliot

What if reality has replicated what we experienced in Second Life six years ago?

What if the boundaries separating the physical world and cyberspace have became so blurred that griefers, trolls and ‘drama of the individualised self’ has projected back into reality?

What did Second Life residents do when faced with trolling hate and grey goo (self replicating objects)? They put up ban lines and sought more controls to manage people on their land. Some users started Abuse Reporting other people for mildly irritating issues.

What happened relatively recently in reality when extremists and haters randomly started dealing out abuse, death and carnage? People sought to close boarders and get more control on managing people. Ok, i’ve  generalised the worlds extremist issues, and i can’t really compare digital trolling with murder.

Maybe Second Life as it is now is a glimpse of realities future? The users all know Second Life has the ability to be open and free yet most choose to lock down their places or only let those vetted to have the privilege of rezzing stuff, while curiously celebrating how creatively free and open Second Life is.

Perhaps Sansar will represent a future world where the choice to be free is removed completely, instead given only to those privileged?


Still finding new things to do in Second Life

During this week of celebrating Second Life’s 13th year of ‘still being around’ or ‘a thing’ i find myself reflecting on what there is still to do in Second Life. Im going to blog about the stuff that still interests me in SL.


Bento Mesh Avatars


i made the loki avatar to the best of my abilities back in 2014-15, could i now create something better? probably!

Last year i released my first ever mesh avatar body. A year later Linden Lab release Project Bento so like meh, fine ok, perhaps i should have waited a year because it’s probably easier to make and rig a mesh avatar now thanks to the Avastar and Mayastar people.

When i used Avastar to make my first mesh avatar it was still in early stages of development and caused a few oddities for me as a kid avatar. Since then it seemed to have come along in leaps and bounds and is pretty much the only way to make mesh avatars and clothes these days.

With the addition of the new Bento gazillion boned avatar skeleton i will have to start looking at creating a new Mesh avatar for myself. I want expressive fingers, and it’ll be interesting to see how easy it’ll be to create animations for it.

If i had the technology i would mocap the crap out of my hands and give away an entire catalogue of hand animations for use with bento. Actually why not get Linden Lab to pay someone to make a large free catalogue of hand and facial expression animations to distribute to the users. I guess we could wait for content creators to amass a large full perm archive of animations, i don’t think the buzz over bento will last long enough though.

I’ll admit that i am a bit scared of Bento. Creating rigged stuff for second life is stupidly hard, and the idea that there are over twice as many bones in this new version of the avatar makes my brain break. But i’ll have a go and see what’s possible. I already did one test earlier this year to rig my avatars hands and it seemed to work.


Adventure Games


I have three locations in New Babbage just waiting to be used for adventures

I have spent SO many years trying to learn the best way to present adventures. I waited for three of those years for Linden Lab to bring out the Experience Tools. Making experiences for SL requires a lot of different skills, from model making, animation, scripting, voice acting and even UI design and presentation. All of this takes time and effort with little in return for the effort, especially not enough to support a team of creatives like in the real game industry.  So I’ve been building up experience and tools and systems that would allow me to efficiently and quickly create adventures. I think now i am all set.

People have enjoyed T H E  W E L L , and the experience at this Years Fantasy Faire and SL13B worked pretty well. So now its time to go bigger and for that i plan to return to New Babbage, my role-play homeland in Second Life.

There have already been five stories told in New Babbage still whispered amongst the residents in the back alleys of the steampunk town. Using the same location based Story Mode i’ve used in the past year, i plan to retell the New Babbage Chronicles. It’ll be the biggest game project I’ve ever done in Second Life which is why i’ve decided there will be no new T H E  W E L L this year.


Project Sansar.


I’m on the wrong operating system for the advances in VR technology, well at least this year. I decided early on in the year that i would be waisting my time entertaining aspirations of content creation on Linden Labs next thing, but you never know.

I might end up on Sansar via Bootcamped Windows on a future mac machine with a HTC Vive. I’m still waiting for Mocap suits and other backed VR hardware on kickstarter to arrive and they will need windows on my mac machine in order to be of use.

One of the things I’m quite aware of, is just how long it’s taken me to get to grips with scripting in SL, and the idea that i can’t just pick up in Project Sansar were i am in Second Life gives me more anxiety than wether i can use it or not on a mac.

Second Life continues to be relevant to me and my work.