The 2017 New Babbage Burning Barrel Race

When you replay a video game the experience is usually somewhat the same, same characters, same environment and same story. In a virtual world such as Second Life nothing is ever the same.

This year i set out to plan the decades old annual event only to discover things had changed a lot. Since the dawn of New Babbage a decade ago the Burning barrel race, which was first held as a sort of team building exercise for the then small Babbage Steampunk community, has followed the same route. Starting in the Canal District the race would venture into Babbage Square before ending in the Port spanning three second life regions.

All this changed when i discovered the port has now been redeveloped leading to me to take the opportunity to change the route and make it longer. Now the race takes a detour past the famous Brunel Hall and ends in the Academy region.

Image taken by Avariel Falcon

This years race saw even more take part in the event where Second Life’s Physics are tested. Lots of new and old faces rolled the burning barrels through the streets, some lost them in canals some kicked the barrels so hard the last thing they saw were their barrels flying off into the distance.

Even though the race is longer and has the peril of a third region crossing the rolling of the fire barrels was still over quite quickly but with the added feature of a bonfire at the end the atmospheric festivities lasted for just about an hour. While this might seem a long time for some, it’s an hour that will stick in the residents minds until we do it all again next year.

Until then here is a machinima of highlights from the 2017 New Babbage Great Burning Barrel Race.

Pagan Traditions in Virtual Space

Eight years ago in the newly born steampunk city of New Babbage we did an experiment. An event was held to bring the fresh VR steampunk community together and get to know each other. Eight years later we are still holding the same event like some folk tradition started by the founders.

The event is based loosely on old long gone traditions of rolling burning barrels through streets of english towns. Some town still do this, though now carry burning barrels instead of rolling.


The New Babbage Burning Barrel Race has always been a good indication on how much the Second Life platform has improved from year to year. Some years things are worst, while others are vastly improved as a large collection of particle spewing physical mesh objects are flicked down the texture heavy streets across region boarders past crowds of onlookers towards the finish line.

This year performance was rather spiffing with the CDN and HTTP pipelining and the Shining projects completion earlier in the year. Some experienced the CDN issues of slow or failed texture and mesh loading, but for the most part people had better than usual performance during the race. Nor did the regions crash unlike last year.


Some people saw Marshmallows instead of fireworks due to complications with the CDN/http pipeline feature


Not satisfied with just throwing burning barrels down the streets, we also had an incident where a victorian shopping arcade caught fire and soon blazed out of control. With pieces of building collapsing all around, most of the towns people simply stood in awe of the spectacle, and when you reach that point where you are no longer thinking in turns of performance specs and are just drinking in the sounds, visuals and reacting to the moment with friends, then you are immersed and Second Life has taken you that step further. These are the moments i think all SL role-players strive to achieve, the moment when the memory of whats going on gets burned into your brain as a real shared experience. So this year will be remembered as “that year the old arcade burnt to the ground after the burning barrel race”. 🙂

Anyway, along with Second Life’s outstanding performance this year i also managed to film the whole thing and uploaded to ZippCast.


And for those who are interested, here is the first recording ever of the Burning Barrel Race on youtube

Returning to freeform Role-play

babbgechronicles_avatarIn 2011 a group of Second Life role-players watched as an entire pumping facility collapsed around them in the Steampunk city of New Babbage. So ended a story that had started in 2006 and evolved in to this monster of story telling, scripted HUD’s, machinema and clue hunting.

It all started fairly simple and random. I built an abandoned theatre and placed dark brooding murals in the attic. Then a user known as Professor Nishi blogged about finding them and speculated about their meaning. This sparked and idea to set up a murder mystery, the murder of Alexander Eliot and from there grew stories of a secret device, doors to other worlds, old gods, cloud angels, Homunculi, buried statues, crypts, ancient knights, prisoners on the moon, a great fire and secret organisations.

Since the Story finished i have been rebuilding my steampunk plots using mesh trying to achieve a much darker and grittier atmosphere. I have also been trying out new ways to achieve complex RP. In the past there has been two sides to the Roleplay story, one is the HUD based clue hunt mysteries where anyone can grab a HUD and go search for clues uncovering a story. The second is an ongoing interaction of players who who can contribute to the over all story in a freeform style RP. One is like and old style RPG adventure, while the other is more akin to Live Action role-play in virtual space. I was never happy with how both seemed so separated from each other making it hard for me to maintain a unified experience.

So i’ve gone back to the drawing board and learnt some new tricks with Second Life and have finally returned to RP in New Babbage with the Clock’in system.


The Clock’in System will hopeful lay the the foundations for a better role-play experience…. fingers crossed.

Introducing the New Babbage Chronicles – Clock’in

The city of New Babbage slowly recovers from the time of the Dark Aether falling. The iron grip the Van Creed society had on the cities businesses has collapsed leaving room for new ventures to take advantage of the large potential working class. Set in the steampunk city of New Babbage, two large factories are looking for street urchins or adult working class citizens to come work for them. 

What is it?: It’s a points based casual RP game that anyone can get involved with but does not require you to Roleplay if thats not your thing.

How does it work?: You choose a factory to work at, visit the Punch Clock and grab the free HUD, then click the Punch clock once everyday to gain attendance points.

Do i have to be there everyday?: By clicking your factories clock every day you gain attendance points. The more points you gain the higher in rank at the factory you become and the more items you can collect such as Hats, boots, and even special tattoos.

Where does the story come in?: The story will unfold over the coming months with events and encounters pitting factory against factory, mysteries to work together to solve and what ever else players might come up with by themselves. In some cases people will earn bonus points, while in other situations points will be deducted.

What if i don’t care for Points and just want to RP?: The story and roleplaying will unfold regardless of the attendance points system, it just means you won’t be able to get the collectable items from the Clock’in.

Is the Workers HUD just for the Clock’in?: No the Workers HUD also gives you extra options for using special work animations in the factory and will be updated with new ideas to help with role-play encounters and mysteries in future.

The Clock’n system is an experiment and is free. I’m hoping the system will allow me to do more complex ideas and allow those who love to invest in proper Roleplaying and those who like a gaming experience both to enjoy themselves at the same time. With so much going on with new features and updates and OculusVR, its nice to get back to what SL is truly create at, immersive experience.

If you are bored and want to try a new role-play then join one of the factories and help New Babbage become great again.


If you have any questions about the Clock’in system feel free to IM me in world. You can also find out more from the Babbage Chronicles website.

I need to thank my friends Matthew for being such a great and patient teacher with Scripting and PHP, Jimmy for helping with one half of this on going story and Myrtil, Max and everyone else who has helped test the HUD and joined the group to help push the RP forward. Im really looking forward to finding out where this all leads over the next few years :).

A return to New Babbage – Comparing #SL 2008 – 2014

Back in 2008 i did a video showing off what the residents of New Babbage had accomplished. It was picked up by the web site Boing Boing and almost went viral.. well, it was the most views of any video i had done before. And last comment posted in 2008 is “Good gravy… I was assuming the venture capitalists MUST have pulled the plugs on Second Life by now.”

It was also commentated on by NewWorldNotes and mentioned by the then CEO Mark Kingdon “A stunning video… Philip sent me a link to YouTube and said “Mark, you should check this out”, and I’d just seen it the same morning… it was really arresting because of the kind of foggy, smoky atmosphere, and it was beautifully filmed and I was just incredibly moved by it…”

So here we are almost 6 years later and Second Life has still not had its “plug pulled”. Instead New Babbage has expanded and grown, some places have stayed exactly the same, some places have disappeared and some places have been upgraded, just like a real world city. So i went back to the old video and tried to film a side by side comparison to show what has changed in New Babbage and what has not changed because it’s possible many don’t realise how organic and ever changing Second Life is.

Return to New Babbage – A Steampunk City from Loki Eliot on Vimeo.

While builds in New Babbage are a lot more grander, the SL viewer performance was not much different. Granted i have a higher resolution screen now, but i also have a much more powerful Mac Computer packed with 4 times as much Video RAM. Some say this is due to support issues for macs and OpenGL leaving Second Life Viewer way behind other applications performances. Also the smoggy atmosphere seems to have disappeared along with those clouds that used to be in the sky and windlight settings are buggy since Advanced Lighting was introduced.

But the community is still there, still strong and still busy creating and exploring industrial history and steampunk, and its still amazing!

Creating the Cobblestone Workhouse

Over a year ago i started to rebuild three places i have in the Steampunk City of New Babbage. Starting with the Imperial Theatre which has been there since the first time New Babbage appeared in 2006. The second was the Absinthe Cafe which i completed last spring.

Now i have completed the third build called Cobblestone house and this was the most challenging as unlike the previous two builds which were more upgrades, Cobblestone was an expansion. With the previous build you could only walk into the front house section. The Factory behind it was just for show as i did not have enough prim allocation to make it habitable. With the magic of MESH i hoped to change that.


So the old Cobblestone House was a terrible build. I made it using the latest hacks for creating complex sculpt prims which covered the house and took ages to load represented by giant blobs until they loaded. The stats were as follows. 85 Prims with a download weight of 42.5, Physics 96.4, server weight of 42.8 and an overall display cost of 37913. For those who don’t know what these numbers mean, they are a break down of what you objects cost the viewer to display and interact with them. It’s was my goal to make a much more detailed Cobblestone House with lower display costs but i also planned to make the factory section habitable this time.


Using the Singularity TPV with its object export tool i was able to export the old build to blender as a reference for the size of the new build. It really is a handy tool for getting straight into building in blender for SL. I hope to see Linden Lab adopt this feature in future for the official viewer.






UV unwrapping takes almost as long as the 3D modelling but it’s very important. You can learn tricks where you use the same UV map for displaying two walls with the same texture. Learning the tricks of UV mapping can lead to really efficient use of textures. For example you can use reuse a texture for many parts of the building which saves on download costs and display costs.

Since i rebuilt the Absinthe Cafe the Materials Feature has officially been released. What this does though is add two more files to download to every texture surface.

So you can now have three textures to cover a wall

1.The defuse Texture (your normal texture)

2. The Normal Map (how bumpy it looks)

3. Specular (how light reflects on it or shiny)


Brick Normal Map – Feel free to use this


Brick Specular Map – Feel free to use this


I’ve already seen instances where a wall surface can start failing to load 1 of the three files making the wall look like its wobbling. In truth you should consider what needs to have Material mapping. It’s temping to cover everything with materials but you should consider that each time you add a material map you are adding another file the viewer needs to download and cache. Personally i find that material mapping on outside walls do not show up so well compared to walls inside buildings. The effects of material mapping seem best when reacting to light sources inside enclosed spaces. It can all depend on your wind light settings.

So finally just before christmas i finished the House. The House at the front now has an extra room upstairs and the arches that connect to the factory building are now possible to walk through. The Factory itself are 3 floors high connected by stairs. I used reference photos from a working Mill house called Quarry Bank for inspiration as i plan to turn the place into a working textures factory with machinery so it was important that i have enough Land Impact left over on the plot.






The final costs of this Mesh Build came to as follows. 97 land Impact, 91.6 Download, Physics 20.4, Server weight of 92 and a display cost of 41064. These costs do seem significantly higher but if you consider that i’ve more than doubled the overall build in terms of detail and habitability it’s all rather spiffing. Land impact is a little bit more than it was but to match the new amount of detail with old Prims you would use five times as much. Download cost has doubled while Physics has been cut by half.

The video gives you a taste of the new build without needing shadows enabled, It also gives a sneak peek at the Spinning Mule machinery I’m working on next. Overall the new Cobblestone Workhouse turned out better than i hoped and the use of materials has given it a fantastic steampunk atmosphere inside, especially the reflective windows and brick walls. You can check the place out yourself HERE.