Monday, May 28, 2012

50's Drive-in Build-Off Winners

The Virtual Museum of Architecture celebrated the fun of 1950’s drive-ins at its Spring Build-off this year.   The two winning designs can be seen at Purdue University, Virtual Museum of Architecture (208, 113,26).  Mickey Wizardly won First Place in the Pro Division with “Betsy’s Drive-in”, and Toxic Darkmatter won First Place in the Novice Division for “Double T Drive-in.”   
     Both designs featured colorful neon signs and the popular 50’s colors of turquoise, hot pink and black and white checked floors.  Cars and motorcycles are parked outside, and “Betsy’s Drive-in” includes some “squawk-boxes”, too.   Signs from the 50’s, tempting malts on the counter, and a rock-n-roll tune playing inside the “Double T Drive-in” added extra fun and authenticity.
      In front of each drive-in is the winner’s trophy, which was created by Doe Silverspar.  The trophy, entitled “Skating”, was the winning design in a mini-contest held about a month before the drive-in build-off.   I chatted briefly with Silverspar about designing and building in Second Life.  She has been involved with this activity since she joined SL in September, 2007.   She suggested that residents who are interested in building join Builder’s Brewery.  “They offer top notch classes constantly, and the classes are free,” she said. 
      Builder’s Brewery, as well as over a dozen other SL businesses, sponsored this year’s event.   Djinn Dasmijn was the Build-off Coordinator.  

Grey Lupindo

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reader Submitted: Vitabela Dubrovna Celebrating Four Years in Second Life

Fashion Designer Vitabela Dubrovna will on 17th July 2012 be celebrating four years as an SL Designer and yesterday (May 17th) saw the release of a stunning new Hollywood Glamour style ball gown which you can view here exclusively for this first time:

Image courtesy of The Best Of SL

This brand new design shows just how far she’s come and how she’s moved on as both a designer and an artist within the realm of Second Life. In the four years she’s been with SL she’s built up a large following mostly due to the strength of her design skills and the fact that her work is timeless, yet still very modern. Her boutique “Vita’s Boudoir”, set up when she joined in 2008 features an array of fashions and accessories – and one thing is clear; her ideology is all about glamour, sexuality and high femininity.

It’s all here among Vitabela’s collection from the beautiful, bold burlesque through to seductive lacy dresses with intricate detailing and clever contrasting. She even caters for those amongst you who wish to have ultra fluttery, floaty eyelashes or flowing hair extensions in her accessory boudoir. Her hair extensions mirror her notions about fashion, creating a “wild” unkempt look, which matches really well with the lace on her clothes and also provides a wonderful background to the severity of her catsuits and jumpsuits. This is serious Catwalk style fashion for SL.

Vitabela’s Ethos and Ideas
This really isn’t fashion for the faint hearted; throughout her career in SL Vitabela’s designs have proved that she’s all about the sex kitten within. Crisp, neat lines are, for the most part, out in favour of layers of gauzy lace, feathers and leather, often forming elaborate headdresses and accessories. Monochrome pieces play out in stark contrast to flashes of vibrant primary colours and delicate designs such as her Rose’s Thorn bikini/fascinator combination:

 The Rose's Thorn
Image courtesy of Second Life Marketplace

Her clothes always seem to have an element of the theatrical about them – a contrast to other SL Fashion designers such as the house of Modavia, which cater strongly for the “everyday” wearer, with contemporary designs and muted colours in slouchy styles. Vitabela’s love of burlesque is clear to see, particularly in her catsuits and jumpsuits which (as she says herself) show off more than they cover up, not for the more conservative amongst you! Though for anyone wanting to branch out and try something completely different, her work might be just the thing to tempt you into a new area of experimentation.
Her fashion can also be viewed as high art, with the emphasis on intricate detailing and solid patterning which represents nature and wildlife and an intrinsically animalistic feeling. Her piece “Uprooted” is a good example of this, with neutral shades of burnt umbers and delicate browns used to create an “earthy” feeling. You can see that piece here (image Not Safe For Work).

One of her most daring recent artistic creations is without doubt “Ride” which you can view on her own blog here. (suggestive image) A highly sexy, polished and severe look which lies in contrast some of her lacier, floatier designs yet still exudes sexiness and glamour to the maximum. There are elements of her previous works in there, with subtle touches of leather and a loose fitting neck tie, there’s a strong feel of Art Deco to it as well, as while it retains an eminent femininity, there is an inherent sense of the masculine there – strong lines, nipped in waist, the neck tie and jacket.

Not All About Fashion Now!
Vitabela has now also diversified and has her own “Home And Garden” section, which can also be found in her “Vita’s Boudoir” shop. Again, the emphasis with a strong bent on high art; she uses muted colours contrasted with bright splashes of vivid greens to create landscaping trends that are really different, very up to the minute and on trend yet classic and able to mix with a variety of other styles. Her “White Winter Tree”, a beautifully stark and impressive garden design (which is the sort of thing that provides a beautiful backdrop for photos) sits delightfully juxtaposed with her “Spring Grass” collection – a wonderfully bright, floral work which is uplifting and inspiring, yet also similarly impressive for photographic work.
Here’s to another exceptional four years of outstanding fashion and inspirational design from one of SL’s most competent and highly sought after fashionistas, Vitabela Dubrovna.

By "Imogen" (Elizabeth Heartland)
Elizabeth Heartland is a freelance writer from England who writes primarily for technology and gaming blogs as well as an SEO company. Virtual worlds intrigue her particularly and the amazing fashion 'industry' that is developing online is surely a sign of things to come.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Byngo is Booming Again

After several weeks of angst among the byngo fanatics, it looks like the game is flourishing again. There was a period of withdrawal that had some lovers of the game panting for its return. To satisfy the Linden Lab, the creator of the game, Dazzo Staheli, has redesigned the Super B Bonus game so that there is a decision making element. I watched as some of the players tried out the new game, and learned how to play it properly. After several days of trial it looks like the nearly finished product is back on line at all the byngo places in Second Life. 

Dazzo is hoping that this is the end of the changes. I talked to two of the byngo place owners. Both seem to like it. Bold Baddingham said, ”It's going good, Super B bonus plays a lot differently. But once people of gotten used to it, I’d say feedback is great, players like it. It`s more of a challenge to play. There a sense of achievement even if you don’t win in a lot of cases.” Felgood812 Solo remarked, “Well they seem to like it. ... just one I talked to don’t like it. .... too hard for her but everyone else does. ... just a little slow getting them back here to play.” 

I also talked to several players.  Alyssa Darwinian told me, “Yes I have played it, but only once. And I was confused. I did not know about the changes and when my game was over after only 1 line I was bummed. I have since read the new rules, which I should have done before playing the game, and it looks like it is going to be fun.  I see myself back to playing the game as much as ever. And I used to play all the time, which means everyday (laughter).” and Cassie  Broadfoot told me she loved it and likes that it “requires more concentration and strategy,” and has already won quite a few times. 

If you like to play bingo in real-life try byngo in SL. Check out the Byngo Bonus group for more information and places to play. 

Editor's note: Be sure to check out Gemma's earlier article about the Byngo controversy Here

Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Stepping Large in Second Life

It seems like there’s a large variety of avatars in second life besides human avatars like we are in the real world. Furries have a wide range of real life and mythical animals to anthromorphize as. There are robots around as well like transformers or maybe an android or two. For the more spiritual I have seen some avatars as angels.

When I met with Ceri Quixote at her shop Quixote’s Dream at the landmark of the same name she showed me there are still ways to make your avatar unique in SL.  Her shop sold skins for women as different colors but that’s not what was different about her. When I warped to her shop my avatar at max height was maybe less than half her height or maybe a third.

Ceri Quixote makes Colossus avatars in Second Life. She told me she wanted to push the envelope in Second Life to what she could make with mesh which has been incorporated in SL recently with viewers like Phoenix and Firestorm. Her current avatar was just the tip of the iceberg.

Ceri and I ported to a sandbox to see the main course. When she put on her avatar, she was a giant like perhaps a giant from jack and the beanstalk. My griffin self was a mere speck compared to her massive or gargantuan avatar. I was sure to take a couple photos.

I joked with Ceri that in addition to invading Tokyo like Godzilla she could easily pick up guys. She laughed at the joke. Also Ceri will make the large avatar for not only women, but men as well.

Sadly the massive avatar was not for sale. However the regular Colossus avatar will be on sale at the end of May. Ceri said she was still fine tuning the scripts and outfits for men and women.

I asked Ceri being a furry myself, does she have any furry avatars she would want to incorporate into her colossal avatar?

Ceri Quixote: I've always been partial to bunnies - the Kani avatar is one of the first I bought in SL. So bunny fans in the furry community will have an XL option soon.

I asked, if I wanted to buy one what the price would it be? "1,500L" I said, that’s a good price. I paid more for a popular feral avatar.

I asked Ceri, what if she was tall like her super-sized avatar, what she would do?

Ceri Quixote: If I were that tall in real life? I'd probably travel as much as possible.

An easy feat if she was the 50 foot woman, like the B movie.

So if want to impress your friends with a cool new avatar and you’re tired of the same old furry or human or robot options. Be on the lookout for Ceri’s new look so you can step large in Second Life.

By Grease Coakes

Editor's Note, Hamlet Au found this Youtube of the Colussus, by Deceptions Digital. There's also another by "OldMountainWizard."

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lindens Launch 100 Pathfinding Sims

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gone viral on Second Life's main grid. A new technology called pathfinding embeds AI in SL servers. On over 100 sims, AI characters can navigate intelligently among avatars, terrain, walkways, and obstacles, with behaviors such as pursuit, wander, evade, patrol, and navigate to location.

Any of these behaviors can be invoked with 2 lines of Linden Scripting Language (LSL)… to automatically move mesh or classic prim objects… possibly replacing hundreds of lines of vehicle animation code. Is this just a reduction in user code or something more? Yes, much more.

Pathfinding is a new mobility ecosystem. Pathfinding can calculate all feasible pathways across land and prims (e.g. bridges), generating a navimesh (picture 1). Pathfinding characters (aka Non Player Characters or NPC) use AI searches to find navigable pathways to their target avatar, object, or location. Throw up a roadblock? No problem, they will find another way round. There is enough randomness and simulated nervousness in the solution, that NPCs have distinctively organic motions.

Yeah, but what about lag? Everyone asks. Okies. I ran stress tests with my animated NPCs on the Snack Sandbox regions. Kitty is a 4 legged animated critter that walks. Funky Munky is a humanoid NPC that strides and does a funny skit. I took baseline performance stats, then starting rezzing wandering NPCs simwide; hundreds of them.

As I watched the lag numbers; a startling result! At first, only 2 numbers trended with added NPCs, Physics Time went up and Spare Time went down. All other numbers flatlined... no effect. Just over 100 NPCs and Spare Time hit zero; the first noticeable lag. Amp that up to 200 NPCs, and yes, we are driving frame time up as well, but linearly, not aggressively. Even more surprising, virtually no NPCs crashed. After rezzing 200 kitties, I only lost 2 and the population held steady for several hours. Conclusion: multiply your Spare Time by 5 and that's how many animated NPCs you could rez on your sim without any noticeable lag.

That means, Lindens created a very reliable and efficient infrastructure, but only for NPCs. Of course, all this AI is beta test, and sim crashes happen often outside the sandbox. You know this when you can't move or chat… you've got crash! The sim does an auto-rollback, including your inventory; and sometimes you relog to a place you left hours ago! Time Warp! Coolies!

The Lindens should be congratulated for these achievements... but that's not enough. User generated NPCs should support animations, in other words, NPCs with moving limbs that walk and gesture. I used the very popular prim animation script by Ferd for my NPCs. My teaching NPCs worked for weeks… umm… until Wednesday, when Lindens rolled out a new server beta that broke all my prim animations and everyone else's. Ugh! Fix that bug!

To date, Lindens test pathfinding with the default cubes that you rez when you start building (Picture 2). This testing scales to other non-articulated NPCs such as rubber duckies, plastic bunny toys, and snails. Clever use of flexiprims gives you a few more options (Picture 3). Let's see, hmmm, NPC can only travel on land and float but not animate… maybe ghosts? daleks? spaghetti monsters?

To fill the vast depopulated regions of SL with engaging content, citizens of SL need animated NPCs… i.e. NPC people and realistic, animated NPC critters. I'm just saying... pathfinding has tremendous potential. Linden Prayers that it lives up to expectations!

Picture 4: Any, Lorca Linden, Maestro Linden, and Falcon Linden, "the genius behind pathfinding AI. Dude! ... You ROCK!

The Pathfinder Users Group (PUG) meets Thursdays at 4pm SL time on Aditi test grid at the PathTest megaregions (use the Map to find us!). Chat log from this meeting:

Any1 Gynoid

Original published on CNN 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Kattoan Avatars

I haven't been inworld much, playing Minecraft and other games and all, but when I heard that Kinzart Kreetures had a new variety of Hyena out (Kinzart being one of the places I avatar shop often at), I came across something... unusual. Something I hadn't seen before, and after being on Second Life for five plus years, anything unique or that stands out is rare for me.

Enter the Kattoans. These are small avatars that look like, well, a mammal, at first look. I wasn't quite sure what they were. They're mesh avatars with a wide variety of colors. I grabbed a lime green one and was referred to as a muppet, so I grabbed an almond-color one as well. I was impressed with the avatar overall, and could actually envision a tiny civilization of these guys elsewhere. They're only a little bit bigger than the largest of the Meeroos, and I could -easily- see them as befriending the 'roos for companionship.

I tracked down the avatar creator, one Athau-xan, also known as 1000 Carlos, and we sat down to a brief interview.

Xymbers Slade, "These are some pretty neat avs, 1K. Where did you come up with the idea? (smile)"

Athau-xan, "Most of my inspiration came from Spiral Knights, mainly. I also threw together a couple different art-styles from around the N64-era."

Xymbers Slade, "Can't say I've heard of that... sounds like an anime. It's still very unusual and it was enough to draw my attention away from the hyenas I was after for the time being. Were they difficult to create? I hear mesh isn't the friendliest thing to work with."

Athau-xan, "They weren't too difficult to make. How long it actually took me to make them is hard to say, as I just worked on them a little bit whenever I had spare time. I purposely kept them really low polycount because, artistically, it looked better, and I wanted them to use as little resources on the sim as possible."

Xymbers Slade, "What exactly are they supposed to be, besides a very unique race? Kind of like... I don't know, a groundhog or something? Or a fuzzy rodent of some kind, perhaps?"

Athau-xan, "I'm not quite sure myself really, something like a mix between a rodent and a mole I guess."

Xymbers Slade, "Is there anything you wanted to do with them but couldn't thanks to Second Life, well... being Second Life?"

Athau-xan, "I would've liked to make the body separate pieces, which I could. but unfortunately SL likes to make really bad seams where parts are split, and I didn't really want the avatar covered in seams."

Xymbers Slade, "I don't know a thing about building, so I'll take your word for it. I see over there the sign for the 'Republic of Kattoa.' Do you have a grand design for them in mind or are you letting the incoming community build on its own?"

Athau-xan, "I do have my own future plans for the Kattoans. Such as perhaps an entire sim dedicated to them in the long run. I'll eventually release a builders kit when I get around to it so the community can create their own ideas for them."

Xymbers Slade, "Do you also do commissions? I know I'd like to see, say, a set of knight's armor, or something."

Athau-xan, "I am currently not accepting commisions, and I don't expect to start in the forseeable future, but I do have a knight set planned, among plenty of other outfits."

Xymbers Slade, "Ok, is Okarthel the only spot you have these available, or have you got a main store somewhere?"

Athau-xan, "Currently Okarthel is the only location to find Kattoans. I do plan on getting my own simulator for them eventually, but I cannot say when that will happen."

Xymbers Slade, "Sims ain't cheap, but I'll get behind this if one does pop up."

I could see these critters clearly in my head in their own little civilization running around. It is very rare that one can see something just "spring to life" in one's head like that. These guys are small enough to even ride the My Little Pony avatars I did a piece on a while ago, and I can see several potential possibilities in my head that this could really take off and give other avatar makers a run for their money. At about 350 $L, plus the cheap cost of outfits, they're far cheaper than most avatars I've come across. They come in a wide variety of colors and currently four mesh outfits are also available as separate purchases. One of them, the civilian outfit, being free.

Four Dragon Hoards out of five --- only because I want to give it room to grow and see where it goes. This is something I can really get behind. They can currently be found in a corner of the Okarthel sim.

Xymbers Slade