Friday, November 18, 2011

More on the "1000 Avatar Project"

Gracie Kendal danced in paint speckled jeans and a comfy top surrounded by the towering 1000 Avatar exhibit. Her friends danced right along with her at a pre-release party for Volume 2 of her book.

Kendal's photography focused on the concept of online identity: what it means to present ourselves in a virtual manner, how we fashion our avatars and why.

It began with a Second Life group show held on Caerleon Island called "Ambiguity of Identity.” Back in 2010, several SL artists worked together on the project.

"So we were already having this conversation about identity in Second Life," said Kendal as we sat in a social area a day before the party. We were surrounded by the avatar pictures beyond what your camera could observe. One literally had to cam upward and around to see the entire exhibit. "I can't remember the exact moment or inspiration...most of my artistic work is spontaneous. But when I come up with these ideas, I just go with them immediately.”

"Second Life allows us to be what we are in the inside. We understand what it means to don a persona, an identity, a personality, a mask, an avatar and either be someone else, or explore another aspect of ourselves or find our true self. Avatars are amazing inventions," Kendal mentioned.

What began as a collection of one hundred portraits to illustrate the idea of online anonymity, evolved into a documentation of SL avatars. She began her project Oct. 23, 2010 and finished it Nov 2, 2011.

"The portraits record a moment in their lives of more than a thousand people who are, to me, fearless," she explains about her first book. "These people have put themselves out there into the brave new world of virtual environments as explorers searching for anything and everything. They are amazing, creative, soulful people who I am so honored to have in my project."

The project is immense. You have to see it to believe it. It's 2,438 prims, 100 x 100 meters across and 68 meters tall. Kendal knew what she wanted to do because her Masters Thesis show featured portraits done of herself as part of a transition for the project as "My Life as an Avatar." She had before and after portraits in real life where she stood in front of a gray background.

"Initially I set up a little platform above my studio and started Iming people from my friend's list," she said. "Within a week or so I had about 100 avis. Then I started putting out notices in the groups I am in, as well, asking friends to tell their friends. Then the installation got into the destination guide and I started getting IMs and emails asking to participate. It has been a steady stream of people ever since."

The project was mentioned in the Second Life group on Facebook and that has increased exhibit visitors. She had to take a break from shooting for awhile because of computer issues, but when she came back, she moved full steam ahead on finishing meeting her goal of 2000 avis. She just reached the goal last week.

What did she learn from the project? That would be how important this is to the history of Second Life.

"Especially because Second Life isn't the buildings, art or clothes, it’s the people who are here who make this world what it is," she told me. "I'm really honored that they would want to be part of this."

She thinks these avatars stand proud and represent so many more who covet their online identities.

"A big part is also anonymity," she mentioned. "So it’s stressing the idea that we can come here and be whoever we want." Asked if she sees a pattern emerge in avatar use she replied, "I noticed a lot more women or women avatars, definitely more human."

Kendal self published her book, “1000 Avatars” so she could have control over every aspect of it. She dedicated the first volume to a dear friend of hers, the late Delinda Dryssen. The 160-page softcover book was published May 31, 2011. It sells for $62.95. Email her to order it at

For more information, log on to

Netera Landar

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tamarillo Island Maze

You begin in a large open area with a few vendors selling various weapons programmed for use inside the Maze. There are things like swords and blade-arms (good against flesh, not so good against robots) and there are energy weapons (designed more for blasting 'bots instead of zombies. After buying the "reloader hud" for 50 $L, I decided on a "Blade Arm" (short range, high damage) and hopped down to go into the maze proper.

The maze is just that, a maze. From my perspective, the upper levels look like an industrial warehouse with various zombies flitting about; I can see a Doom-ish influence here. I hit mouselook and began slashing at the zombies, and as I did so, they fell apart and as I moved closer I found they're physical objects. Killing them released "gems" which I had to walk over to pick up and they were added to my "hud" for eventual purchase of improvements to my weapon. Along the way there were a few terminals with buttons on them you can click (I had a good laugh over one button labeled "not bound", meaning it did nothing) with some opening doors and others releasing more monsters which I had to kill.

One problem I had was constantly entering mouselook and leaving it to click on my reload hud to reload a freebie pistol that is available (I figure there's a way to fire without being in mouselook but at the moment it escapes me). Another problem I had was that since the objects are actually -physical-, a lot of them in the area will lag the sim down. There was one area with about 6 or 7 "zombies" all grouped together as a single cluster when it was meant for them to be separate, and that slowed the system to a crawl. I saw the cluster fall through the floor twice trying to orient itself or move while the sim was computing how best to approach me and attack. Movement slowed and rubber-banded me back and forth as the sim repeatedly tried to compensate for all of the movement, and fortunately I've played enough of these game types to know to move away or around as far as possible until the system "woke up" and everything flowed smoothly again. On top of that, the "gems" are physical too, and walking over them sometimes kicked them instead of added them to my hud... I had to walk over them repeatedly.

I didn't end up getting very far. On my furthest foray into the maze, I got caught in between prims in one of those tight spaces that makes SL think you're falling. Couldn't move or jump or even fly out... easy prey for the zombies.

I tracked down the owner of the Maze, Chainsword Audion, and asked him a few questions...

Xymbers Slade: How long has the Maze been active, and what is the main objective?

Chainsword Audion: It opened a few months back. Its objective is to bring some fast paced action adventure to Second Life. Dancey clubs, beaches and lag are something we already have enough of.

Xymbers Slade: What kinds of critters can be found in the maze? Any power ups, puzzles, etc?

Chainsword Audion: New enemies and content are being added to the maze every so often. As of now you will encounter many kinds of zombies and robots. Puzzles yes; powerups: besides the weapon and hud everything you need is right here. #chestpat

Xymbers Slade: Any tips for survival in the maze?

Chainsword Audion: Bring friends. Do not let things get near you. Try to be fully reloaded at all times. Stuff like that.

Xymbers Slade: How long did it take to build this whole thing up?

Chainsword Audion: The maze has been something I have been working on since early 08. Created a total of 7 times and destroyed 6 times.

Xymbers Slade: I noticed a lot of the "monsters" are physical objects. Has that been a problem, since many physical objects interacting at once lag the sim down?

Chainsword Audion: This is unfortunately a part of Second Life. With careful managing of script resources though, this can be minimized.

Xymbers Slade: Is there anything you wanted to have the maze do/have, but could not thanks to the way SL works?

Chainsword Audion: Bigger battles. I would love to have large scale battles in the maze where you must hold off hundreds of enemies coming from all sides. This, however, is just not something that can happen with the amount of processing power Linden Labs chooses to allocate to a homestead or even fullsize sim for that matter. Would gladly be willing to shell out some cash to cover a hardware upgrade fee, however, that is not an option offered.

Xymbers Slade: What kind of improvements are you planning on making for the Maze in the future, or are you going to let the work stand for itself?

Chainsword Audion: I have several ideas for improving the hud and adding a possible armor feature. As for sure things though you can expect to see extensions to the bottom of the maze as well as new enemies and weapons. (only a little under 50% of the maze is actually finished)

Xymbers Slade: Any parting shots for those who want to make something similar? Pitfalls to avoid, words of wisdom, etc?

Chainsword Audion: Something similar? Don't make something similar. Make something that no one has ever seen before.

The Maze can be found at Tamarillo Island (238 239 1170). I'm going to give the Maze 3 Dragon Hoards out of five. The effort shows, but the SL physics take away from the overall effect and shoot 'em ups like this aren't my thing. Still, the pricing of the weapons is right (gotta support the sim somehow) and it's a nice thing to visit and try out if you're into this sort of thing.

Xymbers Slade

Friday, November 4, 2011

Meeroo Auctions

Having immersed myself into the Meeroos, I decided to head out and head for the Meeroo sim itself and check out the Meeroo Auctions they were having over there. I was surprised that such an auction house existed, but I probably shouldn't have been - I tell others "if it exists in real-life it exists in SL" all the time. I went over expecting to see a lot of shops and hear barkers giving prices for Meeroos, and I was not disappointed.

The sim is one big Meeroo store, with almost all traits, breeds, and varieties represented. I saw several places that had a lot of "rare coats" and a lot of "random nest givers" that promised good breeding lines and rare, normally-expensive 'roos at much cheaper prices... if you got lucky. Of course, seeing so many "rare coats" in one place kind of dumbed them down for me, I saw one pen filled with blue-coated meeroos that were supposed to be "very rare." Naturally, the more common the meeroo, rare coat or not, the less it would potentially be "worth."

In one corner of the sim, Auctioneer Emra Jantzen was calling out various meeroos and their bloodlines, sounding much like an overexcited infomercial. I mean that in a good way, because she had a LOT of interest and a lot of people clustered around the platform, all of them making various bids on the various meeroos presented before them. I caught up with her after her shift and asked her a few questions on the whole thing.

Xymbers Slade: How long have you been "hawking the 'roos"? Can you give a little bit of history behind the auctioneering here?

Emra Jantzen: I have been calling Meeroo auctions since late July, but Meeroo Market opened in late August. Daemon actually had a market on the sim but no auction area until August, when he decided to cash in on the growing trend of auctioning meeroos.

Xymbers Slade: Was it hard getting started? Did you just set up one day with a handful of nests and start calling them out?

Emra Jantzen: I actually started out as just a customer, new to meeroos, watching the auctions. I've been a DJ in SL for years and thought, how hard could this be? I didn't really think it through. It's a lot of work. I started at another auction house and was hooked at my first auction when I managed to sell a loch for 75000$L.

Xymbers Slade: How can you tell if a particular meeroo is very valuable, or is it just "the more traits the better"?

Emra Jantzen: It follows a simple supply and demand theory. The less there are of a coat the more valuable it is. If a rare coat has traits, that just ups the value more. If you come to one of my auctions you can hear me preach this, the more traits on a coat as possible. If a roo has just a coat the value will go down. If a roo has a rare coat with 3 good traits, its going to hold its value.

Xymbers Slade: How difficult would you say is it to get the particular traits? Is it luck, skill, patience or all three?

Emra Jantzen: Patience and skill with a dash of luck. If you know what you want and can wait it out you can get it. Knowing what is in the background of your roos genetics is key. I personally have managed to create a very reliable long mane line from two chest fluff off springs. It just took me awhile.

Xymbers Slade: How much would you say a Tribal with clear eyes, short tail, and short upturned ears would be (as that's the one I think I want the most)?

Emra Jantzen: A roo is only worth as much as someone will pay. That being said, I have seen tribals with no traits being sold for anywhere between 125k to 150k. The traits would add a significant amount to the price.

Xymbers Slade: Does it surprise you how much some of these meeroos go for? I was hearing bids of 4000, which is almost $20 USD, for 13 linked prims. (smile)

Emra Jantzen: Yes it does. You came on a bad night, we have sold roos for more then 150,000Ls here, and I have seen them priced for much more in markets. I always told myself I would never pay more then 5000 for a roo. I bought my first jubilee for 25,000. I think it gets kind of addicting at the auctions and before you know it you are bidding right along with everyone else.

Xymbers Slade: I heard the most one went for was $350,000L. What is the most you've sold a meeroo for, and where does the money all go?

Emra Jantzen: I don't have all of the high end roos that a lot have. I refused to invest in them for a long time and so I have fallen behind. The best one I sold was a Chest fluff back when they were selling for 16,000. I can't say where everyone else's money but mine actually goes to my RL. Being a single mother, the money from my auctions has really saved me a number of times. I actually paid my electric bill and rent last month with Roo money. I also pay my tier in world and pay for food for my roos. My tips last week will buy my kids Christmas presents when it gets in my bank.

Xymbers Slade: Finally, what do you think the chances are of a 'roo having "all" special traits (a hair trait, eye, rare coat... everything)... has it happened? What kind of price would it fetch?

Emra Jantzen: I have never seen a roo that had it all, but I personally know a few breeders who are trying. One in particular has come close, and you can sometimes see the results of her breeding in our auctions. We call them Callista Roos. I can only imagine how high they would go for when someone does manage to get all the traits in one roo.

Now, I've come close in my own meeroo breeding. I've gotten a couple of "short shorts" as they're termed, meeroos with the traits of "Short Tail" and "Short Upright Ears" (there are five possible "trait" slots, one for head shape, tail curl, clear eyes, ear shape, and coat). While I don't think I'll be putting them on the auction house (I want to see if I can get anything good out of my 'roos first), this is a good example of SL helping support people in real-life and what SL could be for everyone if done RIGHT. While I couldn't last more than ten minutes listening to someone bark out the virtues of something, I'm still giving the Meeroo Auction House five Dragon Hoards out of five. It can be found at Meeroo (218, 223, 25) so if you're looking for a possible bargain on the 'roo craze, that is a good place to check out and shop.

Xymbers Slade