Thursday, July 25, 2019
By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich Resident)
Rand Lupindo (Randermander) is known as a talented avatar creator and a role play community owner within Second Life that has been around for the past ten years. I had a chance to interview him about the history of their sim as well as their next avatar release and future plans.
Cyfir: How did Timber Wilds Industries start?
Rand: Timber Wilds started as a small, casual, wolfpack-themed roleplaying destination in 2009. Myself and a couple friends; Rabid Ghost and Jackal Avril, had met earlier in 2009 while roleplaying as wolves on the Lion King themed "Lost Pridelands" sim. We initially rented a small Homestead region (basically a lighter, less powerful sim that can handle fewer people, but is cheaper than a full region), and had a blast landscaping forests and mountains and caves and swamps and all manner of natural perils for Wolves to play around in. But $100 a month for a hobby is a lot, especially as I was a student at the time. So, I thought, if I could make some kind of quadruped wolf avatar to synergize with our wolf roleplay area, it might help pay the bills and keep the sim running. It took a few months but in August 2009 I released the first Timber Wilds Industries Wolf Avatar, and everything exploded.
It sold way better than I was expecting or hoping, but quickly got into controversy. Another avatar company, which I won't name, thought I had "copied them" and made some pretty public accusations of theft. I had certainly been inspired by the idea of their previous Wolf avatar, which was a quadruped body with its own Animation Overrider and a wide assortment of active poses and action animations as well as a marking customization HUD. I was pretty naive at the time and could have made more effort to distinguish my avatar from their wolf, but what they seemed to be claiming was that I had somehow stolen their actual animation files or something, which is bogus of course. I hand animated everything, sometimes taking ideas for what kind of movement to animate from existing avatars (such as the left or right step to shift weight during an idle pose), but come on, you can't copyright "A wolf stepping left".
The accusing company published a whole youtube video lining up my avatar next to theirs to supposedly prove their case. It wasn't very convincing, because it seemed to drive more skeptical customers to buy my avatar than the few of their loyal fans who came to make trouble. A few vendor malls wouldn't rent space to me as a result of the connections of the accusing company, but I don't think that it significantly held back interest in TWI avatars.
I didn't do anything to fight back, hoping the situation would eventually blow over, and it seems to have done so. The company seems to have left Second Life at some point over the intervening years. I hope that I didn't cause them to leave. I really wish we could have just coexisted. Other companies have made competing avatars to mine, some with features that could have been references to mine and attempts to "one up" my avatars, and I never flipped out about it. That's how the market works. If someone else makes a better avatar than mine, the customers get a better avatar and I get fresh ideas of how to improve.
I feel like the whole ordeal taught me that it's really shooting yourself in the foot to get overly litigious and try to dominate a market through fear rather than simply making better products. Especially in artistic fields, where the quality of products is often subjective, and there will always be a segment of the population that prefers one or another for seemingly random reasons. No competing avatar is going to knock out 100% of your sales.
Cyfir: For those not in the know, what is TWI and the sim all about? What does it offer?
Rand: Timber Wilds is a place where you can be a wolf, or a fox, lion, eagle or a bear! And soon, a deer! Basically for people who love the idea of being wild animals (called Ferals on Second Life and in the wider furry/animal fandom). Become one, get accessories and skins to make yourself unique, and meet & chat with other ferals who have done the same.
The avatars are I think the central inspiration, namely the TWI Timber Wolf, Red Fox, and Lion made by me, and the BRD-MRT Eagle and Bear made by long time sim staffer Raven Seraph. The sim is primarily the mall for these avatars and third party accessories for them, but we also have a pretty popular but laid back sandbox/hangout area, and an expansive roleplaying/exploring area.
The mall has, in addition to the main avatar vendors, about 45 third party vendors selling all sorts of skins, wearables, animations, sounds, and other accessories for TWI and BRDMRT avatars (and some others, but we try to enforce at least majority TWI/BRDMRT).
The roleplaying area is in my humble opinion one of the prettiest areas on Second Life, landscaped mostly by BRD-MRT creator Raven Seraph. It's got ice caves, glowy caves, scary caves, mountains to climb, hidden secrets to find, beautiful vistas and cozy coves. Our policy on roleplaying is to be less restrictive. We don't require any HUD or meter or anything, instead focusing on text roleplay or allowing guests to roll with whatever system they prefer. The area does have a fantasy backstory, and a free custom-built optional HUD with utility functions like dice, titler, Out of Character/Away from Keyboard indicators and some TWI avatar-compatible animations.
Cyfir: What were the challenges of starting a business and community in Second Life and what advice can you give to anyone looking to do so?
Rand: It's really easy to set up a business in Second Life, which is why I think almost everyone I've met who uses the software for very long ends up getting curious about creating content and selling it. It's a very simple process to set up a vendor in-world, and free software (Blender for modeling/animation, GIMP for texturing, Audacity for sound effects) and training/tutorials (via youtube) exist for almost all types of content creation. To become a large or successful business in SL requires a bit more time and effort, but is still very accessible to even a solo creator. You really only need a good idea, and time. My advice would be to spend some time exploring, and enjoying, the world of Second Life for a while in order to get a feel for what kinds of items are in demand or popular. Whatever cool stuff you find and enjoy using, you can learn to make yourself and maybe even make a unique improved version.
Communities are often related to products; since it costs money to maintain a region/space, it can be smart to have some kind of product line in development to help pay your sim fees. If the products synergize with your community theme (like clothes/fashion accessories for a club, or animal avatars for a wild animal roleplaying sim), it makes all the more sense as those interested in your products will probably become interested in the community and vice versa.
Cyfir: In a recent article I did on Albright, she mentioned that TWI would be releasing a feral deer avatar in the near future. Can you tell us more about that and is there an estimated release date yet?
Rand: It's true. I am making a deer avatar. I am hoping to have it done sometime in the next month or two but I can't put a hard date on it yet. I'm very slow with avatar work, I think partly because I have high expectations and I insist on continually re-doing things until they are as good as possible. I take inspiration from Blizzard Entertainment, which would usually release their games later than initially planned, but only because they always took all the time they needed to get everything perfect, never rushing unfinished work to release because they had set a deadline.
Cyfir: Are there any other projects in the works that you are able to talk about?
Rand: We have a few other avatars of different species in production, as well as some animesh experiments in the works!
Cyfir: What do you enjoy most about being part of the Second Life community and is there anything else that you would like to bring up about the sim or store?
You can check out the TWI store here: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/32831 and their sim here:
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
By Marcel Mosswood
LEA (Linden Endowment for the Arts) is a place that is the hope of almost all artists in Second Life because LEA can provide a full sim for artists to create freely! However, Linden Lab will close the LEA in August. Some avatars reacted, they decided to act so that the LEA could be returned to Second Life artists. Two resident, Tansee and Riannah Avora started a movement to return LEA for the artists.
Who are Tansee and Riannah Avora? How did they connect to LEA?
“I joined LEA seven years ago and can contribute my artistic, creative and personal growth as a direct result of my building trials and errors at the sandbox. From that point, I have been fortunate to be awarded both AIR and Core Grants which has enabled me to keep growing and learning. Along with the Grants I have been able to hold several art exhibitions, events, and educational displays. For me the experience has been priceless and continues,” said Tansee.
Different from Tansee, here is what Riannah said, “I came to LEA November 2018, so I have not been here that long. I had never heard of LEA before, as is the case for most people. Someone found me playing with light and shadows in a public sandbox and suggested that I come to LEA. Since I started Second Life, I have loved to build and create things... and I'm not the only one. When I came to LEA, it was like I found my "home" of sorts. I felt accepted. I am fairly shy about my work. I never really wanted it to be so public. However, others at LEA have been very encouraging. Bringing me out of my "shell" so to speak. I just got my first land grant at LEA... and it will be cut short because of the closing. But nonetheless, I will give it all that I have to give.”
Group joiner and notecard dropper at LEA Sandbox (http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/LEA5/215/149/21)
Well, we feel sad about the LEA closing, what do you think about this?
“Sad, very sad. It doesn't surprise me because LEA has been going on for so long and I fully understand that people get tired and need a break. Being in Second Life for nearly nine years now, I've seen places come and go. But if something can be done to save it, I'm all for it. Creating things, (objects, scripts, textures, and particles) is very therapeutic. And the atmosphere in LEA is very calming and people can do their work without fear of being ridiculed,” said Rainnah.
“It was not a complete surprise to me when I heard the news, and like so many others I felt a deep loss. In my heart, I knew that I would only have myself to blame if I did not take proactive steps to see that this would not happen. With the help of fellow LEA supporter Riannah Avora, the Group was formed,” according to Tansee.
Why do you think that LEA should not be closed?
“LEA plays a huge importance in the development of Virtual Art and creativity in SL as well as provides education on many levels. It provides positive social interactions with other like-minded online individuals. Those new to Second Life can come to see and learn the endless possibilities of creating in a virtual world. Friendships have been formed as well as the sharing of skills,” said Tansee.
And according to Riannah: “It provides a vital area and environment that enables people to express themselves via the things that they create, much like real life. There is no other place like LEA. Period. I know so many people who would love to learn, but they have no idea where to start. There are places to help you learn some of it... but they are not like LEA. No one really judges you here. They just want you to succeed in whatever it is you are creating. It's really a great "family" of sorts. And there's always something different to learn from looking at each other's work. No one can be great at everything that they want to do. But with the help of LEA, you can consult with others, learn, and figure it out. That's what LEA is about.
What are your ideas to persuade LL to turn LEA back for the artists?
For this question, Tansee decided to include her ideas along with all the others who are sending her notecards. “We're not exactly sure what it will take, to be honest. We are gathering ideas from our fellow artists. It's not just us, Tansee and me, in this. And we have gotten a very good response so far from other people in LEA. LEA is alive. LEA provides so many things that help people in so many ways, in Second Life and real life. There are opportunities that, without LEA, most people would never get to enjoy and experience. It's freedom. It's like the chains have been undone by being a part of LEA. And with LEA, there's nothing that we can't do!” said Riannah.
She continued, “The world is going to the 3D, VR, concepts of doing things. It would be an advantage if Second Life could say, "We helped". SL has always been great in showing support for many different causes. Their ability to support other real life organizations is amazing. Like with the Fantasy Faire... that totally rocked! Our cause might not be as obvious as some might think. But the people who make great builds, like at the Fantasy Faire, need and deserve a place to be. Most of us work and play here without any expectations on what we create. And a lot of our own money goes into what we build. Not to mention the time involved. We just need a bit of help with the "place" part. SL is great because of the people in it. And LEA is no exception to that. We create things that make SL better for everyone.”
You only have less than two weeks to gather ideas and coordinate with Linden Lab about the return of the LEA, is this enough time for you? How will you work to make it happen?
Tansee answered, “As we know viral can happen in an instant. I hope that anyone who has "positive" input will pass it on to other like-minded LEA supporters. So that we can compile a variety of suggestions. Spread the Word! Join the inworld group to stay informed. URL: secondlife:///app/group/4fec0f5b-ae2d-8cff-3b38-b8763bf2ca68/about
“It will just have to be enough time. We can only do what we can do. And if you don't try, you will never know. We can do a lot of things here, but we have yet to be able to control time. However, you never know when that might happen! There are some really great creators here, never underestimate them,” said Riannah positively.
Many people think that your efforts will be in vain, how do you deal with this?
“That is a great question. I respect and appreciate everyone's point of view and opinion however and I am determined to have a solid focus on taking swift "positive" action. (I can not use that word enough) to the best of my abilities. It is easy to be a critic. My real life background is in business and along with that management and problem-solving. I love the quote by Eldridge Cleaver and have used it many times with others: "You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem." I invite all critics to share specific suggestions to be a part of the solution,” said Tansee.
“That may be true, having a reason not to do something is easy. But I have never been one to back down from a challenge though. People can say "that can't be done" or "that is too much work"... eh... It's not that I disbelieve them, it's just that I'm a firm believer in "you can do anything you put your mind to.'' To not try at all, is certain failure. To have tried and failed, well, I will take my experience from trying and learn from it. Failure is a part of learning. I'm not afraid of it,” said Riannah.
Has Linden Lab reacted with this plan?
“I don't really know, actually. We are to meet with Patch Linden and Derrick Linden to present our case after they have read over ideas and comments that we collect from our fellow members of LEA. We feel there is a good chance we can reach an agreement. We have to start somewhere, and this is as good of a place as any. We'll go wherever the path takes us. Sometimes just starting somewhere is the answer,” said Riannah.
According to Tansee, “At the present moment, the group was formed to find like-minded positive people who are willing to share specific suggestions. Riannah and I are accepting those in Notecard format and will be credited and presented to Lindens in two weeks. My greatest hope is that they will give us a big thumbs up so that we can move to the next level of Keeping LEA Inworld!”
Do you get help from other avatars to make this happen?
“I have developed a friendship with another avid LEA supporter and Second Life creator Riannah Avora and it was a natural collaboration to work on this as a TEAM effort as we both love LEA and its future. Many who have joined the group and are offering some fantastic input already on many levels. Keep them coming!” said Tansee.
“Yes! We do! There are some truly awesome people in Second Life. Chelo, Rory, Earthling, and Roxy just to name a few people.
This is uncharted territory for us all. Even folks that can't help with the technical inner workings of things are doing a lot to help just by their support and encouragement. But we do need more support! So everyone should contact us that wants to be a part of it.”
“Ending this interview with a bit of philosophy that I live by:
"I'm fearless at times because the only alternative is to be terrified."
"The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." ~Walter Bagehot
"Kindness is more persuasive than force." ~Aesop,” said Riannah closing the interview section.
Monday, July 15, 2019
By Marcel Mosswood
Today Kultivate Magazine celebrates the Kultivate 4th Annual Anniversary by holding an art exhibition. The art exhibition involves 25 artists on 2D art and two artists on 3D art.
Half of the Water Haven sim is decorated in a steampunk theme for this art exhibition. The artists are also given the freedom to decorate their own exhibition booth measuring 20x20 m. With this freedom, artists develop their creativity in decorating their booths.
List of artists:
Fluer Heartsdale Chun
At the 4th Annual Anniversary, Kultivate Magazine holds various events every day for 7 days with live music and giveaway.
You can win a prize too! The following is a list of events:
Sunday, July 14, 2019:
- 1 pm slt – Exhibition Opens
- 1pm slt to 2pm slt – live performer Lark Bowen
- 2pm to 3pm slt – live performer Melenda Baptiste
Monday, July 15, 2019:
- 4pm slt to 5pm slt – live performer Dimivan Ludwig
Tuesday, July 16, 2019:
- 4pm to 5pm slt – live performer Mavenn
Wednesday, July 17, 2019:
- 4pm to 5pm slt – live performer Wolfie Starfire
Thursday, July 18, 2019:
- 4pm to 5pm slt – live performer TBD
Friday, July 19, 2019:
- 4pm to 5pm slt – live performer Erika Ordinary
Saturday, July 20, 2019:
- 1pm to 2pm slt – Close party
List of Giveaways (throughout the week, you must be present at events to win and enter the raffle board, only one item can be won per person)
2 LumiPros, Serenade Photo Studio Pro, Tillie’s Pose Stand, 5,000L’s, Fotoscope FotoFrame Publisher, “Beachyhead House” 100% original mesh Version 1.1 from DAD Designs, and the Camden Photo Studio from Maven Homes.
Here is the LM: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Water%20Haven/141/129/22
Editor's Note: Neoma Vasilia was going to be in the event, but had to drop out.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
By Cyfir (cyfiremmerich Resident)
Sovereign Wolf, owner of Cerberus, is an accomplished mesh and avatar creator who is working on bringing the original Crux avatar to a more modern shine. I recently had a chance to interview her and ask questions regarding this and more.
Cyfir: What got you started in 3D work and avatar making?
C: What have been your inspirations when it comes to your work?
SW: I used to be a huge Sonic nerd and I'm a huge Disney nerd too. Anything animated, 3d or traditional. Huge nerd for it and now here we are! Some of my in-world influences are Curious, KZK, and Mutation Industries. Just to name a few!
C: What got you interested in redoing the crux in modern mesh and bento?
SW: I loved my MI fox and MI crux, (I still have my original crux somewhere in the depths of my inventory, ha). I just felt like the following the crux had would appreciate a modernization, as I felt I would, too! I would have never stopped wearing mine if it had been updated to bento. The crux has influenced so many people. This is much more of a passion project for me. It's very nostalgic!
C: What have been the challenges of recreating the crux to "modern" standards?
SW: Definitely the facial structure; the brows and lids mainly. A lot of stylization of the original crux was sort of due to the limitations of sculpts at the time. And so trying to find a middle ground that doesn't change the look too much has been a bit of a task!
C: What does the original creator of the crux think?
SW: She told me, quote, "I think that if the folks who liked the sculpted version just want a mesh update without heavy design modifications that would be pretty ideal!"
C: Can you tell us what features will be included in the new crux?
C: Some original crux modders rely on sales from different color mods. Will there be a color palette chooser baked in to the avatar?
SW: I will only be covering the colors originally released. I will include shading PSDs with the avatar, as well as UV maps and everything else anyone will need to work on the av and modify it! There will also be an applier system! I will be splitting the original colorations into 3 packs of 6 (There's 18 original crux).
C: Is there a general release date window yet?
SW: Afraid not. This is in the pretty early stages. Avatar development usually takes me anywhere from 3-4 months (and I'm about 2-3 weeks in). I might decide to give it more time to add all the details and options I want to add in.
C: Is there anything else you would like to add about the new crux or your store in general?
SW: Yes. Please, all you die-hard crux fans out there, keep in mind that this remake will in no way stop you from enjoying the original. I know I'm not Malluch, but, I assure you that I too am a fan and I will do everything that I can to pay homage to this influential avatar! I am going to handle it with as much care as I can possibly give!
It seems that the new Crux avatar is in good hands. Those who have wanted to see a new version of the Crux will have to wait a bit longer, but it should be well worth the wait!
Friday, July 5, 2019
By Bixyl Shuftan
On Tuesday June 25 at 2PM SL time, the "Meet the Lindens" event with Oz and April Linden took place. Saffia Widdershins gave the interview, with Patch Linden taking questions from the audience. As Oz is the Senior Director of Second Life Engineering and April the Systems Engineering Manager, this was the event of the week in which people would get the most answers about upcoming features and technical questions about Second Life. This included when will residents get the option to get a new account surname, which Linden Lab stated in March 21 last year they were working on.
To begin with April had been a resident of Second Life since 2006 before being hired by Linden Lab. She still has her regular account and has a couple regions under it. She commented she feels more of a resident than a Linden, saying at the end of the work day and after dinner, she goes to her computer and signs onto that account. She described her coming across Second Life as especially important as she came from a family where certain issues "were not to be discussed." The virtual world allowed her to learn more about herself and others, "I love working here, this platform is so important to me."
Oz in contrast had signed up years ago, but he was on an old machine at the time and didn't do much. While April had the benefit of her residency experience, Oz compared his learning experience to drinking water from a fire hose. Although he found his first days overwhelming, he liked working at the Lab as it was a fun place to work with great people, with fascinating "lore" about the early days. While April is at an office, Oz works from home.
What Oz liked most about Second Life were the stories about how the virtual world can help people in their real lives, "We get a steady stream of those. ... you don't get those working on web browsers or telephones." April stated it was the same with her, "If I'm having a really bad day, I'll hang out with some folks here to remind me what I'm doing here"
Finally came the issue of last names (28:24 in the video). Saffia commenting,"Something we've been asking for for years." Oz's response was, Oz "I'll give you the short form quickly, and then we can keep talking about it. The short for is, last names would have been difficult, last names would have been easy. We still do last names, it's just that we give everyone the same last name.
"The hard part, and I may have contributed to making it the hard part, because I underestimated how difficult it would be. The hard part is allowing you to change your name. What we didn't want to do is say 'We're going to reintroduce last names, but you can't ever change your last name, which means all of you who got "stuck" with the last name "Resident" are just out of luck and you have to create new accounts.' That didn't seem fair. So we said we shouldn't just reintroduce last names. We should give people the ability to change their name. And that turns out to be the tricky part. It turns out that every part of Second Life, absolutely everything, was built with the assumption that your name can never change. And that means lots of things treated as something that can be cashed and the cash never needs to be cleaned up or updated and it has to be ... we have to go back and find that assumption everywhere in Second Life. And that's a *lot* of code.
"So we're working on it. We're knocking it down one system at a time. You would have thought it was based on a key, it isn't always, and the trick is that despite the fact that it was maybe not the best way to do it, to be saving names in diferent places, it always worked because names could never change. So it's the changing part that's ... We are working our way through that process. We're getting there. We're making progress. We'll get it done eventually. Anyone who's been to one of my regular user group meetings knows that I don't talk about making predictions of when things will come out until it's so close, I just can't be wrong."
April commented, "As Oz and I sometimes joked, turned out this was a really hard problem. And we didn't quite realize how hard it was until we started actually trying to do it." Oz added, "We're working on it. We are making progress. It'll be out, eventually."
Saffia asked if one possible problem was someone who changed their name possibly loosing their inventory. April answered , "That's the kind of stuff we're trying to not have happen."
When the audience had their chance to ask questions, many were about last names. One was how did the Lab plan to make name changes? The current plan was that residents could pick from a list. The number of names on the list wasn't decided on yet. But like before the list would change time to time. There were no plans on making old surnames available again. There was discussion within the Lab of possibly accepting suggestions for last names.
There will be a webpage to go to for those interested in changing their names. For the first time, it was revealed that having one's first name changed is also part of the plan. But the combination of the first name and new last name will still have to be unique, "not used by anyone, ever."
It was asked why was the Lab planning to charge residents to change their names. Oz answered, ""It has a social cost within the world, and a complexity. Not something you want people to do too frequently. It creates trouble. One of the ways to slow down things we don't want to go too fast is charging people for it." As of now, there were no plans to have any other limits. Oz stated though if too many residents changed names too often, they could impose time limits such as no more than once a week.
It was asked if residents would be notified when someone on their friends list changed their name? Oz answered, "We haven't addressed that.That's an interesting question. I can see ... that might be a good idea. We haven't discussed it." The person would still be on the friends list. Someone asked would the name on whatever items the person made be changed? Oz answered that was the goal. But as names would be in caches, the updating might not be instant, but could take some time. He hoped that it would be a short transition period.
On how much would changing names cost, Oz stated they were no longer making guesses on how much the fee to do so would be until after they figured out the process on how to do so.
Another issue was Linden Lab moving Second Life's data to "The Cloud." Oz answered they were making progress on that. They hadn't been notifying residents about updates concerning it partly because there were so many components of data, April stated about 200. But another reason was people were blaming cloud updates for perceived bugs, "We will avoid telling you when we've moved something. ... We get lots of bug reports that blame that ... muddies the waters." It was April's team that was largely responsible for moving data to Cloud servers. Among the things in which the moving was done were most of the resident inventories, "We didn't tell you, and we didn't get the bug reports," Oz remarked, "Some months after we've done something, we might mention it." They hoped a result of inventories being moved to The Cloud would be to make them more stable.
There were other questions. Someone asked if there would ever be more than ten pics in a profile. Oz stated that was a likely perk to offer those on Premium accounts in the future. It was asked with so many events and places having multiple groups, the Second Life Birthday being one example, would there ever be a "sub-group" category? Oz answered, "We haven't talked about it," admitting groups ended up being used for a lot of purposes. He stated what the Lab has done mostly is work on reliability.
It was also asked if Linden Lab would work on a "web viewer" in the future. Oz answered, "Absolutely," but couldn't offer a prediction as to when it could be available. "We know enough about it that it's possible, works pretty well. ... There have been three or four experiments that other companies have done." He stated the Lab worked on one for a while, "What we haven't solved is how to make it affordable. We expect that in time." April called making one "not a small task, but we've done it before."
There was also a mobile viewer in development. Oz stated there would be an alpha version available soon. But the first version would be limited to logging in and chat. It was commented it sounded like Radegast in how it worked. Oz called it a way to get in touch with SL without the graphical interface.
It was asked how come Second Life puts a low value on texture memory. Oz answered the main reason it's stayed so low, many users have older computers, and if it was allowed to be set too high, some of them would crash before they were even logged in. So old software "lies" about how much memory is available, "Don't run (SL) on Windows 98, really." He did say they were committed to making the number larger for users with more high-end computers.
One thing Oz brought up a few times was that Linden Lab has been trying to hire a senior graphics director, "please send them our way." The hiring of one he stated would speed up a few certain projects.
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There would be a few other questions from the audience. They and the answers can be seen in the video of the event.