Friday, May 28, 2021

Red Rocket Cola

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Sunday May 23, Montecito Bay held a release party not for an avatar, but a brand of Second Life vending machine: "Red Rocket Cola."

We're having a unique party on Sunday! An awesome beach party with a special guest, Red Rocket Cola, bringing you some ground-shattering Vending Machines for sale at the event! These neat little objects allow you to choose your cola of choice, drink it, and throw it away! It's a fun addition to literally every walk of life in SL, and we're happy to raffle off a few of the vending machines through out the beach party! Come join us for awesome summer tunes and a chance at one of these awesome soda vendors!

The party itself was a hit with about fifty people attending at the skybox above the Bay. It was a beach area with a walkway of planks leading to the party area. To the left were displays of information about Red Rocket Cola, and a couple of the machines up for people to use, as well as a pile of "twelve pack" boxes people could also get drinks from. The boxes and one of the machines gave out cans. The other machine gave out larger cups of drinks, and slushies - slightly frozen soda. Besides Red Rocket Cola, there were five other brands of soda: Kiwi, Popping Cherry, Limmy, and two with rather odd names: "People Like Grapes" and a blue raspberry soda named "Blue Balls." For those outside English-speaking countries, the name of the last one can also be a slang term for the feelings of a frustrated guy after he's told to expect a very enjoyable time with a lady and then gets told it's not happening.

Also to the left, there was a table of free goodies from hats, pins, earphones, MP3 players, toothbrushes (appropriate for a sugary soda company), mousepads, and more. On the other side were three game booths with games one might find at a carnival from popping balloons with darts to squirting thirsty slimes with the right kind of soda to ring toss to knocking down cups with balls. Up ahead was DJ "Magic" Moff whom was playing to the large crows, who cheered, "EPIC SET MOFF!!!" The white Crux DJ smiled, "Magic Moff aims to please." In the middle of the crowd was a huskygirl wearing a Red Rocket Cola-themed swinsuit, baseball cap, and headphones and had a plate full of sodas ready for anyone to take. This was Eliwood407 Resident, the person behind the soda dispenser.

I would message Eliwood, whom was pleased to talk about the soda machines, "I would love to! You flatter me." Of where the idea came from, "The idea started when we needed a vending machine, but most of the vending machines on SecondLife had knockoff brands on it, or simply sent a item to your inventory you then attach, we thought we could make it more intractable!"

Of it's development, "Oh the development was rough. Fun but rough! Once we had the original machine working, we added more and more flavors. So I had to redesign parts of the touch screen multiple times. Testing the machine was not a  breeze either. Since you can drop the cups, and other players can pick it up, we had to make sure at no point the script would fail or shout an error. But eventually we ended up with a solid machine that could do soda and slushies! Then we used that code to make a simpler can vending machine, and then we used that code to make an even simpler 12-pack box! But I think the worst part was the SecondLife server to cloud update. Suddenly the machine would not work reliably anymore because of bugs that thankfully have now been fixed, after we found a way around them. ... Yeah it was devastating. All it took was a simple bug; scripts would 'wake up' two seconds after being rezzed, made it very complicated."

I went ahead and asked about the "Blue Balls" soda, asking how could it be advertised? Eliwood responded, "That's a thinker! 'You won't get blue balled with the flavor of Blueballs Blue Raspberry!' I need to hire more consultants and marketers for that flavor name!"

So what new flavors were coming in the future? Eliwood answered, "Oh for sure, I keep getting great suggestions, so there is no lack of ideas. I also think a energy drink variant of the current flavors may be neat! A friend of mine is also pushing me to make a sister brand of sparkling milk in a can. I've never had it and it sounds weird, but apparently it's big in Japan! ... Yeah it sounds weird right?"

Of future plans for Red Rocket, "Aside from the new flavors, I definitely want to make more dispensers. Perhaps ice cream may be something I want to focus on, and definitely food related items. That still feels like a big missing piece to the puzzle. But in the meantime, between working on bigger projects, I like to make silly small stuff that usually end up in the goodiebags! If I feel like making headphones, or a oldschool mp3 player, I make neat Red Rocket Cola texture for it and add it to the goodiebag. I think building up a brand people like is just as important as the products themselves!

"I just hope that word spreads and the brand becomes something great! I really enjoy seeing people wearing the brand and enjoying it! I want it to become something bigger than just me and my ideas. I think something fun people share on SL is most important, because in the end we made these machines for fun, and it should stay that way."

The party went on for a while, Moff playing tunes for a while after the scheduled end. And once he finally stepped down, people continued to talk about goings on such as the Fantasy Faire's Jail and Bail, "That's a lot of people on one simulator." There was also talk about old Second Life games. And there was some joking around about a possible new flavor of soda, "Red Rocket Rainbow Blast." "Red Rocket Rainbow Blast will send you to space and beyond." "Taste the rainbow, but it's better than skittles." People also played the games some, including me. A few were joking around with the soda squirter game, turning the gun around to the crowd. "You are gonna get us all sticky," Eliwood chuckled. As it turned out, the scores were also worth points that meant a prize depending on how high you got. The top prizes were solid gold soda cups, with the second highest being pet slimes. "Weird afterparty." "Best afterparty!"

The beach area (with the games removed) should be up for a little while at Montecito Bay (43/157/902), for those wanting to see, or for those wanting to learn more and buy one of the drink machines. They're also available on Marketplace  (cans) (cups) (boxes). They should soon be available in other places as well.

So for the latest in carbonated beverage machines in Second Life, there's Red Rocket Cola.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A Personal Change: Updating My Avatar

By Bixyl Shuftan

Probably the most personal of things here in Second Life is one's avatar. Some never change. Some are always changing and never seem to have a favorite appearance. Me? While I occasionally change for a contest or event like a holiday, I keep going back to my main appearance, that of my fox avatar. But until recently, it was the first avatar I ever bought here in the virtual world.

When I first came here to Second Life, I arrived in my starter ringtail. When I started coming on regularly in summer 2007, I thought about for weeks what to change to. Eventually, I decided on the Red Luskwood Fox. The only change was replacing the stiff tail for a flexible one. I would eventually get other avatars, as changing to something else for a little while was fun. But as stated before, I would always switch back to the Lusk Fox. 

Time went on and the years went by. Occasionally I would be told the old Lusk was dated and asked me to change. The ears were stiff. The mouth didn't move when I chatted. But I didn't see any other avatar that was particularly appealing enough to change to. I had also heard Luskwood had plans to eventually update their fox avie much the same as their feline ones. Another reason to wait. But due to problems behind the scenes, that was delayed. Eventually I would add a camera and a couple friends made press tags for my hat. But over a decade later, I was still wearing the same avatar from 2007 as my main one. "Maybe someday," I told others whom asked me to change. I just didn't see another fox avatar that I thought was a good replacement to the one I already had.

Eventually, another avatar started looking more and more like a possibility.

Dark Spot Designs caught my attention a few years ago when they discounted the prices for their Fennec avatars to a third of what they were, which came in handy for some "Best in (color)" events, and when I was a certain color for a week after my Relay team reached a milestone. Eventually, I began thinking more and more about their Fox. Finally, I decided to go ahead and get one, the DSD Orange Fox, figuring if it didn't work I could always continue to stick with the Lusk as my main appearance.

It did take a little getting used to, but I came to the conclusion this was the one. 

So why this one particular avatar design and no others? I can't put my finger on it other than to say it just seemed more right. None of the other people among my closer group of friends has a red or orange DSD, though one lady among my closer ones does have a silver one. So maybe this reflects a desire to be unique while having something in common with someone I identify closely with.

There are a number of differences between the two avatars. The older one was simpler, in both appearance and complexity.  The Luskwood avatar is 66K in avatar complexity. The newer DSD is 167K. This is an increase of close to 150%. The newer one has sharper details in places. While the Lusk had red head hair and a smile, the DSD has orange hair with whiter ends, and a more neutral expression, with less white in the eyes and larger pupils. So it looks a little like it reflects a little about me getting older and grayer in real life. It might also give some the impression I've gotten a little less happy and more weary over time. I've had a few friends whom over the years have gone from happy most of the time to periods of sadness and tiredness. While I consider myself in good spirits most of the time, not sure what others would say.

Both avatars are customizable, and I can get both to my preferred height (with the fox avatar) of 5'1". I could go a bit shorter by shortening the legs, but I don't wish too. With the DSD, the ears are flexible, and if I need to wear a helmet can fold them.  The hands are slightly larger. The newer avatar also lacks the chest fluff the Lusk has, so I no longer have to keep undone a couple buttons near the top of my shirt. Among the bigger differences are the legs. The DSD's lower legs and feet are digigrade, walking about on the lower feet, while the Luskwood is plantigrade, walking on heels. This is closer to the foxfolk of the Cyantian comics that helped inspire my choice of avatar in 2007. 

And then there's the clothing. It looks like the DSD can handle my outfits. There is one detail. Because it's digigrade, pants get cut off at the knees.  That may cause a complication at some high end parties, though maybe a longer overcoat would help.

The reactions among others have been mostly positive, mostly. One lady I hadn't met in a while that I've known for years exclaimed along the lines of, "I can't believe it! You actually upgraded to a new fox avatar!" More often were calmer compliments saying it looked good. A couple friends commented they missed the old Lusk some. The majority didn't say much of anything.

So what does this mean for the older Lusk avie? While it won't be used as much, it's not going to be truly mothballed. As the Luskwood is lower complexity, I may use it sometimes in a crowded sim or one with obviously plenty of lag, or if logging in and the textures have trouble loading. More importantly, Luskwood is still in business. While they haven't updated their avatars lately, they're still around to fix things. DSD as far as I know has gone out of business. The avatar is still up for sale on Marketplace and a few places on the Grid, but is no longer being updated. So if the scripts start to break due to viewer and grid updates, the company isn't around to fix them. If too many break, that means having to give up the avatar. But this is unlikely anytime soon.

So after having the same avatar for thirteen years, finally I made the change.
Bixyl Shuftan