The next chapter, wherein I colonize a new planet

Last summer, Walter began to worry about the future of Second Life in the face of growing evidence of the financial struggles of Linden Lab. In particular, he worried about how we would keep our family together, if Second Life should suddenly tank. He decided to work on a backup plan: building us a second home, in another virtual world. Not to leave SL; but to establish a beachhead, a fallout shelter, a Plan B.

After a few months of experimentation with various virtual worlds, he decided that we would build in the OpenSim world of OSgrid. One attractive thing about it is that there is no TOS, and no restrictions on “adult” lifestyles. Also, it is incredibly cheap. For less than the cost of a single homestead sim in SL, we could have 24 full regions, each one with no less than 20,000 prims, some with much more. Unlike SL, we are connected to OSgrid but our regions are hosted on our servers; that gives Walter full control over our world. No overlords; no being at the mercy of someone else’s poor business decisions. For Walter, and for our family, this was perfect. Walter was really excited. I think this is something he was born to do.

Walter’s imagination saw the possibilities, not only for our own family, but for the whole BDSM community on SL. Linden Lab is, to put it charitably, increasingly less hospitable to the BDSM community. But having our own grid would put us in charge. We would not need to conform to someone else’s rules. We would make our own rules, and protect and celebrate our way of life. So Walter hatched a plan to create a virtual world, not just for our family but for the whole BDSM community. And thus, Littlefield was born.

“Our hope is that Littlefield will be a safe, fun, and rewarding environment for the BDSM/Adult/Fetish community. We hope this community will bring together like minded individuals who will be able to create, interact, and have fun with very limited cost. We hope to offer some clarity and education about the BDSM/Fetish lifestyle to help anyone who is curious or wants to learn about the practices of BDSM in RL.” –About Littlefield, by Walter Balazic

As good as that sounds in theory, I will admit that at first I was reluctant. I love Second Life. It has been my home for four years. I love the creative people and the amazing builds and artworks they have made. I love my friends. I love the visual splendor of the world. I love being able to explore strange and wonderful new environments and experiences. I marvel at what people are to pull forth from their minds.

My first few visits to alternate grids did not reassure me. I love Walter very much, and I believed in his vision. Yet, at the same time, my initial experience was unappealing. For one thing, it was lonely: 5000 sims and I rarely saw more than 80 people online in the whole grid. Then there was my appearance, of which I am very conscious in Second Life. I am not a fashionista by any means, but I do love looking good; I have taken great care selecting skins, shapes, hair and clothes and I really appreciate the artistry that goes into making them. Alas, upon arrival in OSgrid, I looked like a 2006 noob; and even worse, the only skins, hair and clothes I found were freebies from that same era. I couldn’t find an AO so I was stuck walking like a duck. The buildings and landscaping around me were amateurish, lacking that spark of design sophistication that makes SL so appealing. I got very depressed over it. What would my life be, here? Yes, Walter would be in the new world, but the prospect of disconnecting from everything else I loved in SL seemed grim beyond words.

So I sat down to think things through. As I often do when pondering a dilemma, I begin by reminding myself of that which is most important, the sine qua non. And that is Walter. He is the most important person in my life. I may live in a virtual world, but my home is in him. He is my center, my ground, my reason for being. At my collaring, I made a vow to stay with him, to follow him to the end of all things. And I will, even if it were to mean forsaking everything else.

Having established that, I began to ponder my dilemma. Staying with Walter was a source of happiness. So what was making me unhappy? I focused on two things. My avatar looked terrible; and the world around me looked grim. Well… what if, instead of just lamenting the problem, I tackled it head on? Could I fix those things? Would there be a way to procure good skins, decent clothes? Instead of accepting as a given the uninspired world I saw, could I build something better, a world that was visually pleasing?

The more I thought it through, the more I began to see myself, not like a refugee, but almost as a character in a science fiction novel–a pioneer on a spaceship sent to colonize another planet. If we wanted something, we would have to find a way to bring it with us, or, more likely, make it ourselves; there would be no stores where we could just buy things. Could I do this? I was pretty sure I could make buildings, but could I make my own trees, my own clothes, my own hair… my own skin?

I thought about it for several days. Then it was time for action. I had to build just one thing, something simple, something that could reassure me that other things eventually would be possible. I sketched out a simple plaza, with fountains and planters and benches. When my friend VonGklugelstein Alter gave me permission to use his textures in our new grid, things suddenly started looking up. I built a few stores. They didn’t look half bad. Inspiration hit, generating ideas for a community center. I experimented with making a tree. I bit the bullet and started to learn Photoshop. I found clothing templates I could work with.

I’m not sure exactly when the transition happened, but somewhere in there, I went from being dragged reluctantly into what seemed like a prison, to voluntarily spending almost all my time there, because it’s so much fun.

There are a LOT of challenges. But now, instead of depressing me, the challenges energize me, and even entertain me. If I need a building tool, I can’t go out and buy it. I have to make it. (But it’s not such a bad thing, is it, to learn how to do it myself?) There is no fashion world on OSgrid; no other designers, no shopping, no couture, no skin makers, no hair makers. But some makers of clothing templates in SL will license their content for other grids; so I can make some cute outfits, and we have one person in our family who is really good at making clothes and shoes. I found a free skin on the internet that’s really good. Hair is still a challenge, but we are working on it. Animations are another, but we now have one pioneer who is applying herself to that trade. My avatar now looks almost normal.

It is a different way of being. My SL has been, not so much about creativity, as experiencing and appreciating the creativity of others. It is a somewhat passive experience of consumption. On OSgrid there is not much out there available to be consumed. Whatever we want to consume, we must make. The experience of Littlefield is proactive, one of creating, colonizing our own new planet, building a world that we’re in charge of, for the benefit of our family, our friends, our community.

Walter was right about this. He usually is right. I am learning to trust that.

I am still in SL–I don’t see myself ever leaving SL–but pixel by pixel, the Littlefield part of my world is coming into focus. It stimulates a different aspect of my mind and heart. It is a place of limitless possibilities. A place that is all potential, all promise, all vision, unrealized as yet, but well on its way.

Author: Camryn Darkstone

After more than a decade exploring 3D virtual worlds and their possibilities for relationship and self expression, Camryn Darkstone is leading a life of quiet contentment, building and landscaping for Littlefield Grid with occasional projects in Second Life. Camryn has been active in online communities since the early 1980s, and, under other names, has written extensively about the ways that people relate to one another on the internet. Since 2009 Camryn has enjoyed a loving, consensual D/s relationship as submissive to Walter Balazic in both the virtual world and the "real" world.

8 thoughts on “The next chapter, wherein I colonize a new planet”

  1. this is absolutely beautifully written! you painted a very warm and genuine picture of your journey and many parts rang true with my own, even our time inSL is nearly the same

    thank you for writing from your heart, this was a lovely post for me to read and one i somehow needed to read tonight =)

  2. Hi Camryn,

    As someone who made the shift from Second Life to a self-hosted region using OpenSim, along with my SL partner, I can really appreciate some of the difficulties that are there with moving from one place to another or between them both.

    Resources for making thing can be difficult to find, but, I hope you won’t mind if I give a plug for the blog we set up and another OpenSim-based blog that help to point people to free resources and other helpful advice.

    Enlades is our blog at http://enlades.wordpress.com/

    Vanish Seriath’s blog has tips, guides and also includes free to use, downloadable files at: http://www.tgib.co.uk/

    Very best wishes to you all for setting up your place in happiness and freedom.

    1. Hi Belochka, thanks for the referral. And hi Camryn, I can relate to your experience, and I can assure you it’s going to be one hell of a ride. In the end, you’ll be more than you ever were in SL.

      Godspeed
      V

  3. i have spent the last year blogging daily, often several times a day, on the move. it is better now with the latest OpenSim being significantly better than 0.6.8

    there were difficulties from a technical point but the largest part of the journey, for me, was the emotional one. i cover loads of tech things and have dozens of posts on inventory, land, parcels, and bringing over as much as you can from SL – but in the final analysis, it was my mindset

    i think i can safely say i was major into SL – i spoke at a few conferences, i had 20 sims and a $3K a month tier and i even sat down with Nelson Linden and Betsy McMullin of LL after a conference in San Fran to talk about small business inSL

    but . . . that and a quarter and my experience inSl now have translated to being much happier in OpenSim (we have a dedicated server for a private grid) and having a sense of ownership and peace of mind that i simply never had inSL

    SL will always be what taught me about virtual worlds, but i have little desire to return (i have logged in once in the last 11 months) and certainly will never do anything inSL

    enjoy OpenSim, it can be more than SL could ever have been =)

  4. lol, i just blab a lot =) but OpenSim has improved in stability greatly and i have no regrets and don’t really miss very much from SL (except for some key people)

  5. I love what you are creating Cam, you are a fabulous builder and your creations so far are amazing 🙂 I am enjoying my new iife in Littlefield and I enjoy your company as I do the rest of the family. I am so please Walter invited me over there and gave me a new home. keep up the wonderful work I look forward to your new creations

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