Ten Years

I spend more time than ever in the virtual world these days, mostly in Littlefield Grid. But today I took some time in good old Second Life, to observe the 10th anniversary of the official launch on June 23, 2003. After all, Second Life is where I was born.

It is easy to be critical of Second Life. Those of us who inhabit the OpenSimulator world, especially, often are. But I have to admit that I was moved by my experience today. Let me explain why.

Statue of Man 2002When speaking of Second Life, it is important to draw a distinction between Linden Lab—the commercial entity that created the Second Life software—and the residents, the community of people who created essentially everything that is IN Second Life.

I am no fan of Linden Lab. In my opinion, Second Life is one of the most spectacularly mismanaged businesses in the history of business. Their chronically poor judgment has alienated countless thousands of contributors to the virtual world, and kept the company on the edge of disaster for years.

But somehow, after ten years, the place is still standing, at least for now. Despite inept management, over a million people still log in to Second Life at least once a month. Why? Those one million people are not visiting Second Life because of technology. What keeps them coming back? They come because of people: the residents, the community, the world that has been created, not by Linden Lab, but by people like you and me.

Linden Lab is not Second Life. We are.

Second Life’s 10th Birthday was, for me, a celebration of the mind-bending creativity of the residents of the virtual world (every virtual world, not only Second Life). Seeing it showcased all in one place made it clear just how deep the talent pool is. I was awed by resident creativity expressed in immersive 3-D art… streaming media, machinima, radio and television stations… vehicles, from cars to sailboats to rocket ships… relationships: communities, friendships, romance and sex… battle weapons from swords to It all started with a cube.tanks… animations for every conceivable activity… a massive virtual fashion industry fueling $32 billion USD in virtual goods transactions… deep and complex roleplay communities… education, and charitable fundraising… scripts that enable intriguing things to happen… exquisite textures and building materials… cities and landscapes in astonishing variety… every conceivable environment from castles to post-apocalyptic ruins, bayou shacks to gleaming palaces, and everything in between… and ideas, omg, incredibly creative and innovative ideas.

These are the components of the virtual world, and they were not created by Linden Lab. They were created by us—the users, the residents, the virtual world community. This is what inspired me today. Not Linden Lab, but imagination and the human spirit.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the official launch of Second Life, I celebrate the creativity of 30 million human beings who have lived in this and every other virtual world. I toast their thought, their craft, their innovation, their art and their science. I praise the generosity of spirit that inspires me every day, when people pull amazingly wonderful and original ideas out of their minds, and share them with the rest of us in Second Life, in Littlefield, and in every virtual world.

Let us raise a glass to creativity! Hear, hear!

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SOMA: sensual pleasure on Bondage

Friends noticed me in SL a lot more for a few weeks, and I want to share a bit about the project that I just completed there. Stop by the sim Bondage and have a look at SOMA.

SOMA is not easy to describe. They are a group of friends who share an interest in the pleasure of intellect, erotic sensuality, art and myth. At first glance, one may wonder whether it’s a sex club, an art gallery, a dance club or a temple. The answer is yes.

In ancient mythology, Soma was the drink of the gods, the Hindu equivalent of the Greco-Roman ambrosia. It is the elixir that celebrates the divine character of life. SOMA is a group of passionate friends and thoughtful lovers. Or is that lovers of thought? SOMA hosts discussions, dances, art exhibits, erotic parties, rituals, theater, concerts and more. SOMA is a pleasure feast of body, mind and spirit, a celebration of art and sensuality, of wild and tender passions.

SOMA began as one small building on a small parcel, and grew rapidly without much planning. When they finally took over the entire sim, they asked me to come and help them expand in a more thoughtful way. I retained their original Asian building and helped them expand into a large Roman area and a Celtic-themed area featuring a stone circle.

SOMA now has a blog, “Ambrosia” and can be found on Twitter @SomaSecondLife. Inworld, join the group Bondage Soma to receive notices. Below is a quick photo tour of SOMA.

One arrives at a central plaza that leads to all the various venues. Yes, that is an Egyptian god in front of a Roman villa. That type of convergence is typical of SOMA.

Soma Roman Villa

The group enjoys weekly dances in The Pleasure Dome. Love the Alchemy Immortalis “Haute Suite” chairs.

Pleasure Dome

Sculpted deities by the amazing Ryusho Ort are featured in the central plaza.

Soma Statues Hindu Egyptian Gods

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions.

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions

Villa de L’Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng, a successful RL artist whose vibrant, colorful images celebrate life and love.

Villa de L'Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister.

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister

Artwork and logo by my wonderful friends Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Artwork and logo by Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Bacchus Pub, furnished with Max Graf’s excellent Rustica pub set.

Bacchus Pub, Rustica pub

The villa has several nooks and terraces for intimacy and romance.

Soma Romantic Terrace

Flute Alonzo’s furnishings have gorgeous textures and top quality animations.

Soma Flute Alonzo Furnishings

One private room has a Gorean dance pit and a setting for small group gatherings.

Soma Private Room

The sim is named Bondage. That said, it is not primarily a BDSM sim. But there is a small, elegant, intimate dungeon, the Temple of Bondage, well-equipped for sensual bondage play.

Temple of Bondage

The Temple of Bondage has a lovely public room and three private rooms equipped with dozens of the finest BDSM toys from BFE, Deviant, Dictatorshop and Nihil.

Temple of Bondage Dungeon Rooms

The Temple of Zeus and Hera provides a setting for pagan rituals and… well, other things.

Temple of Zeus and Hera

The Serene Meditation Garden is a lovely place for Tai Chi or just sitting, when you need to breathe.

Serene Meditation Garden

This Stone Circle is the setting for a popular weekly discussion group. I landscaped the oak grove around the group’s slightly kludgy standing stones to which they have grown sentimentally attached.

Stone Circle Oak Grove

Other features not pictured here include an elaborate undersea mer garden, tree house, beach house, and Japanese pleasure palace.

Be sure to stop by SOMA on Bondage and partake of its many pleasures.

Chinese Scholars Garden

Moon Gate frames the Tang Dynasty style mansion of the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second LifeI keep meaning to post about this project that I did last summer in Second Life. Here it is finally.

My friend Grath Helgerud asked me to build a Chinese Scholar’s Garden for him in Second Life, after seeing an exhibit about these intriguing gardens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Without knowing anything at all about what that meant, I accepted the challenge. As I began to research the style, I uncovered a vast new universe of thought that drew me in more deeply as I worked. This is not Chinoiserie — European impressions of China — this is authentic China, a world that fascinates me by being so “other”.

Chinese Scholar’s Gardens are an art form that flourished in China from the 10th-18th centuries. Creating one of these gardens was a favored leisure pursuit of the scholar class, a way to create a spiritual retreat from the pressures of professional life. Complex design principles produced a spiritual retreat within interior courtyards of the scholar’s home.  Waterways are surrounded by carefully arranged rock gardens, trees and plants that all have poetic meaning, forming meticulously composed vistas. Pathways lead one on a journey, drawing you into it more and more deeply, offering interesting views and perspectives at each turn, framed by pavilions, halls, gates and windows.

Song Dynasty style tea house in the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second LifeThis was a challenging project because it required me to think in a completely different way. In the Western world we are more accustomed to a house surrounded by a park-like garden; this is a garden surrounded by a house. Architecture and sculpture are important elements; a Chinese garden is “built” as an abstraction and stylization of nature. It wouldn’t do to simply scatter some nice plants and trees around. Mathematical proportions must be precise; plants, rocks and structures have specific meanings and must be selected and placed just so. The end result is an immersion experience that takes you on a journey. Following the asymmetrical garden path, you encounter a variety of spatial connections as you pass from one section to another, being presented with new and pleasing views at every turn.

Everything in the garden has significance; there is meaning attached to every plant, every rock, every shape. It was more than simply a calm place for painting, poetry, calligraphy, study and music. To build a garden, a scholar had to understand fengshui, botany, hydraulics, philosophy, history, literature, poetry and architecture. The garden was considered a measure of his knowledge as well as a showcase of his aesthetic taste.

Meditating at the Water Pavilion in the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second LifeI had no such knowledge, of course. I was very fortunate to discover the work of the fabulously talented Ryusho Ort, who immediately impressed me with the beauty, technical virtuosity and authenticity of his Chinese buildings. We started with his Dragon and Phoenix Hall in the Ming dynasty style, and added others in Song and Tang dynasty styles. Ryu coached me along the way, and helped us create a very pleasing retreat.

Even the plantings were a challenge, since the design requires very specific types of plants and trees, not all of which are readily available in Second Life. It took quite awhile to find good quality flowering plum trees, peonies, and grasses. Bamboo, banana and lotus were a little easier, but I never did find the right type of orchid, or the quintessential Taihu rocks.

I was happy, though, to be able to find an excellent family of Mandarin Ducks and multicolored Koi to grace the ponds.

Naturally, spending time in the Chinese Garden required the proper attire! I am pictured here wearing Nicky Ree’s magnificent Phoenix Gown.

You can see the entire set of 16 photos on my Flickr page.

To learn more about Chinese Scholar’s Gardens, I recommend the Wikipedia page as well as this video as a good starting place. The Missouri Botanical Garden has another nice introduction on their website. On the Asian Historical Architecture website you can take in-depth photo tours of some of the famous gardens of Suzhou, China such as the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, and the Master-of-Nets Garden.

Click here to visit this Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Second Life. Grath has since added a few non-Chinese items, but there are still plenty of places to sit and relax, cuddle or slow dance. It’s a great place to visit for contemplation, meditation or relaxation — just like the originals were.

Top Quality Creators Who License for Other Grids

In my last post I discussed new opportunities for Opensimulator builders to obtain high-quality textures and sculpts from SL artists who are willing to license their products for Opensimulator virtual worlds.

In this post, I’d like to applaud some of the cooperating artists. Below I have listed some of Second Life’s top creators of high-end textures and/or sculpts who offer “other grid” licenses. I encourage you to support these artists by buying their products, so that they will be encouraged to continue to support OpenSim builders and help us improve the quality of our life here.

Note that in some cases, their products are sold only in SL or on the SL Marketplace, so you would need a Second Life account to receive delivery of the product or to contact the artist. Even if you are not currently active in Second Life, you might consider keeping an account there just for this purpose. One of my friends thinks of it like this: he lives in the suburbs, and occasionally visits the big city for a shopping trip!

TOP QUALITY CREATORS OF TEXTURES AND SCULPTS WHO LICENSE FOR OTHER GRIDS

Please suggest any other premium content creators you’ve worked with who license for Opensimulator.

Studio Skye – Alex Bader. Alex has just started making his outstanding textures available for download from his website. No Second Life account needed. http://www.studio-skye.com

Primmersive Designworks / E&D Engineering – Eryn Republic, Texture Engineer. Excellent, hyper-realistic textures, emphasis on postmodern, dystopian, industrial. Custom design available. Contact them for licensing info. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/21145  (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

TRU Textures Ltd. – LillyBeth Filth (Elizabeth Gallagher) Extensive selection of quality textures available for download from website. No Second Life account needed. http://www.texturesrus.net/

Anthonys Republic. High quality sculpts. Choose between one-time license covering all products, or pay as you go. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/22444 (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

Twisted Thorn Textures – Nighty Goodspeed. Only a small selection available on Marketplace; see SL in-world store for much more. Choose between one-time other-grid license covering all products, or pay as you go. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/5019 (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

Door and Texture Store – VonGklugelstein Alter. Really useful materials for creating buildings. Contact VonGklugelstein Alter in SL for licensing info. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/21912  (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

Panther 3D – Adaarye Shikami. Some textures available in SL at Twisted Thorn. Contact Adaarye Shikami for licensing info. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/9149  (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

Jubjubs Stuff – Jubjub Forder. Several highly useful sculpts. Contact Jubjub Forder for licensing info. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/15290  (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

Svo Michalak. Very nice sculpts of useful landscaping, food, tools and assorted other objects. He told me once that other-grid licensing is assumed for all his products however I would suggest that you contact him yourself to make sure. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/18128  (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

FUD – Happyholly Grigges. Some good trees and other items. Contact Happyholly Grigges for licensing info. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/8976 (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

CFD Cloud Factory Designs – Areku Shirakawa. Furniture sculpts. Contact Areku Shirakawa for licensing info.  https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/15366 (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

FLECHA – Flecha Warwillow. Contact Flecha Warwillow for licensing info.  https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/52128  (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

S.Town Sculpties – CrashOV Uladstron. Contact CrashOV Uladstron for licensing info. https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/39126   (Second Life account required to receive delivery)

Please suggest any other premium content creators you’ve worked with who license for Opensimulator.

Bringing High End Textures to Opensim

The fact that everything is free in many Opensimulator grids may feel like a refreshing change for those who came from Second Life, where capitalism reigns. No money! No economy! Content creators freely share what they make. Take everything you want – it’s free!

On the other hand, it also presents a challenge for builders, especially those for whom quality is important. Most suppliers of high-end building materials in Second Life – textures and sculpts especially – are professional graphic artists who make a living at content creation. Not many of them are willing to provide materials for use in Opensim. They are, understandably, reluctant to give their livelihood away in a grid where they can’t easily be reimbursed. Without their supplies, quality materials are not plentiful.

Thus, Opensim builders typically have been faced with difficult choices. We can try to rely on whatever freebies are available here, which can be hit or miss. A few builders, sadly, simply steal materials. Others do their best to learn to make their own original textures, sculpts, scripts and animations, and while that’s probably the best solution, the learning curve can be extremely overwhelming.

However, there is another option. As OpenSim based grids like OSgrid grow in popularity, more and more creators of high-end building materials are willing to license their textures and sculpts for use on other grids, not just the commercial grids like Second Life, Avination or Inworldz. If you want the best quality, and if you are willing to pay a few pennies for it, you now have a lot more options.

We would like to thank these pioneering content creators for their willingness to support OSgrid builders. In my next post, I list their names and URLs. I hope that all OSgrid builders who value quality will support their businesses, as they support us by enriching our world.

We want to encourage high-end content creators to continue providing great textures and sculpts for use in Opensimulator. Support goes both ways. If we expect them to support us, we must be willing to return the favor – by buying their products, and also by treating them with respect:

  • PLEASE respect licensing agreements. If the license says you don’t have permission to export building materials to other grids, don’t do it, no matter how much you want the item.
  • It is NEVER okay to give away purchased textures. It is okay to share things you made with the textures, but not the textures themselves. Do not pass textures to friends. Do not share textures.
  • When you use a purchased texture, do not give out your creation with full permissions. Make it no-transfer or no-copy. If you need to make something that is both copy and transfer, use only building materials whose creator clearly intended them to be freely shared.
  • If you have permission to export a texture to Opensim, do not re-import the texture into Second Life. This is the main transgression that stops most content creators from supporting Opensim. Also, if you make something in Opensim using a purchased texture or sculpt map, and import that item into Second Life. replace the texture or sculpt with the purchased version that shows the original artist as the creator.

If you don’t respect licensing agreements, you are only hurting yourself. Every time you use a texture or sculpt without permission, you make it less likely that high-quality textures and sculpts will continue to be available for to Opensim. Maybe you don’t want them; but when you don’t respect licensing agreements, you help to close off the supply to other builders who do want them. So please respect your fellow builders as well as the content creators whose work enriches our virtual world.

Victorian store: a Painted Lady

I decided to try Victorian…! We wanted to make our new shopping area reminiscent of New Hope, PA and other small towns where the original Victorian houses have been converted to funky, eclectic shops. I made most of them fairly simple, but on this one, I got inspired to go full tilt. As they say, if you stood still for 5 minutes, the Victorians would try to decorate you… so the last thing a Victorian house should be is simple!

It’s loaded with highly detailed authentic features, including a wraparound porch, turret tower, sculpted balustrades and spandrels, fretwork, decorative shingles and “Stick” detail. The interior was painstakingly textured to match the Victorian styling. The double hung windows even work!

I took my inspiration from various Queen Anne style houses in New England, and the famous “Painted Ladies” of San Francisco. I had a lot of fun researching the style, and planning the materials.

This is one of those “only in OpenSim” builds at 985 prims (no problem, we’ve got plenty more). A residential version will be forthcoming soon, with authentically styled interior. I might try to do a somewhat less primmy version for SL.

The store is offered rent-free. Land ownership is included, also free. We want to encourage content creators to share their creations with our residents by offering them free space to do it. If you’d like to move in, contact Walter Balazic or Camryn Darkstone inworld in OSgrid.

Come see it on the Littlefield NE sim in OSgrid.

See more of Littlefield at our Flickr page.

In Remembrance 9/11

9/11 memorial in Littlefield

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 I built this replica of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC that opened today.

Members of the Littlefield community gathered here at 8:46 a.m. to be with each other, and remember and reflect together.

9/11 memorial in Littlefield

Death is not extinguishing the light.
It is putting out the lamp
because the dawn has come.

–Tagore