Thursday, 26 February 2015

Visiting Salt Lake City - sort of

Recently I've been to explore one of many Wild West-themed RP sims that I hadn't had a chance to visit before: Salt Lake City, Utah - 1873.

As I happen to be familiar with early Mormon history, I had certain expectations from a historical RP sim based on the real place. Founded by Mormon settlers fleeing persecution, led by Brigham Young, the RL Salt Lake City was quite an interesting place in the mid- to late-19th century, thanks to its inhabitants' unique and peculiar religious beliefs, political convictions, and social practices. Apart from their attempt to run a communitarian state, by the name of Deseret, independently of any nation, they also practised polygamy, and followed the political and religious leadership of the Latter-day Saint (LDS) prophet. Seeing the 1870s Salt Lake City sim in the search results, I thought - what an unusual and interesting thing to attempt to RP in Second Life!

Let me first mention the positive impressions. The place looks like a typical Western town - architecture mostly seems to fit. The place is visually appealing - quite well done compared to some other RP sims. At the moment, everything is under snow and looks quite lovely. Also, I've experienced zero lag, possibly due to the sim being completely empty on several occasions I was there.

There's a big mine in the town center, which I took to symbolize the importance of mining in Utah from the 1860s onwards, and I spotted other details that made a lot of sense, like the train station - Salt Lake City was indeed connected to railroad by 1873, bringing in lots of new settlers, prospectors and Mormon faithful alike. So far so good.

Given the central religious and political importance of the LDS Church, I started to cam around in search of some kind of religious building. The landmark of RL Salt Lake City, the Temple, was erected towards the end of the 19th century, so I expected to find something more modest. Sure enough, there is a church - and this is where things got weird for me. It's an Episcopalian one. And it happens to be the only game in town.

This pioneer is puzzled.
As I continued to explore the sim, I soon realized there is actually no mention of anything Mormon whatsoever, making this Salt Lake City in name only. Here's the thing: I couldn't imagine role playing in 1920s Berlin sim that made no mention of anything German, or in Paris 1900 that was patently non-French. Having been active in the former, where serious attention is being paid to the actual 1920s Berlin (sometimes only symbolically, but still with the intention of educating on the broader culture of the period), I have come to expect similar from other RP sims based on real-world locations.

Perhaps, but not in Utah.
To concentrate on Wild West sims, there's Gehenna Crossing for instance, where there's understanding that it's a fictional place, so the emphasis is more on character role play rather than historical re-enactment, which is absolutely fine. But why have an RP sim based on a real place and a specific time period, and then disassociate it completely from its RL history? Shattering a guy's dream of becoming a mighty prophet with a dozen plural wives in the process... (Just kidding.)

There are also certain anachronisms, which I suppose could be forgiven.

Not the classic Mormon undergarments
Ranting about this inworld, I got some feedback from my friends, fellow Berliners, which made me think more about historical role playing in SL. Was I being too strict in my criticism of the Salt Lake City 1873 sim? Isn't the owner - and participants - entitled to make of their sim and activities whatever they wish? Yes, and yes. But I would still hope for some adherence to basic historical and cultural facts, certainly when it comes to broader context, otherwise the whole idea of historical role playing makes no sense; not to mention dubious educational value.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Heterocera Travelogue #10: Serpentata

For my visit to the next sim along Route 3.5, I needed to put on some warm clothes. Unlike all of the sims covered in the previous nine instalments of my Heterocera travelogues, this one is mostly a winter sim - at least for now.

As I crossed the November-Serpentata border, I soon realized that most of the sim is owned by one person - Betony Greggan.

I don't know if she changes the sim with the seasons, but right now her place - spreading along both sides of the Route 3.5 - is a true winter wonderland.

I remember how quickly I had given up on changing my own parcels into winter, as mainland doesn't lend itself easily to such changes. With that in mind, I had to admire Betony's attempt and all the little winter details she added there. It can't have been easy to set it all up.

One caution, though. In quite a few places, snow tends to be very deep (I bet you failed to notice the tip of my head protruding from the snow in front of the cabin in the third snapshot of this post), or worse: you actually fall through the snow and end up on the green ground underneath it all.

At one point I found myself in a spacious, furnished cave which looked like a hidden underground spot.

Unable to get out, I had to TP from there. So, if you're going to visit the place, I suggest you fly around - unless you want to look around from underneath the snow.

Further up the road, you quickly reach the next sim, Pavonia, and the end of Route 3.5. This is actually a convenient spot to start your journey, as there's a rezz zone along Route 3 here.

And if you follow this route towards north-west, you will see Serpentata's remaining few, snowless parcels. First, there's the Script Alchemy store, selling gadgets and scripts. In the background you can see the already quite high mountains of Nolidae.

Not far from there is Soul's Passion. I wasn't quite sure about this place. With images of scantily clad women avatars with exaggerated female attributes up on the walls, it looked like a gallery. Judging by the calendar, time stopped here in April of 2013.

Somewhere over Route 3 I spotted a sign rezzed by a resident, warning people of AnnMarie Otoole's famously annoying vehicles. I'm happy to report that I didn't see a single one while I was there.

Without Betony's sprawling winter land, there would have been nothing special about Serpentata. The sim's location is quite favourable, though. With access to two routes, 3 and 3.5, it's easily accessible by car and as such it's a good starting point for the exploration of eastern Heterocera's inland sims.

In the next Heterocera travelogue, I'll continue along Route 3, to Pavonia.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

My premium membership anniversary

Today is exactly one year since I've joined premium membership. I now think of that day as my second rezzday, as joining greatly changed my experience of Second Life. You can call it my born-again moment in SL.

For one, it signalled the end of my newbie days of living in low-cost rentals where I had very limited options, both in terms of available prim count and of not having all kinds of owner's permissions. When I come to think about my first apartment, it was in a modern skyscraper in a gay sim where I had only 20 prims available! Granted, I wasn't spending all that much time there but I still remember how I had to take back most of my furniture in order to be able to put some modest Christmas decorations during my first inworld winter. I later changed several more rentals, each somewhat bigger and more spacious than the previous. Although all my land owners were kind and friendly, with all the constrictions, none of these places actually felt like home.

Switching to premium was a complete game change for me. Shortly after signing up, I bought my very first land and began to learn about terraforming and all kinds of things I knew nothing about. My friend Duncan helped me enormously, talking me through everything, from how to buy land in the first place, to teaching me the basics of landscaping, to showing me quality stores I didn't know about before. After the initial period of hyperactivity, TPing from one party to the next, I stopped going out so much, preferring instead to spend quality time with closest friends, doing more meaningful things inworld, or just stay at home and work on creating my dream home. Now I couldn't possibly imagine being in SL without it.

And so on this February 21, I remember the excitement of having my experience of SL expand exponentially. It will soon be a full year since I've owned the original parcel that has since evolved into Nørgaard Village. It will be another occasion for a contented look back.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Virtual gardening

As I've reported in an earlier post, spring has already arrived to the east coast - of Heterocera, that is.

 Wild flowers are already in full bloom, but I needed to plant some seeds as well.

It took me some time to find gardening tools and pots from last year in my inventory. Not everything has been salvaged from that big pile of mess, but I managed to do some work with what little I'd found.

Resting afterwards on the porch, I was thinking about my RL and how exciting it was for me as a kid to spend time watching the seeds sprout and grow in our large garden.

Who would have thought back then that one day I would be doing gardening in a virtual world?

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Another mainland WTF moment

Earlier today Duncan and I noticed a strange occurrence in and around Refugium in Melanthia. There was something that was making the usual mainland issues a bit more problematic. Last night I had inexplicable crashes and texture loading problems and this morning everything seemed even more broken.

Just after I had sent a sim restart request, Duncan realized that something strange was visible on the world map, seemingly radiating right from Refugium (look at the white lines that shouldn't have been there).

Closer inspection revealed a huge invisible object rezzed on the neighbouring parcel - an object so big that it covered a number of sims in the area.

As you can see from the snapshots Duncan managed to take, the name of the object is "I RIDE A GREAT SWOOCE" and it was made and rezzed by Chainsword Audion.

Abuse report was filed, but the object disappeared within minutes. It contained a script that may have made it self-destruct - or possibly move somewhere else.

I've never seen something like that, and since the object was invisible, I probably wouldn't have noticed it without the world map. I don't even know how long it's been there, nor if it has anything to do with land issues I mentioned. Still, rezzing such huge objects on random mainland parcels - not cool!

Heterocera Travelogue #9: November

It was an unseasonably warm winter day in SL, so I hopped on my bicycle and took a ride several sims from my home in Triphosa to a place where I ended my previous travelogue - November.

To begin with, it's a place of great contrasts. I started by checking out the parcels on the right side of Route 3.5, soon to realize there aren't all that many. As I crossed the Drinker-November border, at first I couldn't see a single sign of life there, only an imposing structure in the distance, already in the next sim, Epirrita.

However, riding towards it, I stumbled upon some hovering drone-like objects. Not everything is abandoned here!

Or so I thought... On this small parcel, "SimSider Customs," there were also some domestic animals, not in such a good shape. Similar to the horses in Mandalay Stables in Wainscot (see Travelogue #1), these too had tags indicating malnourishment and poor health. Who knows when was the last time somebody took care of them. Having a chicken farm back at my place (free-range!), I felt for the poor animals.

Exploring further and riding towards southwest, I reached the Situs Manuum parcel - already quite close to the border with Serpentata - with its large blimp.

The place looked messy, with different things rezzed there, including a "cloud egg" (whatever that may be)...

...and an ominous sign.

Had I actually seen an imp, I probably wouldn't have resisted doing the opposite of what the sign suggested. Maybe the creature was hiding under a giant black mushroom that I forgot to take a snapshot of.

There's another parcel on this side of the road, just along the November-Serpentata border: the Transgender Lounge. Now, if the two previous parcels didn't look all that representative, what can one say about this venue?

Yes, that's all there is! And similarly curious is a hovering "library console" building on Kara's Clan's Land next to the Lounge. I wasn't sure what to make of it.

I had a quick cigarette break nearby, before I went to check out what the eastern part of November had to offer. And there was certainly much more to see.

First, there's the large "SoutH of HeaveN Farm rentals& breedables" parcel, currently in the process of building. As it happened, the owners were there while I was snooping around. I didn't want to intrude, but I said hi anyway and asked Christine Perl Sorbet and Perfect Storm a little bit about the place.

Christine Perl Sorbet
Chatting with Perfect Storm
They explained there used to be a club there, but now they are transforming the parcel into a space for breedable rentals and fishing.

I asked them about the forlorn appearance of much of November - they didn't mind that so much of it is left abandoned: it only gives them the freedom to do whatever they want on their own land. I could relate to that, wishing for fewer neighbours myself!

Saying good-bye to Christine and Perfect, I left for the next parcel along the road, called "Raine Designs Dance Floors and more". It's a store selling all kinds of items, from fireplaces and trees to pose balls and large dance floors. Also moving animals, which look rather like cardboard cutouts.

The parcel next to it is another commercial venue, by the name of "Neuro//:". The two buildings rezzed there look very modern and nicely made, both the exteriors and the interiors. One of the them is still entirely empty, while the other one stores only a few items, namely goth and alternative outfits for men and women. This place seems to be a work in progress, but it's promising, and in stark contrast with the dilapidated buildings on the messy parcels across the road.

I was tempted to continue along Route 3.5 towards Serpentata's snowy parcels, but it was already getting dark and I had a long way to cycle back home...

Aerial shot of November