Looking Forward

It’s that time of year again, when people look back at the calendar year that’s drawing to a close and then look forward to the new one that’s about to begin. While I’m not really one for default world holidays and traditions, I’m all for a good celebration and changes and improvements.

The time’s been flying by, it seems. A year ago, we had just opened our first satellite location (Winterfell), and were about to open our second flagship store (Caledon Oxbridge Village). Actually I believe that by New Year’s Eve the shoppe itself was done and stocked, but the region had not yet had its grand/official opening. It has been an amazing year. We’ve met some truly wonderful people, opened a number of locations (some were fleeting, while others established themselves quite nicely), participated in some remarkable shows and events, opened up our first full region, had incredible amounts of fun designing/building/creating, and received some incredibly flattering reviews and praise along the way. BlakOpal and I have also had our fair share of RL adventures that’s left us grinning from ear to ear. As with every year it’s filled with ups and downs, but I prefer to get over the bad stuff, move on, and stay focused on the positive.

And there is a lot to be positive about in 2010. In RL we’re improving and upgrading our studio space and planning some wonderful adventures (London!). I’ve got a bunch of exciting music projects sitting on the back burner (stuff that got pushed to the side because I was having so much fun in SL in 2009). In Second Life we’re overflowing with ideas and projects that we’re excited about, including the growth and expansion of Reachra. I’m also planning to revise and expand the web site a bit, adding more in the way of tips and tricks and tutorials. You’ll probably also see us in Avatar Reality’s Blue Mars in one form or another. We gave the platform quite a bit of time and consideration in 2009, and if all goes well we’ll have some specifics to talk about sometime in the first half of 2010. Don’t get me wrong, we have no intention of leaving Second Life anytime soon. I think there’s plenty of room for both platforms to be successful, and I think Linden Lab has some exciting stuff on the horizon.

Behind The Scenes

Even though folks haven’t seen a lot of me, I’ve been ridiculously busy in the days since my last update. Let’s see, where to begin.

First off, BlakOpal and I finally decided to make the move to high definition in the loft. I know, the rest of the US made that move some time ago, but seeing as we don’t really watch broadcast television or subscribe to cable, we weren’t hard-pressed to replace the equipment we had. It seems our patience paid off well, as we ended up with something bigger than we previously had, for less than we had been expecting to spend.

That upgrade in turn led to the next project, designing and building a new HD media server. This would let us keep our favorite films and documentaries just a few clicks away (and turn the DVD’s on the shelf into backups), as well as give us an additional place to back up work/art files. I know that starts to sound paranoid (seeing as we already have hourly wireless backups of each of our machines), but we’ve both suffered enough fatal crashes where crucial files were lost that the additional peace of mind is worth the price of admission.

There have also been some assorted OS updates and testing, and in the last couple weeks I’ve been spending quite a bit of time working on Snowglobe testing as well. Version 1.3 is coming along nicely, with a number of fixes and behind the scenes improvements as well as the addition of double click to teleport and panning the mini-map (both of which work great). There are some additional things planned, but nothing yet for me to start testing, let alone report on.

Construction at Reachra has been happening more slowly than I’d like, but on the few occasions where I’ve had the chance to spend time in SL that wasn’t devoted to testing or basic shopkeeping, something else has come up. I’ve managed to get caught up on putting new things in the shoppe and putting out the holiday freebies, and now that the media server project is finishing up I should have additional time for building. I’ve also got some things to get ready for - in addition to a fashion week event in January, we’ll be participating in our first ever hunt (more on that later). I’ve also had a few ideas for an update to the vendors I use in the stores, and want to get around to remodeling Caledon Oxbridge in the near future.

I’ll leave you with a clip from last week’s Muse concert. BlakOpal and I had a great time at the show, and can’t wait until they return to SF again in the spring. Cheers!

Slowly But Surely

Slowly but surely, things are taking shape. The builds are taking longer than I would like (ideally they’d be finished instantly, as soon as I think of them), but I’m really pleased with the results so far.

The plan - a short string of row shops, with apartment spaces up above. Drawing from a mix of Dublin’s Temple Bar district as well as the ‘urban’ area of many old towns and villages, I wanted things to be slightly off-kilter and have a little flavor. From the 18th century and continuing into the 20th century, these dual purpose buildings were extremely popular - retail/commercial space on the first floor, with residential space upstairs. In the days before modern transportation methods, it was an important and affordable way to cut down on commute time. While that’s not really an issue in Second Life, I wanted to create something that had the right kind of feel.

There aren’t any doors yet, and I’m still trying to sort out how I want to approach it. Generally speaking I’m opposed to having doors in public spaces in-world. During peak usage or laggy moments it seems people are always bumping into doors, missing a click, or otherwise having some silly issue - so I make it a design choice to keep public spaces as wide open as possible.

I’ve already had a number of inquiries regarding space rentals, and to answer that I can only say “not at this time.” First and foremost I want to think of the experience for visitors & explorers, and to that end I have been paying close attention to region performance over the last few weeks. I wouldn’t want busy times in our shoppe to take away from other residents’ experiences, or vice versa. It may well be that I don’t get around to having rental spaces until a second region comes online.

Many thanks to all those who’ve said kind words about the new space, and thank you to all who’ve visited and explored.

Working on the basic structures in the skies above.

Working on the second story

Stairwells and collision prims

Work continues at ground level

Reachra’s taking shape!

Sorting out signage

Bookshop window display

Outside looking in

BlakOpal and her curiosities


After quite a bit of consideration, and with a slightly heavy heart, I recently undertook the project of removing the sewers from the New Babbage region.

Providing a bit of background, they were the city of New Babbage’s original sewer system. Last winter, when planning for the region and what I had hoped would be a secure future for the shoppe, the sewers were a key element. Since I wanted the tunnels to be at least partially navigable, it required that the surface level be raised to accommodate the larger tunnels. During different stages of the build there have been a number of other secondary tunnels and spaces to explore, including an enormous cavern connected to one of the warehouse buildings, complete with elaborate docks and half-gutted pirate ship (in the process of being re-fitted with steam-power). As word spread of plans for a city-wide sewer system in New Babbage, I envisioned the systems being connected, and thought of additional tunnels and retro-fitting that would create a vast network stretching through the city-state.

Alas, it was the future that never was. My suggestions and requests to connect the systems went without response, and it was soon clear to me where things were heading. The traffic measurement devices at the sewer entrances confirmed that as the new system was put into place, fewer people were exploring the old sewers.

I had given thought to a few different possibilities, including the idea of creating some sort of winter wonderland ice cavern. Such a build would have been a lot of fun to work on, but unfortunately would have either required significantly more resources than I had available or not fit well within the victorian steampunk theme.

With the sewers effectively redundant, the entire north side of the region needed to be re-thought. I was excited at the prospect of Babbage getting some elevation, but the clockwinder eventually decided that BlakOpal and I were the only ones getting any altitude. At least until the region to the north came online. Unfortunately that region has been pushed back a few times in the development of New Babbage, with the last comment I’d seen leaving me little hope that it was coming anytime soon. Having a great view and being on a hill is all fine and good, but being the only guy on a hill is a little weird, and definitely not my sort of thing.

The elevation and the sewers and tunnels also present some technical hurdles, not the least of which was that we had to use a forced landing point. Due to the nature of how SL teleportation works, if you don’t force folks to a specific landing point, you run the risk of folks arbitrarily winding up below ground, stuck between levels, or generally landing in places they didn’t want to land.

So as I began the winterization process last weekend, it became clear... Level it. Sounds simple, but execution is a bit trickier. Even though New Babbage is no longer the main store, it still has quite a bit of traffic from the folks who’ve got old landmarks. Terra-forming and moving thousands of prims is a challenge on even a good day (and as Murphy’s Law would dictate, yesterday was not a good day in SL), but becomes even trickier when folks keep dropping by.

So, slowly but surely, I made the move. Actually, hundreds of little moves. Every prim that wasn’t pulled completely was dropped by anywhere from 2 to 20 meters, and then all of the typical fidgeting and fussing to get things to look and feel the way they should. Miraculously, I was able to move the shoppe itself without disaster striking. Once the builds were moved, I began the process of re-winterizing and filling in some of the spaces. It’s still wide open in a few spots, I’ll likely use some fill for the short term. While it’s a shame to see some things go, I’m quite pleased with the results so far, and excited to see what will happen next.

The snapshot below was from a hilarious moment later in the evening. As I was finishing up some of the details and getting to work on the sidewalks, I heard a loud rumbling sound. Turning to see what was the cause of the commotion, I saw that the place was being visited by a 50 foot marshmallow man! He explored he new space and continued on his sugary way - I can only hope that any future visitors of gargantuan proportions are as friendly as he.