"There is nothing wrong with your television. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are now in control of the transmission. We control the horizontal and the vertical. We can deluge you with a thousands channels, or expand one single image to crystal clarity and beyond. We can shape your vision to anything our imagination can conceive. For the next hour, we will control all that you see and hear." - The Outer Limits
Okay, so it hasn’t been that bad. But the site has been experiencing some problems over the last day or so. No, there is nothing wrong with your browser and no there haven’t been griefers, hackers, leakers, or any other form of hooligan bringing down our site. I admit it, it’s my fault. While installing what would otherwise be considered a routine update to one of the programs I use to create www.blakopal.com, I ran into a glitch that is requiring me to re-publish the entire site. D’oh! With something in the neighborhood of 12,000 assets (as of this writing), the results are pretty much what you may have experienced. Some missing pages, some graphics that look broken or out of place, and some links that may not work. As always, we appreciate your support and your patience, I’ll have it all back to normal shortly.
Over the summer, one of the things I got started with was creating a BlakOpal Designs channel on Youtube. The intention was that we would produce short clips showing some of our outfits in motion. Sometimes the sign in a vendor or the still pictures in a notecard or on a web site just aren’t enough, and this would give shoppers a way to get a better idea of how the outfit looks in-world. Beyond that, we hoped to be able to put together some short tutorials and demonstrations, with the goal of sharing tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way.
The plan was that I’d post blog entries here when new tutorial videos were added, but I’ve been slacking. But now that I’ve gotten the site redesigned and updated, it’s time to start getting caught up. Over the next several blog posts you can expect to see links and video embeds on the tutorials we’ve already made available, and moving forward I hope to keep things up-to-date.
It’s been more than two months since my last post, and for that I apologize. RL and SL adventures and projects have kept us incredibly busy, and I’ve fallen behind in both maintaining and updating the site. I’ll tease you by saying that a major site update is in the works, as well as more blog posts (both shoppe-related and personal). then I’ll dive right into the subject of this post... The Eridu Society build at Burn2.
What is Burn2?
For the last several years, there has been an SL equivalent of the Burning Man Arts Festival called Burning Life. This year, Linden Lab has (finally) turned the event over to the Burning Man organizers, and the new incarnation of the event is called Burn2. In keeping with the Burning Man core principles, Burn 2 is a radically self-reliant event. That means that this year the event is a lot smaller in scale - instead of 30 sims of land provided by Linden Lab, it's 6 regions of artist-supported awesome.
What is the Eridu Society?
I think of it as "a steampunk adventurer's club, for traveller's from some sort of imaginary future." BlakOpal and I created the Eridu Society in 2007 to both reflect the creative idea of 'ancient culture meets high technology' and to keep Burning Man-related projects separated from more commercial pursuits. It takes its name from Eridu, which according to Sumerian legend was the first city. All our cities, cultures, forms of religion, and forms of decadence (woohoo decadence!) have its roots in Eridu, and it seems perfectly appropriate to bring a city from the cradle of civilization in the heart of Mesopotamia to the cutting edge of technology in both Black Rock City and Second Life.
What is this Communications Tower?
This year’s art theme is Metropolis, and good communications are an essential part of any successful metropolis. With that in mind, and with a few ideas in my head of how to design a structure that will look great and keep lag to a minimum, I’ve designed a giant tower and adjoining multi-purpose facility (it looks a little like a warehouse, but it can also double as an event space in SL).
I avoided the use of sculpts entirely on the external structure, and blended elements from the world of steampunk and classic 20th century science fiction. After spending several months bouncing different ideas and concepts around this spring and early summer, I had something I was happy with and ready to pitch to BlakOpal. She loved the iconic design right away, and soon we set upon endless hours of work to take the structure to a finished form, cook up and then refine textures (in some cases dozens of times), and get the tower ready to ‘place’ on the playa (in other words, drop the build down at the Burn2 site and wiggle it into place).
From there, we still had a lot of work to do. More texturing work was to be done, and the prims were flying as I worked on designing and building the final elements in-place. To help speed up rez times and reduce lag, we re-used sculpts and textures wherever possible, and made minimal use of scripts for an added touch in a few spots. Riffing on the idea of a communications tower pulling in signals from both RL and SL, we filled the space with equipment and signage that we felt would show and explain a few things about Burning Man.
We took advantage of two awesome pieces of Viewer 2.x technology for the project. The first is Shared Media - if you’re in a 2.x compatible viewer and touch the display screens, you’ll see some video segments that BlakOpal and I put together, we think it adds a lot to the build, yet doesn’t cause/create massive amounts of lag. The second is in the outfits we’ve made for this year’s event - Viewer 2.x’s Alpha Layer technology. Using the avatar Alpha Layer, we can make awesome boots that don’t need invisi-prim scripts, and look great on any surface (no more alpha glitch issues when walking on certain textured surfaces or flying over water).
Gifting is a great tradition at the RL Burning Man event, and we’re happy to see it at Burn2 as well. For this year’s Desert Expedition Outfit, we reached back further in time and pulled together something inspired by Sudan Lancer uniforms and classic safari gear (our idea of a victorian steampunk explorer). BlakOpal worked her magic in the most incredible ways, and the result is an awesome ensemble, from head to toe with all the trimmings. Sculpted pith helmet, awesome goggles, and even a pair of worn/dusty boots. We also went a step further this year, creating a pair of Mech Skins (brass or steel). They’ve got a great steampunk-meets-scifi look to them, and as an added bonus you can strip down to just the Mech Skin if you want to experience Burn2 with as little lag as possible.
While we were working on all that, I had been working on several different ideas for music. We had a great “Beer Bash” event at our previous virtual burns, and this year was no exception. I haven’t had spent any time in the studio working on anything music-related in many months, so I was a little worried that I’d be a little rusty or that I wouldn’t pull something together in time. Fortunately my fears were unfounded, and instead of coming out of the studio with a couple two-hour performances I managed to record a number of sets, and I think I captured a really incredible performance - my best effort yet.
So, that’s what we’ve been up to for Burn2. Come to the Beer Bash, it’s on Sunday 17 October from Noon-4PM SLT, or just stop by when you get the chance to check out what we’ve built and help yourself to the skins and outfits. It’s just one of many, many amazing pieces of virtual art at this year’s Burn2 event, and if you’re familiar with the RL Burning Man event you’ll appreciate the amazing touches that the Burn2 DPW have put on the event.
Nothing specific to report, but a whole has been going on. For starters, I’ve updated the software and most of the plugins that are used in the creation of this site. Additionally, Adobe has finally released the long-awaited update to their Creative Suite family (BlakOpal and I both use Adobe apps extensively for RL and SL projects). Aside from simply updating what we use, I’ve been looking to expand my horizons on programs I use for RL projects, and I’ve been making use of some of the excellent courseware at Lynda.com to help.
I’ve also had my hands full with testing other assorted pieces of software, the details of which I’m not liberty to get into. SL-wise, I’ve had great results using both Snowglobe 2.x and Kirsten’s S20 viewers, in addition to the official viewer. I’d also like to point out that, contrary to the spreaders of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (or FUDdites as I prefer to call them), the 2.x viewers are not completely unusable for builders and content creators. Once you take a little time to get acclimated, they’re fine. I’m actually at the point where I prefer them to 1.x viewers.
I’ve also gotten lots of shopkeeper stuff done lately, as well. Servers and vendors have all been recently updated, and have better SL region communications than ever. I’ve also had some fun with a number of construction projects, ranging from designing a bunch of row shops, a complete re-work of our space in New Babbage, re-doing the landscaping on Reachra, setting up a new shoppe building, and playing around with a few other primmy projects that haven’t yet made it down to ground level. We’ve also just opened up locations in Sapphire City, at The Carrington in Seraph City, and Triborough NY, and there are some exciting new outfits on the horizon too. On top of that, we’re gearing up for the International Fashion Fair and a major upgrade of the XStreet shopping experience(seriously, it is about to get much more awesome).
One thing we don’t have coming up in the weeks ahead is the SL7B celebration. Yes, we’ll both probably be there during the event, but we’ve decided not to apply for a build site. The parcel sizes and prim limits are much smaller than last year, and realistically we don’t have the time and resources to start the process from scratch and come up with something that we’re both excited about. We think sitting this one out is the right thing to do, and we look forward to future large scale community events that we will have the opportunity to participate in.
As I work, I find myself occasionally taking lots of snapshots and screen grabs (either for my own purposes or to share with BlakOpal). This post seems like as good a place as any to share some of my favorites from the last few weeks.
After having read loads of clatter over the last several days on message boards, group chat, and in-world it seems an appropriate time to sum up our position with regard to BlakOpal Designs.
We have no intention of leaving XStreet. We wish the best of luck to those merchants taking their business elsewhere, but feel that XStreet will continue to deliver the best shopping experience for our customers and our business. And that’s what really matters.
We have no intention of tacking on surcharges to our prices, either in-world or on XStreet. Regardless of where our customers prefer to make their purchases, we are simply grateful for their business.
With that said, it’s back to work playing the role of the builder, designer, and shopkeeper. :-)
The end of what seems like a long day, and there's a kitten sitting in a beer box. What's she trying to say?
It's been a long several days for me - filled with back end projects. While it's not as exciting as something like skydiving on the moon or going to parties with monkeys, I've been enjoying myself. Testing is underway on a few different projects, and while I can't discuss specifics, I can say that everything has been going well.
The vendor machines in the stores have been getting updatd as well. Hippo Technologies released an update to their vending system that, among other things, improves communications. While their vendors have performed well for us, I'm all for reducing lag and fewer delivery problems. I've wandered to most of our locations to update and test each vendor, and also spent some time in the studio working out a revision to one of my own customized vendors. Maybe soon I'll be ready to pull the trigger on the remodel of the main store in New Babbage.
Maybe she wants me to ship her somewhere? No, that's not it...
I've been working on the site quite a bit lately, too. I suppose it's the nature of the internet, a never-ending project with limitless possibilities and limitless to-do lists. Progess!
BlakOpal finished a new gown that she's been working on for the longest time, and I was able to get that one into the shoppe and on XStreet last night. It's a really fun piece, I love the flow of the garment. To show that part off a bit, she even shot a short video over in Steelhead Shanghai - you can check out the dress and the video here.
Maybe she's thirsty? Why that's silly - not only is her water dish full, but she doesn't even like that brand!
We've also been tinkering around with a bunch of ideas for Burning Life, and I believe our theme camp application has been sent in already. My fingers are crossed, can't wait until we hear back. Between that and a few other fun build ideas, I only wish I had more time and energy available for playing with prims.
The last couple days have been crazy with notecards. Maybe it's me, but it really seems like something happened in the last couple weeks, because I'm getting more notecard/offers than ever before. Some of them are great, but an increasing number are just not even remotely a good fit. Hopefully it will pass.
Oh wait, I get it. She wants ME to knock off for the day and get myself a drink! The cat's a genius!
12-13 hours of sleep does a body good. And even after that, I woke up feeling fairly exhausted. But things were happening, and I was excited to get moving. A massive remodel of the Pirate's Hideaway build had started last week, and I got word on Saturday night that I could come back in and get set up. Of course that was back burner to what I was doing at the time, and by the time things settled down on Sunday I was unconscious, so Monday it was.
First up, though, a triage session in-world. It was a great meeting filled with good people, it felt like a lot of progress was made (going through new JIRA issues) and the issue I put onto the agenda got covered. Woohoo! FYI, Mac users who have upgraded to Snow Leopard, if you're experiencing a line across the top of your snapshots you can vote for the issue here. If you find that anti-aliasing isn't working on your viewer, vote for the issue here. Both have been assigned for further review, but additional votes helps escalate getting them fixed.
With that done and dusted, it was time to finish digging through email and notecards and then get to work at Pirate's Hideaway. The new build is fantastic, and many thanks to management for giving us more space in the remodel. I was able to get all our piratey things and a few extras, as well as accommodate both gift purchases and gift cards at the new build. Then it was back to work on the site, getting images and entries added on the Fashions blog. My long-term goal for that is to get each of our outfits listed there so it can serve as a sort of catalog (the tag cloud on the right side of the page makes for an interesting browsing experience), and though I still have a lot of work to do to get there I'm already way ahead of where things were on the old site.
I also got to do some exploring in-world. Followed some links and suggestions and discovered a few new places. Glendalough and Pathfinder Lowlands were the real standouts, though the African island of Visiwa and the neighboring village of Kijiji get honorable mentions as worth visiting again.
Perhaps it's sleep deprivation (less than 5 hours since 7am SLT on Friday), perhaps it's residual fun and excitement regarding Doctor Obolensky's Evil Party at the observatory... but a villainous laugh is often in order.
Lost in the mania of new site design, I very nearly altogether missed the opening of Steelhead Shanghai on Friday night. As it was I arrived late and didn't get a single photograph from the event. Still, good fun and such a beautiful space. Cheers to Lunar, Tensai, and all our new neighbors over there!
Saturday involved all kinds of RL fun with brunch and a farmer's market adventure, followed up by the Steampunk/Cyberpunk Festival's masquerade ball. Good fun, and I snapped a few pictures.
Instead of taking my time, excitement got the better part of my senses and I spent much of the last several days pulling together the new site. Most of Friday night and all of Saturday night were sacrificed.
Sunday has been a bit of a challenge. What with being out of steam (pun intended), running around helping friends with last minute emergencies before they head off into the desert, and sorting out a few technical issues, I had trouble keeping up at the Evil Party. But man, was it a great time - fun event, evil plots, creative dress by all in attendance, and wonderful tunes courtesy of the Evil Duke of Argylle (archduke?). While I did miss a few spots here and there, I did manage to snap a few great pics.
Welcome to this space, and the BlakOpal Designs site, version 3.0. It seems fitting to start with a bit of history.
While this site has only been in the production stage for the last week or so, it's been in the pre-production stage in my head for the last six months or so. Coming from a designer's background and having made my first web site back in 1994, the idea of having a web site supporting our SL adventures seemed obvious. We had hosting space available, and so early in the new year I built the first version of the site.
It started as a bit of an experiment, using the idea of a site for our SL presence and putting Apple's iWeb '09 to use and get firsthand experience of what the application can do and its ease-of-use. FYI, it's a great application that's perfectly suited for personal web sites, blogs, and basic podcasting.
We were both surprised and deeply honored at the success of BlakOpal Designs in Second Life, and with the success of the shoppe it felt appropriate to take the next step with the site. In the spring the 2nd revision of the site was born, living on the newly minted www.blakopal.com domain name. It's a strange twist, since BlakOpal Designs is a RL entity - we've been creating wearable art in one form or another for more than three years - but it took something like SL to get us off our butts and register the domain.
It was early in the planning stages for the second revision that I started planning this version of the site. While iWeb is great, it does have its limitations. But as often happens in the world BlakOpal and I live in, we've been juggling a number of different projects. Testing this and that, experimenting with different ideas and designs, and talking through different possibilities. Several conversations with developers later, and after testing new versions and squaring away an assortment of plugins.... here we are.
My goal is a site that not only showcases our virtual products, but also helps us show what we can do and experience in Second Life. Something that might be enjoyable to both our wonderful customers, as well as our amazing RL friends who scratch their heads and wonder what it is BlakOpal and I are doing with so much of our spare time these days. All of the standard internet disclaimers apply, of course. Pardon the dust, new (and sometimes unexpected) things are happening all the time. While there are many things I still want to add or include on the site, you have to start somewhere. :-)