Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sky falling?

     So that was pretty exciting news wouldn't you say?  "What news?!"  Oh well the news of a Second Life 2.0 that has been in the works and is projected to open in 2016.  "Oh fucking hell they are going to close second life and I will lose my shoe bling and ass extension!".  No no they won't close SL while its profitable (and it's quite profitable) and I strongly suspect they will transfer our mesh and avatar identity over if we want to migrate, though probably not scripts, sculpts and prim work.  Why?  because I expect the code for the new place which I sincerely hope they don't call Second Life 2.0 but something that doesn't imply a substitute or secret life... like the Grid!  The Grid sounds kind of Matrixy and cool but I digress.  So yes the code will likely be so different in the new place that it wont know what scripts or sculpt are anymore.  The new code will be like "what the fuck is that shit!" but all in 01101101001's.
     One of the things I have heard for years, (no not that SL's death is imminent which I have heard since 2004) is that the reason why Linden Lab can't repair half the problems with SL such as voice, group chat, lag and so on are due to the original rather shoddy code that the entire world is based upon.  So essentially the foundation of our house is made of rubber balls for some reason, and they try to fix a wobble in the kitchen table.  They really have to fix the balls first, yet that meant tearing down the house, which would have been a fatal course of action at the hype time of SL.
     It all makes sense though now.  The TOS debacle where they stated that they own everything we do, say or think.  I believe that they have been testing the transfer of our content for a while now, and they don't need to ask permission to do this because ... well they own it equally to us.  And that's fine nobody cares about that.  Something else that makes sense to me now is the seemingly odd choices of "improvements" to Second Life.  For example, pathfinding.  Mr Zippers is a pathfinding wonder, perhaps the best use of pathfinding so far in Second Life.  The reason why Mr Zippers is so remarkable is because I stopped trying to script it myself and asked a particularly talented scripter named Wolfur Windstorm to do it.  I could go on for ages why it is remarkable scripting, but most of the reasons aren't obvious.  But for example pathfinding objects get stuck.  They climb a hill and get stuck, they meet another pathfinding object and get stuck sometimes and so on.  One thing Wolfur did to help Mr Zippers chase people up hills while not getting mired down, was to allow him to recognize when he was in trouble, then have him turn physical, jump in the air and roll down the hill, then once on flat ground he would activate again and go on his merry psychotic way.  What an novel idea to overcome that problem.  Anyway, so for pathfinding to work beyond simple use, it required a master scripter!  Seems odd to make something for such a small group of people.  Then you look at the new Materials.  They require people to be in ultra graphics mode to see it.  Most people don't regularly wander about on full graphics because its laggy.. so why spend so much time on something so few will use or see?  Well I think because these features were made to work in Second Life 2.0, yet they could also be ported to Second Life and so they were.  I think some things are made specifically for upgrading SL while other things were made for SL2.0, but could also be made to work in SL as well.
     While it would be sad for me if SL were to close, specifically from the loss of so many personal artworks I have created over several years, I don't really think it will close.  SL will continue while its profitable, if it were becoming less profitable then I suspect Linden Lab would sell it.  And if not then I expect it would join the hypergrid (with open sim, inworlds, kitely and so on) and they would open up marketplace to all of them as well.  Ebbe Linden (Linden Lab CEO) said a while ago that he liked the idea of the hypergrid, so if that's his true opinion then which product would join the other virtual spaces on the hypergrid?  Not the new one in the works as it might not be open source and compatible, so it has to be Second Life.  Will the new fancy world with spectacular graphics, low lag and game mechanics make everyone move to it?  Hmmm.. well maybe ask Cloud Party and Blue Mars why their "better" worlds are dead while the dated SL continues?  There is something special about SL and just creating a new virtual world might not capture what people desire, so I think Linden Lab are quite aware that SL must always be a reliable plan B, because letting it go and then having SL2.0 just not work with people for whatever reason (similar to cloud party and blue mars) then it remains as something to fall back upon, ironically a strong foundation, rather than its loss being the death of their company.  But then what do I know?  I am just an artist.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The resourceful noob

The Daughter of Gears tower
     I just wanted to relate a funny little story.  So one of the things I have worked on over the years is to noob proof some of my artworks as I build them.  What I mean by this is that while my work generally is designed for the advanced user of our virtual world, made a bit complex and requiring the use of an adept cam and so on, I also know that the artworks tend to appear on destination guide (a guide to virtual world events found on the Second Life website eg )  What that means is that my work also will get people appearing from the destination guide post who are on their first day or week in a virtual world.  Noobs are adorable, I like noobs.  They are like little kittens all clumsy and prone to sudden little naps.  They stand in your personal space or walk right over you heading, unerringly, to the one place in the sim where they can get stuck.  They are unpredictable and remind me of how magical virtual worlds are when you first arrive.
Anna's Many Murders
For the Daughter of Gears, Rabbicorn Story and Standby noobs would attempt to climb the main tower only to get stuck under steps whirling and twirling until they logged out.  At Anna's Many Murders they would immediately rush off of the mountain on the outside and get wedged like sardines on top of each other.  Over time I would begin to recognize danger areas for noobs and put up anti-wedging deterrents.  Eventually I got to Imogen and the Pigeons and decided to just corral them in the main desert area because there was no way they were going to fly the chair, climb the main steps or have any hope of making it up the self rezzing then falling steps.  I am sometimes surprised no doubt, as my friend Alixxbella whom I met when she was just a week old, was busily making her way through all my work in a very competent manner, but in general noobs take a few months at least to get good with using sl in an advanced manner.
Anna's Many Murders
   Anyway, so a few months ago I designed a sim for a project called the Russian Avant-Garde.  You can read about it here if you like  Within the Menage museum in Moscow's Red Square there were four kiosks designed to allow visitors at the museum to explore the artwork within Second Life.  So essentially people would sit down and attempt to navigate the virtual environment as noobs not a day or week old, but rather seconds old.  This was, as you can imagine, quite a challenge for me.  (You can visit the virtual space here)
Imogen and the Pigeons noob corral
The Golden age of the Russian Avant Garde
     The build itself was all catwalks high above the ground. It was inevitable that they fall off, however, I placed invisible walls all along the catwalks and so on.  Long story short I noob proofed the build.. or so I thought.
     The museum had four kiosks as I mentioned, and with each station was created an avatar for them to use, so four avatars named Avantgarde 1-4.  At the beginning of the project Rose Borchovski (working with the organizers in Moscow) friended me on one or two avatars and over the course of the exhibit noobs on the other kiosk avatars would somehow find my name and friend me, then speak to me in Russian which my Google brain deciphered.  So in a unique and unexpected new way these noobs unintentionally invented an escape against my attempts to protect them. Many times I would log into my Sim Immersiva and find an Avantgarde avatar wandering inside the Singularity of Kumiko's main arrival area.  They would have somehow opened my profile and teleported to Immersiva, away from the build they came to see!  How someone would manage to do that at the museum is beyond me.  It is remarkable really, initially they must have clicked on something I made and found me as the creator, then opened my profile and teleported to my sim.  That is a lot of work for someone sitting down to a kiosk.  Once at Immersiva they would wander around in that little enclosure for hours until someone opened the red door into the main story to the Singularity of Kumiko.  I  would watch them rush through the door into the story and promptly get murdered by Mr Zippers.  I would sometimes message them and offer to help them find their way back to the Russian Avant Garde sim, but they would never notice the message.  Anyway, I just kind of found the whole thing funny and worth relating.  I have a deeper respect for the noob and its ability to get into mischief no matter what precautions are taken.  I really think someone should create a nature show style machinima describing the various noobs.  The bling chested duck waddler, the random friender and so on.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Singularity of Kumiko letters 13 and 14

 If you would like to catch up to what I am talking about then the previous posts can be found below. 7-9 

Day thirteen
Dear Kumiko

Kumi please, I know how disoriented you must feel alone in the dark.  When I say "we" I am talking about others who are also concerned about you.  Come back to us.  Come back to the world you left behind.  Remember the movie theaters or that music band you like so much these days?  I forget their name.  Evangelist tea party? It’s something like that.  Think of your shiny green car and those virtual games you so love to play.  Think of the fine restaurants and a closet full of new clothes.  Think of bright city lights... you can't possibly like the dark.

Kumiko we can get you a new PowerPet.  There is a popular one out right now called Zinger the Rocket Dog and he is full of advanced functions.

We are in the Singularity Kumi, and all we have to do now is play.   

     I have to admit to you that I have used Life Encryption.  I did it last night and I will try to get Imogen to consent when she is lucid.  I know I am not supposed to mention this Kumi, but they must have your consent soon if we are to record you as well.  I need you to tell me in writing in your next letter that you wish to have your memories preserved.  Don't be stubborn Kumi, this is not a game.  We know you have stopped looking for the exit sign.  You can't possibly want to stay there.

Please come back to us.

    In this letter from Iktomi it becomes clear to Kumiko that he, her mother Imogen and the Scientypes are all attempting to steer her in a direction.   He uses the intimacy they shared, the talks late at night, the touch of skin, in an attempt to save a part of her as she lay dying in a coma.  To encrypt her mind and bring her back one day, but Kumiko has changed, the hooks that may once have caught her attention no long hold the same allure for her.  To them it is inconceivable that Kumiko could prefer the dark and lonely place she is in.  Iktomi says that they are now in the Singularity and all they need do is play.  Play for eternity while the machines of the Singularity chart an exponentially changing course for humanity.  We are Gods whose dream is to become children to a machine.

Day fourteen
Dear Iktomi

     I went exploring with Scruff today and found a beautiful field of light bulbs with huge powdery white moths hovering above them.  All I could hear were their wings gently moving.  Later we found the skeleton of a giant cat and some shopping carts tied up in trees like the bones of a consumerist Sherpa.

     Over by a stump I saw a real live Honeybee.  Not the pollinating machines they said would replace the bees after they disappeared.  It was trundling about on the stump paying no attention to us.  Did you know they have a stinger?  They would defend their hive with their life should they have to.  Their stingers were serrated like a hook, and in the act of protecting their hive they would themselves die as their singer was connected directly to their heart... when pulled free it meant
their death.

     I watched him walking around and thought of that old saying you used when talking about something wonderful.   "That was the bee’s knees" you would say, but I never really understood it.

Now I think I do.

     When I looked upon him I noticed his big fat legs where he was collecting pollen.  When he got home to the hive it would be converted to delicious honey.  So when we say "the bee's knees" we mean the simple yet beautiful gift of honey that they bring us.

Iktomi this will be my last letter to you.

     I know that something has happened to me in the real world.  I don't know what it is, but it's not really important to me.  You tried to lure me back with products and promises but I am afraid they hold no interest to me anymore.  Well that's not entirely true.  They have studied, marketed and addicted me to it all like a Pavlovian dog, yet I am fully aware of this and still gleefully wag my tail.  It is true that it is dark here, but I have Scruff and Rabbits and Honeybees.  You won't understand and that is ok, but I need those things.

Goodbye Iktomi

Please tell Imogen that I love her.

     In the final room we see Kumiko at the hospital.  By her bed sits Iktomi writing a new message to send to her by USB.  Imogen watches from the shadows by the Rebirth memory encryption machine whose wheels remain still.  Standing over Kumiko singing quietly is a Vera Lynn singbot which they hired to sooth her in the coma, if she can hear.  It is the same Vera Lynn, though cleaner, who stood singing to the memory encryption machine of Imogen (which now also has Kumiko) from the previous story Imogen and the pigeons.  It was her final purpose, and even after the end of the human world, she remains to sing to the final recording of a human mind, the digital mind of Imogen whose love and longing is powerful enough to change or rewrite her digital memories allowing her to bring back Kumiko as the child she remembers her as.  The first birth of a digital species.

     In Kumikos final note she tells Iktomi that she chooses to stay in her dark world, knowing it may just be a dream, but one in which her loves are not products but rather things that mean something to her on a deeper level.  A fake world perhaps, but one which has her beloved dog Scruff and rabbits.  A world with Honeybees that collect pollen on their legs and during their daily travels spread life.  The mysteries of nature which were obscured by the opacity of her technological existence.  Ironically Kumiko rejects her life being preserved digitally, feeling that a single life has more meaning over an eternal one.  She rejects the notion that being preserved would bring happiness, yet much later, that same technology is used and manipulated by her mother Imogen for her own salvation and joy.  A joy derived from being reunited with her lost Daughter.  There is no black and white morality to the Singularity of Kumiko, just a melancholy grey.