Friday, March 23, 2012

Castle Blarney

For those who haven't had enough of St. Patrick's Day, or feel like a trip to see something Irish, one place to go to is Castle Blarney. And yes, the place is home to Second Life's own Blarney Stone. The build is located at O'Hare's Gap in the Wilde sim at (150, 110, 33).

For those who don't know, Castle Blarney, about five miles from the town of Cork Ireland, is a popular tourist destination. People go there to kiss the Blarney Stone. Legend has it whomever kisses the stone will be granted the gift of gab (or be "full of blarney"). A scroll near the stone (and the teleport point to upstairs) states the following from Irish bard Francis Sylvester Mahony:

"Tis there's the stone that whomever kisses
he never misses to become eloquent.
Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber,
or become o member of Parliament.
A noble spouter he'll sure turn out, or
an out and outer to be let alone.
Don't try to hinder him, or to bewilder him,
for he is a pilgrim of the Blarney Stone."

Getting to the Stone is simple enough. One takes a teleport to the top of the castle, walk over to the stone, and clicking on it to lower one's avatar to bend down and kiss the Stone. If one teleports back down and exits the building on foot, one gets a reminder that a certificate of one kissing the stone is available. One clicks on a sign near the doorway.

The real Blarney Stone besides being a popular tourist attraction is the subject of legends and even modern fiction. Wikipedia mentions one legend of the builder of the castle being involved in a lawsuit appealing to the queen of the fairies for help, and is told to kiss the first stone he sees in the morning. He does, and wins his case. He then takes the stone and makes it part of the parapet of his castle. Another legend holds the Blarney Stone is actually part of the Stone of Scone or Coronation Stone used in the coronation of monarchs in Scotland and later Great Britain. Another was of Queen Elizabeth requesting an oath of loyalty to retain the land, and the castle's owner responded with subtle diplomacy and promises. Elizabeth proclaimed he was giving her "a lot of Blarney."

The ritual of kissing the stone once needed assistance from someone to hold the kisser's legs while he or she lowered himself, as it was possible to fall from the height. A "Sherlock Holmes" radio program had the sleuth investigate a death in which a man fell while trying to kiss the stone. It turned out his boots had been greased and he slipped from the assistant's hands. Today, hand rails and protective bars make kissing the Stone much safer.

For anyone going on a date for two to the castle, there is a nearby village to stroll about in as well as the countryside. Or one can teleport to Dublin and head to the Blarney Stone pub. Whether or not kissing the stone can make one better at talking up to making a casual date to a hot one has yet to be determined.

Special thanks to Jasmine Dawn/Orasine.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, March 16, 2012

Skyrim-Inspired Sim and Builder Merceal Smythe

A few months ago, the computer game Skyrim was a big hit. With it's popularity came parody Youtubes and online comic references. It was probably inevitable someone would try to duplicate it in Second Life. And someone has been doing just that.

MistressBubbles Bondar, or just "Bubbles" to her friends, recently came back to Second LIfe after taking a break. After a while, she got the idea of doing a sim based on the world of the Skyrim game. She wasn't alone. She managed to get some talented help from sim builder Merceal Smythe.

After some work, Bubbles invited me over to see what she had. Yours truly hasn't played the game. But it's been in the media so much, the sim was recognizable as the setting. Rustic wooden buildings with a Norse feel to them in a snow covered winter area. "The whole sim is still very much a work in progress," the elven lady told me, "but I figured I'd show off what we have done so far. The castle is Merceal's work. Well most everything here is. My job is to find the materials so he can build (laughter)."

She offered to show me around, and we walked through some scenery, across a bridge and into a fortification structure, "This is one of my fave places so far aside from the castle. We hope to have battle scenarios through here." We walked further, and came to a cabin, "And here's my little cottage (smile). This is the biggest one of the batch. I have two more smaller ones I'm going to make to place around the sim. … I had fun with making a close to period timber frame house. … Still have a few things to fit properly. Like I said we are still building things (chuckle). So there will be snow drifts and more structures and a farm or two. … We will have a small port as well."

Getting to the riverbank, she teleported across and sent me one, "makes it easier untill we have a boat set up to ferry is across." Going to a settlement, she showed me an incomplete marketplace, and a windmill which would later be moved to a farm yet to be set up. She then offered to show me the castle, "it's not finished yet, but it's still really cool. It's pretty close to Dragonsreach, but with enough difference's to be on the safe side. (laughter)"

Going inside, there were still some things yet to be placed such as no throne on the platform yet. There was an upstairs with a good view, "and for sniper archers (big grin)." She thought when finished, the castle would be 300-350 prims, "not bad when you look at the size of the structure."

"The sim is not officially open yet, and we are looking at doing a soft open with personal invites going out to help us 'Beta test' the story lines and systems we are working on. We are starting out as a text base or freeform role-play. But we do also plan to bring on a simple combat meter to help us keep track of stats for full on battles."

Bubbles wanted to make two things clean, one that the sim wasn't really her effort, bringing up Merceal Smythe, "He's the main builder and the one in charge of this project." She also pointed out, "Just remember it's not a Skyrim sim,"it's loosely inspired by Skyrim. (Giggle) We don't want to get into any legal issues with the game's makers."

As it turned out, Merceal was soon available to chat to. He appeared before us, clasping his hands together, "So! yes, I'm the developer and renderer for the sim. the concepts were inspired from several points of interests, but primarily historical and mythical Lore. ... my main sources of inspiration are Viking, Gaelic, and Norse Mythology, as well as their corresponding cultures. What helps is that recent popular game releases, such as Skyrim, are based of like histories and lorries. So the storylines wont be too far off from one another." "And there is a lot of interest out there for a role play world of this kind," Bubbles added, "because of the said popularity of those games."

Merceal went on, "I've tried to make a name for myself in reguards to an understanding and respect in the art of role-play, and understanding of the need of an immersive environment to correlate with it. The problem is Second Life is capable of so much, but due to its... engine and server designs, limits its own potential. So the trick, is creating such worlds and stories in this 3D environment, without the world itself taking up too many resources. A single avatar, if designed improperly, can lag a viewer. Viewers, rely not just on the data being received from the Asset servers, but the performance of the computers themselves. if the Viewer takes up the majority of the systems resources alone, and suddenly has new avatars appearing in and out, it'll overload the RAM and create a lot of problems.. so like i said, the trick is keeping the surrounding environment... simple, yet detailed and immersive. This is from my experience and observations over the course of over four years."

Bubbles commented, "Merceal is a bit of a master at things like prim management and efficient use of textures. He's worked on a number of sims in the past. Most of them Star Wars related I believe." Merceal replied, "So far, I have a vast amount of experience in it. And even when my other associates are offered free building services, they come to me, because I create the worlds the right way. I take pride in my work, and if I'm not happy with something, I wont call it complete, and will even start over. (And) yes, most of my sim projects have revolved around sci-fi roleplay sims, namely, Star Wars and sci-fi RP."

As it turned out however, many of those roleplays were ruined by internal drama, "However, due to the struggles and ill management of that RP community, i can no longer role-play or do deep association with a lot of the ... sim owners, because their interests lie in personal gain, rather than community development and immersive roleplaying. My sims were always top mark, mostly prim, to save on latency. And in addition, individuals from several RP environments came to the sim. During nearly every sim opening, the sim capped on the limit of players that could enter the sim. The last sim we did came out great. And it's pretty popular as far as a Star Wars role-play sim can be at present. I always enjoy seeing individuals enjoy an immersive world. I just wish I had more trade skills in the scripting and mesh field to offer more creations. However, due to my ... real-life conditions, I'm limited on such resources, but I still provide the best i can with what I have."

Bubbles commented, "But Star Wars roleplay is dying for the very reasons Merc mentioned." Merceal agreed, "Yeah... sadly too many people want control, as in, they want to dictate the every action of each individual RP'er, and they don't like losing. The thing about RP, is no one can control the flow. The stories write themselves in the environments they cake place in. The stories are written by the events, not whoever screams 'I own this sim and RP group' the loudest, and throws the most money at it. Sadly, that isn't understood by a lot of sim and group owners. They feel because they front the money, they get to decide everything in such an environment. The most anyone can do is 'guide' the flow of events. But there is no control over human will and spirit." Bubbles added, "It was hard walking away from Star Wars roleplay. But we are looking ahead to a bright new future with this place."

"Where there is one group of people with the desire to create such a world, there is another, with a different personality, and different approach and vision to it all. Its just a matter of knowing the individual, and when they'll be around, if they aren't already. For example this sim. I don't own it. A friend of mine owns it, as I wish all those I associate with to be. However, I place most of the prims, and do the work, and we work together. Bubbles has been a huge help in reguards to research and locating materials needed and necessary for the sims development. The team work and chain of roles has been very beneficial to its development, considering I just started this new sim design yesterday (laughter)."

Bubbles responded to the complements by blushing, "I like to hunt stuff down and find the best deals. It's a lot of fun watching how the tools I find are used and come to life. Besides, I am also learning how to build better along side of everything else. … compare my little cottage to the ones I made a year ago."

Merceal went on, "I just wish it was easier. I don't think people realize how to price what they've made that makes economic sense. … personality characteristics that show signs of greed, but i cant say for sure (grin). I made this sim for free, and when i do need lindens for more projects I charge very little if anything. The other thing is if i have the time and patients for these projects (laughter). Sometimes sim owners who hire me for work tend to want things done yesterday, when I started the project 3 days ago, and I have at least 4-6 months to work on it (laughter). However, I normally complete my projects take normally half the time."

Bubbles noted, "I remember one of our projects that was like that. You were working on it for a week straight, getting a lot done. We projected it would take a month and the client comes up and dumps another three months of work on top of it and asks if it can be done in half the time. (grin)" Merceal responded, "That is the WORST situation I come across. We come in agreement of a verbal contract of how the sim will be built or designed. And suddenly, out of no where, they redesign the whole thing, no warning, and expect me to scrap the whole sim. That is, rather frustrating. Not to mention the projects are normally three times larger, and require more supplies than I posses. I mean, my inventory is HUGE with primarily building supplies, like sculpts, textures, and meshes. sounds, scripts... etc."

Merceal went on, "But I build in all sorts of themes, and make little to no lindens... so when my generosity and flexibility of work is taken advantage of beyond the original concepts, demanding more work and resources from me, and disrespecting me because they decided to be a pain and change things? Just indecent and rude... I've sadly had to drop at least half the projects i've taken on due to things like that. just flat indecency and inconsiderate actions." "It's shocking how often that happens too," Bubbles added.

"Of course, I get a bad rap for doing nothing wrong but the right thing," Merceal commented, "so I can make myself available for another client who is A, more respectful, and B, more deserving and willing to create worlds for RP and living this 3D reality. It's hard to put a price on a way of life, and I try to avoid that (grin).

Of the Skyrim inspired sim, Merceal spoke, "I'm hoping things go well here. I also am crossing my fingers that drama-proned individuals will not repeat unfavorable habits while here (grin). i plan to write broad but fair guidelines and regulations to make this environment enjoyable for all, mainly in the approach of the storyline and sim lore itself." Bubbles nodded, "we are looking to build this place up with the goals of offering a clean, low lag sim that allows the freedom of roleplay without personal agendas to mar the way."

Oh his plans, Merceal stated, "my goal is to lead in project developments that 'enhance' the role-play experience, and do not get in the way and make over all performance degraded by the new addition of aids and features. I wish it was easier to add scripts into the viewer itself as a type of add on feature. But the SL viewer's.... normal performance is far below capable of even achieving it at the moment (grin)."

The talk soon drifted to Bubbles thinking of getting her old friend Aiko Swashbuckler to work on the trees, and we ended up talking some about our days in Woodlin. Eventually, we went our separate ways. And it was goodbye for the moment to this tribute to Skyrim with a promising future.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mystery Science Theater 3000 in SL

Have you wondered where the worst science-fiction B movies you have ever seen went?? I found them! They are in the comfortable theater located at the sim, This Island Earth.

A quote from the land says, “Keeping the world safe from bad B-Movies by keeping them contained." Somehow Squeebee Wakawaka has sequestered them all and they are playing 24/7 for your viewing pleasure. All you have to do is sit and touch the box at the poster to start or catch up if it is in progress. If you want to have an outdoor view and lounge by the pond you will find a screen there too. How he found these films is beyond my comprehension, but there they are. Grab a bag of popcorn or a pizza and settle down.

There are comfortable seats for all and for those who like to snuggle up with a partner there is seating for you too. I sat and watched part of “Fugitive alien” and on another visit, “ Star Force Alien 2." I had to chuckle and then laugh out loud at the films. Hopefully that is what the owner wants, or, my apologies.

I met Mordoc Blackheart and asked if he were involved in the theater. And yes, he is a Saturday night host for the showing of a movie. He told me they had been in this sim for about a year and in another one previously. Most of the films are from MST3K which was on TV from 1988 through 1999 in the USA. Mordoc said they had almost all the films that were shown during that period and also some other interesting science films.

If you want to learn the story behind MST3K check it out at, or search it for other informative sites. The building is a copy of the space craft where the MST3K crew spent their time forced to watch these films (Listen to their comments!). There are huge tribute builds of the robots who were part of the crew outside. There appear to be hosts for events each day at one time or another. There is a group for notices about get-togethers for events if you would like to join and keep up on the current offerings.

Have a fun afternoon at the movies.

Gemma Cleanslate

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cartoonimals Changes Hands

In January, the Cartoonimals sim, noted for it's virtual critters, amusing gadgets, and other fun items available for purchase, was in danger of closing. In mid-February, I heard the sim had been saved. A buyer had stepped forward and took the place under her wing.

Dropping in to take a look, the place had been changed a bit. Much of the sim was bordered by cliffs and trees, including some picturesque waterfalls, and there was a stretch of beach with crashing waves. And the layout of the attractions and vendors had been rearranged some. But it was still basically the same place, with their critters and whimsical goods still up for sale. Near one waterfall, an elephant stood in the water and hippos were swimming. At the beach, seals were jumping out and back into the water.

While looking around, I noticed a couple people nearby in a building and went over. And there was Duggy Bing, the builder of the cartoonimals and the old owner of the sim, and Ima Flanagan, the new owner of the place. Ima greeted me with a joke, "Hi Bixyl! Lovely avatar you have there. Be careful ... Duggy might make you into a tip jar." After some initial laughter, Duggy Bing told me, "It's Ima's sim now." "I did a bit of rearranging , but not to difficult when you have these great creations to work with. I purchased it , hope to save it. Hate to see this leave SL."

The two were currently working away, Duggy saying, "We're trying to get the stupid messed up vendors to work. The transfer messed things up." "Makes for extra work," Ima told me, then leaned closer to whisper with a grin, "Of course they came back with my name on them. … shhh, don't tell Duggy."

Part of the reason Duggy had sold the sim was he was increasingly busy in real life, "lots of projects." Asking him if there would be any more of his products, he answered he was, "taking a break. It will be a while."

I asked Ima what plans she had other than giving the sim a new look and the vendors straightened out. "There will be a large freebie store," she told me, "not the usual minor items, but many things people need to get started in SL. There will be more stores, but I hope to keep it on this sort of theme. I am not a fan of a sim full of buildings. This is a joy, because these items, play well with landscaping."

I asked them what reactions they heard of the sim up for sale and it's purchase. Ima answered, "One woman dropped by, she gave me an article her friend had written about the sim, and Duggy selling it. She said she didn't want the sim to go. She had a look about and was pleased with the changes. That was good to hear. Loyal fans of sims are sometimes unnerved with changes. She was pleased and was off to tell her friend the sim survived the change."

Duggy Bing was happy at how things turned out, "I'm delighted that Ima Flanagan agreed to take over Cartoonimals sim. She is a longtime freind, and a creator who has built some marvelous environments. She's the perfect person to not only maintain Cartoonimals, but also reinvent it as a whole new experience for SL residents to explore and enjoy." Ima considered it fortunate for her that she was able to get the sim, "I'm the lucky one."

Talking a little more, Ima did have some plans for a social center where people could hang out. After saying goodbye, I looked around a little, and away from the main area saw a small deck next to the beach, animated by waves crashing onto the shore, and the silence interrupted by bird calls.

And so the sim built around Duggy Bing's whimsical creations continues under new management, and with a slightly new look. It should be interesting when Duggy is ready to resume making new goodies once again.

Bixyl Shuftan