Friday, April 27, 2012

Virtual Yosemite

Wandering around SL the other day, I was informed of a place called Virtual Yosemite. It is touted thusly: "Enjoy the natural scenery of Virtual Yosemite. This virtual version of the famous national park in the USA is an example of a whole new generation of sculpted off-sim environments by Sominel Edelman (Landscapes Unlimited). More info at"

I don't know what I was expecting, but when I got there, whatever original expectations I'd had were quickly shattered. This is one of the best sims I've seen on the grid in a long long time, and the effort really shows. It's a pretty open sim, surrounded on all sides by off-sim mountains representing the area around Yosemite. There's a little campground, a store to buy the off-sim mountains and environments, a little wooden lodge, and... well, that's it, really, but no one ever said a sim had to be full to bursting of prims to be attractive. I looked around and then got in touch with the creator of this wonderous landscape, Sominel Edelman, to talk to him about his masterpiece of Virtual Yosemite.

Sominel Edelman, "Hi, welcome!"

Xymbers Slade, "This is quite the landscape. I haven't seen many, if any at all, better than this one in a long time. (smile) How long did it take to design all of this and put it together?"

Sominel Edelman, "It may very well be unique in SL; about a month, perhaps even a bit more. I've used a new technique on this one. That's why it takes so long, the first one is the hardest."

Xymbers Slade, "Was it a difficult process? Or do you find generating landscapes comes natural to you?"

Sominel Edelman, "The technology can be difficult, but the process of sculpting itself is fun. Nothing but fun (smile). I'm a geographer myself in real life. I studied landforms like these."

Xymbers Slade, "What got you interested in landscapes specifi... well, I guess that answered that, then. Heh."

Sominel Edelman, "At first I did jewelry, but I didn't find that very motivating. I'm not a jewelry type of guy (grin)."

Xymbers Slade, "So you go around looking at landscapes all the time?"

Sominel Edelman, "No, I don't go around that much. Except in real life, I love to travel there, visit new places. in Second Life, I'm mostly just busy making new things."

Xymbers Slade, "I guess I was expecting to see Old Faithful or something here. I don't see it included... didn't want to add the most famous part of the place?"

Sominel Edelman, "Uhm... Old Faithful is part of a different park (grin). That's Yellowstone, this is Yosemite."

Xymbers Slade, "Shows how smart I am, I have the direction sense of a brick and the geography sense of a bag of apples."

Sominel Edelman, "This is what it should look like: "

Xymbers Slade, "What do you use to make these kinds of wonderful landscapes?"

Sominel Edelman, "A few 3D programs and a couple of scripts. I won't be very specific about that.... I'm sorry."

Xymbers Slade, "Ah, ok, no problem. I can understand not wanting to 'reveal trade secrets.' Is there something you want to do landscape-wise but can't, due to limitations in SL or something else?"

Sominel Edelman, "Well... The amount of detail you can get in off-sim builds is not that big. It would be great to be able to use mesh, but meshes can't be that big."

Xymbers Slade, "I wasn't aware meshes had a limit but then again I don't build."

Sominel Edelman, "The waterfalls, for example, I wish I could make a more natural shape. They can just be 64x64x64 meters... this is 1024x1024 so they [mesh] would be way too small."

Xymbers Slade, "What's your next planned project? I find this hard to top off the top of my head."

Sominel Edelman, "I do have the Grand Canyon high on my list, but... there are not that many trees there, and I do love the off-sim trees."

Xymbers Slade, "Heh. Maybe add a little creative artistry then and add more trees (grin). I've never been out there so I don't have a clue (I live in a major city, so)."

Sominel Edelman, "I have a couple of other environments that I want to make, I think they should all be on the Unesco World Heritage list."

Xymbers Slade: "You mean the Grand Canyon isn't?"

Sominel Edelman, "I want to go all over the world (smile). It is, this is too, but it should be special to people, and well-known all around the world."

Xymbers Slade, "Ok, last question in this little rapid-fire... do you do commissions?"

Sominel Edelman, "How do you mean, commissions?"

Xymbers Slade, "Like if someone asked you for a specific landscape or skybox (off the top of my head I know a dragon looking for a new lair, so to speak)."

Sominel Edelman, "No, in general I don't. I did that for a while, but it made me go off-track. I want to keep my focus."

Xymbers Slade, "I know what you mean (smile). Keeping focus is definitely a skill in Second Life when there is so many things to see/do/create and whatnot."

Sominel Edelman, "And, it's hard to create something someone else has in mind. They can almost never show me a picture, and that makes it hard."

"That's great, thank you Xymbers! How did you find this place?"

Xymbers Slade, "Honestly, my editor mentioned it to the rest of the reporters and went 'who wants it?' --- I haven't done a piece in months, so I said I'd take it on. (smile)"

Even as a big open space, it's a wonderful quiet spot for when you need to unwind from the hustle and pixel-flavored mayhem of SL. Without a doubt I'm giving it 5 Dragon Hoards out of 5, and I'm not even a huge wilderness buff!

Virtual Yosemite can be found at the Landscapes Unlimited sim: Landscapes Unlimited, (99/143/22)

Xymbers Slade

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mcarp Land in LEA

When I spent time talking to Aley in her sea at LEA, she told me she was sharing the sim with her friend, Mcarp Mavendorf. I had seen Mcarp’s giant avatar image over looking the sea from above. But on closer inspection she had just stepped on a church like structure and ruined it. Well, it was one of her own builds so I guess that is ok. 

There are several more buildings on the sim, all seeming to be cathedral or castle like  buildings. Each is lovely . In each you find clocks, all set to the proper SL time. Each clock is more interesting than the other. If  you open the large map while you are there, you will see the sim is actually a clock itself! The most magnificent building is filled with interesting clocks. Someone said to me when we visited,  “this is a temple to time.” 

I met Mcarp in the cathedral and she took me for a tour of the clocks and explained her thinking in creating them. She admitted she is obsessed with clocks.  She is evidently a math wiz and loves to script, some scripting based on calculus. That was the end of my understanding. I know she would like to have more but is running out of ideas on new creative ways of making clocks. “my problem is I don't do clocks where the face is some picture, in those you can do a million of them ... to come up with some new mechanical concept so each clock is about a different mechanical look.”  

Her favorite center piece is in the sanctuary area of the church. That is not a clock but a counter based on AND gates (complicated) .  We took a tour of the rest of the building where you will find a lovely organ that you can play. There is a gorgeous fountain in the middle which is a fully functioning carillon on top.  The windows are beautiful and enhance the cathedral. We then moved over to the castle where there are more clocks. In the kitchen Mcarp turned on the dishwasher, one of Aley’s creations and immediately plates began falling to the floor and smashing. We went out to the lift and met Aley and we all took a ride over the sim where we could see all the churches and the mount with faces that they called "Mount Lag."   When I sat in the lift, I was left holding on the outside desperately not to fall. “this is our special 'hang the reporter out to dry' sit target” said Mcarp. On the way back I was able to sit on the roof. 

There is not room enough to write about all I saw or learned. Be sure not to miss the garden gnome at the draw bridge . Fascinating!  This exhibit will be in LEA for about four more months. I know you will love and understand everything if you are a scripter. but if not you will love just to gaze at it all and enjoy. The first time I went there I climbed a long set of stairs arising out of Aley’s sea. You could go that was but  I will make it easier for you to get there.

Gemma Cleanslate

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Titanic in Second Life

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. For Second Life residents, there is a sim-length replica they can visit. One can head there for an appreciation for the history, take someone out on a date, or both.

Teleporting into the sim, one arrives at the dock. It's a few steps to the entry ramp to the ship, the start having an overhead sign "RMS Titanic, White Star Line." Besides walking up at one's own pace, there's a couple's walk animation that a pair can use to go about the ship.

Heading to the right once you get up to the ship, one can go to the bow and with a friend re-create the "I'm King of the World" Scene. Or one can go about exploring the ship, whether on the outside, inside and both. There is much attention to detail, notably in places like the stairways with crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Going about, some of the cabins seen also had fine details. The sim's website stated here, "you can be a passenger and experience the romance and luxury of a bygone era." That the ship succeeds in doing. There is also a Titanic Museum, "A Second Night to Remember," on the port side of the top deck.

Second Life being what it is, there have been some compromises made. To help with expenses, a shopping area has been set up where one can get a selection of dresses and jewelry, and some tuxedos. The very bottom of the ship is the engine room. But only on rare occasions can one see the engine up and running. Most of the time it's packed up to cut down on lag. There is also a pool, and a wedding area. At the bow of the ship is the ballroom, where live musicians perform for dace parties. One can dance in the ballroom, or on the deck outside.

The ship is owned by Mara Menges, who bought the ship from it's builder, with Guus Menges as co-owner. The dress code is formal, with the crew reserving the right to bump off the ship those who won't answer requests to change. Animal avatars (also known as ferals to some) are also banned. This does not mean nonhuman characters are always disallowed as neko and furry avatars dressed in formal wear are welcome.

The Second Life Titanic was built by Reborn Wingtips, or Morphius Barbose as he was known at the time of it's construction. A sign on the bridge stated the ship is 254 meters long, slightly shorter than the real-life Titanic's length of 269 meters, and 60 meters high. It consists of roughly 4,500 prims, not counting the furniture.

Reborn stated on the sign, "Titanic has been a build of passion. I studied it in school years ago. Claude Kirshner made land available free of charge for me to build it here in Second Life. Obviously I couldn't create the ship to detail as prims don't allow it. Plus Second Life has tier fees, etc."

"It has taken six months (for the ship) to reach its current condition. This is the fourth or fifth build. I needed to take a few steps back to make one step forward a few times. Later on as the Titanic was nearing completion, the build was discovered by Kallisto Estates, who have generously jumped at the opportunity to provide a sim to sheer Titanic with the world."

" … I think I was in college when we did a big study on the Titanic in Social Studies, covering every aspect, even some things that weren't commonly known. There was a rumor that there was actually a cursed mummy onboard. Even now if I try to imagine being on the ship that night, I get a chill, the humble men, the fear, the desperation. What was God's involvement that night? That's my biggest question."

The website states more than half a million residents have visited the ship since it's opening in 2009, with over 700 visitors a day. This week marks the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the real Titanic. Over 2100 visitors came to the ship on April 12th, which was also the day of the "Last 1st Class Dinner on the Titanic" event for European visitors. On Friday the 13th, there will be another such event for American hours at 5:30PM (reservations required). Saturday the 14th has the Steerage Party, from Noon to 2:30PM SL time, 2:30 PM being when the ship hit the iceberg (reservations required).

On Sunday at 1PM is the memorial service. This event takes place outside the ship at the Titanic memorial on the sim's land. This event is open to all. In an article on the Metaverse Tribune, Mara is described as setting up the memorial after meeting the great-grandson of Captain James Smith, "she discovered that many of those who were lingering at the memorial were relatives of witnesses or survivors."

There is also a souvenir shop where one can get a memento of their visit to the ship. Considering the history of the ship and how its memory is kept alive by numerous books and movies, such as the one by James Cameron a few years ago, this is one build that is unlikely to be forgotten, and a place one may end up returning to again and again.

The entry point to the Titanic sim is at Titanic (128, 191, 134). For more information, one can go to the Second Life Titanic's website at

Bixyl Shuftan

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter Town

I was able to see a few Easter events this weekend. There were a number of small events, mostly egg hunts of some kind. But the biggest show was probably at "Easter Town."

"Easter Town is a holiday destination that dips you in colorful happiness, visual wonders and experiences sweeter than a chocolate bunny. Ten talented designers have come together to sell an eclectic range of original items. Combine this with egg hunts, peep races and other holiday activities, and Easter Town is an panoramic explosion of holiday joy."

Dropping in, it took a few minutes for most everything to rezz due to the crowd there. What got my attention about the people around were the several child avatars around, "Look, the Easter Bunny!" Hopping around in a circle were a "BugsBuny Resident" and a "BabsBuny Resident," in avatars resembling the cartoon characters. I never found out if they were part of Easter Town, or a couple alts made by a visitor for the holiday. By clicking on the "Bunny Hop" cube in the middle, one could join them.

The place itself had a cartoonish style, with the stores made with crooked windows and colored roofs. There were also a number of whimsical exhibits, such as an Easter egg machine that cranked out colored eggs factory style, and one of the Easter Bunny after apparently having over-indulged on his candies until he had a bellyache.

There were a number of freebies around, such as a bouncy ball one could sit on and bounce around on. There was also a freebie "egg avatar," which looked strange and hilarious with eggs with human heads walking about. There was also a basket for an egg hunt going around on the sim. Looking around, I found only one egg.

Some attractions one had to pay to play, such as the Peep Race. The stores themselves had a number of Easter-related goods for sale from clothes to jewelry and more. But one didn't have to spend money here to have a pleasant time. The freebies and cartoony atmosphere made the place well worth a visit.

Easter Town is at Elizabeth Town (151, 104, 22). The exhibit is scheduled to remain up until April 15th.

Bixyl Shuftan