Saturday, September 27, 2014

All Hallows’ Eve in Second Life


                 Witch and ghost make merry on this last of dear October’s days.



          Leaves are turning color and falling from the trees in both Second Life (SL) and Real Life (RL).

          The days are getting noticeably shorter and there’s a crispness in the air that wasn’t there last week.

          Yes, autumn has arrived!

          With its arrival comes the unofficial start of end-of-year Holiday season – Halloween! 

          I know, I know.  Halloween isn’t for another month!  (Significant Other sighs resignedly.  Significant Other has never gotten used to how I play fast and loose with the calendar.)  Last Halloween seems like only yesterday.

          My good SL friend and Mayor of Mieville, Perryn Peterson has reached out and informed me that the Mieville Halloween Village is ready for a tour.

          While we both realize it’s early (I don’t know about Perry but I haven’t even bought candy for the trick or treaters yet.) we decide to start the publicity campaign now to give everyone plenty of time to come and see the spectacle that Perryn and his team have prepared for everyone.

          We meet at the Village to begin our tour. 

          When I first see Perryn, I assume he’s getting into the swing of things early by wearing his lederhosen and cap.  (Nice legs BTW!)  But as it turns out, he’s doing double duty as the Biermeister at the Mieville Oktoberfest this evening.  (I guess things aren’t all that easy when you’re the Mayor.)

          Perryn begins by explaining to me that there are six themed areas in the Halloween Village.

          The first is the Pumpkin Patch and that’s where we’re standing.  There are a lot of pumpkins and let’s just say that orange is the predominant color.

          Here, visitors can either smash pumpkins or carve their own jack o’lanterns.  Not to worry about getting carried away, they grow back almost immediately.

          Moving along, we come to the next area, Witches’ Woods.  Leaves fall around us adding to the autumn mood.

          Guess what the theme is here?

          Yep, you guessed it.  Witches!  (Significant Other accuses me of sometimes pandering to my audience.)  There are enough cauldrons and witches about to satisfy even Hansel and Gretel.

          Up next is Skellytown.  (We’re playing to a lot of stereotypes here I know but it’s all done with the best possible taste in the most macabre way possible.)

          As we walk through these theme areas, I notice the shops and wagons of the participating merchants.  Their merchandise is appropriate for Halloween and is of the highest quality.  Many will be offering free gifts to visitors.  Perryn works continually to have the best designers and creators at his events.

          Our fourth stop is Vampyreville.  None of our fanged friends are about when we arrive but there is an imposing castle which would make the Old Impaler himself proud.    Perryn points out that the Halloween dances will be taking place on its rooftop.

          The Village amusement park with rides is located in Vampyreville.  One ride, a pumpkin coach reminded of a childhood ride that I once too.  (Contrary to rumors started by my mother and which Significant Other continues to spread, I did have a childhood.)

          Next up is Ghostly Gulch where graveyards and ghosts reside.  A few of the latter have even set up a small barber shop quartet.  Be careful around some of the graves because they have a nasty habit of reaching up and grabbing the unsuspecting.  (Perryn finds this very amusing.)

          Here is also the memorial to The Master.  The grave of Edgar Allan Poe lies to one side for those of us who reread regularly his works to drop by and remember him.

          Finally, Perryn and I reach the last themed area, Spyder Steppes. 

          Climbing the creaking old steps (Perryn has a thing for word play and puns I’ve learned over the years.) and brushing aside cobwebs we arrive at the top of a steep hill.

          Here, as Perryn puts it himself, he has saved the best for last.

          And, indeed he has!

          For here, all free, is a treasure trove of mad scientist gear from the master herself, Aley Resident (AKA Acadia Asylum).  I strongly recommend everyone who visits Mieville Halloween Village to at least stop here.  Even if you’re not a collector, you must stop by to see some of the most ingenious contraptions inworld. 

          My tour with Perryn is over and he has to return to his biermeister duties and I have another interview to get along to.  (I’m realizing that we’re both busy guys!)  So, I thank him as we make our farewells and then rezz off into the Unknown.

          All my impressions of the Mieville Halloween Village are favorable.  After this whirlwind tour and my return trip to take pictures for this story, I’m impressed by both the scope of the sim and its detail.

          Mieville festivals seem to be getting bigger and better.  The Tolkien Festival earlier this year is another good example. 

          In lieu of the traditional Hunt with the event, there will be trick or treat doors with select merchants.  Knock on the door at the appropriate time and you’ll receive a gift as a treat from the merchant.  Knock at the wrong time and as a trick you may be teleported home!  Wyvern Dryke

          This particular sleight of hand is the handiwork of Wyvern Dryke. Wyvvy is one of the team’s most creative scripters.

          This sim has lots of scares and fun but avoids the blood ‘n gore of others.  (Significant Other informs me this one is preferred to some others I’ve visited in the past.)

          The Village opens on October 18th and runs until Halloween.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

          I strongly recommend the Mieville Halloween Village to all who want a little fun inworld during this time of the year.     

          Happy Halloween!  

          I would like to thank Perryn for his time and hospitality while meeting with me for this interview.        

          As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

          I’ve included some pictures from my meeting with Arkad in his private offices inworld.

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

          Open roads and safe fires!




Photo No. 1 Landing Zone

Photo No. 2 Pumpkin Patch

Photo No. 4 Scarecrow

Photo No. 5 Merchant’s Shop I

Photo No. 7 Witch’s Den

Photo No. 8 Skellytown Entrance

Photo No. 9 Merchant Shop II

Photo No. 10 Vampyreville Entrance

Photo No. 11 Amusement Park

Photo No. 13 Graveyard

Photo No. 14 The Master’s Grave

Photo No. 17 Castle

Photo No. 18 Aerial View



Friday, September 19, 2014

Finding New Friends in Second Life


Old friends pass away, new friends appear.  It is just like the days.  An old day passes, a new day arrives.  The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend or - meaningful day.

Dalai Lama



          As many of my readers hopefully know by now, I’ve been looking at social media to improve the sense of community among residents of Second Life (SL). 

          Initially, this was intended as a means to keep the community together in the event that SL went walkabout.  (Love that word, Significant Other contends that I’m only trying to show off that I once saw an Australian movie.)  Later, this became more pressing as Facebook started making noises that they didn’t like my type. (No skin off my nose, I’ve been thrown out of better places than theirs.)   

          Just prior to all the turmoil of my hasty departure from Facebook, I came across a new social networking site exclusively for avatars from virtual worlds.  Its name is the Avatar Social Network (ASN) and, oddly enough, I learned about it while on Facebook.

          Joining, I found several old friends and started to make many new ones.  Since the Facebook diaspora has begun to arrive the numbers are steadily increasing.  No one asked about my Real Life (RL) identity.  I could offer friendship without people coming back asking snarkily who did I think I was trying to friend them.  There’s a Help Center staffed by real people who came back promptly and helped me when I was trying to figure something out. 

          I must admit that this was an entirely different experience from the other so called social network that’d just run me out of town.

          Then to top this all off, I met the founder and general manager of ASN who friended me, had a pleasant conversation with me, and accepted readily my offer of an interview to do this story. 

          His name is Arkad Baxton and with his help, I’ll introduce ASN to you. 

          Now, to be fair, I’ve never met Mark Zuckerberg so he hasn’t had a chance to snub me or decline my friendship offer.  But, somehow I don’t think I’d have gotten the same reception as I’ve gotten from Arkad.  (That offer to guest blog here is still open Mark!)

          Arkad is an avatar in SL.  He’s been inworld since 2004 and his current persona was born in 2008.  For him, the attraction of SL is privacy.  No RL needs to be shared.  Like me, Arkad enjoys his privacy.  This was the reason why ASN was created. 

          ASN is intended to be an alternative to Facebook for non-real accounts such as ourselves.  Arkad stresses that no RL information being required was the driving force behind the decision to establish ASN. 

          As Arkad puts it, a person can be whomever they want to be inworld. He cites the example of Anshe Chung, a Danish school teacher in RL, a Chinese land baron millionaire in SL. 

          The goal of ASN is to bring and keep the virtual worlds and games communities together without any obligation of providing real information, thus offering more freedom than other social media websites. 

          I continue asking if ASN was a reaction to Facebook’s policies or did that develop afterwards.  Arkad replies that ASN was the result of a mix of things.  The original concept, yes, is ensuring privacy and that no RL data is being shared or requested.

The other, he continues, is that there was not any kind of social network available where virtual world members can share their photos, connect, promote, play games or interact like there now is in ASN.

          Arkad says proudly that ASN has it all in one place. ASN is the flickr, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Forums, etc. for virtual world residents and gamers all at one place.

          As far as I’m concerned, Arkad seems to have hit both nails squarely on their heads. 

          I next ask about the funding for ASN as all this takes money.  Arkad explains that originally investors were behind ASN but, now, advertising and sponsors are helping.

          When I ask about who ASN’s members are, Arkad says they come from all over and cites Second Life, Little Field Grid, Island Oasis, Virtual Highway,, IMVU, World of Warcraft, and even flight simulator enthusiasts.  A pretty diverse group in my opinion. 

          Arkad states that there are several reasons why people join ASN.

          First, they come to make friends.  Next, they join to promote their activities such as photography and blogging.  Finally, there’s a lot of useful information to be found at ASN and members avail themselves of it.

          My next question came from one of my readers.

          The question concerns intellectual property (IP) rights for content posted on ASN.  (Remember the ToS controversy with Linden Lab and SL?)  The question is does ASN consider itself the owner of IP posted on ASN.

          Arkad replies that no, ASN is not the owner.  What’s posted on the Internet is available for all.  ASN has no claim on it.  (Ebbe Altberg and Linden Lab could learn a few things from this guy.)

          I inquire about any issues that ASN may be experiencing. Arkad replies that server capacity had been an issue but has been addressed by the recent upgrade.  (I have to add that this migration was done very professionally and with transparent communications with the user community.  I know some large global companies that could learn from this.) 

          My last question has to do with ASN’s future plans. 

          Arkad says that short term, the immediate plans are celebrate the first birthday of ASN this coming September 20th (which is why this story is one day early) from 10:00AM to 11:00PM SLT. 

          The festivities will be non-stop with performers, gifts, and parties.

          Oh, you’d like to know where the celebrations are?

          Well, I can tell you without having to… (You know the rest!)

          Until just a few hours ago this was a tighter secret than the personal mobile phone numbers of Linden Lab management.  (Don’t ask.)

          The first anniversary celebrations will be here.  See you there!

          The location will be announced the day before on the website so keep an eye out is all that I can say now!

          Longer term, after the parties, Arkad’s plans for ASN are to introduce new features onto the website, fix some bugs in the Android app, and launch the iPhone app.  A pretty impressive list!

          Arkad next takes me to ASN inworld location to show me where residents can join and use the ATM for credits.  (More about this feature in a future story!)

          Wanting to be mindful of Arkad’s time, I thank him for his openness and hospitality then take my leave to return to Nowaki.   

          ASN is a well run, tight community of avatars from across the Metaverse.  In my short time here, I’m impressed by the friendliness of the other members and the helpfulness of the staff.

          For those looking for a social networking application to assist in their enjoyment of SL and other virtual worlds, I strongly recommend ASN. 

          You’ll see me there!

          I would like to thank Arkad for his time and hospitality while meeting with me for this interview.        

          As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

          I’ve included some pictures from my meeting with Arkad in his private offices inworld.

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

          Open roads and safe fires!




Photo No. 5 Arkad Baxton
Photo No. 6 ASN First Anniversary Announcement

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Small Town Japanese Life in Second Life


Reality can’t compete with imagination.

Japanese Proverb



          During my recent visit with friends at a geisha house in Second Life (SL), I also had a tour of the town where the house is located.

          Having spent a fair bit of time in Japan in Real Life (RL) for a variety of reasons, (Significant Other is still impressed that I neither got lost nor impaired Japanese-American relations.  Truth be told, I’m kinda impressed myself!)  I had something to compare this sim to and I must say I came away very impressed by its lifelike feel.

          In this story, I’ll take you to this sim and describe it to you.  Those of you who are also familiar with Japan can keep me honest and, hopefully all of you my dear readers will take some time to visit.

          The sim is called Miyagawacho and can be reached by rezzing here.  It is based on a section of RL Kyoto the ancient capital of Japan prior to Tokyo and is considered to be the heart and soul of Japanese culture by many.

          Now, in RL, I haven’t been to Kyoto but I’ve been to much of Tokyo and the northern part of the main island Honshu.  (Long story about my wanderings across Japan and meet me inworld sometime and I’ll give you the lowdown.)

          Rezzing into town leaves me in front of the geisha house on a typical street in a Japanese small town.  Low storied buildings line both sides of the street.  Looking down one end a large temple looms.  Looking the other way I see a T-intersection and head that way.  (Maybe it’s Robert Frost’s influence but I’ve always been attracted to forks in the road.)

          Walking down the street, the building style is what one sees away from Tokyo or in its outlying districts.  Sliding panels serve as entrances to buildings.  Signs are in Japanese characters (naturally).  Lanterns hang from buildings.  Colorful noren hang in doorways.

          The detail is incredible as is the color.  Bus stops, mail boxes, and vending machines line the streets.  Street signs are authentic and right where I expect them to be.  The effect is almost photographic but it’s not.  Somebody very skilled scripted all this.

          The street layout is not one of those typical SL bland street scenes.  Streets are narrow as in RL.  The pavement brings back memories of strolls around Japan.  I can’t even read the posters on the walls as when I was there!  (I really appreciate it when folks go out of their way to make me feel at home!)  Bicycles are parked everywhere. 

          The realism extends to the small shops along the street.  These are not the usual SL fare peddling cyber-stuff but attempts at RL businesses like the shaved ice store across from the geisha house. Other shops offer typical merchandise.

          Running off the main street that I’m on are smaller ones and alleyways.  One leads to the countryside and then to a river bank where floating lanterns drift by.  The folks behind this sim have definitely done their homework!

          Returning to the main street, I reach the intersection and turn left.

          This takes me to an onsen, or hot spring. Going inside, I’m in the common area which leads to the men’s and women’s sections.  (This isn’t another type of sim so get your mind out of the gutter.)  The men’s has the traditional layout. A preparation outside of the baths.  The actual hot springs are in the rear of the building.

          Exiting, I walk along the street leading from the onsen.  I pass a small street shrine and enter a Zen garden at the end of the street.  (This looks like a good candidate for my Great Gardens of Second Life series.) 

          Backtracking, I return to the main street and stroll down to the large temple at the end.  I go inside and am reminded of similar visits to temples in Japan and Asia that I made in RL.  (Not to worry, I respect all places of worship not only my own churches and have not been thrown out.  I know a few clergy who are going to breathe a collective sigh of relief with this one.  Significant Other doesn’t worry on this score, knowing my respect for anything bigger than me especially when I don’t understand it.)

          This brings me to the end of my tour for now. There’s a lot more to see.

          What impresses me most about Miyagawacho is the faithfulness to detail including scale.  There is a closeness about the sim which can only be appreciated if one has walked the highways and byways of outlying districts, small towns and villages of Japan.

          One aspect that is haunting about this sim is that I never meet anyone on its streets.  There is a ghost town affect.  Sadly, I’m reminded of the images of the area surrounding the Fukushima disaster site.  (I don’t say this to be flip.  In RL, I have many Japanese friends and have spent too many hours with them watching the aftereffects of the 3/11 tragedy on NHK.)  

          The sim’s completeness is another example of its high quality.  There are no unused open spaces as in other sims.  What one would expect to see in a small Japanese town is there.  A good Japanese friend of mine shouldered surfed for part of my walkabout and was very impressed by the quality and attention to detail.

          I can give a strong recommendation to visit Miyagawacho to anyone interested in seeing a snapshot of Japanese life or what a highly realistic sim can be inworld.

          The residents who live the geisha lifestyle there have a very high standard of behavior and do not consider themselves to be roleplayers.

          Go, enjoy yourselves, and maybe you’ll see me wandering about!

          I would like to thank my friend and maiko, Kikuyumi (“Yumi” for short.) for taking me on my first tour of the town.        

          As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.   

          I’ve included some pictures from walk through Miyagawacho.  However, these do not do the originals justice.  Please go and see this sim for yourselves! 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

          Open roads and safe fires!
Photo No. 3 Small Street Shrine
Photo No. 4 Zen Garden
Photo No. 8 Outdoor Hot Springs
Photo No. 10 Vending Machines
Photo No. 11 Mail Box
Photo No. 12 Temple
Photo No. 13 Temple Interior
Photo No. 14 Sidestreet