Text and Photos by DULCIE MILLS Machinima by CLARK ABISMO
This month the RezLibris simseeing reporters try to capture the meaning of the SL holiday spirit as represented by the many beautifully decorated sims and Winterfest attractions throughout the grid. Travel with us as through a winter wonderland to Santa's workshop, a snowy Renaissance Village, a busy ski lodge, a romantic never never land of moonlight and ice and other places where you can enjoy the season from the comfort of your computer chair while sipping your hot chocolate as long as you don't get any on the keyboard. Cheers and Happy Holidays!The best time of year in Second Life is the period from the end of November through mid to late February when SL snow starts to fall all over and holiday decorating and events begin to take place including the annual Winterfest of winter themed activities and attractions. Instead of the regular simseeing column this month, the editors thought it would be nice to feature a few lovely winter and holiday sims in all their festive splendor. We tried to choose a variety of places from Santa's workshop in Winter Wonderland to the snowy Elizabethan holiday celebrations at Renaissance Island. We make a stop at the Wolf Mountain Ski Resort and Winterlude Village, visit the magical and romantic winter Never Never Land, warm ourselves at the enchanted Creative Fantasy at Spellbound Woods, and chill out with the abominable snowman at the arctic Insula Inspiri North Ice rink. These are just a few of the many beautiful winter and holiday destinations to get you in the holiday and seasonal mood.
What is it about winter in Second Life that is so special? Maybe it's the fact that SL is such a creative medium. Building a snowman in real life is a challenge, so how much more so in SL? And for those of us who never really got the hang of skating in rl, isn't it great to do all those fancy skating moves with such ease in SL? What about decorating your house? Putting up your virtual tree and hanging your virtual stockings is lots of fun and usually a lot less work than it is in real life and definitely much easier to put away. And since the holidays is all about sharing with those special people in your life, isn't it great that you can send your SL friends cards or gifts from Xstreet or one of the great SL shops, or go out with them for a cup of hot chocolate or egg nog? What's even nicer is that you can share in customs with people from all over the world because SL is international. So, although it's a very busy and hectic time for people in real life with holiday shopping, finishing up papers for the end of the semester if you are in school, etc., it can still be a fun time if you can take a few moments to relax and log into SL to see some of the pretty places that are set for the holidays and winter season. It will warm your spirit and start you singing.
Slurl's to places videotaped and photographed in this article:
This month the RezLibris simseeing reporters turn nature lovers as they explore the many paths through Straylight, a sim housing the Straylight Botanical shop that sells plants, trees, garden furniture, and many other botanical items all in an outdoor setting that is as fun and relaxing to visit as it is to purchase your backyard or park supplies. So come stray along with us to Straylight where there is as much to see as there is to buy.
Combining beautiful surroundings with a place to shop is nothing new in Second Life; but for Straylight Botanical, it is nothing short of an art form. Why else would SL residents choose a store to hold their special events from rez days to wedding services? Why else would creator Kriss Lehmann want SL residents to consider it an ongoing “love letter “ to themselves from him? You might get a clue when you teleport there and are bathed in multi-colored light reflecting from the trees and waterfalls. You will see many paths paved with colored stones that you can follow up to a bridge or a sitting area of topiary furniture which is actually for sale (as are almost everything along your walk but not conspicuously so). This is a place to wander and to stray (hence the name) from your real life and Sl worries.
Straylight was a sim that Lehmann owned before he decided to move his botanical store from the mainland there in July 2007. “As the store and sim gained popularity and became more of a full-time job, I closed down my mainland assets and focused on Straylight and Botanical exclusively,” he said. “I have definitely had a lot of offers for assistance from the SL community, however, I look at the island as a personal playground. I really want people to know when they arrive at Straylight, they are experiencing something special . . . The Botanical store is a way to offer all those things that I have made to enhance my own experiences in Second Life directly to the residents, to let them take home something, more than a picture or a memory. “
Lehmann’s favorite feature of Straylight, and also that which many visitors comment upon, is that different things change over the course of the day. “I had originally started with sounds that changed over time, then created sun and moon beams that would move through the trees during the day and night,” he explained. “At night, lamps turn on, wisps of colored lights appear in the forests and over swamps, and fog begins to form in some areas. Visitors to the sim spend a lot of time outside the store area and in the more themed areas of the sim. The open nature aspects of the sim are definitely popular among residents, by themselves.”
Lehmann added, “I think Straylight was unique from the beginning by not presenting itself as a sim with a store, but a place to go and enjoy yourself, either alone or with others, and have the opportunity to take some of that experience home.”
Straylight also has a blog and a Flickr group to showcase the beautiful pictures and films people have made on Straylight called "Postcards from Straylight" Straylight can be found here
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by DULCIE MILLS Photos by CLARK ABISMO and DULCIE MILLS
,For our October issue, our simseeing reporter and photographer travel to two of SL's spookies spots, Bentham Manor and the recently opened Bentham Forest, which are both open all year for your horror pleasure. Join us as we venture into a not-so-typical haunted house and follow the paths through a forest full of quests and surprises.
During October, dozens of haunted sims spring up in Second Life touting haunted houses, pumpkin and skull scavenger hunts, all types of 3D ghosts and ghouls many of which are for sale, and other assorted prim trick or treats. But one particularly scary but fun sim that is open year round is Bentham Manor which has recently been joined by a second haunted attraction, Bentham Forest. Both were created by Lauren Bentham who has always had a passion for Halloween. "The manor is two floors," she said. "There is the manor grounds, cemetery, the asylum, and a church, as well . . . and a tour around the grounds in a tour pod not to mention all my creations are for sale. I made it to be more like a place to enjoy rather than a shop with vendors. A lot of the items there you can buy just by clicking."
Although there are lots of must-see's at Bentham Manor from various specters to the Soul Harvester who you must be especially wary of lest he steal your soul, there are several interactive attractions both inside and out such as the Tarot table where your cards can be read in various authentic “spreads,” the Ouija board where your fortune will be spelled out by a moving bottle, and a séance table that’s “quiet” voice can sometimes be heard as you enter the manor. In addition, each room of the house has many creepy and gruesome sights to behold such as the kitchen/laboratory that unstimulates ones appetite and a nursery reminiscent of a V.C. Andrews tale. A tour pod near the landing spot will take you around the fog-shrouded grounds and acquaint you with all the spooky sights. If you choose to explore by foot, you can hang yourself from one of the hangman’s nooses, swing on a scary swing, and find several interesting ways to die. No matter how you explore, eerie eyes and many demons will follow you all over the place. Indeed, you can visit several times and see something new each time. Also, don’t forget to pick up your freebie nailed plank weapon from the box near the tp spot or the flashlight inside the manor. Both of them come in handy during your explorations.
A new attraction that compliments the manor is Bentham Forest. A quote from Bentham’s picks reads, “Discover the secrets of Bentham Forest, wander & explore the dark foreboding landscape (quests, spooky, evil, scary, eerie, creepy, art, fantasy, spirits, Halloween, horror) -- Forest by a collaborative effort of Andrek Lowell and Lauren Bentham.” Bentham said, “the creator of Chakryn forest built it and my creations are integrated into the build.” She explained that there are four quests and several hidden items in crates to find but that there are no clues or note cards to be found in the forest. This is “deliberate,” according to Bentham. “so people find it more interesting exploring.”
For more information about events and upcoming attractions, at Bentham Manor or Bentham Forest, you can join the Bentham Manor Group.
by CARINA GONZALEZ (RL) CARINA GONZALES (SL) Photos by VERDE OTAARED Machinima by PIA KLAAR
For this month's Sim-Seeing article, we start the traditional school year off with a tour of the New Media Consortium campus, a collaborative effort of educational organizations, colleges and universities, and museum professionals that have created a presence in SL to foster learning and experimentation in a virtual environment.
The New Media Consortium established a presence in Second Life in early 2006 to promote educational collaboration and to explore the potential of virtual environments. This effort now boasts more than 300 member organizations, including 125 colleges and universities.
The goal of the project was to create an immersive 3-D virtual environment for higher education and museum professionals to interact, collaborate, and experiment that would provide a low entry threshold for newcomers, while simultaneously exploring the boundaries of what is possible. The island was to have three main functions:
1. to be a place for a variety of live events that use streaming video and web content extensively; 2. to be a place to showcase and access content from the NMC’s online libraries; 3. to be a place to experiment for both the owners/organizers, and for participants.
The campus has a variety of places to interact, accommodating groups of 2 to more than 75. The campus also supports a wide variety of traditional media, including posters, PowerPoint slides, photographs, charts/graphs, videos, and weblinks, and these resources continue to be added on a regular basis as a core component of the project. All of these resources are available to NMC members who may wish to bring classes to the campus for a visit, as part of a research project, or for a full term.
The NMC Campus is divided into 9 sims: Ars Simulacra, Learning, Research Park, NMC Campus West, NMC Campus, NMC Conference Center, NMC Arts, NMC Orientation, and Conference Center South. The Ars Simulacra is a fanciful outdoor museum hosting interactive arts and a dance space. Learning is full of free resources for visitors. The Conference Centers host most of the venues available for rent and the NMC Arts section of the campus has an impressive performing arts center. For those new to second life, the NMC Orientation will teach everything necessary to get started, all in a welcoming home-town setting.
As a not-for-profit, the NMC is committed to sharing its work with the educational community. All of the reports, research, and other materials the NMC produces in the project are published under Creative Commons licenses. In addition, the NMC has created and stocks the largest open educational content repository in Second Life, in the NMC’s full-sim Resource Center on Learning. Content from business attire to learning objects, to medical equipment and entire buildings, to orientation experiences and much more, is all available on Learning for free.
In addition to the campus itself, member organizations are encouraged to create their own adjoining sims. One sim of particular interest to librarians is Know How Island which engages learners in complex literary matter with gaming style interactivity and is a must see for anyone planning or thinking about a Second Life project revolving around Library Services or Educational Gaming.
Know How Island's board-walk setting is broken into six parts which teach information literacy in an innovative way: Develop a Topic, Use Keywords, Document Sources, Boolean Operators, Credible Sources, and Research Cycle. The Research Cycle is a literal giant pinwheel representing the circular journey of deciding, defining, evaluating, and locating information.
The NMC is as committed as ever to its mission of helping educators make the highest possible use of this platform via support, the sharing of models and resources, pushing possibilities, and absolute transparency. For the latest information on the project, visit http://sl.nmc.org/.
Text and Photos by DULCIE MILLS Machinima by PIA KLAAR
For this month's Sim-Seeing, we have decided to continue our summer vacation theme with a visit to one of SL's most popular amusement parks, Prim Hearts. Strap yourself in as we tour this fun attraction. The sights and sounds evoke childhood memories of summer days. You can almost smell the hotdogs, popcorn, and cotton candy. But although there are booths, you need no tickets or wristbands. In fact, all the rides at Prim Hearts are free and they are all also available for purchase.
According to Sarg Bjornson, builder of the park and all the rides, Prim Hearts was officially open in February, 2007. "At first it was just a bunch of rides: Bumper Cars, Bumper Boats, Go-Karts, an Ice Rink, a Swinging Ship, a Log Flume, the underground Round Trip Ride, and a Water Slide," he said, "From eight rides, the park has grown to 28!" Bjornson went on to explain that, after having a small shop on the mainland selling water slides and bumper cars, building an amusement park was a "natural progression" for him. His three favorite rides are the Bumper Cars, Go-Karts, and Log Flume. "These three, along with the Round Trip ride, are the only ones that have been in more or less the same place since the park opened," he said. "I think the Go-Karts are particularly popular, but the crowd favourite seems to be the Ferris Wheel!"
One attraction that Bjornson is particularly fond of is the Damaged Space Station. "I'd . . . say no one should leave the park without visiting the Damaged space station," he said. "It floats above the park at around 200 meters, though there are several shimmering teleporters lying around, the main one being located inside the Log Flume's castle. It was built for my good friend DamagedRose, hence the name, as a central piece for the first amusement park we built . . . I'd say it is one of the best things I've built in SL since I joined. It is also a tribute to Bedazzle's Gravity Station, though only the oldies will remember that awesome piece of SL's history."
Bjornson believes the key to the success of Prim Hearts, which has outlasted many other SL amusement parks, is its business model. "Absolutely everything in the park is free to ride. All the rides have been configured to work for 0 L$. This ensures a constant crowd of visitors, and many of them bring back friends and relatives, keeping the place well alive. On the other hand, every ride in the island can be bought. So, people come, test all our rides and, if they feel so inclined, they can buy a copy to use it at home."
Prim Hearts is also updated regularly, so one can find something different each time they visit.. Bjornson constantly adds rides, and his future plans include the use of a rez-faux system which would allow him to change and re-arrange most of the rides in the park on a weekly basis.
The one tip Bjornson would like to give visitors beyond inviting them to "explore" and "have fun" is that they should bring friends with them when they come. "Rides are MUCH funnier when in a group, and some of them don't work in single player (e.g. Bumper Cars)," he said.
To keep abreast of new rides and announcements from Prim Hearts, one can join the Prim Hearts Visitors group which has open, free enrollment.