Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I think that what most people don't know is that I don't edit any of the images I put here in any way other than to crop it if I feel I really have to or if there's a lot of blank space on one side. What you see on this blog is exactly what everything looks like to be on Second Life, no editing or tweaking involved. 

That being sad, I'd like for people to understand just why some of these pictures here are so dark -- because this sim is supposed to be dark and spooky! Welcome to Kagami, the August Japanese Horror Event that is beautiful and entirely free to play. 

Teleport to the sim, gets your free HUD, select your language, and then prepare yourself for a brilliant storytelling experience as you set out to save a friend who was spirited away into another realm. Filled with little trinkets and goodies, Kagami is a classical Japanese tale of spirits and lost family, sending you into another world filled with a different set of rules. You follow the clues to find your classmate Kasumi, and find out the truth behind her family. 

 So what can I say about this one without spoiling it? Not much, I suppose. I'll let you follow the storyline to figure out what's going on, as there are a lot of people to speak with and items to be found. It's a surprisingly simplistic story with more love than there is fright, but the sounds incorporated are rather brilliant. I do suggest turning up the sound on your computer for these areas, and not being afraid to click on everything. Thanks to the HUD, camera control is sometimes taken from you in order to either progress the story or to add to the drama, and it's a feature I actually approve of. Often times, it's far too easy to complete a story just because we can break the rules of reality and start looking through walls and far beyond where our avatars can actually reach.

Having our characters' control wrested away from them is quite brilliant, and certainly adds a flair to the story despite knowing that you're in absolutely no danger at all. It's somewhat startling to realise your point of view has been taken from you, or that you can't move immediately as you would like to.

On another point, I'd like to point out that this event was beautifully translated. Was the wording at its absolute best? As a writer, I can't exactly give them that much credit. But was it more than comprehensive and written in a way we understood the emotions of the story? Yes. Yes, it absolutely was. 

You can immediately tell that a lot of time and love went into this event, from the places that you go to the immaculate scripting for not only a free HUD, but dozens of NPC characters and interactive objects. For a horror event, it's not too scary. But then again, it might be on the scarier side of Second Life. Either way, it can still be enjoyed as a wonderful Japanese summer festival.

Shamera is wearing (in the first picture) an entirely free (outside of hair) mesh head and outfit from *COCO*BDJ.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sustainable Second Life Living

So this post is going to be a slight deviation from the norm, since it's not so much about places and outfits as your own place and what you can do with it. To me, a great deal of what to do on Second Life isn't just to do with shopping or stepping about willy-nilly, but also creating my own virtual space to relax in. Sometimes you just want to invite people over, after all, or have a nice place to hang out and talk that's completely your own. So today I'm going to talk about having your own place on Second Life: or in specific, my place. That's right, welcome to Shamera's skybox.

This place is, basically, a one room studio apartment on land that a friend was kind enough to spare for me (knowing my obsession with having a place of my own). She has the generic 117prim land that comes with SL premium members on the mainland, and has a tiny place of her own down on the ground for a landing area and changing station.  The rest, as it goes, ended up being my own little playpen.

To start off with, let's talk prims and land impact and just how much space you can play with. If you're willing to pay the big bucks... well, you're probably on an island somewhere with your own castle or manor hosting grand parties and leasing out places. But if you're trying to find a nice place with just enough space and prim allowance for you to not look like a college student who just moved out... well, sometimes it's a fine line. Just how much space do you need in order to make a virtual space look like a space you'd actually want to be in?

That all depends on your preferences. On my part, I like a place to look -- cluttered. Lived in. That makes it hard because I used to rent areas in the game, and I never wanted to pay for more than 200prims of space, since that would be $200l a week or more (and that certainly adds up!). Of course, years and years ago, this amounted to very little prim space so I would make do with basic furniture, some rugs, and some paintings on the wall. All in all, still a decent living space in my mind. Nowadays, though, I find myself much more picky with the improvement of graphics and mesh have taking the majority of the market in furniture designs. Suddenly, instead of one circle being one prim, you can have an entire bed with multiple pillows, shapes, contours, nicely carved wooden posts, blankets, and shelves underneath amount to 6 land impact. (1 prim = 1 land impact, but mesh aren't actually prims, so they count by land impact.)

Not only were they much more beautiful graphics-wise, containing better details and allowing for better textures, but it manages to condense the land impact enough that suddenly people could fit a lot more items in a smaller space. Suddenly, I could rent a place with 50 prims and actually have a decent room! Of course, without the clutter, but I'd be able to fit all the basic furniture.

Let's not to say that owning a home in Second Life isn't an investment. There's not only rent but picking out furniture and what you'd have lying around as well. I have a very large inventory under my 'Homes' folder, ranging from folders of collected and bought houses, skyboxes, outdoor items, and then furniture all according to what rooms they would belong in. I regularly visit major gachas and interior decor stores for sales. I comb through Collab88, Fifty Linden Fridays, Neighborhood, etc... It's a lot of collecting.

In the end, it's always worth it to me. Clutter and personalized touches are what I do best: pictures everywhere, typewriters, video games spread around, books and papers scattered all over the ground... I feel very at home in my tiny skybox. While most people only have a bedroom and perhaps a living room for entertaining guests, I managed to convert this one room studio skybox into something I felt more fitting with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining area, living area, and even a spot for sewing (as I actually have half the living room in my real life home carved out for a sewing room). Some areas are cluttered and cramped, while others are spacious and allow for interaction (such as the kitchen and living area).

This allows for people to come over and chat as well as dine, just like friends would in real life. Pretty neat, huh? I also liked the idea of mismatched furniture -- if I'm to have a tiny studio apartment, the common consensus would probably be that I won't have enough for too much high-brow furniture. Yes, I might have bought the entire set on Second Life, but the mismatch is what makes it fun... not to mention, a lot of my mismatched furnitures when up free since they might be from hunts or gifts.

Everything I have in this skybox, including the skybox itself, comes down to 87 land impact. That includes every detail -- the rice cooker, the drumsticks in the shelf, the video games, the record player, the books and bottles on the ground... everything. Five years ago, 100 prim limit wouldn't have gotten you any details at all... maybe some couches and a bed, maybe a table with some chairs if you're sparing with the prims on those pieces of furniture. But that was before the days of sculpies, and before the days of mesh.

Now we're a bit spoiled, and finding your dream home on Second Life won't cost you an arm and a leg on prim space, which makes things nice and sustainable. Want to have your own farm? Easy enough. Your own tavern? That's a piece of cake! Perhaps an apartment complex, or a cafe? You might need a bit more than just 117LI of space for that, but I can guarantee that you can definitely do so now much easier than it would have been five years ago.

Look at your prim allowance. If you're renting like I usually did, then think about how much you want to spend per week on your own space. Is what you're willing to spend going to afford you 100LI of space? 200? Or maybe just 50? I've done 50 many, many times and it's usually worked out just fine. Now look at how much you're willing to spend on mesh furniture... they don't come cheap, but it's going to be worth it in the end for all the land space that you save week after week. Maybe all you need, like my friend, is a small and private space for changing and winding down. Maybe you'd like to have people over all the time. Maybe you just want your own place to call your own. Either way, it's all possible on Second Life. Your dream home really is waiting for you to build it.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The oldest and most complex strategy game, now on Second Life

 I think I just found heaven on Earth in Second Life!

...If that's not enough of a catch-phrase to spark your attention, I really wouldn't know what is. But being honest now, I'm fairly certain that other people may not agree with my idea of heaven on earth, but as an avid iGo/Baduk/Weiqi fan, this place is certainly hitting everything I love centre stage. Which isn't hard, you know, when I really do adore Go that much. Not that I can play well, mind you, but I find it a masterful game far more challenging than chess. Strategy? That's a sense my brain is missing in spades (I should regale my readers on the first time I played chess and my uncle held me in check for twenty moves before he grew sick of me trying to figure out what was going on and checkmated me just to end the game), and I'm not in any way good at Go...

But I can certainly admire the game. I have a set at home, even, although the wooden board is thin and the stones are actually plastic.

Anyone who knows me will understand that when I tend to get bored (usually when I'm attempting to procrastinate for something else), I'll start surfing destination guides. There's a reason I have a blog for beautiful places in Second Life, and that's because I enjoy beautiful places immensely -- but usually my love of beautiful places on Second Life and my love for other things... oh, say, video games and board games and general fandom, don't tend to coincide. So imagine my (extremely pleasant) surprise when I saw a quick ad for the Kido Go Club on Second Life. 

I have never, never imagined that I would find a Go Club on Second Life. I don't even know why! The concept just never jumped into my mind before, so when I read about Kido being (straight from the ad) "a place to play, learn and teach the game of Go. With many boards, monthly organized tournaments, prizes and more", I couldn't believe my eyes!

 And not only that -- this sim is genuinely beautiful. The Japanese architecture is stunning, actually, creating a landscape of peace and tranquility for people to ease their minds into challenging battles and training your brain to utilize its full potential. Maybe it's a bit melodramatic of me to put it that way, but I know that I certainly have a hard time writing if the environment is being distracting, and I'm going to assume that it's ten times worse when trying to learn a game as challenging as Go.

Maybe I'll actually try to join the club... speak with some people about it. What I can say is that I'm certainly impressed by this place, and if it really does have lessons, I'll definitely make time to join in!

Now that I've waxed poetic about this, some people may ask... so what's Go? iGo (in Japanese), known as Baduk in Korean and Weiqi in Chinese, is a strategy board game pre-dating chess. Akin to chess in that it is extremely intelligence-driven, Go does not have the amount of restrictions chess puts on all its pieces... instead, it is a game of divide and conquer -- you place your pieces in any manner to surround and kill off groups of your enemy, and is infinitely complex because of its lack of restrictions. There is no one king for you to take out, there is no easy way to win -- you have to win not just a battle, but an entire war in order to win this game.

Your board is a 19 by 19 grid, and you place your stones (either black or white) on the crosshairs of the grid to claim territory. What you want to do is claim as much territory as possible while battling back your opponent and attempting to claim their territory while defending your own. Go is a game that employs great foresight and recollection: you must remember your plans with every move, attempt to delve into your opponent's thoughts, pre-plan various strategies to employ 5, 10, or even 20 moves in the future, and also understand that your focus can not be on one sole target... in a battle for one corner of the board, you may lose the entire game if you don't pay attention to your opponent's strategy on distracting you and claiming more territory than you can afford to give up.

But then, I'm rather terrible at explaining partially do to how bad I am at this game and due to my overwhelming enthusiasm, so I'll just link anyone who wishes to know more to the wikipedia page for it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!


  ...Yeah, okay, cheesy. But come on -- when you think of super cheesy, don't the old and classic childhood stories come to mind? Admit it, you were the Sailor Moon generation. The Pokemon, the Harry Potter... it's so ingrained in our childhoods that we don't even really have to talk about it. The moment something from those series is mentioned, we just know!

Well, Cutie Moon Fair is currently holding tribute to Sailor Moon! Admittedly, I don't often frequent and then talk about fairs in which they don't have an abundance of free items, but I'll make an exception for the classics (you hear that, Harry Potter sims? Get on it, chop chop!)

I wanted this to just be a short post, so I won't get into how, you know, Sailor Moon is getting a remake this year and everyone should watch it if only for nostalgia's sake, or lamenting over how I didn't have the proper shoes for Sailor Mars because, wow, apparently no one does heels with mesh feet unless it's Slink or something.

Let's instead talk about fitted mesh! Because I still boggle over the feature -- in a good way! I know there were many creators who expected more from Linden Labs, but I think it's still a step in the right direction... maybe sometime soon I might be able to rid myself of 4/5 of my inventory or something since I tend to have five of each mesh item (one of each size) plus alpha. Violent Seduction has created a beautiful line of Sailor Scout uniforms with fitted mesh, and this is the first item I've bought in which I can play around with the sizing! I've got to say, it's pretty amazing watching patches of skin that used to clip through... just stop clipping when you adjust your body size!

Of course, that might not work for everyone. I'm not entirely sure, but as someone with a mesh avatar, this is exceptionally convenient to just adjust the uniform to fit over my avatar rather than having to look for something three sizes too big!  Definitely looking forward to more fitted mesh, so I'm encouraging everyone to update either their Second Life Viewer or Firestorm... otherwise there may soon be a lot of naked avatars about since you can't see their clothes (and I would be one of them, which is a shameful thought, so please update those browsers!).

Shamera is wearing:
Violent Seduction - Eternal Uniform Mars @ Cutie Moon Fair (250L)
Moon Tiara @ Cutie Moon Fair (FREE)
[taketomi] Quele @ New Burley (FREE group gift)
*COCO* RuffleAnkleBoots (Red) @ COCO DESIGNS (FREE group gift)
::{u.f.o}:: sailor chibi moon dress @ Cutie Moon Fair (250L)
.Atomic. Scout Bag {Gatcha} @ Cutie Moon Fair (75L a play)
Cutie Moon Fair Locket @ Cutie Moon Fair (FREE!)
~Tableau Vivant~ Cho Hair @ Beauty Avatar couture (50L a play)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Kumiko's Story

Let's talk Bryn Oh.

If you're a story-seeker like me, you'll probably have been to plenty of his prior exhibitions on Second Life. Lots of things about Imogen, for example, about her being a little crazy or the amount of people she's killed... it's basically an interactive storybook experience where you follow the main character's adventures.

Now let's talk his newest creation. Immersiva, which is a story about a girl named Kumiko. At first, I was a little hesitant because there are a lot of instructions to follow when you first get there. Windlight this, no facelight that, make sure to do this and that and... well, so on and so on. There are pages upon pages for what you should do in order to make the story as immersive as possible.

And let me tell you: it is all worth it.

Bryn Oh has always created works of art on Second Life, but I would like to comment that I personally feel this latest creation takes the gold. Now with voices to tell the story, express methods to get everyone to see the best possible version of what is created, and even a health metre that allows you to die; I was definitely feeling this story. Definitely.

This post will have spoilers, so for people who care about that, stop and drop everything RIGHT NOW and just click on the link for Immersiva.  Do it and follow all the instructions to a T. Trust me on this.

Also, do not bring a group as for the full immersion, there are only ten people allowed on the sim at once. Let other people get a chance to experience this story as well; limit it to a few friends at the very least, or one at a time.

Now, for those of you who don't care about story spoilers, let me give you a quick peek at this immersive masterpiece.

As per usual of Bryn Oh stories, you're searching for little clues along the way to place everything together. Your job is to gather letters, notes, click on the right locations to tell you things... well, this time, it's not telling you anything at all -- instead, it zooms in on the object when you click on it, just like a video game! Neat, huh?

Anyway, this story is about a girl named Kumiko. We'll get mentions of Imogen here, but she's not the main character of this story. Kumiko is... lost, for the better sense of a word. Or perhaps, you are the one who is lost in this dark, dark world. The settings are unnerving: dark enough that you wouldn't be able to see your hand in front of you. No external light is allowed for the story experience, and that includes the natural light Second Life provides even in the darkest of nights. The instructions will tell you just how to turn it all off.

You start off at the scene of a car crash, and the framework of this story is quite obvious. There is a car and a mangled bike on the road, and spilled belongings in the streets.

 From there on out, it's a dark maze trying to figure out where you are, what happened, and how to get out. Or whether you want to get out at all, because at first the place is dark and serene of a sort... no matter how eerie, Kumiko's thoughts and tone has a sort of patience to it. She is nostalgic and doesn't care so much to leave, despite the vehemence of the letters she continues to receive. Instead, she speaks of her life and her dog, of pets and how a company who managed a method of combining animals and machine made her fall in love with a new pet after her old one died... much to her own consternation and guilt. She speaks of a world that is transient, that is delicate but strong in a way her current one (not this dark world, but where she comes from) is not. Kumiko tells stories of genetically modified rabbits for easy game, of honeybees and hybrids and a world where everything could be done... but should it be?

At first, the experience was a calming one for me, as unnerving as it might have been. I would look for the next site, for the next letter and for Kumiko's soothing voice, just stopping to listen to her words while I pondered which direction to head next... until my first encounter with the rabbit.

I say the "rabbit" because it was something that looked... a bit like a caricature of one -- like a jack-in-the-box on wheels, gruesome and detestable, moving in a disjointed manner and flashing red lights. This is where your health comes in... this rabbit on wheels can and will kill you unless you run from it. My first experience ended up with me completely lost and with less than thirty percent of my health. It was only after that I started getting very jumpy in this story.

The sounds are fantastic. The scripting is beyond what I've encountered on Second Life so far. There are times when the only light you have, which isn't much at all, goes off and you're left to fend entirely for yourself in the dark. There are times when you stumble upon scenes with no explanation at all, and you're left paranoid that perhaps you've triggered something you very much don't want to have triggered. And as you go on, the letters you receive become more and more frantic -- urging you to find an exit, to not wander, to stay away from certain creatures. Soon it becomes rather questionable who you should trust -- the letters, or the creatures who have helped you at every turn in this strange and warped world?

And most importantly, always most importantly, do you really want to go back at all?

 As terrifying as this place can be (and for me, it got rather terrifying), I always wanted a way out. But Kumiko, on the other hand, slowly shows that perhaps what we experience in this dream of hers is nothing as horrific as what the real world has become, even if it has not personally hunted her down yet. The world has been modified and altered so heavily that even memories may not be true, and this weighs heavily on Kumiko, who believes in the ephemeral. "Each moment," she says in one scene, "is special simply because it is finite. [...] A memory is eternal, untouchable." For her, Kumiko feels that to change things so inherently special is "a mockery of what it is to live." She relates a scene she witness while half-hearted looking for a way out, of herself all hooked up to strings that led away. The real her, she says, is this.

Should we really be given that power over ourselves? Over the world? Over life and death and everything in-between? If something bad happened, if someone was meant to die, would it be cheating to bring them back using technology? Our digitalization, our zeroes and ones, are changing the way the world works. But, as Kumiko states through the story, the more we try to save the world by making ourselves gods, the worse the turn-out.