MUV601 Assignment 1

All posts relating to Assignment 1 of the MUV601 Course

MUV601 Assignment 1 – MUVE Locations – Unique Breedables

Why I Chose it

I was searching on the Second Life website for recommended destinations and Unique Breedables came up, I was immediately intrigued as I had no idea that you could buy animals in Second Life and I wanted to check it out!

What Functionality/Interactivity it Provides

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This area is actually the main storefront for the Unique Breedables business, therefore, the primary purpose of this area is to allow you to browse their selection and purchase “Breedables”, along with their required extras, such as food and accessories.

Unfortunately, I do not have any Linden Dollars (L$) and I do not plan on purchasing any so I was just a window shopper in this “store”, however, I had a good look at this area and there were many “pens” containing monkies of different breeds and there were quite a few others that were just empty, stating that they were up for rent.

I also found that Unique Breedables hold auctions and, looking at their website, they are held every weekend with extra events happening every now and then. Next to the auction stand was there was also a Greedy Greedy Table, which is a dice game you can play with two to eight players and Unique Breedables are keeping a high score table.

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How it Looks, How it is Built and How Much Scripting There Seems to be

I think this area looks really nice, it is divided into what appears to be a number of different “pens” which are “holding” the Breedables, in each “pen” there is typically either trees or a climbing structure, or both, and around each pen are the barrels that each breedable can be purchased in.

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Looking around the area it seems that there has been a lot of prim building in this area, however, there is also a fair amount of mesh, I believe that many of the trees have been built with mesh and the Breedables themselves. As you can see in the comparison below with wireframe picture of one of the pens.

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Normal Rendering

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Same area in Wireframe

I also had a closer look at one of the UB Gorillas and this cool torch that I found.

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Torch with Particle Script

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Looking at the make-up of a UB Gorilla

Aside from the complexity that I am sure goes into the Breedables, and although there is a lot of volume of scripts, there is a lot of repetition so I would class this area as not having a great deal of scripting, and most of the scripts here relate to purchasing Breedables, Breedable related items or renting a “pen”.

How it Compares to Others

I have not explored much of Second Life, outside of Koru, Sweet Serenity Estates and the areas that Isa (Aaron) has taken us, but so far this area is nothing like I have seen before, mostly because it contains animals that are for sale, but they are also on display and wondering about their “pens”, however, I am sure there are far more amazing builds around (such as the Realm of Light and The Junkyard) and I will potentially find some of them, but regardless, by the time I finish the MUV601 course I will have only explored a tiny drop of the ocean that is Second Life.

What my Impressions of it are

Although it is very small and there’s not much to do, I found this area really interesting, the idea of buying animals in Second Life is quite strange but, as this is a virtual life people would undoubtedly want virtual pets! and the plus side of virtual worlds is you can have anything, including a massive gorilla!

It was also really cool to see the different attributes of the animals including the really… interesting fur colours, there were even monkies with fire for fur! Overall, I am really happy that I chose to come to this area and learn more about the idea of Breedables.

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MUV601 Assignment 1 – MUVE Locations – Sweet Serenity Estates

Why I Chose it

I decided to check out the Sweet Serenity Estates because I am personally a fan of traditional Japanese architecture and I thought it would be cool to see how people have created Japanese style culture and structures inside Second Life.

What Functionality/Interactivity it Provides

To me, the Sweet Serenity Estates feels like an area for people to visit and relax, it provides so many places to just sit and soak in some beautiful scenery, but it also provides visitors with many places to walk and admire the craftsmanship of the builders, there are even places to stop and eat! however, this is, as the name suggests, a location where residents of Second Life can rent land parcels (estates) to build their homes.

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How it Looks, How it is Built and How Much Scripting There Seems to be

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Japanese Style Bridge with Ghost Lanterns

As shown in the pictures above, this area is absolutely stunning to look at, it contains many elements of a peaceful and tranquil Japanese township. There are Japanese style buildings, gardens, and decorations, I looked for a long time and could not find anything that seemed out of place. I really feel that this area has been crafted wonderfully.

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Japanese Garden

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Sumo Wrestling Ring

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A closer look at the architecture, and the lantern

When looking into how the environment has been built, there is a mixture of some prim but mostly mesh items, most of the buildings are mesh and many of the objects are as well, however, there are a few items that have been made with prims, such as the lantern above.

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Looking at the properties of a bridge made with Prims

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A complex mesh sculpture of a Samurai

Looking around, the most commonly found scripts involved sitting, lots of sitting! Almost all of them allowed for multiple poses while sitting on various objects, there were also scripts for bowing to shrines and one interesting script showed which of the important users of the area were online and another was similar to our land impact counter back on Koru, however, it gives the user the information in chat.

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How it Compares to Others

So far I have only very briefly explored the areas that Isa (Aaron) has taken us to and therefore I do not have much to compare this to. However, from what I have seen, this is a really well-constructed area with a good balance, it’s not too busy and looks really good.

The Sweet Serenity Estate is not an area for crazy scripting or teaching users how to do things (unlike the Ivory Tower), it’s not an area for playing engaging games and it’s probably not ever going to be a top-rated area, in fact, while I was there, it was completely empty, but I really enjoyed it there.

What my Impressions of it are

Personally, I am highly impressed by this area, despite the fact that it is not particularly designed to be a “tourist attraction” and there are not many activities to partake in, it is beautifully crafted, the scenery is amazing and it is really just such a nice area to wander around. I love the architecture and I could spend hours more wandering around this area, however, I have others to explore!

MUV601 Assignment 1 – MUVE Viewers – Second Life Viewer

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Who it is Developed By

Second Life Viewer is the official viewer developed by Linden Lab in California, the version I have used (5.1.2.512803) is considered part of the 3rd generation of viewers and is the most current release version of the viewer at the time of writing.

What Functionality it Provides

Much like the Firestorm viewer, Second Life Viewer (SLV) provides the user access to virtual worlds, however, SLV is restricted to only allow access to the Second Life grid, no OpenSim or any other grids.

The login screen of the Second Life viewer provides the user with current Linden Lab news, editors picks for destinations and upcoming events within Second Life, although Firestorm does this as well, I think the SLV does a much nicer job of it.

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Second Life Viewer

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Firestorm Viewer

Aside from this, the SLV allows the user to chat, view profiles, edit basic preferences and build using prims, import mesh object, manage their inventory and change their avatars outfit, it also helps users to find new sims to visit via the search function, all of which is also possible in the Firestorm viewer.

How Easy it is to Use

I found that the SLV is very simple to use, it has a clean UI that is well spread out and easy to manage cognitively, this makes it a great viewer for first-time users of Second Life, most of the buttons are clearly labeled and those that aren’t labeled provide descriptions when you hover over them.

As shown in my previous post, the menu’s inside SLV are typically easier to read and navigate than those in Firestorm, which makes SLV simpler to look at, however, the selection menu in the SLV is a drop-down list, rather than a Pie menu, which can be handy in some situations but, for the most part, my personal preference is the Pie menu.

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Second Life Viewer Drop-Down Menu

How it Compares to Others

As mentioned in my previous post, I have only used this viewer and the Firestorm viewer and I have made a comparison between the two in that post.

Being the official viewer, SLV gets updated more regularly, this can be both a good thing and a bad thing, on the plus side, this means that SLV will be the first to receive any new features, however, on the flip side, reports from many users state that the SLV updates regularly “break” things and they have to wait for a fix to be released.

What my Impressions of it are

If I had decided to start using Second Life independently of the MUV601 course I probably would have never found the Firestorm viewer and I would have just used the official viewer instead.

In my experience with the official viewer, I found it easy to use and I think it would be amply sufficient for most newcomers to Second Life, however, I personally have found the Firestorm viewer to be more pleasing to use and, for this reason, I have un-installed the Second Life Viewer from my computer.

MUV601 Assignment 1 – MUVE Viewers – Firestorm

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Who it is Developed By

The firestorm viewer is developed by The Phoenix Firestorm Project Inc. a non-profit group of around 80 volunteers who work on the viewer with the goal to provide extended functionality and more flexibility than that of the official Second Life Viewer and to deliver an improved experience overall when it comes to virtual worlds. (firestormviewer.org 20/03/18)

What Functionality it Provides

First and foremost, Firestorm provides the user with the ability to access, or view, virtual worlds, hence the name “viewer”. It’s similar to the way a web browser allows you to access, or view, websites so you could say that Firestorm is like a virtual world browser.

Virtual Worlds consist of grids and sims, sticking with the web browser analogy, grids are sort of like domains and sims are kind of like the individual pages that exist on that domain. This is, of course, a loose analogy, however, each sim has an XYZ position and a name, which is also similar to how a domain name matches an IP address of the server hosting it.

I have been using Firestorm to access the Second Life grid, however, firestorm provides the user with the ability to access several others, including OpenSim, Kitely, and even your own locally hosted grids.

So, aside from allowing you to view the worlds, Firestorm has a number of other features, over and above those that are available in the official Second Life Viewer, such as unique building options, such as copying and pasting a prims full XYZ position (and other manipulation parameters) with one click and chat commands, which allows you to alter certain preferences, change your avatars XYZ position and even use “rez plat” to instantly rez platforms.

How Easy it is to Use

At first glance, I thought that the Firestorm viewer looked very busy, the menus were highly overwhelming and, like many open source/non-commercial projects, they appeared reasonably unpolished, however, after downloading and trying the official viewer, suddenly it didn’t seem bad at all and, overall, I think that the Phoenix developers have done a fantastic job at cramming in all the UI elements necessary for all the functionality Second Life has to offer, plus all the extras.

At the login screen, the Firestorm Viewer makes it incredibly easy to access different grids, provided you have an account on the grid you are wanting to access you simply need to enter your login details and select the grid from the drop-down.

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Once logged in, you’re thrown into the world and slammed with a wide view of the world with the overwhelming GUI elements tucked away in the top and bottom of the screen.

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You could spend weeks investigating the various options contained within the top menus, however, all of the basic and commonly used options (and everything you need to get started as a newcomer) are right there in front of you, such as the home button, chat functions, inventory buttons, etc. in this aspect, Firestorm is very user-friendly and once you learn the common keyboard shortcuts it’s even easier.

Another great feature that makes Firestorm more user-friendly are the pie menus, these were a feature in v1 of the Second Life viewer, however, they were later removed in favour of drop-down menus, both of which have their advantages but, in my experience, the pie menus are more practical (as the drop-down menus can often have options appearing out of view!) and easier to navigate.

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Firestorms Pie Menu

Where Firestorm becomes more complicated is when you start exploring the preferences and the menus, with so many options to choose from it’s very complex, which is great for power users or those who know what they are doing, but for new users, it’s overkill, for example, the graphics menu shown below compared to the Second Life Viewer.

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Firestorm Viewer

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Second Life Viewer

The Second Life Viewer is far less “busy” and gives the user an option of looking at the advanced settings that are available or to blissfully ignore them. This is just one of many examples where Firestorm does this and it depends on the type of user you are as to which one will suit you better.

Overall, I think Firestorm is a great viewer that has a good balance between ease of use and power features, you don’t need to dig too far into the menus to get started and have a great experience in Second Life but it’s nice knowing that they are there and so there is room to grow as the user becomes more confident and curious.

How it Compares to Others

Other than Firestorm, I have only used Second Life Viewer (3rd Generation) and therefore that is the only viewer I can compare it to. Between the two, Firestorm viewer is certainly richer in features and, from what I have read online, Firestorm definitely appears to be the most preferred viewer over the Linden Labs viewer and other third-party variants, as shown by the pie chart below which was based on a survey taken in 2015.

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Average Viewer Usage April 2015

Not only does firestorm provide features it also has an ease of use around those features and not just for the default Linden Labs features but the additional features unique to Firestorm. On top of this, Firestorm is said to provide more stability, mostly because it is updated less frequently than the Linden Labs viewer, and each update of Firestorm is tested rigorously before being properly released.

What my Impressions of it are

When I first started I felt highly overwhelmed by the complexity of Firestorms user interface but I think I would have felt very similar if I had used the Linden Labs viewer first as well. However, as I mentioned above, I feel like Firestorm is a fantastic viewer with a great balance between features and ease of use.

After using Firestorm for a while I have started to become accustomed to the various menus and I have found it to be much nicer to use than the Second Life Viewer, particularly when it comes to building with prims and because that is a major part of Assignment 3 I will definitely be sticking with Firestorm for the remainder of the MUV601 course.

MUV601 Assignment 1 – MUVE Platforms – Second Life

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Who it is Developed By

The idea of Second Life was initially coined by Philip Rosendale, the founder of Linden Lab, Rosendale has said that he was always fascinated by virtual worlds and had been experimenting with creating them since his early years in college.

Rosendale founded Linden Lab in 1999 and just a few years later in 2003, the first public version of Second Life was launched.

What Functionality it Provides

Second Life provides its users with an experience, a place to create, build and explore, a place to learn, grow and experience new things, a place to express one’s self without the usual confines of the real world.

Users can join and enter Second Life for free and from there, they join the virtual world economy, based on Linden Dollars. This platform can be used for leisure, education and even business, in fact, there are many successful businesses currently running inside Second Life.

Users can buy land with Linden (or real) Dollars and from there, their creativity can really flow, allowing them to build almost anything they can dream up, using things call prims and scripting can result in some amazing creations, like Isa’s (Aaron’s) lamp (shown below), or even entire buildings and cities!

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Aside from building their own creations, users can also explore the creations of others, some of which are truly awe-inspiring and obviously have had countless hours poured into them, like the spooky city Craig showed us in our first class!

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How Well it Runs

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I believe the two main factors that determine how well Second Life will run are the user’s computer and the user’s internet connection speed.

I have not had much (any) experience with virtual worlds before and I do not play video games so I don’t have much to compare the performance with, however, I have personally found that, on my computer, Second Life runs extremely well in the Firestorm Viewer, it is very smooth (as long as I have a strong internet connection!) even with higher detail settings.

The fact that it runs so well even when there are often thousands of details and multiple users in your view at any given time, is a pretty amazing feat, especially considering that all that information is “streaming” from a server.

How it is Used

As mentioned above, Second Life can be used for leisure, education, and business. Currently, there are thousands of Second Life users who log on just to have fun, be social and create, there are also thousands of users who log on to run their Second Life businesses and, in my case, I log on for educational purposes, to complete the MUV601 course, but there are also users logging on to learn a new language, such as English or Chinese.

How it Compares to Others

I don’t have much to compare Second Life against, except for Minecraft and I feel like I made a relatively strong comparison between the two in my post about the Minecraft platform.

What my Impressions of it are

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I am amazed at how vast the Second Life landscape is, the time and effort that must have been put into creating this virtual environment really blows my mind, the snippet above is just a fraction of the entire map with each dot representing an area that you could potentially spend days exploring, and all of this in just 15 years! It’s quite incredible really.

I feel like Second Life is a great platform that is really only limited by your imagination, those who can dream can create and, although I will probably never have a chance to explore even half of this gigantic world, I’m sure I will see some pretty amazing things by the end of this course plus you can teleport and, in most places, you can fly and who hasn’t dreamt of doing that at least at some point in their life?