Thursday, July 30, 2009

Space Frontier Saturn V Moon Rocket Ride

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was about forty years ago last week that Apollo 11 went to the moon, mankind landing on an alien surface for the first time in history. Many of us in Second Life know of space areas, such as the International Space Museum, but can one find a place where the moon landing is re-enacted?

The answer: Yes, but it’s not quite finished.

In the Space Frontier Workspace (formerly known as the Space Frontier Sandbox) near the Sci-Lands, there is a Saturn V rocket on a launch tower. Built to scale (two avatars at it’s base in the picture can just barely be seen), the rocket stands high in the air, connected to the red launch tower. The rocket is very realistically detailed, and includes a “sound HUD” for audio from the Apollo 11 mission (does not always work) which one gets by clicking an old-fashioned computer on the launchpad’s corner. This grand build was made by Wicked Quasimodo.

One enters the rocket by clicking on the command module, almost at the top of the Saturn V. The huge vehicle launches at 32 minutes past the hour, every hour, with the tower’s gantry retracting just a few minutes before. If you’re outside, it’s a spectacular sight as the great behemoth launches into the air. If you’re inside the rocket, you’re in for quite a ride.

I had the fortune of speaking to one of the people responsible for the sim, Rocket Sellers. “I was just mitigating some space debris here,” he told me, “impromptu erotic photo studio in the sky. ... I’m the owner of record here, and there’s a crew with cleaning powers. I try to clean politely so they do not reincarnate as pesky griefers.”

Asking about the Moon rocket, “It’s still a work in progress. This is Version Two. Wicked Quasimodo had an earlier build, but Havoc 4 broke it. This one is lower prim, and the lunar module is sculpty. It really should be on NASA property, but there’s no NASA region that will adopt it. He first tried on the NASA CoLab Testbed, but the sim was just too lagy, and there was just too much junk in the sky. So he began working on it here, with the idea it would find a home at NASA for the Apollo 11 Anniversary. Instead, NASA put some posters around with landmarks to here.”

“The first iteration did the whole flight profile, including splashdown back on Earth. ... The last time I took the trip (on this rocket), we only got to lunar orbit. ... I don’t know if it lands yet or not.” Rocket Sellers then mentioned a famous name dropping in, “Last week, we had an avatar named ‘Buzz Aldrin’ visiting here. I asked him if he had taken the Saturn V Apollo 11 ride to the Moon yet. He answered, ‘Yes, 40 years ago.’ ... I don’t believe it’s really Buzz, although I can’t figure out how he got the name. ... I guess Linden Labs is not assiduous about protecting famous names.”

Rocket Sellers invited me to go along for a ride on the Saturn V, and so we and one other person got aboard the command module. And at 32 past the hour, the rocket roared and thundered up into the air. The ride is best seen with Environment set to Midnight, and being a Second Life spaceship, the stages shake a little as it travels upward. Eventually, the first stage falls away, and then the second. Soon, the ship comes to orbit a megaprim Earth, “It’s very beautiful from up here” “Approaching New Guinea.”

There is a black square under the Moon rocket at this stage. Rocket Sellers explained, “That’s the work platform, and also when you transfer to the Lunar Module, it keeps you from falling through space.” The Command Module does have windows that you can see your avatar from the outside. But looking inside through either mouselook or panning, the inside is quite detailed with numerous instruments and panels.

Eventually, the faring on the last rocket stage separated, and the Lunar Module, folded up, appeared. The Command/Service Module then rotated, and connected to it. Passengers could then right-click to board it. The connected ships then went into Lunar orbit. Unfortunately, the ride did not progress any further. It had yet to be finished.

Despite this and the tiny flaws, this reporter, can only consider it a great and memorable build, especially if one is a space fan, or otherwise nostalgic for these glory days of the manned space program.

The Space Frontier Saturn V Moon Rocket is at Space Frontier (154, 126, 137).

“It’s good when a rocket or space person finds the place.”

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, July 24, 2009

RFL Walk: The Really Wild West Exhibit

By Bixyl Shuftan

With so many exhibits on the Relay for Life walk, there just isn’t the time and space to write in detail on each of them. But I did get a sneak peak at one, the “Really Wild West” by the Passionate Redheads.

The exhibit was set in the Old West themed area of the Relay for Life Walk in the southwest corner of the RFL Endure sim (the other west sim was RFL Courage just to the east), the road just on the edge of the RFL Advocacy sim to the south. The place looked like it was set in some mountainous desert, with Native American music in the background. Just behind and to the right of the sign over the entrance was the main building, a two-story adobe structure that served partially as a store, offering a number of items for sale for charity. But the place also had some messages of inspiration. Nearby next to the road were some whimsical “Armadillo Crossing” signs, with armadillo nearby.

Paths and bridges helped one up the mountains. One could walk around to the various sights, but there were also teleports to the more notable ones. There was a mine in which one could hop on a cart and ride down the tracks. There was a river rafting ride, in which one could make their way down the twisting mountain waters. There was an Indian Circle, in which one could sit on a blanket, get a drum and a stick, and beat in rhythm.

The completion of the exhibit was announced in a few group chats a couple nights before the Relay for Life Walk officially started. People headed over, gathering at the adobe building, and having a party around the hot tub. When this reporter checked a few days after the Linden lease ended on Tuesday, it was still up.

Most of the work on the exhibit was done by Lomgren Smalls. Of the theme of the exhibit, “We found out we were on the ‘western’ themed sim already,” he explained, “I thought blending in with what was already there was a good idea.” Others had told me Lomgren had spent so much time on the place, he got only a few nights sleep in the days just before it was finished, “If you count actual hours ... I put in around a day, to a day and a half of work. Others did more as well, with the river, the detailing, the plants, etc. If you count real-life time... it was done in... 4-5 days.” Of the various attractions, “We all contributed toward the ideas. Daaneth loved the mine idea. We were all just spouting out ideas quickly.” Lomgren had no idea how many stepped off the track to look around, but he had a good idea what they felt, “Everyone's loved it.” Although pleased to hear it was still up, he felt it wouldn’t me much longer before it would vanish into the blue, “Anything after (Tuesday) is a bonus.” Despite the temporary results, Lomgren was still happy to have built the place, “That Relay is awesome, and more people should try to get involved. And that building it was fun, if exhausting.”

For his work, the Passionate Readheads awarded him, along with Dusk Griswold, the first Annual Fimi Awards, named after the late Artistic Fimicloud.

On July 21, Daaneth Kivioq announced the Passionate Redheads had raised 2,425,968 L, or over $9,300.

Bixyl Shuftan

Addition: This would be the first Relay track camp of the Passionate Redheads team I would see. It was part of a great introduction for me to the Redheads. The team would do other exhibits in the future, but this was among the most detailed and interactive by it. Despite all of Lomgen's work, and that of those helping him such as Alleara Snoodle, he never did win an official Relay award for the build. Sadly, the team would fold in 2013, but many of the members would come together again under a new team: the Sunbeamers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Rabbicorn

I was in the audience at an event when a friend told me about something in the IBM 3 sim that she told me was must-see, “I don’t usually recommend places, but this ... “ So I decided to check it out.

I teleported over, and found myself in a room that looked like it was surrounded by television static, with a couple pages explaining how to get about. But with no portal to the exhibit, the only way to go was down a road, my vision around me obscured by the visual equivalent of white noise. Eventually, it cleared on the road itself, and I soon noticed a room through the static that was brighter than the rest and had some color. I could also make out some people inside. So I went inside.

And there was Bryn Oh, the artist behind the exhibit in her gray, ghostlike avatar. She was looking at some notes on the floor with someone. The room itself had a dark steampunkish feel to it with a phonograph in one corner and some sparking equipment around. Two others came into the room to congratulate Bryn on her exhibit. After that, Byrn turned to me, and after greetings she explained the area, “This is a story that is told in stages, through poems. It is about the character behind me.” She turned to a bronze mechanical form behind her on a table lit by a spotlight, part rabbit part unicorn, “The Rabbicorn.”

Bryn went on, “This is the first part (of the story) here. In the hand of the creator is a poem.” She told me I could zoom in on the poems, or “you can click on it to see it on screen. It’s easier that way. When you have looked at the scene, there is a teleport to the next one.” The teleports looked like black magnifying glasses with white sparkles around them. “Oh, one more thing, there is a machinima ... on top of a tower, there will be a TV there. Click on it. That tells more of the story.”

And so clicking on the first teleport took me to the first part of the story, the place showing a tinkerer having just built the Rabbicorn, and having to make a decision about the creation. Further teleports lead one further into the story, each place a work of art, and soft music in the background adding to the beautifully surreal atmosphere. At one point, the teleports lead to a climb up a debris-filled tower. Although one could just fly up with a flight feather, it’s better to try to walk and jump your way up as much as you can. It is around here one finds a link to the machinima Bryn mentioned. Watching it isn't necessary for the story, but does help add to it. It is not much longer when one gets to the end and the fate of the Rabbicorn.

Taking a look at Bryn’s blog, the exhibit opened on Friday July 10. She also stated that it was originally planned that no more than 6 avatars would be allowed in the sim at one time, feeling lag would ruin the experience. It was not an easy decision, as she worried some might get the impression that the small numbers meant their fellow residents had little interest in the finer arts in Second Life, “So if I can't limit the sim to 6 or so, and you find yourself in a laggy mass of people then please come at another time when it is empty. It really is meant to be seen this way. It has a mood brought on by the story, ambient sounds and being alone brings out the quiet mood of the story.”

An exhibit that is well worth the time to go see.

“The Rabbicorn” is at IBM 3 (56, 50, 23). To read more about this exhibit and other projects by Bryn Oh, click here for her blog.

Bixyl Shuftan