Our Magic and Our Passing – Goodbye from the SL Shakespeare Company, Primtings, and sLiterary
We begin this letter with our thanks for those patrons who could no longer be with us. The resounding spirit has always been that the 4-sim SL Globe Theatre would fight to be around — and, there are many who donated and have passed away, hoping that they might survive through their contributions to SL Shakespeare or Primtings.
Since our time of passing is due to be in the same month as that of a major RL luminary, our Artistic Director Ina Centaur, has an anecdote to share:
“Once upon a time, after one of those fundraising rounds, the avatar of someone rich and famous in RL contacted me. The patron criticized me for paying too much for SL and attempting to do everything myself, but helped donate enough (through several alt’s) to help save the Shakespeare and Primtings sims.
“In early 2009, I received a mysterious package by mail in RL — an iPhone 3G. It was rather anonymized, but I thanked the patron by IM — and, he told me that that was what I should be putting my time into. He also said that he created iTunes so that independent creators could share their creations and even turn it into a viable business — something that could exist without being dependent on donations.
“Was it really Steve Jobs? I kept to our policy of respecting the privacy of our patrons, so I did not inquire further. Instead, I wanted to discover this from the other side — to be able to meet him in RL, of my own accord, for having done something great on iOS. I didn’t get to do that yet, but I knew two weeks ago, when he passed away, that this SL dream was over… But, it was beautiful while it lasted.”
There’s always the mystery and the hope that what we do here would reach out and change the lives of our audience – whomever they are, whether rich and famous or a moviestar or just yourself.
For a while, we held onto the odd notion that the creations in Second Life might get to live on beyond its usual time. It’s a childlike wish best summarized by the parable from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web – it’s hope that Wilbur the Pig might survive, as the world sees its wonder and magic via the brilliance of one small spider’s web.
But, all things come to an end, and it’s only in fairy tales that one small spider like Charlotte could manage to convey her message and save Wilbur before her death. In Second Life, our ventures have survived many passings – from patrons to founders to prospective actors. But, we simply do not have the significant reach to be saved.
The Shakespeare Primtings sLiterary and Skin City sims will go down on Oct 29 or thereabouts. The process in which sims are deactivated is not usually punctual – we aren’t sure exactly when the executioners would finally pull the plug, but when they do, it will be the end of our Second Life.
We thank you for having witnessed the short duration of this virtual miracle. Adieu.
RIP. sLiterary, 2007-2011 Primtings, 2008-2011 The 4-Sim SL Globe Theatre and the SL Shakespeare Company – 2008 to 2011
And, if you wish, here’s the other notecard with details about what happened and why Ina Centaur chose to quit:
Dear sLiterary, SL Shakespeare and Primtings patron:
I realize no one likes reading a long letter, but I am going to try writing something that addresses all the questions that everyone has been asking. I am also going to try showing to you that a lot of thought went through in coming to my final decision. And, it wasn’t an easy one, emotionally, but the facts make it so that there really is only one decision I could make.
Many of you are aware of Linden Lab’s inability to properly communicate with its customers – they simply don’t take us seriously. Unfortunately, this communications issue happens not only with support officials, but also with Linden Lab executives, and even among Linden Lab employees as well! We all have stories to share about how their outsourced customer support has made the SL experience horrible, but it’s really something when you find epic miscommunication or even conspiracy among the employees of Linden Lab.
May/June 2011 - An executive makes a promise, gets fired, then no one is willing to take responsibility: In May/June, I was in contact with LL marketing executive Amanda Linden (Amanda Van Nuys). Amanda had good news on saving the 4-sim Globe Theatre. And then, all of a sudden, in June, Amanda got fired. The 4-sims went down (I am told this was apparently because they were under her protection, and at the time they fired her, they took down everything tied to her account). Chaos. Rod and Customer Support did not respond until I filed two RL complaints for Linden Lab’s early termination of prepaid sims. Without any explanation or anyone taking responsibility for Amanda’s efforts, they offered to keep my sims up until expiration, plus a random amount of time more for their mistake in taking them down. The d-date was October 29. They stopped responding to me after that.
2008-2011 - Long story short of the SL Shakespeare Company’s relation with LL Marketing: I have been contacted by many LL marketing/website folks since the SL Shakespeare Company put on its first show in early 2008 – this was the first time we finally had the #1 in the marketing department directly reach out to us. When lower-ranked LL marketing contacts you, it is usually because they want to use your imagery (for free), but since we were paying for four island sims to keep this running at a grandeur fit for Shakespeare, we naturally asked for in-kind support – tier amnesty for usage of our imagery. The lower-ranked LL marketing folks can’t help with that, of course, so it usually ends there… until, yet, another marketing drone comes along with the same request…
April 2011 - Convo with Rod at a Game Developer’s Event: Second Life’s dear leader Rod is a celebrity of sorts in the gaming industry, so I more or less bump into him in RL several times each year. I caught him at a symposium in April, and I expressed to him that, just as how AAA games are defined by their imagery, it’s the same with SL, but… Second Life’s “imagery” to mainstream RL media is a bunch of DIY strip malls – something with timeless poise like Shakespeare would really help offset that. I also mentioned the issue with how lower-ranked marketing people have been asking to use our imagery, but simply don’t have enough power to help. I played ball (egahds!), and said that we’d be willing to fully comply and help if we could receive tier amnesty. Rod mentioned that he’d bring it up to the board with marketing. It was a good ten or fifteen minutes sitting on the loveseat with Rod. We shook hands. But…
September 2011 - Convo with Rod at Google:rootaccess Event: After some casual convo on what he thought of the event, Rod denied everything he said in April. (He sounded like he was ill, though.) It was very eerie when Rod proudly said he was invited … just as myself and the other 50 or so attendees from early-stage startup’s. I noticed he was dressed better than at the gaming symposium, with his hair done. In hindsight, I suppose he thought his day had come when he could be rid of all this, when Google would actually buy Linden Lab. It’s unlikely that Larry would make such a myopic move, but, still, Rod’s drop in expectations at the event must have been epic. It was a ridiculous premise to begin with, as it’s about ten years too late for Linden Lab to be considered an early-stage startup – despite still being a buggy platform, they’ve received some significant series of funding, and yet, in Google’s rolodeck, they are still inching along. Anyway, back to Rod and SL Shakespeare. We agreed that it was best that Shakespeare and Primtings leave SL (actually, he offered no comment, when I asked him what I should do, and could not cite a successful comparable case of a nonprofit or arts enterprise surviving on SL). I told him that I did not appreciate the discontinuity in communication at Linden Lab – that even an executive’s word could not be trusted. I also said I did not appreciate that he would fire Amanda for trying to help save Shakespeare. We parted with that understanding.
Summary of Followup to Amanda’s Gesture that would have saved Shakespeare: Even though Linden Lab has basically fired most of the Linden’s that us old customers knew way back when, I always try to know a few more – across the corporate ladder, just in case. I was surprised that Amanda finally contacted me, but I was not totally surprised. A few weeks before Amanda said she would save the Globe, two Linden Lab employees individually contacted me inferring that I should expect something like that. Rod, in April, had said he’d bring it up with marketing. So, it made sense – Amanda’s offer seemed valid. It’s just a pity that they had to fire Amanda for trying to save Shakespeare. And then, being Linden Lab, they had to pretend like it never happened.
Is it conspiracy or just miscommunication? It’s discordance among Linden Lab employees, and the changing faces of Linden Lab employees – and executives. It’s the fact that even talking with Linden Lab executives could be as much of a waste of time as their outsourced customer support. How can you do anything big with a company like this?
The Broken Content System of Second Life
Second Life has been around since 2002, but the content pipeline is still as broken as ever. There are many more issues, but these are the ones closest to heart:
Random Inventory Deletion – what’s in your inventory might be missing the next time you check.
Permission bugs – an object you created might one day end up with no permissions.
Collaboration issues – while it’s fun to collaborate on builds in SL, but if your collaborator set the perms wrong, and the thing got transferred, your entire build could end up with limited perms. Irreversibly.
No way to export without incomplete third party tools, resulting in missing prims, broken scripts, fuddled textures (even if everything is yours/created by you)
Megaprim bans even on private islands and irreversible megaprim deletion that ruin entire builds. Lack of proper inworld build tools – and mesh?
“Nepotic DMCA enforcement” - For those of you wondering why Merchant X selling the stolen skins of Merchant Y is still in business, the truth is that if a LL employee likes Merchant Y, Merchant X (if they’re not big enough) can’t do anything about it. On balance, if a LL employee does not like you, then they will delete your content just for the heck of it, as I discovered in 2009 – after our 2009 S4 Shakespeare Parody, when Darth Maul was deleted due to being a freebie and LL not making any money off it (see here and here). Linden Lab logs into your account without your permission, giving you a notification right around the time they make an unauthorized login to your account to delete your inventory. It’s sad that they don’t have more powerful admin-side systems to prevent having to log onto a client’s account. On that issue – one of the most prevalent DMCA issues is on texture theft, and there’s an easy solution for that: The least Linden Lab could do is implement a random pixel scanner that checks for duplicates. It’s minimal processing nowadays, and startup’s like Face.com are already doing way more image processing. Such an impartial enforcer would, of course, rid them of their selective favortism for Merchant X. Then again, Second Life wouldn’t be Second Life anymore if that were to happen…
Unstable platform, borked tech – even 10 years later
Second Life is still beta-level software - For old residents, this is something like Second Life culture. For newer ones, it’s frustrating, and when the sim or client crashes, they leave.
Nothing more than chat for a local group of 50+ - when you have a bunch of people in a sim, gray textures, prims that won’t load, and lag ruin everything so that basically, all you can use SL for is chat. Why are we burning processor time for this, when Skype or Google Talk could do the same?
Brain Drain and Disrespect of Major SL Contributors - Yes, I’m still not over why Linden Lab fired Qarl! He made sculpties possible on SL, and mesh SL as well. He was deeply hurt by LL suddenly firing him. I guess Linden Lab and Second Life will just continue to disrespect anyone who tries doing anything majorly good for them.
$295 x 4 ~ US$1200/month – this is a lot of RL money here, and can’t be my personal project forever, and has to be run as a business. How can you do that with the above?
Many of you would cite the fashion empires of SL as successful, and they never ask for “donations.” We could take such a strategy, but doing so viably would force us to resort to commercialism like this:
Weekly “sale” emails/IM’s (as opposed to bi-yearly or per-production campaigns)
Charging RL prices for tickets – L$10,000 or more for a single ticket (as opposed to “pay as you will” or our L$500 VIP Showings)
Focus on fashion instead of our usual (focusing our talents on creating merchandise to manufacture, it’d be hard to find time to put on a show – and it already is)
Aggressively market and charge ridiculous rent for everything (as opposed to free spacing for anyone who wants to hold an event)
Get rid of Shakespeare for the Strip Mall…
The more time you put into it, the more you become a slave of tier and the mismanaged company known as Linden Lab. You realize this early on, but you can’t accept it – just as how most of us would stick our necks out as free PR against anyone who bashes SL. The truth is that too many of you have put your trust in me, and I want to be able to make this something that’s more stable than SL – that actually has a future, and can persist by itself…
It’s the end in SL because of all that and more above, but mShakespeare and Primtings on mobile is the future. I’ve been invited to major Apple, Google, and RIM/Blackberry events – and spoke with their executives. These people have kept their word to me so far, and have even implemented my suggestions. It’s a huge breath of fresh air when people just make sense – it’s not SL anymore, but RL. Yes, it’s a big wide, world out there beyond SL, but there’s nowhere for me to go but there! Stay tuned to @InaCentaur on twitter for updates – or http://blog.primtings.com or http://blog.mshakespeare.com …
1) How much did you actually fundraise inworld? Did that cover for everything? - We only fundraised L$5 million, and I put in the other L$10 million myself through SL-related contracting projects, such as creating custom buildings for people, custom avatar and avatar accessory designs, and even some amount of RegAPI and SL-related web infrastructure support. Overall, I put in a lot of time, made very little in comparison to RL, but tried what I could to continue a naive dream. From nothing, I tried to make something, and now it’s back to nothing - we paid it all back through tier.
2) Are you seeking shelter in other OpenSim or other SL sim establishments? - The issue with moving is that there is no easy way to transport builds on multi-sims without losing prims or prim drift or even texture issues. Moving from SL to OpenSim will probably mean that all your scripts won’t work. It’s horrible. Our scenic design mechanisms and the interactivity in builds is all due to custom scripts.
3) We have a theatre/performance space at __ sim, and we’d love to have you. Will you come? - No, because you’ve never seen any of our shows. If you have, you’d know not to ask this question. There are lots of performance groups on SL, but the way we do things is comprehensive - the scenic design is customized to the theatre and the surroundings, and the entire wardrobe is also custom designed. and then we spend over a month rehearsing for just a single production. It’s a lot of work, a lot of time, and we’ve basically just been told all this work is worthless by Linden Lab, so we’re through with performing on Second Life.
You’re invited to my quadrennial Rez Day party, Primtings Patrons Party Preview, and pre-grand opening of the Pantheon SL — it’s all day on November 1.
It’s always awkward being born in an odd hour of the day, but it was on this day on Halloween at 11:59 PM exactly 4 years ago that a megalomaniac artiste in RL (whom some of you have come to love — or hate) gave birth to the “Ina Centaur” avatar on SL. I don’t like celebrating things till it’s time, so this is why you’re getting this just now.
Of course, this is completely spontaneous and unannounced. Feel free to see it as a birthday unparty of sorts — you can do whatever you want at the Pantheon! Everyone’s just finding out about this just now — other than the Pantheon building, nothing has been set in stone, so feel free to even IM me for open stage time at the brand new, shiny Pantheon shrine of a performance space!
Meanwhile, I’d be taking the day off from RL — putting together some of the Pantheon perks (and more) you’d find in Lora Constantine’s Pantheon press release below. I know a lot of you have been trying to get access to me on SL, so consider this that open office hour buffet day you’ve all been waiting for. Due to a slurry of RL obligations, I don’t know when I’d next be this free ever again, so…
Hope to see you tonight - or sometime on November 1, 2010!
The “Pantheon SL” opens in sLiterary-Primtings
Contact: Lora Constantine
Date: November 1, 2010
sLiterary and Primtings, Second Life—The Pantheon, “the most celebrated edifice in all the world,” in RL is now in 1000+ prim sculpted goodness on SL. Grand Opening on December 4, 2010 in the arts mecca 4-sims of sLiterary, the Pantheon SL hopes to serve as a virtual shrine—“to all the gods.” Straddling the borders of the sLiterary and Primtings sim, the “Pantheon SL” is directly east of the 4-sim SL Globe Theatre, with the portico on the southern border of sLiterary, and the rotunda on the northern border of Primtings.
Based on Antoine Desgodetz’s sketches from the Renaissance era, the Pantheon SL shows several historic features not on the modern restoration of the Pantheon RL in Rome. The attics have been ostensibly modified for SL, with easy fly-in entrances and fall-out exits. Visitors are given angel wings, and “encouraged to fly to the top of the rotunda, to the oculus and out, and in.” They also have a chance to donate to SL relics. According to Ina Centaur, executive director of Primtings and sLiterary, “For kicks, we’d also have a scripted ‘Bocca della Verita’, where those who hold weddings here can put their hands inside this stone lion’s mouth and risk having their hand chomped off if they’re lying… Due to limited space in the sims, we’re going to be putting other fun Italian-esque things here!”
Created by Daedalus Ferina as a rezday present for Ina Centaur, the building will be a permanent structure—“for as long as these four sims stand, before we can’t raise enough funds for SL tier and absolutely have to move off to OpenSim!” In a lighter air, Ina Centaur jubilantly declared, “This is one of the neatest two sim birthday cakes I’ve received yet!”
So Qualcomm today FINALLY released their totally lonnnng-anticipated augmented reality SDK. From a first look, I’m very impressed with its marker tracking — geared for complex real world scenes, like a crowded scene, or a pile of tanbark. This is in stark difference to the various Flash AR solutions (deployable to Android/iPhone via Adobe AIR) - they require black and white markers “in a box”.
The only catch is that marker-creation is serverside. You have to upload it to “My Trackables” in your QDev AR browser console. It would be neat if there were an API for that, for marker creation “on the fly” — especially useful since virtually any off-the-shot image can be used as a decent marker.
N.B. Getting the qcar SDK setup was almost flawless (Win 7 Ultimate x64), except there was no USB driver support for my Evo 4G, so I had to download a third party x64 driver. (I initially tried doing everything on Win XP Pro x32 “Virtual” - however, JDK wouldn’t install right, among other errors, so just kept to using my x64, despite QDev warning of lack of support.) Afterwards, it was a matter of holding my device and USB cable tightly at a certain angle, to make sure the data xfer completes.. After a few transfer breaks, restarting Eclipse a few times, got tracker detection to work off my Evo cam! (My Evo is kind of beat up - USB support is intermittent and breaks unless I hold on very-dearly-to-the-device.. It’s almost like a selfish, petulant, baby. I wish I had a nexus one from io09, but I was still somewhere in recovery from my “Year of Seclusion,” so I did not get to attend. So, yes, unfortunately, my one Android device is only semi-functioning.)
Written by ina on Tuesday, 9 of March , 2010 at 6:16 pm
Metaverse Shakespeare Company’s 2010 Main Canon: Twelfth Night, Act 2 – Open-Ended Run
Shakespeare, Second Life—The Metaverse Shakespeare Company (MSC), formerly SL Shakespeare Company (SLSC), next Tuesday will open its long-awaited 2010 Main Canon production of Twelfth Night, Act 2—“As you will it!” in an open-ended run to occur every Tuesday at 6 PM SLT (PDT), and every Sunday at 1 PM SLT (PDT). Set to occur at the 4-sim SL Globe Theatre (http://visit.mshakespeare.com) in the virtual world of Second Life—this live theatrical performance, available anywhere with an Internet connection, continues the troupe’s 2009 production of Twelfth Night, Act 1—but, with a fresher, riper take, and its own amalgam of the year’s innovations in virtual theatre.
Artistic Director Ina Centaur has crafted an interpretation that conveys the topsy-turvy nature of the play and the era of its creation, without being bound by the constraints of a historically-accurate production, “Even though this production is set in a pre-modernity ‘generic past,’ there’s still plenty of Elizabethan bawdry and notions… There’s the presentation of class-crossing as a ridicule-prone absurdity, both directly, through a miasma of brooding, obsessive maliciousness as Maria and Co. plan their ‘practical joke’, and indirectly like when Sir Aguecheek… that ducat-flowing knave knight… impersonates a dog playing catch in Scene 3, with paupers Feste and Toby as his masters… And, then there’s some intensevisual portrayal of that heavily-cozy-explicit language—with a wild bit where a drunk-betimes Sir Toby Belch urinates live on-stage to “[fill] an unfill’d can (II.iii).” Says Centaur on the music of Twelfth Night and the spirit of the open-ended run, “We’re providing sheet music and instrumental-only clips for all of our songs on the mShakespeare Blog, so that audience members can sing along with our live show (with their SL mic’s off, in the privacy of their own home) or in their own Metaverse Shakespeare theatre-inspired karaoke events… For most shows, we’re sticking with an orthodox interpretation and traditional songs, drawn from eras before and Shakespeare’s contemporaries. But, this being an open-ended run, be braced for variations, and character metamorphosis—in both act and appearance.”
This Open-Ended run of Twelfth Night, Act 2—“As you will it!”, like Act 1, will evolve into a final form, per audience interaction on the play’s progression. These interpretations are based on archetypes, grounded in the play’s intrinsic elements, such as character relationships. In April, the troupe will begin weaving “Variations” to its main interpretation, where certain characters will undergo some dramatic metamorphoses. Antonio and Sebastian will oscillate between varying degrees of a close-friendship, from the orthodox interpretation of caring-companionship to, in the words of Artistic Director Ina Centaur, “a homo-erotic or quasi-masochistic relationship to finally settle down and arrive at the one that fits best!” Most curiously, Malvolio, that time-weathered face, will de-age, becoming, as described by an anonymous patron, “a complexion that e’en you may fancy”, in the virtual world’s take on new scholarship interpretations of Shakespeare’s tragic villain-victim as a young man. For select shows, gender-experimentation interpretations will manifest in all-female or all-male or even switched-gender productions of the play. The troupe will once again show its April Fools “Super Spoof” edition in a special performance on Thursday, April 1, that will explore the character relations of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night via a medley of parodies inspired by popular modern shows.
While this will be the troupe’s first production under its new name of Metaverse Shakespeare Company, Centaur asserts that the production continues to uphold the company’s founding ideals of creating quality, memorable productions, while developing this nascent field of virtual theatre, “As with every Main Canon production, we spend about a thousand hours rehearsing and analyzing, building and designing, and also applying new technologies to virtual theatre… For Twelfth Night, Act 2, our three technological innovations include the usage of physics, moving automatons, and visual illusion on the virtual stage. You’ll see physics on-stage, in both built-in and scripted forms in our apple catches in Scene 3, and wilting rose motif in Scene 4—and, in the crawlspace of Scene 3, you’d see prim-based automaton actors in the form of rats!”
Special to this production, the MSC introduces the concept of “crowdsourced interactive set design,” which allows anyone to submit a graffiti message or poster/flyer idea to be plastered onto the “City Wall of Illyria” set in Act 2, Scene 1. More details at http://bit.ly/illyriangraffiti
The live show, presented via SL Voice, is also available in closed-captioning with live subtitles in English, Esperanto, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.
Starting March 2, shows occur
Tuesdays at 6 PM SLT (PDT)
Sundays at 1 PM SLT (PDT)
only at the SL Globe Theatre at Shakespeare (255,255,25), Second Life
All shows are free (“pay as you will”), except for VIP performances, occurring on the last Tuesday and Sunday of each performance month.
About Twelfth Night, Act 2 Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a multiplot story with plentiful songs and bawdry topsy-turviness. On one hand it’s the story of a shipwrecked girl named Viola, whose choice to go incognito as a boy eunuch results in myriad complications—including a gender-bending love triangle. On another, it chronicles the fallacious rise and tragic fall of a Puritanical steward named Malvolio, who becomes a victim of his too-lofty dream. Act 2 sets the basics for his downfall—his dysfunctional relationship with the other servants provokes a practical joke involving a certain forged letter, that would eventually ruin him—but, Act 2 sparks only of joviality; tragedy is due in a later act.
About the Metaverse Shakespeare Company (mShakespeare) Headquartered in the virtual world of Second Life (SL), the Metaverse Shakespeare Company (MSC) is the flagship project of sLiterary’s Virtual Reality Shakespeare Initiative (VRSI). MSC is a professional virtual theatre company that embraces the best of what the metaverse has to offer. While it is primarily known to provide quality live Shakespearean theatre available to anyone in any location, MSC is also the curator of the most historically accurate theatres and architecture in virtual worlds relating to William Shakespeare.
Written by ina on Monday, 1 of February , 2010 at 10:54 am Tags: primtings
Primtings Museum is a gallery of prim’d paintings–3d interpretations (on SL!) of famous 2d paintings. It’s a sim-sized museumcompletelydedicated to the arts (and, it also hosts a corner of the SL Globe Theatre). Like all of my artistic projects on SL, it receives no external funding–its support comes from just me and you. If you’d like to help, now is your chance to support Primtings via Primtings Campaign 2010:
What is a living creature? It responds to things, and it multiplies. From the perspective of computing, it’s an entity that is capable of input and output, with a manner of self-propagation.
Ah, propagation… Therein lies the interesting element–the growth of a population. Consider a hypothetical case, where you start out on a desert island with a pair of male and female creatures; each female produces just one female offspring per generation, and stops reproducing after two generation. Assume the male is immortal, and massive incest occurs to create all subsequent generations, all females. The heritage diagram of sorts would look something like this:
Or, referencing the same diagram, but slightly more organized, and not-too-snobby-against-the-color-blind (thanks to @WildstarB):
To make it more interesting, Fibonacci, from back in the day, thought of the same problem. Apparently, bunnies were the most nearly-instantly promiscuous creatures back then, so his gedanken involved bunnies, and he devised the eponymous Fibonacci Sequence using the generation scheme described above (though, he didn’t use an immortal male, but rather, the assumption that each female produces a male and female pair per generation, with guaranteed brother-sister incest).
This is just an interesting thought experiment of an extremely basic model for describing population growth that, other than using bunnies as our key sex players, has absolutely nothing related to the virtual bunnies to be discussed in the rest of this article.
The point is that living creatures, in addition to responding to stimuli, have internal mechanisms of sorts that enable its reproduction. At least, that’s the perspective of a living creature that we have from observing its behavior from our limited microcosm. Microcosm? Habitat?
We’re actually right on topic, heading onto the most basic features of creating a virtual critter with AI-esque–certainly necessary for the creation of the virtual bunnies that piqued up your interest.
II. The Pseudo-Physics of Our Subset of the Virtual Microcosm
In “RL”, when you drop a ball, it falls, and when it hits a flat surface, it stops falling (though it might bounce or roll or crack or explode, or do a number of things in reaction to this action of collision). In “SL” or any virtual reality, when you drop a ball, it might not do any of those things, or it might do all of those things, depending on what you program the “physics” of your virtual microcosm to be. The essential affect is the reaction to an action–what happens when the collision (or, in general, the interaction among separate entities) occurs. In a virtual reality, this reaction is defined by a pseudo-physics that governs what happens when this interaction occurs.
When you’re working with phantom objects on SL, or regular objects that are not explicitly physical, you can’t rely on the built-in physics system, and thus you must design your own–from the perspective of parsimonious code being the most efficient (read: best), this is basically a “good-enough” physics system that will emulate just the wanted or needed reaction.
If you’re trying to program virtual critters (VC) or moving objects that are phantom, you’d need to worry about what happens visually when they collide. They ought to be “smart enough” to bounce away, or try avoiding merging into each other. A simple solution would be to have a llSensorRepeat() detect and react to objects that enter a certain small “bounding sphere,” whenever the virtual critter (VC) is moving. Upon entering the radius of this bounding sphere, the original VC will try “hopping” a random-small-distance away from the impending VC. Similarly, since the impending VC has the same bounding sphere “pseudo-physics”, it will try doing the same thing. Both VC’s will continue hopping randomly away until their “bounding spheres” do not intersect. This is the HB Bunny 1.x solution to avoiding the classic “merging phenomenon” demonstrated in the beta.
Characteristic behavior is really an orchestra of interaction, a sequence of action-reaction occurrences–a sunflower blooming towards the sunlight, a mouse attracted to cheese. But yet, when you look in nature, on the subject of group animal movement, you wonder what keeps them together in the way they move. For example, migrating birds often fly in a V-shaped “formation”. Obviously, the solidness of their physical bodies keeps their bodies from merging, unlike the phantom VC’s described earlier, but how do they know to fly in this V-shape, and why do they do this? While science has speculated on several reasons why, deferring to economy of such motion, how they do it requires both wirings in the bird brain that respond to such a situation, as well as features in reality that allow this. When cast in such an abstractified perspective, it becomes clear that what’s happening is that there is simply a different, but “equivalent” mechanism at work to keep things in formation–in reality, and in its emulation, virtual reality.
A series of such mechanisms might be considered to be governing characteristics of a paradigm. In the case of the phantom VC’s, their movement might be set such that they will move only when they detect a mat, and such that they will stay level only to the mat. Because the VC will detect the mat, it is almost like a magnet, or from a more macroscopic perspective, the mat is like a flat earth — although, contrary to what the Flat Earth Society believes, the mat doesn’t accelerate(!), and yet things simply stick to it.
A pseudo-physics that deals with only the known elements in a microcosm works because the VC only has to react to certain things, rather than to all elements in the physics of its containing world; moreover, having the VC respond only to such known elements in a microcosm is more resource efficient. Using this idea, in a pseudo-physics named “FIZ”, the HB Bunny implementation of my VC design averages to only 0.1 ms at peak, which is a fraction of what most AO’s take. The HB Bunny will “hop” away when they hit each other, or small objects named HB Rock. They detect only objects known to them, such as HB Food (which they eat), HB Toy (which keeps them happy), and HB Mat (which, they stick to). Moreover, in SL, when one uses VC’s whose prims are sculpted prims, it is actually necessary to use an alternative physics system, as sculpted prim bounding-boxes are not always as expected and precise as those of regular-prim VC’s. The phenomenon that may bring wonder is that with such simple behavior constraints, a VC that appears “alive”. And, with further internal constraints that will change their behavior, such as growth functions and mating functions, VC’s appear “living”–more on that in a later section, though!
The idea of having a creature react only to things that are immediately relevant to it, or that it is capable of detecting, is actually a common phenomenon in nature, RL. Humans and other animals live in the real physical world, but are capable of perceiving only a limited subset of reality. For example, we humble humans are not capable of seeing UV or infrared light, though other animals can; we are consciously susceptible only to a limited subset of the electromagnetic spectrum, though our bodies may react incrementally to gamma-ray bombardment, for example, its effects are 99.9% too small for any macroscopically-observable difference to occur. Many examples also exist on the size spectrum; we can’t see things that are too small (a virus, for example), or too big (the universe! - we live in it, but we can’t detect its entirety). But yet, we function in our own paradigm, and equivalently, so do these VC’s.
III. The Protocols of Life… Er… aLife!
Artificial life or, to coin a term, “aLife” might be considered a fine-tuned simplified set of protocols that emulate life, with complexity depending on the realism of the particular aLife entity. There are three general categories of aLife protocols–external interaction, internal determination, and non-interactive autonomous behavior. I will briefly discuss elements of each category for VC’s, particularly in relation to their implementation in HB Bunny.
External interactions occur when either collision occurs, or when an interaction is proximate, within detection vicinity.
Collisions occur with either the environment or its objects. In a pseudo-physics as described above, i.e., a physics that deals with only a limited microcosm, collisions that generate recognizable reactions would occur only with known objects, such as objects named a particular name, or flagged otherwise for detection. In the HB Mat example above, the HB Bunny’s environment is simply its mat, and this is its entire world, on which it can move. (However, if the mat is moved slowly, the HB Bunny will be able to go beyond its old bounding box environment, to “move with the world;” but, it is really the world that moves the VC…)
Some examples of possible proximity behavior phenomena are sickness (too many VC’s nearby), friendly interaction (gathering to sleep at night), or mating (for sexual creatures, at least two’s required). For HB Bunny, sickness occurs when the VC detects more than 6 scripted objects named HB Bunny nearby; sickness is manifest as an incremental counter, from 1 to 100 units, which can be decremented when the VC is hungry, and eats twice as much to decrement both hunger and sickness. HB Bunny will first find each other, in friendly “compassionate” behavior, and gather close-ly at night time to sleep, before deactivating all detection until daytime. Mating is possible when a HB Bunny is more than 14 days old, and is fully-grown and considered an “adult bunny”; presence of an eligible non-pregnant mate of the opposite gender is required.
Mating is perhaps one of the most important components, when you’re creating aLife for the purposes of viral breeding. And, since we’re 21st-century non-gender-discriminating folks, a significant mating system for VC’s must account for the case of gayness or genetically-disposed celibacy (with respect to impregnating). From the perspective of statistics, gayness might be considered a non-systematic deviation from the mean. Thus, consider a system where gender is assigned on birth of a VC as a global variable, and where this global variable might–in an extremely rare case–be reset. Assign the null value of gender to default to female VC, and the non-null value to be the male VC; when reset, or when communication error occurs (which has a higher chance on noisy-platforms such as LSL/SL), gender becomes “miscarried,” and you wind up with an effectively gay VC (i.e., outwardsly-male, inwardsly-female).
But, in general, the proposed VC mating system does contain the regular features of mating, such as VC-preferred-selectivism in mate selection, as well as birthing processes. This is best summarized in the diagram here (please click to see the larger version):
Mating selection occurs on closest-match of a random number generated by the female and male bunny; call this the mating random number (”MRN”). To add “personality-in-female-choice,” in the HB project, I chose to have the male bunny generate his MRN at birth. A female bunny generates her MRN each time she goes into heat. The male is the one who chooses which female number is closest to his, and thus will favor a certain female if she generates the right MRN each time they meet while she is not pregnant (they’re bunnies, and not monoagamous).
To conserve resources, heat only occurs when there are eligible opposite-gender adult bunnies nearby. For HB Bunny, mating only occurs when bunnies are near non-pregnant entities of the opposite sex, and if bunny characteristic conditions fit (bunny has to be both happy and energetic enough).
Internal Determination is necessary to show changes in a VC’s characteristics (such as its core stats - happiness, energy, hunger, sickness, etc.) and changes in states. A VC contains a –literally — biological clock that governs its self-behaviors, such as growth and perkiness. A VC has three general states: awake/living, dead, and sleeping (semi-conscious). In the case of HB Bunny, when it is sleeping (and has found the other bunnies, if any), the entire script “goes to sleep”, suspending detection of other objects, effectively giving the simulator hosting the VC, some time to cool off. When the VC is living, it goes through its full range of behaviors. When the VC is dead, it simply ceases to exist in the virtual reality, other than as data stored in a database somewhere.
Non-Interactive Involuntary-Autonomous Behavior is generally an aesthetic feature of VC’s, as they do not have any “internal organs,” other than scripts. HB Bunny VC’s blink and twitch, and sometimes, they “bristle” on SL texture change lag.
IV. Concluding Remarks - Some Thoughts on Copy Protection and “Playing God”
The rage about SL virtual animals is likely due to the spirit of creation, albeit in a VC-promiscuous way, but then again, it’s also due to the value that they (and their offspring) develop, in part due to their rarity. Copy-protection is essential to the survival of a VC line whose lifespan depends on costly server-resources to run, which is, paradoxically, funded through steady sales of VC’s. But, next-generation propagation is also important, so I will discuss the general idea behind the propagation of turtles and Sion chickens (call this the “traditional method”), as well as alternatives.
The “traditional method” for a VC to give “birth” to offsprings essentially has the female VC rez an egg, and then have her drop a VC in the egg. The mother has a copy of this offspring VC in her inventory; her offspring in the egg, does not (but will, once they are born, as the egg script, will, in turn, give a copy of the VC to the newborn - though, for HB, this happens only for the female newborns).
The “Infinitely Viral Urn” is the most basic implementation, with delayed inventory-drop check, of a script-based object self-reproduction. You only need to get a single urn, touch it, and it will give you another urn, that will, in turn, be able to “give birth” to yet another urn, and so on. What’s interesting to note is that if you attempt a “Cesarian,” by just taking the baby urn from the mother urn’s inventory without having it being “born” through a regular touch-rez, the baby urn will poof in a quick burst of stillborn particles. This is basic copy protection, where rezzing of a scripted object is only permitted by the script.
On SL, though, the problem of no-copy becomes complicated with a faulty permission system. The “traditional method” for copy-protection is also what’s done for the classic SL-AI-esque VC’s, the turtles and chickens. When a VC is transferred, it must be taken to inventory or sold in-place; using the SL feature of take-copy will disrupt normal script-flow and disable the VC. When taken to inventory, the traditional method requires that the VC be boxed. While the VC may be a +copy/+xfer object, the box itself is always no-copy. One the VC is boxed, it’s the box that is the inworld indicator of the uniqueness of the original VC. To prevent both the old owner and new owner from having the same copy of the VC, the box applies its no-copy permission to its inventory VC. When the VC is unboxed, what occurs is that a completely new VC is rezzed, but the data that defines the characteristics of the old VC is transferred, to give the appearance of the old VC’s continual existence, even though it technically ceased to exist the moment it was boxed.
Incidentally, a seamless updater works just like unboxing a VC, except the new updated VC is rezzed in the position of the old VC; it’s the same idea of “injecting” data from the old VC into the new, to make it appear a continuous incarnation of the original. Like boxing, the original was destroyed upon updating.
An alternative way to facilitating copy-protection would be to use a technique I’ve dubbed “pregnancy fortified food“. This would allow the best of protection in that all VC’s would have the SL no-copy permission, because the new VC is actually the no-copy inventory in the food bowl. (Kind of brings a whole new perspective to “eating something to get pregnant!”)
In conclusion, I can’t help but recount the times when I felt like some deity when planning the general VC diagrams, and in implementing the HB Bunny, and in fact, it was more hubris than anything else that prompted me to take this project. I was even high enough to address myself as “Bunny Goddess”, at one point.
In beta phases, we tested the HB Bunnies on shortened lifespans, roughly 1 beta day = 10 regular days. (This meant the bunnies became adult and mating-age in about 1.5 days.) So, anyway, the fact that 1) these bunnies will automatically sleep at sunset, 2) have predetermined “promised lifetime of 356 days (barring starvation or sicknes)”, and 3) essentially have their body mechanisms limited by AI, and more, does not make me like the Goa’uld experimenting on the Argosians. (If you read this entry before hulu takes it off, the entire Stargate episode where that happened is embedded below.)
Written by ina on Thursday, 24 of December , 2009 at 12:18 pm
I haven’t been posting because, other than a few absent-minded releases and such, I have not had much time to spend on SL, and thus haven’t really done “much on SL these days” (of course, knowing me, my “much” is rather relative to my voracious appetite for more [read: insatiable ego]). Anyhow, I have been spending around 95% of my time in RL, which means dealing with plentiful politics in academia, and in trying to obtain RL funding for my virtual artistic endeavors. Both endeavors have proven to be complete wastes of both time and creativity, especially the latter. The epitome of bad PR aside, it doesn’t help that there are times when it seems that Linden Lab is imploding on itself.
This means we have basically less than 2 months left to try to raise funding for the SL Shakespeare sims. Last year, the SOS Campaign took us over a year to raise the funds whose original deadline had been 3 months. The good part is that we have some leftover after paying tier last round (as shown in SLSC Transparency); this is due to LindeX fluctuations and people donating directly (such as Wunderlichs), but we still have the better part of the ~L$700k needed for tier for 3 island sims, paid 6 months in advance. The bad part is that I simply don’t have the time or energy (what’s the point!) to run another SOS Campaign. And thanks to my merchant reputation being selectively sabotaged by Linden Lab, nor do I have the $L to secretly “pitch in” the missing and needed chunk of $L (like I have done each time in past SLSC fundraisers), without breaking my Fundamental Principle. Anyway, I want to be able to use my free time on SL to create shows, such as the stalled but long-awaited SL Shakespeare Company’s Twelfth Night, Act 2! And, for the few of you who have actually seen SLSC main canon shows, you understand that we simply cannot do these shows without a four sim infrastructure! What to do, what to do…
Onto happier news… stuff that don’t relate to the maladies of a starving artist trying to paint in a borked virtual world…
About two weeks ago, I chanced upon meeting Hunny Larimore. Before I knew it, I started writing the code that would become the backbone of the HB Bunny SL “AI” application. I was a total SL AI animals virgin, and it wasn’t until just a few days ago that I finally looked at other SL AI animals; as a result, I not only started coding from scratch, but also designing from scratch, thinking up my own ways of how to make certain processes work. More on my findings and musings about life, the universe, and everything per this project in the next post
“Branding for a Cause - Two Case Studies in the Arts” was a two-part presentation by avant garde virtual world artists Eshi Otawara and Ina Centaur, that tells the story of each artistic brand name that both sustains and is their art, in a very economically-materialistic virtual world. The presentation started with an introduction (slideshare | ppt) that set the “status quo” of Second Life, and how that really isn’t a medium for art or any endeavor that requires the input of abundant time, care, and love:
Just confirmed and finalized - I will be presenting on the Business Track and the EdTrack @ SLCC (Second Life Community Convention) in San Fran @ the Westin St. Francis Hotel! (I might also be a last-minute panelist on one of the Fashion Track’s, and maybe the EdTrack 5×5’s and SpeedGeek.)
So. Presentation-craze. Hoo!
(On Friday the 14th @ 3:30 PM, I might be popping into the Fashion Track as a designer-CEO panelist.)
On Friday the 14th @ 5 PM, Eshi and I will be the two black swan-esque independent artists presenting on the Biz Track. Here’s both the brief 250-char version of our abstract, and our longer abstract for “Branding for a Cause: Two Case Studies in the Arts”:
Abstract: Branding for a Cause - Two Case Studies in the Arts (250 chars)
In a world of substandard wages, the consistent and significant value required in building a brand can only be fortified by a cause. This 60 minute session will include two notable case studies, as presented by the driving force involved in each virtual world namebrand: Eshi Otawara and Ina Centaur
Abstract: Branding for a Cause - Two Case Studies in the Arts
In a world of substandard wages, more often associated with the vapid, the consistent and significant value required in building a brand can only be fortified by a cause. This 60 minute session will include two notable expository case studies, as presented by the driving force involved in each virtual world namebrand: Eshi Otawara and the Ina Centaur SL Shakespeare Company. Galvanized by the cause of RFL, Eshi Otawara, a starving artist in RL, created unique couture virtual dresses that sold for record prices. Haunted by an undying childhood dream, Ina Centaur, a recovering physicist, created the premier professional theatrical production company in virtual worlds. Discover the story behind each global brand, and the cause that created it.
Abstract: “Shakespeare’s Virtual Theatre, 3d Paintings via Primtings, and the Literary Arts on SL” (250 chars)
An overview presentation with demo and tour of the following projects Ina Centaur SL Shakespeare Company (virtual theatre in historically accurate Elizabethan buildings), Primtings Museum (3d Paintings), and sLiterary (literary arts on SL).
Summary: “Shakespeare’s Virtual Theatre, 3d Paintings via Primtings, and the Literary Arts on SL”Shakespeare, in his heyday, established modern theatre; nearly five hundred years later, the Ina Centaur SL Shakespeare Company is trying to develop and advance the nascent field of “virtual theatre” by staging Shakespearean (and other) plays on SL with a full range of live 3d virtual world magic. In addition to a demo overview of some of the new technologies we have created for virtual theatre, we will also explore the theatres and the sets of past productions, and perhaps meet some SLSC actors and the Bard, himself (in avatar form).
Primtings Museum is a sim-sized “prim’ed paintings” gallery. Famous paintings in RL are interpreted by SL artists in a variety of ways via prims into 3d paintings. Built to “feel” like a RL museum, where visitors can take their time to explore and “stumble upon” an exhibit, visitors can also quickly “teleport” to a particular primting via Primtings.com’s search-able web directory of all primtings. Artists may also submit their primting for consideration as an exhibit in the museum. We will be exploring some notable Primtings in the interactive part of the tour.
Both of these projects are fiscally-sponsored by sLiterary, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the arts in virtual worlds. sLiterary.org offers a variety (from historical to modern to cozy!) of high quality inworld facilities, open to the public for events and other activities, some of which we’ll get to see in the interactive part of the demo.
I will also be popping into Grace McDunnough’s Music in Virtual Worlds event Sat @ 3 PM. Here are my answers to her survey:
I am answering as a venue owner/event organizer, performer, and attendee/fan.
Based on your experience, what’s working really well now? In other words, what would you NOT change?
Second Life is a painful medium to use for performances. It’s passable for rehearsals and small gatherings, but, for large events, due to lag and object loading issues, Second Life is not better than a radio stream.
What needs to be FIXED and why?
Load abilities (It’s very difficult explaining to an RL audience why your Stephenson-esque metaverse can’t accommodate more than 100 avatars per sim, and suffers from non-trivial lag starting at merely 20!)
What services, features or options need to be ADDED to improve your experience overall?
Voice-chat moderation in main-chat (not group chat). Listen-in only feature for non-mod’s.Make large events less crash-prone.
In your opinion, what is the MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE to be made in the next 6 months?
Minimally, some voice chat moderation features in main chat (not just group chat). Listen-in only feature for non-moderators.
It would be nice if performers could easily port their local voice chat (with lip sync) to group voice chat - directly without using external software. This would be useful for directly “simulcasting” a local event to another venue, using only SL.
I believe both of the above would not require the invention of new technology. Item 3, below, however, may be something the SL prim-based-architecture can’t get by:
Make large events less crash-prone? Allow more than 100 avatars per sim?
I’ve been musing on creating a Shakespeare Concordance that includes side-by-side comparison of Folio, playscript (as used by my SL Shakespeare Company), and (interpretive) Modern English editions, as well as other language editions, with video and audio segments (SLSC again!) and inline notes (and perhaps even some rudimentary scansion — stray syllable counts, if not some de-dum marks!) Beautiful(ish) layout with jQuery perkiness, and just convenience, in general, especially for acting troupes who use the first folio for analysis.
Today I’ve gone through creating its first data file (and, there are also several foreign language files, aside from some of the Mandarin Chinese, all translated by volunteers, each one lined up by row numbers).
It’s initially a series of flat files, for reference for actors. At the current rate, aiming to produce a Shakespearean-play-a-year, it’d probably take a bit for the actual lexicon to fill up. The spreadsheet above should easily convert to csv for php’s text processing functions to shrill!
It started when I was trying to catch up on what our original Mandarin Chinese translator was supposed to translate, but didn’t get to do. Fortunately, for OEP1, I’d finished much of the wardrobe assignments and scenic design items months ago in our preview season in late 2008 - so I had some time for manual labor. But, the Chinese texts I found were all so sterile, I ended up translating my own versions, where I attempted to convey more of the poetry and interpretive meaning I’ve applied in directing Twelfth Night. (You can see a bit of what I mean in the “first data file,” especially my Modern English interpretive translation.) This unexpected bout of creativity made me remember how when I first encountered Shakespeare’s plays in seventh grade, I’d read them quite differently than the standard interpretation. So, it’s given me chance to (literally!) find my own meaning in the play, where I disagree with the various editions (and, it seems, that many words in the concordance are taken out of context — or perhaps not viewed as creatively, as should — for example, there’s the reference of fools’ breast in Act 2, which might have been taken literally, with a drunken Andrew noting Feste’s breasty breast!, instead of interpreted as voice).
A 25-year old American polymath of Taiwanese ancestry pretending to be old and Caucasian in Second Life. Semi-retired independent scholar also dabbling as an independent artist in new media, particularly theatre and the humanities—notably Shakespeare. Programmer, playwright and novelist. Formal academic background in http://portfolio.inacentaur.com/ina/scientist, philosophy, and bioengineering.
This is largely a personal blog which isn't always up-to-date. There's no one definitive way to stalk me ;-).