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Blog by Ina Centaur » slshakespeare

 

Our Magic and Our Passing – Goodbye from the SL Shakespeare Company, Primtings, and sLiterary

Written by ina on Saturday, 22 of October , 2011 at 4:06 pm
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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.

 

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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…

    3. 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…

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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?

  2. The Broken Content System of Second Life

    1. 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:

      1. Random Inventory Deletion – what’s in your inventory might be missing the next time you check.

      2. Permission bugs – an object you created might one day end up with no permissions.

      3. 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.

      4. 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)

      5. Megaprim bans even on private islands and irreversible megaprim deletion that ruin entire builds. Lack of proper inworld build tools – and mesh?

    2. 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…

  3. Unstable platform, borked tech – even 10 years later

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  4. $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?

  5. 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:

    1. Weekly “sale” emails/IM’s (as opposed to bi-yearly or per-production campaigns)

    2. 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)

    3. 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)

    4. Aggressively market and charge ridiculous rent for everything (as opposed to free spacing for anyone who wants to hold an event)

    5. Get rid of Shakespeare for the Strip Mall…

  6. 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…

  7. 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

     

     

    Additional Q&A

    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.

     

Category: Projects

SLSC Pillar #1 Reloaded - Land Benefit Auction at High Noon 9/23

Written by ina on Monday, 22 of September , 2008 at 7:08 pm
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SLSC Pillar #1 Reloaded

We didn’t quite make our first pillar in our 14-Pillars fundraiser. Nope, though at the time we started it there were 14 million registered accounts on SL, we haven’t yet seen every single one of them drop by and donate just L$1 to fill these 14 pillars, a million per pillar. We only raised about 0.25 of our first pillar. Now that we’ve had our fun with art in our last production, we must return to the nitty gritty fundraising again. So, here’s Pillar #1 Reloaded.

To kick off this fundraiser, Aberdon Enigma and Fauve Aeon of (Ardentia)Ars has donated 38,976 square meters of double-prim contiguous land in an Azure Island private residential estate. The land can be taken as a whole, or as parcels, with starting bids:

Seth 1 4208m2, 963 prims, L$1510/week tier @ STARTING BID L$6000
http://SLurl.com/secondlife/Seth/123/68/61
Seth 2 4416m2, 1010 prims, L$1575/week tier @ STARTING BID L$6000
http://SLurl.com/secondlife/Seth/69/59/57
Seth 5 4592m2, 1051 prims, L$1630/week tier @ STARTING BID L$6000
http://SLurl.com/secondlife/Seth/31/69/56
Seth 7* 8992m2, 2058 prims, L$2953/week tier @ STARTING BID L$12,500
http://SLurl.com/secondlife/Seth/197/214/63
Seth 3 16,768m2, 3837 prims, L$5193/week tier @ STARTING BID L$20,000
http://SLurl.com/secondlife/Seth/82/115/57

Or, if you want all of the above parcels,
ALL: 38,976m2, 8919 prims, L$12,871/week tier @ STARTING BID L$42,000
Note, if the ending bid of the smaller parcels is more than the ending bid of this large parcel,
the large parcel will not be auctioned off as a whole.

)))))))))))))))))) The auction will be LIVE Tuesday 9/23 at high noon SLT. (((((((((((((((((((((((((
at a special location on the land to be auctioned:
http://SLurl.com/secondlife/Seth/97/76/59

But, for those who cannot make it, a silent auction will be in session. Visit the parcel you’re interested in and find the pillar owned by your favorite SLSC-spectator avatar “Ticket Stand.” All donations are accepted and noted, but bid your highest bid to win!

In addition to owning great land for a great cause, winning bidder of each auction will receive a choice of three skins from the SL Shakespeare Company’s SL Globe Theatre Gift Shop. (The runner up will also receive their choice of two skins.)

*Seth 7 also comes with two free Adobe houses created by Azure Island builders!

Please contact Ina Centaur if you’ve any questions. ina.centaur@gmail.com

Category: Projects

Guts and Bull to Get The Word Out

Written by ina on Saturday, 10 of May , 2008 at 10:43 pm
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 If Michelangeo painted the Sistine Chapels anywhere but in that one well-funded church endeavor, it would be akin to a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it.

I think I have discovered that it’s not the beauty or merit of a piece that gets it the support it needs, but the level of publicity it attains. Having to both self-publicize, direct, and produce a piece makes it triply difficult – and funding as well is enervating. It takes precious life from art — and I do mean that both ways. After giving out a funding spiel describing SLSC initiatives, all I want to do is log out and poof — literally. And having to self-publicize just means I can spend that much less time on the actual art itself. Which defies the purpose of working on my own project…

If Michelangeo painted the Sistine Chapels in the streets of Sicily, people would walk all over it, and its colors and vibrancy would be stolen on the soles of countless travellers.  

In school, I used to think that missing an earned point there and here due to random grading errors didn’t matter. That was also what the prof’s said. But, the truth is that a few points missed here and there add up. It’s like in an old friend’s reminisces of AP Spanish, where extra credit was granted “randomly” to students who shout out “pointa, pointa!” for answering random hodge-podge. And in the end, it was this one extra credit point she missed that made the difference between an A and a B. For her, it meant losing out on being valedictorian. Microecon is life, really. A dollar saved here and there every day multiplied by 356 days becomes a size-able fortune. Similarly, being unlucky enough to receive grades on the borderline for dozens of courses, and not having the heart to fight for the next…

And then there are stories that you’d think were published on The Onion, rather than CNN, that, although AP-style, is just so full of… story. Take this one, for example, where a judge is accused of falling asleep during a trial, requiring treatment like a queen, among other things… and the fact that she can still stand all that personal invective-type drama against her really does illustrate an extremely strong character. 

It really is all about the guts and bull to fight, to get the word out.

Category: Reflections

SL Shakespeare Company’s Miniseason #2

Written by ina on Wednesday, 30 of April , 2008 at 10:08 am
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SL Shakespeare Company Miniseason 2 Playbill!

Category: Projects

POV of a Virtual Theatre Director

Written by ina on Monday, 10 of March , 2008 at 2:15 pm
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Live theatre is — by nature — temporal. Although it’s guided by the playscript, as implemented in the director’s vision, what goes on during showtime is quite often spontaneous, and in some cases filled with so many surprises of serendipity or misfortune that nothing appears like anything the director had in mind. But, the magic of it all is that even if the theatre burns down or if a backdrop collapses on an actor’s back… everything always ends up “right”… from one POV at least!

Virtual theatre in a MMOG is all that — and more. You have the advantage of a potentially infinite and globally unrestricted theatre, but technical issues on serverside, clientside, and yourside make the combination something of a blender jumble.

In a virtual theatre set in a platform like Second Life — which, because of its general nature and free-range customization appeal, suffers from significant performance issues when more than two dozen avatars are in the same locality — issues such as sim crashes, viewer crashes, ruthing (when an avatar’s appearance reverts to the default avatar), attachments being misplaced, textures not loading, prims not loading, local lighting being too local, collisions going berserk, and lag… often occur!

Although my test system should be more than sufficient to view Second Life, the actors all appear horribly ruthed for every single performance (even the ones where we didn’t pack the house). I can only imagine that the audience might end up suffering a different or worse POV due to system differences — but, then again, our strategy thus far has been to keep publicity inworld… such that those who visit are well aware of the quirks of Second Life, and would understand that it’s the platform collapsing as we all attempt to gather there at one point.

In a Second Life theatre set in the intersection of four-sims (currently, that is the only way to hold a large event on one location, as each sim is limited to 100 avatars), there are also problems with simcrossings. For a round theatre like the Globe, audience members may get “eaten by prims” as they cross sim borders, due to physics oddity. This bug should really *not* be an issue, as a virtual world whose “safe lands” to walk on spans only 256×256m2 … is a small world indeed! (Please vote here.)

The SL Globe Theatre is set on the intersection of sLiterary, Primtings, Skin City, and Shakespeare, and is home to the SL Shakespeare Company. It has an entire sim dedicated to the stage (and VIP audience members), and thus has an audience capacity of up to 300, supporting up to 400 local avatars.

Now, when a sim crashes, it basically looks like 1/4 of the Globe is gone. And it’s not always obvious that that’s what happened. You’d think it’s because your viewer spontaneously derezzed the view further than a certain viewdistance, but when you see ocean instead of land — the vast emptiness of an area once teeming with green map dots on the minimap makes it evident that the region has crashed.

Time is an interesting complication to get straight and universal for a medium accessible to an international audience. Daylight Savings Time, especially, becomes confusing when different regions of the world observe it differently or not at all! We had scheduled 10 runs starting on “SLSC Thursday,” but skipped Wednesday (assuming it might be downtime Wednesday), but I’d forgotten that the 10th and closing show occurred on DST… until the day of the show.

Second Life Time is actually PST or PDT, when DST is observed. But, those across the pond apparently don’t observe DST until more than two weeks after California switches over. Interestingly, we had a crowd arrive at both the 3 PM PDT and the 3 PM PST. We thus ended up doing an “encore finale” at 4 PM PDT (the old 3 PM PST), where we had the voice director do a speaking cameo for Francisco, after spontaneously upgrading the old Francisco to Horatio (who could not make it to the 4 PM). We also had a missing Francisco for the 3 PM, and had the Ghost voice out the role of a visual truant Francisco.

Chaos? No, but there does exist method in the madness… The only sane way to accept it all is to keep an open mind — and to take it all… passively, as accepting of everything as you can.

And, of course, we didn’t get to sign a restrictive license from DPS where we aren’t allowed to deviate from script. The advantage of performing a play written by a guy who’s so set for posterity there are (literally!) busts of him ubiquitous… and especially when we’re not certain if the plays we have are accurate per se, and when we’re pretty sure his players improv’ed their way through… is that when all else fails… the play is free to become truly live… temporal and spontaneous as the spoken word.

In closing, I’d like to address the cynics who believe that this endeavor is in vain, both because of platform and nature of the medium. While I’m well aware that there are plenty of greenscreening technologies that interface, in real time, real actors with virtual sets, the beauty of having a theatre in a virtual world is that… the theatre is actually *in* a world. I think that distinguishes a play from something seen on a 2d screen — you can see it at various angles if you tilt your head a bit… or a much wider angle if you become restless and start pacing through the seats. And, when it’s over, you can continue to “live” in the virtual world knowing that you’ve just attended a major Shakespearean production… perhaps with your virtual family or with friends separated by great spans of space and time. Although you’d view it using a technological interface (and, perhaps, with your view limited by this interface), it’s immersive, and you’re a part of it.

(Cross posted at Hamlet Production Blog - Ina Centaur Blog doesn’t allow commenting, but feel free to comment on the other blog)

Category: Amusing, Projects, Reflections, machinima

Who is Ina Centaur?

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 ;-).