SL Games

Goodbye Osprey…

Friends of Osprey as well as those who followed her online would know of her long time battle with MS. I’m sad to say that its a battle she lost yesterday, although she did so on her terms which sums up Osprey perfectly – she lived life her way.

Os was my mate in SL, the single person most responsible for my staying in SL after the initial novelty of the place wore off in early 2007. She gave me purpose, diection and a chance to create. She shared her world and friends generously and I will always love her for that.

The Army of Os

You can leave a message on her SL page here.


Steelhead Mystery Contest

Elegia Underwood, the queen of the Dragon Lands in Steelhead Shanghai, is running a brilliant contest to look for a mystery event that can be run in Steelhead Shanghai and she is looking for *your* ideas! Here are the rules and the deadline has just been extended to 15th Jan so get yout thinking caps on and drop Elegia Underwood your entry! Read more on the Steelhead Ning here.


Shanghai Mystery Story Contest
(sponsored by Dragonlands Hotel & Hovels)

The Dragon of Dragonlands wishes to sponsor THREE (3) mystery weekends.

Contestants are invited to come up with a storyline set firmly in the seedy underworld of Steelhead Shanghai. While the mystery may begin or end anywhere in Shanghai, & while it may wend wherever it will, the Dragon does insist that at least one clue or the beginning or the end is located somewhere in Dragonlands.

Submissions should include an introductory setting, a list of no fewer than 5 clues & no more than 10 & where they should be found & a solution. Submit one notecard (to Elegia Underwood) which should include Landmarks to each clue site, including the point of origin, ie, a dead body, an empty case with holes in it, a half sunken sampan with blood on the gunwales, whatever beginning you wish. The title of the notecard should begin “CONTEST – …” DEADLINE 15th Jan 2010.

If you want to supply objects to enhance the story, they will be welcome, but the final decisions will be based on the storyline & structure & how much fun the search for the miscreants will be.

If the storyteller wishes to involve private spaces (some of the buildings are or contain private residences), please obtain the agreement of the tenants. If the storyteller wishes to involve residents themselves, please obtain their agreement in advance. But you are encouraged to generate peripheral roleplay in the course of the investigation.

The best three will each be awarded 1000L & the opportunity to stage their own mystery. (Those who do not desire the responsibility may relinquish this task to the Dragon & her minions. The Dragon will oversee all activities.)

The Dragon reserves the right not to award any or all of the prizes if submissions do not intrigue her.

Please address all enquiries to Elegia Underwood, the Dragon of Dragonlands. (“A REAL Dragon? Pffft! There’s no such thing as Dragons.”)

(All submissions & any accompanying materials become the property of the Dragon of Dragonlands. The Dragon will not re-distribute or sell said submissions except in the course of staging the aforementioned mystery weekends. No mystery is to be staged, by the Dragon or the author, anywhere else but Steelhead Shanghai.)

Visiting Marianne McCann’s Shop

Remember I went to see Holocluck Henley’s gallery in Bay City? Well as I rarely get to Bay City (and when I do it’s as empty as everywhere else in SL – something I’m getting a tad sick off) I thought I’d pay a visit to Marianne McCann’s store as she’d just blogged about it and her construction site herself. I have to say I *loved* the building site – genius building! And if you in any way love the games of your childhood, you must go to her store and have a look round – she has everything you need to feed the child inside*!

Marianne McCann's Store in Bay City

Marianne McCann's Store in Bay City

Marianne McCann's Store in Bay City

Marianne McCann's Store in Bay City

Marianne McCann's Store in Bay City

Marianne McCann's Store in Bay City

* Not that I mean to imply you’ve eaten a child and it is hungry – that is just… yuk! You weirdo cannibal! 😀

Event RP – What is it and how is it done?

It struck me today (quite out of the blue – I wonder why our minds work like that, suddenly popping an idea or memory up when everything else about us in engaged in thoughts and activities totally unconnected) that I had missed off an important definition of roleplay in SL from my list. Doubly important when I realised that I actually don’t know how it works.

Event RP: Where people get together to take part in a pre-planned event that is in itself an act of semi-staged/semi-improvised RP (as opposed to people at an event deciding to undertake RP).

A good example of this would be the naval battles staged by Steelhead’s very own Master of the Waves, Hotspur O’Toole. Another good example, and one that has always stuck in my mind, is the Martian attack on Caledon in 2007 (one blog extract to illustrate what I mean here).

I can see the end result of the Martian attack in the plethora of Caledon and SL Steampunk blogs (around July 2007) to piece together how people fitted in to the RP, but what I am less clear on is how such an event was organised. Specifically I’d like to know:

1) How many people were ‘in’ on the gig? Was it just a few of the boss/management team or was it a large affair with many organisers?

2) How were people assigned roles? Was it just a free for all come-shoot-at-the-aliens affair, or did people have to report in and be assigned a task?

3) How did the mechanics work? Were the Martian craft scripted bots or were there people behind them? How did combat & damage to people & property work, if at all?

In short, if I (by “I”, I mean Steelhead as just “I” on my own couldn’t do it) wanted to stage a similar event – let’s say a Godzilla style attack on the city – how would we go about it?

If you have any ideas or tried & tested solutions, please be so kind as to drop them below 🙂

Roleplaying at Hogwarts with Dio

As regular readers to this blog will know, my discussions a couple of months back brought me in contact with Diogenes Kuhr who I class as a good friend and all round wise woman. A while back she started up a blog to tell her tales of roleplaying in Deadwood as well as muse over other topics as she saw fit.

Now Dio is one of the best people to talk to about roleplaying in SL and her thoughts on the subject have actually influenced me a hell of a lot since we met, but even she would admit to not having tried all of the various styles of RP in SL. So a whiles back she decided to give immersive, rule-enforced fiction genre a go and signed up for the Hogwarts sim and here is her first report as an embedded roleplayer, and it makes fascinating reading if you are in any way interested in how RP works in SL.

If you haven’t already, check her blog out and read back through her wonderful posts – you won’t be disappointed!

Definitions of Roleplay in SL

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum I learnt an important definition of a style of roleplay in SL: Build RP where folks build things to roleplay with.

26th August 2009 EDIT: To clear something up in one of the P.S. paragraphs below I have edited what could be read as negative views about Steelhead’s management because they weren’t meant like that – they were supposed to be positive, but hey ho I was tired and not thinking 😀

When written like that I realise it sounds obvious, but what I’m putting down here is not that I have found a new style of RP, just its definition. And that is important because it helps understand further how RP, the various styles RP, work in SL. It got me to thinking how could I define my style and what others could I spot. I therefore present my shortlist of RP styles-please let me know what you think and feel free to redefine and add more 🙂

Build RP is where folks actively build places and things for others to interact with and that is how the story is told.

To give my style a definition, I’d probably use Written RP. In Written RP folks concoct storyline in-world but generally develop them outside in blogs and forums.

On top of that I guess you’d have to have Social RP. In Social RP folks generally live as their characters, interacting with others as their characters would.

All these then go to make up Community RP where a community builds, writes and lives the RP. Of course no one is confined to one style, we all crossover from one to another, but it seems most folks prefer, or find their strengths, in one style over the others.

p.s. This post came about because of a very interesting event in Steelhead – someone from New Babbage opened a factory that was going to cut down all the trees around Steelhead and there was a protest. Eventually a storm hit the city and, ironically, a large tree blew down and crushed the factory. The New Babbager who started the venture returned to Babbage complaining about the tree huggers from Steelhead (I am paraphrasing, of course). Now to many this smacks of RP, but to some in Steelhead this form of RP was new and that fact, combined with the management’s decision to deny all knowledge to ensure the tale seemed real and fun, meant that not everybody in Steelhead felt they could/should take part. This forum post explains more, but really it’s a learning exercise for all – Steelhead maybe an old city in SL terms, but it’s a small one that has grown slowly and it is a city of written & social RP rather than bulid RP. Build RP *does* exist in Stelhead, but not really in a big RP sense – but I suspect this is about to change 🙂

p.p.s. Change is a funny old thing. I really don’t envy the job of Steelhead management. The city started off as Wild West, quickly moved to Weird West and is now more Gaslamp Fantasy with a curious blend of real life (like Deadwood) and fantastical (werewolf for a sheriff, dragon taven owners, evil tiny kitty cat geniuses) where RP is just about to take off in what feels like a big way. This is not to say it hasn’t had RP before, but it feels to me like a tipping point to a more RP-themed community is close, and this makes some of the residents feel nervous – not everyone in Steelhead wants to RP or feels confident enough in their skills or social place to get involved. Management are looking at ways to allow folks the chance to get involved (and the example above was a learning curve for them too) but I can’t help but feel that as with so much in life, to RP means that at some point you have to stop looking at the half-open door waiting for someone to open it and just walk on through all by yourself.

p.p.p.s. Social structures are a funny old thing too. Part of the heffalump in the room in the Steelhead forums (and even in my last paragraph if I’m honest) is that of people feeling they are not in, or have access to, the people in the group that makes the city work. There was an unspoken undercurrent in the forum post that actually some folks felt they were less important in the grand scheme of things and therefore would never be invited to play. I think it’s a half-open door again where you have to reach out to folks and build honest friendships, but also sell yourself a little. I dunno, I find that to get noticed by the folks that run things, you have to a) approach them and b) prove you can do it, whatever it is. Most groups are open to new folks coming along in my experience and that’s how I always approach new groups – like I’ll be welcomed politely but kept at a distance until they’ve worked me out. Basic pshychology isn’t it?

p.p.p.p.s. I may be rambling now – it’s 5am and I’ve had 2 hours sleep tonight on top of not much sleep of late thank to jetlag and a toddler who now won’t sleep alone after his holiday bed with mummy & daddy. Oy vey.

Hunting Goodies In The Avarian Expedition

NOTE: Due to a donkey brain (i.e. me!) using a January 2008 date to publish this post (written in Dec 08 for a Jan 09 release) no one has ever seen the words and picture below, so I’m re-publishing it now as this place & game really deserves all the publicity it gets!

Way back in November 08 I saw a report on New World Notes about a new game in town that grabbed my attention – a resource hunt in the amazing Avarian sims beneath the famous Grendel’s Children. Since the virtual demise of SL Games, it’s rare to see these reports and I try and follow them when they crop up even though I’m almost always disappointed. In this case I can say I was not 🙂

The basic idea is similar to The Wastelands (another area I’ve played in and enjoyed) in that you wander about, find things and then blend them to make other things (which can in tun make other things). In The Wastelands the goodies fell from the sky to be found on the road, but in The Avarian Expedition you have to sweat a little for your finds.

To start, you have to buy a pack from Grendle (for an amazingly cheap 35L$) that it contains two hand tools and two HUD (for each of the tools) that you attach. As you wander about the landscape the HUD changes colour to tell you if you are near a resource – when you are, you activate the tool and dig away like a scavenging fool until you find something. That something might be grass or a twig or another such bounty of the earth and it it these treasures you can combine to make other things. All in some of the most amazing surrounds SL has to offer 🙂

Here is a brief photo record of my first steps into this wonderful game…

First off, get the pack (and practice using it on the rock nearby):
Avarian Expedition

Avarian Expedition Avarian Expedition

Get your sorry behind down to the Avarian lands (you can TP, I like to fall…):
Avarian Expedition

Start looking (use the HUDs to guide you…):
Avarian Expedition

Avarian Expedition

Check all of the sims…
Avarian Expedition

And don’t be afraid to take your horse out for a stretch too…
Avarian Expedition

You never know how many new friends you’ll meet out a’hunting too 🙂
Avarian Expedition

So go… grab a kit and join the hunt – the weather is fine and we could all do with the exercise after Xmas 😉

The Problem(s) with Roleplaying in SL, Part 2

When I wrote the last post a few days ago, I was frustrated and disappointed. This hasn’t changed, but I have had time to think some more about what I was trying to say and this reflection time, coupled with the comments here and on Hotspur’s blog here, have brought me back to the subject. I don’t know about you, but I never feel I get my point over clearly enough in a post.

First off, let me state that I in no way want these posts to seem like I’m bitching about SL. I love this world and whilst I will admit it has many faults, any blame for difficult RP experiences can not be laid at its feet. SL is what it is and it’s not WoW.

I’ve also had only limited experience RPing in SL – I’ve tried to ‘break into’ several dedicated sim set ups, but despite all the rule reading & prep I did, the sims tended to be empty with little sign of RP or lagged to hell rendering even walking impossible, let alone RP. These communities seem to lack a certain something… a level of coherence that make it feel like you really are playing inside a series of impressive story arcs. Instead they seem to be more about small personal and interpersonal stories that exclude and don’t really go anywhere.

As for non-RP dedicated sims, my feeling from visiting them and reading the blogs is that you really have to move in and live in the community to take part, which is fair enough really.

It seems to me that the most successful SL-based RPing goes on outside SL, in the blogs and nings and whathaveyous of the players. The time in-world is taken up with meetings to plan and set up the events that will then be played out/photographed/filmed in-world and then expanded upon/written about out-of-world.

Rather than expand upon my perceived problems with RPing is, why don’t I list what I want from a RP experience in SL using , as an example only, the acme of my RPing desires at the moment; a Philip Marlowe-esque 1940’s hard boiled PI game:

1) A thematic location is desirable. A few sims worth of appropriate mean city LA streets would be nice. Some hills over the sea even better. Something to use as a backdrop to the pictures and films that than go onto the blog.

2) Someone in overall charge. Good RPGs need a games master – someone to direct action, help players along and enforce (with a light touch) rules. In my ideal game, the city mayor and/or DA and whilst their word would be law, they would interact and seek opinion and guidance from the players.

3) Engaging and constantly evolving story arcs. I don’t *just* want to play a story where I’m in competition for business with another PI, I want those big cases to come my way. But then I don’t always want the same type of case (broad on desk, murder rap chasing her, old man with money in the background). I want to feel that the city is alive with or without me.

4) A consistent, maintained & searchable history. How many times have I dipped into the many (many!) wonderful Caledon blogs and enjoyed what I’ve read but had no fucking clue what the wider picture is. People cross-post without links; stories start, stall and continue without recaps; no one seems to ever make a history of their character and how they fit into the world. Maybe this info for Caledon exists, but I doubt it’s any coherent form. A RP game without a sense of shared and valued history only ever exists in the present and therefore the value of the experiences being generated is lessened – after all, why RP well when the whole thing will be forgotten by everyone but the half-dozen involved.

If I had those four things, I think I’d be a happy RPer. If No 4 & 3 were in place, then I think the game would have a better chance of evolving and growing into another world you step into rather than a theatre backdrop constantly being lowered and raised behind you.

All these ‘wants’ are fine in theory, but they ignore the two biggest problems facing RP providers and players? Time and money. Someone has to pay for it. Someone has to create and maintain it. SL people seem to be transitory by nature, either leaving the world or moving on to the next big sim. Many of the Caledon blogs I stumbled upon two years ago are Steelhead blogs now. Many other blogs I read have similarly changed location and sims close or people move on. Even with a shared, maintain history it is hard for an RP game to survive this – the owners/runners of such a game have to be willing to be in it for the long haul and how the hell you make that pay, whilst still maintaining the integral feel and energy of the RP itself is, dear reader, beyond me. I guess the Guvnr in Caledon has it right – the sims pay for themselves and meanwhile small pockets of happy residents make their own RP up and blog it as they go.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is what I suspect is the only system that will work in the current SL model. Whilst people have to pay a lot of money to rent servers, RP sims will never move successfully beyond a mix of rent-to-pay and small-scale-resident-run-RP. Maybe OpenSim will one day change that? If I could rent a server cheaply, that’s 4 sims of my 1940s LA RP right there with either no or minimal need to generate revenue.

Yours in thought.
HeadBurro Antfarm, PI

The Problem(s) with Roleplaying in SL

OK, dramatic title. Many people reading this… BWAHAHAHAHA! Sorry, that last bit amused me. Many people. If only.

Start again.

Dramatic title. Some people reading this will be incensed and think “I rolepay perfectly well in SL, you stupid man!”. Well good, I’m glad. But I don’t. Here’s why:

1) Lack of really immersive environment: Unless you live in a themed sim/sims then it’s hard to roleplay being vampire/Jedi/whatever with a lapdancing club next door and Spongebob cubes screaming above them. Even with a themed sim, you have little to no control who wanders in – from a lost newbie to some berk deliberately taking the piss out of the players, these can all go to ruining the roleplay. And then time dilation or script lag can ruin RP. Other dedicated games such as WoW, Eve or LoTR fair better because they are just that, dedicated to that roleplay game. SL is a creative opportunity where people try and overlay roleplay and it doesn’t always fit well.

2) A Million Stories: Arseholes and stories; everyone has one. Problem is, how do you boil down a million stories into a cohesive rolepayable whole? In dedicated sims, how do you manage an environment where everyone is a Baron or a Vampire Lord or Slave Master or Whatever As Long As Its Important? In the end, the sheer number of voices drown out almost everything.

The bottom line is that RP in SL is hard because of lack of immersion. Immersion is hard in SL because it is hard to control the environment and the environment was never built for roleplay games.

Leaving aside RPing in dedicated sims or communities, what about collaborative RP across blogs? Before I was part of the show, I found myself reading many, many blogs in the hope that in them I would find a new home. I found some good writing and some promising crossovers that hinted at wider community RPing, but almost without exception my attempts to ‘click in’ to them failed with my comments on posts either ignored or dead-ended. After many weeks of trying I gave up.

Take a look at how many blogs tell such tales and them look at the number of comments those posts have – usually around zero. Even on my blog where I get comments to most posts, The Lost Journal, The Island and Backpacking Burro posts get the lowest comments of all, with The Lost Journal getting almost none. It seems people either do not want to read such tales, or do not feel able to comment. Maybe the nature of the tale locks them out, in a way that silly posts or serious discussion-style posts don’t.

But that doesn’t answer question of why authors of such tales seem unwilling to answer comments left on their posts. Without doubt, some will be part of a clique and unwilling to allow others in, but not everyone can be like that. I really don’t know… it seems that most blog RPs are for either a closed community or the author alone.

Sigh, I just don’t think SL is the right place for a good, rich, deep RP experience. But then it never was, I guess.


p.s. I’ll tell you something for nothing – collaboration is fun, yes, but it is also hard. Really. I’m currently working with Darien Mason to complete the tale of the Lost Journal, but because of our time differences and Darien’s current RL commitments the relationship is mainly limited to bouncing ideas about. From my time with the troupe of TSMGO I know how hard it is to get together and actually thrash out a workable act, let alone a whole script. Trying to plan out a tale that involves more people than yourself, all of whom have backgrounds you know little or nothing about, is hard and requires workarounds or frequent pauses to check facts. Still fun though – you should try it. Find a blog you like and plan a tale together 🙂

My Second Life Road Trip 7 – Swimming, climbing and hiking in Welsh (part 1)

Things move fast on the grid, even in the old lands (1) and by the time I had decided that best way across the water dividing Clementina from Welsh was to coax Frank into the sea so he could swim us both across, the huge pirate ship and wooden building behind it in Taber had gone. I’ve no idea how long they had been there or why they had now gone, so I just flicked Frank’s reins and eased him down to the water’s edge. To my eternal gratitude, Frank showed no signs off displeasure as I moved him deeper in and soon was swimming away (2) as though he’d been doing it all his life (come to think of it, I had found him on an a sim that was essentially an island and had seen exactly no other horses in my time there – he may well have swum across in the first place).
Welsh - The Horse Ferry

We made landfall near the south west corner of Welsh and came ashore under the boughs of an enormous tree that had been hollowed out for a hat shop by Tweke Underhill back in 2006.
Welsh - The Hat Tree

I nudged Frank off to explore this old area of the grid; the whole sim seemed to be broken and divided by water channels, some shallow, others deep and fast flowing and I wondered just how much swimming Frank would appreciate. We crossed a small bridge and headed to the landmark that could be seen all the way from Clementina and beyond into the inland sea of Omidyar: a huge green beanstalk flanked by a continually rising and falling hot air balloon.
Welsh - The Welsh Beanstalk

I left Frank to graze and dry out as I wandered around the base of the giant stalk to where I found a notice challenging anyone to try and climb to the top without cheating. Steller Sunshine (3), who had grown the beanstalk from a seed prim back in July 2003, was offering to pay L$500 to anyone who succeeded.
Welsh - The Beanstalk Challenge

I looked up at the huge plant and decided that today was not a good day for dangerous sports – instead I flew up and landed on one of the many huge leaves. If you come here and take up the challenge, let me know how you get on – it looks all but impossible to me!
Welsh - Atop the Beanstalk

Just behind the beanstalk I found the half-buried remains of a truly massive statue seemingly uncovered by Steller who had then turned it into a tourist stop (or butterfly haven, I wasn’t sure which).
Welsh - The Fallen Statue

I walked off east past a large water tower towards a huge bucket and spade belonging to Saaz Roentgen and found a delightful Whack-A-Mole game Saaz had built. Unfortunately I proved not to be very adept at it and more moles escaped my fevered clicks than not.
Welsh - Whak-A-Mole Game

Beyond Saaz’s place a wide expanse of water, deep and cold, divided the landmass and across it rose a mighty plateau topped with what looked to be trees and signs of habitation, but I could see no way of getting up outside of flying.
Welsh - Rasied Paradise

Instead I opted to brave the cold waters before me and swim across to the eastern half of the sim. It was hard, cold work and I made a mental note to give Frank an extra sugar lump when I made my way back to him. But for now, I concentrated on reaching the far shore…
Welsh - Swimming  around the plateau

Yours in Travel,
HeadBurro Antfarm

(1) It’s strange really, some parts hardly ever change (4), or rather they seem not too. In truth even they do, sort of like digital erosion I guess. But in SL it can happen fast and often. So far during my road trip I’ve lost a volcano, a skulk, a couple of huge ion-cannon wielding teddy bears and now a pirate ship and pirate castle.

(2) Poor Frank, he’d be mortified if he knew I told you this, so please shhhhhhh. Frank can’t swim! I know, I know – there is a photo showing him swimming, but it’s a fake, a phoney, a three quid note. Frank was flying and we hovered in the water to make it look like he could swim. But please, don’t tell him I told you.

(3) Steller Sunshine is credited with being the first resident in SL and was rezzed on Wednesday 13th March 2002 (the grid being opened on Tuesday 12th).

(4) The Forest of Kahruvel is one such place I see as eternal, but as we all know its past shows this to be far from the truth. Even today it is changing with the large, black mall in Noyo soon to be demolished to allow the forest to once more stretch its borders. No matter who or where, the grid is not eternal and everything and everyone in it just a piece of the flux that makes it work.

Hey! I got a mention in NWN and IDG 🙂