One of the most active role-playing communities in Second Life is the City of Lost Angels (CoLA)
, which gave birth to the popular Community Combat System (CCS)
. CoLA's affiliated faction, Archaic Redemption
, has caught the eye of indie film producer Anthony Brownrigg
. After completing his last horror film "Red Victoria,"
Brownrigg turned his attention to the popular Second Life role-playing community and is now working to produce an indie drama film
based on the characters and environment of Archaic Redemption. According to IMDB
, the film centers around a young man who "must brave an undead gang to find his sister in the post-apocalyptic world of Los Angeles."
The Destination Guide editorial team recently spoke to Brownrigg -- as well as two Second Life Residents who served as key inspiration for the production: CCS creator Suzanna Soyinka and Archaic Redemption faction leader Tempest Ella -- about the project.
Destination Guide (DG): Tell us a bit about the upcoming movie?
Anthony Brownrigg (AB): The film is a drama/horror set in the world of the Second Life game "City of Lost Angels" (CoLA). It surrounds one of the factions of that city, an undead faction known as the Archaic Redemption. What we did was much like a comic book or video game. We got the rights to many of the characters to include in the real life film, and created an original story that fit within the virtual world. It's really kind of an adaptation, if you will, of the roleplayers there. The story surrounds a man named Gabriel Fisk, a human who is searching for his sister. His search brings him towards Lost Angels, only to get stopped in a nearby town of Necroville by the Archaics. It's his story and struggle to get away from them and find his sister. We really wanted to make a character-driven horror film, not a typical "formula plot." The interactive virtual environment of Second Life gave us the opportunity to not only get inspired by the roleplay around us, but actually involve real characters there in the project. We thought how neat it would be to watch a film, and then visit the virtual version and interact with the very characters they just saw on the big screen. Second Life is the best platform I believe which can give us the flexibility to do this.
DG: When can we expect the film to come out?
AB: We begin principal photography in early 2011, and don't expect a release until 2012.
DG: How did you discover Second Life and the Archaic Redemption community?
AB: Back in 2008, a friend of mine who was a writer had suggested Second Life as a nifty opportunity to expand and "dry run" characters. I had been working on my last film "Red Victoria"
at the time, and was delving into a werewolf script I have called "Freeborn." Knowing there were role-play communities around, I simply did a search on werewolves, and got a result for CoLA
. One of the factions there is known as "The Pack," which is a group of Lycans in the main city. So I basically began by constructing a character in the script, and dropping him into the world. Over the months, it became quite addictive I have to admit. But in that city the Pack also had an ally, the Archaic Redemption. So I managed to roleplay with many of them, as well. In the interim, the "Freeborn" project got put on hold. And I began to really gravitate towards what the Archaics were doing. Eventually, found myself roleplaying with more than the Pack. And it's then that the concept of a film surrounding them started tickling my brain.
DG: Are you an active roleplayer in Second Life?
AB: Normally, I'm an active roleplayer. I have several "alts" that I have to explore various characters I'm writing about. It's really a great tool to be able to delve into their motivations and see how those around them react.
DG: What aspects of the SL community specifically inspired you for the script to this film?
AB: What really inspired me for the script was the background of the Archaics and of CoLA itself. Suzanna Soyinka really penned a great background, and Tempest Ella a great job of integrating the undead faction within that city. It's a different view on the undead. They're not mindless, they know what they were, who they are. And for my own inspiration it really delved into some interesting concepts. If you don't have death to worry about, what happens to the human mind and its morality breakdown. It's a theme that the main character struggles with all through the story. We see the human resistance as well and their take on the issue. Within the CoLA universe, werewolves, vampires, demons, angels and all sorts of things in between exist. So the storyline for the film really intermingles varying viewpoints and fleshes out the story to become more of a drama within a horror-filled matrix.
DG: Your previous indie horror film "Red Victoria" had a "virtual premiere" in Second Life. What was that experience like - and can we expect more screenings inworld?
AB: I have been absolutely sucked in to the potential for utilizing Second Life for film production and even future distribution options. The Phantasmagoria theater in SL was fabulous, and worked with me to help me understand the potential of SL as a tool for marketing. The virtual premiere was a stunning experience with a virtual audience that was composed of people from all over the world, I was able to get on voice with my avatar, and welcome , field questions...and all of us sat back and watched the film together. This is something we plan on utilizing heavily as "Archaic Redemption" ramps up. We can even have virtual "press junkets," actor interviews, sneak peaks...and not be limited by a certain demographic. Indeed, I already know some press folks that have made SL characters in anticipation of this. "Red Victoria" garnered fans all over the world from those screenings, and we'll definitely be repeating that and more with "Archaic Redemption."
Another element is the utilizing of the SL build options to actually construct our sets based on our real life locations. We can build them to spec, test out scenic design and even costuming. We can then utilize the camera and make storyboards -- all before we shoot one frame of film. On top of that, many of the actors and other producers have now gotten SL characters and are delving into even more promising elements of the SL world.
DG: How can SL residents stay updated on the production of "Archaic Redemption"?
Next, we spoke to the person who inspired the film -- Archaic Redemption faction leader Tempest Ella.
DG: What is Archaic Redemption?
Tempest Ella (TE): Archaic Redemption (AR) is the official role-play faction for the Risen race in the world of City Of Lost Angels CCS/Role-play sim in Second Life. Unlike the majority of other factions that were pre-made for the sim, Archaic Redemption came along at a later date and has built up over time. Many hours have been put into creating a complex story base and every week there is something new added to ensure it remains interesting for members. The Zombies of the AR have adapted a virus that they build their numbers with. There is a virus lore that runs through generations also helps to maintain the depth character storylines, than playing a mindless ghoul that cannot do anything but eat brains.
DG: How many SL Residents would you estimate are participating in this community ?
TE: Tricky question. I'm going to have to break this down. The CCS community as a whole is massive. It not only supports English players, but many from all around the world. The French community is very healthy, as well. There are thousands of registered CCS players and hundreds of CCS sims within Second Life. If I had to take a guess, I'd put it up around the 400-500 mark. In CoLA alone, there are 21 sims and the main hub sim is almost always busy with a constant flow of people.
DG: The back-story and setting for Archaic Redemption is something that has really resonated with many SL role-players. What do you think accounts for the appeal?
TE: I think there are a few factors that play a part in the attraction to the AR. One being that I have really targeted those true blue horror/gore fans. You have your "vampire lovers" due to "Twilight" and there are many places in SL
that offer up an inworld experience, But, there really is nothing around like Archaic Redemption. Just about any zombie sim
I have visited inworld is a "shoot-em-up" game with no role-play surrounding it at all. People can come into AR and participate in true dark role-play and work alongside other wonderful role-players and feed off each other. Another reason is I keep the group busy and active and try to make sure that every person is enjoying/progressing with their role-play within the group. Lastly, if the person behind the PC can be kept on the edge of their seat as they are submerged into a group that produces descriptive, intense and articulate role-play, then they will be here to stay. For alot of Second Life role-players, they are searching for other like-minded faction members, The quality of role-play material is what snags the majority of people's attention, first and foremost.
DG: A movie is now also in the works! How did you connect with Anthony Brownrigg for this project?
TE: Yes! It is all very exciting, I met Anthony in CoLA of course As a fellow role-player. He contacted me one day and raised the idea of making a film based around Archaic Redemption and CoLA. Naturally, I jumped at the idea! For me as a writer/creator, there was nothing more flattering to hear. My many hours of blood, sweat and tears could be possibly shown to the world in a form of a film. The AR alone has a storyline base that will definitely get alot of interest, Not to mention, throwing it into the post-apocalyptic world of CoLA designed by Suzanna Soyinka. We must not forget about for if didn't exist, then neither would Archaic Redemption.
DG: Are there many misconceptions that you've found the general public to have about the role-playing community in SL?
TE: I think that there will always be things floating around out there, Some not always shed it in a positive light, but it all comes down to personal experience and what you, as a player, put in. There have been many rewarding moments within the community there is always room for all types of people from new players to the older Residents. Each of the sims are staffed with voluntary GM teams who not only aid to keep things running smoothly but also to provide help in lots of areas.
DG: What qualities make for a good participant in the Archaic Redemption community?
TE: We are looking for loyal, dedicated players who enjoy good role-play with a darker flair. A place to act out their more monstrous sides and put the 'dark' into 'dark RP.' That said, while we may be cruel creatures in-character, we are very approachable out-of-character and are always looking for fun and interesting people to join our team. AR endorses quality role-play, and our members and officers are always willing to assist anyone who may be new to CoLA, CCS, or role-playing in general, We run constant role-play classes, CCS training and one-on-one individual aid for new players to the role-playing world.
Finally, we spoke to CoLA owner and CCS co-creator Suzanna Soyinka.
DG: The Community Combat System (CCS) has become hugely popular in Second Life. Can you briefly explain the CCS for those Residents that have yet to experience it?
Suzanna Soyinka (SS): CCS
is a Mono-compiled gaming system that is hybridized to work with a php/MYSQL network to effectively emulate a persistent roleplay gaming experience where a player can evolve a character they wish to play over time. It has both roleplay-centric uses and combat-effective uses combining the two together for a mix of fun that most anyone can enjoy. CCS is also a managed gaming system, meaning that it is centrally designed and balanced by an impartial design team, rather than other similar systems which are basically game development kits, which give sim owners the ability to create their own dynamics. The principle of managed gaming versus game development kit scenarios is largely under the understanding that most people don't want to fuss with having to understand how to develop a game, or maintain balance dynamics themselves. Some do, and those that do can usually make their own systems or use GDK-based systems that other developers offer. But most people seem to prefer CCS for its ease of use, and its refined performance in the Second Life environment.
DG: Can anyone get a CCS? Is it free?
SS: CCS is free to all users. Our major third party developer partners also provide weapons with the system for free, as well. Effectively, someone can go to any CCS-enabled community on the grid, of which there are hundreds, and get a CCS unit and weapons to play the game for free and not have to spend a dime to do so.
DG: Where did the idea for the CCS come from?
SS: CCS is an extension of CoLA which is an idea that has been burning in my head since around 1999. It's a game that I personally have wanted to play. Since no one in the mainstream industry had made it, I made several attempts since 1999 to try to get it into motion under different platforms. Unreal 2.5 was the first platform attempt but I couldn't get enough committment from other mod designers to see the project through at the time. After coming to Second Life in 2005, and applying my previous understanding of design in the Unreal environment and UScript
to the SL tools available, I began building the project here in Second Life to keep myself busy and challenged. Turns out I wasn't the only one waiting for someone to make this game apparently.
DG: How many communities and venues are using CCS?
SS: At this time, CCS is currently in use in around 310 individual sims in Second Life, that number grows weekly as we tend to add one or two new sims a week on average. So there are hundreds of communities using CCS on the grid as of this time. That's going from two-thirds of a mainland sim in 2006 to over 300 individual sims by 2010.
DG: Did this project originate with the City of Lost Angels (CoLA)? At what point, did you decide to expand the CCS for use beyond CoLA?
SS: CCS was originally developed to support the City of Lost Angels specifically. I had originally seated the project development in the original DCS
with Dimentox Travanti
, but after a difference of opinions, he went his own direction. DCS as developed originally was a very simple script-based system with a lack of true persistence. I then started working with Jora Welesa, the developer of the Open Source LCK
system, to develop CCS, which was a far more advanced visualization of my ideas that did have the true persistence of character data required to run a long-term role-playing game.
We decided to expand the use of the system beyond CoLA while we were still on the mainland, back in 2006 and 2007. CoLA was so popular there were 55+ people in the mainland sim at all times and people literally bouncing off the sim borders trying to get in daily. It became obvious due to the system's popularity that we needed to offer additonal venues for it until we could expand our own land holdings. We also needed to offer venues that were fun for and accepting of non-English speaking players, established French and Spanish CCS communities, as well as new English-speaking ones.
DG: Are there future enhancements or changes that we can expect?
SS: Oh, yes. CCS has always updated and upgraded itself on around a 180-day timeframe. About every 6 months, I do some major system upgrades or additions to cater to the needs of our player base. We have several new features coming with the release candidate in development. We've got a lot of new user-centric features we've developed that have been requested by our player base. We've got an entirely new design approach to our third-party API, which is going to simplify designing weapons and items for CCS for developers. give the system far more top-level control of what is in use, allowing us to pinpoint weapons down to the version number that are currently active in CCS sims that may be performing in an unbalanced manner. allow us to throttle or adjust those weapons on the fly for balance in the system if the third-party developer is unavailable to make the changes themselves.
Also, CCS has largely become a developmental standard in Second Life. What we've done has been so effective that its largely been emulated by a good-sized handful of other developers in Second Life in their own way. So, while everyone is doing their own development, the homogeny of ideas and implementation is rather obvious. The standards Jora, Melanie and I set and the systems we designed to harness what SL had available and make it do what we wanted it to do have largely been put into practice in a handful of other gaming systems. Due to to this, everything sort of looks the same, four years later. I have a project currently under super secret development called CCS2, which is a whole new set of dynamics and parameters which change the entire way CCS will be approaching game play in Second Life. I believe will be far more immersive and fun for the users once I get it released than even CCS itself is, right now.
Effectively, I'm always working on new ideas. CCS never sits back on a working version and forgets about its user base. We're constantly in development mode, and we're constantly expanding what we have and, in the background of that, developing and readying ourselves for what comes next.
To find out more information about Archaic Redemption in Second Life, visit the official site. Archaic Redemption is only one of several factions in the City of Lost Angels. To see a list of all CoLA factions and to learn more about CCS, please visit the official CoLA site. For production updates on the film, visit the official Facebook fan page.
Images courtesy of Anthony Brownrigg, Tempest Ella and Suzanna Soyinka.