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Second Life Spotlight - The Wastelands


Linden Lab

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This week we are shining a spotlight on The Wastelands, a post-apocalyptic community celebrating 15 years in Second Life this weekend. Learn more from the founder and curator, NeoBokrug Elytis.

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How long have you been in Second Life and how did you first hear about it?
A little over 16 years ago I saw an article about Second Life on the Make Magazine blog. And then a few more articles about Second Life later... I decided to sign up on Halloween of 2005. I was instantly hooked on building with prims and visiting the virtual spaces all over SL.

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How long did it take to build The Wastelands, and what goes into maintaining it?
The first region (The Wastelands) took a few months of planning, but only a couple of days to build its infrastructure. I distinctly remember working with my dev team and not sleeping until it was done. After that, the first Residents had their initial builds done within the month. All of this was before mesh or even sculpts existed, so when folks built things, you could see prims take form in real time -- and it was amazing!

Because we're a themed community, most of the land in The Wastelands is owned by its Residents, so all due credit for maintaining those spaces goes to the folks who live here! They are always building and changing their builds. There are some Residents who have had the same parcel of land since the day we opened, and there are others who move to a different chunk of land every month to build a brand new thing. Despite the ever-shifting sands of the estate, the general aesthetic always stays the same.

These days most of the maintenance comes in the form of greeting and helping new Residents, planning and hosting events, and working on the game we have here. The community of The Wastelands is always helpful to visitors and each other, so in its own way it's very self-maintaining.

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Part of the fun of exploring such a vast region is noticing the different design styles throughout, such as industrial, desert, and psychedelic. What are some things that inspired these stylistic choices?
The majority of The Wastelands is owned by its community members, and so much of the stylistic choices of what is built is left up to them. The whole estate has an overarching theme of post-apocalyptic ruins, which is inspired from all flavors of post-apocalyptic tropes. Certain regions also have sub-themes. For instance, The Junkyard region is more of an industrial ruin, while The Great Fissure {features} more tribalistic ruins made of recycled debris. New Residents tend to plant their roots in regions that are visually interesting to them, so regions tend to stay cohesive all on their own.

We also have a "Public Works" department, where Residents make thematic assets for the community. We've got a respectably big heap of free stuff now, and I think that helps glue the different aesthetic builds together.

As long as our estate management can see that you're making a good faith attempt at building within the theme, we're typically fine with what you make. If not, we'll make some suggestions and offer help; more commonly, your neighbors will likely offer to help you before we do. My account may be 16 years old, but I constantly remind myself that we were all new users at some point, and that we only get better at building as long as we have some place to practice those skills.

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How would you explain getting started in roleplaying to someone with little to no experience?
What a complex question to try to answer! I'll do my best to keep it simple and generalized.

Over the years I've found that roleplaying in Second Life is done in many styles and methods. It all really depends on what the destination offers, how the other characters interact with the setting and each other, and what you want to get out of it. I guess the most important thing to know is that everywhere does things differently. But I'll try to explain some common ground...

The first thing to do when you arrive at a destination is read up what they're offering when you land there. It's essential to remember that they've built their roleplay setting with certain ideas in mind, and you should think of their setting as a book of rules to follow. At the same time, don't try to shoehorn in your own ideas that don't really fit within the setting. If the destination you're visiting allows you to lurk as an out of character spectator to their roleplay, I would highly suggest starting off with that for a session or two.

One universal rule that most places adopt is designating how local chat should be interpreted. Most chat in a roleplay setting is by default considered to be ‘in character’ {so} a way that folks show that chat is out of character is by encapsulating the line in single or double parentheses, e.g. ((such as this)), or (like this). There's a shortcut in the Firestorm viewer: if you press ALT-ENTER when typing out a line, it'll automatically add double parentheses. This is useful to ask participants questions out of character, because if you're ever unsure about literally anything, it's ALWAYS best to ask questions.

Another universal thing is that there are generally two primary types of accepted styles of chat-based roleplay. One is Paragraph or Para-RP, and the other one could be described as script style roleplay. There have been huge debates about these two styles, so I am going to very broadly explain them. I am not going to cover if {the written text chat} is first, second, or third person perspective, because everybody does everything differently.

Paragraph roleplay is where the participants usually take turns in order by typing about a paragraph's worth of text for players to read and react to. Because players are taking turns writing a long paragraph, it may be quite some time before it's your turn to react and respond. It's typically best for smaller groups of roleplayers, as the wait time in larger groups can be rather long. But it gives the players time to think about what they'll say or do.

Script style roleplay is where a player writes just a sentence or two, and anyone at any time can react and respond. Because the flow of roleplay is faster, it takes more attention to react to what's happening at the moment. It's better suited for any size group of players, but could be a bit chaotic with lots of players. The primary downside is you might feel pressured to keep up with things, but I've seen it used at a slower pace just fine.

I think consent among roleplayers is critically important, because you can't have people join and say "Bang! You're dead. I win!" No one really enjoys players who command what happens to others unless the setting allows it. There are instances where players plan among each other before roleplaying what might happen between each other to push a story forward. But if you want to try to do something that may affect another character, you may want to {convey} that you're taking an action and let the other player choose how it plays out. Perhaps you're drawing a gun, and maybe they react by hiding behind a dumpster, and then you position yourself to corner them, but then maybe they try to disarm you, and you let them. That's how things should play out in my opinion, by giving folks opportunities. Perhaps even discuss what should happen ((out of character)).

I think the above info is good for a general understanding of how roleplay works in Second Life, but it is certainly not the be-all, end-all of what roleplay is and can be. At best, it's the tip of a very deep iceberg. I didn't cover a lot of things such as dice-based resolutions, or HUD-based combat, or anything like that. The beauty of Second Life is that we can build settings and tools to augment how roleplay can be enhanced inworld beyond just text.

Roleplay in The Wastelands isn't mandatory, it's opt-in and completely at your own pace. Feel free to visit and lurk because we honestly don't mind spectators.

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The Wastelands will be celebrating their 15th year in SL very soon, can you tell us about some of the events you have planned and how people can participate?
We've got three days of partying planned, starting on Friday, January 14th at 5pm SLT. We're going to have live music, DJ sets, combat & sports, roleplay sessions, giveaways, storytelling, and more! It's free to attend and open to the public, and there is no dress code other than wearing some dang pants, so feel free to stop by and enjoy!
On Friday and Saturday most of our events take place at our Arena stage: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Wastelands/38/146/75 
On Sunday the rest of our events take place at our Junkyard stage: https://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Junkyard/122/162/72 
Our full schedule of events and locations is here: https://bit.ly/3JGH4RU 

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Tell us about some of the other Residents in SL that inspire you and whose work you admire.
Haha, that's such an unfair question! I've been on the grid too long, and I've seen too much to pick a handful out of literally hundreds of creators I admire. Besides, I could easily play favorites among longtime personal friends, Wastelanders, and folks I've worked with professionally. So instead -- and I hope that this is an acceptable answer -- I will list some qualities of various creators that I admire. Because it's very hard to not be inspired by content you see in Second Life.

First and foremost, anyone who makes ruined, broken, or wrecked content from scratch in Second Life is doing amazingly hard work. It's far easier to make something that looks fresh from the factory and has a new coat of paint; it is extremely difficult to make it look weathered, ruined, dented, or broken. Great post-apocalyptic content is few and far between on the marketplace and inworld events. So I do what I can to spread the word and buy it all up when I see it.

Anyone who creates mesh and does proper LODs (Level of Detail) earns the highest of marks in my book. I don't personally create mesh, but I am very technically knowledgeable about the whole process and the time involved in creating mesh LODs *properly* for Second Life. It's a lot of hard work, and it might cost more LI (land impact) for customers to rez -- but in the end mesh that looks great at any distance is something I can really appreciate.

Creators who make great use of textures and materials deserve far more praise than we give them. I specifically appreciate those who avoid using a lot of high resolution textures. They're making the viewer run better for everyone, and I think it's one of the least understood and most underappreciated skills among content creators.

I love all the 3D art installations in Second Life, too!

I could literally go on and on forever about how, what, and why certain Residents inspire me, but the truth is, anyone who creates in Second Life inspires me. I am always eager to see what people are making, or participate in what people are doing. From creators to performers, to bloggers, to communities, I think it's all super amazing because there's always something new to see.

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Where can people follow you to learn more about your work? Please share links to your sites and social media accounts.
Our blog posts important updates around the community and unique roleplay articles: https://press.the-wastelands.org 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Wastelands_inSL 
We post our weekly event schedule on Plurk: https://www.plurk.com/TheWastelands 
Are you visiting and taking pictures in The Wastelands? Please post them to our flickr group: https://www.flickr.com/groups/thewastelands/pool 
Finally, we have a pretty active Discord server where folks can stay connected and share pictures of cats, food, and post-apocalyptic memes when not in SL: https://discord.gg/cdkhzb4QCh 

Watch this fun video about The Wastelands:
Video Production by NeoBokrug Elytis
Music written and performed by Irk the Mutant (shannonwilsonbell)

We hope you enjoyed learning more about The Wastelands. See you at their 15th year celebrations this weekend! 

Each of these weekly Spotlight posts will feature a different Resident to showcase the spectrum of experiences and personalities found in our virtual world. If you have created something inworld that you’re proud of, or have had a deeply meaningful experience that could brighten someone else’s day, please sign up! More info here: https://second.life/spotlight-signup 

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