Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fantasy Faire 2013: The Adventure Concludes

This covers the remaining three sims of Fantasy Faire, and by this time I was hammering the snapshot button rather a lot, so bear with me.  On the plus side, the further I got away from that troublesome top-right corner, the better my performance.  (My viewer's performance, that is.  I continue to perform superbly, and will happily scratch the eyes out of anyone who disagrees.)

Lumenaria (sponsored by Solarium) is in a comfortable quasi-Mediaeval idiom, and contains some old favourites among its stores.

From that sort of central courtyard, old-fashioned streets wind out across the sim.

It's not spectacular.  What it is, though, is solidly well-crafted and consistent in style.  In its unspectacular way, it is a really nice build.

Moving West, we come, oddly, to the Mystic East: Lotus Valley Dream is a build in a Chinese idiom, and I have to admit, I was smitten with it.

It starts out with those elegant houses on the margins of the sea, rising towards the central castle.

I took a snap of the interior of one store - Hoof It - with their hippocampus avatars on display.  They are stylish!  I liked them.  Not enough to buy one - I don't know how often I'd want to be a seahorse - but I liked them.

It's maybe not as daringly imaginative as Titan's Hollow, but I think the attention to detail - the buildings, the touches like the Zen garden or the ponds, that marvellous dragon and lotus in the bay - makes this one my favourite of all the Faire sims this year.  (Sponsored by The Looking Glass.  Did I mention that?  I should have.)  The lighting effects make it, too, that wonderful twilight sky.  Crepuscular.  I don't get to use the word "crepuscular" nearly enough.

And so, on to the final sim, Ravenshard.... where we are greeted by chocolate waterfalls, candy-cane trees, a screaming psychedelic sky - in short, the, ahhh, distinctive visual stylings of Mayah Parx and the Epic Toy Factory.

After two peaceful and rather demurely decorative sims, Ravenshard hits you with a blast of in-yer-face outrageousness.  Still pictures don't do it justice, really.

You can't see the chocolate rippling, or the colour-changing clouds scudding across the sky while the hands on that clock spin rapidly backwards.... Anyway, there it is.  Ravenshard.  And you sure as heck can't help but notice it.

So, as I conclude my tour around the great circle of the Fantasy Faire, I ask myself: have I learned any lessons, discovered new and vital truths?  And I answer: no.  But I had a pretty good time, anyway.

I have commented about how comparatively tame it seemed, in some places - the comparison being with last year's do.  Now, this might not be entirely fair.  Even the builds I've been a bit sniffy about are still streets ahead of the average look of SL - in terms of gosh-wow factor, there is plenty of gosh and no shortage of wow about.   Perhaps I'm just being spoiled.  Perhaps, having seen the sorts of things these designers can do, I expect even more gosh-wow than I'm strictly entitled to.  The fact remains that Fantasy Faire is showcasing some genuine talent and innovation in SL, and this sort of creativity is what, for me, SL is about.  So go take a look, and don't be put off by my carping... or by my misadventures with the viewer, which are surely peculiar to me alone.

I did, along the way, pick up a number of items from various RFL vendors, at least one in every sim, usually rather more... so there may be a future post on what the loot was like.  Consider yourselves warned.

Fantasy Faire 2013: The Wrath of Glorf

When last we saw our glamourous blonde heroine, she was advancing perilously into the top right hand corner of the Fantasy Faire, menaced on all sides by strange black flashes and ominous drops in framerate.  What dangers await her in the caverns of The Dragonspire?

Well, OK, if you don't have my idiosyncratic computer setup, it's probably not all that perilous.  What it is, though, is gem-studded tunnels carved out of the living rock of a gigantic mountain.  Which means, I suppose, that you are actually inside a lot of large objects, and there are a whole bundle of complicated textures around.  Hence, much taxing of my client.  This whole business of the client will probably get spun off into another post, in which I will rant and rave to my little heart's content.  For now, let's get on with Fantasy Faire.

After the misadventures at the edge of Titan's Hollow, I relogged, and used the portals at Fairelands Junction to go directly to the Dragonspire's hub, next to the sponsor's store (magic and HUD specialists The Arcanum).

Much hittage of the snapshot button here, too, because the build is pretty gorgeous.  If it is killing my client, well, at least it died in a good cause.

Hello!  What's this?  A tunnel mouth leading downwards?... Irresistibly tempting to dumb blondes in bad B-movies.  I am not the dumb blonde to defy tradition, and so I set off to explore.  Which is all very well, but - remember those lag problems?  Pretty soon, I was freezing solid at random intervals and quickly lost all sense of direction.  At one point, I messaged Tali that I was "in a maze of twisty passages, all alike".  (NB. if you actually get that reference, you are very old.)

There is, as I mentioned, a Faire-wide hunt going on, and I think some of the sub-surface tunnels relate to that - eventually, I found myself before an impressive door to a "grotto", which has got to have some uses I'm not aware of.

Eventually, I found my way out, and into the next sim, to the south: the Valley of Ish'Nar.

Now, this one is something to do with the Faire's hunt, and isn't a shopping sim at all.  It's very atmospheric, though, and if my equipment was cooperating, I would investigate and uncover its mysteries.  I would even go so far as to encourage those with cooperative equipment to go and do that themselves!

South of the Valley of Ish'Nar, we come back to shopping, in the quasi-mediaeval setting of Lumenaria.  Or, at least, you might.  I found myself lag-walking helplessly through the sim before vanishing off the Grid with a sickening snapping sound.  So, the rest of my Fantasy Faire adventures will have to wait for the next post, I think.

Fantasy Faire 2013: The Adventure Continues

Moving east from Crimson Fields, we come to that enormous tree-y thing you might have noticed in the snapshot of the tower.  This is Evensong Woods, where everything is built into, well, an enormous tree-y thing.  Like Tolkien's Elves in Lothlorien.  Sort of thing.  The sim sponsors are Roawenwood, a familiar name if you move in the circles I do.

If you walk in from Crimson Fields, you ascend via stairways from platform to platform, passing by those Gothic-Elvish shops (or, ideally, stopping in and buying something, but more of that anon.)

If you teleport in, the arrival point is up in the crown of the tree.  Not that it's easy to tell, with all the wintry foliage about.  (The one I felt sorry for was the shop selling skimpy silken outfits.  I think I saw them in the desert-themed sim last year... the wintry look of Evensong Woods does not encourage me to buy skimpy silk things.)
Anyway.  If you're walking, you go up, you get to the top, you climb down again... and then you get to go to the next sim, Titan's Hollow, and you find yourself climbing up again.

Titan's Hollow, sponsored by Cerridwen's Cauldron (who did the standout Nu Orme build last year, and whose products grace some corners of Caledon Burroughs as a consequence), is undoubtedly the most imaginative setting in this year's Faire.  The shops are all in giant hanging... lanterns, I guess... strung out among the trees, with a glass walkway linking them all together....  It is imaginative, and by night especially, it is truly beautiful.  One of those things that makes SL a Good Place To Be.
Here it is seen from the Evensong Woods side of the entrance.

I started hitting the snapshot button rather a lot at this sim... I've always had a bit of a thing for coloured lights at night, and this is, well, really something special.  I like it a lot.  I mean, OK, I went into some of the shops and bought stuff, but I could have wandered for a long time, just drinking in the view.

You can see what I mean, can't you?

Unfortunately, while I was drinking in the view, something in my computer - my client, my connection, my graphics driver - was not so much drinking as choking and spluttering.  It was as I advanced towards The Dragonspire, the next sim over, that I started having real problems with frame rates crashing and ominous moments of complete blackout.  More of this in our next.  (Will our glamourous blonde heroine survive?  Tune in next episode!  Same bat-time, same bat-channel! )

(Ahem.  I will stop doing that, at least.)

Fantasy Faire 2013

... post one of several.

I have been fighting my way across Fantasy Faire, which some of the readership-at-very-small will remember from last year.  This RFL-based fantasy-themed shopping event runs until the 28th of this month, so there's still a few days left.  There is also a hunt, of some kind, going on there, but I'm not participating in that, for reasons which may or may not become apparent.

I say "fighting" my way across, because I am using the current version of the LL viewer, and having many and frustrating difficulties with it.  There may be more on this topic: consider yourselves warned.  And, of course, a bunch of sims with lots of visitors and lots of vendors and a bunch of stores where SL's content creators have gone hog-wild trying to make impressive stuff... well, this all taxes the viewer, rather a lot.

On the plus side, last year I went through Fantasy Faire on my clapped-out lappy, and this year I have a proper one, so that should be better.  So, let me (grudgingly) put complaints to one side, and talk about what's actually there.

If you go via the official link, you will start off in the Fairelands Junction, which offers portals to all the other sims.
Unlike the big building last year, this time we have a forest glade, with huge trees containing mystical portals to other realms.

Mystical, but not actually all that special - touch one, it brings up the world map for you to teleport from; there's no use of the "experience tools" here to TP you directly.  It's the first sign that this Faire, though visually impressive, isn't really at the cutting edge of SL.  Never mind.  The setting is idyllic.  Bucolic, even.
That's me being idyllic and bucolic, that is.  Also, resetting my jangled nerves after an incredibly botched sim crossing... ahem.  I said I'd stop complaining, didn't I?  But I'm afraid it's going to creep in.  The complaining thing, I mean.

Anyway.  The Faire sims are laid out in a hollow rectangle, with the Junction in the bottom left corner.  I'm going to go around them clockwise, because that's how I visited them.  So, heading north, we come to Magnificat.

This is sponsored by Fallen Gods, who did that rather elegant build with the classical temples sticking out of the water, last year.  This is still classical, still elegant - and, in fact, uses mesh buildings, so it's rather more modern - but it somehow didn't grab me as much.  It is a sort of peaceful, Mediterranean kind of a sim, with an aura of decaying gentility about it.  It's nice.  I was pleased.  But I was, somehow, not impressed.

(Also, see those grey squares in the air?  In the first pic?  Particle effects whose texture obstinately refused to rez.  I had some terrible troubles with rezzing... ahem.  Complaining again.  Bad Glorf.)

The stand-out feature seems to be that sort of river mouth with an endless succession of sailboats gliding down it, out into the distance to commence an endless voyage.  Or to de-rez quietly.  One of the two.
So there we are.  Magnificat.  Moving north, we come to the next sim, Crimson Fields, sponsored by Trident... Again, they did a captivating build last year, and this year they have marvellous modern mesh buildings, so it should be something utterly special and wonderful... and somehow it isn't.
The main feature here is that big stone tower, which - well, you can see how far I had to pull out my draw distance to get the whole thing in.  I think the problem, here, is unimaginative layout.  There is that big tower in the field of red flowers, and the shops are all in a horseshoe around it, and... that's all there is to it.  The individual shop buildings are lovely; beautifully textured crumbling ruins in the sort of Viking idiom I've come to expect from Trident.  It's just the layout which is a bit blah.
There is something going on at one corner of the sim - there's a smaller tower with a sort of prison cell at the top.

Dunno what that's all about.  I remember last year they did that stunt where you had to pay to get various SL worthies bailed out of prison.  (I paid quite a bit to stop Perryn Peterson being boiled in chocolate.)  Maybe they're doing the same thing this year?

Anyway.  I shall break this up here, I think, and continue around the ring in my next.