Wednesday, March 25, 2015

FFL 2015 - the epic conclusion

So last night we did the last four sims of  Fashion For Life 2015, starting out in FFL Berlin.  This centres on a not entirely authentic reconstruction of the Brandenburg Gate...

Engrish also spoken here
... surrounded by, well, enough Bauhaus style modernist architecture to make your monitor bleed.  We are talking straight edges here, people.

Several big stores in the glass and concrete boxes, booths for smaller ones under those big ramps.  I picked up some interesting-looking clothes at Ghee.  However, the Spartan design of the sim rather accentuates the fact that, well, the organizers didn't fill all of the available spaces.
Onwards and upwards - very upwards - to FFL Los Angeles.  Here, we find that the spirit of the city is epitomized - there's that word again - by, well, a giant skyscraper shopping mall with a rocket engine at the bottom, hovering over a beach.
The transparent column thing near me is a teleporter - it's the only way (well, apart from flying or point-to-point TP) to get to the flying tower, or to go from one level to another on the tower, unless there's an emergency stairwell or something that I didn't find.  It struck me as a bit of niggly restrictive design, that.  Especially as the teleport system is very trad-SL - I think the scripting is older than I am.

Anyway, once you get up, there are shops, and decorative palm trees.  That's kind of about it.  And then you get to the top...
I don't know what's going on here.  That central tower is just empty... there are a couple of decks inside, connected by spiral staircases, and there is a massive and impressive futuristic chandelier.  And apart from that, there is nothing.  My best guess is that it's a function space, which wasn't in use for a function while I was there.  I hope I'm right.  The alternative would be that someone bought the centrepiece space on the sim and then just didn't bother to fill it.  I don't know who or what "Zaoldyeck Kselva Magazine" is, but on past showing - as I pointed out to Tali - they could have been trying to spell "Los Angeles".
Anyway.  I TP'ed down to the southern exit, planning to make my way on foot into the next sim, FFL London, only to find my way blocked by a barricade of abandoned red telephone kiosks.
Only in SL... A few seconds and a point-to-point TP later, I had joined the other, cleverer catlady you can see in the middle distance, and was investigating what seems, to me, to be the stand-out build of this year's FFL.
What we have, surrounded by floating phone boxes, is London's Tower Bridge, basically.  The "main store" is the roadway of the bridge, and it is lined with a plethora of gacha machines.  I will confess to a faint irritation with the now-ubiquitous gacha thing.  I am old and tired and would prefer just to buy what I want, instead of playing a lot of silly games in the hope of getting it, or getting something I can swap for it.  Perhaps I'm in a minority.  I don't know.  I do know that there is nothing much in SL that I actually need, any more, so when I am attracted by something on a gacha's display, the irritation factor usually outweighs the attraction factor to the point where I don't spend any money.
But I digress, because you can, and probably should, avoid the ranked gacha machines, and instead follow some little floating arrows that lead up one tower and across the walkways at the top and down the other tower.  With occasional outbreaks of RFL and other vendors along the way.  And lots of Victorian ironwork on display.

To my way of thinking, we should have had more of this sort of thing.  This is an impressive flight of fancy using a very recognizable London landmark.  Excellent attention to detail, judicious use of invisible guiding prims so visitors don't fall off at inopportune moments.  (The sort of technique I've used on my own *ahem* landmark in Caledon Burroughs.)  I do not approve of the gachas, but I most definitely approve of this sim.
Though there was room, still, in those towers for more RFL vendors than were actually there... and this issue becomes even more apparent in the final sim, FFL New York, where there is an entire derelict street of empty brownstones...  and one more store where there is a sign over the door, but no trace of actual occupancy.
This sim's basically downtown New York.  There are skyscrapers.
At street level, there are shops.  There could be more shops, but the ones that are there are OK.

There are more of those trees with the twinkly lightbulbs in.  I like those.
There are other nice touches of sim decoration - there is a bridge in the distance, for instance, and there are eating places like that diner, too.
Just down the street from that diner is a sweet little stand-alone building that's a cake shop.  It's the sort of out-of-the-way, charming little spot you could imagine existing in the real New York.  Given the brief to summarize the experience of the real-world cities involved, the designers here have always at least made a creditable stab at it, and some of the building work here is truly excellent.
Having said which - it's depressingly empty.  I don't mean just the vacant storefronts, too.  Apart from that first night, when CentralPark North was frozen for me at about 2 fps, it's been very easy to get around, because there have been entirely too few visitors.  Possibly, the emphasis this year is on events, at the venues in the CentralPark sims.  But, frankly, the sims and the shops could use some loving, too.  There is some nice stuff to be had, here - I may have to post some piccies to prove it - and it's an excuse for me (and, dear readers, you) to buy nice clothes in a good cause.  (Gentlemen are not excused, there are several menswear shops around the sims too.)
This is worth a look, and RFL is a cause worth supporting.  FFL goes away on the 29th of March, and I'd urge anyone to stop by and check it out before it does.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

FFL 2015

Last year, picking up on a post from Lindal Kidd's blog - still there on the right-hand side of this page, still full of good information - I visited the various sims of the Fashion For Life event.  The same event's on this year, running from March 21st through 29th, so I hied myself off to have a look around it.

Last year's event had a sort of travel theme, and the sims were all named things like Journey and Wander, and some of the builds were quite imaginative.  This year, the theme seems to be RL cities, and the builds - while very high quality, no doubt about that - seem to be rather more solidly anchored in reality. "Prosaic" can be a pejorative term, and so I hesitate about using it... it might, however, also be appropriate.

Anyway.  The touchdown point appeared to be in FFL CentralPark North, so off I went to that sim.  TPed in, materialized in mid air, and fell to the ground, just missing a rather alarming set of spiked railings.
The Glorf Who Fell To Earth

CentralPark North appears to be a reasonable simulacrum of, well, New York's Central Park (not wholly accurate, since I was wandering around it alone at night, and didn't get mugged once.)  It seems to be an events place, not a shopping sim.  It's all kind of nice, though, I'll give it that.  There seemed to be some meeting of RFL/FFL types while I was there, so there were lots of people and it is very detailed... so there was a lot of lag.  It was worth it for the scenery though.

One feature of the sim is this horse-drawn carriage ride - you sit on the carriage and it rezzes a mobile duplicate that takes you round the sim.  Slightly nerve-racking, with the lag I was experiencing, but in normal circumstances it'd be quite charming.  It also enabled me to spot some little coloured mesh ribbons along the path.  These contained freebies.  We know how I feel about hunting out freebies, right?  Right.

The sim also has a stage for events - specifically, it appears, the "Miss SL" competition.  This is obviously an outmoded tool of the patriarchy for the objectification of women, and also I wasn't nominated, so I disapprove of it.  Like that matters.

There's a much larger stage for what looks like the same event in the southern, adjacent, sim, called (with remorseless logic) FFL CentralPark South.  Seems to be basically more of the same.  Unfortunately, I picked the wrong time to arrive, and things had only just rezzed enough for me to take a single snapshot, when I was warned that I'd be getting the bum's rush as a private event was about to start.  Never mind.
So I picked up my little paws and toddled off to the first sim where I could do the important stuff: shopping!

This was FFL Tokyo, and the presence of some familiar names (Bare Rose, G-Field, Tukinowaguma among others) made me mention this to Tali, who joined me in scoping the place out.

FFL Tokyo is clearly trying to capture the spirit of the city, with some very, very traditional Japanese builds adjacent to thrusting 21st-century urban towers.  It's nice, in a schizophrenic sort of way.  I think I should point out that the builds themselves have been of uniformly excellent quality so far.

Arriving at the information point

Engrish spoken here

Modern and urban 

Less modern and urban 

Glorf can haz cheezburger
That little street-market thing there is a nice touch - it's off to the side of the temple, and those little booths dispense various kinds of Japanese snack food.  I have no idea what's in them - perhaps, being brought up on English cooking, I don't want to know.  But it's a very neat little area and adds to the overall realism of the build.
Anyway.  Pausing only to wipe my greasy paws, I followed Tali to the next sim, FFL Milan.
This one is dominated by the massive piece of Italianate architecture we see here.  Again, I think it's trying to sum up, or epitomize, the main aspects of the city.  I'm not sure I'm licensed to use words like "epitomize", but I won't let that stop me.
There's shops in that there building

Also a nice little bistro down one end
Oddly, even by this time, very little actual shopping had taken place (although Tali had been scarfing up demos, of which more anon).  Despite the presence of several familiar names and quality brands, nothing had leapt out at us screaming "buy me! buy me!"  I'm not saying my Linden balance had escaped totally unscathed, but it was by no means as scathed as it might have been.
(One practical reason might be that - at these events - I tend to head first for the RFL vendors.  This is, after all, the main point of the event.  The problem is that lots of the stuff in the RFL vendors tends to be variants on a theme of purple... and that's not really my colour.  As a human, I preferred cool pastels, or neutral tones; as a feline, I go for warmer browns and sandy colours.  Purple's just never been on my preferred colour palette.  So it goes.)
Anyway.  From Milan to Paris, where dawn had by now broken over the Arc de Triomphe.

Beautifully realized and detailed Parisian street scene - points, too, for avoiding the visual cliché of the Eiffel Tower.  Can I be all SL-nerdy and point out the specular maps on the cobblestones and the lacquered wooden doors?  Tali was impressed enough to comment on those doors, and it takes rather a lot to impress Tali.
Anyway.  At this point we decamped to sort through such loot as we'd accumulated - and, unfortunately, Tali had a rather unpleasant experience, which wasn't FFL's fault, but....
I mentioned that, while I'd been snapshotting and browsing, Tali had been hoovering up demos of various mesh clothing items.  Now, demos of mesh are kind of essential as a sales technique.  If you have a shape which lies outside the parameters of "Standard Sizing" - if you have a realistic female physique, or an athletic build, or depart in any other way from committee-approved standards of SL womanhood - you need to check mesh clothes in detail for clipping problems before you wear them, and no one wants to spend money on clothes they can't actually wear.  (Fitted mesh, though generally better, isn't a panacea for this problem, either.)  So, people like Tali - and me - collect demos of anything that looks nice, and sift through them later, winnowing out the stuff that looks nice but doesn't fit.
We found one store with stuff that looked nice, but there were no demos on display.  OK, fair enough, space at the FFL event is limited after all.  So Tali hopped off to their main store, to peruse the demos there.  The demos were dollarbies, rather than freebies, which is kind of not ideal, but still not an actual deal-breaker.  So she collected some of them, and we both chatted over Marketplace links to the clothes....
... and then the store's owner turned up, to deliver unto Tali an Awful Warning about the dire legal consequences of copybotting.
As a piece of customer relations, this, well, sucks.  Yes, copybotters exist, yes, infringements happen.  But treating customers who are legitimately interested in your wares as potential criminals... well, it is not on.
I am purposely not naming the store, or which sim it was in.  But, well... it's one that I won't be buying anything from.  There is plenty of nice stuff in SL made by people who don't treat customers that way.
Some of it may well be on the remaining FFL sims, which I will get to in my next.  You have been warned.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Steam Hunt X: The Final Stretch

This could be a longish one, I fear, but bear with me.  Although there are only fourteen stops left to do, some of them have more than one entry - one in particular has a substantial mini-hunt.

We start with this Steampunk Hat from Panda Panda (number 86) and a more quintessentially Steam Hunt item it would be hard to imagine.  (The two globular things are particle bursts caught in the act of poofing from the pipes.  For some reason, I look exceptionally leonine in that shot.  Must be the hat.)

Stop 87, COVETED!, and this Cog Bed, with a full suite of animations installed, which will not be demonstrated here because this is Not That Sort Of Blog.  I'll just say I have no complaints on that, or any other, score.

Mesh sari from number 88, The White Armory.  This is actually rather nifty.  White Armory seems to have embraced mesh clothing and started doing it rather nicely.  There is a suit for the gentlemen, but I don't have a picture.  Sari about that, guys.  (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

It looks like a bag, but it is in fact a texture pack, of Art Nouveau cloth designs from number 89, Black Magnolia Imports.

Speaking of Art Nouveau, here's a mesh three-part screen in that style from number 90, SR Leatherwerkx.  This shops's been doing advanced sculpting work for yonks, now, and it's good to see them moving into modern techniques.  The screen has been carefully placed so you can't see what's happening on the Cog Bed.

Stop 91 was Drow Science, and this is one of a set of little airship mesh models - this one is static, the others rotate in various different radii.  Drow Science provided a similar gift in a previous Hunt - same format, different airship.  Perhaps there is a set to be collected here, and I would not be averse to that at all.

Stop 92, Berthold Steampunk Works, gives us this splendid Victorian Living Room in a rezzer... it is economical on the old Land Impact, the furniture is variously scripted and animated - in short, this is a very nice thing indeed.  If they do other Victorian Rooms as well, you could do a lot worse than to investigate them.

Total of four gifts from number 93, HOT Couture.  Here, I am relaxing on the Living Room sofa with a congenial catlady, and I am wearing the Cog Lorgnette pendant and have that little butterfly thing (a Lava Jump Sprite, if I'm remembering right, which I might not be) perched on my shoulder.

They also provide two larger furniture items, this mesh Steamy Rug and that park bench.  The bench has a range of sitting animations, and I should really have tried them out, but I was very comfortable where I was.

Same applies to this sumptuous creation here, the Steam Dream Cog Chair from ~XM~ Designs (number 94).  This is seriously cogged up.
Now, we move on to the mini-hunt at number 95, the NeoVictoria roleplay sim, which I've always had a soft spot for, ever since I snickered at their mis-spelling of "mores" and they very classily thanked me for pointing it out and corrected it, instead of hitting me with a blunt instrument as I deserved.

Starting off with this scripted Souvenir Calendar, showing January here.

Then we have this notably be-cogged Dreaming of Steam Orb.  If you look closely, you may spot a familiar leonine silhouette sitting cross-legged in mid-air inside it.

A similar sort of thing, though for a different purpose - this is a Prison Sphere (Sidhe Trap).  There is an accompanying notecard detailing the background of this thing in the NeoVictoria setting.  There is simply scads of information about NeoVictoria's RP setting, it is very detailed and immersive indeed.

Change of pace with this Steamy Dreamboat vehicle.  There is space for tinies to sit on that chest thing on the roof.  As you can see, it is entirely suitable for pottering about the waters of Caledon.

Another Prison Sphere, this time a Nyx Trap.

Another Steamy Dreamboat, this time the Pirate version.  There is a subtle clue as to its piratical nature.  Here's a hint, it's on the flagpole.

A two-person Steampunk Covered Seat with an overhead light.

Last of the Prison Spheres.  This one's a Loam Trap.

Finally, we have a wine glass, which you may or may not be able to make out in my right hand, and an accompanying Toast HUD, which you definitely can't see.  Press an appropriate button on the HUD, and it plays a toast-related animation.  That's drinking toasts, of course, nothing to do with toast that you spread butter and marmalade on.

Moving on to number 96, Enchanted, and this Cog and Clock Steam Table.  Very coggy and kind of neat.

I squee'd over this a lot, and I'll tell you why.  When I was a young Glorf and dinosaurs ruled the Earth, I was greatly enamoured of the "Professor Branestawm" stories of Norman Hunter, often illustrated by the great Heath Robinson himself.  So, it appears, was Myrddin Janus of stop 97, Myrddin's Emporium, and he has presented us with a lot of contraption-related sculpt maps, and this thing, which was made with them.  It is - to the very life - Professor Branestawm's Pancake Making machine, as illustrated by Robinson, and seen here in the act of flipping a pancake.  It is perfect - well, as a realization of the machine.  Professor Branestawm's inventions were never quite perfect.  This one is why his home town is famous for its round paving stones.
Interesting aside: American readers may not be familiar with Heath Robinson, as they have their own, equivalent, contraption designer, Rube Goldberg.  I discovered, in conversation with Tali, that the Danes also have their own contraption designer, Robert Storm Petersen, better known as Storm P.  Clearly, the need for elaborate contraptions is one which transcends all barriers of nationality.  Anyway.  This one made me clap my little paws in glee, and the sculpt maps are handy to have.  Sculpts, being a sort of compromise between prims and proper mesh, are kind of a Heath Robinson improvisation themselves.

OK, yes, on with the Hunt.  Three items from stop 98, Urid Dal's Hat Shop, and none of them a hat, which surprised me - points to the merchant for avoiding the obvious, there!

There is a unisex Grey Umbrella, which can be furled or open, and has associated animations.

For the gentlemen, there is this mesh Icosahedron Cane.

And for the ladies, there is this Pink Fan, which opens and closes, and with which you can fan yourself. 
And very nice all three of them are, too.
Finally, I arrived at the Hyborian Steam Platform high above Mieville, and promptly grabbed the box of little extras at the end of the Hunt.  Just two items, but oh boy are they worth the trip.

I'm sitting on one of them, the Cog Table from Casa de Bebe.  It's a nice decorative mesh table, and would probably look nicer without a tall blonde lioness sitting on it.  But next to it is that Cog and Clock Bookcase from Park Place Home Décor.  Tali and I both took one look at it, and thought yes, that fits right in with my tower in Burroughs.

So here it is, permanently installed on the north wall of the library deck, and looking absolutely splendid in my opinion.
And that, barring a couple of bits of backtracking later, is it.  Thanks as ever to the Hunt's organizer and motivating spirit, the inestimably worthy Perryn Peterson; to his merry band of helpers; to the merchants who've given so generously of their industry and ingenuity; and to the community of hunters as a whole, who make it all such fun.  I will now rest my paws and prepare for the next one.