New Residents Tutorial – How do I modify my avatar?

(Note: For this tutorial I am assuming you’re using the official viewer from the Second Life website, however the instructions are pretty much the same for some third party viewers too, such as Firestorm and Catznip.  If you are using Singularity, you will need to skip the paragraph about the Avatar Selector and go straight to the section about the Library).

If you started Second Life on or after 15 May 2014, you will have started with one of the new all-mesh avatars so you will need to read the first section first.  If you joined before this date you will have started with a Classic avatar, so skip right ahead to that section below.

Mesh Avatars

These avatars are not modifyable so if you want to change your appearance more than just switching from one whole avatar to another, you will need to start from scratch.

First of all, click the Avatar Selector button, which looks like this: avatar_but  Then pick the Classic tab, and choose one of the avatars from this list.  Don’t worry if they aren’t exactly what you want; you can modify them later.  Pick one of these avatars and your mesh avatar will be replaced my all the components of your chosen Classic avatar. Now skip ahead to the “Classic Avatar” section below.

If you really don’t want one of those, there are a few more hidden in your Library.  here’s how to find them:

Click your Inventory button: invent_but

In the inventory list, scroll right down to the bottom, where it says Library. Open this folder and then open the Clothing subfolder.  There are a bunch of old avatars here, but the ones to look at first are the ones in the “Older Outfits” folder – they’re not actually older at all.  They are divided into sections: Female and Male speak for themselves. Animals are kind of cartoony things, resembling cuddly toys more than real animals.  There are also Vehicles, Robots and Vampires (which also includes non-modifyable mesh wolves and werewolves).   If you want something humanoid, pick one of the Female or Male avatars.

Open up that subfolder, and you’ll see a list of components with names like Shape, Pants, Boots, Hair etc.  Select them all and then right-click the selection and choose “Wear” from the dropdown menu.

Your mesh avatar will now be totally replaced by the classic avatar of your choice.

Note the difference between using the Avatar Selector and the Library; if you use the Avatar Selector, every component of the new avatar will be neatly sorted into its own folder. Using the Library, the components will be scattered all over your inventory, making it harder to organise later.

Classic Avatars

Now you are wearing a Classic avatar, you can really go to town with modifications.

To change your shape:  Right click your avatar, select “Edit My Shape”.  Here you are presented with a number of sections for changing various aspects of your body and face shape.  You might want to start by making yourself shorter; all avatars start very tall and you are actually about 6″ taller than the official viewer says you are.  Changing things is easy, just slide the sliders until you get the look you’re after.   If you mess up, don’t worry, you can always revert to the original shape by choosing it again from the Library.

Changing Skin and Eyes: Although there are options in the viewer to change skin and eyes with sliders, these generally don’t have any effect because eyes and skin are made outside of Second Life, in a graphics program like Photoshop and they are uploaded in a non-modifyable form.  Additionally you cannot detach or take off the ones you are wearing unless you replace them with new ones.  For now, if you want to change them you can swap them with other skins or eyes from the other Classic avatars.  Again, to do this, open your Library, go to Clothing, open up a few folders and try on a few different ones.  Each one you try will be added to your main inventory under “Body parts”.

Note that most of the skins in the Library have underwear painted on and you cannot remove it. If you want to get naked you’ll have to acquire a new skin from elsewhere – see the section on Freebies and Shopping below.

Changing Hair:  There are three kinds of hair in Second Life.  System hair, which can be modified using the sliders, is old, ugly and almost no-one uses it.  But you still need to wear one because like skin, eyes and shape, you can’t NOT wear one. However they are generally set to be bald, and are often called “eyebrow-shapers” because this is also where you change your eyebrow shape.  You will be wearing an eyebrow-shaper from your Classic avatar; you only need to mess with this if you want to alter your brows.

Prim hair is what most of the hair on the Classic avatars is made of. This is an object attachment, indicated by an orange or brown box in your inventory listing, and it is made of many flexi or sculpted prims.  Most prim hair is modifyable so you can make it larger or smaller to fit your head, you can tint it to make it wild colours, you can even edit or remove separate sections of hair (but that is advanced work and will take a whole new tutorial all its own).

Finally, Mesh hair is new, it is still an object like prim hair, but it is made of one shaped piece.  Long mesh hair is usually rigged which means it moves with your body and doesn’t disappear through your shoulders like flexi-hair does, but this means you cannot change its size or shape (though you may still be able to tint it, if it is modifyable).  Short mesh hair is usually not rigged so you will be able to edit the size as well.

For now, you can just try on different prim hairs from the folders in your Library.

If you find yourself wearing two hairs at the same time, you can remove one of them by right-clicking it and selecting “detach” from the dropdown menu.  You can do this with any attachment, mesh or prim, to remove it.

Clothing: Like hair, clothing comes in three types, System (or Layers), Prim and Mesh.

System clothes are texture layers which overlay on top of your skin. They are usually used for close-fitting items like t-shirts and skinny jeans. They always fit and you never get bits of skin poking through, but the level of detail is sometimes poor.  However they are still widely used.

Prim clothes are attachable objects usually used for things like cuffs, collars and belts rather than whole garments. Thus, a shirt might consist of a system layer plus prim collar and sleeves.  A dress might comprise of a system layer bodice, an underpants layer and a flexible skirt. You need to wear all the parts to wear the garment.

Mesh clothes are objects too but they are a whole garment in one piece and unlike prims, they move properly with the movement of your avatar’s body.  However they can’t be re-sized so to ensure it fits properly with no skin poking through, you also need to wear the accompanying Alpha Layer that is supplied with it. This makes a part of your body invisible so it can’t be seen poking through.  Mesh is the best way to wear coats, baggy pants and other bulky or loose clothing.

You do not need to wear the starter mesh bodies to wear mesh clothes; they fit Classic avatars too, in fact they fit the Classic avatars better than they fit the mesh ones.  You can try some of them out from the starter mesh avatars; they are located in your Library, under Clothing, in the top subfolder called “Initial Outfits”.  If you want to try them make sure you wear the right Alpha layer with it: shirt alpha goes with the shirt, Pants alpha goes with the pants, etc. Don’t wear the alpha labelled “invisible”; this is for wearing with the whole mesh body.

Saving your Outfit: Once you have put together a look you like, you’ll want to save it, so you can always revert back to it at another time.

To do this, click the Outfits button which looks like this: outfit_but

At the bottom click “Save As” and give your new outfit a name. It will save in the list above, along with the avatar that you started with, which is already in the list.  In the future, any time you want to go back to that particular outfit, just right-click its name on the list and choose “Wear – Replace”.

Freebies and Shopping: Sooner or later you will decide that there’s just not enough in the Library for you.  There are a wide variety of items available to buy, many of them free.  To start with, go to one of the trusted Freebie places, for example:

White Tiger Island

Free Dove

Fab Free HQ

In these places you’ll find lots of items for your avatar.  You’ll probably want a new skin first, because of the painted-on underwear that you’re currently wearing.

When you buy something in Second Life, it is added to your inventory, either as a folder already unpacked, or as a box or bag in your Objects folder.  If it’s a box or bag you’ll need to unpack it first, and there are several ways to do this.

1) First try wearing it and clicking it. Many sellers add an unpacking script which automatically unpacks everything to a folder. Once unpacked you can detach the bag (right-click > detach).

2) If the box is not scripted you will need to find a sandbox to unpack it. White Tiger Island has a small one right next to its shopping area.  You’ll find the box in your Objects folder. Using the mouse, drag it out of the inventory window and onto the ground. When it rezzes, right-click it, choose “Open”. It may take a little time for the contents list to fill, especially if there are a lot of items in the box or if your ‘net connection is slow. When it’s finished, click “Save to Inventory”.  DO NOT tick the “Wear items now” box otherwise you’ll end up wearing your new skin – and nothing else. Your items are now in their own folder and you can delete the box (Right-click, Delete).

Now, find the folder at the bottom of the inventory. There should be at least one skin in it (assuming it’s a skin you bought). There might also be other items; a landmark to the store where you got it, an information notecard, a picture of what it looks like.  Locate the skin itself, right-click it and choose “Add”. It will replace the skin you’re currently wearing.

The process is exactly the same for clothes, hair and other things. Its always better to choose “Add” rather than “Wear”, and then remove the previous items separately if necessary. If you choose “Wear” you’ll end up wearing the new item and nothing else. However its not necessary to do that with skins because you can only wear one at a time and the previous one will be automatically removed.

If you are buying mesh clothing you will usually find that they come in several different sizes depending on your body shape. You need to wear only the one that fits you best, plus the alpha. If the item is not a freebie there will usually be a demo version; always try this first for fit.  You may also need to make minor alterations to your shape to fit mesh clothes.

One last note:  With all this trying on of Library items and freebies, your inventory is going to look a bit untidy right now. It’s worth spending some time sorting it and putting things where they belong. For instance, prim clothing will be sitting in the Objects folder, you may want to move them to Clothing and put them on a subfolder along with any accompanying system layers.  Prim or mesh hair will be in Objects too; move that up to Body parts. You can make as many sub-folders as you want, and sub-sub-folders, sub-sub-sub-folders…

Trust me. If you don’t start organising now, you’ll regret it when you’ve got 10,000 or more items in your inventory.


Twenty Questions meme

Strawberry Singh’s meme this week is Twenty Questions.

  1. When and how did you discover Second Life? – in May or June 2006 when I read an article in the BBC website about U2 and Duran Duran playing gigs in SL.  Being a huge U2 fan I had to sign up, but I never did find the U2 gigs, I think I missed them.
  2. Did you know about virtual worlds before or was this your first experience with them? – I knew about World of Warcraft and had played that a bit, but only occasionally and casually. I don’t play games much except for the casual sort like Bejewelled.
  3. Has Second Life met your expectations? – Exceeded them and more.
  4. If you could teleport back to the first ten minutes of your avatar’s slife, what would you tell yourself? – Keep that first avatar, go premium and keep that L$500 a week stipend. For ever.
  5. How long did it take you to master avatar flying and driving vehicles inworld? – Flying was pretty easy but driving vehicles still sucks because of sim crossings. It’s better now than it was in 2006 though.
  6. Do you have a mystery alt? – I have a few alts. Madison knows who they are and I think my daughter knows most of them too. I don’t keep them secret but at the same time, I don’t friend everyone with my alts either. It’s nice to have some quiet time sometimes.
  7. Is your SL avatar a reflection of you, or someone you wished you could be? – If you’ve watched The Matrix you’ll have heard Morpheus speak of “Residual Self Image”.  That’s what my main avatar is to me. He doesn’t look entirely how I look in RL; I would kill for naturally ginger hair and a ginger beard.  But sometimes when I dream, even before I heard of Second Life, that’s how I looked in my dreams.
  8. Is there an individual you met in SL that inspired you in your RL? How? – There is one person I met early on in SL who gave me the confidence to come out to my partner and family as transgendered. Without that person’s support and encouragement I might never have started transition. I might not even be alive today.
  9. Do you feel it is easier to create stronger bonds/relationships with people you meet inworld as opposed to the real world? – Easier and harder, both. It’s easier to meet people and make that initial contact in SL. It’s harder to maintain though, because SL is so limited.
  10. Did you ever imagine or believe people could fall in love with someone they never met before Second Life? – Yes of course. It was happening online and offline long before Second Life existed.
  11. How has your perspective of dating changed (or not) since you started playing second life? – It hasn’t, really. I am in a long term relationship in RL and I haven’t dated in the real world for a long time.
  12. How has your perspective of employment changed (or not) since you started playing second life? – A few years ago I though it was amazing that people could make a real living by making things for SL. I am sad that the bar has been raised out of the reach of most people now, and it’s no longer possible for the majority of SL users.
  13. Name three things in both your lives that overlap each other significantly. – Love of art, love of music, love of Madison.
  14. If you could live your life more immersively in a virtual world, would you? (Kind of like the Matrix) – Not if it involved putting my real body in some kind of suspended animation or something like that. That seems dangerous.  But if I could simply move into the virtual world as if it was real, more like how it was in Tron, I’d do that.
  15. How do you think behavior changes for people if they’re inworld vs in real world? Why do you think that is? – Anonymity gives people the freedom to do what they dare not do in the real world. For some, that might be to chase a dream that would be impossible in the real world. For others it’s sexual freedom and exploration, being a prostitute or exploring kinks.  For others it’s being rude and aggressive, trolling, griefing.  The virtual world is the opportunity but it’s their own personalities that choose what they do with it.
  16. How has second life consumerism changed your perception of spending habits, the value of money, the need to be “bleeding edge” with fashion? – Second Life has actually got me more conscious of how I present myself fashion-wise in the real world. I will sometimes buy something in the real world that my avatar would wear and look good in. I don’t need to be “bleeding-edge” in either world, but I like to dress well, within my own particular style.
  17. Do you think virtual worlds like SL drive and redefine human interaction or do they narrow and limit it? – At the moment I think it’s trying to redefine them but I don’t think it’s quite got there yet.  In all honesty I think the main thing driving and changing human interaction these days is Facebook.   It will take some big changes for any virtual world to become that influential.
  18. If technology progressed tomorrow to allow you to send emotions to people the way you’d send text or voice messages, would it enrich your SL experience or infringe on it? – I think I would find it rather frightening. The last thing I want is to have other people throwing all of their emotions at me.
  19. Name three skills you attribute to having learned or honed in second life alone. – There’s only photoshop really. I used it before but I’ve become much better at it.  I can’t think of anything else.
  20. If your grand kids googled your Second Life Avatar’s name, would they be intrigued, disgusted, proud or something else? – I think they’d be intrigued and amused, but by then, there’s probably something much better than SL and they’ll think it all terribly quaint and old-fashioned.

Earning L$ in Linden Realms

When new residents ask me how to get money in SL I advise them first that if they really want money, the best option is to purchase it using a credit card or paypal.  However if neither of those are an option for you, and you want a small amount of cash fast, Linden Realms is the place to go.

Linden Realms is a mini-MMO within Second Life. It was created by Linden Lab about 3 years ago, primarily as a showcase for mesh objects and some new scripting techniques. However it has become an opportunity for everyone to earn a little money.

When you first arrive at the Portal Park you will see that you are surrounded by portals leading to the four main “instances” of the game. There are four, labelled “II”, “III”, “IV” and “V”.   Each instance is identical.

Before entering you will need to make sure you know how to run, and move using the mouse to steer.  Running is easy, just double-tap the forward arrow or press Ctrl-R to toggle running on and off.  Mouse-moving is a little trickier.  First of all, start running and hold down the forward arrow key, Then click the cursor on your avatar and hold down the left mouse button as well.  Now with the cursor on your back you can move the mouse to steer around and also pan up and down.

I also recommending turning off your AO, for reasons I will explain later. Although if you’re a little more skilled you may want to edit your AO to have only a nice run and walk and maybe some stands; take out all the flying and jumping animations.

Windlight: Accept the Realms recommended windlight settings as the crystals stand out bright and easy to see in the dark misty light. Alternatively, set sun to Midnight or choose another dark setting of your choice.

Crystals glow in the dark

Crystals glow in the dark

Running through one of the portals you will arrive at the Summoning Circle and be greeted by the Realm’s invisible resident, Tyrah. If you’re lucky, a HUD will attach at the top of your screen.  If it hasn’t attached after about 60 seconds, return to the Portal Park and try a different Instance. You might have to try them several times before the HUD attaches.

The HUD will offer you some quests and I HIGHLY recommend that you do them. They take about an hour to complete and you’ll earn L$28 for completing them all.  They will also teach you about the island and where everything is.  You will find lots of coloured crystals on the ground; some of the quests ask you to collect a certain number of each colour but whilst you’re doing these quests pick up as many as you can find.  Just run over them and your HUD will tell you how many you’ve collected.  Any that are left over after finishing the quests, you’ll be able to turn in for cash later.

Here is a map of the Realms with areas that I have highlighted in pink and red.

Linden realms Map

Linden realms Map

The pink areas are where you can usually find crystals in high concentrations.  The best zones are the north-east corner of Whisper Hollow (LR183 on this map) and Tyrah’s Peak (LR184 and LR187).  Banshee Peak (LR181), the southern half of Whisper Hollow (LR185 and LR186) and the area outside the Portal Workshop (LR188) will often, but not always, have good concentrations of crystals.

The areas shaded in red often have a lot of crystals too but these areas have issues. First of all the Devils Canyon (LR190) is full of fireballs that make collecting difficult. And Dark Moon Bay (LR192) has a lot of crystals you can’t pick up because they’re stuck under plants or up against the roots of trees.  This happens a lot but more in Dark Moon Bay than elsewhere.

Shattered Caverns (LR189), the Sunspire (LR191) and the north-west corner of Whisper Hollow (LR182) usually have no crystals.

Crystals come in five colours of varying rarity and value:

Red = very common:  50 crystals = L$1

Yellow = common: 50 crystals = L$2

Orange = uncommon: 50 crystals = L$5

Green = rare: 1 crystal = L$1

Blue = very rare: 1 crystal = L$2

Once you’ve completed the starting quests, all you need to do is collect as many crystals as you can. You should be able to earn L$30 to L$50 in an hour, depending on how busy it is and how lucky you are with greens and blues.

Turn them in at the places marked 1 and 2 on the map: 1 is in Basecamp where you will find exchange platforms for green and blue crystals. 2 is the Portal Workshop where you can exchange red, yellow and orange crystals.  Reds, yellows and oranges must be in multiples of 50. Greens and blues can be singles.

HAZARDS:  There are a few hazards to watch out for.  Rock Monsters are the main one. You cannot die or lose health in Linden Realms but if you’re “killed” you will be teleported to the nearest Resurrection Circle.  These are safe areas where you cannot be attacked.  You cannot fight Rock Monsters, all you can do is run away and avoid running into them. As long as it’s directly behind you you’re safe as it cannot move faster than you do.  While you’re being chased, run straight or in big sweeping curves, don’t zig-zag or you’ll run into them.  Once you move out of their “home range” they will leave you alone.

There’s a trick; if you can aggro two rock monsters at once you can get them both chasing you and they will collide with each other and disappear.

Fireballs: These are nasty because they are MUCH faster than you and by the time you’ve seen it, it’s too late.  Sometimes worth running the Canyon despite them though, as you will occasionally find blue and green crystals in there.

Falling Rocks: In the Shattered Caverns rocks fall from the ceiling and squash you. You can avoid them by sticking to the sides of the tunnel rather than running through the middle. Not worth dealing with these, there are never any crystals in the Caverns.

Toxic Water:  All rivers and ponds in the Realms are polluted but the sea around the edges is safe.

Nasty Blowing Clouds:  There are some nasty clouds in the sky all over the Realms. These are the Realms’ “Enforcers” and it’s how cheats are dealt with. If you try to cheat by flying, jumping, teleporting, or moving faster than an avatar can normally run, one of these clouds will come down and teleport you Home.  You cannot avoid them and once they’ve started tailing you, you have about five seconds. I gather they can also detect bots by their movement patterns so they can detect automated crystal-hunting, but I’ve never seen that in action.

Here’s where the AO advice comes in;  some AOs, in particular a couple of well-known freebies, have some jumping and falling animations that involve high and fast somersaults, and these animations trigger the clouds to attack you because they think you’re moving too fast.  If your AO contains animations like these, turn it off or remove those animations before playing.  You will also be teleported home if you try to add or remove any attachments so make sure your appearance is as you want it before entering through the portals.

On the whole, playing Linden Realms for L$ is pretty boring; if you’ve ever been “grinding” in World of Warcraft or similar games, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It’s nothing but grinding and it’s easy but boring and the rewards are low. But if you have no means of purchasing L$ with real money, it’s by far the easiest and safest alternative.  Guaranteed spam-free and legitimate.

New Starter Avatars – Mesh

So the New Resident experience just got infinitely worse, if such a thing is even possible.

Linden lab just released a whole bunch of new starter avatars and they’re all full-mesh bodies.  And they’re all no-mod. And they’re all hideously ugly. I mean really, seriously ugly.

ugly mesh barry_001

And they’re no-mod. Did I mention this?

You cannot edit or customise them in any way.

You can’t even mix and match the clothes because each set of clothes only fits the one body, so if you (for some weird reason) like the face of one avatar and the outfit of another, tough.

How is this going to help new residents in any way? The first thing they’re going to ask is How do I change my appearance? and the answer is Well you can’t, unless you start with one of the older avatars. Which are now hidden away in a folder in the Library under “Clothing” > “Older Outfits”.  This is going to have a disastrous effect on user retention. People are going to get so frustrated that they can’t change anything and they’ll just log off, never to return.

Plus, the Lab promotes shopping so heavily, and yet nothing you can buy will work with these new avatars (except maybe hair).

There is an on-going discussion about them here on SLU.

The one saving grace for me is that the mesh clothes can be worn with the standard avatar as well; separate alphas are provided. They’re fitmesh so they should fit everyone, but some things did need a bit of extra tweaking. In fact they fit the standard avatar better than they fit the other mesh bodies.

You can also wear other prim/mesh hair with the mesh bodies and if you wear your own shape with them you can change height and body thickness.

Bad, bad move on LL’s part.

Strawberry Singh’s Friends List Meme

This week’s meme from Strawberry Singh is all about the friends list. She suggested grab a friend and ask each other the questions but I am currently in the middle of reinstalling everything to a new hard drive and I have to keep closing everything down to do yet another batch of tedious Windows updates, so I’m not inworld right now. So I’m asking the questions just to myself.

  1. What is the number of contacts on your Second Life Friends List? (visible in firestorm viewer or your web profile)  93.  Not many, really. 7 of those are my alts.
  2. Are you picky about who you add to your list or do you usually add most people? I’m picky and I tend not to add people that I don’t already know from somewhere.
  3. Who is your oldest contact? (check your calling cards) I don’t keep my calling cards but I think my oldest is Suzanne Pascale, who befriended me in my first week or so. Another really old one is Mabb Dilweg who passed away last year. I don’t have the heart to delete her and I probably never will. I am pretty sure those two are my oldest.
  4. Who is your newest contact? (check your calling cards) A guy called Drop, who I added last week.
  5. Do you know every single person on your list? I know who they are and where I know them from.
  6. How many do you speak to on a daily (weekly) basis? Daily, one. Weekly, maybe up to about 8
  7. How many do you see/get together with in-world on a daily (weekly) basis? Again, daily, only one and that’s Madison.  A lot of the people I get together with on a weekly basis are friends from Club Noir.
  8. Who on your list do you have the closest relationship with? Madison of course. Second-closest is Aphrodite Atlas, my wonderful landlady.
  9. Who do you wish you knew better? Quite a few actually, especially old friends from SLU.
  10. Who on your list is the funniest/most entertaining?  Matty, if I ever saw him online these days, which I hardly ever do.
  11. How did you meet most of the people on your list? (work, parties, etc…) I have two main “chunks” of friends; SLU people and people who come to Club Noir. A handful of other vintage fans from Swing Times, a few from mentoring, a few from the transgender groups.
  12. Do you ever clean out your list? Yes. I delete people when I’ve forgotten who they are.  I sometimes befriend newbies when I’m mentoring, and I usually delete them a couple of weeks later if they haven’t spoken to me since.
  13. Do you have a crush on someone in your list? Yes. Oh, you mean as well as Madison?… Yes…
  14. Is there anyone on your list that you would trust with your password? Only one.
Friends - me, Madison and Amethyst

Friends – me, Madison and Amethyst



As I’m a writer, I’ve lurked on and off in the “Virtual Writers Inc” inworld group on and off for a while.  They run a twice-daily challenge at 6am and 6pm called “Writers Dash” which involves writing for 15 minutes (and no longer) on the word-prompt provided.  This week’s prompts can be found here.  I am rarely (never, it seems) online at the right time but no-one said I can’t do the challenge at some other time.  And it might be a fun thing to post the results here, now and again, especially if they’re SL-related.

So here’s this morning’s prompt; Bumfuzzled featuring yours truly, and Casteylan who is an alt (and an account that actually pre-dates my main one).

“Bumfuzzled? What the hell kind of a word is that?” I asked, looking at Casteylan incredulously.

He gave me a sheepish kind of lopsided grin and shrugged.  “Actually I don’t know, I just heard someone use it while I was hanging round at some Zindra infohub and I liked it. Like gobsmacked. I like that one too. You know me and words.”

I lay back on the cushions in his hollow tree-house somewhere in the middle of Elderglen, drained the wine from my cup; Cas reached over and filled it again.  He certainly did have a love of words and languages; he was fluent in half a dozen, knew a few phrases in twenty more and he collected unusual words like other people collect stamps.

“But you’re an elf,” I pointed out. “You’re supposed to be all regal and refined. You’re not supposed to use words like gobsmacked and bumfuzzled.  Besides, your bum doesn’t have any fuzz on it.”

“Yours does.”

“Thank you for pointing that out.” I stretched a leg across the cushoins and gave him a kick. “Remind me why I’m your friend again, I forgot.”

“Because you love me, Ginger. You know that.”

I opened my mouth to utter another witty put-down but I stopped. He was right. We’ve been best friends for seventeen years and I love him like I’d love a twin.  I know him almost as well as I know myself.

But sometimes, you know, he just completely bumfuzzles me.


There’s a story behind Casteylan.  He started off as a role-playing character and a character in some of my early stories, as far back as 1986.  I have his entire life-story (all 800-odd years of it) mapped out in my head, though I’ve never successfully managed to turn it into a full-length novel despite several attempts. Over the years, Cas  developed into a separate personality sharing my head. This has happened since with other characters I’ve written but never so strongly or so persistently.

When I joined SL with my original first account in 2006 the avatar was based very heavily on Casteylan but I lost interest with that one and didn’t come back until a year later when the perfect last name “Hawker” appeared on the list, so Cas got an account of his own. (his name Casteylan means Red Hawk in his native language).  I don’t log him in in very often these days but I notice when I do that he is distinctly separate from me. We have similarities and we are essentially the same person but he is also separate from me and has his own “voice”. Logging in with him is most definitely not the same as logging in with my main avatar.  I have made other alts since then, but none of them really have such a strong internal presence as Cas does.


Advice for Newbies

I recently stumbled across a nice little blog post by Ella Brightside, about her adventures as a newbie in SL. I left her a comment with a little advice, and I have decided to expand on that, into a full post.

Second Life isn’t an easy thing to learn, much less master. And if the truth be known, it’s not for everyone.  It has flaws, many flaws, and it requires a pretty hefty computer to get the best out of it. So here’s my advice for newbies.

First of all, Second Life is not a game (though there are plenty of different games within it).  It is a virtual world in which nearly everything is created and provided by users.  The amount of regions add up to an area about the size of Luxembourg, but the population in-world at any one time is usually around 40,000 which means that the majority of the grid is empty most of the time.  And because there are no quests or tasks to do, you need to be able to entertain yourself without set goals.  You need to be comfortable chatting with people (unless you intend to spend your SL-time completely alone; some do that, and that’s fine too).

There are generally two approaches to SL.  For some (often called Immersionists) it’s a completely different world and their avatar within the world is a separate character from themselves.  For others, (often called Augmentalists), SL augments their real world and is a tool for interaction, in much the same way as Facebook or Skype is a tool. For these people, their avatar is an extension of their real selves. In recent years the latter group has become the most common.  However, problems tend to arise when a relationship forms between two people of opposite persuasions, so it’s worth spending a little time to think about your avatar and what it represents before you begin.  Of course as with anything else in SL, you’re free to change your mind about that too (as I did), but it helps to know where you stand in relation to others so that you can be honest with them.

So you think Second Life is a fit for the type of person you are, now make sure you can run it.  The system requirements are here but in all honesty, if you have just the minimum, you’re going to be in for a pretty poor experience.  One thing not mentioned on the list is your internet connection. It needs to be cabled; SL does not play well on wireless. And you need to be achieving a regular download speed of at least 2mb/s. Ideally you need an “unlimited” data package from your ISP, with no monthly bandwidth cap, as you might find that you’ll burn through your monthly plan in a few days.

Assuming your hardware is up to the task and you’ve signed up and downloaded the viewer (this is the program on your computer that runs Second Life), you’ll find yourself first in “Learning Island”, which teaches you the very basics, how to walk and not much else.  After that you’re sent to “Social Island” which is anything but sociable. My first piece of advice is teleport out of there as soon as you can, and never return.

You’ll find a button on your toolbar on the left that looks like this: Image  This is the Destination Guide and here you’ll find some selected places of interest.  Go to the “Newcomer Friendly” category and you’ll find a list of places dedicated to helping newbies. Four in particular are worth going to.

White Tiger Help Island also called New Resident Services. Go to this one first, before you even look at any of the others. Here you will find a proper self-paced tutorial to teach you the basics of using SL. There is always someone available to help and answer questions. They also have a freebie shopping village which has recently been upgraded with some nice new stuff to get you started. There’s also a nice chillout area, a sandbox to learn building, and they have events on from time to time.

New Citizens Incorporated The best things about this one are the classes and the sandbox. The sandbox is always busy and if you want to learn to build this is one of the best and most fun places to start.  Classes are run daily; go to as many as you can manage to fit into your schedule. There are freebies here but they are mostly old and outdated now.

Caledon Oxbridge Like White Tiger Island it has a self-paced learning tutorial and like NCI it also runs daily classes. Again, go to as many as you can manage. Oxbridge is part of the Caledon continent which is Victorian/Steampunk-themed. There are a few freebies, all in the theme.

The Shelter If kicking back, dancing and socialising is more your thing, the Shelter is a great place to visit. It’s where I started my SL adventures back in 2008 and it’s been running since 2004. Its a little quieter these days than it used to be but there’s usually some friendly “oldbies” (sometimes even me) who are willing to help.


Me at the Shelter in my first week, 2008

The most important things you need to learn how to do in your first day or two are, in no particular order:

  • Movement; walk, fly
  • Landmarks: using them to teleport, making them
  • Talking to others; local chat and IM
  • Using Search
  • Wearing and detaching clothing and other items
  • Shopping (even for 0L$); how to “buy” an item, how to unpack it.

Speaking of shopping, here’s my advice on Linden dollars and getting money in Second Life.

First of all, you don’t NEED money at all; you can make yourself a decent looking avatar just on freebies.  If this is your plan, use Search to find things like Hunts, Lucky Chairs and Midnight Mania boards to get the best quality freebies. Don’t bother with the big freebie stores like Freebie Galaxy; they’re full of mostly old rubbish that’s been knocking around since 2007.  There are one or two places that still have decent quality freebies; I already mentioned White Tiger but also the Free Dove and the Fab Free HQ have some quality stuff.

Sooner or later though, perhaps sooner if you want an avatar that’s a bit out of the ordinary, you’ll want some money to spend on better, more unusual things.  By far the best way is to purchase L$ with your credit/debit card or Paypal account. US$10 will get you about L$2500 which is more than enough to get yourself a top quality skin, hair and a few outfits.

If purchasing L$ is impossible for you, your options are limited. You can play Linden Realms and earn around L$40 an hour if you log in early when its quiet.  There are some jobs in SL but as a beginner they’re not available to you until you’ve learned how SL works and are comfortable and familiar with it.  Clubs often employ hosts and dancers as well as DJs and these are jobs you could do with little financial outlay – though you may be required to dress in-theme for events so you’ll probably need some money in your pocket already, even for those. Even hosting is not easy, if you do it properly. If you have skills as a salesperson, land agents often employ staff to market, advertise and manage their properties. For that you’ll need to learn the processes for buying, renting and managing land.

Content creation used to be the way for anyone to earn money in SL but with technological advances over the last couple of years, the bar has been raised beyond the reach of most users and you won’t be able to make a profit at content creation unless you are already skilled in something (such as 3d modelling, texture-making, motion-capture animation, scripting) to an already-professional standard.  If you have come to Second Life because you heard it was a way to make money, you’re about five years too late.

Finally, if you’re offered an “easy” way of earning “free” L$, avoid it like the plague.  Such things are usually scams; either they take more money off you than you earn, or they are a way of harvesting your details for spamming you in RL. Worst case, those L$ they’re giving you were purchased on a stolen credit card and accepting them could get your account permanently banned.  The only legitimate and approved source of free L$ in SL currently is Linden Realms.

So for the majority of us mere mortals, your best option is simply to buy L$ with real money from your usual entertainment budget.

Once you start exploring there’s plenty to do; shopping and putting your avatar together, building things, playing games, roleplay, sports, live music, theatre, education, art, support groups, religious groups, clubbing and, of course, sex.

A Picture in Purple

This is another post for Strawberry Sing’s Colours meme, only this time it’s my partner Madison modelling and her favourite colour is of course, purple.  We headed over to Siyu Suen’s lovely sim Carnivale, but if you’re going to visit you’ll need to be quick as it’s going away in a couple of weeks. (Don’t worry, Illusions isn’t going out of business, just relocating to a smaller place).

Madison is wearing:

Dress: Lilac Wine from Icing
Shoes: Judy from Ingenue
Hair: Gloria from Amacci
Jewelry: Krystal from Behira



Last week I took some more pics at Carnivale: here are just a few. You can see the rest on my Flickr stream.





Club Noir

Wow! One little comment on Strawberry Singh’s blog and I get half a dozen new followers! I will have to do that a bit more often I think!  So, welcome to all you new readers and hello again to my old ones.

As some of you may know, my partner Madison Talon and I have been running a club for a little over a year now but as some of you are new I thought I’d talk about it a little more.


Years and years ago, before I met Madison, she used to run the USO club in SL; in the spirit of the RL United Services Organisation set during World War II and one of (if not THE) first and best venue for 40s music; big bands and swing in SL.  But as with most things sadly they must eventually pass. But Madi got me into the music and she just happened to have this amazing skybox in her inventory, called Club Noir.  The most notable thing about it is that it’s all in monochrome; even the trees and grass outside are all grey. Stepping inside is like walking into one of those moody black-and-white movies of the late 1940s and early 1950s. We would occasionally rez it out at Swing Times for special occasions like a rezday or anniversary.  After a while though we decided to keep it up so we rented a parcel for it and it’s now a permanent fixture.

We have two regular DJs at present, each of whom perform once a month: DJ Sword Starfall on the second Sunday of each month who plays some wonderful vintage French music of the 1940s. On the 4th Sunday we have Beathag McMahon, who is well known on the vintage circuit, playing more traditional American swing. But even though we have only two regular events a month, the club is always open and it is a popular place for couples to spend some quiet romantic time together. I live on the same sim and I often see little green dots on the minimap. If I see a person there alone, or a group of people, I will often drop in to say hello.  But if it’s a couple… I figure they’d rather have the place to themselves.

A few weeks ago someone asked me if the club was financially viable; she was concerned that we would quit because we weren’t making enough money.  I told her not to worry because we run the club for love, not profit.  Sometimes donations cover the cost of an event and sometimes they don’t, but it doesn’t cost as much as I expected because I’m not paying staff (except for DJs), and as long as I continue to be employed in the real world, Club Noir is not going to disappear for lack of money.

I’ll leave you with a landmark and a few pics to enjoy.

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Colours Meme

Strawberry Singh’s meme this week is a simple one. Just wear your favourite colours.  Now, being a redhead, naturally my favourite colour is green. But I’m no model and my inventory is pretty dull when it comes to clothes. After all, one green t-shirt looks much the same as any other. So I decided to let my alt, the lovely Indra, model for this one.

Indra - Green Sari

She’s wearing this gorgeous sari from Zaara in rich emerald trimmed with gold, which happens to be Indra’s favourite colour. At least, that’s the colour she looks best in.  This is one of six colours; all of them deep jewel or earth tones.  I think saris are very sexy – must be something about that exposed tummy.

Indra - Green Sari

The location you can see in the background there is Shektawari, an opulent and highly decorative sim in the Indian style, where she had an encounter with a painted elephant which appears to have gotten itself lost on the wrong continent…

"You do realise you're an African elephant, don't you?"

“You do realise you’re an African elephant, don’t you?”

Did you know you can tell African elephants from Indian ones by looking at their ears and comparing them with a map? An Indian elephant’s ears are the same shape as India, and an African elephant’s ears are the same shape as Africa.

Indra is wearing:

Sari – Zaara – Menaka Sari Deep Green

Skin – Cupcakes – Enigma Tiramisu

Hair – Wasabi Pills – Veronica Nightshade

Jewelry – Eclectica Elizabeth Emerald (necklace & earrings)

Jewelry – Yak & Yeti – Wax Bangles Green

Eyes – Mayfly – Deep Sky Molasses

Shape – model’s own