Saturday, June 28, 2008

Two-Minute Teleports: Second Life Shorts

As someone who wears the same suit day in day out (oh, and in SL too), I found myself a little out of place in Camelot Gardens. Luckily the people were still polite and I had an outfit waiting for me on the steps of the great hall.

In the past I've scripted vehicle weapons and RPG/combat effects, so I checked out The Cannon Company in Caledon Kittiwickshire. The Couples Hansom Cab out front was a virtuoso work of Victorian building and texturing, with seat cushion textures that, for once, didn't look like they were ripped out of a game of Pong, Surround, or Secret Collect. The rendered shadow was the crowning glory.

The cannons inside looked as good as authentic, with representatives from many eras of conflict. They fired easily enough, at a touch, and gave off clouds of smoke that rotated and drifted off in what looked to be particle six-packs (not quite my cup of tea, but people have razzed me for what I thought were fine particles, so until smoke looks like smoke, touche). On the walls I found some elaborately illustrated ads for Steam-Powered and Reactor Rayguns, the Sherlock Holmes Edition Hansom Cab, Steam Powered Chair, 2 Cylinder Steam Engine/Pump, and a wildly creative 3-level Shoe House with tracking eyeballs, doors, telescope, and an observatory. For those seeking a simpler good time, there were 29-prim white birch bark and aluminum canoes. Overall things were a bit primmy and pricey, but that's not a bad thing when you want quality, something that won't redraw itself every time you step around it, like sculpted prims. Going by the solid architecture of the shop itself and the professional level of the ads, combined with Caledon's reputation for fine things steampunk and Victorian, it's easy to infer there's some serious quality sitting up on these walls.

Stop by today and let me know what you think!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You Have Been Warmed! SL Sweaters at MMD Designs

When I came to Mariana (Marianagelina11 Oh) & Mino (Minotaurus Whitfield) Designs, I got a chilly reception. It was freezing!

Since I lost my suit to an SL glitch that turned it into some overalls, all I had on was my poker T-shirt and some jeans and shoes. Standing in the virtual snow, I found myself reaching for a shiver animation.... when a sweater beckoned from across the open-air cabin. MMD must sure save on heating!

MMD mostly features women's winter outfits, dresses, sweaters, scarves, handwarmers, hats and pullovers (I'm guessing they're called Pullis on the vendors) and the like, but they do have wares for men like Chapkas (thick winter hats), five sweaters, and a shirt/sweater combo. Prices I found ranged around L$120 to L$350, about average for Second Life clothing.

The driveable sled (L$500) was a nice touch, but I got a shocking surprise when my friend Blurred tried getting on it too. Suffice it to say that it was made with couples in mind.

I bought a sweater and chapka here. My avatar was short, so the included collar went up through his neck, but all I did was take it off and it was a good fit without it. The sweater texture looked good, with plenty of texture detail and color variation. There is enough variety in the outfits, especially for women. The thick chapka looked fine too, enough to ward off a blizzard.

The environment is a well-designed winter mall setting next to a ski lift. The store is welcoming, with a pot of coffee placed at a small table for visitors. Icicles suggest a lot of cold, and the snow makes you want to bundle up... and buy a sweater.

Mariana & Mino Designs can be found at .

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Lionel Oliva's Top 10 Favorite SL Gadgets & Items

In Second Life, there are a few things that I think SL would be a lot less fun without. This post will change over the weeks as new items enter the SL marketplace and my attention span wanes. Hopefully what remains will be my top 10 favorite gadgets. For now they are:

10. Cheshyr Pontchartrain's Tardis
If you own a store, chances are you have a teleport point set. The Tardis is great for getting around your land without having to whip out landmarks.

9. Apocalyptic Combat Vehicle
One of the coolest-looking and sweetest-handling vehicles in SL, especially in hover mode. A honking touch-activated cannon, Havok 4-based combat system and a sound relay HUD are frosting on the cake.

8. ASM-1000 Audio Stream Manager
I bought an ASM-1000 last year and I've been using it since. Friendly (or as public-friendly as I want it to be), well-designed and a pleasure for bringing out the best music to my land.

7. GGG Gold Nugget
Holy traffic increase, Batman! Aside from SLX and Apez I haven't seen anything linked to a website that works so fast in Second Life. When I first bought it I got my first visitor in ten minutes -- at 5 AM in the morning!

6. Black Box's Sculpt Studio
The manual still leaves me scratching my head, but it's a pretty solid system. I got a free upgrade to 3.8 from 3.0 so maybe I'll set some time aside and see how it works again.

5. Universal Destruction Kit
From destroying glass to fuel tanks to vehicles and RP items, the uses of this kit are many. My inventing it after 90+ hours of fine-tuning doesn't hurt the rankings either ;D

4. Jwoulf's minigun/Desert Eagle/Hellbring:
Great for testing collision scripts in whatever flavor of blow-it-uppishness you want.

3. Blurred Nightfire's Fountain
Ooo. Now at a low-low 8 prims from 33.

2. Loki Ball's Room Switcher
Handy handy. One prim can contain several preset rooms. Powerful, flexible, cheap!

1. Concrete shop -- copy/mod for L$30. Put four in a square setup. Stack them on top of one another. Mod to your heart's content.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Second Life Spirits At KittyCat's Kreations

A very nice texture-changing tun at KittyCat's Kreations.

When I step into a lot of shops in SL, I get spammed with a lot of object chat. Random-sounding SLURLs pop out of nowhere without being asked for and I often wind up swatting landmarks out of windows that pop up. A mute for you, Mr. Object Giver.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I heard a Neufchatel decanter whisper this:

[20:11] The high Swiss mountains were home to the herbs that made this liquor, Lionel Oliva. They are honored to have you consume them!

Whoa! Nothing but pure product! And reasonably spaced apart timewise -- I didn't have to wait for a wave of green text to wash back down my screen before I could click on anything else.

[20:13] Edouard Pernod whispers: This exceptional absinthe, more rare and valuable than the rarest cognac, comes to your palate with a flavour and aroma of bygone times. KittyCat Ninetails, only the finest is good enough for you!

[20:15] Pernod Fils whispers: Ahh, this is how Absinthe is supposed to taste, the louche is wonderous, the aromas heady and the taste..ahh the taste... Lionel Oliva, what a treat!

KittyCat Ninetails was gracious enough to be interviewed at KittyCat 's Kreations while fully helping out a customer who stopped by. Usually when I edit an interview I like to weed out interruptions, but this transcript will show you the kind of dedicated, flexible merchant KittyCat is.

VM: how long have you been in business?

KN: Since um..February.

VM: Wow, you pick up things quickly.

KN (giggles)..I got so addicted. It's so much fun making stuff.

VM: Did you originally sell SL drink decanters? Or did you try something different?

KN: The only thing I have made is drink decanters...I keep thinking I want to branch out into food. But then I come up with another drink dispenser idea or another line of drinks.

VM: I see. Was this somehow inspired by your RL work or was it something that just came out of the blue?

KN: Well, it was inspired by generosity. I bought a friend a decanter and it had ... I think ... 30 prims, and he could not set it down, it was over the prim limit. So I thought..hell, I can make it for less. And I did, it was fun, and I never looked back.

(To customer) Hi! If you have any questions, i will be happy to answer 'em.

(Customer smiles)

KN: But in real life ...I am an accountant.

VM: I see.

KN: I simply like alcohol..and pretty things..and I think if we are gonna fantasize..we should have good stuff to do it with, and all the stuff should be unique. It irritated me when I was taking drinks from decanters..and all of them said the same thing..or looked the same.

VM: Yeah... You have a nice aesthetic for your place.

Customer: Alcohol tends to make things prettier as you drink.

KN: Oo, I like that line. (grins)

VM: And your decanters definitely say different things. :D

KN: Absinthe makes the tart grow fonder *giggle*

Customer: Ha ha, yes.

KN: I have over 500 drinks. I did a count today! And every one is different...different texture, different saying.

KittyCat Ninetails stands next to her boot decanters.

VM: Pretty impressive! How many a day do you make? Does it take long, and where do you get the textures from? Or is that a secret? :D

KN: I also make my own sculpties now for some of the decanters. I use Rokuro learning to use Tatara and Blender..but haven't got them down pat yet. I made that moonshine jug sculptie. (grins) Some of the the magnum barrel..take over 100 textures. I buy them, and I download them. And now I am trying my hand at making textures. I made -- well, put together anyhow -- the texture on the Campari bottle. A lot of the decanters change texture too. I did not make the sculptie of the archer lady..nor did I make the boat in a bottle..though I did do all the drinks in both.

Ahoy matey! Pirate-themed drinks when yer rum runs out.

Customer: Do you have examples of the different mugs and horns the barrels dispense?

KN: Help yourself. They all dispense. I sell decanters; the drinks are free.

Customer: Thank you.

KN: Oh, interesting. Let me fix that.

Customer: kk

KN: Wonder why its got mead in it? Must be one that I was muckin' with. (makes an adjustment) Try now.

Customer: Thank you.

Heart of Mead whispers: The wonderous taste of this liquor resounds with honey and history, echoing through the pages of time, decanted just for you, Customer, to enjoy!

Customer: Very nice.

KN: Yep, it is. Whew! Would hate to find out my barrel didn't dispense cause the name was more than 25 characters long.

Chocolate Strawberry whispers: Oh, this is definitely the way to enjoy your chocolate coated strawberries, Customer, the sweet taste of memories is made with this!

KN: It's a real pain, especially when dealing with sake or vintage wines. None of them are short names. Some of 'em are a bit yappy. But what I do do, is research every single drink. For example...absinthe... good absinthe...vintage not green. It's brown. And you drip water into it through sugar..and the essential oils parcipitate out..causing the absinthe to go a milky color..slowly. It's called louche and it won't get you stoned. Most of the hype about absinthe was written by Victorian era doctors who confused the effects of long-term alcoholism with the effects of the drug.

Customer: I saw one on SLX that dispensed Absinthe Ale Beer Blood wine Espresso Honey Mead Hot Chocolate, may I ask which one that is? Sorry, I copy and pasted from the site.

KN: (Giggles.) Any of them can. I have a menu and I can just drop the drinks in. Sounds like the medieval barrel though.

Customer: Yes, that is what it is called.

KN: I can make one up with any drinks you want in it. But let me dig that one out so you can see. If you click on the flame skull it will give you a menu of drinks.

VM: There's so much I don't know about wine and spirits. It's certainly an education and then some coming in here. How many hours a day do you put into SL?

KN: Most days? 10 or so.

VM: What would you say was the biggest challenge you've faced getting a start in SL? And what advice if any would you offer someone just trying to get started?

KN: LOL...take the building classes! My biggest challenge was fixing my own mistakes, things like not knowing why everything I built turned red. I worked like mad to make it so they did not, then found out turning beacons off helped a great deal.

I started out building by eye...and making stuff level...then found out by accident how to build properly. You don't hafta recreate the wheel. Also, buy your own land as soon as you can. I had my servers for SLX and OnRez and Hippo at my house...and the house was on a sim where I rented a store and a house. The sim was sold..and they gave us less than 4 hours notice to move.

VM: Jeez.

KN: It's how I wound up here. This land was given to me to start, the first 512 m, anyhow. Not the best location..but it's mine. At that time, I only had about 40 decanters or so...maybe fewer. every single item, I had the landmark for the store too. It was two days of solid work to move.

VM: Yikes, that sounds brutal.

KN (to customer): If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them.
(To VM)
That was soo not fun. So now I am going to keep this spot. It was nasty -- not their fault -- but nasty.

VM: I'll be sure to landmark it if you're staying put. This is a nice store.

KN: Thanks. (Smiles) I have 9 locations now...but this is my main...and the only one with nearly all the decanters I currently have out.

VM: Well, I'll be sure to visit it again! Thank you very much for your time KittyCat.

KN: You're welcome!

KittyCat's Kreations can be found at the following locations:

Main Store

RP Locations:

Medieval Times
Medieval England
Elf Clan Fantasy Market
Ravenscraig Village
Pirates' Plunder
Knight in NOR

Non-RP locations
Drakul's Cove

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

We're starting back up!

It's been a long time and after renaming our blog to comply with Linden Labs' branding policy, Virtual Merchants is coming back with plenty more Second Life business reviews!

Coming soon we will be featuring stores by Loki Ball, Kittycat Ninetails, and others.

Scripts, skins, gadgets, weapons, vehicles, unclassifiable works of sheer zaniness, sounds, animations, gestures, textures -- if you can find it in SL we'll be finding shops to write about in the weeks to come.

Thanks to all of you who have remained loyal readers. And if you're an owner of a quality store and would like to be reviewed, contact me in-game.

See you here again soon,
Lionel Oliva

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