Thursday, April 29, 2010

Customer Service

Customer Service

Update 4/30/10: Blame it on a data-center in Arizona. Must be them immigrants!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Second Life Economics: Real Improvments?

First time Ive seen this
Location: Hunting down old Econ textbook

Linden Lab ran some impressive-looking figures on their blog recently, claiming a best-ever quarterly performance in their virtual economy.

I'll take a few moments to reflect, amid the biggest downtime in SL I can recall in the last year, at time of writing 6+ hours. It's affecting the the Land Store, the LindeX money exchange, and the XstreetSL shopping portal.

Downtime like this hurts the Lab's bottom line, but what do their broader economic claims mean? Rather than cynically assuming that the Lindens are polishing the railing on a slowly sinking ship, I'll play along and, from my educator's point of view, respond.

Tateru Nino may have summed it up best, and far better than an armchair economist like me ever could:

Coupled with the reduction in Supply Linden sales, the overall picture is that the Second Life economy experienced no statistically significant growth during Q1 2010, insofar as an increase in the overall value of available goods and services are concerned. At least, none that can be determined from the published information.

In a global economy that is struggling back to its feet, running in place may not be such bad news for Linden Lab.

In a more encouraging sign for the Lab I'm curious about the increase in repeat logins by new users and what Tateru calls "median concurrency." Those numbers, as Tateru points out, mean more than the peak number Linden Lab often hauls out.

Most of these increases may be attributed to James Cameron's film and SL's heavy use of the word "avatar" in its advertisements. These were good tie-ins for the Lindens to exploit. Whether the "dream home" slant of current ads will help those new blue-skinned noobs stay remains to be seen. SL is not Pandora, even if some themed sims try--in SL's laggy way--to reproduce some of the film's magic.

Will the boomlet in SL, if that is what it is, last? Here are some figures I'd like to see:
  • quarter-to-quarter percentages for land ownership, including the % of total land abandoned by residents
  • average prices of land for sale on the Mainland continents, on Zindra, and for private islands
  • number of institutions of higher education owning land
  • median concurrency by academic users.
The numbers may be out there...I'd love to see them.

Right now concurrency is taking a huge, if short-lived hit, and the grid is still down. Could this be a hacker attack? If so, it's an immature yet powerful response to Linden Lab's third-party viewer policy, to go into effect tomorrow, and the taking down of Woodbury University.

Even if it's a cascading failure of some sort, somehow affecting very different resources presumably stored on very different hardware, it's an ominous sign of instability in the virtual world. I hope it's a one-off event.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Heritage Key: What the Educators Learned

Location: Ancient Britain & Egypt

Around 30 folks showed up for the meeting last Friday, and this tested the ability of Heritage Key's system to hold up under a lot of pressure. Crashes were indeed fewer, even as we all moved around more than we did last year.

In this post, I'll share my impressions of what we saw, what changed since the last visit, and what Rezzable's Team will need to consider.

Special thanks to Pavig for going above and beyond to serve as docent for one group, when another docent failed to show up. Viv and I led the other two groups.

Navigation: The Travel Center / Hub is a brilliant idea, because it's the intuitive point of departure for the past. The time-travel metaphor works better, however, than overheated teleporters. Too many educators crowded in at once. Only one of my three visitors survived the trip without crashing. The other two, who had friended me, did not relog.

Those who left for Egypt seemed to have fared better. We all gathered for some group photos at the end, near the Life on the Nile exhibits.

I am not technical enough to tell my friends at Rezzable how to fix this. But a new metaphor for travel would be counter productive... so a large-group teleport strategy, perhaps one that allows a leader to teleport a group of people at once, or a HKurl system, or a wearable customized tour HUD, or all of the above.

Rezzable's folks are clever, and I'm sure they could build something as cool as Irwin Allen's Time Tunnel!

Irwin Allen's Time Tunnel

Right now, I'd recommend two changes. First, that Rezzable remove the "Solstice" teleporter for modern-day Stonehenge and put those bound for Salisbury Plain through the one marked "Portal" so they will then choose their era. Traveling companion Hobbs joined me in making the mistake to go to modern-day Stonehenge. It was lovely but not as interactive as the ancient site. We also had a heck of a hard time getting back as there was no return teleporter we could find.

Second, Rezzable will also want to be sure that teleporters back to the Travel Center are readily available at every destination. This would avoid how Hobbs and I became stuck in the time machine, rather like Allen's hapless scientists.

Interactivity: This will be needed in all areas. I'll confine my remarks to Stonehenge, though I'm keen on seeing what my Rezzable colleagues have been doing in Amarna.

Visually, the modern circle of stones was absolutely stunning and the evocation of a Summer Solstice dawn perfect. I've spent a good amount of time in stone circles in the UK where one gets a view of the horizon. I was unnerved by how the HK build moved me, emotionally.

To keep student interest, some sort of quest / game might enhance the modern site as it has done (find that log!) in the Neolithic areas. For example, I showed Hobbs the Welsh Bluestones, the Avebury Sarsens, and the famous Heelstone just relaying on personal knowledge. A quest to find them with a prize would spur visitors to learn the geography of the site.
The Heelstone

Education & Games: There's an element of both paideia and ludus in the HK sites. The former idea, of playfulness that may not result in a goal or outcome, encourages the explorer just to look about the site. The second, with rules and outcomes, works well for educators (the Valley of the Kings segment is particularly strong here).

I hope to see more materials, however, for educators rather than for a broader class of visitor. I've suggested to Rezzable that a teacher's kiosk with possible assignments in range of disciplines could help, perhaps with links to parts of the Heritage Key Web site. Right now, it's hard to see how a teacher could structure an assignment beyond "explore all this and write about it." Since many teachers will be new to any virtual world, I'd recommend that Rezzable challenge us with an assignment competition, with small prizes going to a dozen winners.

Their projects could then become the nucleus for the Teacher's Kiosk at the Travel Center.
VWER gathers, 2
Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward eagerly to future visits the other parts of Heritage Key. I don't have nearly enough time to explore it in depth, even this summer, but I'll keep readers posted as I continue my explorations.
Final note: I love my Neolithic log...the crazy "help the builder move the Sarsen" is perhaps my favorite bit at Stonehenge.

Kunstlerism of the Week: Banks & Us

Personally, I believe that the damage was mostly done during the tenure of poor dim George W. Bush, and his predecessor Bill Clinton. I suspect that Mr. Obama learned at the height of 2008 election campaign -- during those days of the Lehman collapse and the TARP -- just how completely the government -- and the people of the USA -- were in fact hostage to the banking system, and that it has been his unfortunate role to pretend that there is some other fate to bargain for besides this sucker going down. It is probably why he continues to smoke so much. He must be lighting one Marlboro off the tip of another, one after another, in whatever inner sanctum he repairs to when the midnight chimes toll around the White House. It's sad to think of this graceful, still rather young man going down in history as the chump-of-the-century, a reincarnation of Herbert Hoover on steroids, with sugar on top.

Read the rest of "A Still Moment" at Kunstler's blog

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Heritage Key Visit for VWER

The Heelstone
Location: Heritage Key, Solstice at Modern Day Stonehenge

I'll soon report on our visit by over 30 VWER members.

Rezzable has made many improvements since our last trip into the past.

In my next post, I'll talk about what we found, and what can be done to make large-group visits even more impressive.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Did Fake Superheroes Get Woodbury University Campus Deleted?

Comrade Enoch
Location: Chronicle of Higher Education Web Site
image: Comrade Enoch waits to meet with with Technocommunist Cadre at Woodbury U, in happier times.

I came across the story of how this all occurred, and I'll share my reply to the Chronicle's tale here. Woodbury University's virtual campus, long known for tolerance toward its students' wilder bursts of creativity, has been pulled from the Linden grid.

A group of in-world superheroes, known as the "Justice League Unlimited" appears to have escalated its long-running war with many Woodbury students and friends of the university. JLU members have long been accused of working at the behest of Linden Lab as a force of unpaid rangers. See Professor Henry Jenkins' excellent account of this "war" fought in cyberspace.

But on to the current removal of the campus. One respondent at the Chronicle asked,

"Did Woodbury transgress known and well-publicized rules? Or did Linden Lab swoop down on Woodbury in an arbitrary way that the university could not have predicted? In other words, is this about a TOS violation or freedom of speech?"

Linden Lab is busy reinventing itself as a corporate-friendly provider of business meeting space and "Sims" style suburban roleplay--their recent ads show happy white heterosexual couples building dream-homes.

The company has consistently marginalized academia by, most recently, effectively laying off their leading advocate to higher ed, Pathfinder Linden, by removing his position in the company.

The Lab has also marginalized creatives by implementing a new viewer technology that makes user-generated content more difficult.

Woodbury had a right to do what they pleased on their land as long as they did not violate the company's Terms of Service.

That Linden Lab relies for enforcement on a band of self-proclaimed superhero-avatars is pitiful, and it reflects the end of a promising and creative virtual world as we all knew and enjoyed it. If Woodbury students used racist names and engaged in griefing, then they--not the university--should be punished according to Linden Lab's established abuse-reporting procedure.

I hope the Woodbury admins will look to Open Sim and host their own servers, with the right to back up IP and allow students creative freedom.
The JLU: image stolen from courtesy of Henry Jenkins' blog.

Unless that's the Silver Surfer in the upper right, there's not one Marvel superhero in the bunch...go figure. Marvel heroes fought the Man, instead of doing his bidding.


Untidy work by me attributed some referenced content to Peter Ludlow...they come from Henry Jenkins.

Prok (see comments) may well be correct about the provenance of the poster. When I contacted him for clarification, Comrade Enoch, after putting on his Red Army brain-control device that transforms him from a Virginian peasant...I mean a happy worker, reports that he had equipped his Cuban Robusto with a "load" provided by a Jamaican comrade. Thus he had no idea what planet he was on, let alone which sim, as he "marched in lockstep with the revolutionist cadres to free the oppressed poultry slaving under the iron heel of the bourgeois oppressor who has reduced mere eggs--the origin of life--to just another commodity produced by alienated labor."

4/22/10: Scott Jennings, at Broken Toys, writes a very different take on this drama-fest that is far more critical of Woodbury U. He skewers SLers' self-absorbed view of our virtual world with canny brilliance, such as noting how the ACLU must be falling over itself to "defend the civil rights of spoiled children and middle aged men pretending to be pixies to harrass other spoiled children and middle aged men pretending to be pixies."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Join Me and Go Way Back Into Time This Friday!

Which Era to Choose??
Location: Heritage Key Welcome Area

I hope you'll join Iggyo Heritage and the members of the Virtual Worlds Round Table this Friday at 1pm Pacific Time for a journey into the multiple pasts of Heritage Key's virtual world.

Visitors will be able to choose a destination: Howard Carter's camp in Egypt's Valley of the Kings in 1922, the Egyptian city of Amarna in the year 1350 BCE, or Stonehenge in several eras of its construction, from the Neolithic Era to the present day.

Tour-guides to the past will be on hand to show you the wonders of the ancient world. I'm the Stonehenge docent, and if you make any Spinal-Tap references, you will become part of the exhibit.

Once you have created a heritage key avatar at, you may use the Heritage Key viewer, or, if you prefer, you may log in using Hippo or Imprudence. For the latter, please put the following URI in for heritage key,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Second Life and Writing Centers...WHY?

triplets (after)
Location: Reading The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors

There's a humorous illustration in Ryan and Zimmerelli's otherwise excellent (and free from the publisher!) guidebook. In the Fifth Edition, an image shows a bone-stock male avatar, circa 2006, sitting in a virtual writing center being tutored.

Let's ignore the avatar's tragic lack of fashion sense and bad hair for a second. The real issue to me comes from the overkill of using a hard-to-master interface in an immersive environment when lower, or at least parallel, forms of technology can suffice.

I've long claimed here and in my academic writing that virtual worlds provide two advantages for education: immersive learning and simulations. "Immersion," for those not familiar with how we eggheads use the term, means the "lost in the moment" experience that happens to gamers, writers, and athletes "in the zone" and enjoying the experience.

Students seeking writing help may indeed enjoy the experience and learn a great deal, and they may be in distance-learning programs where face-to-face consultations with a tutor prove impossible. Do they, however, need an avatar?

Second Life and similar virtual worlds provide great opportunities to live a work of literature and even change its ending, as a group did last week in our university's House of Usher. Virtual Worlds let students create 3D content, use voice or text to chat with others globally in other languages, to tour simulations of famous historical sites or art installations that can be walked or flown through. As User Interfaces (UIs) improve, as some worlds become "cloud based" so they'll run on lower-end hardware, and as more students come to us with experiences honed in Club Penguin, virtual worlds may well have a place.

That time has not come, yet, for the tutoring of writing.

In other venues virtual worlds offer more utility than a teleconference or group call on Skype. We can tour each other's creations and we tend to have more equal conversations than a teleconference, which seems to devolve, in my experience, into a moderator presenting to a mostly silent audience. In SL, however, I've attended roundtable chats with 80 or more people, at least half of whom contribute to the conversation.

Smaller teleconferences or Skype chats do work extremely well as egalitarian platforms for conducting meetings. Skype provides the ability to use text or voice, and one can paste in URLs. Google has a range of strong applications, too. It's more likely to me that a future writing center, even on a residential campus, might employ Google Docs + some form of voice chat or IM to give writers an alternative to a face-to-face meeting. Our library's IM line has saved my butt a few times when doing research from office or home. I've even had a question answered, with a URL provided, during class time when a student asked a question I could not answer.

Technology should not drive pedagogy, and that seems to be the case when a center opens the doors to SL; the time invested in training tutors could be better invested elsewhere. At the presently clunky level of the SL UI, the high-end graphics requirements, the long orientation experience, as well as the need to download a special viewer, I just do not see too many writing centers employing avatar-tutors.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nonlinearity in Online Chat: Why a Problem?

VWER 4-13-10-_001

Location: VWER meeting

image courtesy of Lolly's photostream at Flickr

I'll soon be posting the transcript for our session about using SL to prompt student reflection. Out of the chat nearly 30 of us had, however, one clear issue emerged: some of us who are not students have difficulty focusing, let alone reflecting, in a text-chat moving, and often digressing, at lightning speed.

Perhaps because I taught for years with Daedalus Interchange, synchronous conferencing has been one of the few forms of multitasking I am able to manage. I can "surf" the multiple threads for the gist of what has been said, or I can follow a single thread in the tapestry.

Such shifting was essential to teaching with Interchange or my text-only virtual Beatnik coffee shop on the campus MOO (remember those?). MOOndog's Coffee Shanty is way gone, daddy, but my friends will want to visit the page and howl at my cyberhipster lack of design skills, circa 1996.

In such environments, however, I'd do something I've not tried in SL: jumping between groups, so I might be part of up to three conversations at once. It's like, man, drumming. You focus too hard on finding one and you lose it, dig? Just play with one hand and, like, forget it is doing its thing. Miss a beat, daddy-o, and you'll get it again when you come in at one. Then let your other hand just, you know, play.

End of Beatnik references.

Others clearly cannot always follow such chaos as it unfolds, and some VWER members ask for more meetings with one person speaking at a time. I disagree, because that tends to favor only the strongest voices (I'm one of those, btw, being fearless--or foolhardy, one--with a microphone or podium). Yet not all of us are, and on typed conferences a number of researchers have discussed why shy participants can find a voice.

Where else does something like synchronous conferencing occur? One cannot follow the flow of 20 people speaking simultaneously; the result in babble.

Text-chat logs have always been a key element to making chat useful for study or as a source in a more formal project. Studying the log leads to moments of insight and connection that may not happen during the staccato pace and sequencing of the original event. It's one reason why academics love the text-chat of Second Life and other virtual worlds. I've waxed poetic about the pedagogical value of transcripts in an article published online a few years back. Voice is harder to record and sift for the pithy quotation or useful fact.

Problem? No. My only problem is that I'd rather be drinking coffee with some Beatniks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Openlife: MojoBox Lives!

Location: Fredi's Gunsmoke Store

I'd had such a rotten experience last year with the alternative grid Openlife, less an Open Sim world than a smaller and direct Second Life competitor, that I vowed never to return.
Last year I created two avatars, but soon I figured that Mojobox Kane and Tao Jones were goners. In January their inventory was useless because they never rezzed and remained clouds, teleports were dodgy, textures remained gray and lag was terrible with no one else around. In June I went back and had some better results but things were laggy and I kept crashing.

As far as I can tell, third-party viewers apparently do not work there, a complaint I've read that discourages many from trying this world. It got a bit of hype during the Openspaces debate in Second Life, and it received a few thousand immigrants.

Did they stay? I had to go back, if only to find some proper shoes to wear.

Logging on was fast and easy. Viewer 1.7 for Openlife seems to have corrected most of these problems, and it even offers a tidy interface that leaves lots of real estate for the visitor to see the world around him: a complain leveled against the new Second Life viewer. The little toolbar icons at the top of the client window replace many of SL's 1.2x viewer buttons at the bottom:

Toolbar in Openlife

Mojo not only rezzed but explored (with a good deal of inventory missing--not that he had much). The Search feature does work, though teleports from it do not. My technique was to find the simulator name, put it into the map window, then teleport and wander.

Mostly, it's a big, empty place--I don't think I saw even a dozen dots on the entire world map, but that's not to say that Openlife is on its way out. I met another avatar, also interested in exploring after a year away, and I guided her to a freebie shop to get rid of her Ruth looks.

I want to plug a store I found with excellent Freebies: Fredi's. Here's the spot on the map, in case the link does not work for you:

I'm not ready to put any money into Mojo's virtual pockets, until I'm certain of the stability of this world. As for educational uses, I need to do a lot more exploration.

The only problem I found--and not as tricky as in Reaction Grid--was my "Hat Test." Mojobox put on a free prim cowboy hat and did quite a dance whenever I resized it. It also put me in the George W. Bush situation of being "all hat, no cattle" until I got it right:

All Hat No Cattle
Meanwhile Mojobox was catapulted into the air, blown through walls, and more. But he got the damned hat to fit, finally.

Despite these glitches, after dismissing Openlife last year, I'm ready to give it another go. My MacBook's graphics card was complaining mightily, and the system did lock up once...coincidence? I'll try Openlife next with a more robust external monitor and report what I find.

One thing Openlife has out of the box: a decent default walk for avatars. That, and boots and a hat, are promising signs.

Student Presentation This Friday

This Friday, for the University of Richmond's Arts & Sciences Student Research Symposium, a student of mine (SL: Jamey Wonder) will be doing a mixed-reality poster presentation. Her topic is "The Permeability of Social Cliques from Real Worlds to Virtual Worlds" and this project began as a week-long requirement that all in the class change gender or race.

The original project is at the class wiki.

If you want to hear more about one student's experience as a human in
Furry country in SL, Jamey and I will be on hand for Q&A, this Friday,
1130-1230 SLT, at this SLURL:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lindens Market Suburban Life With Fake Kid

Fake Kid Included
Location: Torpid State of Smoldering Discontent

So this vision is the best that Linden Lab can do for us today? This is pretty far from what creative residents have built on Linden Lab's infrastructure. The Lab currently seems to be casting about, wildly, for customers. The campaigns flail back and forth, from the far slicker and interesting "put some steam in your punk" images that ran a couple of weeks back to...this.

It's The Sims. Uh, yeah.

As a wag at the Alphaville Herald put it, soon we freaks may have a stark choice: we can look elsewhere for the artists and creators or "be here and have a nice life that looks just like your real life. While in SL, you can watch (at 8fps) your avatar mow your virtual lawn and chat with the other seven people with active accounts."

While the Lab has segregated the new 'hoods into themed areas, they don't seem to have learned the trick for their advertising. If you want us all to continue to live in SL, Mark Kingdon, you had best learn some real-life demographic facts and pitch ads like this in venues likely to attract the right eyes, not the scoffers like me who equate "suburban" with "boring and resource-piggish and soon-to-collapse."

Linden Lab makes a big mistake if they think that the fake suburbanites can live on the same continent with the cool freaks and geeks. Linden Lab used to pitch to this crowd, not so long ago (in the Rosedale era).
These Are MY People

Yes, these are my people.

Boring and cool folks don't mix too often in real life, either. Some very rich hipsters and society types mingle downtown with the pierced and inked around here, especially on gallery nights, but you just don't see the boring class of business clones who swam upstream to spawn in the the cul-de-sacs "venturing downtown," as they put it.

Thank God. I don't want to hear about their homes or their trips to the Outer Banks or their TV shows or their kids. And in SL, I consider child avatars really creepy, even if they are just playing "kid" to some fake mom and dad.

Am I too cruel? Perhaps a fake house in a fake utopia will be a way to relive the glory-days of suburban bliss when Peak Oil puts the lie to that living arrangement, forever.

Linden Lab, you've lost your soul. Get back to images like the following from your old days, so you look cool and not lame-o-max-o, ya'll.

Older SL Image
My wife, giving me her opinion, dislikes the "man boobs" in the last image, but she agrees that either Projects Mayhem or Gangsta look better than Project Mow-the-Lawn.

I need to go play Pharaoh in Heritage Key now. At least those 'burbs are stylin'.

Friday, April 9, 2010

April Road Trip: Visiting the Neighbors

Location: Wellington Road
Soundtrack: Bryan Ferry

I've tired of paying Linden Lab $5 a month for land I seldom use. Not finding any willing buyers for my 1024 sq. meter Hillbilly encampment, I abandoned the land and set out to purchase a little 512 plot that would cost me nothing per month.

Soon I spotted just the place: a parcel bordering one of the Linden highways. At only 1500 Linden dollars, I snapped it up. It's along the Wellington Road, a cobbled and quaint roadway that passes through lots of protected land: forests, hills, ocean vistas. A good deal of it is straightaway, just the thing for going as fast in a virtual vehicle as I possibly can go.
Too late

Once I had put down my cash, I decided that it would be time to make a trip on the highway to see what my neighbors were doing. Besides, I wanted to drive one last time before I upgrade my viewer to Second Life 2 and Linden Lab brings in the Havok 6 physics engine, which may result in vehicles I'll no longer be able to drive, until my new MacBook Pro arrives in June.

Mostly, it was a lonely and empty road, punctuated by pleas not to abandon our mainland parcels but to sell them instead.

I left the map window open, searching for dots. Soon I found a bunch around RockinRob Rassir--he'd gotten his Elvis on that the Memphis Blues Club in Molesworth Sim. I dropped him a tip, then IMed him that I'd stop in but I was "just a lonely boy on the lost highway driving by on my monthly road-trip."
King of Rock n Roll
This shout-out is for you, King of Rock and Roll, from me, King of the Fake Road.

I went back to confirm the SLURL and found "Elvis Park" (hint, check for the pink Cadillac). You'll find Sun Records, Elvis' birthplace from Tupelo, and of course the facade of Graceland.

It's good fun, even if I'm more a glam and punk guy. Without Elvis, and his hair, Bryan Ferry would never have existed.
Sun Records

I got to a place on my journey where the Lindens had not finished their road-work. Well, the road-cut was in place. Road-trip rule of the month: don't let the end of the road stop you.

This worked great until I crashed into a very odd place in Blackmont. The "about land" feature told me it is the home of Alyx Sands. I'm still trying to figure out what the purpose of the area might be. It seems to combine a meeting hall, outdoor church, and tomb-stone-like slabs that, when clicked, provide first pages of classic works of literature long in the public domain. Toss in a a hookah bar, cuddle spots for amorous avatars, and a grand entrance reading "The Anglo-Saxon Rabbit Hole: A Place of Teaching and Learning With Regard to Language."

Just the sort of inscrutable location that makes SL so delightful. Go have a look yourself.

Crazy neighbors: I love them in real life. I'm glad they are in my virtual life also. And the Wellington Road connects to lots of other byways.

Next trip: Havok 6. Let's see what the physics next month do for me.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Heritage Key's Amarna

New Clothes
Location: City of Akhetaten, 1350 BCE

Mayneyten, daughter of Setmare the Scribe:

"Hello Iggyo Heritage, be very quiet or you will be discovered before we can make you look like one of us!!!"

Well, I don't need to be told such things twice when I'm posing as an Ancient Egyptian.

Getting a sneak peek at Heritage Key's Amarna, "home of Setmare the court scribe" in the age of Tut, shows how many resources Rezzable now is willing to dedicate towards making an industry-leading immersive 3D world for education and cultural tourism.

The area is not quite finished, but when it is, visitors at the Travel Center will be able to choose it as a destination from the time-travel booths. Viv Trafalgar showed me around and got Iggyo Heritage changed from 1970s Ron-Glass clone to a 1350 BCE dark-skinned badass with a topknot and some stylin' and breezy clothes for the hot Egyptian climate. The Rezzable staff is adding quests, games, and a travel journal to this simulation, as they have done at the Valley of the Kings and Stonehenge.

One feels to be at home in a brief period of Egyptian history when some heretical pharaohs dared to institute monotheism. Their names were stricken from the official histories for such impiety.

Viv Trafalgar: we're going to have NPCs ask questions that = "do you belong here"
Viv Trafalgar: ie
Viv Trafalgar: "who's the Pharaoh?"
Viv Trafalgar: "what year is it?"
Viv Trafalgar: "how far are we from Luxor?"
Iggyo Heritage: oh oh
Viv Trafalgar: and if you get them wrong
Viv Trafalgar: you get tossed in the pond.

Okay, when I go back, I'll read all the notecards and copy key names into a text file. I don't want my new clothes getting wet!

Viv notes that "We're redoing all the clothes now; the hair I have on is a prize. There will be skins and hair and braids and stuff and a walk like an egyptian anim as a prize."

Viv give a big hat-tip to LT Bartlett for putting together three different avatar options each for male and female visitors to Amarna. I was impressed; even the stock items, like this armband my avatar wore, show the level of detail on display.
Pheeling Pharaonic

The Amarna build features a building map of the huge complex, a expedition journal that visitors will receive as soon as they arrive, as well as several games:

Uncover - find four clay tablets containing clues to a plot against the royal court, as well as who in the household to tell about it. Be careful to tell the right person!

Explore - a day-in-the-life challenge that has you exploring 7 different tasks - do them all and your reward is a walk-like-an-egyptian AO and ring.

Envision - an exploration of the art of the Amarna period - collect rubbings of all of the items while wearing the charcoal and paper (don't try this in a RL museum) and you'll be rewarded.

Challenge - do battle on a Nile river raft, either against a friend, or against the river gods. This is a classic rock-papyrus-scissors battle, with the added danger of lurking hippos.

Royal-Match - find the royal match game in the house and match the three royal couples to receive your own Sobek mask.

The simulation is more than games, however. Parts of the build supply excellent historical data with a click, such as:

Nefertiti Statue: Attributed to the sculptor Thutmose, this polychrome bust of Egypt's queen is world famous. Thutmose, whose workshop was excavated in 1912, must have been one lucky sculptor, being asked to capture for eternity the ravishing face of the Queen who's ancient name meant "A Beautiful Woman Has Come."

Nefertiti Statue

Compared to the old Amarna build in Second Life, this Heritage Key version provides a new loggia, tapestries, and "examples of period art throughout the house," according to Viv. Many levels of detail are visible in my photographs. I'll close with a slide-show from my Koinup account to give some idea of the treasures that await a bold explorer.

You can also get a sense of the real-life ruins at The Amarna Project's site. I think I'll take the cool shade of the Heritage Key simulation, for now.