An exploration of the process and pedagogy behind establishing a non-linear narrative inside Second Life with the view to create a learning space rich in cross-curricular opportunities.

...there's been a murder in the Red Barn

...there's been a murder in the Red Barn
The "Red Barn" was a thatched timber out-building with a section of it's roof clad in red tiles.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

paint your wagon

Had a visit from Mrs Noisy [a co-conspirator - in secondlife, EVERYONE can hear her scream :P], who will be helping me with the legals and scenario, my people met her people and we did e-brunch. was keen to show off the barn and my new wagon [made with 12 "primi"s]. Texture sux, as do the wagon wheels so far, but was happy to experiment with scale and functional form.

I have been working in-world with a nice american chap called Azwaldo, who is a scripter. Talked about the need for a chatterbot that I could load with a vocabularly. Az built me a script that I can modify and embed in objects - this is cool. When you touch such an object [r-click in 2L action] it tells you what channel to talk to it on. then, and here is the cool part, when you chat on it [say channel 7] "/7 blah blah" it looks for nominated keywords in your chatter and releases re-programmed resonses to them - more than one keyword and you get a paragraph, very cool, more important - very useful.

Getting used to the building tools, need more space and need to shop for horses and associated farm things. Learning in-world is interesting, using chat clients in and out of world, along with internet telephony, MUD and MOO clients all at the same time sure beats up your processor ... still, we paid for it right, might at least get it to do some work.

Next step is RealWorld scenario brainstorming with Mrs Noisy... dang these RL commitments.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Raising the Barn

Now I may be no architect, but I generally have a good eye. When it comes to copying an historical lithograph of a building into a 3d model, however, I now realise how little I actually understand about structural engineering.

The "Red Barn" now exists and is fairly close to the layout and finish of the original from what I can tell. I based my model on the Lithograph above and also on pottery tourist souvenirs available for sale to this very day not far from the original site of the barn in Suffolk. As you can see, it was not so much a "red" barn as an aged timber one, but was named such because of the couple of sections of roof that were tiled in red shingles, as opposed to conventional thatch.

From what I can make out, the red-roofed bits were extensions tacked on inexpertly as the need for extra space in the barn became evident. It would explain the different building materials and certainly the different cladding and finish.

The building tools in Secondlife take a little getting used to. The "primis" or primitives as most other 3D proggies I have used call them are standard, control over them is fairly powerful, positioning is fairly hit or miss if you drag and drop - thank heavens for absolute coordinates. Aligning seems a little hap-hazard, and the SL rendering engine seems to randomly mincro-realing bits of a composite object without you asking to - this can be annoying I goess.

This is actually my THIRD barn, the first was a laughable joke and the second one, although fairly structurally sound looked nothing like the building I wanted and the scale was all wrong - you coulds walk around inside so long as you were no more than 4 feet tall.

BarnV3.0 has a feed room adjacent to horse stalls, a glazed casement window, large barn doors and a pitched thatched roof. I purchased [thanks for the linden dollar cash injection Lindy] the thatch texture from "Textures R Us", an in-world store where you browse textures to apply to your objects - texture artists sell their handiwork - thatch and 8 other related building textures [the shingles also came in the pack] set me back 350 linden dollars. I have put upright structural timbers in but now realise why most buildings I have seen in this place are flat-topped - pitching a roof is a pain - normal geometry fails me [I tried 45 degrees, didn't fit], ended up individually placing odd trapeziums of stuff, aligning them numerically and then uniformly teturing them - there are only a few gaps now and I do not think i will try to plug them - each time I move an object it misaligns with another one.

The scale is right, it feels human scale, and I must say I am proud to walk through it, cracking my head on the low sil of the side door [just as I imagine farmers must have done in the real building - I can hear the thick Suffolk accent being stretched by the swearing now]. ... next the root cellar and the embedding of the first of the evidence in this story.

Time is interesting, I lose myself in this activity - hours go by and then I get cross for not getting other things done also. You get that.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

pushing the envelope

...I guess to push an envelope, one needs to know where the edges are first and that is my primary mission. I am investigating [well, in truth, I am only just beginning] the building process in SecondLife. I am trying to ask what I consider reasonable questions - to match funtionality [at least match is a good plan I thought] from lesser environments [like MUD and MOO] - let me explain.
  • I feel the need for NPCs - not to kill or anything quite as fun, but rather to be story elements - characters that exist to bring their slice of the story to life - A conversation engine would be nice and some rudimentary ability to key-word converse, scripted so they can do stuff [twitch, wink, cry] and useful actions like give you stuff when you ask for it, trade objects, sell and buy things from you. I would like them skinnable so I can decorate them with period costume ... doable? I want proximity to be a trigger - they strike up a conversation with you when you get close to them, perhaps react to an object you are carrying, wearing or have just eaten? Current conversation in SecondLife is 20m [if you are within 20m of a talker, you can strike up a convo - that is WAAAAAY too big - I was thinking like a couple of meters - that would involve using something other than channel0 for chat - can an object automatically create a new channel, sign you in and start chattering there? Dunno.
  • I feel the need for clothing [clothes maketh the man, right] so i thought it might be fun for your clothes to be part of the role-play experience - more than that, the clothes pre-decide your VIEW of certain evidentiary chains, and also provice/disallow access to some areas.
  • I want container objects, lockable, with keys, small enough to conceal a murder weapon, large enough to keep a Clydsdale [horse] in.
  • I want buildings with doors you can open, windows you can see through if you clean them down and wipe the dust off, found objects, animals [horses, chooks and maybe a few jersey cows], foot prints I can take plaster casts of, face and hand prints I can archive for comparison later on.
  • I want the activity to have many possible uses - a stand-alone capabilty so individuals can enter, explore, problem solve and make progress in the quest and COLLAB where a group of poeple come in and ROLE PLAY to learn, take on key roles in the scenario and explore the investigation that way.

I do not know if it can be done, and talking with Decka Mah [Lindy in FirstLife] and pushing my pooter to a new high [Skype Voice and MSN and SecondLife and MUD and MOO and Extranet all having separate conversations at the same time] by also SLconferencing with a new SecondLife scripter friend, some of this may be possible.


  • Play with the building tools in SecondLife, now I have my own SkyBox [a SL sandbox of my own]
  • Design the scenario space [need Mrs Noisy's help on this one]
  • Build it in MOO
  • Build it in MUD
  • Build it in Secondlife
  • Get a FirstLife
  • rinse and repeat
  • Compare, contrast, evaluate, consume chocolate

Sounds like a plan - looks like a plan of attack [looks like a nail - no it is a tack]

... if you could see what I can imagine