Saturday, March 17, 2012

Full Immersion

Happy Saint Paddy's to you, if you're a believer. You're not going to be short of places to celebrate, but make Belfast in OSGrid part of your patriotic pub crawl today. They will have live music starting at 1pm SLT, (that's this evening from 9, for us in Europe) and the lineup includes Joaquin Gustav, Truelie Ellen, and some DJ's playing 'rare Irish Vinyl' to finish up with. All this, free Guiness - and the Titanic's 100th birthday - can you afford not to be there?
 In virtual worlds, we're always lamenting the transient nature of builds, but the real world can be just as bad. The city of Belfast has had much of its cultural heart ripped out over the years; not the marble mausoleums of Power, but the beating heart of real people, in the form of familiar landmarks, beloved, if dilapidated watering holes, and those everyday places that are as the air we breathe, an unassuming part of ourselves. In the past few decades, property developers have carved up the shabbier areas, often in a high handed way, and sometimes, the public has fought back, The Rotterdam is a case in point. But not all of it can be protected. It's a nice paradox, in a city of paradoxes, to see how stoifan nbmcmedia,  Izzie Applewhite, Paul Emery, Rebecca Travis, and the great Bob Solo are using virtual worlds to save the memories.
The Titanic was built in Belfast at the Harland and Wolff yard, and they've done something the preposterous James Cameron can never do - they have brought the ship home for all to see. It lies muffled in misty  water in a wet dock, demure and decaying, occasionally hinting at its former glory.
 There's a real sense of haunted history down here. Fish pop out of the railings, and once in a while, you'll think you saw a ghost in the half light.
 Stoifan was dancing what appeared to be the last waltz with the lovely Mauvereen O'Hara as we chatted. The shark circled hungrily, but we didn't let that bother us. I peeped into the drowned Ballroom. You could almost hear the piano tinlking away. Spooky.
stoifan nbmcmedia: I started building in SL 6 years ago this June. I built a replica of the Rotterdam and ran The Maritime as well. But I wanted to build other buildings that were at risk or already gone, some from bombs during troubles, some from greedy property developers.  I've been in osgrid about two and half  years, now. I met all my fellow builders in SL, but we opted for OSGrid for a number of reasons: the expense, and because here we have full control over the servers. We have 15 sims here, 4 on Kitely and another 4 standalone, where we are building virtual Detroit. 
The team make OAR exports (a copy of an entire sim, including the land) of their builds, and in particular are looking to attract new users by making their Titanic build  available in different forms, and there's a strong emphasis on the teaching and heritage here.
stoifan nbmcmedia: It's a great way to introduce people to virtual reality. I wouldn't want to put anyone through the nitemare of their first time in SL. Kitely is by far the easiest way to get new users to try out virtual worlds. People can download the OAR then load to Kitely and have their own private titanic anniversary in a few clicks! We also have a version open to public on Kitely. We even have a sim-on-a-stick version, with premade characters that can be used for education, for example, behind a school firewall, so kids can explore the deck, and the engine rooms and get a feel for the place and the time in a truly ...immersive environment.
We decided to take a stroll. Mauvereen was none to happy to be abandoned. These bots have feelings, too.
Mauvereen Ohara: Jaysus your a clumsy big countryman you have left my feet like boiled hams feck off and learn how to dance gracefully like that lovely stiofain x!
We moved on to the Tea Room, a huge expanse of elegant tables.  A photo in the window shows just how close it comes to the real thing.
stiofain nbmcmedia: It is important that Belfast reclaims the Titanic heritage. About half the people I talk to don't know it was built in the city. For me, there's a personal connection. My great grandfather was a master carpenter and instrument maker, and his firm worked on the original Titanic. I'm not sure exactly what he made, but is nice to think I maybe built the same thing out of pixels that he made from mahogany or cedarwood, a hundred yrs ago.

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