Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Frisch (but not Neue)

[Images Redacted]

A castle captures the imagination and aspirations of many a Second Life resident, a powerful epoxy of authority and territoriality catalysed by escapism and fantasy. At any given time many variations on the theme can be found fused to the grid, including the temporary remnants of building contests or tacky cable TV tie-ins (such as the self-proclaimed "ugliest building in Second Life" for G4's Attack of the Shills Show). Previously we examined Tetsuharu Nino's Castle as a mashup of traditional and contemporary architectural sensibilities, providing an exciting if not somewhat brash impression of Japanese culture. From this we now move to another castle built for another of Second Life's regional subcontinents, namely Jauani Wu and Nicola Escher's "Ulrichsburg," a subtle and masterful remixing of German influences on the sim of Frisch (Note: The build is not yet officially open, and as with Tetsuharu's Castle, typical teleport links have been omitted due to the nature of the sim. Despite the lack of direct access lots of pics are to be found on Snapzilla, including this album).

Jauani has previously blogged about the process of putting this build together in an Open Letter to Ben Linden. We'll take the opportunity now to focus on the finished product, for which Ben had the following to say:
"I think this is one of the best single pieces of content created in SL, including in-house work. It is incredibly well designed, and very good looking."
The build provides the orientation experience that all new avatars have gone through, complete with scary parrot (and presumably the occasional griefer rezzing yet another alt). As the source of many first impressions this build is a perfect introduction to the graphical possibilities inherent in Second Life's graphics engine, demonstrating that in the right hands SL (for all of the additional technical challenges inherent in streaming user-created assets) can indeed hold its own alongside games in the MMORPG market to which it is commonly compared. The tendency for comparison is also addressed somewhat by the build taking the form of a castle itself, with an element of the familiar as a means to transition new users into the idea of a dynamic metaverse rather than a pre-rendered grind-fest.

That said, perhaps even more important to the success of Ulrichsburg than the remarkable shading and texture work (for which Jauani adds that not a single repeating texture is to be found) is the layout of the castle, namely the sequence of movement and placement of the orientation stations. The path that one follows is intuitive to navigate yet unfolds with a sense of discovery that does not feel linear, a direct yet winding ascent. Through stations such as 'getting a closer look' and 'flying', where the former presents the avatar with a panoramic promontory from which to learn the finer points of camera control and the latter raises the stakes and heightens the moment for that first brave leap off a harrowing precipice, the architectural context profoundly enhances the experience of gaining new skills and confidence in a new world.

The build has been modeled after the real Chateau St. Ulrich, however according to Jauani a few small liberties were taken in order to enhance the orientation narrative. Jauani and Nicola's interpretation of the castle as a ruin proves a sophisticated and resonant reference to German culture, evocative without being overt, reflective without being presumptuous. In the midst of everything this build has to offer the visitor, indeed even more is conjured in the imagination, empowered by possibility, fused to the grid from this point forward.


At 6/30/2006 11:59 PM, Blogger jauani said...

i really appreciated the review! having been members of the community for several years, this kind of project where we could help influence the growth of sl really got us excited.

i just wanted to mention that we took more than a little liberty. having never visited the site we worked with the dozen photographs we found. essentially we tried to capture the massing of the building but invented the layout. so if anyone plans to visit the site, don't expect to use our build as a map :D

At 7/01/2006 2:00 AM, Blogger jauani said...

i also wanted to add, the building is accessible to visitors. the name of the sim is Frisch. it's just not in use at the moment while the german language client is still being developed.

At 7/06/2006 11:28 AM, Blogger Nicola Escher said...

Thanks for the kind words. You can find some more photos at my site.


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