Friday, October 31, 2008

the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire

This one's short, though not sweet: Primverness is burning.

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What, you thought I was kidding?

Lady CoyoteAngel Dimsum has set her sims ablaze in protest of the proposed OpenSpace sim price hike.

Further details on that--Desmond Shang has confirmed that at the largest of the protests to date, Linden Labs began forcibly logging out protesting avatars. He saw it happen.

The conflict still rages on Vryl Valkyrie's notoriously ridiculous decision to boot three thousand members from the Save Our Sims group.

We now have people virtually setting themselves ablaze.

Is it Second Life's second revolution?

People, this is now out of hand, officially. The Lindens need to wake up and realize what people will, and will not, put up with.

Because the alternative is not grumbling but paying, as they seem to think. The alternative is...leaving SL.

When SL is really the ghost town the stories paint it, who's going to pay for the game, then?

Unfortunately, the simplest solution is also daunting--because I like it here. Others like it here. We have homes, jobs, friends, some have families...we don't want to walk away from what we've made, of ourselves and the game.

I think we're looking at a lose-lose option, any way it goes. And that is the true tragedy in this.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

heartless challenge, pick your path and I'll pray

Winter Ventura threw together a quick-n-dirty skull sculpt for me, because I didn't have the ability to sculpt skulls on my own. She's now released it publically, and it's free only until November 1st. So grab it now--they're not highly detailed, but they're very cool!

Black Pearl Beach has the Carnival of Carnivorous Clowns this Halloween. You want creepy? This is it.

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It started off bad enough. Everything was bright primal shades of circus-freaky, the music was ever so off-keyed calliope-cheerful, and...it was all three steps past too much.

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And it didn't stop. For a really, really long time.

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I could never decide, picking my way through this room, whether it was decorated in popcorn kernels, spit wads, or freeze-dried white hamsters.

Maybe it's better not to know.

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And then things got really strange.

Just when you think you understand the layout of this place, they change the rules. And change them again. And change them again when you're sure you know where you are, where you're going.

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Several of the rooms were a trial to get through--floors that weren't, hidden doors, tiles that flipped over, brightly painted cylinders that rotated as walkways. Rope ladders. Walking too close to clowns. Physical objects vibrating in small spaces.

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And at more than a few points, most avatars running on even current machines will have to pause, and rez things in. The problem with this is not the time it takes (a flaw, I will admit, of any event that features far too many scripted objects, physical objects, and moving objects for the space), but the fact that while you're waiting, you're alone. In the dark. With the sounds. And the clowns.

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This room was terrifying to get through. Everywhere you stepped, one of these yellow-suited, red-haired mutants would pop up and whisper something. It was like being in a room of Keenly Valiant clones.

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The elevator was especially effective. If you can't read what the words say, even on the large-picture version, I can tell you: Mirrors are more fun than television.

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And then, just when we thought it was all over...

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...the house turned on us again, and led us down in the deeps where things got very, very dark indeed...

Listen. If you're scared of clowns, I mean really scared of clowns, this place will induce heart spasms. I'm not kidding. If you're iffy on the clown idea--they don't traumatize you, but you're not crazy about them--this is a damned effective haunt. And if you're the one who walks through this skipping holding onto the skeleton balloons they give out on the midway...well, okay, I've done that too, I can't really throw stones.

But evil psychotic mutant clowns? Generally speaking...ALWAYS SCARY OMG WHAT WERE THEY THINKING...

Check it out if you're not afraid of clowns. I mean it.

Next up: Rendervisions Isle. And their Haunted Maze.

you run to me and don't even know my name

Something terrible happened at the Trepid Island Train Station. Can you figure it out without suffering the same fate?

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It all started with a newspaper...

We came to the train station on a lark, having heard the rumors. It was dim and shadowy inside, things seeming to creep and shift just at the edge of vision. We picked our way through overturned wooden benches to the old diner.

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We weren't impressed with the cleanliness, even after so many years. But the dusty skull in the oven unnerved us both.

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Footsteps and screams, shadow figures there one moment, gone the next...whispered warnings and lamps that shuddered themselves off the walls...these were our companions as we moved higher into the structure.

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The wall dripped with warning. We should have listened.

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Scattered newsprint revealed more of the tale. Yet still we didn't listen. We made our way, inching along corridors nearly painted black, doors opening ahead of us, wind howling outside...to the final room, at the top of the tower.

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And there, we became yet more casualties to the station.

This? Start to finish, excellent build. The sounds reinforce the atmosphere, the appearing and disappearing ghosts are genuinely surprising, the ending...must be experienced to be believed. High marks, absolutely top-notch haunt. If this isn't my very favorite, it's easily in the top three. Do your best to see it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

you let me wonder, now I'll let you burn

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Last night, we went to Fanastacia Haunted Bayou, in Illusionatta.

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The music is odd but entertaining, the stops along the way are fun to explore, and the conceit of riding around deep-country bayou between haunts is inspired.

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There's a lot of stops along the way, and most of them have additional boat rezzers, so you can stop, explore, then come back and rez a new craft to travel more of the waterways.

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Some things seem clues to whatever long-forgotten tragedy occurred in this place (like the letter in the schoolhouse); some are more random and just placed for effect (like the demon Rottweilers in the morgue).

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Burning corpses, bloodied body parts, and skinned animals seem the main "attractions" at this haunt, but they're used to marvelous effect nearly everywhere.

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One of these things is not like the others. If you guessed the ghost of Lincoln, you're now with me in trying to figure out why, in a southern bayou complete with abandoned mansion, Lincoln would be haunting the place.

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Why is the woman changed outside the cage? That's my big question.

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It's a big haunt. It's maybe more than can be taken in in one evening, so hurry quick and see as much of it as you can. It's so worth the effort.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I sleep in empty pools and vacant alleyways

Tonight, we went back to Haunted Saddlemead.

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Miss Lora Chadbourne's genteel haunt is back for another year, this year on its own sim, as opposed to sharing space with other operations.

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The graveyard looks much like it did last year, with a few quirky new additions. I particularly favored this above-ground tomb.

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The house is substantially unchanged, too. Walking inside, I have to say it's still one of the only houses in SL to make me feel tall. I suppose I adore it partially for that alone; but the look, the textures and the structure all contribute.

This year there was a change, though.

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Fans of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken will recognize the refrain spooling through the house from the upstairs organ...though not, necessarily, the organist. Delightful touch.

We decided to take in a hay ride after walking through the house.

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Lightning strikes were a tad too close for comfort--I had to hold my breath when we passed through the intensely stormy region.

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All in all, Miss Lora Chadbourne did it again. Style, grace, and charm combined. It was weirdly calming, riding through the lightning on the cool autumn night.

you're running after something that you'll never kill

First off, let me mention the JIRA issue that's arisen on this. Go read it if you haven't; acquaint yourself with the issues, and come back.

I'll wait.

Okay, everyone back? Wonderful. Let me pour a round of tea and become extremely unpopular.

While I believe, to the heart and soul of me, that Caledon is a community, that other groups of private estate sims are communities, that the groups residents make on SL can foster interests, interaction, and deepen that sense of belonging...at the heart of it, Linden Labs is not running a group of commmunities here. They are a business. Second Life is their product. They are interested in keeping their numbers up, they are interested in turning profit, and maximizing successful gaming experience and fostering the brand name over every other concern.

I have been here before, passionately committed on a topic, and frustrated, angry and hurt that they didn't seem to listen. It took me a long time to admit to myself that the only thing that will change anything at Linden Labs at large, is a blow to their financial gain. Because they are a corporation. They have corporate and technological concerns, they will not react one whit to any emotional outcry.

EVER.

Am I being in any way unclear on this? NOTHING WILL CHANGE if no harm comes to their bottom line. That bottom line being profit, financial receipts, technological upgrade of needed systems...for the game that is Second Life.

Let me be absolutely clear on my position, as well: am I supporting the raising of rates on OpenSpace sims? Not entirely; I think they could have reduced the price and still brought in effective numbers. Do I support that Linden Labs had to make a change, or suffer in providing services?

YES.

Do I believe this is a conspiracy, or a "bait-and-switch" something-for-nothing maneuver on the part of Linden Labs?

NO.

Here's something you may not know, all of you who are screaming that this is so massively unfair: yes, Linden Labs told us that four OpenSpace sims would be allocated per server. In certain cases, this is true, but per processor; so in certain cases, there are up to sixteen OpenSpace sims per processor, on a quad-core server.

Think about that a moment. Imagine that. Because of the cut cost of OpenSpace sims, because of the request--over and over, in all paperwork and blog mentions leading up to any individual purchase of an OpenSpace sim--that these be "light use" sims, low scripting, low objects, low texture use--some of these sim groupings were stacked four to one server machine; eight to one server machine; a full sixteen to some servers. What would that be like? What would that feel like, if your sim was one of the ones adjoining, if your sim was one in that same stacked group when one--or more--abuse such "light use" guidelines?

I can tell you. I can tell you easily. Because before Rivula was upgraded to a Class 4 server, Rivula, Lunalis, Lunula and one other sim in the chain were stacked on one server. Rivula for half of its simlife--until the Enigma club closed--was stacked as one of four, with three other sims containing residences, businesses, and dance clubs. Rivula itself had two clubs and one full amusement park, complete with flume ride and bumper cars.

Rivula was a full sim, with full prim allotments; yet, because it was so stacked in chain, there were times I could not go back to my home. I could not go home, period, because home wasn't there. Rivula had gone down, again, Rivula was subject to script overdraw, again, Rivula was lagged, again, because of script usage in our sim, or in one of the sims stacked with us.

This is frustrating in the extreme. Had someone come by and said, to the sim owners--listen, we hear you, we know this is frustrating--what if we move you to your own server, upgrade the server platform, and tighten everything up? Just cost you $300, instead of $100 per month.

I think the sim owners would have leapt at the chance. More stability? Not having to restart the region twice a week? Not having to watch scripted objects die and not being able to reach a Linden for help because stacked sims, in all honesty, didn't receive the same consideration and solid support that sims on single servers did?

They would have blessed the Lindens. We would have rejoiced utterly to get away from the three other full sims we shared that server with.

So breathe. Calm down. Stop bitching. Realize the only alternative you have is to raise the funds, release the sims, or work with people who can effect change in a rational and reasoned way--using logic, tactics, and what the Lindens understand--fiscal accountability.

Nothing else is going to work. And you're just whining without excuse if you think it will.

*sits back and waits for the death threats to pour in, sipping Earl Grey*

^&^

Updates, the day after:

Aminom Marvin has it exactly right, I think:

This leads me and many others to believe that the current policy's rationalization is an out right lie. The most obvious reason is that Openspaces are "too successful" as a product; people have flocked to them and away from mainland because they wonderfully suit user's needs in price vs. land size and prim use, and avoids the problems with ugly builds on mainland and renderlag from having adjacent sims all around a sim. The result is a devaluation of mainland; many parcels can be found for less than L$3 per meter--the equivalent of $600 for a full sim.

Gregg Barrymore--the owner of Antiquity--has stated he is abandoning all twenty-six sims as protest. If his opinion hasn't been changed--then Antiquity is gone. Which means--just from what I know--that Antiquity Texas's amazing reconstruction build of the Texas capital building--gone. Wulfenbach's Consulate building in Antiquity Township--which Mr. Allen and I constructed to specifications for the parcel space--gone. The Marzipan Teahouse Ballroom in Antiquity Haven--which has contracted every two weeks for a host and presenter through Radio Riel--gone.

So just from my small involvement in Antiquity, that impacts nine people directly--and without a doubt, affects many, many more. In addition to the loss of Antiquity as a concept.

Sascha Swindhurst puts it very simply indeed:

It is not simply about the future of open spaces and it's 'legitimate use' (which i think is not supported by this issue)
It is not about paying more cash for a product (as we can always decide SL is another luxury good we can abandon payments for)
It is not about me being angry to our 'evil landlords' who raised our rents by 66% (which would be completely legit as protest in RL)

It is because this measure is one that does no good to the reputation of Linden Labs and their product. There are those who may argue similar things had happened in the past and the grid survived. Those people will also have to consider many customers have left because of these events. In the long run business and product reputation are necessary to keep Second Life up as a product name. You will simply have to be doing better than this.


Will they realize it in time? Who really knows? They didn't all the other times they made unfortunate decisions in the past...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the obsession with death has become a way of life

I got banned from a sim for this post. I had to go back and read through it; and I admit, I'm still not seeing what I said that was worth being banned from a region.

The haunted house ride is slow. That's a fact.

The sound loops--on which, I admit, I mentioned getting violent with the maker, not the owner of the haunted house, though that might have been unclear--are looped too fast; they either need to be paced out in the scripting, or new sources for the sounds found. This is also a fact.

I do grant I was briefly snarky about the "Love Bugg" Club--but reading back through what I wrote, nearly a month ago, I have to admit more confusion about being banned than anything. Because anyone who knows me knows I can be far more negative, far nastier, and far more sarcastic than anything I happened to put down in that one entry.

Since I'm already banned anyway, how'ver...I might as well take this rare opportunity to etch my sentiment with crystal clarity.

First, I was reviewing the Haunted House, not the club. I will admit, freely and with no reservation, that I did not quote the promotional material of the club accurately. Let me correct that now:

The Love Bugg Club is quoted as being The Most Romantic Club on Second Life, not the best dance club. It's also quoted as being The Most Popular Romantic Club On Second Life. It is additionally quoted as being the most Popular and most Romantic Club on Second Life.


I cannot dispute any of these statements, as I generally pick my clubs for good music and good dancing, not romance. Though I am unsure of what makes this statement:

It's an adjunct of the "Love Bugg" Club, apparently--if one is to believe their advertising--the "most popular dance club" in SL.

nasty beyond all bearing, whereas the sim owner saying her club is the most Popular and most Romantic Club on Second Life is just fine. Was it that I left out "romantic" and put in "dance" in the description instead?

Second, I liked the house. Long ride? Yes. Suffers under high lag? A truth (but then, what doesn't, really? It's just something to be accepted about SL). Innovative way to guide the pumpkins through the house? Absolutely, it's a fascinating bit of scripting that ensures four virtual avatars sitting in a virtual pumpkin can get the sensation of sitting in a real chain-driven cab--with the jerks, pauses, turns and jumps that chain-pulled cars actually have. That is still astonishing to me, it's one of the coolest tricks I've seen in SL.

Lastly, I'll take the ban, I neither want nor intend to challenge it, as the first time I'd ever been to Lover's Lagoon was for the Haunted House. I've now gone through the Haunted House, and there's really nothing there for me--note well, for me--to return to see. Anyone else is more than welcome to wander in and check them out, dance on the "huge romantic dance floors", discover the "romantic dancing patio", or travel to the "Beautiful & Dreamy", "Heart-Shaped" Love Island with "Heart-Shaped Water Lagoons" to create a "Wedding Paradise". You're more than welcome to go, she'll be overjoyed to see you.

Just not me. 'Cos I'm banned.

Now. Onward, to other things.

Ever wanted your own dead dragon? Now, for just under two thousand Lindens, you can buy one. I guess this is for those folks with really large gardens...

And why is there an emaciated elephant statue in Glam World? No, I don't know either.

Haunted Castle of the Damned is next up for haunted destinations. Though I should really quote from their ad:

Come to the Haunted Castle of the Damned and try to live through your worst nightmare come to life! This fully damge enabled Haunted attraction takes you through a twisting turning labrynth of terror you will not soon forget !!

I corrected nothing, by the way--"damge" and "labrynth" are spelled that way in the ad they took out.

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First, I died because a zombie dog ate me. Then I died because my own bullets ricocheted, due to lag. Then I died because six zombies gathered around me along with a PHANTASM ORB (!!) drilling my brain.

This? Very hard house to go through.

Up on the third floor--I'd died five times at that point--we looked over the parapet into the graveyard below.

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Yep. There was no future in this. We left.

If you're a very good shot, check it out. But we aren't dead shots--no pun intended--so we left!

There's (obviously) more entries yet to come, but I'm in the process of a hard drive swap--and so all the pictures and info I'd normally post is burned on one of about thirteen or so--at this point--CDs, waiting to come back to infest the new drive. Hopefully, that won't be long.

Friday, October 24, 2008

always someone at your back, only waiting to attack

More notes from the Ghost Hunt:

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The whole of the Lookr is underwater, and tends towards this dreamy blue ambiance that's only reinforced by the giant starfish outside. The problem is Lookr is part of the Ghost Hunt, yet--when one first ports in--there's a row of T-shirts in various colors proclaiming "Halloween is Rubbish".

I don't get it. Is this sarcasm?

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Also, 98% of every ghost in the hunt, large or small, is white. Some few have made it odd colors, but I do believe Crystal Queendom takes full prizes for originality by making the original ghost pink, adding a translucent pink flexi layer, and then animating the entire thing.

At any rate, back to the haunts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

when I'm not sure what I'm looking for, when I'm not sure who I am

Dalek pumpkin! (See also, the pumpkin that carves itself, and these offerings from the Festival of Rot: the pumpkin, the watermelon, and a very grumpy pumpkin in a basement. Also, apropos of nothing at all--Happy and Sad balls! Enjoy!)

We decided to investigate Enchanted Waters' haunt.

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(Poor Miss Voiyant.)

Most of the house here was fairly pedestrian, the interior pattern on the walls was rather odd--I suspect it was supposed to be old unfinished wood, but it looked more like partially-melted beeswax--but there were a couple rooms that were interesting and well done.

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(Apparently? Mummies can bleed.)

The Electrocution Room featured an electric chair, and a huge console festooned with levers, buttons, and flashing lights. What made it interesting was the randomness of it--sometimes it would fully electrocute, sometimes it would just make you twitch, bleed and smoke. With full effects, either way. Ghoulish, to be sure, but fun.

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(Sometimes it's safer to observe.)

This, by the way, was a wonderful room idea. Push past the pop-up of Chucky the homicidal doll; he's immaterial, all things considered. And yes, of course, we've seen the pentagram etched on the floor before, the guttering candles, the altar awaiting the victim--but the robed figures, circling in stately procession: those were new. And very nicely detailed, to boot.

It's worth a visit, at the least. There's some oddity with the sound that may need owner reset before it stops--it's an odd repetitive mechanical beeping noise, somewhere on the second floor, which is decidedly not a ghost, dog howling, child screaming, or the like--and, as I said, really odd interior walls--but worth a walk-through.

Just as an aside, not on the current topic: there's a half-off sale on all items at SN@TCH currently. I don't know for how long, and I still loathe and despise the name, but on occasion--think that set of bloomers, in white and black, f'rinstance--she turns out something that's at least Caledon-inappropriate, if not full Caledon-proper. And hey, with the half-off sale, her full Vampire Willow avatar--including skin, full outfit, eyes, hair, and a shape (the shape needs work, but everything else is wonderful), it's running L$175 total. Total.

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Now you're in Gor....

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...now you're not. Very odd. This was one of a few stops we made over the last two days, on the grid-wide "Ghostbusters" hunt. The rules are simple, the execution tends towards the annoying:

1. Track down a participating store. Buy the starter ghost for L$0. You'll get a t-shirt (yeah, that logo--and a starting landmark. Go there and find the first ghost.

2. Rinse, repeat, stagger--as you acquire more ghosts, more hunt gifts, and more landmarks along the way. Over two days we've hit eighty different stores in seventy-six sims or so, and we know the hunt goes to--at least--108, and may possibly have more ghosts by now. Yaaaagh.

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This is another stop on the Ghost hunt, and there really should be a law on stores this insanely terrifying. A warning sign. Something. Wax Poetic should not be allowed to invent Candyland on the grid.

The four people you don't see behind that giant blue lollipop? Yeah, that's us. I felt like an ant wandering between confections. Bizarre.

We then attended Savvy Island's haunt, which has some wonderful touches. A bloody trail of elongated footprints led us from the docks.

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(The mummy watches the candle in the mirror.)

This being one of them--it's a simple trompe l'oeuil effect--make a mirror larger than normal; position a candle in front of the mirror; position a duplicate candle inside the mirror. Reflection made easy. I love tricks like this.

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Savvy Island hit Grimworx hard this year, but rather than just get the spiders, like everyone else, they got all the floor-crawlers: the rats, the spiders, the scorpions. The spiders, when squished underfoot, squeal in high-pitched distress; the scorpions crunch unsettlingly; but the rats...the rats giggle like hyenas. It's bizarre and very cool.

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(Woman hanging in the medical lab.)

Did I mention that sculpts are getting more realistic? And far more creepy. She didn't move, she didn't make a sound, but just hanging, bloodied, from the ceiling? Very, very effective.

Also, most of the doors in this haunt open with that odd little camera-shutter whine from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For that alone, this house is cool.

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Upstairs--barring the bit of Texas Chainsaw about the place--they did their one real 'movie recreation' moment, but I can't entirely complain, because they did it well. The walls are patterned with dark trees, there's a large stone well with the lid slid one-third off, and a fully primmed-out Sadako peeking over the rim.

That? Very creepy in the extreme.

And then, past Sadako and the glowing Ring...we turned a corner, walked down the moss-patterned hall, and fell to the graveyard below. We were out of the house, just like that.

This one is well worth a trip to see, and don't just abandon the graveyard when you reach it--if you walk around a bit, there are some fun freebies, and some nifty munchables--cookies and caramel apples--to restore you from your journey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

my mind has wandered, the man just said so

Exile's come up with a fantastic Hallows freebie--the Arachnophobia set.

It comes with face spiders.

Sadly, they're not really *impressive* face spiders, but...they're face spiders.

Also, meet Miss Charlee Aluveaux. She's...very pink.

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I'm sorry, I should have said...OMGINSANELYFREAKISHLYPINK. On the NUCLEAR level.

What you can clearly make out in this picture is bad enough--decapitation bling, Pepto-Bismol-on-LSD-pink, the absurd level of glow--gah. Just gah. But what you don't see in this pic? Is the spiral particle effects of pink and glittering white that went around each ear and that vibrantly glowing pink tail. Gaaah.

Meanwhile, Happy Mood has the cutest--and believe me, I use that word advisedly--pumpkin swings for two hundred Linden, in their main shop. Also, all the floating ghosties are free to copy.

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See? It's just...*shudders*...adorable.

ANYway, some of the ghosts are animated, some aren't, just wander and pick out which you want. Plus, look around the store while you're there--Happy Mood is just an amazing store, full of small--and occasionally large--wonders.

The Putnam House in Spherion.

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So there is some visual dissonance here. Face the house directly: it's a haunted house, fog-ridden, decrepit, with the voices of the dead crying for help. Turn south, though...and there's a nightclub next door, complete with laser lights. I don't know what it is to the north, but it looks nearly monastery-ish. This is more than a bit jarring.

When we went inside, the sounds grew, and it was quite clear something terrible had happened.

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The cabinet doors were wonderful. The voices were whispers and cries and the screams of small children, creepily effective. Everywhere were splashes of blood and detached limbs.

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Fawkes pointed out the real horror, for him, was behind the house--the perfectly flat, groomed to insane stripes land.

I have to admit, it got to me a little too. The abrupt transition, between what our minds accepted without question--torn wallpaper, dried blood, tattered drapes blowing in the wind through the broken window...all of which had only 'existed', in this sense, since the turn of October from the month before--and what our minds would not accept: perfection. Sterile, immutable...frozen, in a sense.

And who knows how long that's been on the grid? Likely that unnaturally manicured parcel has been there longer than the haunted house!

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While Fawkes shot the Soul Harvesters downstairs, I ventured upstairs. There was a lot of blood pouring from upstairs down the stairwell. I never figured out where, besides the inaccessible attic, it was pouring from, but that was a lot of blood nonetheless.

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The upstairs is divided into 2.3 rooms. Room one is--maybe--a young child's? At least, there are toys whirling about, and a child on the bed--but the tentacle in the box is extremely bothersome, if that is a child's room.

Room two is for seances, one supposes, complete with a table and a crystal ball, and the writing of the mad killer of families, scrawled in blood over the pale walls.

And room .3 is...odd. I couldn't quite parse it. It seemed like a huddled shape pressed to the back of...maybe a closet? With a frame, or screen, or window-into-alternate-reality that's full bright and full glow...but I'm still not sure. The door on this one shuts almost instantly after opening, so I couldn't even get a decent picture. If you figure it out, let me know.

It's worth at least a walkthrough. I think the downstairs works better than the upstairs. And if you go, bring a gun--you'll need it.