Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lost to the Sandboxes of Time

Shortly after starting in Second Lifevery shortly, if I recall—my friend Geoff Novi showed me a sandbox in a sim called Hyperborea. For folks who aren't familiar, sandboxes are essentially empty spaces in Second Life where most (or, preferably, all) of SL's building capabilities are enabled. Although a lot of people use sandboxes as a quick place to unpack and sort through items they might have accumulated in stores or giveaways, most sandboxes are intended as a place where people can experiment with building and scripting and creating their own things, even if they don't own or rent any land of their own. Although nothing is permanent in a sandbox—they return any objects left in them to their owners after a fixed period, usually 2 to 12 hours, so you can't set up a house and "live" there—but sandboxes are extremely useful for learning how SL works, creating and editing objects, using textures, working on scripts, and much more.

Now, because sandboxes let people create anything they want—and have most of SL's capabilities enabled—they tend to be a little out of control. One minute you might be working on an exquisite little wire brooch you want to wear to an event next week, the next minute some overgrown Conan-type is driving tank over you while shooting you with a teddy bear-flinging bazooka and looping "I'm Too Sexy for My Shirt" in an endless loop. Stuff like that is usually reportable as abuse, but it's not an environment conducive to working or learning how SL works.

When I was first introduced to Hyperborea, I was kind of non-plussed about how quiet it was: there didn't seem to be much happening in the sandbox or in the surrounding sim. Nothing exciting. But, over time, I came to realize that tranquility was a tremendous virtue. Hyperborea was a quiet sandbox where people could actually work and get stuff done! Sure, the occasional miscreant would wander through and wreak a little havoc, but for the most part Hyperborea offered a quiet, reliable environment where I could puzzle through the odds and ends of creating and programming in Second Life. Hyperborea was also blessed with a small but savvy community of regular users, plus admins who actually cared what was happening in the sandbox and ran a surprisingly tidy and responsive operation. Hyperborea was a kind-of-old sim—going back to at least 2006—and several of the regulars had been there since its early days.

Now, Hyperborea is no more: the sim has been sold and is now an adjunct to an unrelated operation called Bliss Gardens. The sandbox, all the builds, even the office of the Alphaville née Second Life Herald are gone. Rumors of Hyperborea's imminent demise had been circulating since at least October—when Geoff and I were visited by one of the Woodbury University folks, who seemed to be scouting the sim whilst angling for a new home.

But now there's no longer a Hyperborea on the grid, and with it goes the closest thing I had to a "home" in Second Life. I don't know how many hours I spent on my little sky platform in Hyperborea, wrangling prims, fighting LSL scripts, and trying to get the things to work together in ways I actually intended. And that time would have been after I built my sky platform tools: those were all conceived, built, and tested in Hyperborea. So were all the scripts and props I use to host my Lou's Clues trivia game, all the commission jewelry work I've done, all the little scripting odds and ends and projects, all my experimenting, and all my little pranks and gewgaws like the immortal teacups and my silly little titler. They're all products of Hyperborea.

But probably more importantly, I learned an incredible amount from Hyperborea's regular users, especially the admins Tali Rosca (who made the fabulous mad scientist Victorian death ray I show off sometimes!) and Harpo Jedburgh, who were all very generous with their time and helping me wrap my head around how Second Life works. It's fair to say that without them I never would have stuck with building and trying to create my own stuff in Second Life…and if I couldn't do that, I probably wouldn't stick with Second Life itself.

Sadly, I seem to have no screenshots of Hyperborea. Many of the screenshots that have appeared in this blog (particularly jewelry stuff or things that use my avatar as an example) were taken there, but I don't seem to have any images of the basic ground level of the sim, or of many of the sandbox's regular users. I don't know why I didn't think to take any.

I have no idea where the Hyperborea diaspora will end up: I imagine most of us will wander off to other sandboxes in hopes of finding a comparable environment. Others will probably rent or buy land of their own so they can build in peace.

As for me…I'm kind of kicking the tires on a few other sandboxes, seeing if I can find somewhere quiet to work on my own without being bothered and without bothering anyone else. But in the back of my head, I know nothing's going to stack up to the sandbox where I grew up.


  1. I know how you feel, Lou, on a personal level. Ten years ago, they tore down the RL house where I grew up for 14 years. It's now a lonely church parking lot. Whenever I go back to my hometown, I always try to stop by that place.

    At first I used to wander around the parking lot, trying to find the spots where the kitchen used to be, or the living room, or the stairs that led up to my room. But every time I went, I would wander less and less. Now I don't even bother to get out of the car.

    I guess Thomas Wolfe was right: You can't go home again...

  2. Lou I've posted before on how important early pictures here have become to me.
    I was in-world prolly a year before I could see how fast time moves in Secondlife...and how sad it was to TP some where and see that notice that *that location is no longer available*.{And realize that I had no pictures.}
    As far as a quiet place to experiment...IM me...there will always be a sandbox @ my place for you silly girl!

  3. Public Sandboxes are for poor lamers! Go to somewhere decent like Skidz or NCI

  4. Oh yeah you could open your own sim called Hyperboring you know!


Comments are moderated. You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>. If you'd like to contact me privately, use a blog comment and say you don't want it published.