Thursday, November 6, 2008

Doomed in the Skies: INSILICO

Posted by Alpha Auer ;-)

The creator of INSILICO, Skills Hak tells us that: "... this is a dark, futuristic metropolis; slowly floating several thousand meters high above the clouds. One of many cities, serving as the last of airborne asylums for the small extant human population since the earth has been flooded. Each of them is connected to its own reactor farm on the bottom of the sea. Water gets split into oxygen and hydrogen using solar energy and is then converted back into energy and water up in the city. Furthermore, there are giant solar panels in the earth's orbit, blocking the sunlight. (And I do hope this all makes sense.. I'm still working on it... :)

Surrounded by huge megaprim skyscrapers the citizens fight against the smog, new kinds of viruses and high tech-tech-packed gang members. Crime rate is high and several security groups and affiliated concerns in the weapon industry went corrupt. There are many kinds of new cyber crimes and terror..."

The city, rezzed 3600 meters in the skies of Second Life®, is startling. Not that I have not seen my share of cyberpunk sims before. Indeed I have. My favorite used to be Nexus Prime, by Ready Jack from the Tyrell Corporation, in its heyday. The thing that made Nexus Prime special was, of course, the usage of vertical space as spatial metaphor, where due to the many phantom sidewalks you could not help falling down to your doom through progressive levels of urban poverty and decay until you ended up in the very bowels, the sewers of the city. Skills Hak, achieves narrative not through a single spatial metaphor as was the case with Nexus Prime but rather through a carefully orchestrated range of visual and audio elements, that converge to create an extraordinary feeling of the very concept of "city" - of urban density, of doom, of pollution, of claustrophobia - and yet you want to stay and become involved - so powerful is the pull of INSILICO.

Mermaids as Service Bots, in the underwater themed luxurious 7 Seas Restaurant (above, photograph courtesy of Skills Hak), a view of the city skyline foregrounded by the neon sign of the 7 Seas Restaurant (below).

And indeed the city is teeming with life: Shops doing brisk business fill the central mall, green dots on the map abound. Not to mention the Blue Ant Bar which, Skills told me, is the place to meet the glitterati of Second Life today.

"The sim started as a little store for my own products, an abstract futuristic build in a huge, bright white, seemingly endless room, insipired by movies such as "Nothing" or "Matrix". Pieces of that still exist today and are part of the city - concealed inside the cureent textured and dark design system.

The Early days of Insilico. Photograph courtesy of Skills Hak.

Soon I started building and renting out some more shops for friends and made places to socialize such as the blue ant bar, which started as just a sofa on a platform. I just kept adding prims here and there and soon it began to feel like a naturally grown city. Although I started out with the minimalistic approach in time I decided to make the content as realistic as possible. Thus, a dense atmosphere was created by adding air traffic, a rich sound scenery, huge video screens and maintenance bots working on buildings.

I built INSILICO the way I see a city of the future. I would have made it in far more realistic proportions if I could have done so, bigger and also much higher... So high, in fact, that you would not be able to see the end, but that sadly doesn't work with Second Life's prim counts and drawing distance limits."

The two sims are inside huge megaprims, blocking the sunlight and creating a horizon out of giant buildings in a ring around the actual city so that the overall effect is a footprint of 16 sims. I was quite surprised when Skills wrote that the city had evolved in an emergent manner, with no prior planning as such. Indeed I felt that I had to double check on this, so I asked her again during a conversation in-world: The city seems to have evolved quite symmetrically despite its emergence, clustering around the long and narrow, multilevel commercial center, bringing in mind yet another symmetrically emergent construct, the Topkapi Palace in my home town; on which I actually conducted some research a while ago.

The Fight Club: A converted Buddhist Temple...

"Breathe"... A subtle Red Cross signifies the importance of this pagoda filled with sickly strange greenery...

Skills Hak is a mistress of the narrative: The usage of metaphor in the Buddhist Temple converted into a Fight Club, as well as in the "Breathe" facility, filled to choking with green but nonetheless somehow sickly looking foliage manages to convey a level of desperation and clamoring for survival that simply had me breathless with anxiety. Small wonder this, since Ms. Hak is in fact a successful Graphic Designer in Real Life who describes her design practice as follows:

"My Real Life design practice does affect my in-world design, since I have the same feelings about quality, efficiency and functionality and a love for detail in both places. But only in Second Life I can combine all of my strong points, which is basically my experience in diverse fields such as audio production, graphic design, programming and so on.

Ms. Hak's expertise as a Graphic Designer makes itself felt in details such as these video screens throughout the sim.

It is hard finding interesting projects in Real Life where I can play all of those cards and if I can't, I tend to get bored very quickly and it all ends up being just work - and not fun any more. I enjoy working on high end flash websites with all of their aspects of multimedia, but also on hardcore Graphic Design projects, such as logo design and corporate identities for interesting brands."

Insilico, which was rezzed in May of 2008 and built within a matter of weeks, can be visited by teleporting directly from here. More information on the doomed city can be obtained from the dedicated blog, and more images of Insilico can be seen on the Insilico Flickr Group page, to which I shall be adding my own meagre bunch in due course as well.


Unknown said...

This is good, I particularly like the use of megaprims for background.


Earth Primbee said...

OMG! I've only started exploring this place and it already feels like HOME!!!


This is exactly the kind of city I've been looking for.

Anonymous said...

insilico is awesome, but your post reminded me of a question... whatever happened to nexus prime? how come it got trashed? that was my favorite sim of all time until that happened.