BURN2: Celebrate Burning Man in Second Life, October 8th to 17th, 2021

Entrance to the BURN2 festival (SLURL)

Once upon a time, a man named Philip Rosedale went to Burning Man…and the rest is history. Some say that it was Philip’s experience at Burning Man which inspired him to create the still-thriving virtual world of Second Life. And so it seems very fitting that, as the real-life Burning Man festival has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we gather in Second Life for a virtual Burning Man festival.

Veteran SL blogger Inara Pey writes:

Burn2 2021 opens its gates at 17:00 SLT on Friday, October 8th, 2021 and will run through until Sunday, October 17th, 2021. Possibly as a result of the 2020 event proving so popular amongst Burning Man veterans – that event went virtual due to the pandemic – this year’s Burn2 Octoburn is taking place over a total of 12 regions, double the usual number. Thus, there are more camps, more builds and more things to see and do.

The theme for this year’s event is The Great Unknown, once again matching the core theme of Burning Man, and the organisers of that event describe the theme in these terms:

THIS YEAR’S BURNING MAN THEME IS AN INVITATION TO EMERGE FROM OUR COLLECTIVE ISOLATION, TO EXPLORE THE UNFAMILIAR CONTOURS OF A CHANGED WORLD, AND TO REIMAGINE OURSELVES, OUR COMMUNITY, AND OUR CULTURE IN WAYS THAT MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE BEFORE THIS PERIOD OF PLAGUE AND PAUSE. AFTER A LONG YEAR ADRIFT IN THE MULTIVERSE, BESET BY ANGST AND UNCERTAINTY, IT’S TIME TO CLIMB UP OUT OF OUR ESCAPE PODS AND LOOK OUTSIDE TO SEE WHERE WE’VE LANDED. ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, LIKE NOAH? AT THE BOTTOM OF A RABBIT HOLE, LIKE ALICE? OR ARE WE ON A VAST AND ENDLESS PLAIN, RINGED BY ANCIENT MOUNTAINS, THE SORT OF UNFATHOMABLE TERRITORY THAT ONCE CAUSED MAPMAKERS TO THROW UP THEIR HANDS AND WRITE “HERE BE DRAGONS” AT THE MARGINS OF THE KNOWN WORLD? 

The official BURN2 website offers a bit of background on the virtual festival:

BURN2 is the first sanctioned Burning Man regional in the virtual world. Burning Man has always had a presence in Second Life since its beginning, and BURN2 is the latest incarnation of Burning Man presence there. Today, BURN2 occupies a region in Second Life year-round called Deep Hole, with extra regions added to their virtual space during special events. It is run by a group that includes people involved directly with Burning Man, along with seasoned Second Life programmers and digital artists with a genuine interest in Burning Man.

The BURN2 community is a mix of those who attend real-life Burning Man as well as people from all over the world who may never have the opportunity to visit the real playa, but share a genuine interest in Burning Man. For many, BURN2 is their Burning Man experience. Together, we celebrate Burning Man culture in the unique environment of Second Life.

BURN2 has many of the elements of the Burning Man event, including being set in a desert playa virtual environment, and the opportunity to create your own environment. BURN2 has many of the same organized groups such as Lamplighters, Fire Dancers, Rangers, a DMV complete with crazy art cars to drive around, and many talented artists who build and share their art with the community each year.

You are encouraged to explore the dozen sims of BURN2 on foot, via bicycle (free ones are available at the entrance), or using one of the many crazy free vehicles you can find scattered around. There’s even a hot air balloon to take you high over the playa!

At the end of the BURN2 festival, the burning of The Man and the Temple will take place at 12:00 noon Second Life Time/Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, October 16th, and Sunday October 17th, 2021 respectively.

For more information about BURN2, please visit their website or subscribe to their RSS newsfeed (and if you are complete and utter newbie to Second Life and BURN2, start here for step-by-step instructions on how you can participate). Here’s the listing of all the events taking place, and an event calendar. You can also follow BURN2 on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. See you on the playa!

P.S. There is a large selection of free gifts from various creators located immediately in front of the entrance to BURN2.

Editorial: Will Sansar Survive?

Sansar is the reason I started this blog a little over four years ago, and it with a very heavy heart that I write this blogpost. As many of you know, I found that I had become too emotionally attached to what was going on with Sansar, and I had to step back from my previously comprehensive coverage of the Linden Lab-founded social VR platform, to gain some much-needed perspective and to be able to write about it dispassionately.

While the rumours of Sansar’s impending demise have been circling for quite a long while now, over the past few months, I have been hearing persistent gossip, from various well-placed sources, that Wookey-led Sansar is in serious trouble. I should rush to add that I have zero official confirmation of any of this, but every time I hear a new rumour, it seems to confirm what I have already heard from others. In other words, I am hearing the same thing from many different people.

Most recently, I’ve been told that the Wookey team is missing in action, both on the official Sansar Discord and in-world. I’ve heard that Sansar has lost big-name clients like Lost Horizon and Monstercat (although Sansar is still listed on the Lost Horizon Festival website). I’ve also heard that many people who used to be actively involved in Sansar have left, leaving for platforms as various and diverse as Helios, SapphireXR, and CORE (where I see many Sansar alumni chatting on their Discord servers).

My latest source tells me:

There hasn’t been a product meetup in monthsthey were all working like crazy on Splendour in the Grass…after that, crickets.

The marketplace for hosting live events has become extremely competitive, with social VR platforms competing with game companies like Fortnite and Minecraft to sign deals with artists and festivals, and to host concerts and other musical events. And if Sansar is struggling to do this during a pandemic, how will it fare when things return to (relative) normalcy, with a resurgence of live, in-person events? Can Sansar compete against better-funded companies to attract the kind of A-list talent which brings in audiences—and more to the point, can they get that audience to stick around and become content creators and community members after the music ends?

I am in a better position that most external observers to play armchair quarterback and try to pinpoint exactly where it all went so wrong, but I must confess that, like so many others (including numerous employees laid off in at least two rounds of wrenching, painful layoffs), I really thought that Sansar would succeed.

But the expensive bet placed by Linden Lab (and Philip Rosedale’s company, High Fidelity, which shut down a similar service in early 2020, and pivoted to a spatial audio product), is that there would be tens and even hundreds of thousands of people using high-end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index to access social VR platforms boasting beautiful high-end graphics. It didn’t seem like such a risky bet at the time, but looking back, perhaps it was.

Certainly, part of the problem is that these companies spent millions of dollars and many years building platforms, only to find that the VR hardware market was evolving so quickly that they couldn’t keep up. I mean, the Oculus Rift is no longer being sold by Facebook, which decided to put all their eggs into the standalone Quest, which is selling like hotcakes—and which Sansar can only run on if you attach a cable from your Quest to your high-end gaming PC.

What does it take for a platform to catch fire, like VRChat and Rec Room? Again, I don’t really know the answer (although social media, particularly YouTube and Twitch, certainly played a pivotal role in at least VRChat’s ultimate popularity and success).

At a time when the metaverse has again become a hot buzzword tossed around by many companies, both big and small, who knows what will happen to Sansar. But I must confess that I am very worried.

Breakroom Implements High Fidelity’s Three-Dimensional Audio

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Sinewave Entertainment’s Breakroom (the corporate cousin of their social VR/virtual world platform Sinespace) has recently implemented the spatialized, three-dimensional audio API offered by the revamped High Fidelity.

VentureBeat reports:

The deal is a convergence of pioneers who have made their mark on the development of virtual life. Philip Rosedale is the CEO of High Fidelity and launched Second Life in 2003. Sine Wave Entertainment, the creator of Breakroom, got its start as a content brand in Second Life before it spun out to create its own virtual meeting spaces for real-world events.

Adam Frisby, chief product officer and cofounder of Sine Wave, said in an interview conducted inside Breakroom that the High Fidelity spatial audio will help Breakroom create a triple-A quality experience in a virtual world.

“The real benefit of having 3D audio in a virtual world like this is you can have lots of conversations going on simultaneously,” Frisby said. “3D audio is the only way to replicate the real-world experience in an online environment. You can have a 150-person conference and end up with 10 groups of people talking at the same time. That has helped us with engagement.”

Breakroom is among the first group of clients for Philip Rosedale’s company. Adam tells me that they are looking at implementing the same 3D audio in Sinespace at some point in the future.

Here’s a two-minute YouTube video where Adam Frisby explains and demonstrates the new 3D audio:


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here). 

UPDATED! Adam Frisby and Philip Rosedale in Conversation: Some Notes from Today’s Campfire Talk in Breakroom

If you think Second Life was hard to get into, wait until you buy your first NFT and try to show it to a friend.

—Philip Rosedale.
Philip Rosedale’s and Adam Frisby’s avatars in Breakroom at the Campfire Talk:
Adam admits he has become very attached to his bunny rabbit avatar 😉

Today, Philip Rosedale, the founding CEO of Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life) and the current CEO of High Fidelity, had a chat with Sine Wave Entertainment’s Adam Frisby in Breakroom (the corporate cousin of the Sinewave platform), who was also heavily involved with the development of OpenSim.

In fact, I learned before the event started from Adam Frisby that Breakroom had implemented the High Fidelity spatialized audio system, just before the event! A crowd of about 50 avatars gathered in a custom virtual world created by Adam himself, which reminded me strongly of the great Canadian north!

Here are a few quick notes on just a few of the topics from that conversation today (I hope to be able to add a video of the complete event later):

  • Rohan Freeman of Sine Wave Entertainment gave an introduction, mentioning that their business had started in Second Life
  • Wagner James Au of the blog New World Notes had a few audio difficulties, but eventually was able to speak, thanking everyone for coming, and mentioned a few features of the web-based Breakroom app (including emojis and hand-raising)
  • What is a metaverse? Adam said it is a powerful blank canvas, allowing people to create and express themselves. Philip said that the older he gets, and the more he contemplates virtual worlds, the less sure he becomes about what the “metaverse” is. He defines it as “the digital space between us”, a creative space that consists on our shared agreement on the space between us (based on consensus). That space is the metaverse.
  • The nature of virtual worlds includes the idea of the person/individual/avatar, a concept that is missing from the internet, which mainly exists to connect information
  • Most surprising or humbling thing about user creativity? Philip said the infinite creativity of people building upon each others’ work over and over again, and how far Second Life has come in its history, which is inspiring to him. Adam said the game-building that has taken place in Sinespace, how people continually subvert the rules of the platform and make amazing things like first-person shooters
  • What aspects of SL user creativity should newer platforms learn from? Philip is proud of SL, particularly the economy and the ability to creative derivative works/derivative rights, which he says still really hasn’t been replicated elsewhere. Adam said the financial and legal work required to enable that economy and operation, allowing people to create and sell their goods, calling it a “self actualization economy”.
  • Adam: you can succeed in building a virtual world without an economy (cites VRChat), but if you want to get people to invest, you want to attract professionals who expect to be able to earn money, let them run free, which makes them more popular (e.g. Roblox)
  • Is the metaverse limited to younger people? Philip said no, but the youngest generation which has the most time and energy, determine whatever happens next. Second Life started off with a younger userbase, which has aged over time. (Many people tell Philip that they got their start in SL.) Adam talked about the pivot to Breakroom during the pandemic, which has had huge adoption in areas such as banking conferences and events (something that he would not have previously predicted). Adam got his start in Active Worlds, when he had lots of energy! Different people want different things: socialization, creativity, etc.
  • How important is the adoption of VR headsets? Adam said that it is still too easy to “break the spell” when in virtual reality, and thinks that VR might reach 30% of households at some point. VR per se will not make or break a metaverse. Philip said he learned that it’s still to early: the VR headset is still not going to be a replacement for something like the smartphone anytime soon (e.g. the awkward workarounds for typing in a headset). “We’re absolutely not there yet.” Divisive with respect of the people willing to wear an “electronic blindfold” (creates an imbalance in the social fabric). Despite this, he is still enthusiastic about VR, despite his pragmatism based on his experience with the old High Fidelity social VR platform.
  • Cryptocurrency and NFTs: Philip said that there are still many challenges to face, saying that cryptocurrencies tend to concentrate wealth even more rapidly than regular currencies. Neither do NFTs. “If you think Second Life was hard to get into, wait until you buy your first NFT and try to show it to a friend.” Adam is NOT a fan of crypto, citing losing your passwords and losing access to your wallet as a serious problem (and customer service cannot help you!). These sorts of things are complete antithesis of something consumer-friendly, plus the environmental destruction caused by mining cryptocurrency. Philip thinks SL’s governance helped open up the conversation on how best to manage economies.

The event ended with questions from the audience. All in all, it was a wonderful event, with a great many people in attendance who are active in the metaverse!

UPDATE June 30th, 2021: As promised, here is the unedited, 80 minute-long YouTube video of the event:


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).