Mittwoch, 30. Juli 2014

Portrait: Ruby ODegee

It's not long ago and Kitely opened its portals to the Hyperverse. A reason for "The Hyperzette" to start exploring this grid. Kitely's webpage has a section called "Explore Worlds" which I checked to find interesting places in the grid. For some reason the region "Picture Book" caught my interest. (Was it the picture I saw or the description one will get when clicking on the picture I do not know.) Anyway, I teleported to the place and got caught by that "WOW" emotion.
Meeting with the Mentor

The build of the region is fantastic and I started to wander around on the metal grid walkways that show you the way you may walk. But after a little while I asked myself: "What is it all about", when I met Ruby O'Degee the builder and owner of the 9 regions (I got aware of the size of the continent, when talking to Ruby). After the talk I suggested to publish an interview in "The Hyperzette" and Ruby agreed in excitement. And this continent "Picture Book" contains so much, she has to say a lot about it. So let's spread the word out.
The Ordinary World

Hello Ruby my first question wants to know about your first contact with Virtual Worlds. When did it happen ?

The year was 1994.
My first point and click experience came with Myst, Riven and the hybrid Myst 3.
I won an immersion world writing contest in 2000, and I was asked to help test a new kind of game/experience. Immersion in 2000 did not necessarily mean it was 3D, only that it was film and sound. The project sponsored by Electronic Arts failed, but it was great experience.
Then in the summer of 2003 I was invited to join the Uru Beta phase of the massive online player game.
Since Uru (Myst Online) isn't only a game and I immediately saw the potential of what 3D world and immersion could do for folks:
education, social interaction (bringing together persons worldwide, entertainment, and storytelling).
Uru was so beautifully rendered it was a joy to enter the online world everyday and to meet friends that shared my odd interests from all over the world. I was hooked! So hooked that I followed Cyan authors after the game failed to launch and moved from Ubisoft to other distributors.
While I invested a little of my time in the world Cyan created and I briefly tried Second Life during the days there were a lot of probems in Second Life, including finding reasonably priced land, and family-friendly uses (or neighbors) for that land.
I got motion sick just walking around in the poorly textured and washed out SL grid. It all looked like a cartoon to me.
Uru may have failed to find an audience, and failed to launch in 2004, but it was so richly illustrated and beautiful. I was spoiled by its beauty, vision and backstory.
Where was the story in Second Life ?
There were casinos, bordellos and shops that sold bad looking objects. I wanted to believe it could be made friendly for residents like me, but I gave up. In one month I was out, and except for a couple of wonderland educational meetups I never went back in.
Second Life was a big disappointment to me. I wanted to wait until something better and more family friendly came along.
Uru launched again a few months later (this time GameTap). GameTap gave the distribution of the "game" a good try and supported my real time podcast company (The Cavern Today)
During the GameTap phase I learned more about world building, community management and machinma.
50 friends/avatars an I produced a machinima that is rerun every year at Christmas
I wrote the script, a friend edited the script and other persons,provided the music. It was a wonderful experience, but >Uru failed to launch again.
I pouted but tried to figure out a way to build in the Cyan style more cheaply and with less math/technology background than they possessed. What I didn't know at the time is that Dot Matrix and her friends were doing the same thing in SL. In 2008-2009 I followed the Uru refugees from 2007 to Second Life and I saw what she did with Devokan builds and I was hooked all over again. But there were still problems - namely I could only build basic objects, my terrain skills were limited and Blender was a nightmare.
So I enjoyed experimenting with clothes, and sculpties using free or no cost tools and waited again. Open sim was tugging at me. I started top build with the Arda folks.
Crossing the Threshold

What was the first Virtual World ? And why Kitely now ?

For years my stories were written in the traditional manner using text. But since the second failure of Uru to launch in 2007, I wanted to build a desert scene and a shaft.
So "Brantley No. 3 Shaft" was my first build, but I never opened it to the public.
The storybuild open to visitors, who come to Kitely is a revised version of the build Virtual Christine wrote about. With Mesh and better low cost tools I am able to build what I envision to be a back door shaft to the Uru cavern shaft that inspires all of my builds.
For about two years I built hit or miss at Kitely. I did not have a full use premium account until this year.
Since I was a full time teacher, I only had time to annoy myself with Blender learning curves on the weekends and during the summer. In the meantime I terraformed, learned a little scripting, built prim objects, practiced making sculpts and wrote out my stories at the Devokan Trust

Then last November I decided to make it work or not. I had the Uru and Arda education, the wild story, the jump through the Blender learning curve (at least for limited use) and the apprenticeship from watching my Devokan friends, Paislee Myrtle, Mat Mahogany, and Daniel Hoffman at work, plus the discussions with Dot Matrix, Danko Whitfield, and Ghaelen D'Lareh.  They inspire me to keep learning and experimenting.
Tests, Allies and Enemies

The regions "Picture Book" (9 in all) are not only regions for a fantastic looking, which they sure are, but do have a certain purpose. Can you tell our readers what kind of purpose ?

"Picture Book" is about teaching students the elements of a hero journey. There will be an accompanying book published before Christmas, but anyone can participate at whatever level of investment they choose and imagine their journey.
Because its still in the Beta phase, the gamification devices are slowly being added. I think a walk about will make more sense when these devices are added/fixed, but first there are the matters of safety to consider.
The unofficial Uru guidebook for storytelling argues that worlds used for storybuilding (game or venue) be navigable.
"Picture Book" has another couple of weeks of road work left to be done. The upper tier needs to be carefully connected to the lower walkthrough through magical portals and Mesh tunnels.
"Picture Book's" real purpose is to teach by participation. Learning a language in the environment of origin is easier than learning through instruction materials or classrooms.

Storybuilding (reading and writing) works exactly the same way. A writer hasn't written a thing until someone reads what is written, so argues the inofficical Uru guidebook my whole teaching foundation was based on.
Truth is:
I never learned to teach in a college or from district professional development. My students made gains when other students didn't because I learned to teach with story narratives, and I forced them to enter my worlds whether they wanted to come or not. First with multi user dimension text stories and later with worlds they could see and be a part of.
Yep, I am definitely convinced immersion works. :-)
The Approach

I have read "The Heroe's Journey Outline" by Joseph Campbell ( How does this Outline work together with the 9 regions of "Picture Book" ?

Eventually every step will include the puzzles and devices I mentioned earlier.
1) first get to the location and see,
2) then hear the ambient sounds,
3) solve a puzzle or little notecard test,
4) read the glyphs that will be added with the cards, now that "you" know how to read them, and
5) read the research that accompanies all good reading -in traditional worlds we call that the bibliography.

I hope that storybuilds will teach them how to consider research, when they are wearing Oculus Rift and wandering around the ruins of Mesopotamia cities (inworld or out). I believe you reading the hero's journey only enhances your visit to the world. I plan to add more outside readings to my builds that can be accessed from within the world.
The Ordeal

If I understand it right, "Picture Book" may be a tool to help one write his own adventure. If that is true would the visual impressions the region give not influence your own fantasy when writing a story.

Uru impressions are always found in my story. So are Yeats impressions, Keats impressions, Van Gogh impressions, and impressions left by a visit to Prince Edward Island in Canada. I expect that every place we visit virtual or otherwise should leave us with impressions, but our writing voice will filter out what isn't our own story to tell.
I always warned my students not to copy their writing from other students verbatim. It is illegal and silly to do that, but I encouraged them to copy a style, write about the same topic, use similar language of someone they admire.
They were always suprised to find that their stories were uniquely their own, once their voice and the magic of revision took over.
My friend Chad told me this morning that my latest 2D artwork was taking on the look of  "A child of light" artist (the game).
I'd never seen it, so clueless I am about other games being played. I went and looked, and bought the game have no time to play. I will likely look at how the art got done, but my art will never be recognized as that art. It simply can't be done. Or at least I've never seen it done. Another morsel of my storybuilding opinion found in the unofficial Uru storybuilding guidebook. <giggles>
By the way, the guys at Cyan (Uru makers) say there is no new invention or creation. We've been making deriatives for thousands of years. I am ok with that.
I expect storybuilders will eventually get hooked like I am and build on their own.<
The Reward

As being an novice in story telling I would need help to even begin anything (but running around) at and with "Picture Book". Do I get any help and how ?

Since I just retired from teaching at a US public school, I haven't got everything done I want to get done. I hesitate to open my worlds without guidebooks, but I am doing it so visitors can take an early look at a work in progress.
I build my worlds on a budget of less than $300, a sum that includes any tool I use (including open source). I do that so other storybuilders or storytellers can also build worlds for a small or no cost investment. What it takes is a desire (well, maybe a passion) for knowing how to do it.
I was so fortunate to be born into a family of wacky storytellers (liars as my mother would say) that can't keep their hands off anything that even resembles a story.  
My friends always ask me; "Are you going write our experience into one of your stories?"  I always say yes, eventually. They just sigh and say "Oh dear.".

So yes, I am writing guide/pocket book and walk through, because there is nothing worse than not being able to finish something. When Myst came out in 1994 there were no hints guides. It took me 7 months to finish the puzzles. Riven took 4 months, and I've never finished Myst IV with or without a walkthrough guide.
Neither has the game builder's brother, Ryan Miller. He admits it, and the game lost explorers (they quit playing).
So I want my world to be navigable, fun, and easy to play when I am done - hopefully "Picture Book" will be 95% done by December.
Since Ruby is 95% me, the author behind my character its only fitting I should always have 5% revision room to change out little things after I say a world is complete :)
The Road Back

Who is Ruby ODegee ? I mean what are the personal concerns of Ruby ODegee to create a world like "Picture Book" ? As you told me ( and to be read at the Lakewater Project page) you have been a teacher, is this an attempt of yours to find new ways of book writing education ?

Absolutely, the current way learning is done in this country is not working. It is becoming a miserable situation for students and teachers, who are constantly trying to raise test scores. Hours are being added to school days, activities and the arts are being cast aside, time to sit quietly and think aloud is being shoved to the wayside.
There are not enough hours in a day to bring our children into the realm of reading, math and science. Technology will help to inform a student, but it won't help to transform a student, unless we take another look at how we are trying to teach kids.

Ruby O'Degee is by intention a self-absorbed and single-minded doumentary movie producer and museum curator. She specializes in collecting oddball artifacts and telling people about them.
My students looked her name up on google. They found several not so nice comments made about her, and they loved it. They did not fear her. She is too much like a cartoon character to spoil their day.
The next day I asked them to look me up. One student found one comment that was dry and boring. Of course, I said I am not going to write about my personal problems to solve and publish them on the internet, but Ruby will and you can learn from her mistakes and her successes. That way you don't have to live her mistakes.
Odd note:   Adults are less concerned about Ruby O'Degee than the children. She can't hurt them either (not that she ever say anything inappropriate or hateful). She is a G-rated and family friendly character. I suppose Ruby O'Degee is my virtual Charlie McCarthy puppet I can hold her on my knee and let her say the words I can't or won't. Another character of mine, Madge Millicuddles is even more like that She was once a phone answering machine that got repaired with bad code. When she became an Avatar she was not all there.
She still isn't.

The real life veterans at the veteran's hospital in Missouri loved to listen to Madge's Uru podcast stories.  If you listen to one of the programs you will definitely hear her voice, Hee hee.
The Road Back (pic 2)

You may have mentioned the "Lakewater Project" already, but can you tell the readers what the Project is about ?

The "Lakewater Project" is a project dedicated to the art of storybuilding that the Cyan folks might never write. If they knew about Open Sim (and I do plan to talk to them about), they would be "writing a guidebook" -- ahem, not me.

At this time Lakewater is a 7 storybuild project connected through the builds of one fictive author.  When she was fired in real time from her own volunteer podcast company for being stubborn about her vision (really did happen) she was asked by her collaborative Avatars to go away and come back as someone else. (really did happen).
So for two days her author thought about it and decided not to agree. The in character story for leaving provided by those Avatars who took over the podcast is that Ruby tunneled under the D'ni cavern lake and stayed there.
Of course, she didn't.
She just took a break from writing for awhile (really did happen).

Do you have more regions than "Picture Book" ? If yes can you name them ?

Yes, Picture Book's writing is being ended this winter (except for that 5%), but Ruby has many other kinds of storybuilds to tell:
Currently these are:
Brantley No. 3 Shaft 
Consortium Park
Oakes Valley (self- guided Who Done It ?)
Celestial Toymaker a tribute to Dr. Who
Midtown Arts Museum.
Midtown is the hub.Picture Book and the others are Midtown exhibits.
Return with the Elixir

What are your plans for the future ?

I live in a picturesque place, where it is nice to take a walk or watch critters (creatures).Ruby will continue to storybuild. She and I hope students will learn how to read by immersion, so we are in a rush to get them ready.
I plan to spend most of my time promoting storybuilding as an educational narrative tool for teaching reading an writing.

Thanks Ruby for answering my questions

It was a pleasure. ;-)

Interviewpartner: Ruby ODegee
For the "Hyperzette": zaphod Enoch

Kitely Region Picture Book Book

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