A Steampunk Shepherd for Nikola Tesla
What does Second Life Steampunk and Nikola Tesla have in common? Amazing creative genius, all synthesized in a fantastical steampunk sim called France 3D Nemo.
In order to appreciate the depth of inspiration behind this sim, let me take a moment to introduce you to Nikola Tesla, a man whose brilliant yet tragic role in the history of inventions was virtually ignored until long after his death. Only recently have books, films, comics and even video games begun to tell his story — often with heavy steampunk influences, no doubt due to the nature of his inventions.
The typical Tesla account portrays him as a tortured genius far ahead of his time. No matter which story you read, it’s clear he came up with many incredible inventions that were repeatedly usurped by stronger powers (pun intended), including the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.
In addition to developing the far more efficient mode of AC electricity (including generators, transformers, transmission lines, motors and lighting), dramatically improving x-ray technology, and demonstrating wireless radio communications (not to mention creating lightning bolts for sheer amusement), Tesla’s inventions included countless other futuristic ideas, many of which have scientists intrigued to this day.
Exploring The Steampunk Side of Second Life: France 3D Nemo
Maybe it was the desire to tell the underdog’s story, or maybe it was simply one brilliant innovator recognizing another. Either way, we had avatar Sextan Shepherd to thank for interpreting the story of Nikola Tesla in the creation of a steampunk sim that was (and I’m terribly sorry to be using past tense) quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen in Second Life.
It’s true, after a mere eight months, France 3D Nemo no longer exists in Second Life. So I’ve modified this story to give you a description of what it was like…
Imagine numerous rooms filled with incredible Tesla-like creations ranging from imaginary to scientific (think Tesla meets Jules Verne), a recreation of Tesla’s laboratory, his private library, and an intricate solar system sculpture. Every object and thoughtful detail featured exquisitely crafted, artfully shadowed textures — clearly the work of a photoshop master.
Nemo Celestial Clock photo by Domitalia Jinx
In one room, AC currents flickered up the backs of a mechanical steampunk shrimp, a steampunk horseshoe crab waved its metallic arms in the air, and steampunk jellyfish bobbed in a tank along the wall. In another room, a breathtaking steampunk clock slowly kept time off to the side of the large room. Inside the main laboratory itself you were able to experience the thrill Tesla must have felt by pressing a button to create an umbrella of lightning over your head. Few sims (if any) in Second Life ever displayed such thoughtful, artistic detail. Even the ceilings and walls were meticulously designed.
Yet the underground laboratory was only the beginning. In the very last room (the one containing revolving photo frames), if you walked through a portal (under the words “You Are Now Entering Nemo II”) and a long tunnel, your avatar would slowly ascend from the ocean floor into a mine, where steampunk equipment was hard at work. At the back was a catwalk leading up to the open air, where a steam-powered trolley car offered a choice: walk down into the valley to explore the massive steam-powered airship, or take the trolley into the little city (with appropriate shopping and a larger solar system display at the top of the hill).
So what possessed Sextan to create a sim inspired by Nikola Tesla and interpreted in steampunk? I was lucky enough to meet this talented Frenchman recently and ask for myself. His answer? “Because I love you all!” he insisted I say.
And then insisted that Bobby and I join him on his DaVinci Aerodyne airship (it was either that or the A W. Crokkes Plasma Balloon) for a most special aerial tour: Nemo III, his latest evolution of steampunk brilliance, slated to open on August 15. As he piloted our ship up into the sky, he began to share his story.
“I built it all from scratch. I had no idea what it was going to be when I started it. I had no plans… I started to build the mechanical sea animals just because it was fun to do,” said Sextan (referring to the steampunk shrimp, horseshoe crab, jellyfish, and manta ray in one of the first undersea rooms of Nemo I).
So where did his ideas come from?
“I just let my imagination flow and build stuff I have in mind. The ideas come like a flash — I see what I’m going to build before it exists — so it’s not only an idea that comes to me, it’s more like a vision. After that it’s easy… I just have to reproduce what I have seen in my mind.” (“Easy” he says… mhmm…)
Sextan brought the Aerodyne to a smooth landing on a platform high up in the sky, and stepped down, waiting for us to disembark before continuing. “Maybe it’s because I love to play video games, but I am very demanding on realistic textures and overall rendering. I want this sim to be like a video game, not like a sim.”
Of course I had to know what sort of video games he was playing; but strangely they had no relation to steampunk: “I actually prefer horror survival games, such as Left 4 Dead or Dead Space. I have no idea why I’m drawn to steampunk in Second Life,” he shrugged. (Who cares why, when it looks this good!)
As our computers caught up with us, we gazed around in awe at the sky city slowly rezzing before us, still under construction yet already operating beyond the caliber of many SL sims. Everywhere we looked was an intriguing structure, some with moving pistons, others emitting strange electrical currents. Every object was rendered in breathtaking textures, all of which are likewise Sextan’s own creation: “I spend half of my time in Photoshop, the other half doing the actual building,” Sextan confessed.
Clearly Sextan must have also perfected the art of cloning, because Nemo is “just for fun… just a hobby for me. My real passion, my lifetime hobby, is music.” (One can only imagine what level of talent his music entails, if this beautiful sim is “just a hobby,” but Sextan remained mysteriously mute on that topic… suffice to say all of the sound effects you hear around Nemo are created by this same man…)
Nemo III: August 15 – November 1, 2010
This last and final phase of Nemo, which we were so priveleged to view before its grand opening, contained yet more examples of Sextan’s creative mind:
- The Steampunk Air Museum: an assortment of steampunk-era flying machines, all original and masterfully crafted by Sextan, complete with blueprints.
- The Telescope: “I’m happy I finally made a glass lens that looks like a glass lens,” said Sextan. (I couldn’t agree more.)
- The Space-O-Rama Theater: where you can watch four phases of the universe’s mysteries in 3D (be sure to check out the gears operating this amazing device!).
- The House of Mirrors: an incredible stained glass tower with revolving mirrors… the first of their kind in Second Life.
And so… sooo much more…..
And while Victorian Steampunk is often the common genre, Sextan based his on the Belle Epoque era — “between 1890 and 1920,” Sextan informed us. Yep, this man knew his stuff.
Nothing is Planned, So All Is Possible
What does the future hold for Sextan? “I don’t know what I’m going to build tomorow. I build one thing, add another, and continue, at the end I have a sim like this. But I always feel excited because nothing is planned, so all is possible.”
“But I have already prepared the end of Nemo,” Sextan admitted. “The day I leave SL, I select everything… unlink all… and check the “physic” button! I think it will be amazing to see 15K of prims falling apart on the ground.”
Sadly we were not there on that fateful day…
Steampunk Fashion for a Second Life Neko
| Hair | Ploom (formerly Deviant Kitties): Koneko in Auburn (edited a bit to cover those strange human ears)
| Ears and Tail | Clabs/Chrysallis Labs: Chronos Kitteh Neko Gear (pictured above, and the photo still doesn’t do it justice… this is an excellent steampunk-esque Neko set!)
| Eyes | Dirty Lynx: Surreality eyes (prims that cover your eyes with very cool little moving steampunk gears)
| Goggles | HG/Hob Goblin: Steampunk Goggles, worn on chin
| Mouth Piercing | Bathory Design via Trashville: Gear Clock (Note: this collection of stores uses an unusual teleport system similar to a vendor, with small pictures surrounding a large picture. Wait for the teleport sign to rez, then click on the Bathory Design sign [black with blue lettering]. That will change the picture in the main teleport sign. Click on the main picture… and you’ll arrive at a semi-transparent wall enscribed “Bathory Design.” Walk through it and you’ll find the goods. I wish a direct slurl was allowed!)
| Collar | Bing: Steampunk Scarf, worn on chest (If the slurl doesn’t bring you directly to the store, look for the red beacon and fly to it.)
| Right Arm Replacement – Gears, Pistons and Electricity | LH / Losthaven: Cyber-Steam Arm Replacements (package comes with replacements for both right and left arm; I just wore the right one)
| Left Arm Replacement - Glowing Glass and Gears | Black Opal: part of the Mechanique Steampunk Outfit described next (this accessory caused a lot of “where did you get that amazing arm piece” IMs)
| Outfit | Black Opal: Mechanique Steampunk Outfit (includes “glass upper arm” accessories for both left and right arms, but I just wore the one on the left; also includes a spyglass but I wore one from another designer; also includes boots but I wore some from another designer). Purchase online here. See a video of this outfit here.
| Gear Belt | Black Opal: part of the Mechanique Steampunk Outfit described above
| Leggings | Black Opal: part of the same outfit described above; includes two layers: brass leg skin worn on underwear layer, and mesh stockings and garters worn on the pants layer
| Thigh Strap | Grim Bros: from the “Cuprum Copperbot” outfit (a whole steampunkish avatar); this item comes on the left ankle; to get it to be a thigh strap, I duplicated the original, attached it to my left thigh, and rotated/stretched to fit.
| Boots | Mochi Products (Mochi Rokocoko): Mechanical Boots in blown (brown) (package comes with non-geared boot uppers as well)
SHOP: An Alternate Outfit in Honor of Tesla: Steampunk Tesla Penumatic Combat Armor
SEE: The Tesla Steampunk Cane
CONNECT: Via an Awesome SL Steampunk Blog
EXPLORE: France 3D Futuna “Nemo” Steampunk build by Sextan Shepherd
Probably because I’m still in denial that this sim no longer exists, I’ve decided to keep the old slurl. Who knows, maybe he’ll resurrect it again one of these days? We can only hope… but for now… this slurl no longer works. :-(
(Thankfully you can see and remember the sim via this video.)
VIEW: More Photos of France 3D Futuna “Nemo”
All photos (except as noted) by yet another talented Frenchman, Bobby Yoshikawa <3***
© Stacia Villota / Virtual Neko in Second Life – 2010