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Monday, July 3, 2017

Interview with Faust Steamer (Walton F. Wainwright), Builder of The SL14B Stage Left


 By Bixyl Shuftan

The Second Life Fourteenth Birthday was known for a number of great builds. Among them was "Stage Left" or "The Guardian," a huge three-headed Chinese-style lion that straddled two sims, carrying the stage where parties were held on it's back. It's size, detail, and moving heads caused numerous onlookers to go "Wow!" and marvel. It's creator was Faust Steamer, also known by his display name of Walton F. Wainwright. Recently, I had a chance to interview him, at the feet of his creation, "so the beast can have a listen in on it too, ha ha!"

"To begin with, how did you first hear about Second Life?" I asked, noting his entry was in February 2009.

Faust thought for a moment, "My memory may be a bit foggy, but I think I found Second Life through an ad online while browsing for comics to read. I saw it once, twice, maybe three times before I gave in to give it a shot. I thought it was some kind of customizable 'freeware' sims game of some sort, but it turned out to be far more complicated than I expected."

"What were you expecting?" I asked.

The builder answered, "I actually just expected some kind of online version of the sims to be honest, and I really wanted to play it, but at the time I couldn't really afford it."

I responded, "So you had no idea every avatar would have a person behind it at first?"
He answered, "At the time, I didn't really think about that. I just thought maybe it was a community game where you build houses with a set of assets, decorate it and show it off to people or something for the sort. I wasn't sure what the system would be like or how it'll happen, but my expectations thought it was a small game, not a creative platform with a vast learning curve."

My next question was, "And how did your view change over the first few days?"

Faust stated, "Yes, quite a bit. I started in Caledon Oxbridge and read over the tutorials and instructions there about how to work the viewer and understand the concept of an open virtual world. The learning curve was intense,and since I had no friends in game  to guide me coupled with a healthy dash of shyness, I isolated myself and eventually understood the idea of 'creating' on Second Life by pulling apart freebies and reading the boards at the place I first rezzed in. Eventually, I just got to building for fun - kind of like being given legos and seeing what I can do with it. I lived in a sandbox with a low return rate and stayed there with little idea on what the community was like."

I then asked, "How long did that last and what got you to change?"

He answered, "A year and a half. It wasn't until late 2010 did I start inviting friends from outside of Second Life to join me in appreciating the very idea that we could put together our roleplay characters and watch them come to life in 3D. One of them was far better at socializing than I will ever be, and discovered that there is a whole wide community out there dedicated to roleplay. My friends dragged me out of the sandbox, kicking and screaming. But we eventually settled in a 'Silent Hill" inspired roleplay sim. From there, I started learning about stores, Second Life shopping, and found a place camping for L$2 an hour so I could buy some neat things. Earning things that aren't freebies, I discovered 'sculpties' and saw how they could be used and looked into how those worked through a store's really detailed tutorial which expanded my interests in content creation. I mainly focused on creating things for my roleplay characters."

"What things did you create for them?" I asked

He told me, "Textured shirts, capes, hats, masks, claws, gloves, armor pieces...accessories, really. I really like plague doctors and at the time, those masks aren't made often so I tried to make my own, for example. When avatars could have alpha layers, I decided to find a way to create big, sharp gnarly teeth that would stretch across the face to work for a character of mine, and it worked out great."

"Plague doctor?" I asked in response, "Isn't that what's on your profile picture?  Or is is something similar?"

" Oh yes," he answered, "that's one of many I've made for myself, though, that one's made in ... 2014? 2015?. I've made sculpted plague doctor masks, beaked bird masks, even prim masks way before that. In general, I just really enjoy making masks and cover my face with them."

"Like the one you're wearing now?" I spoke, referring to his avatar's appearance.

"Yes!" he responded enthusiastically, "This one I made back in ... 2015 for an event, but it's inspired by similar cultures as our dear stage here, so I wore it for the occasion."

"We'll get back to that in a bit," I went on, "When did you start building other things beside masks and other things for you and your roleplay group?"

Faust answered, "I think when I started opening my store in 2011. It took a year's worth of encouragement, but once I got it going I needed to build myself a store building and other assets that would give my shop a certain look and theme I wanted at the time. I liked to make small things for a while, and I dabbled in larger builds, but often canceled or deleted them because they weren't good enough. I played around with furniture and decorations like interactive automatons and music boxes after seeing how far LSL (Linden script language) can get from a few amazing and intuitive stores I admire."

"Sounds interesting," I told him, "What kinds of larger builds were you making?"

The masked man answered, "I tried to find ways to make airships, better store builds, buildings. Especially after mesh came out,however, I couldn't quite wrap my head around the land impact puzzle so I tend to trash them all. When SL12B came around, I think that was when I started to make use of the 'freedom' I was given: to make an art piece within the theme and make it functional for what it needs to do for visitors. With a whole sim, I was able to experiment more. I learned a lot since then, though I still dislike building large things."

I then asked, "What happened between the SL12B and SL13B that got you noticed by the Birthday organizers?"

His answer was, "For Sl12B, I was invited to do the welcome area by someone in the works who was a collector of my musical machines. Between SL12B and SL13B...I have no idea. One day I was invited and was recommended to do stage left, so I took it up and just went to work."

I brought up, "As I understand, that got quite a bit of attention."

"Surprisingly so," Faust responded, "and I'm quite happy that it did. It was the largest piece I've built at the time. I think when I was brainstorming on it, I was just thinking, 'I want to build a really big music box'. I was also testing some new techniques with it as well."

"Yes," I told him, "I kept hearing "Oh my gosh, it moves!" from the people there."

"Ah yes," Faust seemed to smile underneath his mask, "our brand's specialty apart from the accessories are its interactive, moving machines, so we had to at least make the Storyteller stage move as well. Experimental, but turned out quite interesting."

I then asked him, "I take it you had your share of complements during and after the SL13B?"

"I suppose so," the builder answered, "I learned a lot while building the stage during SL13B, and there are a good number of mistakes from that too, which I've considered and brought over for SL14B.

Going back to subject of his current build, "When were you asked to be a part of the SL14B, and what gave you the idea for the Chinese lion?"

He answered, "I was asked to be part of SL14B late January or February -- somewhere around there, I don't remember exactly. I was very interested in southeast Asian culture and Indonesian styled beasts with their wild faces and did a series of illustrations based that for finals in college. I thought back on my research about it when the theme of SL14B was released, and wanted to do something inspired by the style of it. Originally the stage's name was 'Dance of the Demon', but I really didn't think the beast was all that much of a demon itself, so I called it the 'Guardian'."

I brought up the highlighted title over his avatar, "I take it that's what your title 'Guardian's Keeper' refers to?"

"Yes," Faust answered, "the sim's name is called 'The Guardian', and the title is just a cute little theme thing I wanted to keep up. I kind of like making characters or avatars that relate to the setting."

"So this is the Guardian of the SL14B?" I asked.

The builder responded, "I'd say he's the Guardian of the forest who came out from where he came to see the festivities and celebrate SL14B, yes. He's a bit scary, but he's a gentle creature, I assure you!"

I gave a short chuckle, then brought up, "I notice in one hand of his there's a flower, and then there's that the stage itself is on his back."

"Indeed," Faust described, "he's a gentle creature that only wishes to tend to the forest and let flourish. He can be quite frightening when his domain is under fire though, but that is not what he emerged out into SL14B for!"

My next question was, "Does 'The Guardian' have a future of any kind after the SL14B?"

The builder told me, "I've been told numerous times to make a miniature version of The Guardian. Other than that, I don't know if he will be rezzed out in full ever again after SL14B, since he would need two sims to be rezzed down. He will likely be put in a little folder within the depths of my inventory along side with The Station and The Storyteller."

I then asked, "Did you have any plans if you get asked to take part in another SLB?"

Faust answer was, "I won't know until the next theme's released, unfortunately. Whatever theme and what area I handle greatly affects what I end up wanting to do for the event. So that's a bit of a mystery for now, even on my part!"

"Did you have any other plans for the future?" I asked him.

"None that I know of," he answered, "I've been focusing a lot on my real life work as of late. I do wish to expand my store a bit and rework all of its contents, however. Other than that, if time permits perhaps I can try building sims and apply for the LEA."

"Oh?" I asked, "Have an art exhibit idea in mind for there?"

The builder pondered, "If I were to do an art exhibit I'd like to do something spooky, maybe involving the occult, or sim telling a story through visual clues littered throughout the place. I don't stick to plans until I end up needing to sit down and think about it proper when everything's ready to go. I do think it should relate to story telling, as you can tell, I'm quite a fan of that."

We were near the end, and to my last question, "Was there anything else you wanted to mention?"

Faust answered, "I'd like to thank everyone for supporting me throughout my journey as an artist in Second Life and all those who have supported my work and store all these years. I really appreciate all of you for keeping my hobby alive and encouraging me to keep it up. Never forget Second Life's supposed to be fun, because that is what we're all here for."

It was then that the builder of The Guardian and I parted ways.

There's little doubt Faust's creation will be a noted part of the Second Life Birthday history as the years go on, and one wonders what the man will build next.

Faust also has his own Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/people/waltonwainwright/ .

Bixyl Shuftan

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