Month: March 2014

What Is This “Dankoville” Anyway?

this piece was written to appear on My Virtual Blog as well as the Dankoville website. It will be cross-posted on a couple of Danko Whitfield’s blogs.

 

Welcome to my world and thanks for your interest.

Almost all of the writing I do these days is as Danko Whitfield, writer & explorer of virtual worlds. The virtual world of Dankoville is a place for me to visualize Danko’s story, to walk through it, to stand inside it, to be or feel as Danko as I ever could be.

It is also my virtual writer’s retreat.

Hence, Dankoville is made up of places in Danko’s story.

The Greater Dankoville area of the grid includes the town of Dankoville and neighboring farming communities. Dankoville is located somewhere in the upper midwest or nothern plains of the United States. For a time, I tried to keep blurred whether it was in the U.S. or Canada but I could only hold off committing on that for so long. Last fall, Danko told the story of returning to the family farm (in Whitfield Crossing, a few miles (two regions) south of Dankoville) . In one installment of the story we learned that in 1960, Dankoville was a roughly two-day bus trip from Kansas City. Danko gets on the bus at some hour of the morning and arrives in Dankoville late the next afternoon. We don’t know about layovers or delays so we don’t really know how many miles Dankoville is from Kansas City or what state it is in. We – Danko and me – don’t get into specifics about that.

Danko had written about the family farm – operated by his Uncle Manuel – in the past. But he only made references to it. When I started writing as Danko, in the spring of 2010 – three years after I joined Second Life and a few months before I first ventured into OpenSim, I made the decision to write only about places I could visit in virtual worlds. There were a number of reasons for this, I doubt I can remember them all now, but they included: it would be a different approach for me; I could let Danko’s character develop as these virtual places – real places to him – came into his virtual (real) life; I could help bring the places I visited to the attention of other virtual explorers.

But when Danko started writing about his travels, I was divesting SL Mainland holdings – which totaled almost three full regions at their peak. Danko now had only two parcels – 2048 sqm total – in Winterfell (and soon a 1536 sqm parcel in neighboring Caledon). There was no room to create the family farm. Which was fine as Danko was exploring Winterfell, Caledon, The Steamlands and related places so he had plenty of new things to write about as his new life was just beginning.

But on a lark last fall, I found myself with a 3×3 OpenSim grid via New World Studio. I wasn’t planning to have my own world/region/grid/standalone/whatever…I was just curious about how NWS worked. I had a couple of specific question about it and, rather than ask anybody, I gave it a try to see if I could get the answers. I wasn’t expecting to be able to make it work – either because of NWS’ shortcomings or my PC’s shortcomings or my own.

Son of a bitch started right up.

I had a 3×3 online. On the grid! Holy shit!!

I should do something with this!

What should I do with this?

That’s how it happened. There was no plan. No idea I’d ever be able to do such a thing. Now I really had to give some thought to what to do with it. First question: How can I possibly fill up a 3×3?

I NEVER considered reducing it to one region. I had a 3×3 on the grid! I wasn’t whittling that down unless the software or the machinery began demanding it. If they did, fine. But until then… I wanted the biggest, blankest page I could get.

I had started using Sim-on-a-Stick the previous winter but had not had the time to get very far with the little projects I’d started. I’d been planning long-term to put these projects on Kitely. For now, I took the OARs – one of which was called Dankoville, and filled about half the 3×3. Which was fine…I could keep three regions empty for uploading OARs and for building and figure out the rest later.

I decided to make Dankoville the prime region in the SW corner. That’s how the grid got its name.

But that Dankoville from the SoaS project was not going to be a small town. It was going to be much smaller than that. It was just going to be one of those fork in the road places that spring up where two highways come together in the middle of nowhere. There would be three buildings – a small gas station, one store, a bar. One corner would be a vacant lot with weeds coming up through the cracks of the cement. That would be the “town.” Not a town nor a village.

The rest of the region would have cornfields. There would be a small suburban-style house as one often sees on small farms today. And a barn.

Aside from the details – trees, landscaping, farm animals, tractor, furniture, items in the store, a bus stop, etc. – that was it.

It would be a quiet, little place. I would put it on Kitely. I figured I’d chill at the bar or sit at the bus stop.

And I was never really going to call it Dankoville.

I was going to call it “____”-ville, I just didn’t know what the first part would be. When I had to save the OAR from SoaS the first time, I had to call it something I’d remember in case I didn’t get back to it for a few months (which is exactly what happened). The name Dankoville already existed as a website. I established it in 2010 when Danko started his new approach to Second Life and began living in the 1870s and writing his blog from Winterfell. I planned to have the website as a place to write about Danko’s former life on the SL Mainland in the 21st century. I had lots of photos and I wanted to show off my former towns. I didn’t know what to call the website but I picked up on a comment a friend had made. We were talking once when I was getting ready to start a new town on the Mainland and I was not sure yet what the new town would be like. Robyn had lived in two of my towns and really liked the feel of them. She said, “Whatever you do with it, I’m sure it will have that ‘Dankoville” feel to it.” I liked that. So I used it for the name of the website figuring it was an umbrella title under which I could feature pictures and articles about all my former towns. My portfolio, I guess. But I became so immersed in Danko’s new life and story that I never got to it, so the Dankoville website on Weebly just sat there as one page with links to my blogs.

So the name Dankoville was never going to be used for an actual town or region, much less a grid. It was a description of a style of place… that became the name of a website that was never used… that became a file name for a very small sim.

Now it was the name of my grid. And that region in the SW corner of my 3×3 had cornfields in it. And a suburban house for the modern farm family. And a barn. And one shop and the start of a gas station build where two highways came together.

Hey, this town could be where Uncle Manuel’s farm is…

All sorts of story ideas were going through my head as I sat at my computer staring at the map of my new world. In the past, Danko’s relatives wrote to him from the farm or even came to Winterfell to visit. But he couldn’t go to them because of my approach in writing about places I and my readers could actually visit. But now…he could go home again!

The Dankoville grid has evolved from there. I wanted the new concept for the town of Dankoville to be a small but central area with farms in the surrounding countryside, the neighboring regions. Because on the grid Dankoville would be adjacent to ocean, I decided Danko, me and you would all have to imagine that there was no ocean there, it was just more farm fields, as far as the eye could see. That’s why the highway runs to the region border, It doesn’t stop there, it goes on forever. Or at least to California.

But the whole grid wouldn’t be farms, wouldn’t be Dankoville, wouldn’t be the 21st century. Danko was born in the mid-20th century but – as the son of a time traveller and a time traveller himself – his childhood was spent in the 1830s, he later lived in the late 20th and early 21st centuries and then settled in the 1870s. So I needed some regions from other times and genre.

(And yes, I use the British spelling of ‘traveller’ here even though I’m not British. I only do that when writing as Danko or writing about Danko. He does it because he was influenced by the Victorian Steampunk of Caledon and the other SL Steamland nations of the era. It “fit” and time travel was important to his story. But I drew the line at ‘traveller’ otherwise there would be harbour and colour and where would it end?)

So we have Medieval/Fantasy and Old West regions on the grid and plan to have Victorian Steampunk as well. I also wanted some winter regions for use particularly during the non-winter months where I live in RL.

Soon after Dankoville went online in September of 2013, it became a major part of Danko’s story. After writing a few ‘episodes’ I felt I wanted to write about the county seat. When the grid returned in February 2014, I expanded it to include New Teasdale – another SoaS project that was left aside and intended eventually for Kitely – which was based on a town I had on the SL Mainland, Teasdale. New Teasdale is now the county seat of Strange County and it has a couple of new neighboring regions.

So that is where the Dankoville grid is at today. As I have noted elsewhere, I’m using the word “grid” as slang in regards to Dankoville. It is not operating in grid mode, it is a standalone. Whether it is possible to run 25 regions as a standalone…………is apparently a question nobody has the answer to. I’m going to find out. I am now working on a brand new PC and I’m sure the machine can handle it. If OpenSim via New World Studio can handle it is what is to be determined. If  it doesn’t work, it’s not a problem for me. I’ll just eliminate some regions or move them to Kitely where I now have regions to spare.

Whatever size I can run Dankoville at, it will meet my needs. I did a prim count the other day and I have 46,000 prims spread out over the 25 regions. Only two regions have a lot of scripts. Obviously this will change as I fill up the grid over time but the type of places I’m building are not going to over-tax the system. If it does, as I say, I can reduce the size of the grid without trouble or regret.

I could have started with just a few regions and added them as I need them, that would be the practical way to do it. But I’ve long had a daydream about having a bunch of contiguous regions all at once – a great big, blank canvas to develop over time. I could never afford to do such a thing in Second Life or with an OpenSim hosting company but I can afford it if it’s free. So that’s what I’m doing with New World Studio. I kicked in the twenty bucks for the full license last fall to support the project. Other than that, there are some incidental costs in buying some virtual items. But mostly I’ll make use of the free items that talented OpenSim creators have made and given to the community. And I’ll make my own simple prim builds. It’ll never be featured in Prim Perfect but Dankoville is perfect for me.

And I’m leaving that Hypergrid door open so fellow writers and virtual world enthusiasts can come by for a look. If someone else gets some inspiration to write or role play here – or just to hang out in my pub or the old west or a castle or just sit at the bus stop and pass the time – that will make me feel good.

But Danko’s storylines take place on other grids too. Especially Second Life and Kitely. Winterfell (on SL) is still Danko’s home and a new storyline is about to begin there. On Kitely, I have only one sim open to the public but I’m working (slowly) on some others.

For those reasons, Dankoville won’t be “finished” tomorrow…or next year for that matter. Or maybe, “ever.”

I’m not going to be in a rush with this place. Another reason is that creating it and figuring it out is part of the fun. Storyline will inspire the build and vice versa. So some of the regions will see rapid development and some will be empty for awhile. Some will develop bit by bit. I will be able to work on whatever I feel like at the time. As much as I have always liked deadlines, I have also always been a person who likes to go with the flow. The latter will be my approach here. I am making a concerted effort to get a few regions “done” or close to it so the place has some “there there” and so it is worth the effort the people who visit will be making. And I will keep the inworld Dankoville Information Center and the Dankoville website up to date to make it easy for the tourists to get around and find things.

But mostly, I’m in this for the long haul. Will be fun. And with multiple blogs and a website, don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

I come from a working class background. When I was five years old, we lived in the second floor apartment of a wooden house next to a vacant lot and a block from the commercial area in our part of the city. A young couple, newlyweds, lived in a second floor apartment in the wooden house next door. Once in a while they would invite me in to see the man’s prized possession – probably his only possession that wasn’t a necessity – his model train layout. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how fascinating those trains and the little town and the surrounding countryside were to a five-year old and the inspiration they spawned.

It recently hit me that having my own virtual world is the 21st century equivalent of the model train set and layout.

“Next stop: Dankoville. All aboard!”

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