state of steampunk sims in sl

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The State of Steampunk sims in SL…

The beautiful Art Nouveau / Art Deco arrival point of the now defunct Solarya

Its been just over a year since I started blogging, and quite a lot has changed in SLs Steampunk corner of the grid. But a growing number of the visitors to New Babbage are asking about SL Steampunk sims, and though I attempt to provide a brief synopsis, it is, in reflection, a good question – What is a Steampunk sim?

Id argue itd be a sim with a relatively strict adherence to a merging of Neo-Victoriana ethos and the quirky visualization of Steampunk technology (plenty of steam, gears, and other crazy tech just google “Steampunk”, and you can come to your own conclusion of it). The genre has grown amazingly quick in SL, and new sims have sprung up to meet the growing demand for involvement in Steampunk. But how does the “State of Steampunk” look in SL? Well, here are my biased opinions

The Steampunk Establishment (over a year in SL)
New Babbage
Originally designed as a “Steampunk-themed” sim, New Babbage has held true to its original goal since its inception (early 2007), and works hard at remaining true to its theme. Early growth was a bit slow (compared to Caledon), but its owner, Mayor Sprocket, has diligently worked towards maintain its urban Steampunk genre.
Serenity Steamworks in Port Babbage

Steam, gears, cogs, street urchins, airships, submersibles, and just about anything else one can envision (and more) tangential to Steampunk happens in New Babbage.
Loki’s Absentine Bar in the Babbage Square

With its recent expansions, the Vernian Sea (representing the aquatic aspect of Steampunk) and the Palisades (apparently more entertainment focused, especially with the advent of Novem), and its future expansion with Brunel Heights and the (as yet to be titled) Steampunk academy sim, it appears that New Babbage has emerged into the forefront of SL Steampunk.
The Independent State of Caledon
From a handful of sims at the beginning of 2007, to over thirty sims (as of this writing), Caledon is the largest Neo-Victorian sim in SL, and often the entry point for those interested in Neo-Victoriana and Steampunk. As time continues and it expands, however, Im beginning to hesitate to characterize it as Steampunk sim.
Photo outside SteamSky City, Southern Caledon

Though much of its appearance is reminiscent of the era, but with its massive expansion, I feel it has lost much of its older Steampunk aesthetic, and is heading down the path of becoming one of the many themed community, albeit a huge one.
Ordinal Malaprop iconic Steampunk store in Caledon I
Though there are spots of Steampunk within it which are quite good (e.g. SkySteamCity, Ordinal Malaprops main store, and many other small pockets of the genre), the lack of (an apparent) focused growth plan has lessened its emphasis on the specific Steampunk genre, and I would argue that it leans more towards an idealized Victorian theme (aka Neo-Victoriana). Keeping the residents dedicated to a strict adherence to the theme is reminiscent of the old EDS commercial about cat herding every cat (Caledonian) wants to do its/his/her own thing, and its hard to keep everyone on the right track, so to speak.

Caledon has a very active community in a large sim (e.g. Radio Riel, a plethora of specialized in-world groups), which can be good (e.g. there is always “something” going on in Caledon, its very pro-active RFL program) and bad (e.g. the angst about titles and hierarchy among residents, griefers making more “visits” to the Independent state requiring more policing). It is a dynamic location, but with 1930s aircraft, skybox raves, and assorted individualisms, it tend to dilute its theme.

Caledon Eyre (*from early 2007)
There are those who like this eclectic and though not necessarily a bad thing, I wouldnt call it Steampunk.
The Steelhead Boardwalk

Im not quite sure how long Steelhead has been in existence, but I do know it has been around since late 2006. At the time (to my understanding), it was addressing some internal issues, but as of mid/late 2007, those have been resolved, and Steelhead has begun a cautious expansion, maintaining its unique Steampunk-esque Pacific Northwest theme.
Downtown Steelhead
I do have a soft-spot for people who are willing to try new things, and Steelhead is certainly making that “leap” into a “different flavor” of Steampunk. As a developing community, including the ever-busy Steelhead Ballroom, it is quickly emerging from Caledons shadow towards crafting its own identity. Will they stay on track to develop their own unique brand of Steampunk or will they head down another path? Time (and future expansion, with Steelhead Boomtown) will tell.
The Emerging Lands (less than a year)
Antiquity – Ironclad battles
As a previous resident of Antiquity, I do have a fondness for this rapidly growing sim (over twelve, including water ones, since August of 2007). It has many positive aspects (e.g. superb sim managers, many events and busy social calendar, active rp), but to call it Steampunk is certainly a mis-representation, as it has more of an early “Neo-Victorian” air to it nary a cog or steam plume in sight.
The Antiquity Township Rotunda
With one exception. The Royal Antiquity Navy and, its numerous weekly battles with era ships Speculaas combatants and Murakami ironclads provide those with a nautical bent to exercise their maritime frustrations. All are invited to participate, and as long as the rules of engagement are followed (which they almost always are). I dont harbor any belief that Antiquity will lean towards Steampunk in the near future, but the regular opportunity to battle opposing ships, especially ironclads, inclines me to place Antiquity here.
Nautical Battles in Antiquity Lagoon – now extending throughout the many Antiquity water sims
A new and impressive build on the SL Steampunk roundabout, Steeltopia is working to develop into a Steampunk sim with a focus on air ships, and developmental rp. Built by Jenne Dibou (the same builder who designed numerous other SL Steampunk architecture, including the New Babbage Palisades City wall), Steeltopia is a fascinating destination to experience.
The Art Nouveau/Steampunk Trolley provides a unique trip around the sim, but unfortunately, it is often empty. Not quite sure why that is, but I do know that a second sim is on order (the Obsidian Sea), and a third potential residential sim is in the works. How this will play out for Steeltopia is yet unknown, but developing a higher profile will be an essential part of any growth to this sim.

The New Frontiers (less than six months)

Enjoying a moment at the Laputa Skyport
The sky city has gone “public” only this month, and as a new Steampunk sim, it appears to hold quiet a bit of promise. Mr. Crunch has built a small (aero) town, with a library/art gallery, giant skyships, and brewery, and aside from the occasional accident (e.g. falling off the sidewalks into the ether), it is a very good build. How it will progress remains to be seen, but “spreading the word” about it (assuming it becomes more than a simple destination) would seem to be its priority aside from those in Laputas group, knowledge of it is sparse, even in SL Steampunk/Neo-Victorian circles.
At the arrival point of Laputa
At the Arrival Point TP of Solarya
Solarya (defunct)
This sim started out in early 2008 with a unique premise mixing a Steampunk aesthetic with a genre that normally wasnt associated with Steampunk (the Gorian/BDSM community). As I understood it, they were working to develop a new forge a new background that had focused on more adult themes than traditional Steampunk did. The build for it was marvelous the arrival point was one of my favorites (one tped to an airship, onto a raised Art Nouveau / Art Deco merchant area), and the clockwork plaza was a work of art.
The clockwork plaza of downtown Solarya
Unfortunately, although it had an active community, I summize that some internal disagreements caused the eventual demise of Solarya. Upon hearing of its “re-adjustment”, I tped onto a blank slate, with many of its unique constructions lost to “renovations”. I was sorry to see its demise I did admire the attempt to try something new in Steampunk.
This is not a comprehensive list Im certain Ive left off a sim, nor did I include what I categorize as shopping/entertainment specific Steampunk sims (e.g. Steamworkss club, Opus Free Ports Tesla Lounge). I am, however, looking forward to what the next year in SL Steampunk will hold
But I did want to thank all those who have taken a few moments out of their day to visit this blog. Knowing there is a cadre of people in the RL who care about Steampunk is the motivation that pushes me to keep on reporting.


Edward Pearse, Duke of Argylle

You might want to have a chat with Mr. Writer about his dreams of a dystopian Dickensian sim.

Elfod Nemeth

Thank you Dr Fabre, an excellent and informative article sir.


Elfod Nemeth

Skusting Dagger

Didn’t want you to forget the Opus Freeport sim. A “steampunk pirate haven”. Tis an island shaped like a giant cog!

Skusting Dagger

Didn’t want you to forget the Opus Freeport sim. A “steampunk pirate haven”. Tis an island shaped like a giant cog!

Dr. Rafael Fabre

@ Duke Pearse – Really? Out of the loop (nothing new there (lol)!) I shall – that sounds fantastic!
@ Mr. Nemeth – Thank you for stopping by sir!
@ Mr. Dagger – Oh, I haven’t forgotten, just have plans for it in a (soon to come) entry. But you are correct, Miss Talia has done a fantastic job (as is her trademark)! Ty for the Ning link!

Hotspur O’Toole

Well done, Doctor Fabre.

I quite agree with all your points– Caledon has migrated from a steampunk themed community to more of a “pleasantly Victorian town with Steampunk pockets here and there”. To quote a famous Seinfeld disclaimer.. not that there’s anything wrong with that… (nothing more to say on this one!)

For my money, I would say that Babbage has stayed true to theme OVER TIME better than virtually any so-called steampunk themed sim on the grid. I only wish there was more open space to it in places. I love the theme but find it a tad dark and claustrophobic at times.

I definitely fit Steelhead into the Steampunk category, with some blurred edges into “the weird west” (a werewolf sheriff for instance..) One of the great sim communities.

I was less than impressed with Steeltopia, as it had a “more of the same” flavor to me– highly commercialized, with the same vendors we see in every steampunk sim. I hear they are opening up a residential sim shortly, though, things might change.

What do you think of Victoriana? I have only been there a couple of times and it was still a-building…

At some point recently, I visited a sim heavily influenced by the CASTLE FALKENSTEIN series. It was pleasant to see a community without a neo-Victorian inspiration (for once). It would be nice to see more of this sort of thing– steampunk in France, Italy, Russia, and Arabia.. If I recall the LM I’ll send it to you for a perusal.


Hotspur O’T