Written by: Umberto Giano
Images by: Filipa Thespian
There are two realms. The eldritch realm of the elder gods and powerful magics, which no man may enter, and our mundane realm, where humans exist. Betwixt the world of magic and mankind is a nexus, or junction between worlds; a pocket dimension where eldritch artifacts which fall through the rift are collected and sold. The artifacts on display in this magical menagerie contain their own mystical qualities and have their own stories.
Many exceptional souls seek the secrets of the universe, hoping to gain some higher understanding by means of the treasures offered at this sacred marketplace, but only the bravest adventurers and most powerful mages are able to pierce the veil separating realities. Of those who attempt entry, only a few succeed … great wisdom is never easily attained. Even the name of this mystical emporium is but a rumor, coded in ancient tomes. It is derived from Latin for “well kept secrets” and whispered upon knowledge-seekers’ trembling lips… “The Arcanum.”
The Arcanum is essentially a pocket realm in Second Life (SL) from whence magic originates and the imagination thrives. When a visitor first steps foot in The Arcanum sim, he or she is confronted with the entrance to a grand hall. Within the hall, the eye is drawn to its reflective polished marble floors and high ceilings lit by floating candles in a Hogwarts-like manner. Spiraling staircases, venerable stone passages, and assorted rooms, nooks and terraces invite the visitor to explore the expanse of the impressive build wherein its magical treasure is stored.
This truly is more than a store – it is an experience. To shop The Arcanum, you must browse the breadth of this incredible build and view its offerings displayed in context, meeting not only other shoppers, but also the innumerable role players who have made this hallowed hall their home. The experience seems designed to immerse visitors in a realm of magic, and it’s apparent that The Arcanum is not just a sim or business – it is a labor of love.
Opened in 2006 by Zachh Barkley, The Arcanum produces some of the highest quality of magic-themed content available in SL. “Our primary focus is the design of spell systems that grant Second Life residents supernatural abilities they otherwise wouldn’t have,” explains Zachh, adding, “We also dabble in clothing, building, and other content fields. Our main objective is to shatter limitations and bring things to our customers that are otherwise thought impossible.”
Impossibility is indeed what The Arcanum trades in, providing mystical wares and goods for a general magically inclined audience as well as various niche clienteles in Second Life that won’t break the rules of their perspective role-plays. The Faerune Spell System, for instance, is specifically created with fairies, elves, and fae in mind. Players who role play the various denizens of enchanted woods may use the Faerune Spell System to unleash the forces of mother nature completely within the guidelines of their story.
“Everything about magic fascinates me,” says Zachh, “[Curiosity about] the supernatural or the unknown is something that is innate in all of us, and there are those of us who are drawn to it, drawn to the questions with the intent to answer them … it’s why humanity exists – to explore, to discover. Ever since I was young, I’ve always been attracted to the supernatural.”
Zachh’s curiosity has indeed paid off, and, since combining forces with his good friend Silicon Plunkett, he’s stepped up his game, introducing the grid to the legendary Wishmaster Ultimate Spell HUD series. Its most current incarnation, The Wishmaster2, offers over 35 spells with dazzling effects. Owners of the Wishmaster2 have few limits in terms of the magical effects they may conjure. They can throw balls of fire and even call forth a maelstrom of hellfire, engulfing the spellcaster’s enemies in a conflagration. The ability to cast magic circles through which they may teleport friends or summon infernal forces is now within their grasp. They may even conjure pillars of bedrock that rise from the earth and hurl their enemies into the air.
The list of The Wishmaster2’s effects is exhaustive. “How cool would it be to wave your hand and bend the universe to your will – like Harry Potter?” Zachh asks, while describing The Wishmaster2. Answering his own question, he continues, “The idea that everyone wants to be something more than what they are, be it a superhero or a superstar, intrigues me. This is the concept we explore at Arcanum.
“The Wishmaster HUD was inspired by … my desire to create something universal for my customers – free of categorization. I had received a lot of requests for different kinds of products; I wanted to create something that would please everyone,” Zachh notes. “When people use [The Wishmaster2], I hope they feel empowered. I wanted them to feel as if they are unique and can take on anything. But most importantly, I want them to be completely carried away from their real lives and get lost in whatever character they are playing. Instead of simply typing out their actions, I wanted them to be able to perform those actions and get a visual response to help push them further into the role play or scenario they are engaged in.
“When people log into Second Life, most of them want to escape their real life for awhile. We give you the power to be who you dream of being. I want people to get lost in their character, use their imagination, and tell their own stories.”
In response to those who may criticize spell HUD use in high traffic sims and their effect on lag, Zachh volunteers, “We use highly advanced techniques to make our products work in their highest capacity without affecting sim performance … we make use of modular systems, networking, and collective sensors, etc.
“For example, the collective sensors: when more than one Wishmaster user enters a simulator, one of them will take up the position of the host, and every other Wishmaster HUD will use that person’s sensor network. This prevents multiple networks from forming and slowing the sim to a crawl. When the host leaves, the position is passed onto the next user.” As a result of this and many other unique tactics, the HUD has a script time of less than 0.02ms under normal circumstances.
What are Zachh’s plans for the future of The Arcanum? He says he has drawn up plans for new products to develop in the near future and will continue to update all current products until the end of their lifetime, based on user feedback. “I have barely scratched the surface of what I want to bring to Second Life,” he adds.
“The whole purpose of Arcanum and it’s products is to encourage imagination and to get people to tell stories with their characters. Escape from real life for awhile and take on a whole new role … we welcome everyone to our sim and shop, not just role players.”
Magic is the fabric of our universe. Whether you are looking for a spell or that particular wizard hat, or you simply want to marvel at The Arcanum’s great hall, explore the surrounding woods, or visit the haunted house on the nearby hill, come to The Arcanum and indulge yourself in a bit of mystery and mayhem.
“Second Life is an empty canvas, and I can’t wait to finish the masterpiece!”
– Zachh Barkley