This world that I found is too good to be true...
— Starship, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
365 days of SL, day 108:
(Click for larger — 1920x1033 PNG, 1754 KiB)
I hope you visited the sims in the Alikat estate while you had a chance — they've been gone since the 28th. We initially attributed this to a glitch, but when they still weren't there last night, I decided to investigate.
They're still showing up on the map, but I presume that's just due to the map tiles not having been regenerated yet; the sim names (Oglala, Itazipco and Sihasapa) are not present on the map anymore, and searching for them doesn't find them.
(Click for PNG version — 812x541 PNG, 419 KiB)
What's more, if you teleport to the only sim that still is there (Miniconjou) and look at where Alikat used to be, there's only the endless ocean that indicates an absence of sims. All this is a pretty strong indicator that the sims are really gone. (If you want to see what they used to look like, day 11 has an overview.)
Miniconjou – the sim where Kerry Bog Farms used to be located – is still there; it's owned by different people, so I went there and talked to the owners (who just happened to be online). From what they said, it appears that Alikat's basically succumbed to the harsh economic realities of SL: sim ownership will set you back a significant amount. Regions aren't cheap, and if you've got several... well, you do the math.
Apparently Linden Labs are pretty strict about payments, too; I was told by a friend that if you don't pay your dues within 30 days, your sims are deleted without further warning. I don't know if that's accurate, but if so, it's pretty harsh.
Not that I want to blame Linden Labs too much. They keep the infrastructure etc. running, and that obviously requires money; and of course they want to turn a profit as well, which is entirely understandable.
But I do wonder if a commercial, for-profit endeavor is really such a good platform for buildings worlds and culture on. It's all too easy for things to get deleted; and they WILL get deleted, and for monetary reasons to boot. And when they're gone, there's no hint that they ever existed in the first place, and all the culture associated with them, everything that existed there, all the attachments that people had — it all vanishes completely without a trace.
As for Alikat? I still hope that it'll make a comeback; I contacted the owner (before talking to those folks in Miniconjou), asking what'd happened and also asking if I could help. Perhaps some sort of donation pool could be started, although given just how expensive sims are in SL, I don't know if that'd be viable. You'd have to get a lot of people to chip in, and without an affluent patron paying for the whole operation out of their own pocket (pretty much the situation until now, I think), Alikat's just might be gone forever.
And sadly, there are precious few traces remaining of it: a few mentions here and there, e.g. on slponyplay.com; an abandoned MySpace page; a single capture of a short-lived website (and the Wayback Machine only captured the front page). There's a few blog entries, too, e.g. this one by Ysgrathe Dyrssen, one of Alikat's resident ponies, or this introduction; and here's an interview with the late Alicia Delphin, Alikat's founder; her approach to ponyplay feels very right to me, and the emphasis on friendship and trust and working WITH ponies rather than against them was very palpable in Alikat's.
AliKat stables was started with the idea of offering a place of friendship, communication and focused ponyplay. Too often I found pony play to be about "looking pretty", "you've been bad, and must be whipped or caged" or "dress like a pony and be tied up/have sex" in SL. I have never believed that to be what ponyplay was about (though admittedly it is my vision, and play can involve those things...just not exclusively.) So the best solution I could come up with was to offer my own vision of pony play. For over 2.5 years now, we have offered our brand of pony play: Friendship, trust, and communication. I hope to continue this philosophy, and continue to innovate the training process much as I do in RL.
I've trained dressage ponies and jumping horses [in RL] as far backs as I can remember. My time with training horses with the native americans however is where i draw the most influence from. I firmly believe in befrending a pony more than breaking them; in observing them to learn about them before attempting to insert myself into their lives. Every pony is unique and special...and every pony is as devious as the horses they emulate. I cherish every personality i'm gifted the chance to discover.
We reward a pony for moving in the right direction just as much as we do for the correct behavior. We develop trust, often interacting without training for weeks developing a bond between trainer and pony. We also spend so much of our time just talking and feeling out what the pony is really after in their life style. Above all communication is key to what we are after. Its not our pony life...its theirs. I try not to let my trainers visions of a pony become what they train.
And another thing that there is, fortunately, is a four-minute video clip from early 2009. Coupled with the interview above, I think it gives a pretty good feeling for what Alikat was like — at least as far as I, as an outsider who merely happened to visit regularly, could tell.
It's such a shame to see Alikat gone; I really hope it will be back, and I think I'm not the only one. I wonder if those involved with it – ponies and trainers – knew what was coming.
Location: Miniconjou (254, 216, 23)