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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Give me land, lotsa land...
...And the starry skies above. Don't fence me in!

Yesterday was a productive day. I slightly increased my land holdings, did my part to help keep Louise green, and added some fancy teleporter coding to my holdings.

Over the weekend, there was a bit of a shakeup in Louise. The Tavern on the Green, a larval dance club, apparently bit the dust before they even finished construction. So Louise dodged a bullet there. Their several thousand square meter complex disappeared, and all of their land was sold to a couple of real estate developers. The yellow rectangles in the overhead view below are land parcels for sale. You can't tell from this vantage, but they are in fact groupings of 512m residential parcels. While there's nothing keeping someone from buying multiple plots, it is more likely that these will be sold singly to small residential occupants. At least, that's what I hope. I always get a little nervous when land comes up for sale in my sim. There's no fair way to enforce them without seriously distorting the game, probably for the worse, but it sure would be nice if SL had zoning laws.

The red areas are owned by other residents. And the green swathes are owned by yours truly. I made two land purchases in the last few days. The first was the 256m meter strip in the upper left. This segment was left over when the Tavern property was subdivided. It was actually two shorter strips, possibly intended as prim land (land purchased solely to harvest the additional primitives allotment for use elsewhere in the sim). I purchased it, partially for that purpose, and yesterday I planted several trees and shrubs on the plot. There's also a large, mossy boulder with an embedded script to play bird songs (daytime) or crickets and owl hoots (nighttime). I have no intention of ever selling this land. It's my hope that this will keep a larger complex from moving into the plot. The red plot with the red and white heart-shaped building is actually a rental, which could be sold easily to an interested buyer. (The heart house is a mystery. I have no idea what they are intending for that structure.) With any luck, this enforced dividing line will discourage the more ambitious, lag-inducing mega-builds.

I'm not certain if I feel entirely comfortable with this practice, though. At one time, installation of green belts like this one was a major goal of the Louise Volunteer Zoning Board (aka the LVZB, a nearly-defunct group dedicated to controlling sim construction through strategic land acquisition). It feels a little bit like grief building now that I've actually done it, though. As much as it makes my blood boil to hear people say it, it is their land, and they have every right to do what they like with it. (Which is precisely why "It's my land!" has become the battle cry of every griefer, blackmail builder, and aesthetically challenged idiot in the game.) Deliberately dictating the building choices of a third party is perhaps a bit dubious.

As it stands, a few of the trees do actually creep over the edges of the 4m wide strip. This is decidedly objectionable, especially adjacent to a small plot with limited build space. It's frustrating to have a neighbor's phantom tree limbs waving through your walls. As a nod towards being a good neighbor, I've added the following to the description lines for the trees: "Let me know if this tree is interfering with your adjacent build, and I will remove it immediately." I confess that I wouldn't feel too guilty if these trees ended up pushing back the adjacent builds a couple of meters, though. Or, even better, attracted buyers who embrace the radical idea that a few trees actually add to their build, instead of just taking up space.

This all reminds me of an old Civil Engineer's joke:
Q: What's the best place for a tree?
A: In your neighbor's yard!

(Because tree roots cause upset the moisture balance in the soil, causing settling and upheaval problems in the foundation. They also break up sidewalks, crack driveways, and puncture water lines. In short, they're pretty to look at, and provide shade, but you don't actually want one growing near your home. Okay, it's funny if you're a civil engineer.)

So, anyway, that was one of the purchases. Long way around for that, huh? The other purchase was one that I've been trying to arrange for a month or more. There was a plot of First Land just to the south of mine. If you look in the just to the left of the big grey building, OmegaX's Librarium, between SkyPod 1 (the wooden flying construct with the propellers) and the grey circle with the tree in the middle (the LVZB bulletin board area), you'll see the general area. This First Land was purchased by a Mercure Ingersoll, the day after I bought my first chunk of land. He built an odd white floating platform, supported by equally odd floating pine trees, then apparently left the game. I'd been trying to purchase this plot from him for weeks now, but received no responses to his IM. Earlier this month, the land reverted to Governor Linden, indicating that it was about to be resold somehow. A quick IM to support told me that it would likely be sold on auction at some point.

Instead, it was returned to the First Land program yesterday afternoon. At this point, I had to do something fast and sleazy to grab it. My alternate, who I've mentioned before, just so happened not to have purchased land. So, a quick upgrade to Premium and 512 Lindens later, and my main parcel was complete. The land was transferred to group ownership, and the account downgraded soon thereafter. I wouldn't want to make a habit of this, though. While I am within the TOS, and I am paying all the necessary fees to Linden Labs, it is a bit of an abuse of the First Land program. I suppose the proper way to do this would be to wait for a first time buyer to settle in, then offer him market price for the plot. But, well... Ahem. So much for my ethics. I'll donate some Lindens to VERTU later as a salve for my karma.

As an aside, check the current rates at the Gaming Open Market (about $4.05US to $1000L as of today). Compare my profits ($2000L in stipends until the accound is downgraded, $1000L bonus for upgrading) to my expenses ($9.95US for the upgrade for one month and $512L for the land). I seem to have somehow made a $31L/$0.13US profit on the deal (neglecting GOM transfer fees). The mind reels at all the schemes and shady dealings that could be made with a bevy of alts, the discounted quarterly or yearly Premium fees, and the real estate market. I'll leave the exact methods as an exercise for the more unscrupulous readers in the audience. I am absolutely certain that I am not the first to have noticed this bit of dodgey bookkeeping, and I expect that there are intrinsic safeguards in the system to prevent its excessive use.

Official Disclaimer: Moriash Moreau does not condone or endorse abuse of alts and/or the First Land program for the purposes of procuring cheap land or for any other dubious profiteering purposes. So there.

So, I now own 4,356m in Louise. This includes the main plot (3072m) and the plot of prim land further to the left (1024m). Hopefully, this will last me a while.

Here is a side view of SkyPods 2 and 3. I don't think I've mentioned them before. SkyPod 2 is the silver blob of mercury at the bottom. It's at an elevation of about 120m. It doesn't do much, actually. I mostly use it to house one of my two upper-elevation security devices. Since the land ban function stops working at above 40m, I had to install scripted devices to deal with a few griefers that took an interest in me and my neighbors (especially the Librarium). But it does have a nifty irising roof and an observation function to make the interior completely transparent. It's kind of a nifty vantage point for observing the sim.

SkyPod 3 is the multi-story structure at the top of the picture. Mostly for yucks and giggles, it's suspended from three hooks that apparently grab onto the clouds. They have a white misty particle effect around them, as if they are hooked on the clouds, and are labeled "Sky Hooks." I know, it's a lame joke, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. You can see the bedroom (which is never used- it was just installed for appearances) and the board room on the left side. Both are behind glass that can turn opaque on demand, for privacy. The Board room is kind of neat, I think. Each of the chairs is scripted to swivel on demand. The table has a "holographic generator." With a touch, it displays a floating map of Louise (a particle effect with a screenshot of the map as a texture) and up-to-the-second statistics on the performance of the Louise sim. I don't use it for anything, but it looks cool!

The top floor (below the glass dome) also contains a living room and a large cylindrical fish tank. The bottom floor is currently open, aside from the conference table. It does have a "holo tank," which is scripted to display floating images of whatever screenshots I choose to add to the list. I've got something like 30 or 40 screen shots waiting to be processed and added to the holo tank. One of these days, I'll get around to it.

And here's a shot of the latest addition to the Garden of Mo: the Sky Arena. It was originally intended for Volcano Ball/Grav Ball (before I found out it would be too laggy to implement). But, it turned out reasonably well, so I've decided to keep it around for a while. I may use it for open conference and event space. I've already got plans for creating summon-on-demand stage space, with several different configurations available. After building the holodeck on SkyPod 1 (which I really should add to some day), I believe it should be easy enough to add multiple stage configurations. I already plan on a round stage with circular bench seating in the center of the field, and a larger stage at one end with stadium seating. The latter may require some form of PA system to extend the range. I'll have to come up with a series of overlapping chat radii to see how this will work.

I've added a clearly labeled teleporter at ground level, to prevent some of the confusion that arose while gathering players for an informal Primtionary match in the partially completed arena a couple days ago. It's a simple refinement of a common script, but I'm kind of proud of the ground-to-arena teleport system. I've scripted the ground level teleporter to select a different corner of the arena each time it's used. This will prevent a slow moving player from being launched into an adjacent sim by the arrival of a second player on the same teleport site. (The Pauli Exclusion Principle in action, SL style.) I learned this lesson after accidentally launching poor Blueman Steele all the way across Kasba in a transporter accident. With this refinement, the up teleporter can handle four times the traffic without inconvenient accidents. The four teleporter locations are concealed in each of the cylindrical corners of the arena. These corners are part of a balcony that leads around the entire arena, and also conceal teleporter pads back down to ground level.

Well, anyway, that's what I've been doing for the past couple of days. Exciting, huh?
Fortunately, measures to stop alt-account abuse are already in place.
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