Sunday, March 13, 2005
Playing with Time and Scale
Another long day in Second Life. Early this afternoon, I put the finishing touches on my in-game laser pointer. This is the first of many small utility objects I plan on making and selling under the Mo-Tech Industries line of products. One problem I found in game is that there is no easy way to indicate something at a distance. You don't have sufficient control to point your finger at something. You can broadly select an object, and the game will even provide a nifty little line of glowing particles toward the center of the object. But what if you want to point at one corner of the object, or one part of a big picture? That's where this comes in. You simply drop into first person camera view (aka "mouselook"), turn it on with a click of the mouse button, and move your camera view (and thus your torso and laser gripping arm) until the beam intersects the item in question. The beam is composed of a stream of particles (adjustable to be red, green, blue, or white) that fire out 20 meters or so before disappearing. I would have preferred a solid bar of light, but for a variety of reasons that didn't work out. (The main reason is your and anything you are holding become invisible to your personal camera when you're in mouselook. This lets you wear bulky masks and carry large objects without obstructing your own view. This option can be turned off, but most people prefer not to do so.) As it stands, the line of randomly spaced red patches looks like a laser beam passing through a dusty room. Kind of a neat effect.
Laser Pointer in Action
I don't expect to sell many of these, nor do I plan on charging much for them. But it does seem to fill a need within the game. And it's sophisticated enough that it's not completely trivial to duplicate. I guess I'll have to see how it does. I do have mixed feelings about bringing one of the single most annoying inventions in the Real World into Second Life. But, given the number of annoying things it is possible to do in game that cannot be done in RL, I suppose I don't really need to worry about bringing in something this comparatively benign.
About the time I put the finishing touches on the laser pointer, my doorbell rang. My neighbor came over to tell me that my driver's side rear tire was nearly flat. He was even kind enough to give me a can of fix-a-flat, so that I could hobble down to the Firestone to get it repaired. I did so, only to have them tell me that they were too busy, and couldn't take on any more customers. This was some two hours before they closed, and they just couldn't find 10 minutes to repair my tire. Gee, I'm so glad I paid extra for the road hazard warranty from these assjacks!
So I spent the next hour nervously driving from tire store to mechanic, trying to find one that was both open on Sunday and willing to take the time to do it. I struck out on all counts. So, I settled on buying a half dozen cans of fix-a-flat at the local 99 cent store, and swearing to myself that I'll take care of it on the way home from work tomorrow. I ended up giving my neighbor two of the cans to replace the one he gave me. It's nice to have folks looking out for me.
After that, I immediately went back to my computer to get back in game. No, I'm not addicted, really! About five minutes after I logged in, Chres and Laura showed up. Chres had agreed to guide a new player and show him the sights earlier, while I was dealing with RL issues. By the time I arrived, she had run out of ideas, and showed up on my doorstep with a Mr. Jonathan Shaftoe of London, England in tow. After shooting the breeze for a while, including a prodigious amount of double entendre from said Mr. Shaftoe directed at the distaff contingent of our party, we decided to take in a couple landmarks I'd run across over the last couple months.
First stop was a small haunted house ride. It's set up like a roller coaster, and takes you through a slick little pre-programmed trip through spooky lighting, eerie noises, and floating apparitions. It's designed for one at a time, but the four of us piled on anyway. ("Please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times" doesn't really matter in SL.) These rides used to litter Second Life. They're small, only 512 square meters (16x32, or the smallest plot of land commonly sold), and make clever use of space, darkness, and shifting walls to make up for it. Apparently, the builder lost interest in the project, or possibly could no longer afford the upkeep cost of a couple dozen little haunted roller coasters throughout the game. The one we visited was the last one I could find. Hopefully, it'll stay around. It's kind of lame as a haunted house, but as a technical achievement it's one of the best in the game.
From there, we headed on to Back Stage, a private island designed on a huge scale. The entire island, some 32 acres, is one living room. It's littered with giant kid's toys and furniture, all blown up to huge proportions. The slot cars on the little track off to one side are large enough to drive, for example. It's easy to spend hours in Back Stage (no clue about the name), exploring every nook and cranny. There are little worlds-within-worlds hidden behind the sofa cushions and under the chairs. Horribly complex statues and displays are strewn across tables and bookshelves. It really has to be seen to be believed. After an hour or so, our British charge realized that he had to wake up in the morning, and bowed out for the night. Chres left soon after, leaving Laura and I to explore the remainder of the Brobdingnagian world ourselves. We ended our tour by examining the amazing bonsai tree placed on a desk top.
This tree alone was worth the trip. The giant sized, miniaturized scene is amazingly intricate. The pond has a small, run down dock running into the middle. Leaves fall from the fall-colored branches, and float briefly in the water. The shores are covered with tiny pieces of old crates, trash, tree limbs, and weeds. It's kind of an urban bonsai, I guess. We both spent a good 20 minutes just examining the details. This one display would have taken up about 2/3 of the primitives allowance for my entire property. I guess it's good to have an island to yourself.
Reenacting the Bamboo Grove Scene from
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the Bonsai Tree
Close Up on One Branch
From there, Laura and I killed some time at various events. We attended a sword fighting tournament in one of the elven conclaves (kind of lame, actually, given the huge lag and the limited mobility, but a neat idea), then moved on to a king of the mountain competition (pushing other players off a 10m wide platform- I lost badly). Nothing special to report there. Typical Second Life event fare, if you're not interested in Bingo, Tringo, or SLingo.
We adjourned back to the Garden of Mo to tinker with our own projects. Laura is starting kind of an interesting one. Another player (whose name escapes me) has decided to age his avatar from childhood to old age, at a rate of one day per year. He's starting at about 8 or 9 years old (about the smallest av you can create) and running into advanced old age. Laura has decided to do the same thing with a female avatar, and make a time-lapse photo documentary of it. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the pre-adolescent girl she worked out this evening. She's cute as a button, in a Becky Thatcher-esque, tom-boyish, playground heartbreaker kind of way. Since I already had an avatar of advanced years, I decided to go ahead and and make my own young Moriash avatar. I'm kind of pleased with how it came out. I almost never wear the wings anymore, but I had to give him a junior-sized set, just in case.
Young Moriash, Complete with Wings