Thursday, August 07, 2008
Things To Do
Last night, I logged into Second Life discouraged and disheartened. If you've followed this weblog at all, you're no doubt tired of hearing about Mo-Tech Tower and the SkyLounge. This 4+ kilometer tall monument to my own ego was my pride and joy, and at one time I considered it one of my greater technical achievements. [Addendum: Okay, "pride and joy" is overstating things. But I really like it, anyway.] Stop me if you've heard this before, but up until very recently it was a serious pain in the rump to build anything above 768 meters. Beyond that, conventional object editing stops working (objects jump to 768 meters if you try to move them with the build tools). You can still rez objects in place, and have them remain indefinitely, though. So building at high altitudes requires a scripted system of automatic rezzing tools. Build the tower at ground level, tuck them in an automatic rezzer, and let it dump a copy for you at the right altitude. Worse, at one time any object left above 2000 meters would be returned or deleted every simulator reset (this actually changed a few months ago, not long after the advent of Havok 4 physics). So add the complication of scanning for simulator crashes and re-assembling any missing pieces automatically. Really quite a bit of work for a dubious architectural achievement, but I was pretty pleased with having one of the tallest (if not the tallest- it's hard to say for sure) structures in Second Life.
Well, as of a week or so ago, all of that changed. See, as of client version 1.20, objects can be moved and edited all the way up to 4096 meters, using the same build tools you'd use at ground level. Now everyone can build as high as they like, with no special technical jiggery-pokery required. And this is a good thing, really. Much more convenient for me, too. But, suddenly, Mo-Tech Tower isn't such a big deal anymore (if it ever was), and I'm left with the vague feeling that I used to be cool. "Waaay back in the old days, we couldn't just dump our houses wherever, all willy-nilly! If'n you wanted ta' build at the edge of the world then, by gum, you had ta' earn it! An' I had to walk all thuh way ta' ANWR ta' get my prims. Up hill! Both ways! You kids, git offa mah lawn!"
So that's where last night found me, logging in late in the evening to experiment with giant invisiprims and occlusion culling to see if I could build a screen to block out the view of all the new 4000 meter skyboxes I was certain I'd find on my doorstep by the end of the week. Depressing. But, as I flew up to my workshop, I received an e-mail from Jenn Hienrichs, founder of the SL Things to Do website. Apparently, Mo-Tech Tower was featured as the August 6, 2008 Thing to Do! As we chatted, Ms. Hienrichs dropped the landmark to the Things to Do group. (Which is eminently cool, by the way. Go. Join it now. So sayeth Mori.) Soon, the Tower was flooded with dozens of tell-tale green dots, all come to take a gander at the mighty Tower.
As more visitors than I'd ever seen at once flew up the elevator, I read the Things to Do write up, written by the well-traveled Caliburn Susanto. (As I later discovered, Mr. Susanto found the Tower over a year ago, on one of his frequent balloon trips across the grid.) The last line of his excellent article really struck home for me. I can't imagine a more flattering or inspiring epitaph for the project. "The Mo-Tech Tower is a landmark in Second Life and a tribute to the early builders and scripters who pushed the limits of the platform in their efforts to create unique content (or just do cool stuff!)." Needless to say, I was stunned.
That one line, whether my work actually deserved it or not, changed my whole outlook on Mo-Tech Tower. Sure, the achievement, such that it was, has been obviated now. Once, it was kind of clever. Now? No big deal. But that's not the end of it! How long can I rest on my dubious laurels, anyway? Maybe it's worth a plaque or something.
Established April, 2007 and December, 2005
Back when this was hard!
Beyond that, it's time to move on. I don't think I'll be installing that invisiprim privacy barrier to avoid seeing my new neighbors. Not anymore. Instead, I think I'm going to pick up on some of the old projects I'd been putting off; projects I've been avoiding precisely because they used to be irritating to do at high altitudes. I've had a "holodeck" built into the third floor for over a year now, but never added anything beyond a simplistic conference room. Maybe it's time to add a few more programs. Maybe I'll add a high altitude vehicle dock and BASE jumping center, as Caliburn suggested. Maybe I'll convert that press conference room into SL's highest altitude movie theater, as Jenn mentioned. Maybe I'll work on poking and prodding Second Life into letting me dodge around the 4096 meter build ceiling, not to claim any records, but just to see if it can be done. Or maybe I'll pull out any of a dozen half-finished projects tucked in the forgotten recesses of my inventory, or work on something entirely new. In all likelihood, nothing I do will set the grid on fire, or even meet with any particular notice. Second Life isn't the little pond of early adopters and enthusiasts it once was. Dabblers and script monkeys like me aren't going to make so much as a splash in the vast ocean it's become. You know what? That's just fine. Time to stop worrying about that kind of thing and enjoy tinkering for its own sake again.
I guess I'll close by sending out a big thanks to Jenn and Caliburn, for accidentally telling me exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. I'm glad I ran into you guys.