Monday, August 27, 2012

Second Life Redux: Terraforming in a nutshell

(In August 2012 I re-joined the "gameless" virtual world Second Life, for the first time since being active there in 2006 and writing an arts-and-entertainment web magazine about that unique universe; I'm there this time instead mostly to get a new prefab housing and furniture company up and going, so I can make actual money, although undoubtedly I'll still be exploring a lot of places and attending a lot of events. I'm documenting the entire thing here at this blog, and especially exploring all the sociological issues that come with this city-sized uncanny valley and the millions of daily-visiting citizens there. Youcan click here for the very first entry in this series if you want, describing my past, my new company, and my goals in a lot more detail.)

So, greetings again from the virtual world Second Life, where I am now the proud owner of 2,048 square meters of beachfront property in the beautiful and mysterious Linden Sound; as regulars know, this is to serve as my first workshop and retail space for FABB, the prefab housing company I'm specifically in Second Life again for to open. This is going to involve me building things from the ground up for the first time; so I thought for the next several weeks, I would document and explain the process to serve as a tutorial of sort, both for other new players and just non-SL people who find this stuff interesting.

But first, let's do a little terraforming! Because like I've mentioned before, the whole secret to Second Life (and why it can attract millions of players despite having no traditional game play) is each and every element -- every step, every detail -- can be either adjusted dramatically by a person or created whole-cloth from scratch, everything from constructing a castle to changing your eye color. And that goes for the land you own as well; except for certainly ridiculously high and low extremes, you can pretty much terraform it into whatever shape you'd like it to be, and so it's good to get that done before you bother starting to build something on it. So here, for example, you're seeing the northwest corner of my property, which the previous owner left awkwardly built up right next to two of my neighbors' terraformed water; so to be neighborly, plus give myself more water area of my own, I thought the first thing would be to sink all the land under the sea level and create a little communal pool of sorts.

And here it is, now sunk, but not very realistic to true life, therefore not much of what's considered a good terraform. Or at least if you're trying to live an "immersive" life in SL, which I'm trying to do. And that's simply what comes with using the big bulldozer-type tools that are available to you here as a player, when doing giant radical shifts over a large parcel of land.

And so that's when you switch over to some more fine-tuned controls, like you're seeing in this literal screenshot of my laptop screen; for those who don't know, SL comes with its own screenshot capability that acts as if your avatar literally had a camera in-world, so that none of the menus or voice balloons show up in them, which is usually what you see here when I'm illustrating these essays. As you're seeing above, that amorphous set of arrows trails around the landscape in this wireframe 3D way when you move your mouse around; and depending on what setting you have it on (lift, lower, smooth, etc), it'll do subtle work on the terrain every time you click and hold your mouse over a certain bit.

And so once I was done with the heavy lifting, that's exactly what I did, was take my smoother and make a nice pristine beachfront line for myself again, only this time with a lot more water space beyond.

And so when all is said and done, here's how my land is now looking, compared to how it appeared when I first took over the deed. Which, granted, is not much of a change, which was one of the reasons I bought this plot to begin with, that it was nearly ready as-is.

But then here's the big change that most people don't see; all that flattened underwater land you're seeing above is mine as well. And that's because you can build and move underwater in Second Life just as easily as you can above the water, which I find really charming and fascinating, and one of the things I really want to do with FABB is build a series of cool Mid-Century-Modern sci-fi underwater homes (which now that I think about it, will work pretty well as sky homes as well, which is a hugely popular thing in Second Life), so I needed to give myself lots of space in order work on such homes. But a WHOLE lot more coming about that over the coming months.

So that's it for now from here in Quilassito; and coming next, my first building lesson, as I start the process of building my very first prefab home from the ground up. Talk with you again then!

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