Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Buzzing About The Land

After playing around in SL with various aircraft, I have come to the conclusion that the most stable platforms for flight are the helicopter and various forms of blimps.

The biggest problem is that flight is really only practical when you have the ability to cross sims at will. Anything that crashes more than fifteen percent of the time is useless as a vehicle for crossing sims. The fact of the matter is that most airplanes will fail this. Ideally, to cross a sim you want to reduce the number of prims and scripts making the crossing and to do so at a speed which will not cause SL to flip out. It's really hard making an airplane that can do this. My best attempt at this doesn't look much like an airplane and relies upon a stripped down version of Cubey's freebie plane script.

So airplanes are useless. The chances of failure to cross (hereafter referred to as %FTC) are too high. When you're rocketing across the landscape SL can't handle it most of the time.

There's another problem, and it involves the time it takes to rezz something. Once again, in real life an airplane's speed is what gives it many advantages, however in SL that is a huge weakness because not only do you not give the server time to hand you off between sims, but you also run the huge risk of smacking into the broad side of a skybox, skyscraper, mountain, or any number of things that involve user created prims. Unless you have a very good lay of the land, something that is hard to accomplish when you're scouting over unknown lands, you're going to hit something. Throw in the fact that land is transient and can be bought and sold fast with new owners changing the landscape and it's a recipe for disaster.

I've encountered this. I've hit parcels where the new owner erected banlines or built something new and I hit it. When you scream across at Mach 2, it's fairly easy for SL to not keep up with how fast you whiz by.

You could negate this by extending the draw distance so as to give the grid a longer range and time with which to rezz something. Then you hit the problem of lag. And it doesn't change the fact that ban lines can hardly been seen these days until you're on top of them (which I wouldn't change for all the money in the world. Banlines are ugly enough as it is without them being seen across the sim).

Airplanes just won't work well in Second Life. Unless you are willing to crash a lot and deal with the consequences of that.

Helicopters and blimps solve these problems by having such reduced speeds. Blimps are notoriously slow, limping along at a crawl and giving the servers ample time to pass you around the metaversal canyons. Helicopters can be much faster (almost as fast as aircraft) but can be reduced to a crawl fast and without the problem of stalling like an airplane or a jet would at such low speeds.

This ability to reduce speed to an acceptable point for crossing sims is their greatest strength. In my entire time flying such vehicles, their most prominent problems are due to pilot error than the craft themselves. Such as when I push a chopper to maximum speed across the land (which can be faster than you would expect). They lack the sheer speed of airplanes and jets but have a much lower %FTC when flown right. This gives them a larger operating zone since they can then cross multiple sims whereas a jet pilot might operate over only two or three to avoid the risk of crashing.

There's also a host of minor annoyances when flying airplanes and most are due to the fact that you cannot divert attention away from the aircraft itself. I can't really answer IMs when flying because if I do I run the huge risk of not being able to switch from the IM box to the aircraft in time to avoid something awful. This isn't so bad over Linden Seas where I can fly level for a stretch to utter a few sentences but is a serious issue over land where hitting banlines and prims is a concern.

In this case, helicopters and blimps soundly crunch airplanes. Both have the wonderful ability to hover in place which allows one to pause to answer and respond to IMs. I can stop right then and there without fear that the helicopter or blimp will continue beyond my control and blow itself to hell. It's a minor problem because, perhaps, a pilot just won't have or wish to answer IMs or perhaps won't care. I care because I don't like to leave people hanging and waiting for my reply.

It isn't all good on this side of the rainbow. Unlike airplanes, helicopters and blimps can be prim and script heavy, a necessity of the fact that you're making something much more complex than what is, in Second Life, a flying car. Most airplanes in Second Life are simple car scripts with the ability to lift off the ground thrown in. For Choppers and Blimps, this is much harder to accomplish. I have seen a few great builders who have pulled it off but for someone constructing their own it is not an easy skill.

While Blimps are easy to learn, helicopters are much harder to get trained on. A tiny mistake or over adjustment on the controls and you can spiral out of control straight into the pavement. And due to the fact that a scripter has to create something that both flys and hovers, the controls to accomplish this can vary wildly and you really have to relearn how to fly a helicopter between different builders. Some may use simple keyboard controls, some may use a form of mouselook, and some may mish-mosh the two. The steep learning curve is a major turn-off for casual flyers and I do not blame them.

But for my money, I'd prefer helicopters and blimps, despite their faults, over airplanes these days. I like to explore SL in an aircraft beyond the local sim or two and I have time to burn learning how to fly. I like airplanes but these days considering the stability of SL (nonexistent) I like to spend more time online than in limbo waiting to red map. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I was going to write a post on Torley and some of his ideas which range from like-minded to completely asinine (mostly the latter) but then I remembered my rule of enjoying Second Life and not caring about Lindens and Linden Lab. So I decided not to write about the fact that he seems to live in a different grid than the rest of us, perhaps in cloud cuckooland.

It was a great post, too. Ok, ok, I'll just summarize.

Torley is like Squealer from Animal Farm. Linden Lab can do no wrong, and when people think something bad is happening Torley just does a little dance and song, feeds us some technicolor bullshit about the future and 'technology opening minds', and pay no attention to the fact that since Windlight my SL client stutters just changing camera angles or that everyone appears pixelated when seen from far away.

You know, I think later I'm going to pick up that book again and make more comparisons. Do you think Cory would be Snowball? Would Prokofy be the goat or the crow? I can even imagine adapting the "four legs good, two legs better" at the end.

"Relax guys, we're about to roll out a new update to the grid.... To help reduce issues...."

Yeah, that's LL battle cry all right. Although not as catchy. I will work on it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

On SL Cities Again

Some time ago, I can't remember when and I don't feel like digging up the post itself, I wrote on why SL cities are a pipe dream. They aren't feasible and if they were, no one would buy land or rent there. I believe my argument was that due to the lag induced by all those avatars into a single sim, along with the American Dream of a wide open parcel upon which to build your cabin or beach house, kills any city concept in SL aside from an extremely dedicated group of people determined to make one. Which hasn't been anyone thus far.

But the Department of Public Works, oblivious to what is clear to anyone else on the Grid, continue on their merry way building an extension onto Nova Albion (an island city theme centered around the Miramare sim). As I recall, as a noob way back in 2006 wandering to Nova Albion since I am something of an urbanophile, and finding it dead and empty. Since it was an 'infohub' in the broadest sense of the term, there were a few people strung out here and there. Many had wandered from the actual infohub/welcome area, the Luna Sim. On a side note, Luna itself is more a museum than a welcome area, but hey, whatever.

Anyway, it seems, according to Massively and Prokofy, that Linden Lab has adjusted orientation so that a larger portion of new people are shunted to Nova Albion (the other chunk being the Help Island, and the tiny percent remaining goes off to the various user infohubs). They are making it so that, in the event someone like me points out that no one outside of roleplay goes to anything like a city in SL, they can point to the newbie congestion and say, "O ho! But what about this?" They're fudging their own numbers.

I find this extremely hilarious. Let them go and build their massive cities. I'll just keep in mind a poem.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Philip Linden, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley, edited for Second Life

Friday, April 18, 2008

Second Lie

I cannot believe Second Lie here. This is part of the problem and not the solution. We should be working with Linden Lab in a giant corporate group hug to make Second Life a better place!

Status Updates

I am rather annoyed that I had no idea the Grid was offline until I logged out, thinking my problems were due to my viewer throwing a tantrum. When I couldn't get back in, I headed over to the website and only then did I discover that my woes were due to the world being offline.

Thanks a lot. Next time, could you at least take some time to alert the people in world? Pretty please?

Meet Me

There is a pseudo-virtual world out there. Provided, of course, that you speak Japanese and don't mind the fact that you really can't create anything in it. It's called "MeetMe" and the basic thrust of it is you're some person taking up residence in a virtual Tokyo.

As you can imagine, you need a significant understanding of Japanese to slog through it. Or, you can be like me and turn to my good friend, Google Translator. It's all free to play and simplistic enough that once you're inworld and set up, you really don't need much in the way of translating.

As you can see, the world itself is beautiful, if somewhat sparse. You can find several landmarks, such as Tokyo Tower and the elevated in this particular screenshot. There's several skyscrapers as well. The elevated, subway, and rail lines are all rideable and can take you very far from Point A to B through out the city, provided you have the proper pass. Once you purchase the tickets, you keep them forever so you don't spend a lot of money on tickets. So if I buy tickets to 19th street station, I can always board and exit there from then on.

If you don't have the cash, or the rail tickets, or the rail line hasn't been built in that area yet, then you're in for quite a haul. I do not kid you when I say that the city is built almost true to scale. It can take you HOURS to walk from one neighborhood to another. Your character will also faint and stop and take breaks like a semi-real human which adds to the transit time when legging it. So it's in your interest to make money and buy tickets.

How do you make money? Well, many ways. One is fishing. Another is picking up rocks and sticks you find along the paths and streets. Sometimes you'll see a billboard, which will ask you a question in Japanese, and if you guess it right, it gives you money. The last few of those gives you pathetically little amounts of CoCore, the ingame currency. Plus, rocks and sticks and billboards are few and very far in between. Some in world have taken to forming 'rock' gangs of sorts and scoured the streets looking for them. I'll get to fishing later.

You can either stick to the original freebie apartments, or you can buy a plot of land for a pre set rent amount. Either way, MeetMe lets you set up a small flat with whatever you've found lying around or what you've bought. Being cheap and tight, I stuck with the freebie flats. And you can see my lovely window, recliner, and clothing stands. If I had chosen to buy a land plot then I could also set up and build my own house and add doors and windows and such. The bigger the plot the larger the house and although I never figured out how to string together plots to make a larger house, some people have built virtual mansions. In addition, you can retexture anything provided you've bought the in game textures.

The game is very customizable but you depend upon the creators to plop in all the things and textures found in MeetMe.

There are no animation overrides, but the default walkings and such aren't so bad. What may drive you insane is the limited options available to customizing your avatar. Plus, it's all too easy to make some super deformed character and look like a freak. In a word, it's all in this anime style, which means that many characters you might look alike for the most part. As you can probably see for most of these screenshots, I don't look like SL me at all for most of it. El Oh El.

And then there's fishing, which is one of the most fun things I have ever done. I wish Second Life had fishing like this. I can't describe it, you really have to be there and try it yourself. There's a large variety of fish in many different locations. I could spend the rest of my life just trying to master how to fish. Good Nunchuck, I love it.

Plus, the larger fish can be sold for significant sums. And really, in the end, fishing ends up supplying most of the in game economy, such as it is.

Here I am, with the largest fish I caught. Evidently it was some kind of goldfish/cod mutant that was 20 cm.

The people in MeetMe are Japanese. Thus, about 3/4 of them do not speak English. I do not and cannot recommend it on that basis, since like SL most of the fun comes from grabbing a buddy and messing around. There were maybe four people who spoke English and were very polite, but I'm sure I got on their nerves after a fashion. Consider also that the entire thing is still in a form of beta testing, and I'd say avoid MeetMe unless you have a masterful understanding of written Japanese.

Oh lord, I could fish forever.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Apparently, some bloggers are leading a strike on Linden Lab to protest the trademarking. They think that this whole trademarking thing is going to nail innocent bloggers and residents.

Well, first of all, why not just change the name of your blog? I know I can in a heartbeat change this blog's name seven times by the end of the day. You could always go and re-register the domain or whatever. Or email the Lindens, I'm sure they'll understand and work with you. They're many things, but they're not inhuman monsters set on destroying you. I'm sure a well worded e-mail or inworld notecard explaining your situation would do.

Even just name dropping, there shouldn't be any problems. Linden Lab can't go and nail everyone in the known universe just because they didn't correctly write out their name (I remember being told many times it wasn't "Linden Labs") or add the TM, that's just ludicrous. I'm sitting at my Dell, drinking a Dr Pepper, and I don't have to label them with trademarks or (R) or whatever. Why? I dunno, maybe just because for one I'm dirt poor and you wouldn't gain much from suing me. Also because I'm not advertising or making either the computer or the soft drink the focus of my blog. Or whatever. I think, if you just put that disclaimer that LL (and really any other entity) has which states that you, the blogger, aren't affiliated with LL and SL.

And second, I don't understand how this is going to hurt Linden Lab. If anything, I think you should be doing the opposite and scream louder, not silence yourself on your own blogs. You're just clearing the air for three days. As they say, to Linden Lab, "No news is good news". Fan sites and blogs just don't hold much weight in the grand scheme of things and imposing a strike isn't going to do much, in my opinion. In my opinion, we should be shouting louder. The internet is not like South Africa or India or the American South, where civil protesting will work. On the internet, silence is a cessation of existence and when you're silent then for all intents and purposes you're dead to the internet. You have no physical presence on the internet which would carry some sway.

Anyway, even though I agree that LL should rework the way they're going about implementing the trademark deal, I'm not going to be striking.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The weather has been so nice here lately. It's been hovering from 55 to 65 and has been mostly sunny the entire time, with hardly any wind (although I do like a soft breeze now and again). I'd like it warmer but life can't be perfect. I'll take what I can get.

I love winter and all the fun stuff that it entails, but if I had to choose one season in which I had to live out the rest of my eternal life with no change or variation between the others, I'd so pick spring. Cliche, perhaps, but there! I do not want to spend the rest of my unnatural life boiling hot or freezing cold. Temperate, thank you.

And of course, it's supposed to get real humid and then rain. God is trying to spite me.

Blue's Party Night

The Grand Opening of Blue's Britches Bar was last night. Festivities included a sploder, don't worry, all perfectly legal, it was adjusted nine times to Friday so it wasn't really like gambling. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. There was also a Best in Blue vote, which Lynne (sp?) won, and of course the esteemed Crys75 Perhaps as DJ blasting out tunes.

Of course, there were failures. Like the failure to include Tiny Empires into it somehow. It was one of those things where we kept putting it off until the last minute. Also, we really didn't pack it in with people like we wanted. The worst we got was mild lag, not COMPLETE TIME DILATION AND EVERYONE CRASHING OUT kinda horror. I suppose one has to start somewhere. Just have to book more events.

Although Blue, your wish to have it packed every single night is going to give me and Madison ulcers. Please give us at least one day of the week to clean up the mess. :P

Monday, April 14, 2008


No, I am not dead. Just working on many pet projects, and school work, and school work projects.

I think I've just about exhausted everything that annoys me in SL. So I won't do any rants in a long while. I feel like I have just about seen it all. Between the effective opening of the mentors group to any Tom, Dick, and Jane; and the trademark fiasco, and of course the constant restarts and failing viewers. I don't know what to say anymore without becoming a broken record. Perhaps for my sanity and the fact that I have better things to do, I'll just leave the subject be and wait for Linden Lab to truly screw up beyond all imagination.

In the meantime, I'm going to go actually enjoy Second Life.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sound Medicine

The mother of all stethoscopes has arrived.

You can even record it and download it into your iPod.

The wonder of modern medicine!