In the Air
Earlier in the week, Salazar Jack dropped a lovely picture into Twitter of a magnificent steampunk-esque flying machine being flown by Tish Coronet. He included a link to the SL Marketplace, and I set off to look, rather intrigued.
The machine itself is the Mechanical Lepidoptera, a partial mesh build which is being offered free by its creator, Bunnys Fride, who describes it thus:
By visiting the Jules Verne Museum in Nantes (french town, west coast) I noticed a painting that represents this machine to takeoff from one of the most beautiful place of Nantes. This same painting appears in the foreground on the poster for the International Festival of Science Fiction of Nantes in 2009, named Utopiales.
I propose you this beautiful concept of lepidoptera mechanical imagined and painted by James Gurney, a talented artist, famous illustrator and creator of Dinotopia.
The Lepidoptera is exquisitely detailed, with a two-tone metal body, beautiful passenger cabin (the vehicle will take up to eleven passengers, included one seated beside the pilot / owner) and detailed cockpit in the “head”. Detailing continues through the landing legs, which “droop” below the body when in flight, just like the legs of a flying insect seem to hang limply beneath its body. On landing (on the ground), the legs splay out, again in a life-like look. Another lovely piece of detailing is in the mechanical operation of the wings themselves.
Flying the machine requires a HUD, which allows you to correctly set your camera position, and which controls the start-up of the machine and the forward / interior lights. This attaches to the top right of your screen. To fly the Lepidoptera, right click on it and select FLY from the menu, this will sit you in the cockpit. Tap ESC to position your camera correctly (if required – or use the HUD options), and then click on START on the HUD to set the wings flapping (complete with engine / mechanical sounds). Flight controls are then use PAGE UP / DOWN to ascend / descend, and the arrow keys / WASD keys to manoeuvre (you’ll need to key the UP / W key depressed to maintain forward motion).
Natascha Randt has produced a great video showcasing the Lepidoptera:
On the Ground
Flying the Lepidoptera reminded me that a few months back I picked up another freebie from SLM, the Autoworks Classic 43S GT by Angie Xenga / Ed Zaurak.
A two-seat sports coupe, the 43S GT is sleek and attractive – and quite a handful if you’re not used to SL driving, as I found out when given the chance to try it out on a multi-sim racing circuit for the first time yesterday!
The basic controls are simple enough: UP key / W to accelerate, LEFT / RIGHT or A / D to turn, and DOWN / S to break. PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN operate the gear changes (although there is an automatic option). However, there are a range of other options and capabilities that can make driving an Autoworks car pretty much the same experience as driving a high-performance car in RL: 50% fun, 50% seat-wetting and 100% adrenalin! There is also an option HUD displaying speed and revs which you can attach to your screen.
Additional menu options allow you to alter the colour of the car – royal blue is the default, but I like the silver look – adjust your driving position, adjust the transmission options, the engine – and a whole lot more. Touching the car allows you to open the bonnet (“hood”) or the doors.
The cockpit itself is nicely detailed, and I love the fact that this car is designed to be driven on the correct side of the road being right-hand drive ;-). All-in-all, great fun to have, if you can find the space to use it (the handling is such that you can rapidly run out of sim!).
If anything spoiled it for me, it was not the car, but the fact that to appreciate it fully you do need to drive across multiple sims – and this brings up the ogre of region crossings. Given the speeds you can reach behind the wheel, this means it is easy to find yourself on top of one before you realise, and you’re suddenly sailing off into infinity. Hopefully, with multi-threaded region crossings on the way plus other improvements, this will reduce the problem, but it did put a bit of a dampener of the thrill of driving this superb car.
As well as the Classic 43S GT, the package comes with the Autoworks Type ZII, a single-seat car that offers a broadly similar range of options, but didn’t, for me, have the same appeal.
Apparently the Classic 43S GT represents the first in a new range of cars Autoworks will be producing “just for the fun of it”, the business itself having closed as an SL commercial venture in February 2012. It is a sample of what is to come; so far one more car has been added to the free range, and I’m intrigued to see what else is produced in time!