My antics on the waters of Second Life have mostly been restricted to using my Second Life Premium Gift sailing boat, the odd jet ski, my fabulous Terra Stingray (which has the added advantage of going over and underwater as well as on the water), together with my equally fabulous Fishers’ Menance Neuspa.
However, I’ve just picked-up a new addition to my little flotilla: an E-Tech Sparrow 4(.1) I decided to grab one after Spikeheel Starr pointed to them on the Marketplace, where they are on a special limited-time offer.
I’d been familiar with E-Tech, Envy Melody’s brand, under its old title of MC Yachts, for a while – so being able to pick-up one of her boats at the offer price of L$399 was a bit of a no-brainer.
This new version of the Sparrow boasts a range of improvements over earlier versions – reduced prim count / land impact (something I’ll come back to), improved scripting, and so on. The style is that of a powerful motor cruiser rather than a yacht, and it is very sleek and good-looking. The open cabin provides sufficient seating for up to eight passengers, although the pilot will have to make do with standing at the wheel – no driving seat is provided.
The Sparrow is delivered in a neat little suitcase which contains four working versions of the boat (all-white, white/black, white/red, and white/pink), a HUD and the necessary instructions. for use.
Driving the boat is a matter of rezzing it on a suitable body of water, right-clicking on it to position yourself behind the wheel and they using the WASD keys or arrow keys for the throttle and steering. For those who like running up and down through the gears, PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN provide the gear sift options – UP to move up through the gears, DOWN to move down through them (and to shift to neutral and reverse). For those who don’t like gear changes the boat’s transmission can be set to Automatic via the comprehensive menu system.
Touching any part of the boat (outside of seating areas and the Extras Panel (see below) will display the control menu, which provides a huge range of options, from selecting the automatic or manual transmission option, to adjusting the position of the various poses, altering the boat’s performance characteristics, to selecting and amending camera positions – and more.
When worn, the HUD locates itself at the centre bottom of the viewer window and is initially compacted into a simple label of “HUD”. Clicking on it expands it to display a number of icons and options, including the boat’s speed when in motion and options to open-up various parts of the control menu, such as pose settings, engine options, etc., without having to page through the entire menu from the topmost level.The HUD also allows for gear selection when operating a manual transmission, which I found to be more responsive at time than using the PAGE keys.
Handling-wise, the boat performs very well “straight from the box” and can really rip along at a pace without the need for the turbo option – so long as region crossings will let you, that is. Heading out over Blake Sea from Half Hitch towards Catalina Island to the west, I found that things started to get decidedly dodgy on region crossings once I’d pushed the boat above 25-28 mph, at times finding myself snagged on a region boundary while passengers and boat continued on their way or the viewer would crash. Between 21 and 25 mph, I’d get bouts of loss-of-control which generally recovered quickly, while running under about 20-21 mph the camera would slew off to one side (giving the impression to boat was suddenly turning) before righting itself without any major incident or delay, and control would be pretty-well maintained.
For those who like a particularly sporty feel to their boats, the Sparrow includes a range of options to adjust it’s engine, speed, turning, etc.
Located towards the right of the cabin, on the starboard side is a panel with some nice graphics of the Sparrow. Providing the boat isn’t in motion at the time, clicking on this provides access to the Extras menu.However, before using it, make sure the boat’s engine is OFF – if you don’t you might find you and your passengers taking an unexpected bath…
Clicking the graphic panel will rez a “house controller” below the panel which will allow you to rez a number of additional options – a bucket of chilled champagne and glasses on the table, a working television on one of the cabinets, a set of configurable cabin lights, etc. These add a nice touch to things, but do remember the boat cannot be driven with them rezzed (click the boat graphics to clear the extras away).
All told, this is a nicely designed cruiser with an extensive range of options, some of which might take some getting used to or require a little poking at in order to understand what they do. The Flight mode in particular can be interesting (I assume it’s intended for E-Tech aircraft rather than boats, as I found that enabling it either had me impersonating a submarine or skimming over the waves at an alarming rate). The gear options are also a little excessive for a boat – I gave up changing up when I hit eighth gear and 122 mph, and could no longer manoeuvre within the boundaries of a single region.
But these are niggles – the boat is beautifully made, very sleek and stylish and, if driven properly, handles really well. The ability to carry up to eight passengers means you can share tim with friends and the various extras are a nice touch.
The only thing that is prehaps regretful is that pack doesn’t include a more lightweight (and unscripted) “display” version. Even with a reduction of 77 prims from the build between this and the last version, it still weighs-in at 157 prims / land impact – which some might consider a lot to have on casual display. That said, cutting prims for a display model might be easier said than done without compromising on the quality of the build.
Overall, I’m well pleased with my purchase – the offer price makes the Sparrow an outstanding bargain for anyone with the remotest interest in getting out onto the wide blue waters of Second Life. I’m liable to be using mine whenever the opportunity arises.