The DSA Aerohawk in Second Life

The DSA Aerohawk
The DSA Aerohawk with floats and my attempt at a custom finish

I think I’ve established the fact I quite like flying in Second Life, and I particularly enjoy DSA aircraft as they are fun to fly, look good, are nicely customisable, paint-wise,, and many have both wheel and float options – the latter being essential when living on an island. It’s been a while since I’ve actually purchased anything in the aeroplane line; truth be told, I hadn’t intended to get anything beyond what is already sitting in my inventory.

Then I saw the DSA had released the Aerohawk, and for the last week it has been nagging at me, finally reaching a point where I had to just give in and buy it. As it is not (at the time of writing, at least) available on the Marketplace, so in-world store visit is required to see it.

Like most of my aircraft choices, I was drawn to the Aerohawk purely on its looks – in this case, stylishly retro. It was only after talking to my friend Jodi, that I discovered it is modelled after the ERCO Ercoupe, which first flew in 1940 and was designed to be the safest fixed-wing aircraft that aerospace engineering could provide at the time. It is still popular today, and during its time was licensed to manufacturers the world over.

The DSA Aerohawk in its supplied finish
The DSA Aerohawk in its supplied finish

The DSA aircraft faithfully reproduces the look of the original, and is supplied in a silver metal finish with red trim by default. As is the case with all DSA aircraft, the texture files can be downloaded from the DSA website, allowing owners and third parties to produce custom  / alternative paint schemes. In terms of land impact, the aircraft hits 53 LI, which is “heavier” than my DSA G58 Baron (46 LI), but is just over half the Baron’s rendering weight, being something of a simpler design.

I’m not the world’s greatest when it comes to graphics, but in lieu of VetronUK having an Aerohawk kit at present, I took to GIMP and imported the PSD files to produce an initial personalised paint scheme I’m reasonably happy with in about 15-20 minutes. I still need to add materials to give it a decent finish, but it’s enough to keep me happy. Manual application of colour schemes follows the usual route for DSA ‘planes: edit the aircraft, select the face, apply the texture file; repeat as the faces require.

Side-by-side, the floats and wheels are interchangeable via chat commands, as per DSA 'planes offering both
Side-by-side, the floats and wheels are interchangeable via chat commands, as per DSA ‘planes offering both

Handling-wise, the Aerohawk comes with the usual DSA HUD, but it is a little more hands-on (when compared to the likes of Baron and King Air, at least), requiring manual toggling of lights. The engine sound is nicely “veteran”. In the air, I found it to be nicely responsive and  – while it may simply have been a placebo effect or down to conditions being a little different – I encountered no significant issues region crossing issues when only a few days ago, I was finding myself climbing out of Blake Sea and digging my Baron out of Lost and Found sufficiently often enough to have me packing up and going home.

Interior-wise, the Aerohawk is in keeping with its looks: it’s all vinyl and cloth. The instrument panel as reasonably well detailed; DSA aircraft can sometimes suffer from blurred textures of the instruments, but there is little of that here. On the ground and in flight, it handles pretty much like any other DSA ‘plane, making it an ideal easy flier for those who simply want to get out and in the air without getting overly close to trying to fly like “the real thing”.

The Aerohawk at home, alongside Caitlyn's Baron
The Aerohawk at home, alongside Caitlyn’s Baron

A very minor niggle with the plane is the sliding cockpit doors can be a tad tricky: click on one and the other can sometimes go down when “opening” them; I now click the white bar marking their edges rather than clicking from the side to avoid this (not that you need to have them open to get into the ‘plane, of course, hence this being a minor niggle).

If I’m totally honest, I’m hoping that VetronUK (if she is still active in SL) will bring out support kits – painting, float rocking and enhanced lighting. In part because my graphics skills do sucketh the proverbial lemon,  but mostly because her kits really bring aircraft in SL to life. Until then, however, I’ll make do with my own painting efforts, and at least the Aerohawk looks at home alongside Caitlyn’s Baron 🙂 .

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Project Bento User Group update 34 with audio

Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton
Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, November 17th at 13:00 SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle. and chaired by Vir Linden. For details on the meeting agenda, please refer to the Bento User Group wiki page.

Bento Viewer

The new Reset Skeleton and Animations option
The new Reset Skeleton and Animations option

The Bento viewer RC updated on Tuesday, November 15th to version 5.0.0.321598. This build has fixes for the following (non-public) JIRA issues:

  • SL-524 – Reset Skeleton does not restore collision volume joint positions
  • MAINT-6913 – Problem with alpha on some Nvidia Mac systems when shadows are enabled
  • MAINT-6915 – Reset Skeleton is not enough to remove all traces of a previous Bento avatar.

To handle the last point, the Lab has added a Reset Skeleton And Animations option to the right-click menu (shown on the right).

However, as the problem can occur intermittently, it is still not guaranteed the additional option will handle those situations where an avatar isn’t fully reset using Reset Skeleton. Wider testing will hopefully uncover any remaining corner cases where this is the case – Firestorm hope to have a build available for testing with these updates fairly soon.

The “Viagra Bug” and Further Viewer RC Updates / Viewer Release

It is likely there will be one further RC update before the viewer is promoted to the de facto release viewer, courtesy of a new bug which has cropped up recently which results in a *cough* “ever-growing groin bone”, aka the Viagra Bug”. This is related to the addition of the groin slider,

Providing nothing else of significance is found, it is hoped that the next RC will be the version of the viewer which will be the one that will get duly promoted to release status. Given week #47 is Thanksgiving, it would seem likely this won’t be before week #48 (week commencing Monday, November 28th). The only other caveat to this would be an unexpected and particularly nasty bug showing up.

Best Practices and “How To” Guidance

Bento is going to bring with it a lot of questions from both creators and consumers. To help advise / educate people, The Lab is considering putting together a series of video and / or a set of “best practices” pages on the wiki – with a lean more likely towards the latter.

The general idea would be to showcase the work of individual creators, including their own guidance and advice (e.g. advice they have perhaps previously supplied, and now buried in, the 130+ pages of the Bento forum thread), and links to any videos, advisory web pages, etc., they have created (such as this series on Bento horse avatars, by Teager), so that creators and consumers can be better informed of Bento’s capabilities and opportunities. These best practices pages could include a biography of the creator providing their time / ideas / tutorials, while official videos – if the Lab go that route – could also showcase their work, discuss Bento with them etc.

Bento creators interested in helping the Lab in developing ideas and information along these lines are asked to contract Troy Linden directly (troy-at-lindenlab.com).

Other Items

Future Considerations

Its been suggested that having a “reset all skeletons” option might be an option for the future, rather than having to right-click individually on avatars which may be deformed and then correct them in your view – particularly as the Reset Skeleton options might be buried in the pie menu for those still using it.

Such an option would “fix” multiple deformed avatars (which might be the case when teleporting into an area with a lot of avatars), but it also might cause avatars which were not deformed in a person’s view to deform, possibly with no means to fix without a relog on the part of the person seeing them deformed. However, it is an idea the Lab is willing to consider for the future, if submitted as a feature request.

Similarly, the option to have unweighted (but referenced) bones be removed from the max bone count in a mesh (e.g so volume bones no longer count towards the available allocation) is being looked at as a possible follow-on update to the project.

Next Bento Meeting

Due to Thanksgiving in the United States, followed by a possible internal meeting at the Lab the week after, the next Bento meeting – subject to confirmation on dates in the user group wiki page – may not be until Thursday, December 8th.

Post Release Bento User Group

Thought is being given to continuing the user group meetings once the viewer has reached release status, initially as Bento meetings, where people can come and seek information, and then possibly but broadening into a (avatar focused?) content creators’ meeting, if there is a demand.

Additional Bento Links