Alex Bader is one of the foremost creators of landscape elements in Second Life – trees, plants, land forms, textures, building kits, and so on, for temperate and tropical settings (he also produces a range of castles and buildings).
He’s also been working in Sansar as a part of the overall Creator programmed (Closed and Beta), and a visit to his experience there was added to my list of places to visit after Cube Republic (another creator of excellent plants and landscaping items in Second Life) prodded me about it recently.
Unsurprisingly, Alex’s experience – called Skye Naturae Virtualis – is focused on nature: plants, trees, rivers, trails – which have been the hallmark of his work in Second Life. What is marvellous about it is the depth of realism Alex has achieved within it. So much so, that I can honestly say it is perhaps the first virtual environment I’ve seen that has made me regret not having ready access to a VR headset, just so I could experience visual immersion for the sheer pleasure of the setting, rather than out of any technical curiosity. It’s a place that quite honestly makes you want to be there.
You arrive on a woodland trail, rocks and cliffs visible through the trees, the sounds of birds and of flowing water. Ahead, the trail leads between tree trunks, fork to the left and right. Some paths are only short, others lead onwards, splitting again, crossing a bridge, offering a way to grassy slopes.
This is very much a work-in-progress, with Alex noting that he plans to add to the setting over time as he creates more plants, trees and other elements for Sansar. This can be evidenced by one of the paths winding its way into a rocky cleft, the way only to be blocked by boulders, the path beyond them petering out in a space that looks like it is waiting to have detail added.
Alex says his hope is to, “Create a natural virtual space, just as exciting and captivating as the real (no harm in dreaming the impossible!).” On the strength of what is already available within the experience, I’d say he is achieving the impossible. Skye Naturae Virtualis is one of the most natural-looking environments that can be enjoyed in a virtual space, almost perfectly bringing together setting, sky, sunlight and sounds into a whole. Beautiful in Desktop mode, I can well imagine that in VR mode it could leave you feeling you’re almost anywhere in the temperate world, be it one of the national parks of the United States, the forests of Canada, the lowland Alps of Europe, the woodlands of Germany or anywhere else you care to think of.