Testing the LS33W AirFish in Second Life

Taking a prototype LS33W AirFish out for a test. Finish and colours are not representative of the production version

As is probably clear to regular readers of this blog, I’m a fan of craft built by Ape Piaggio. I played a (minor) role in the development of her Little Bee tender-style speed boat (which you can read about here), and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been acting as a test pilot / CTD (that’s “crash test dummy” for the uninitiated 🙂 ) for Ape’s newest vehicle: the still in development LS33W AirFish.

Based on the WigetWorks AF8-001, the AirFish is  a ground effect vehicle. This is a type of craft designed to attain sustained flight over a level surface (usually water) by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface over which it is travelling. another term for this type of vehicle is wing-in-ground effect (WIG), and it is the terminology generally used when referring to the AirFish and its physical world progenitor.

An overhead view of the AirFish

I confess, when Ape first told me she was developing the AirFish, I wasn’t convinced. We have high-performance boats in SL; we have aircraft; we have hovercraft; is a WIG vehicle likely to be popular? Well, on the strengths of having been testing this vehicle and seeing first hand the way Ape is both accepting feedback to tweak and improve it, and adding new features along the way – I can say it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

I’m not going to go into specifics about the AirFish here – I’ll save that for an in-depth review when it goes on sale (which might not be for a little while yet, as there is still much work to be done). What I will say is that the AirFish offers a lot to both motor boat fans and flying enthusiasts. On the water, it handles like a conventional boat and can happily motor around using its impellers. In doing so, it’s pretty manoeuvrable but not particularly fast (on-the-water speed isn’t the point). However, switch to the two rear-facing propellers (driven in the AF8-001 by a conventional V8 car engine!), and the AirFish comes into its own  – a fast, manoeuvrable craft able to pass over water and low-lying, relatively flat terrain at speed and with ease.

Airborne over water…

Once of the nice touches Ape has added – based on my own feedback, if I might toot my own horn a little – is a configurable set of flight controls. These allow pilots / driver to either use a standard “boat” layout to keyboard controls with the arrow keys / WASD for left/right and throttle up/down and vehicle pitch set via the PAGE keys. Or, for those used to flight controls, the arrow keys can be used for left / right and pitch up / down, with the PAGE keys used for adjusting the throttle.

Nor is the AirFish restricted to the water – a retractable undercarriage can be deployed to allow it climb up (and down) seaplane ramps, although it is not designed for trying to get airborne from a runway, and the AirFish is intentionally configured to prevent this: lowering the undercarriage locks it into its “taxi” mode.

I’ll have much more to say about the AirFish when it is officially released. In the meantime, those wishing to try a demonstration version can do so at the FoilBourne headquarters in-world, and as a further teaser, I’ll leave you with a short video of some of my trial runs testing the craft. Note that the vehicle finish and colours in both the images here and in the video are not representative of the production version’s finish or colours.

Note: this blog post and film produced and published with Ape’s approval.

2018 Sansar Product Meeting week #29: avatars, permissions system, roadmap

Aech's Basement, Sansar; Inara Pey, March 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Basementblog post

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Friday, July 20th. These weekly Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Check the Events calendar for dates and times for future meeting.

The focus for this meeting was initially on the increase in allowed experiences (see here for my thoughts) and on the July Express Yourself release, which I reviewed here.

Experience Increases and Sansar Subscriptions

The news that Linden Lab have increased the number of allowed experiences under each membership tier (Free – 20; Creator (US $9.99 per month) – 25; Super-Creator (US $29.99 per month) – 30; Professional ($99.99 per month) – 40) raised two core questions during the meeting:

  • Will this move see the Lab increase transaction fees?
  • What value is there for people on paid subscriptions to keep those subscriptions given the massive increase in allowed experiences for Free account holders?

In addressing the fees issue, Landon from the Sansar Product team indicated that the Lab does not intend to make any changes to transactions fees as a result of this change – but that future possible changes could not be ruled out as Sansar continues to develop. Eliot, the Sansar Community Manager also made it clear the increases to allowed experiences are not part of any bigger plan to increase fees or anything else.

In terms of maintaining the value of Sansar paid subscription options, Landon indicated the plan will most likely be to make them more attractive by adding further practical benefits and perks in addition to the current Marvelous Designer free trial and subscription discounts.

A side question to this was whether the limit on the number of items Free accounts can list on the Sansar Store might be re-introduced, in order to make subscription accounts more appealing. Landon indicated he would prefer not to take steps like this, that might be seen as limiting creativity, but rather work to deliver more value to subscription accounts.

Express Yourself Update

Custom Avatars

The new custom avatars option has been well received, with a number of creators making avatars for their personal use, with some also being offered on the Sansar Store.

The first Custom Avatars are now available on the Sansar Store. They can be viewed by clicking Explore in the Store’s top menu and selecting Avatars from the drop-down list, or by clicking on All and then selecting Avatars from the categories drop-down (shown above).

Note that custom avatars are a single piece wearable – they cannot be combined with other Sansar clothing or avatar accessories.

Once obtained from the Store, custom avatars are stored in the Look Book inventory and can be worn via the appearance editor panel in Look Book, as explained in the image below.

Wearing a custom avatar via the Look Book: click Customise to open the appearance editor. Click the avatar tab (arrowed at the top of the appearance editor) if it is not already open. Click on the avatar button (circled, top right. Click on one of the the avatar wearables in your inventory, which will be applied to your avatar. Click Done.   

Other points from the custom avatar discussion:

  • Blender custom avatar export issues: some people have reported problems in exporting custom avatars from Blender into Sansar. To help with this, Jeremy Linden has produced a new knowledge base article to hopefully address these problems:
  • Dynamic bones for custom avatars: this is being thought about at the Lab, but is not something that will be seen for at least a couple of months.
  • Avatars as NPCs: there are currently no plans to allow custom avatars to be used as non-player characters (NPCs) within Sansar.
    • An alternative suggestion is to allow existing avatars to be used as NPCs (presumably through additional scripting support). This is something Landon and Cara from the product team have agreed to look into.
  • Clothing on custom avatars: as noted above, it is not possible to use Sansar clothing and accessories on custom avatars. Some creators have already expressed a preference for this remaining the case, as it will eliminate the need to provide multiple sizes of clothing to fit different avatars, and the work that can involved with rigging.

Multiple Object Select / Property Application

Following on from the introduction of object multi-select, a request has been made to take this a stage further and allow the creation of an empty container into which other elements can be placed. This is something that will be coming, and will have the ability to hold tangible and non-tangible objects (such as scripts) and make them available in a scene.

Interaction Physics

Express Yourself sees many of the physics related to avatar / object interactions moved client-side. On the one hand, this should allow for more accurate interactions, such as bouncing a ball off of a bat. On the other, its has resulted in some functional breakages within experiences where scripts expert the server to run physics interactions in a specific order, which can no longer be guaranteed with running some of them on the client.

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