I’m not a creator, but as regulars to these pages know, I love fiddling around a building things with prims, and also modding various mesh items I buy “off the shelf”. But there is another aspect of content “creation” I enjoy – kitbashing buildings – taking parts from two or more and recombining them to provide something that little bit different.
Like modding items, kitbashing is hardly new, but in an age when pre-fab builds get used across multiple regions, sometimes resulting in a feeling of “sameness” when visiting, kitbashing – or even simple modding – can offer a way to provide a little uniqueness in look and feel to a place. Take one of my most recent (and admittedly relatively simple) kitbash / mod: the new Caitinara Bar at Holly Kai Park.
When re-working Holly Kai Park a few months back, I knew I wanted to re-work the look of the bar, but had no idea precisely how to achieve what I wanted. However, my travels around Second Life have frequently brought me to contact with the La Gare Vintage Train Station by Sheerpetal Roussel, which looked like it might make a sound foundation for a re-work, while I knew the Chatham Skybox by Cory Edo, coupled with one or two bits and pieces from other creators and sitting in inventory, would help flesh-out the interior – notably the “brewery” look of the dance area in the bar.
Kitbashing does come with certain pre-requisites: the designs you’re using must obviously have Modify permissions in order to parts to be removed and re-used (and should preferably be Copy to avoid simply wrecking the original); you need a reasonable understanding of the tools in the Edit floater; and you obviously need some idea of what you want to achieve. For me, the Caitinara Bar kitbash was made easier by the fact that once I’d settled on it, the La Gare Vintage Train Station looked like it would fit around 90% of my needs.
The important thing when assessing buildings for their potential use in kitbashing is to see them in-world, if you don’t already have them. This way you can use the Edit Linked option in the Edit floater to identify specific components – walls, floors, lights, support beams, stairs, fireplaces, etc., – and determine whether or not they might be easily be removed (either because they are not required or because they are the elements you want to use elsewhere). Similarly, the Edit Face option can (to a degree) be used to help determine how textures have been applied and whether surfaces are suitable for re-texturing, should the need arise.
In this latter regard, it’s important to assess whether things like shadows have been baked onto surfaces and whether they may become apparent in removing parts, or whether the bake applies across multiple faces, making it difficult to alter just one, and so assess how much re-texturing might be required and / or whether or not you may need to consider creating things like new materials maps to go with any re-texturing to perform.
If re-texturing is required, and – like me – you’ve not a particularly good graphics artist, there are a lot of resources, both in-world and out, where textures can be obtained; just be sure to check any associated EULA / permissions prior to purchase / download.
For materials, tools such as PhotoShop and GIMP have options / plug-ins for creating normal maps, and there are plenty of on-line tools that can automate the process to varying degrees. NormalMap Online, for example is an exceptionally easy tool that can be used to generate a range of maps.
However, automated tools aren’t always perfect – I tend not to use auto-generated specular maps, for example, as they can result in too uniform a result across a surface, making it look somewhat artificial. Also, if you are playing with textures and materials, remember to try them out on a surface using the Local Textures option. This both allows you to check the suitability of a texture ahead of any upload, and similarly, the in-world look of your materials maps can be tested and adjusted accordingly without having to go through paying for multiple uploads.
Putting things together obviously requires a reasonable understanding of how to unlink (CTRL-SHIFT-L) and Link (CTRL-L), moving and rotating objects – but these aren’t hard to grasp. Again, this is where using buildings that are Copy is important, as you’ll always have the original intact and available for use elsewhere in the future (or if things go wrong!).