Fun with Kitbashing in Second Life

The updated Caitinara Bar uses the La Gare Vintage Train Station with kitbashed elements from other pre-fab builds

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.

The original La Gare Vintage Train Station, as supplied by Sheerpetal Roussel  – note the multiple doors at the front (actually five in all) and the open platform nature of the rear.

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 La Gare build itself is designed in such a way to make basic modding pretty easy: extending an enclosing the “platform” area was a simple matter of copying and using existing wall panels and support beams, and replacing the supplied “floor” with one of my own. As the bar is “underground” I admittedly didn’t have to worry about cutting a cylinder to fit the end of the arched roof

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.

Elements – some with a degree of re-texturing and new normal maps – from Cory Edo’s Chatham Skybox provided the means for me to add to the “brewery” look of the interior of the new Caitinara Bar

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.

Normalmap Online is a useful tool for creating a range of material types, including normal and specular 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!).

The revised and enclosed “platform” area of the La Gare, incorporating the fireplace and pipes from the Trompe Loeil Chatham Skybox to add to the “brewery” feel (alongside of props by Jogi Schultz (yogijo) used in past versions of the bar), and with the glass canopy re-textured and mapped to provide the bar’s signature arched brick ceiling

Kitbashing  and / or modding also doesn’t have to be large-scale, ether. Even with the best will in the world, creators can leave parts of their builds not quite looking as we might desire, and a little modding can go a long way. The La Gare’s clock bothered me, for example, because it is both static and has an oval face.

Fortunately, Cyn Sweetwater produces a range of working clocks, including a charming Victorian Station Clock.  With a little modding of the La Gare’s clock element, including a little re-texturing, it was a relatively simple matter to slot Cyn’s clock into the La Gare to present a working version.

Kirbashing can also incorporate simple updates. For Caitinara Bar, I modified the La Gare to use a working clock from Cyn Sweetwater

What I particularly like about kitbashing / modding, is the relative ease with which it is possible to make a popular  building design just that little bit different. The La Gare, for example, can be found within many popular public regions, and is readily identifiable with its triple entrance doors to the front and the two angled side doors.

But just by “bricking in” one of the doorways and converting another into a window allowed me to easily change this recognisable set of features. Okay, so it’s not going to trick people into thinking it is not the La Gare, but with the changes made to the clock, it hopefully makes this version of La Gare just that little bit noticeably different. More practically, it meant I could provide more of a seating area inside and add the fireplace from the Leafy Hollow Cottage by Domineaux Prospero I had in my inventory, to make the bar area a little more snug and welcoming (the bar itself is actually a mashing of items and kits from a number of sources).

Just changing simple elements in a prefab can result in a new look. In this case, panels from the La Gare, coupled with a quick resizing of the side door allowed me to add space for a fireplace (via a design Domineaux Prospero I had lying dormant in inventory) and include seating space next to the new “window”

There is obviously a lot more to both kitbashing and modding – I’ve not touched on the range of building kits available on the marketplace, for example, that can be used for a variety of purposes.

However, all I’m trying to do here is perhaps whet the appetites of those who haven’t tried playing around with the pre-fabs that might be in their inventory or have bought to populate their public region and parcel, and get the creative juices flowing as to just how things might be easily tweaked to offer something that little bit different and possibly eye-catching – as well as hopefully showing that even prefab purchases can offer as much fun in fiddling with them with the in-world building tools, as building from scratch.

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