Product review: the WALT Sea Roo in Second Life

The Piaggio WALT Sea Roo in its box

It’s taken a while to reach the market place since I first wrote about it under the prototype name of WaveHopper (see Previewing a little wave hopping in Second Life), but Ape Piaggio’s WALT (Walter, Air Land, Technologies) branded SeaRoo has reached the market. The delays in the release have been due to some final fine-tuning of the vehicle and its scripting – and have also allowed Ape to add further animations as well as a number of further options for the vehicle.

Based on the physical world Innespace Seabreacher, a two-seat semi-submersible personal watercraft that is shaped like a Dolphin and mimics its movement on and under the water, the SeaRoo behaves like a speedboat and can make short dives (up to 60 seconds at a time) underwater. It can be piloted in both Mouselook (the dashboard has working instruments) and third-person views, making it an all-around leisure craft.

Priced at L$3,000, the SeaRoo is delivered in a package that comprises the vehicle, a system to build one or more SeaRoo mooring points (and which includes a fuelling station), an obstacle / race course building set, the SeaRoo Key (described below), a tool kit for adding custom animations (it comes with a range of single and couple animations for when it is not being piloted) and a comprehensive set of manuals, the main user guide of which includes a link for downloading a set of .PST files should you wish to create paint schemes for the vehicle.

The SeaRoo can be touched for a menu system. If touched when outside the vehicle, the menu is more limited in scope (l) than when seated in the vehicle (r). When seated, the full menu is displayed, providing access to all of the vehicle’s options and settings. Refer to the SeaRoo’s user manual for full details

I’m not going to run through absolutely everything with the SeaRoo – the user guide is comprehensive in that regard, but it is worth covering come of the highlights.

SeaRoo Controls and Operation

By default, the SeaRoo’s controls match those of an aircraft:

  • The ◀ and ▶ or A and D keys turn the SeaRoo left or right when in motion.
  • The ▲ and ▼ or W and S keys pitch the nose down (dive) or up (surface / jump)
  • The PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys or E and C increase and decrease the throttle respectively, with PAGE DOWN / C putting the vehicle into reverse from 0% throttle.
    • A double tap on PAGE UP / W will set the throttle to 100%.
    • Pressing PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN (or E and C) simultaneously will cut the throttle to 0%.

Those who prefer a boat-style layout for the main controls, with the ▲ and ▼ (W and S) keys controlling the throttle, can switch to this mode of operation via the menu → Settings → Tuning → CTRL Style. In this mode, the PAGE keys and E/C will control the SeaRoo’s pitch down/up.

To sit in the vehicle, right click on it and select Sit Here from the context / pie menu. Once seated, and as with most vehicles, the SeaRoo’s engine can be turned on / off using “s” in local chat, or “start” / “stop” – note that all of the SeaRoo’s chat commands are entered in lower case.

Zipping along above the waves

Key Vehicle Features

“Keyless Activation”

Enabled by default, this causes the canopy to open and the dashboard to engage when you are with a few metres of your SeaRoo. Similarly, when moving away from the vehicle, the dashboard will turn off and the canopy canopy automatically close. This option can be disabled / enabled via the menu: Settings → Keyless.

The HUD

The Sea Roo HUD

By default, those sitting in a SeaRoo (pilot or passenger) get offered a HUD. It is not vital to piloting the SeaRoo, but provides an informational display (shown on the right) for fuel, speed, heading, engine temperature and power settings. It also includes three buttons:

  • Resize: increase / decrease the HUD’s size via a dialogue box.
  • Menu: access the main menu.
  • Colors: set the colours for the SeaRoo’s dashboard.

Note that the HUD is inactive whenever the SeaRoo’s engine is not running, and further details can be found in the user guide.

Hovertext Information

When the SeaRoo’s engine is on, information on the vehicle’s speed, engine power level and temperature, and the fuel level is displayed over the SeaRoo’s tail. It can be disabled / enabled by typing “hud” in local chat.

General Handling Notes

After any trip, the SeaRoo can report a set of statistics for you. Toggle off via the button, if required

Like many vehicles, the faster the SeaRoo goes, the more responsive it becomes. As such, I recommend handling it at low to mid-range speeds to get familiar with it, rather than leaping in and going flat out; but keep in mind some capabilities work best at mid to higher speeds, such as diving / staying underwater, and performing jumps and acrobatics.

As speed is increased, the SeaRoo also takes on a nice Dolphin-like movement as if responding to the waves as it moves. Also, like a real boat, if it is moving at speed and you press both throttle keys to drop the throttle to 0%, it may take time to come to a complete stop.

The vehicle’s time underwater is – as noted – limited to 60 seconds. This is because the air intakes must be closed when submerged. A timer is displayed with the stern hovertext to help keep track of submerged time, and an audible alarm will sound when 20 seconds of submerged time remains. Try to stay underwater beyond 60 seconds, and the engine will cut out to prevent damage, and the SeaRoo  automatically surfaces. Once there, and providing the AutoRestart option has not been disabled, the engine will automatically restart.

Jumps are achieved from underwater by making sure you have sufficient speed, then pitching the nose up by about 30-45°. As you clear the water, gently pitch the nose forward to re-enter the water. Note that if you are moving too slow or pitch the nose up too high, the SeaRoo might either stand on its tail and fall backwards into the water, or perform a belly flop. You can also use SHIFT+ ◀ or A to roll left or SHIFT+ ▶ or D = roll right for both underwater acrobatics and to help level the SeaRoo after turning.

Taking a dive under the sea – note the bow light will, be default, come on automatically when underwater and turn off when on the surface

Refuelling

The SeaRoo has a limited fuel supply, and can be refuelled in a couple of ways:

  • Using the fuel pump supplied with the SeaRoo dock system or any Bandit / TMS compatible gas station – see the user guide for details.
  • Using the SeaRoo’s fuel canister when at sea: with the engine stopped and type “f” in local chat (no quotes) to trigger the refuelling animation. Note you may have to repeat this to completely fill the tank.

Additional Options

WALT SeaRoo Key

This is a clever system that allows you to save specific parameters set for your SeaRoo – engine performance, seating position, control stick position. The saved parameters can then be used in a couple of ways:

  • If you have to rez a new version of your own SeaRoo, you can use the Key to set the parameters you’ve save to the new boat, avoiding having to manually set them up again.
  • If you have permission to pilot a friend’s SeaRoo, you can temporarily apply your settings to their Sea Roo via your key, so it handles in the same way as your own SeaRoo. When you stand up from their vehicle, it automatically reverts to using their settings once more.

See the user guide for more on this.

The Dock System

The SeaRoo dock system comprises four parts, the dock itself, with a ramp for mooring a SeaRoo, two extension sections  for building a more extensive dock, if required, and a fuel pump to fuel the SeaRoo as noted above. Docking can be achieved automatically by left-clicking the main dock when within 10m of it and confirming via a dialogue box, while clicking the dock for longer than 2 seconds will access the configuration menu. Subject to permissions being set via the configuration menu, the dock can be used by others, and more than one dock section can be used to provide multiple SeaRoo moorings.

For more information on the dock system, refer to the enclosed user guide.

The SeaRoo dock (c) with the extension pieces (left and right) and fuel station

Obstacles Set and Racing System

The SeaRoo includes a set of three obstacles and a racing line. These can be used separately or together: the obstacles  – three in all – can be used to make just that: a course to be negotiated with a SeaRoo above and below water. The racing line can be used to create a point-to-point sprint race or a circuit race course. when combined, the two can be used to create a race course with obstacles. Again, refer to the user guide included with the pack.

Availability

The SeaRoo is currently available in-world only, from the WALT / Piaggio Systems in-world store. It will be added to Ape’s Marketplace store in early 2020.

A Personal View

Given I have been involved in the SeaRoo’s development (if only in a fairly small way with testing and feedback), any opinion I give is obviously going to be biased. However, the fact is that once familiar with its overall handling, the SeaRoo is one of the most fun water vehicles to have in Second Life – if not the most fun vehicle, whether you want to use it for cruising above or under water, for acrobatics or for obstacle / course racing. The dock system is flexible enough to provide moorings for multiple SeaRoo craft – such as with a marina.

My SeaRoo moored at home and with personalised hull finish

The obstacles and racing system are a nice touch – but obviously require a fair amount of water in order to be used and also rezzing rights within that water. As such, they might have limited use for many SeaRoo owners – but certainly offer an extra dimension of fun and opportunity for those who can readily make use of them, and it will be interesting to see if public SeaRoo courses are offered around the grid.

As well as being available from Ape’s store, there is also demo version available for the curious. I recommend anyone curious try it out – and then try to resist buying one!

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