It’s been 3.5 years since we last visited Countryside, the full region designed by Dick Spad (see A trip to the Countryside in Second Life). I’d been attracted to the region as a result of visiting Dick’s The Back 40 even earlier (in 2014 to be precise), and as it has been a fair amount of time since our last visit to Countryside, I suggested to Caitlyn that we hop over and see what has changed. The answer turned out to be “rather a lot”, but in a way that preserves the look and feel of the region as it appeared back in June 2016.
In 2016, Countryside appeared as a farming location surrounded by a rolling, hilly off-sim landscape that joined with the region to suggest the setting is far inland. Marked by a train line to the north and a cut by a stream towards the south, the bulk of the land given over to crop rich fields and woodlands to the north and south, and Dick’s private home tucked into the north-east corner.
Much of this is still true today: the sim surround remains in place, the stream still cuts through the region from the falls and pool not far from the landing point, and the rail lines and fields remain. However, the differences are also present. For one thing the landscape is caught within a late winter, the snow slowly receding, although deep banks remain – presumably cleared from the tracks that run through the woodlands and around the fields.
Another change can be found with the fields. They are now less regular than before and bereft of crops – the latter point hardly surprising given the time of year represented in the region. More than this, however, is the the fact that two of the fields no longer appear to be used for crop growing, having become home to the region’s mix of diary and meat cattle and horses. A third looks to have been flooded, the water still frozen to offer a skating rink.
The farm is still much in evidence – the workshop and windmill still sit to the north-west, beyond the end of the rail lines. They have been joined by a line of grain silos I don’t recall from 2016, which give a new edge to the east side of the region. Also to the north, the field the cattle used to occupy appears to have at one time been the home of a winter market or faire, but which is now all but cleared out, with just a few things awaiting their time to be put away.
The woodlands in the region seem to be more extensive than I remember from our 2016 visit, and there appear to be more places to sit across the region – a further camp site (with a cave close by), a tree house, and places that sit close to the local wildlife – perhaps a little too close in the case of the bears around the beaver pool!
A nice touch with the region is the placement of pose points. These use traditional poseballs (gold for singles, coloured for couples) – a point in their favour, as it makes them easier to spot among the tress and rocks – and I particularly liked the balancing act along the rail lines. For those who like a view from the air, a static hot air balloon is tucked into one corner of the region, offering a mix of singles and couples poses. While it might not offer the best sight when looking immediately down – that of the little rail yard – it does offer good views over the trees and back towards the landing point.
Another aspect with the current design that continues the core theme of the region is the feeling that this is really part of a much larger setting. It is possible to wander the tracks and trails and feel like you’re walking for miles, while all the points to sit encourage visitors to perhaps tarry a while and appreciate the views and the sounds, while there are lots of little touches that make careful exploration worth the effort.
I will admit to having a few minor niggles with the landscaping – some of the plants could do with Full Bright being turned off, and some of the snow banks appear to be floating over the ground on which they should be sitting – but these issues are easy to overlook or – when taking photos – avoid. While the default windlight appears to be set to early evening / night (or at least, it didn’t change during the course of three visits), the region really does naturally lend itself to a range of windlights; for the picture her I tried to set one that suggests a crisp winter’s day, in keeping with the snow on the ground, but with enough sunlight to sit with the idea of the snow being in a state of thaw.
Overall, we found our visit as pleasing and enjoyable as the first time we dropped in back in 2016.
- Countryside (Habitat Springs, rated Adult)