Modding a house in Second Life: tips and pointers

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I recently wrote about my purchase of the CONVAIR Edelweiss Chalet and work on modifying it for use on our main island home (see: A little Edelweiss in Second Life).  The article prompted a request from BarbarA for me to go into more detail about how I go about such work – and it’s not the first time I’ve received such a request.

Truth is, and for a variety of reasons (e.g. how any particular house is put together, what someone might want to do with a house, etc.), providing a step-by-step guide to modding a house isn’t really practical. So instead, I’ve tried to provide a set of more general notes focused on how I go about things.

Basic Skills

Obviously, any modding requires some basic skills:

  • An understanding of the core Build functions (e.g. creating prims; moving / rotating / resizing objects; using Shift-select; linking (CTRL-L) and unlinking (CTRL-SHIT-L) objects / object parts; use of the Show Transparent Prims toggle (CRTL-ALT-T).
  • Knowledge of texturing: how to select object faces, apply textures, scale and (possibly)  rotate them; how to use Local Textures to “test fit” textures you may wish to upload from your computer & use; and a basic appreciation of basic texture memory use. Note that “seamless” textures are generally best for buildings.
  • A basic understanding of the permissions system, particularly the Modify and Copy permissions (the former is vital to any form of modification, since without it you won’t be able to alter a building so easily; latter a nice-to-have).

An article like this isn’t really the place to go into any of the above in particular depth, so I refer those who need to learn more about editing and building in SL, I’m including some links to resources at the end.

My General Approach

I tend to approach modding any building as a 3-step process:

  1. Determine what is to be done. For example: will the work require combining parts of different buildings? Will it involve integrating items from other creators? Will it require inclusion of purpose-made new prim elements (e.g. walls, floors, etc.)?
  2. Visit a copy of the building in-world (e.g. a copy displayed at an in-world store or found in a public region) before any purchase and:
    • Confirm it has the required permissions (generally Copy and Modify).
    • Examine the use of textures to determine if they might need replacing / make require replacing as a result of my changes (e.g. because some surfaces have shadows or lighting effects “baked” into a texture.
    • Check how the building has been put together, and whether the desired changes can easily be made (e.g. by removing parts), or whether there might be complications / whether you may have to include “replacement” prim parts yourself.
    • Look at the general structure of the building and whether simple structural changes can be made to  improve LI.
  3. Revise plans accordingly after (2.), and if the decision is made to go ahead, break the work down into logical steps and complete each in turn.

Checking the Suitability of a Building for Modding

Checking Textures

There are a couple of reasons why textures might need to be replaced:

  • They don’t meet the desired aesthetics.
  • They include “baked” details that may not be wanted.

In the case of the latter, some baked details may be easy to spot – as per the image below left, other may be harder to identify, such as with the image below right, and may not be revealed until you actually start physically altering the build, should you go ahead. However, in both cases, it’s worth checking the faces (surfaces) of a building that you might want / need to re-texture.

Some builders bake details into their textures, such as the light “cast” by windows (l); or shadows which can be left behind when an element of the building is moved or removed, as with the railings (r). So careful checking of a building may help determine where / if textures may be replaced.

Carrying out such checks is pretty straightforward:

  • Visit a copy of the building in-world and right-click on it and select Edit from the menu.
  • In the Edit floater, do two things:
    • Click on the Edit Linked selection box to make sure it is ticked (enabled).
    • Click on the Select Face radio button to enable it as well.
  • Finally, left-click on the surface in the building you would like to re-texture to display the texturing cross-hairs.
Identifying and checking surfaces for re-texturing it. Use the Edit Linked and Select face options in the Edit / build floater to identify the extend of a given face, shown by the cross-hairs (arrowed).

Note that some builders incorporate transparent prims in their builds (e.g. in walls and floors). Such prims can get in the way of checking surfaces, so you must keep an eye out for them. There are two ways to do this:

  • By pressing CTRL-ALT-T: this will highlight all transparent surfaces in red. If a part of the red is highlighted, then you have likely selected a face of the transparent prim.
  • With the surface selected, click on the Texture tab in the Edit floater. If the Transparency % spinner is set to 100, you have selected the face of a transparent prim.

Should you find you’re actually selecting a transparent prim face instead of the surface you want, I’m afraid there is no easy solution except manoeuvring your camera in as close as possible to the surface you want, and then trying to select it. To assist with this, go to the Advanced menu (use CTRL-SHIT-ALT-D to display the Advanced menu if not already enabled) and make sure Disable Camera Constraints is checked (click it if not).

With the required surface selected, check around it carefully for any of the following:

  • If the cross-hairs / highlighting on a wall / floor / ceiling extend into other rooms beyond the one you’re checking (e.g. a neighbouring wall / floor).
  • Whether the highlighting extends to other features within the surface you’ve selected (e.g. if you’re checking a wall with a window frame, is the frame also highlighted, or if you are checking a door, is the handle and other furniture also highlighted?).
  • Do any other parts of the house you might not expect to be highlighted appear to be so?
Always check around surfaces you might want to re-texture to see how other surfaces might be affected. Left: the texture cross hairs extend beyond a doorway into the next room, indicating they share a single wall face. Centre: selecting a single roof beam (arrowed) all selects those “in front” and “behind” it, indicating they are all a single texture face. Right: selecting the paintwork of the door (right side arrow) also highlights the door handle (left side arrow), indicating they are the same face and any texture applied to the door will also cover the door handle.  

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then the items that are highlighted will also be affected by any texture you apply. This doesn’t mean you cannot necessarily go ahead with your ideas, just that you may revise what your re-texture or how you go about your alterations (e.g. might your problem be overcome by adding a prim and texturing that?).

Continue reading “Modding a house in Second Life: tips and pointers”

Bamboo’s Blue Snow in Second Life

Kondor Art Centre: Bamboo Barnes – Blue Snow

Blue Snow is the title Bamboo Barnes has given to her most recent exhibition, which opened at the Kondor Centre Art Gallery (curated by Hermes Kondor) on February 27th. I’m not sure of the origins for the title, but that hardly matters given the theme of the exhibition and the nature of Bamboo’s art.

Bamboo is a self-taught digital artist who started producing her work using Second Life in the form of avatar studies and images of other people’s art installations. In 2013 she started producing original pieces, and in the eight years since, she has developed a unique and striking style that has not only been exhibited in virtual spaces but also in the physical world.

Kondor Art Centre: Bamboo Barnes – Blue Snow

For this exhibition, Bamboo plumbs personal depths, exploring her growing understanding of art as a means of expression and her development as an artist.

In her introduction to the exhibit she notes that “Art is never finished, just abandoned”, a statement that might at first seem a little confusing, as clearly, many pieces of art do stand as finished items – hence why we can see them in galleries and museums, reproduced, sold, hanging on our walls at home, and so on.

Kondor Art Centre: Bamboo Barnes – Blue Snow

However the capitalisation of “Art” is important: signifying that rather than referencing any singular piece of art, Bamboo is referring to the medium in all its forms, be it painting, photography, sculpture, models, the written and / or spoken word and so on; recognising that it is always evolving, and that artists can change genre, format and style, taking on some and abandoning others as they find new or different ways to express themselves.

As is usual with Bamboo, all of the pieces offered within Blue Snow are endlessly vibrant, both in terms of the colours used and the degree of life they each exude. There is a strength about each one that captivates the eye and challenges the imagination, offering stories that might – when considering the central theme of the exhibition – enfold thoughts of the artist and her relationship with her work as well as revolving around our own perceptions of who we are and where we might be going.

Kondor Art Centre: Bamboo Barnes – Blue Snow

Richly engaging, Blue Snow is another superb exhibition from one of SL’s leading digital artists.

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