A novel lifeboat system for Second Life

The WALT lifeboat with launch cradle / crane in the background

Ape Piaggio has released a curious – and possibly niche – product in the form of the WALT Deeplag Horizon lifeboat. It’s a product I was able to observe during development, and got to play with during pre-release.

Originally developed as a part of an oil rig emergency / evacuation game Ape developed with Analyse “Bandit” Dean, the Deeplag Horizon (name that might be a little raw in some cases) is primarily at those who may be involved in SLCG / SAR role-play, and who want to add some training capabilities for oil rig evacuations, etc. However, it is a versatile kit, so might have wider appeal, possibly as a lifeboat for large-scale SL boats – although I note this with a caveat.

Costing L$3,000 and available (at the time of writing, at least) through Ape’s in-world store, Deeplag Horizon comes in a neat little package comprising a boxed model of the craft sitting on one of its launch cradles. This contains:

  • Three versions of the lifeboat:
    • The Regular version, seating a total 15 avatars and suitable for general evac / reuse role-play.
    • An eXtra version, that is identical to the one above, but with additional singles and couples animations.
    • Short version, seating only 9, and potentially suited for use as a vessel lifeboat.
  • Two launch cradle / crane variants – these function identically, and are distinguished only by the placement of the support legs.
  • A HUD for the launch cradle / crane.
  • A coalesced Lifeboat Crane Tower.
  • A WALT Adjust Tool Box to assist with adding your own animations to the boat.
  • A textures set.
  • The user manual.
The two sizes of the WALT lifeboats: the R/X variant (top) and the S with one of the side egress doors open

The Lifeboats

This is a quick overview, the lifeboat (particularly the X version) packs a lot into it – all of which is covered in the user manual.

Outside of the differences noted above, all three lifeboats offer the same overall boxy look typical of these craft, together with the bare bones interiors that speak to function rather than comfort. The side egress doors and rear entry / egress doors open, as do the hatches for accessing the engines, air tanks, etc., while the gauges and indicators on the control panel all work (as do the light switches), offering the potential for Mouselook driving.

Obviously, given their function is to save lives in the event of a disaster, these lifeboats are not going to zip you around Blake Sea at a high rate of knots. However, they will pootle along nicely, with a top speed of 9 knots. Handling at lower speeds is very tight – the smaller of the two designs will literally turn on a sixpence (or dime for my American cousins) and the larger one not far off.

Both chat and dialogue menu commands can be used with the boats, the latter called by touching anywhere on the boat’s superstructure other than the doors. As is usual with boats, the ↑ and ↓ keys (or W and S) will increase / decrease the throttle (with reverse engaged on using ↓ with the setting at 0), whilst ← and →  will activate the steering. In addition, PAGE UP will jump the throttle directly to 100% and PAGE DOWN will cut it to 0%, bringing the lifeboat to a stop once its momentum has been lost.

The interior of the large versions of the lifeboat, with one of the floor panels lifted to give access to the RP air tanks

For those who wish, control of the boat can be handed off to someone else, and the Settings and Accessories options provide additional options, such as enabling / disabling rocking when the boat is on the water (Accessories) and inverting the rudder movement when the boat is in reverse (Settings) – handy when using a forward-facing camera when the boat is moving backward, if the “inverted” nature of turning when reversing confuses you, and more besides.

The Launch Cradle / Crane

This is a fun part of the system, a combined system for launching and recovering lifeboats. There are three ways to operate the launch cradle / crane: via the Crane HUD, directly by touching the crane to access its menu, or by accessing the crane’s menu through the boat’s menu. Of these, the HUD is a little less efficient on initial use, as the cradle / crane must be switched on to work – and this requires using the menu.

Once turned on, a lifeboat can be mounted in one of two ways: by rezzing one in place via the Rez Menu (note this has several options – refer to the user manual for further detail on these), or by pulling one from inventory and placing it on the water under / in front of the cradle / crane. The latter is the best way to get familiar with operations. Again, the instructions in the user manual are clear, and don’t need to be repeated here.

The Small variant of the lifeboat sitting in the launch cradle

When using the cradle / crane, it looks and works a lot better if there is a reasonable degree of elevation between the cradle and the water – 5 metres is a good height – or the additional tower can be used.

The Cradle / Crane and Tower

The Lifeboat Crane Tower raises the cradle to an elevation of around 30 metres. It comes as a coalesced object of three parts:

  • The tower itself.
  • A launch cradle / crane mounted at its upper end.
  • An elevator to reach the launch cradle at its base.

These can be rezzed together, but as they are not linked, you should manipulate them as a group if you need to move or re-orient them, then fine tune them individually, if required.

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The idea behind the tower is to provide elevation for things like role-play training scenarios. The cradle works exactly the same way as described above. Once the tower / cradle / elevator are positioned as desired, the elevator should be given a long click to set its position. After that, avatar simply stand in the elevator and a click on it will raise it / cause it to descend. At the top, those on the elevator can board the lifeboat. When all is set, the boat can then be launched or DROPped.

General Notes

The lifeboat includes various options suitable for role-play – refuelling, air tanks, an air mattress that can be used for medical emergency RP (you’ll need to add suitable animations yourself), while the texture set includes diffuse, normal and specular maps, the first of which can be used to re-colour the boat(s) should you require / prefer.All of this is covered in the user manual, so I’ll say no more here.

The manual indicates that the smaller boat and cradle / crane could be  mounted on a suitable vessel using a mechanism such as Ape’s Relinker / Vehicle Transport script set (a product I’ve also reviewed – might be required). However – and allowing for the fact I am no expert in large boats in SL, the mechanism strikes me as being a big hunk of equipment to mount on a vessel, and not especially attractive. However, a linking system could allow the smaller lifeboat to be used in such a way sans the cradle / crane.

As noted at the top of this article, this is an unusual product that has something of a niche market – but it is exceptionally well thought-out and detailed (right down to the way the rope apparently winds / unwinds across the winch roll, just as it does on an actual winch). The lifeboat itself makes for a novel boat – in fact, I was recently reading about a UK company that actually refurbishes ex oil rig lifeboats as narrow boats for use on canals – so maybe there’s the opportunity to kit-out the interior (physics limit allowing).

Unusual – yes. Well put-together, undoubtedly; but then, I’d expect nothing else from Ape, hence why I’m a keen collector of WALT / Piaggio / Foilbourne craft.

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