Riding a Moon Shadow in Second Life

My winLab/Dogma Moon Shadow, in my own hull / superstructure finish, moored at Isla Caitinara

Oh, I’ve been ridin’ on a Moon Shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow –
Cuttin’ the waves on a Moon Shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.

OK, so the words aren’t quite how Yusuf Islam (or Cat Stevens, as he was at the time) wrote them in 1970, but they have been bouncing through my head the last few days.

The reason for this is that I was recently contacted by Spartaco Zemenis who, among his many talents, is a creator, a scripter and a member of the Firestorm Italian support group. Following our conversation, he kindly sent me – in no expectations of any review, but as a simple “thank you” – a couple of items he has put together with Dogma9.

One of these is the Moon Shadow motor cruiser, a vessel somewhat larger than I’ve used – at least, up until now. Curious about it,I decided to give it a go, and in the process it joined the ranks of my regularly-used vehicles, which in turn qualified it for a review.

Heading out to Blake Sea Channel from Second Norway

Comprehensively packaged and packed with features, the Moon Shadow can be purchased in two variants: one with a default black hull and superstructure, and one with a default white finish – which is the versions Spataco sent me. Included in the package – which comes in the form of a boxed model – is the boat, a pair of HUDs (one for driving the boat, and and optional one that works with camera positioning), and a detailed user manual.

Priced at L$7,000, Moon Shadow is a 25m class cruiser with a beam of 7.2 metres and a keel-to flying bridge height of 8.5 metres. It is an exceptionally attractive vessel, nicely proportioned, with a hull clearly designed to cut through the water rather than riding over them.

The main cabin, showing the table set with the breakfast meal option and the open fridge

The main cabin takes up the majority of the interior space, offering comfortable facilities complete with galley, a dining area, forward seating and a cockpit area for piloting the boat. Forward of this is a single sleeping cabin that has a fair amount of space, and includes a working bathroom, closets, and a double bed. Over the top of this cabin is the traditional forward solarium common to cruisers of this type. Aft of the main cabin, and separated from it by a glass screen and sliding door, is a small swim platform area with seating and access to the large fantail swim platform itself, as well as steps up to the flying bridge / lounge. A working panel in the floor well of the swim platform seating area provides access to the engine bay. The flying bridge itself is roomy  and helps classify the Moon Shadow as a sport-fly, with both curved bench seating and a solarium alongside the upper cockpit area.

Moondancer: my version of the Moon Shadow

The boat’s features are impressive, comprising:

  • The ability to carry up to 10 avatars (region crossings allowing!), although I’ve thus far not gone beyond two.
  • 30 multi-purpose seating positions, and an animation system providing 120 couple and 80 single animations, the majority managed by a on-board servers (rather than multiple animations per seating area). In particular, this allows for:
    • Avatar movement between seats without the need to stand up.
    • Use of a manageable suite of animations across all suitable seating areas – lounge seats, top and forward solariums, etc.
    • The ability to add your own animations.
    • (Note that the above excludes the galley, which utilises its own animation.)
  • 75 interactive objects,  including:
    • A selection of meals that can be rezzed on the main deck table and drinks and snacks that can be rezzed from the fridge.
    • Items that can be rezzed when working at the galley.
    • Rezzable mooring piles and lines.
    • An extensive audio video system, including a large deployable screen at the rear of the main cabin, a small deployable screen in the lower cockpit, a flat screen TV in the sleeping cabin.
    • The starlight spotlight, controlled by the boat’s main HUD.
  • A projected light system (requires Advanced Lighting Model to be running on the viewer) for internal illumination.
  • Scripted dynamic control system that can be used to adjust boat handling (stability / performance balance) to suit your driving needs.
  • Automated resource management with manual override: when the engine is running, all scripts deemed unnecessary to motion / navigation are turned off to reduce the vessel’s simulator resource use.

The last two point are particularly useful when driving the Moon Shadow. At 150 LI (248 prim), and a 146 server load (29.6 physics), this is a “heavy” vessel when it comes to region crossings, so minimising resource use and managing performance are important aspect in ensuring crossings are as smooth as possible. Maintaining a reasonable throttle speed also helps – I’d personally recommend not going above 60% of throttle when carrying multiple avatars.

Main HUD

A key aspect on managing the Moon Shadow is the main HUD. This provides access to the majority of the boat’s controls, as shown in the image below right.

The Moon Shadow primary HUD. Courtesy of Dogma Creations /  winLAB

In  order to work, the HUD needs to be synced to a copy of the boat. This is achieved by wearing / adding the HUD  and then sitting on the boat as the driver.

The HUD is pretty self-explanatory, but some of the options are worth going into further here:

  • Show / Hide Sit Panel: displays a panel denoting the core deck / cabin sit points (shown in the lower right of the HUD). When displayed, sit points can be enabled / disabled by clicking on their icons.
  • Camera mode: clicking this displays the Camera Mode dialogue, allowing your camera position to be slaved to the boat and then positioned via the camera mode options. A separate (and relatively compact) camera HUD reproduces the options on the dialogue box to provide an alternative to managing camera positions. Note that once engaged, the Camera Mode needs to be turned OFF to release your camera.
  • Set and Go: these allow you to set a mooring point, with GO jumping the boat to it when in range.
  • Transmitter: if you are unseated from the boat, clicking this will send a request to the boat for its location, which is returned in local chat as a TP link, allowing you to teleport to the boat and rejoin it. This works with the currently synced version of the boat, or the last rezzed version. I can say from experience, this works.
  • Show / Hide Moor Structure: this rezzes a couple of mooring posts off the stern quarters of the boat with lines connecting them to the stern cleats.
  • Privacy: simply darkens the cabin windows.

General Handling

The controls are the usual: ↑ and ↓ for the throttle, with ↓ beyond 0 engaging reverse, while ← and → control steering (with the WS and AD handling these respectively for those preferring letter keys for movement). In addition – and a useful capability in a vessel of this size – is the Moon Shadow’s bow thrusters. Providing the throttle is set to 15% or below, pressing SHIFT-→ or SHIFT-← will push the entire boat sideways, allowing it to ease alongside piers for mooring.

The main cabin dashboard
The two driving positions (main cabin and flying bridge) have buttons that will move the driver between them – including when the boat s in motion. All of the core instruments on both panels work, allowing for a degree of Mouselook piloting for those who dare – although given the size of the boat, this may not be so easy  in confined channels or when trying to manoeuvre.

A key point with this boat is that it is big – and so has a turning circle to match. This can make manoeuvring in confined spaces difficult, but with practice and use of the the thruster capability, control can be maintained where there is limited space in which to manoeuvre.

General Feedback

I’ll say up front that I like this boat when I am no particular fan of big cruisers and yachts in SL – many of which strike me as ridiculously oversized in relation to their general styling. However, the Moon Shadow ticks both the size and style boxes with ease to present a good-sized and well-rounded craft that generally handles well and provides a lot of on-board options.

The hull and superstructure finishes on the boat do look a little basic, but a comprehensive set of flat-file PNG files, together with UV and occlusion maps, are supplied. These provide the means to meet repainting needs from simple hull / superstructure changes through to a  complete exterior and interior overhaul. As the boat is Copy / Mod, it’s also possible to change some individual surfaces. without necessarily resorting to using the supplied files for repainting.

I do have a couple of small niggles. For a boat powered by a pair of V12s or V16s, I found the engine sounds on Moon Shadow disappointing; I honestly prefer to turn local sounds off when driving the boat rather than listen to them. Also, to assist in low speed manoeuvring and give a better sense of realism, the throttle really needs to increment in smaller steps at the lower end of the scale – say 5% up to 15-20%. This would allow for more reliable low speed manoeuvring when trying to come directly alongside and also smoother switching between forward and reverse motion.

Heading out to Blake Sea Channel from Second Norway

Both niggles are not enough to put me off of the Moon Shadow, however; as noted, it’s joined the ranks of my regularly used vessels, and I’d like to thank Spartaco for his generosity.

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