Fun with Kitbashing in Second Life

The updated Caitinara Bar uses the La Gare Vintage Train Station with kitbashed elements from other pre-fab builds

I’m not a creator, but as regulars to these pages know, I love fiddling around a building things with prims, and also modding various mesh items I buy “off the shelf”. But there is another aspect of content “creation” I enjoy – kitbashing buildings – taking parts from two or more and recombining them to provide something that little bit different.

Like modding items, kitbashing is hardly new, but in an age when pre-fab builds get used across multiple regions, sometimes resulting in a feeling of “sameness” when visiting, kitbashing – or even simple modding – can offer a way to provide a little uniqueness in look and feel to a place. Take one of my most recent (and admittedly relatively simple) kitbash / mod: the new Caitinara Bar at Holly Kai Park.

The original La Gare Vintage Train Station, as supplied by Sheerpetal Roussel  – note the multiple doors at the front (actually five in all) and the open platform nature of the rear.

When re-working Holly Kai Park a few months back, I knew I wanted to re-work the look of the bar, but had no idea precisely how to achieve what I wanted. However, my travels around Second Life have frequently brought me to contact with the La Gare Vintage Train Station by Sheerpetal Roussel, which looked like it might make a sound foundation for a re-work, while I knew the Chatham Skybox by Cory Edo, coupled with one or two bits and pieces from other creators and sitting in inventory, would help flesh-out the interior – notably the “brewery” look of the dance area in the bar.

Kitbashing does come with certain pre-requisites: the designs you’re using must obviously have Modify permissions in order to parts to be removed and re-used (and should preferably be Copy to avoid simply wrecking the original); you need a reasonable understanding of the tools in the Edit floater; and you obviously need some idea of what you want to achieve. For me, the Caitinara Bar kitbash was made easier by the fact that once I’d settled on it, the La Gare Vintage Train Station looked like it would fit around 90% of my needs.

The La Gare build itself is designed in such a way to make basic modding pretty easy: extending an enclosing the “platform” area was a simple matter of copying and using existing wall panels and support beams, and replacing the supplied “floor” with one of my own. As the bar is “underground” I admittedly didn’t have to worry about cutting a cylinder to fit the end of the arched roof

The important thing when assessing buildings for their potential use in kitbashing is to see them in-world, if you don’t already have them. This way you can use the Edit Linked option in the Edit floater to identify specific components – walls, floors, lights, support beams, stairs, fireplaces, etc., – and determine whether or not they might be easily be removed (either because they are not required or because they are the elements you want to use elsewhere). Similarly, the Edit Face option can (to a degree) be used to help determine how textures have been applied and whether surfaces are suitable for re-texturing, should the need arise.

In this latter regard, it’s important to assess whether things like shadows have been baked onto surfaces and whether they may become apparent in removing parts, or whether the bake applies across multiple faces, making it difficult to alter just one, and so assess how much re-texturing might be required and / or whether or not you may need to consider creating things like new materials maps to go with any re-texturing to perform.

Elements – some with a degree of re-texturing and new normal maps – from Cory Edo’s Chatham Skybox provided the means for me to add to the “brewery” look of the interior of the new Caitinara Bar

If re-texturing is required, and – like me – you’ve not a particularly good graphics artist, there are a lot of resources, both in-world and out, where textures can be obtained; just be sure to check any associated EULA / permissions prior to purchase / download.

For materials, tools such as PhotoShop and GIMP have options / plug-ins for creating normal maps, and there are plenty of on-line tools that can automate the process to varying degrees. NormalMap Online, for example is an exceptionally easy tool that can be used to generate a range of maps.

Normalmap Online is a useful tool for creating a range of material types, including normal and specular maps

However, automated tools aren’t always perfect – I tend not to use auto-generated specular maps, for example, as they can result in too uniform a result across a surface, making it look somewhat artificial. Also, if you are playing with textures and materials, remember to try them out on a surface using the Local Textures option. This both allows you to check the suitability of a texture ahead of any upload, and similarly, the in-world look of your materials maps can be tested and adjusted accordingly without having to go through paying for multiple uploads.

Putting things together obviously requires a reasonable understanding of how to unlink (CTRL-SHIFT-L) and Link (CTRL-L), moving and rotating objects – but these aren’t hard to grasp. Again, this is where using buildings that are Copy is important, as you’ll always have the original intact and available for use elsewhere in the future (or if things go wrong!).

The revised and enclosed “platform” area of the La Gare, incorporating the fireplace and pipes from the Trompe Loeil Chatham Skybox to add to the “brewery” feel (alongside of props by Jogi Schultz (yogijo) used in past versions of the bar), and with the glass canopy re-textured and mapped to provide the bar’s signature arched brick ceiling

Continue reading “Fun with Kitbashing in Second Life”

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The Culprit Sonata Bento piano in Second Life

 

The Culprit Sonata upright (l) with my Lisp grand (r) at our home in SL

It’s no secret I play the piano; I’ve mentioned it a fair few times; I can sometimes be heard playing arrangements on my You Tube videos, and I’ve reviewed the various pianos I’ve had in SL through these pages.

By-and-large, I prefer to go for grand (concert or baby) pianos in SL, simply because a) the comparative sizes of houses in SL tend to mean a grand can be installed easily and not lost against a wall; b) I have a Yamaha N1 in the physical world, that nicely reproduces the sound of a grand (but only takes up as much space as an upright!), so I’m naturally more accustomed to the more rounded sound of a grand, and heaving on in SL puts me in mind of that roundedness.

Thus, finding me writing about an upright piano now might seem a little strange. But the upright in question is a little special: it is the first playable Bento piano I’ve been introduced to.

The keyboard is finished with a very natural looking ageing to the keys

The piano in question is the Culprit Sonata, created by Eku Zhong and Yure4u Sosa – and it is a delight.  Two versions of the piano are offered in the pack: “large” (for larger sized human avatars) and “small” (for more “normally” proportioned human avatars (the “small” should not be seen as indicative of the piano being suitable for Tinies). I found the “small” variant ideal for my avatar.

The design follows the standard upright piano look, while the menu system (active once seated) offers four main option sets: Texture, Muted, and Songs, together with an [Adjust] option for setting your seating position at the keyboard.

  • Texture provides a choice of eight Themes by which to  texture / colour the entire piano and its stool; and a Custom option, allowing you to mix and match the textures used on different parts of the piano to suit your individual taste.
  • Muted presents a total of eight different playing styles without any associated music – so you can set a style in keeping with the music you’re listening to out world, or on your parcel stream. As one of the streams we have on the home parcel is a pure piano stream, I found this option a nice touch.
  • Songs, as might be expected, offers a total of 32 pieces to play, all public domain, and offering a good cross-reference of music.
Three of the menu-driven Theme finishes to the piano, and one variant of a Custom finish (l)

Sitting at the piano immediately puts you in the “idle” pose (also available from the Muted menu as a ninth option). This has you sitting and moving your arms as if conducting – or perhaps warming-up in readiness to play :).

Selecting a piece of music from the Songs menu will display sheet music on the piano and move your avatar into a matching playing animation. It is here where the Bento element comes in. If you have Bento hands,  turn off any animation option you may be using with them so as to avoid possible conflict with the piano, then watch yourself play.

The Culprit Sonata was, at the time this review was written, on display outdoors at the Culprit store

Rather than the traditional single pose hand movements we’re all familiar with when playing SL pianos, the Culprit Sonata will animate fingers and wrists to reproduce a range of playing styles, from the subtle to the quite effusive. Most fit the included music extremely well, and I found a couple of the Muted animations options particularly well suited to “playing along” with some of my favourite tracks on the Westworld TV series soundtrack (such as Sweetwater, No Surprises, Dr. Ford, and The Forest) that was playing on the stereo as I took the Culprit for a test drive – or test play, if you prefer 🙂 .

The finger and hand movements are fluid throughout – and I was impressed to see a thumb-led descending glissando in one of the animations; I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a Second Life piano animation before, and you can catch it in the video below. Yure4u, Eku’s SL partner, modelled the animations on her own playing style, adding further depth to them, and while I did find a couple a little more dramatic than my own style of playing, they in no way put me off.

Bento hand movements in three of the playing styles built into the Culprit Sonata piano

At 7 LI, including the stool, the Culprit Sonata isn’t going to break the land impact bank, and the texture options offer sufficient variety in finish for the piano to fit almost any environment. Pricing-wise, it is placed at L$995, which perhaps puts it at the upper range of playable piano (I’m excluding those that come as Adult rated or with a host of non-playing animations). However, when you consider this is a Bento piano, offering some very fine finger / hand / wrist motions, and the effort put into producing these, the price doesn’t feel excessive.

The Sonata has some nice attention to detail around the keyboard and the brass fittings, and while I’m still naturally biased towards having a grand piano in SL (and Eku and Yure4u are apparently working on one), the upright version is now gracing the saloon at Caitinara Bar 🙂 .

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All change at Holly Kai Park – again!

Seanchai Library with the gallery in the background

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks re-working Holly Kai Park. This came about for a couple of reasons: I found that trying to run this blog, spend time relaxing in-world with Caitlyn (and running the bar) as giving time to that “real life” thing, meant trying to organise up to six artists per month to exhibit at the park each month got to be just a little too much. So for the last several months I’ve been mulling over precisely what to do with the park and pulling at the threads around the edges with little changes here and there.

In the end, it was a visit to Erebos Harbor (which you can read about here) that spurred an idea for me. Not to try to replicate that outstanding build by Leaf and Julz, but rather take the idea of an observatory and use that as the focal point for a new gallery space and revised park layout. And not just any observatory; there is one in particular I’ve always loved visiting when on the West Coast of the USA, which has a design I find captivating: Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. So a lot of my time for around the last 10 days has been focused on in-world building and poking and prodding with ideas.

Another view of the new gallery building, as seen from the lawns of Seanchai library. The steps linking the two with one another and the waterfront are visible in the foreground.

Things still aren’t entirely finished – there are the inevitable nips and tucks, and one or two things may yet be tweaked, but hopefully the news design and layout for the park is now complete.  This being the case, and allowing for said tweaks and the cleaning-up of sawdust from prim cutting and the shavings from mesh trimming, I’d thought I’d offer a note about what’s been done so far.

As noted above, the gallery building has been inspired by the major elements of the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles California – as I hope those familiar with that building will recognised. It’s not an exact replica of the Griffith; essentially I’ve taken the two main wings with their telescope domes, the main entrance and the rotunda of the planetarium and cut away some of the structure to the rear of the original (and all the underground bits!). I’ve also (for now!) left out the external stairways up to the roof and the telescope domes.

Holly Kai Gallery from the upper terrace, which will be used for displays of 3D art, such as Giovanna Cerise’s Ice Castle, seen left

Inside, the design encompasses four linked parts: the foyer / entrance area, two gallery spaces contained within the building’s wings and an events space in the rotunda at the back of the building for exhibition openings. The gallery spaces can either be used for individual exhibits of art (allowing Holly Kai to display two artists at a time) or for a single display spanning both wings. It’s a little Spartan inside as of now, as I’m still mulling over interior fixtures and lighting.

Just below the gallery is a large terrace area with lawns and cypress trees. This is currently home to two interactive 3D art installations: Ice Castle by Giovanna Cerise and Reflections at Midnight by Frankx LeFarve; a smaller piece by Frankx is also displayed on one of the lawns. This terrace and lawns will be used to present 3D art from various artists and friends quite separately from any exhibitions within the gallery.

Given this is a radical makeover for the park, we have a new landing point. This is located within a new information centre, which might be a little cramped, so we’ll see how it goes and perhaps move it outdoors if people find it an issue. The info centre is still being equipped, but there is a large map of the park on one wall to allow visitors to get oriented, and which has information on the park and on Seanchai Library, whom we’re honoured to have as partners sharing the grounds with us.

Holly Kai Park Information Centre and Landing Point

The map has a couple of active web links in it – click the blue URLs to go to either the Holly Kai Park website and blog or to Seanchai Library’s website. Once things have settled down and the sawdust from cutting prims has been cleared away, active teleport links will be added to the map as well.

Also in the centre is a donations kiosk for Feed A Smile. We don’t take venue tips at the park, but we do ask that those who enjoy a visit to consider making a donation of L$100 at the kiosk (one the others to be found at various points in the park and its facilities) to help feed a young child in Kenya – and yes, as incredible as it may sound, L$100 is enough to provide a Kenyan child with a hot meal!

Between the information point and the Gallery terraces, is a “mid-level” terrace. This is home to the Holly Kai Café, with seating indoors and out (and I may be expanding the outdoor area to create a little more room! I also have a small studio area on this level for my SL photographs.

The Holly Kai Café

Getting between the terraces is achieved via the stairways – just look for the stone steps on the east side waterfront and follow the grass paths – everything is signposted as well!

One of the things that has bugged me about the park design – and it’s been entirely my fault – is that on the east side it’s always felt as if it’s not a single park area, but three distinct parts of a region that aren’t really related other than by position: the Art Hill, with Seanchai Library to the south, and Caitinara Bar and the Medici Collection – 2D and 3D art from Nber Medici’s personal collection – to the north.

Replacing the Art Hill with the new design has allowed me to rectify this. Paths from the gallery and its terraces now directly link to Seanchai Library and to the Medici Collection (the former path also giving access to the Park Walk that leads via an under-tree trail to the Pavilion and our bumper boats pool). This will, I hope mean that these three elements now feel part of a contiguous park looking out over the water.

gallery-13_0011
Caitinara Bar

Caitinara Bar, meanwhile, has been re-oriented to face the park’s bay with its piers for visiting boats. It also has an expanded outdoor seating area which linking it to one of the ways up to the gallery terraces. All of this will hopefully again make the bar feel more a part of the park as a whole. As a result of this, there’s also an updated landing point for Caitinara Bar.

The piers have mooring for up to 2 hours – small to medium-sized boats are welcome. Boats can be re-rezzed in the waters between the piers, if required.

There have been some revisions to the Pavilion events area on the west side of the park. At the time of writing, this is still a work in progress, with potential further changes to be made as we strive to make this a more flexible area of a wide variety of events. The landing point, however, remains unchanged and also serves the park’s bumper boats.

The Pavilion has been revised with a new stage area and the removal of the glass domes

These changes have obviously resulted in some extensive changes to the park itself. However, the park walk looping around the base of the gallery hill remains in place, and offers the way to various secluded spots visitors are free to enjoy.

So that’s it! I’m still working on bits here and there, as noted, but if you fancy dropping by, you’re welcome to so so and as of today unlike to find the grounds cluttered with bits of mesh or face the risk of a building suddenly rezzing overhead  – or the ground beneath you suddenly moving (or vanishing!).

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All location are on Holly Kai Estates, rated: Moderate

Testing the LS33W AirFish in Second Life

Taking a prototype LS33W AirFish out for a test. Finish and colours are not representative of the production version

As is probably clear to regular readers of this blog, I’m a fan of craft built by Ape Piaggio. I played a (minor) role in the development of her Little Bee tender-style speed boat (which you can read about here), and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been acting as a test pilot / CTD (that’s “crash test dummy” for the uninitiated 🙂 ) for Ape’s newest vehicle: the still in development LS33W AirFish.

Based on the WigetWorks AF8-001, the AirFish is  a ground effect vehicle. This is a type of craft designed to attain sustained flight over a level surface (usually water) by making use of ground effect, the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface over which it is travelling. another term for this type of vehicle is wing-in-ground effect (WIG), and it is the terminology generally used when referring to the AirFish and its physical world progenitor.

An overhead view of the AirFish

I confess, when Ape first told me she was developing the AirFish, I wasn’t convinced. We have high-performance boats in SL; we have aircraft; we have hovercraft; is a WIG vehicle likely to be popular? Well, on the strengths of having been testing this vehicle and seeing first hand the way Ape is both accepting feedback to tweak and improve it, and adding new features along the way – I can say it’s a heck of a lot of fun!

I’m not going to go into specifics about the AirFish here – I’ll save that for an in-depth review when it goes on sale (which might not be for a little while yet, as there is still much work to be done). What I will say is that the AirFish offers a lot to both motor boat fans and flying enthusiasts. On the water, it handles like a conventional boat and can happily motor around using its impellers. In doing so, it’s pretty manoeuvrable but not particularly fast (on-the-water speed isn’t the point). However, switch to the two rear-facing propellers (driven in the AF8-001 by a conventional V8 car engine!), and the AirFish comes into its own  – a fast, manoeuvrable craft able to pass over water and low-lying, relatively flat terrain at speed and with ease.

Airborne over water…

Once of the nice touches Ape has added – based on my own feedback, if I might toot my own horn a little – is a configurable set of flight controls. These allow pilots / driver to either use a standard “boat” layout to keyboard controls with the arrow keys / WASD for left/right and throttle up/down and vehicle pitch set via the PAGE keys. Or, for those used to flight controls, the arrow keys can be used for left / right and pitch up / down, with the PAGE keys used for adjusting the throttle.

Nor is the AirFish restricted to the water – a retractable undercarriage can be deployed to allow it climb up (and down) seaplane ramps, although it is not designed for trying to get airborne from a runway, and the AirFish is intentionally configured to prevent this: lowering the undercarriage locks it into its “taxi” mode.

I’ll have much more to say about the AirFish when it is officially released. In the meantime, those wishing to try a demonstration version can do so at the FoilBourne headquarters in-world, and as a further teaser, I’ll leave you with a short video of some of my trial runs testing the craft. Note that the vehicle finish and colours in both the images here and in the video are not representative of the production version’s finish or colours.

Note: this blog post and film produced and published with Ape’s approval.

Adding a little vehicle space with a rezzing system

Having room to moor / park all your boats and planes at home can be a problem (if you have room at all!) – so why not use a rezzing system?

Being into planes and boats in SL can be a little taxing. Not just on the purse / wallet, but also in where to park things. Even if, like us, you have a place near water where you can moor your boats and seaplanes, providing space for all of them can be a little hard – every LI given over to vehicles, moorings and so on, is one less for the house, furnishings and garden. Sure, you can always putt things out of your inventory when you want them – but where’s the fun in that? Having at least something out on your docks or slipway is part of the pleasure in owning vehicles.

In our case, we have numerous vehicles, some of which get considerable use – notably our two DSA G58 Barons and M33 Debonair, plus the Little Bee and FoilStream by Ape Piaggio, and the Bandit 210. Having all of these rezzed at any one time along with our Loonetta 31, which tends to be permanently rezzed, gobbles up 263 LI – and quite a lot of space. Add to that some of the vehicles have multiple finishes to them (different registrations or colour schemes), and of which we might want to use at any given time, even more LI can get eaten in trying to have all of them out at once.

Of course, hauling some of them of inventory when needed is always an option, it’s still a little boring and negates the idea of having “home space” for vehicles. So is there a compromise that allows for a quick swapping between vehicles while allowing some to be parked / moored and ready to go? If your vehicles have both copy and modify permissions, there is: a simple scene rezzing system.

A system like the RF Device / Multi-Scene Rezzer lets you quickly choose which (and how many) of your copy / modify vehicles you have rezzed and parked at home, and lets you swap between different types – note how I can swap between the two different ‘planes occupying the same mooring. Thus, you don’t have to keep everything rezzed at the same time, saving LI, and you don’t have to bother with manually hauling things out of inventory when you want to use them.

This is pretty much what we’ve had at Isla Pey for a good while – and note I am not talking any kind of temp rezzer here; they are a blight that should really be avoided. There are several scene rezzing systems available that fit the bill for vehicle rezzing, and I’ve been using a couple for the last few years. However, my unit of choice at the moment is the RF Device / Multi-Scene Rezzer.

Priced at just L$250, this is a low-cost, very easy-to-use system, comprising a “control panel” object and a single script. Simply rez the “control panel” object, rez and position your copy / modify vehicle(s) where you want it / them to be parked / moored when rezzed, drop the script inside the contents, then take the vehicle(s) and drop it / them into the contents of the “control panel”, and you’re done. Touching the “control panel” then displays a list of objects within it, with a corresponding set of buttons used for rezzing the vehicle(s) of your choice. You can even move the control panel around within your parcel / region and the vehicles will still rez correctly in their original places.

We have various vehicles stored in the rezzer (shown on the left with a custom finish) – including different variants of the same vehicle (indicated by the small arrows on the menu), any of which can be rezzed at the click of a button whenever it is required. Those rezzed can then remain parked / moored until needed or replaced by an alternative

Thus, using this system, we have direct access to a fair number of my boats and planes (some of which are copies with different registrations / paint finishes) which we can swap between quickly and easily, and without messing around with inventory and positioning things manually (particularly handy if you can’t use RTLP on your parcel).

The RF system, like many others, includes an “auto clear” function. So, if you only have space to rez one vehicle at a time, this will remove any currently rezzed vehicle before rezzing the next. But if, like us, you have room to have several (but not all) of your vehicles out at one time, the “auto clear” can be disabled, and you can manually delete any individual vehicle before  using the rezzing system to display another that might occupy the same spot when rezzed.

Easily use a single mooring / parking space to swap between vehicles or between different versions of a vehicle with different finishes (as seen above, where I’m swapping between two versions of my Little Bee), all without any tedious mucking about with inventory. 

Obviously, using rezzing systems like this isn’t a new idea – it’s actually as old as the hills in some respects. But, if you haven’t considered it before, and do have limited space for your vehicles and would like a more convenient way of displaying them / swapping between them in-world than having to refer back to your inventory – trying out something like the RF Device / Multi-Scene rezzer might be worth considering.

A pause for a personal ad: landscaping and design

Our home: Isla Pey – click any circle to view image / enter slide show

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed doing in Second Life is landscaping. I’ve done so on both a parcel basis with the properties I’ve had and still have in Second Life and with for parcels held by friends. I’ve also designed assorted regions – most notably, Holly Kai Park, which is still open to public visits.

As a result of this, I’ve built up a good library of landscaping sets from various designers, and gained a good familiarity with designers work as well – so I’m pretty well placed to provide advice on what to buy, what to mix’n’match (so you have full control of the finished design).

Holly Kai Park – click any circle to view image / enter slide show

So, this being the case, I’ve decided to test the waters and offer my abilities to those who would like to have the regions or – most particularly, their home parcels – landscaped.

I don’t intend to make this a full-time thing, and may not be able to fulfil all requests, however, if you are interested, feel free to contact me in-world via note card (please, no requests via the comments section!) and we can discuss ideas and terms.

In the meantime, the embedded slide shows will, I hope, demonstrate some of my work. Simply click on any of the images in the circles to see a full version, and scroll through each set.

“Impression”, LEA 6, 2016 – click any circle to view image / enter slide show

And as the saying goes, “we now return you to our regular broadcasts” – or in this case, articles 🙂 .