Tackling an Evening Star in Second Life

Playing with the Evening Star Linden Houseboat. Note the additional “window” towards the stern and the spiral stairs

My playing around with the Linden Home houseboats is something of a matter of record in this blog. I’ve previously written about the result of my fiddling with the Windless (see here and here), and the Barnacle (see here).  In all, I’ve come up with half-a-dozen different interior layouts for three of the available houseboat designs (including the Wallower).

But there is one I’ve tended to avoid: the Evening Star. There are several reasons for this: of all four designs, it perhaps has the smallest interior space (although this could be a toss-up with the Wallower); the use of ladders to reach the rooftop deck really doesn’t appeal (nor does the narrowness of the gap between the ladders and the lower deck railings).

The Evening Star interior can be divided into two and the upper skylight area converted into an upper “floor”

I’m also no fan of the way the majority of the windows are crowded towards one end, leaving the “skylight” area at the stern of the design to provide a glimpse of natural light. Even the skylight itself strikes me as a “wasted” (if possibly small) space, and like the Barnacle, the Evening Star has a curved wall that I’m not particularly fond of.

But, these are the things that niggled me: could something be done to overcome them? As it turned out, the answer is yes.

Despite its apparent small size, the raising ceiling area of the Evening Star can be converted into a reasonable bedroom, and a spiral staircase reduces the amount of floorspace a staircase might otherwise need

Take that skylight space, for example. Small it might be, but it only takes a few prims to create a suitable for on which a bedroom can be established. Further, said prims can be extended to provide a non-plank ceiling for the deck below, if needed, Add a suitable spiral staircase, and you have a compact way to get between the two “floors”.

The same design of spiral stairway (which I’ve previously used on one of my Windlass designs) solves the problem of avoiding the Evening Star’s ladders by adding a copy to the front of the houseboat, connecting the open upper deck space with the docks I slipped in at water level. A pair of Anywhere Doors (also used with the Windlass designs) solves the problem of accessing the upper deck from the bedroom.

The new “bedroom door” to the upper deck (a Curio Obscura Anywhere Door pairing) and a couple of additional prims to “fix” the truncated window.

One of handy things about these houseboat designs is that as unique as each of them might be, all of them naturally lend themselves to using similar components like this.

Take Blush Bravin’s Party Boat add-on, for example. Designed for the Barnacle, I’ve used elements with both the Windlass and the Wallower. And with the Evening Star, the “brick” panel allows me to overcome that curved wall at the rear of the lower deck, squaring things off nicely for the kitchen (a combination of items from [DDD] ~ Dysfunctionality and Trompe Loeil). The addition of a faux doorway against this wall adds the illusion of there being a bathroom at the back of the boat. The slatted room divider from Blush’s kit also allows me to split the lower deck into two without leaving it feeling totally closed off.

One of the faux windows showing the “blinds” drawn from the outside.

Even so, splitting things can leave the back of the boat feeling a little “dark”. So why not add a couple of faux windows? Just 4 LI apiece and with suitable internal / external textures, and that can be made to look (from the outside) as if the blinds are drawn, and from the inside, they offer “views” of the “sky”. OK, so the inner and outer appearances of the windows don’t actually match one another, nor do the “windows” actually admit light – but they do help give a sense of brightness to the back of the houseboat. A quick bit of scripting also means the “inside” sky images are automatically swapped with images of the drawn blinds during the local SL “night”, avoiding the “view” from them clashing with what can be seen outside!

Dividing the interior into two isn’t necessary, but for me, it makes things a little more cosy and offers distinct living spaces – lounge and kitchen / dining. However, given the sheer amount of glass at the front end of the Evening Star, it leaves a small problem of where to hang pictures. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to add a couple prim walls to block-in two of the windows – and these can run back toward the rear of the houseboat, covering both the wall panelling on the inside (which I mentioned I wasn’t too fond of) and the weird black semi-circle on the outer walls.

The Evening Star showing my mods (forward spiral stairs, upper side door to the new bedroom area, new side walls and “windows”), compared to the original look, inset.

I think it fair to say the Evening Star  – like the Wallower – surprised me. What at first seemed to be a potentially awkward living space with limited options, is actually pretty flexible and capable of being modified in a fairly low land impact: 82 LI including all the ceiling, walls, lighting, pictures, kitchen, kitchen fixings and docks for my boats and planes (of course, a custom vehicle rezzer for the latter finished things off 🙂 ).

I continue to be impressed with these Linden Homes and the sheer flexibility they can offer. Put it this way, I now have a different houseboat for each day of the week 🙂 .

 

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A Look at the Camper and Trailer Homes with Patch Linden

The four styles of the upcoming Bellisseria Camper and Trailer homes initially unveiled at SL16B – additional styles were added to these on Monday, June 24th

Note: the Camper and Trailer Homes are still in development, as such details of the designs and the planned environments for them that will be developed in Bellisseria may differ with the designs and landscape seen in this article.

One of the things that may have caught some people by surprise at SL16B is the preview region featuring the upcoming Linden Camper (aka caravan) and Trailer Homes, planned as a future phase of the Linden Homes continent of Bellissera.

The Camper and Trailer type Linden Homes in the SL16B preview park

Deliberately unannounced, the inclusion of these homes at SL16B, sitting within a landscape park, was an idea put forward by Patch Linden, the Lab’s Director of Operations, and while we have been promised a near future release of homes that would be different to those that have thus far been made, the use of trailers / caravans as home is potentially novel enough to have caught many by surprise.

Given that Patch discussed the trailer style homes during his Meet the Lindens session on Monday 24th, I thought I’d take his comments concerning them from that event, and take a further look at this new type of Linden Home.

One of the trailer style homes unveiled at SL16B after Patch’s Meet the Lindens session

The first couple of points to note about these styles of Linden Home is that:

  • In all, there are 8 styles of camper and trailer home, four of which were initially  previewed at SL16B, with more added following Patch’s talk at SL16B.
  • They have been designed to fit both 512 sq m and 1024 sq m parcels, but will be initially offered with 512 sq m land.

This may seem an odd fit, given the first phases of houses within Bellisseria are provided with 1024 sq m parcels; however there is some logic behind the move. Not only do these trailer-style homes present a contrast, their use of 512 sq m of land means that those premium members who already have some of their “free” tier used for land can potentially obtain a property on Bellisseria without necessarily having to pay additional tier.

Another One of the trailer style homes unveiled at SL16B after Patch Linden’s Meet the Lindens session

There’s another aspect to this as well. While the Traditional houses and houseboats have proven popular, they are still nevertheless “enclosed” homes; they have walls, and even though the houses have yards / gardens and the houseboats can be moored in close proximity to one another, they still have a sense of “boundary” to them.

The new campers and trailers, however, are different. They are designed to be in open spaces and, given their smaller internal space, are liable to encourage people to spend time outside and to create outdoor spaces on their parcels in an environment that places neighbours relatively close to hand and without the same sense of intervening property boundaries.

So it might be that the Camper and Trailer type homes could encourage easier mixing and befriending and further develop a local community spirit among those occupying them. In keeping with this, Patch has indicated that when deployed, the Camper and Trailer regions will come with their own “large scale” community space intended to help encourage more community-developed events and activities.

The Camper and Trailer type homes preview region at SL16B

In terms of the release of the camper and trailer homes, and how it might fit with the announced new Linden Home release process (see Special: Patch Linden on the new Linden Homes release process) Patch had this to say:

The Campers and Trailers are going to come in a large release initially. We kind-of feel like rolling out that entire area, because it is a bit of a scenery change, a theme change and stuff like that. Thematically it doesn’t quite line up [with the current home types and styles], but it is designed to all blend together so you’ll transition from one area of the continent to another.

But as we go through that process, you’ll see a who bunch of regions get spun up, for those of you who keep an eye on these things … You’ll probably see the building versions of those regions come soon, and we’ll start building those out and then at some point we’ll have a really large release for those as well; and then those will enter that same process of this more frequent release cadence. And then we’ll be off to our next theme after that which – I’ll not really going to talk that much about!

– Patch Linden, SL16B, Monday, June 24th, 2019

A further variant of the trailer style homes unveiled at SL16B after Patch Linden’s Meet the Lindens session

All of which should be enough to pique the curiosity – but there is more! While he didn’t go into things too deeply, and although they are a little off-topic for this blog post, Patch did indicate that:

  • Small commercial opportunities may be coming to Bellisseria (although some had already guessed based on a development on the SSP prototype regions).
  • Trains will be playing a role in Bellisseria, and will apparently be “linked” to the SLRR.

Both of these are clearly topics for the future, although I’ll have a little more on them in my upcoming summary of Patch’s SL16B Meet the Lindens session.

In the meantime, there is current no date for the release for the Camper and Trailer type homes, although there will obviously be an announcement about them once the initial deployment is ready. So, those who are curious about them and perhaps haven’t seen them – and the response so far has been positive – should perhaps drop into SL16B Spellbound before July 8th, 2019, and take a look.

Special: Patch Linden on the new Linden Homes release process

The development of additional Bellisseria regions with houseboats and Traditional houses that people have been able to witness during May / June 2019 is part of a new approach the Lab is taking to releasing these Linden Homes, which comes into effect from Monday, June 24th

Update, June 25th: Patch’s forum post is now an official blog post.

Update: Patch has now issued a forum post on the new Linden Homes release process.

Since their launch in April 2019, the Linden Homes, available to Premium subscribers, have proven exceptionally popular. The first release of the houses – offered in two types: land-based “Traditional” homes and houseboats, each available in for styles – were snapped up in the first couple of days following their release, with the houseboats going within hours. Similarly, a special release of regions with houseboats was completely allocated in just 27 minutes.

For the last several weeks, the Linden Department of Public Works – LPDW – and the Lab’s Land Team have been work on a further development across a number of regions in Bellisseria, implementing new infrastructure as well as more Traditional homes and houseboats, all under the watchful eyes of curious residents. As Patch Linden, Senior Director of Operations Patch revealed on Monday, June 24th during his Meet the Lindens event, this open development of Bellisseria is part of a deliberate change in strategy.

Ahead of that event, I had the opportunity to hear from Patch on what would be happening:

We are going to try and change our release strategy for a little while to see if a particular process works better for everyone involved, including many of you who have been very patiently waiting for one of the new Linden Homes. Many of you have already been witness to the new process unfolding in front of you whether you knew it or not. 

Those regions that have been called out in various places such as. New Hamsterdam down to SSPE120 (soon to be officially named).  We did this for multiple reasons, mostly in an effort to show all of you the process we go through in real-time to make these beautiful new regions come to life, and give a glimpse into the time-line involved.

Another of the new Traditional houses being prepared

In particular, and starting with this development, the Lab will be increasing the cadence of Linden Home releases, as Patch went on to explain:

Starting Monday, June 24th we’re going to try to release a region’s worth of new Linden Homes on a regular cadence.  We’re aiming to try for a region per every other day, so Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but as we cannot control all the factors involved in the lengthy process, such as QA requirements, we may have some gaps which could last anywhere between a day to several days and especially on the weekends.

This means that development of Bellisseria is going to be on more of a rolling basis as individual region are readied, rather than large-scale releases with extended period between them. Nor will the roll-out be restricted to the current Traditional houses and houseboats; other types of Linden Homes will be made available, including the upcoming trailer-style homes, which will initially come in a larger release (I’ll have more on these in a follow-on post to this one).

And just as a reminder – the place to obtain one of the new homes as they are made available is via the Linden Homes registration page, not by queuing up inside Bellisseria (as has been done). Just check the page and look for Bellisseria in the drop-down list (arrowed below left), and the available house option(s) – Traditional house and / or Houseboat – and click on the image.

The new Linden Homes are available through the existing Linden Homes registration page – just make sure Bellisseria is selected in the Theme drop-down (arrowed) and select your choice of house or houseboat – not that only one or the other may be available at any given time, and that further type of home will be added to this page as they are released.

Nor is this all in terms of development. Again, as many have already seen, there is a new island development within the arms of Bellisseria. Marked by the continent’s second airstrip, this 2-region island is to be the Bellisseria Fairgrounds, with Patch explaining:

Our vision for this space is to grant communal access to an area that is clear and ready for set-up of an event.  We have supplied the outlying basic infrastructure which includes water taxi access to the main continent, an airstrip and landing pad.  We will have a scheduling calendar and process in place where the space can be reserved in advance.  The first events already in line for use of this space will be around the 4th of July holiday coming up.  More information to come about how the reservation process will work in the near future.

Currently in the centre of the new Bellisseria Fairgrounds island is a huge “Torley-fied” statue of Magellan Linden, the colours (and the flag he holds) presented in support of Pride Month.

Note that the Fairgrounds aren’t an amusement park (or similar) but are designed to be used for a wide range of events.

It’ll be interesting to see how things go with the new cadence of releases – and the order in which they are made; given the idea is to release on a region at a time, and given regions tend to be split between land houses and houseboats, will the releases alternate between the two, or will it be more a more orderly release, proceeding region-by region along and down through the developed regions before moving on to the next set that are developed? I suspect the former, a this would give more of a mix to things – but the next week or so will show!

In case you missed it: SL Premium fees lock-in now available

via and © ™ Linden Lab

On Wednesday, May 29th, Linden Lab announced a number of changes to Second Life fees and services (see Land Price Reductions, New  Premium Perks and Pricing Changes).

In particular – for the purposes of this article at least – that blog post indicated that from Monday, June 24th, Premium subscriptions will be increasing as follows:

  • Monthly subscriptions will be increasing from US $9.50 per month to US $11.99 . This is  representative of a 26.21% increase over the course of a year (from US $114 pa to US $143.88 pa).
  • Annual subscriptions will be increasing from US $72.00 per year to US $99.00. This is representative of an increase of 37.5% pa.
  • Quarterly subscriptions will be increased from US $22.50 to US $32.97. This is representative of a 46.53% increase over the course of a year (US $90 pa to US $131.88 pa).

Further it was also indicated that after June 24th, 2019:

  • The Quarterly subscription package will be withdrawn as an upgrade option from June 24th, 2019, although Premium members already using the plan will be able to continue with it.
  • The Monthly and Quarterly subscription plans will be subject to VAT for EU residents.

In order to try to sweeten these increases (the first to Premium subscriptions in a long time), the Lab indicated that from Monday, June 3rd through until Monday, June 24th, Premium users would be able to “lock in” their current billing rate for one more cycle.

In case you missed it – as the Lab opted to update their May 29th blog post rather than make a separate announcement – the lock-in offer is now available, as highlighted by the Lab at the top of the May 29th blog post:

UPDATE: The limited-time opportunity for existing Premium members to lock in their current rates for one more billing cycle, including extending an existing monthly to use the current full year rate by upgrading now to annual is now available on the premium page. Simply renew before June 24th to extend your current Membership at the same low rate. For example, monthly members will be billed at the lower rate for one more monthly billing cycle, while annual members may renew (or monthly users may upgrade to annual) early to add one more year to your existing Membership at the current lower rate.

This means, for example, that as a Premium member on the annual billing plan, I normally have to renew towards the end of the year. However, if I take advantage of this lock in offer, I will effectively gain my 2020 membership at the current $72.00 rate (albeit paid well in advance), rather than having to pay $99.00 when my renewal falls due at the end of 2019 – I’ll only see the increase when / if I renew towards the end of 2020.

Whether you take advantage of the lock in or not is down to your personal choice and circumstance. However, should you wish to do so:

  • Go to your Second Life dashboard at secondlife.com.
  • On the left, and below your account name, click Account to display the account options drop-down, then click on Premium Membership.
  • Scroll down to the Management Membership section.
  • The lock in option will be displayed against your current membership plan (the image below shows it against Annual, as that is the plan I have).
  • Click the radio button to the left of the lock in option to activate the Proceed to Cashier button.
  • Complete the billing requirements.
Activating your Premium account billing rate lock-in

Still messing about in (house)boats in Second Life

Yes, I’m playing with my Linden Home houseboat again. Note the “extra door” on the side of the Windlass design, about which more below

A lot has been written about the “new” Linden Homes and their continent, Bellisseria – I know, because I’m one of those doing a lot of the writing 🙂 . However, the truth is that with four styles of house or houseboat to play with (and the promise of new types of both on the horizon), it’s really hard to stop playing with them and trying different interior layouts – as can be seen in the ever-growing forum thread on interior designs.

I started with the Windless, which has the largest interior floor space of the four houseboats initially offered by the Lab, using a simple open-plan design. From that I moved on to the Barnacle, playing with various designs, one of which I inflicted on you in a blog post. More recently, I’ve played with the Wallower – but I’ll spare you that! – before returning to the Windlass once more.

The Windlass actually has a high-ceilinged element which can, with care, be turned into an additional room

My reasons for going back to the Windlass rather than playing with the Evening Star – the forth design in the current houseboat styles – come down to the facts that, a) I’m actually not that keen on the Evening Star; b) I really wanted to see if I could come up with a Windlass design that’s a little more “cosy” thsn my original open-plan design; and c), I’ve been intrigued by the way people have added an “upper floor” to the Windlass.

For those unfamiliar with the design, the Windlass offers a split level layout, with one end having a raised ceiling so that it is possible to access the open-air roof deck via an internal staircase.

On the one hand, making this raised space into a room of its own is a simple matter of slapping in a new ceiling / floor. On the other, it’s a bit of a pain, because the newly-created space cannot be directly accessed from the existing staircase. This means either installing a teleport between the two floors, or giving up some of the available floor space “upstairs” in order to add a second staircase. But, teleports are terribly passé, and even allowing for losing some floor space, having two stairways relatively close together in a living space can look … odd.

I opted to solve this by minimising the impact of a second stairway through the use of a spiral staircase from VL Designs by Veronica Lockwell. I’ve used her Mesh Spiral Staircase – Walnut kit in the past and find it highly adaptable. It’s also well made, with low LI, good LOD, and a small overall footprint, allowing me to minimise the amount to floor I has to “lose” in the new bedroom.

The spiral stairway leading up to the new bedroom space, together with the walls separating the Windlass interior stairs from the rest of the design, and which create a space for the kitchen.

To overcome the issue of have two open-plan stairways in the houseboat, I installed a couple of new walls to separate the “built-in” stairs. Doing this had the additional positive of allowing me to create space for a gallery-style kitchen, as shown in the image above. In addition, dropping in a simple prim block (partially obscured by the spiral staircase in the image above) and false door allowed me to create a faux bathroom.

However, this left me with another issue. What’s the point of having an “upstairs” room adjacent to the huge roof deck on the Windlass if you can’t easily get from the bedroom to the roof?  You can’t easily use the houseboat’s own roof door due to the intervening banister wall.

The new bedroom, reached via the spiral staircase in the left corner

I solved this through the use of the Curio Obscura Anywhere Door by Pandora Wrigglesworth in fact. Sure, it’s a teleport system, but it gives the illusion of “walking” through a doorway rather than just being teleported, and can be modified with ease.

A pair of these mounted on the side wall of the new bedroom (one inside, one out), complete with a set of images added to suggesting showing the “indoors” or “outdoors” views when open, and presto! instant bedroom access to the roof deck!

Using an Anywhere Door to add roof deck access from my Windlass bedroom

The Anywhere Door system also solved another annoyance I have with the Windlass: it only has one “ground level” door. If you have a parcel like mine that places your houseboat “beam on” to the shore, this can make getting to the waterside mooring a nuisance. Either use the front door and walk around, or drop in additional piers and steps from the small lower deck balcony on the Windlass. I find neither approach particularly attractive.

So, with the simple expedient of two more Anywhere Doors (again with suitable images to added to suggest the interior and exterior views when the doors are open), I created a way to get from inside the Windlass to the moorings and my boats / planes with relative ease, with one of the Anywhere Doors forming a “back door” between kitchen and “bathroom”.

Borrowing a section of Blush Bravin’s Party Add-on for the Barnacle Houseboat and combining them with prims, allowed me to neatly section-off the raised part of the Windlass floor space to create a cosy lounge area, complete with a little entrance are fr the front door. To further add warmth to this space, I also blanked of a couple of the large windows at that end of the boat to create additional “solid” walls, providing space for a fireplace on one side and a little corner for my piano on the other.

Looking across the lounge area towards the front door from the fireplace, and peeking over the top of the carriage clock on the fireplace mantle

I’m still not 100% sure about using my Linden Home as a “full-time” living space, but as it is I think I now had enough variations of designs for three of the houseboat types to keep living there interesting, should I end up going in that direction! 🙂 .

Linden Lab announces significant SL fee changes

via and © ™ Linden Lab

Update, June 1st: Following the amount of feedback concerning the planned reduction in the Basic account group allowance, Linden Lab has amnnounced this will not now be changing on June 24th, 2019. See: Group Limits Update: No Changes for Basic Members (Linden Lab) and LL reverse planned Basic account group limits reduction (this blog).

On Wednesday, May 30th, Linden Lab announced further changes to Full private region fees, significant changes to Premium subscription fees and to credit processing fees, and changes to some Premium and Basic account capabilities.

As detailed in an official blog post, the changes can be summarised as follows:

Full Private Region Tier Change

Source: Linden Lab

The Lab notes that:

  • These fees are exclusive of VAT, where applicable, and do not apply to Skilled Gaming region.
  • Education / Non-profit (EDU/NP) discounted Full islands will be re-priced to maintain their 50% discount off the regularly priced Full island fees.

Premium Subscription Fee Increase

In the same blog post, Linden Lab have announced a re-structuring / re-pricing of Premium subscriptions as follows:

Source: Linden Lab

Notes:

  • The monthly fee increase represents an annual increase of 26.21% (from US $114 pa to US $143.88 pa).
  • The annual increase represents an annual increase of 37.5%.
  • Quarterly subscriptions are to be retired as an option for users wishing to upgrade to Premium, but will still be available to those already using this plan. The fee increase of US $22.50 to US $32.97 represents an annual increase of 46.53% a year (US $90 pa to US $131.88 pa).
  • Both monthly and quarterly subscription fees will be subject to VAT, where applicable.

With regards to these Premium subscription changes, the Lab note:

To help with the transition to the new pricing, starting June 3, we’re offering a limited-time opportunity for existing Premium members to lock in their current rates for one more billing cycle, including extending an existing monthly to use the current full year rate by upgrading now to annual. Simply renew before June 24th to extend your current Membership at the same low rate. For example, monthly members will be billed at the lower rate for one more monthly billing cycle, while annual members may renew (or monthly users may upgrade to annual) early to add one more year to your existing Membership at the current lower rate. We will update when the option becomes available on June 3rd. Until then – if you are not up for renewal already, you will not see the option to lock in your current price. Keep an eye out for updates.

Credit Processing Fee Changes

In what will be seen as a further blow to those regularly / routinely cashing-out from Second life, the blog post also announced changes to credit processing fees, to wit:

Effective June 24, the fee for processing credit transactions (i.e. paying real money into a PayPal or Skrill account) will be 5% per transaction with a minimum fee of US$3 (there is no maximum fee).  The fee is currently 2.5% per transaction. This fee change offsets increased regulatory and compliance costs to Linden Lab and is in line with our continued commitment to the long-term successful operation of Second Life.

Change to Premium and Basic Account Capabilities

In order to try to offset some of the negative feedback these changes have already cause (as per at least two forum threads, here and here on the topic), the Lab also indicated increases to a couple of perks available to Premium members, together with a decrease in the same capabilities available to Basic account holders, a per the table below.

Source: Linden Lab

Note that group membership will not be revoked for Basic members who are involved in more than 35 groups at the time this change comes into effect. However, Basic members will be unable to join new groups until they reduce their group enrolments to below the new 35 group limit.

In addition, the Lab indicate that further improvements to Premium memberships  will be announced later in the year, as will a new Premium membership level, “for those who want to get the absolute most out of their Second Life.”

Thoughts as Premium Member

As one who is a Premium Member, I’m not entirely sanguine about the pricing increase – although I appreciate that in trying to pivot revenue generation away from a reliance on virtual land fees, Linden Lab must ensure any potential shortfalls are adequately guarded against. I’m also aware that while the Premium fees increase does hurt – it is actually the first such increase I can recall for a long time.

How this effects Premium level overall remains to be seen; however, my personal feeling right now is that unless the to-be-announced Premium membership level is truly exceptional in terms of benefits and opportunities, it is going to be hard to justify making a leap to it based on the prices announced with these changes and what might be taken from them in estimating to potential cost of any new membership package.

Those who are likely to feel particularly aggrieved are those who do routinely cash-out from Second Life, given credit processing fees have seen a number of increases over the last few years. While the Basic account changes come across as punitive in nature.

Please refer to the official blog post for the full text relating to these changes.