A further look at the Newbrooke Linden Homes Theme

Newbrooke – Coniston rear view

On Thursday, March 3rd, Linden Lab released the Newbrooke theme of Premium Membership Linden homes, which I’d previously previewed in December 2021, and took another quick look at the release just after it was announced.

As noted in the latter of the above two articles, the preview was very quickly withdrawn for “updates” – although I could (on the surface at least) see what was different between the release versions and those in the preview. Anyway, for only the third time since Bellisseria – the “home continent” for Linden Homes started rolling out, the new designs were enough to encourage me to make the move (I’ve previously held a houseboat – which I personally feel is still the best of the themes when it comes to making something of a unique mini-home in SL, as they offer the broadest opportunities for modding their interiors with additional walls, floors, etc., – and a Stilt Home.

The “good” points about these houses are the fact they are very light and airy – a lot of windows, and a good set of variants in overall style; the mix of houses sized for a 512sq m parcel sitting on a 1024 sq m parcel offers plenty of exterior scope – and some are already starting to take advantage of that. As well as the various house styles, these home come with there own contents pack, which includes a range of furnishings (indoor and out), all very basic and nothing to write home about; together with plants and planets and things like additional wall / fence panels for those who wish to either add a boundary to their land or do something else with them (patio walls, exterior dividers, etc.).

One thing that did strike me as new – although not having held a Chalet theme home and not being a regular on the SL forums, I’ve no idea if this is new to the Newbrooke Theme, or first surfaced with the Chalets – is the updated means of changing the colours of the interior walls directly through the use of RGB codes or the use of a colour picker HUD in addition to the usual selection of colour presets presented by a dialogue box.

The personal colour options for re-tinting the internal wall of the rooms in each house style

As with the pre-sets, the custom colours option works on a per-room basis, and is accessed via the My Colors button in the dialogue displayed by the house controller panel. For those with Linden Homes who have not previously seen this, the image above provides an overview.  The only addition is that when you click the Type <RGB> button, an input dialogue is displayed, requesting the desired RGB values.

Obtaining one of the homes also gave me a light bulb moment as to why these have been referred to as “container homes”. This is because as well as changing the exterior wall colours (as per other Linden Homes I’m familiar with through ownership) you can change the appearance to the finish of some of the wall elements – which I think is new with this release as an option. The three choices are: stucco (default on rezzing), wood, and metal (hence “container”).

I have to admit that while an interesting ability, I found both the wood and metal finishes a little two “bleah” for my tastes; to my eyes the panels of the forms looks to be too big and the materials finish overblown, and the metal just made the place look weird. As with all the exterior options – colour changing for the brickwork, etc., – these three options are available as presets on the house control dialogue menus.

The three exterior finishes (brickwork is also moddable, but not changed in these images): top – stucco; middle – wood; bottom – metal

After having spent the better part of a day trying to find the best “fit” with the Newbrooke styles (all eight of them), I settled on the Coniston, a 1024 sq m design as initially best suiting my needs – although I am also swayed towards the Heaton as well.

With its large central through-room, the Coniston offered me plenty of space for a living area, display cabinets and a fireplace – and one of my grand pianos. Similarly the second through-room provides a good amount of space for a kitchen and dining area. That said I have to admit to finding some of the rooms in most of the designs to being cramped.

The main room of the Newbrooke – admittedly re-floored

Within the Coniston, for the example, the smallest room looks to make an ideal bathroom – except that when it came to furnishing it, I found myself hearing the imaginary voice of an estate agent (realtor) saying, “Now this is the bathroom. As you can see, there’s room for a toilet and either a vanity unit or a bath…”  While I got things fitted, I did find myself wondering if part of the room size “problem” is down to camera positioning, and the difference between the official viewer’s default and the adjusted, over-the-shoulder views most seasoned users employ, and which can result in cameras ending up on the wrong side of walls in small rooms.

Another slight issue for me with these houses is the use of materials – not that I have anything against materials; it’s just that in places, these do seem overly pronounced  – such as the floorboards, the individual planks of which struck my as looking either poorly laid or poorly finished. Of course, this is somewhat including with the “Contain homes” aspect of the theme – but it would have been nice to have something a little more – graceful – as an option. As it is, I opted to lay my own floors, which can be seen in the images here.

The kitchen with a personal flooring and a divider originally created for the Windlass Houseboat

As is to be expected with a new release of Linden Homes, creators are already busy producing add-on kits for the various styles of Newbrooke homes – and doubtless more will be added in time. However, these are house than anyone with a modicum of building capability can have fun playing with.

But enough for now; suffice it to say, the Newbrooke homes do have a lot going for them, and I’ll likely retain mine for a while, and will likely have a play with at least the Heaton style as well!

 

The InVerse Orlando house in Second Life

The InVerse Orlando House – the (first?) arrival of 2022 at Isla Myvatn

So I ended up back at Novocaine Islay’s InVerse store recently, where I was supposed to be there helping her make decisions about a new house she’d been considering. But, unfortunately for you, whilst paging through one of the rezzers there, I came across a house design that piqued My curiosity. I say “unfortunately for you”, because after carrying out so checks and measuring, I realised it could be a good fit for the home island – and so here you are, wading through another house review 🙂 .

The house in question is the Orlando, modern style of house that has a certain look to it that whilst not “Scandinavian” per se, has a look that is well suited to somewhere like Second Norway. I’m not sure how long Novocaine has had it on the market, but it is currently only available via the InVerse in-world store. The living space is split over two full floors, each split into two rooms, with additional space provides by balconies and terraces, including a covered one to the side of the house that includes a swimming pool sheltered by the extended roof of the house.

The Inverse Orlando (furnished version) straight out of the rezzer

The overall footprint for the building is 26 metres wide by 22 deep, with added “tongue” to the front aspect forming a large step that brings the overall depth of the building out to almost 26 metres. Within this footprint, the interior living space is just under16.4 metres in width and some 18 metres in depth. The ground floor, served by a single front door, presents a lounge area running the full width of the front of the house and some 8.2 metres in depth, with the staircase to the upper floor to one side and large picture windows to both the front aspect and to the pool patio. Behind this sits a kitchen / dining area approximately 12 metres wide and 8 metres deep and with windows overlooking the pool to the side and to the rear aspect.

On the upper floor are two interconnected room, each approx. 8.2 metres square, and both individually served by a landing that runs to one side of them. One of these rooms has a balcony to the front aspect, and both have windows overlooking the covered pool, a large skylight in the roof over the pool allowing ambient light into both. The second room also has windows to the rear aspect, and the upper floor is completed by a side balcony also accessed from a door leading off of the front-to-back landing hallway. The entire default finish of the house is a mix of wooden framing, white brick and grey and white stucco, with a tiled and highly attractive waveform roof.

The default furnishings on the Orlando’s lounge. Note the baked light / shadows from the windows on the flooring

As with many of Novocaine’s houses, two versions are included in the exceptionally modest price of just L$349. One of these is the bare-bones house with controller, and the other comes will furnishings and additional décor. Which you option to use is a matter of choice; the furnishings supplied are acceptable enough for those looking for an out-of-the-box home, although the style is perhaps more towards low LI than the finer aesthetics of design (although this didn’t stop me from using some of the elements from the furnished version!).

The bare bones house tops-out at 83 LI (including lighting and house control system), with the furnishings increasing this by a further 77, in the process offering drapes for most of the windows, plants, a lounge suite of sofa and armchair, a galley kitchen with basic 4-place tabled and chairs, a large bath with bathroom vanity fittings, a double bed with side tables and lamps, a fireplace with scripted fire and various sideboards and with rugs, plants and picture throughout, a basic web TV, with the majority of the fittings complete with animations – including for the kitchen and even in one of the rugs!

I preferred to use mix of the supplied furniture and fittings – sideboard and fireplace in the lounge, for example – with my own furniture. Note also, the re-textured floors to avoid the baked sunlight / shadow effects

Something new to me with this design is the inclusion of an additional control element in the furnished version: a texture changer than allows the user to turn the shadows cast by the furnishings on the floors on and off. This is only practical if you don’t move the supplied furnishings around (or replace them), but it’s a novel idea. A pity it didn’t also extend to the baked sunlight / shadows on the floors as well.

What attracted me to the Orlando lay in the overall build quality, which – with the odd caveat here and there – is pretty darned good – and the fact that, like the Tarzana I picked up in October 2021 and reviewed here, it is ideal for modding and tweaking.  For example, for anyone who has a waterfront home and who may not want the included swimming pool, it and the patio area under the roof can be removed, and, with the addition of a new house base and additional support under the outer wall of the pool space, a small, covered dock can be made. I found it offers sufficient space for a pier and a boat up to the size of my Bandit 460AK cabin cruiser (reviewed here) – and I came close to actually using the house in this configuration on the waterfront of Isla Myvatn.

The floor-to-ceiling height of the Orlando, coupled with the structure’s width meant it almost perfectly fitted the space vacated by the Tarzana, and matched the elevated back garden

However, and (again) as I’ve covered in these pages, I’ve spent a far amount of time building a stepped Zen garden and elevated spots at one end of the home island, integrating them with the upper floor of whichever house I’m using, starting with Fallingwater and then continuing with the InVerse Tarzana house.

On measuring things like floor-to-ceiling space, and overall size, I realised that the Orlando would more-or-less slot right into the space that had been occupied by the Tarzana and aligned with the paths of the elevated garden. All I needed to do were a couple of minor adjustments to the lengths of walls in the garden and add an extension to the garden down one side of the house to replace the pool terrace I put together for the Tarzana. The design of the Orlando also meant it was easy to install an additional door at the back of the house to access the gardens. Such was the fit, the mods and adjustments (with some re-texturing) took less than an hour to complete – so, lucky me!

Another view of the rear of the Orlando, showing the mods I made to the top of the stairs, adding an additional door to access the back gardens

The re-texturing was largely due to me watching to remove the baked sunlight and shadows from the floors to the front of the house, plus some roughness of some of the wall and ceiling textures. Doing so isn’t essential, it was just a personal choice and down to the niggles I have with things like “sunlight” being baked on surfaces. Use of specularity is also a  little odd in places – such as on the roof – but again, easily fixed by setting it to None on those faces that do look out-of-place.

However, given the price of the unit, dwelling on the negatives is a little churlish – we’re talking the price of a cup of coffee overall! – and the attractiveness of the design is hard to overstate. Those looking for a house that offers cosy living space with some flexibility and a pool with poses, the Orlando could be just the thing.

SLurl Details

A Romance Cottage in Second Life

Mesh romance flower cottage by Felix in its default appearance

As regulars to this blog know I like playing with my home islands and land, frequently swapping house, kitbashing and modding units I’ve purchased to create something if not unique, then at least comfortable to me. As such I’m always on the lookout for units and builds that appeal, be it by paging through the Marketplace, visiting in-world stores or in writing about and photographing regions across Second Life.

It was whilst doing the latter – writing about and photographing a region – that I spotted a build that lodged itself in my head.

And the cottage as it appears on Isla Myvtn, with some adjustment to the surrounding rocks

The region in question was Carrowmore, a fabulous design lead by Pleasure Ò Raigàin (vVEdanaVv), as covered in A trip to an Irish corner of Second Life. Within that region, Pleasure had tucked a building by FelixvonKotwitz Alter: the Mesh romance flower cottage. True, a good part of the appeal within Carrowmore was the manner in which Pleasure had blended the cottage and its surrounds into her setting – but there was something about the cottage itself that attracted me and set my mind towards integrating it into the home island.

The cottage actually comes in a number of variants – autumn, winter, a version (Maple Tree) with a different landscape layout – and the one I plumped for after seeing it at Carrowmore: what might be called the “summer version”, which comes with the highest land impact (193)  largely due to the included plants and flowers (all of which are mesh models rather than low-poly textured faces) – something which plays in its favour for those of us who cannot resist kitbashing.

The lower floor of the cottage as it looks unfurnished

And when it comes to kitbashing / modding, Fleix has put together the perfect package with this cottage. The core of the model comprises a base that combines a grass and flower textured outer element and a central cobbled section complete with a path that passes over the “grass”. Atop this sit the circular, brick-built cottage.

What is refreshing here is that Felix has avoided baking shadows into either the building or the base; this means that while the cottage is intended to sit within circle of cobbles (so they almost form a narrow footpath around the cottage). But if required, the cottage can be moved  around on the base – something that turned out to be important for my design.

The base mesh and prim (proving the physics) as I’ve used them and some additional rock formations from the kit to provide an “extension” to the build

Surrounding the cottage is a ring of grass and moss-topped rocks on and over which Felix has placed those flowers and trees, to present a secluded setting ringed by rocks and plants that embrace the cottage, welcoming people into its two rooms – ground and upper. These are not large enough to make for a primary house, but they does make for a nice little romantic retreat or garden summer house, as I have. And with its alcoves and offset staircase, the ground floor has enough room to make it cosy hideaway, whilst the fact the semi-circular stairway is offset means it doesn’t intrude into the circular upper floor room.

What’s more, the rock formations, plants and trees are all individual, making it possible to change it up as required; plants can be removed or replaced to reduce LI, the rock formations can be moved around to create a larger space, if required. In the case of my home island, the modularity of the model allowed me to open-out the rock formations a little, reposition a couple and use a copy of the base mesh and prim to create a second secluded spot as a little outdoor annex for the cottage, the two connected by path and rocky arch.

The cottage on the upper garden among the trees and rocks

At L$695 (or L$595 for either the autumn or winter versions) and available both in-world at Felix’s store – where you can also view it through a rezzing system – and on the Marketplace, this is a superb little model, excellent as it stands or as a model ready for modding.

 

An Inverse House in Second Life

inVerse Tarzana the (latest) Pey abode

So yeah; another couple of months have passed, so it’s time for me to play housey again with yet another build for the home island. There were a couple of reasons for this (outside of me wanting to bore you!). The first was that, whilst happy I managed to customise my Fallingwater build such that it “fit” within the island setting, I couldn’t quite get the interior décor to the point where the place felt entirely “right”. The second was that in thumbing through the Marketplace, I happened across the inVerse Tarzana Contemporary House by Novocaine Islay, and it tickled my curiosity enough to have me take a look at it at the inVerse in-world store.

inVerse is not a new brand to SL; I actually have a couple of their houses from long time ago packed away in Inventory, and if I’m honest, their builds can be (for me) a mixed bag, largely because of the use of baked shadows / lighting in some of their older models. However, once I’d seen the Tarzana in-world, I was sufficiently taken by the design’s potential to start mentally ticking through the possibilities as to how it might fit within the home island without me having to necessarily change too much. And given the house is priced at a mere L$349 with Copy / Modify permissions, it wasn’t as if it was going to break the bank if I opted to get it and things didn’t work out.

In fact, the package comes not with one house, but two: a version that is the bare-bones house, and a second that includes furniture and furnishings. Both variants include an outdoor pool and a control centre for lighting, security, privacy, and with a built-in radio that can be used to set music streams via parcel audio. The design of the house is also something that attracted me: it’s pretty well established that I am a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, however, I also appreciate the work of Sir Geoffrey Bawa; and with its cantilevered design and use of wood textures, the Tarzana has hints of both.

inVerse Tarzana

Comprising two large lower / ground floor rooms and three good sized upper rooms, two of which are cantilevered out over the front and one side aspect of the house respectively, and with a neatly stepped roof that avoids it appearing flat and boring, the house offers a layout that gives a good amount of space. In its default rezzing, the house includes a front pool and patio and some outdoor plants, with the patio continuing around one side of the house to the front doors which in turn access one of the two ground-floor rooms. The second on this level room includes a dogleg stairway to the upper floor, and provides adequate room for a kitchen / dining area. Upstairs, the three rooms are arranged so two are in tandem, requiring you pass through one to reach the other, a slightly awkward arrangement, but also a flexible one when it comes to putting the rooms to use.

Given the House is Copy / Mod, a check of the demo at the in-store rez areas confirmed it was also modular enough to probably undergo the kitbashing I wanted to perform – essentially trying to fit the Tarzana into a space created for the Fallingwater house without having to make extensive changes to the existing landscaping. In essence, this meant blending the house with a stream running through the island to the front aspect, and an elevated Zen garden to the rear.

As it turned out, checks on the height of the two floors of the Tarzana quickly confirmed it would pretty much fit as intended, the lower floor rooms sitting just above the waters of the stream, and the upper floors almost perfectly placed to allow access to the raised Zen garden. All that was needed was the replacement of the windows to the back of the lower floor rooms with solid walls, and the addition of new sets of doors on the upper floor to provide the garden access. Fortunately, the landing at the top of the Tarzana’s stairs includes a neat little passageway between it and one of the bedrooms, giving me the perfect place to locate one set of doors, and I worked out it would be possible to add further doors to access the garden from the bedroom pretty easily. So, following a check to confirm the overall modularity of the meshes used in the build, it was time to purchase and start work!

The Inverse Tarzana merged into the raised Zen garden from the previous house layout – note the two sets of doors added to access the garden, and the stairway visible to the left end of the house, providing access to the lower floor

The core work of fitting the house into the existing space proved easy, Wall sections can be simply unlinked, copied and used, and windows easily resized to fit their purpose. The basic alterations to fit the house into the garden and river took me a little over an hour, including the construction of the new “back” doors on the the upper level and making some small alterations to the Zen garden. With that work done, I set about some other minor changes.

As noted, when rezzed, two of the upper floor rooms are in tandem – you need to pass through one to reach the other, making the first less of a room and more of a passageway. Also, the upper floor balcony can only be accessed from the front upper room. Not a design fault by any means (in fact, excellent if the front room is to be the master bedroom), but I wanted access to the balcony without having to traipse across the corner of a room. The easily solution to both problems was to divide the “middle” upper floor room to create a passage way and room. The latter then lent itself ideally to becoming the bathroom, while the former was easily adapted to house the balcony doors, with a new window and frame serving to fill the hole they (and the surrounding  wall) left in the side of the bedroom.

Meanwhile, the downstairs dining / kitchen are demanded a few minor changes to suit my chosen positions for both kitchen units and dining table / chairs. These include the addition of a new internal wall and swapping the position of the side elevation windows and wall, the latter to provide a view of the of the island’s modest waterfalls from the dining table. Finally, and as I don’t like script-heavy control systems, I stripped out various security and other scripts and replaced the lighting with a simpler, automated system.

The reason for not wanting the supplied pool and terrace was not because of any fault with them, but simply because I’d already kitbashed my own for the Fallingwater build, and in the location where I wanted the pool to remain: alongside, rather than in front of, the house. So it was much easier to adopt this to suit my needs than buggering about with the supplied pool and trying to make things fit. I also didn’t use many of the furniture and décor items supplied with the the furnished version of the house – I have plenty of my own. But the pieces I did use are well made and naturally lend themselves to modding where required – most notably in replacing those textures that contain shadow bakes intended to match the supplied ornaments, etc.

All of of which not only gave me a house that fitting my existing garden / patio / river space, it also gave me – pool and patio and house for just 103 LI, including additional walls, partitions, doors, replacement lighting, and additional pictures and wall hangings, leaving me a happy bunny with a new house to play with. Well, at least until Christmas!

inVerse Tarzana: by default rezzes with a 31×31 metre footprint, and has the following land impacts: 125 (unfurnished) 234 with furnishings and extras: 234 LI

There are some elements of inVerse houses that can leave something to be desired: the supplied plants generally are not of the highest quality (for reasons of LI), whilst some buildings can made over-use of baked shadows / lighting effects (common to many prefabs). BUT, with this build – which I understand is one of the more recent from the inVerse collection, neither of these is a serious issue. And to be honest, given the price is just L$349, it’s really not worth quibbling over such things. That said, if you are thinking of buying inVerse, it’s still worth checking out demo versions in-world first – which should be done with any house or structure to avoid surprises – even if modding is not foremost on your mind (as it always is with me!)

As it is, the Tarzana is an excellent design, a good build with reasonable LI and physics / display costs. It proved easily up to the challenge of my slinging and dicing and gluing, so no surprises that I give it a thumbs-up.

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A Dripping Wet swim in Second Life

Out for a swim

Water. There’s a lot of it to be found in Second Life, particularly of the Linden variety. Not all of it may be accessible, but the areas that are have encouraged animation override makers to include basic surface / underwater swimming animations in their products, whilst a number dedicated swimming systems have appeared over the years.

One of the most recent of the latter to pop-up is the Dripping Wet Swimming Suite, created by Sakasi Hasudo (HerdMother) and marketed under her Lactopia brand. It is designed to provide a complete Second Life swimming experience for four-limbed human avatars (it will not by default work correctly for merfolk), I found the description and outlined functionality intriguing enough to give it a go.

At L$699, Dripping Wet sits within the typical price range for animation overrides, and offers a genuine swimming experience with surface and underwater swimming animations, idling / floating animations, water effects and splashing sounds, and water droplets that will fall from the body on exiting  Linden Water.

As such, the package comes with no fewer than 14 items: the HUD, 12 water dripping / splashing attachments and a script. The attachments provide particle effects when swimming, entering / leaving the water, and also particle drips that “fall” from the body, and which can be turned on / off manually, if required).

Twelve attachments may sound a lot, but whey you consider that for swimming, many other attachments (multiple mesh clothing items, for example) can be removed, this is actually not too bad. Further, not all of the attachments need to be worn;  as I’m not overly enamoured with the dripping effect, I only use the arm / leg attachments to the swimming particle effects can be generated.

Still swimming!

The included script can be used by those using ZHAO-style animation override HUDS to ensure a smooth transition between walking / swimming animations when moving to / from Linden water and land without having to toggle either HUD on / off. I confess to not having tried this, as I use the TPV client-side AO system, which can be easily clicked on / off via the toolbar.

The HUD and attachments should be ADDed to your avatar, rather than worn – again, possibly the easiest way is to create an outfit and include the HUD and the dripping attachments you wish to use together with your swimming costume.

Sitting at the bottom of the viewer window by default when attached, the HUD is very unobtrusive, comprising three buttons: swim, dive and “drip”. The first two are reasonably self-explanatory, accessing as they do the swimming and diving options respectively, whilst the drip button will turn on the body dripping / splashing (thus allowing the “wet look” to be used n land for photography, etc).

Overall the following animations are included:

  • 12 surface / underwater animations swimming animations (the breaststroke can be used both on the surface and underwater).
  • 6 floating / idling animations (4 available for surface & underwater swimming, two for use when on the surface).
  • 8 diving animations.
The HUD (1) will request permissions to animate your avatar (2) whenever attached; this is to allow the swim / dive animations and teleporting you back to a saved dive point. Clicking the swim / dive buttons will take you to the dialogue system (3 – main menu options shown).

The easiest way to use the system is to select your preferred surface swim and idle animation, and then do the same for underwater (obviously, you can change these at any time you wish). Using the movement keys in Linden Water will automatically engage your swim animation and your avatar will return to the “idle” animation (e.g. treading water) when movement stops.

Using PAGE DOWN will move you under the waves and engage the underwater swim / idle animations. While it may well be an issue with my Bluetooth keyboard, I found I had to tab PAGE UP to cancel the “downward” swimming, otherwise my avatar would simply remain face down stuck in that animation. PAGE UP will return you to the surface, with an automatic transition to surface swim / idle. When swimming / idling on the surface, you can adjust your position in the water via the HUD’s z-offset controls.

The dives will operate at any height, providing Linden Water is properly detected beneath you. If it is not, because you’re attempting to dive onto land, for example, or if the water is simply too shallow, your dive attempt will be stopped and you’ll be warned in chat:

You will break your neck – there’s no water to land in!

All of the dives are exceptionally graceful – if a little rocket-powered, given the height you can reach! In addition, you can save a dive spot to the HUD and use it to return to that spot – handy if you are diving from, say, a boat (assuming there is someone else on  the boat to stop it being auto-returned if in public waters!).

Feedback

Dives are graceful, but tend to reach a fair height!

Admittedly, this is the first HUD-based swimming system I’ve tried, and I’ve found it does exactly what it says on the tin – and does it very well. As noted, the swims are smooth, the dives effective and the entire package easy-to-use whilst the unobtrusive nature of the HUD means it does not get in the way of things.

In terms of the z-offset adjustments, this can be done via the HUD’s dialogue, as noted, and also by editing a configuration note card in the HUD.

The latter could do with more explanation in the user manual for those who may note be comfortable in editing objects and playing with config files. Those who aren’t, and who find fiddling with the HUD’s dialogues irritating, may find tweaking their hover height slider an acceptable compromise.

I understand from Sakasi that an update is in progress,  and that their are plans for the system to work in non-Linden water – all of which will further increase the value of the system.

For my part, the system has already become part of a swimming outfit (with cossie and a suitable hair).

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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.

Continue reading “Riding a Moon Shadow in Second Life”