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.


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!).


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).


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”

A novel lifeboat system for Second Life

The WALT lifeboat with launch cradle / crane in the background

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

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

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

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

The Lifeboats

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Launch Cradle / Crane

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

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

The Small variant of the lifeboat sitting in the launch cradle

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

Continue reading “A novel lifeboat system for Second Life”

The S&H Hug & Kiss HUD ReAnimated

Ten of the animations to be found in the new Hug & Kiss 3.0. Via Meike Heston

There’s likely to be few in Second Life of a certain age who do not have, or have not encountered, Meike Heston’s Hug & Kiss animator. I’ve personally been using it for well over a decade – generally with the “mini” version tucked into a corner of my screen.

For those who have not come across it, it’s a HUD that allows you to select an avatar around you and offer them a hug or a kiss – in greeting, in farewell, in comfort or simply just because. If accepted, the system will animate them and your avatar so they will come together in the selected greeting – the vagaries of Second Life animation system allowing.

It’s a HUD that hasn’t been updated in over a decade – in part because Meike herself has been absent from Second Life for a fair amount of time, but also because it has always simply worked. However as Meike has once more been semi-active in Second Life, she’s been working with Chance Strike (ChanceStriker) on a completely new version of Hug & Kiss, and they gave me the opportunity recently to take it for a test drive.

Called Hug & Kiss Animator 3.0 ReAnimated, the most obvious difference between version 3.0 of the HUD and earlier versions is in its appearance, as shown below.

Left: The Hug and Kiss 3.0 (top) compared with the Mini Hug & Kiss 2.02. Right: the Hug & Kiss 3.0 buttons explained.

But a new look is only the start. Version 3.0 of Hug & Kiss has:

  • 16 completely new animations, twelve of which retain the names of their predecessors from earlier versions or which offer similar styles of animation under a new name, plus four brand new animations unique to version 3.0 of the HUD.
  • An improved height matching capability that automatically attempts to more accurately compensate for differences in avatar height of +/- 60 cm for a more realistic hug / kiss / pose (the vagaries of the SL animation system allowing).
The 11-step automated height adjustment system should help to better account for differences between avatar heights. Via
  • Ability to add your own animations / run your own configuration of animations – details are provided in the *config note card in the HUD itself.
  • Automatic update service – the HUD will notify you if / when an update is released,  and present you with the option of receiving it.

Given the nature of SL animations, the HUD still requires some basic preparation when wanting to greet someone – most obviously the avatars need to be face-on to one another – but otherwise the operation of the HUD is simple and direct,particularly for those familiar with earlier versions:

  • Use < and > to page through the HUD’s animation until the one you wish to use is displayed in the centre black button.
  • Click the centre black button to select the animation, and then click on the desired avatar name from the dialogue box in the top right of your screen.

Providing your target accepts the request, the animation will play, bringing both avatars together.

By default, animations will play for a set length of time, but if you would prefer great manual control,the the padlock button on the HUD can be clicked to set it to “locked”. Animations will now only end when the centre black button is clicked a second time.

And that’s pretty much it. As noted above, the configuration notecard within the HUD includes instructions should you wish to add couples animations of your own. I confess to not having tried this, simply because I don’t have any suitable animations, so I’ll lave that to others to explore.

General Observations

Overall, a nice update with animations potentially suited to a wider set of uses than previous versions (round-and-round might be used by a parent greeting a child, for example). In my testing, the height adjustment seemed to work well, and animations on the version 3.0 of the HUD looked more natural as a result.

At L$750, the HUD isn’t expensive, but it will be interesting to see if those with an earlier version opt to purchase it (no update path is available because both the animations and the control scripts are entirely new). I suspect this will come down to a  combination of how often the HUD is used and which animations in particular are used / appeal. And, of course, there are other options available through other creators, some at a lower price – so weighing-up which might be the better comes down to personal taste.

I do wonder if the “transparent” option might cause confusion, given it leaves the HUD on-screen (but “invisible”) so that it might come between a user and something they are trying to click in-world – but this is really more of a passing thought. That said, if making the HUD transparent doesn’t suit your needs, it will allow a certain degree of re-sizing should you wish it to have a smaller on-screen footprint – which is actually what I opted to do with it.

My thanks to Chance and Meike for the opportunity to try out / test the new Hug & Kiss HUD.

Marketplace Link

Taking flight in a Goose in Second Life

The Wilder / Astral G-21 Goose over Isla Catinara

When it comes to flying, Wilder Skies is not a Second Life brand I’ve really been familiar with. However, For the last couple of months I’ve been toying with the idea of giving the Wilder Skies / Astral Technologies G-21 Goose amphibian a go, even though (at the time of writing) circumstances dictate that it is only available through the Marketplace – no in-world option to take it for a test flight.

However, one of SL’s foremost aviators, and someone I hold in a great deal of respect – Laetizia “Tish” Coronet – must’ve been reading my thought bubbles, as she recently posted a series of images to her SL feed focused on the Goose, and then gave it a solid thumbs up review in the Marketplace listing. That was enough for me to decide to spend the pennies and grab a copy!

The G-21 on the water with my work-in-progress paint scheme and the the restoration version in the background

In the physical world, the G-21 has an interesting history. It came into being as a result of a group of wealthy Long Islanders commissioning Grumman Aircraft Corp to build a small, reasonably fast light aircraft capable of commuting between their country estates and New York City. First flown in 1937, the twin-engined, almost entirely metal built monoplane was an instant hit. Its amphibious nature meant it could pretty much go anywhere, whilst the cabin – generally outfitted to seat two or 3 as a luxury cruiser, the rest of the space being given over to a bar and toilet – was actually very capable in both the passenger and the cargo roles.

The military particularly liked the boxy design, seeing it as an ideal light transport and spotter. The US Air Corps, US Navy and US Coastguard all quickly adopted it, as did the armed forces of a number of allied governments, including the UK’s Fleet Air Arm, who gave the G-21 it’s name: Goose. Woking alongside its sibling, the G-44, the Goose saw service around the world during the war, notably in the air-sea rescue role, and continued to prove popular afterwards – so much so, that two companies took over production and maintenance after Grumman stopped, and many McKinnon and Antilles variants of the G-21 still fly today.

The restoration version and one of the poses

The Wilder / Astral G-21 captures everything about the G-21 that made it so popular: its rugged, pugnacious looks, its roomy cabin and its amphibious capabilities, as well as some of its general handling characteristics. Priced at L$2,689, the package actually contains two versions of the G-21: the original version 1.0, and the updated version 2.0. Each of these is in turn supplied it three variants: – two that are flyable and in “civvie” and “ex-Navy” colourings respectively, and a “restoration” variant that has the ‘plane (in the ex-Navy finish and looking the worse for wear) up on stocks and partially dismantled, with a new crated engine, a workbench and ladder (with poses for working on the hull / dismantled undercarriage assembly).

Also included in the package are two sets of textures (the civvie and ex-Navy finishes) + UV files, making re-texturing possible, although at the time of writing, I’m still working on mine, so consider the images of it here a work-in-progress). Finally, a HUD is also supplied, which matches the working instruments on the flight console.

I didn’t find the G-21 amenable to Mouselook flying, the the view from the cockpit (with camera adjusted) gave a good sense of flying

Flight controls are the usual – a combination of chat commands / keyboard input / HUD options – Arrow keys for pitch and roll, Arrows + SHIFT for rudder, PAGE keys from throttle, etc. No reverse pitch on the P&W rotary engines, so manoeuvring on the water can be a little cumbersome in confined spaces or docks.

As with the real Goose, this is a hands-on flyer: walk away from the keyboard in flight and you’re liable to return and find you’re on the water or annoying someone by being an unexpected / unwanted garden ornament. The sweet cruising point is around 60-65% of throttle and a little care is needed on landing, particularly as this is a tail dragger and the hull really needs goo clearance. External poses are also supplied for when on the ground / water, accessed via a touch menu access through the radar egg atop the fuselage. Up to 6 can fly in the G-21 – two up front and four pax – although I’ve yet to try carrying anyone with me.

I confess I’ve thus far found region crossings a little spotty: the ‘plane handles them well enough, but as they mount up, the chances of the camera slewing into the side of the ‘plane and giving you a nice view of an retracted wheel tend to increase. I ended up banging about with the dynamic camera (“c”) and ESC to try to recover things, bit not always successfully and twice ran out of sky trying to get things sorted. However, the majority of the time, the ‘plane handles very well, and I’m gearing up towards some very long haul flights in it 🙂 .

Catching the G-21 from below

The lack of PSD files with layers included is a drawback for those who like re-texturing their aircraft. It doesn’t make things impossible, just harder; it would be nice to have them as a dropbox option, as Tish notes on the MP. The texture files also add up to a fair few to download and sort through. However, the fact I’m part-way through re-working a copy of my G-21 shows it is possible 🙂 .

Rugged, equipped with not-your-usual run-of-the-mill flight scripting, adaptable (will take a certain amount of careful physical modding as well as re-painting) and Get the Freight Out ready, the Wilder / Astral G-21 Goose is a nice intermediary SL aircraft. One that looks bloody good in the air or on the water!

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