Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5 of 52 - Domino Play Time

Finally, I declare that my Toppling Domino game is ready for the shop and on XStreetSL!

I have been working on this game for several months, and it has been mostly fun, although making things in SL really is a pain sometimes.

I got the idea from an old promotional video for SL, where a Linden set up a circle of bricks using manual editing. The toppling bricks was kind of cool, but I thought the process could use some help. So, I made a simple script for a domino brick that would go physical and topple when collided with, and started working on a menu-driven rezzer.

The result is a box that will set up any number of bricks in rows and arcs. It can start the rezzing from any brick in the pattern. There are 3 options for the height of the rezzed bricks: Rezzer height, follow terrain or sensor (which is a process where the brick actually drops a ball to determine the height of the prim flooring beneath).

The process will start with the box rezzing 5 small pieces under the lid, and the lid will open. The first brick will fly out of the box, move to the correct position, increase its size and set itself down on the ground. The other bricks in the box will move forward, and the process repeat it selves.

Doing the arcs was really a revival of my old maths knowledge, using Sin and Cos functions to determine where the next brick should be positioned.

The bricks themselves contains textures for all the possible combinations of dots. When rezzed, the brick will choose a face value randomly. Indeed, the simple script has grown to almost 1000 lines of LSL code... (not to mention all the LSL in the rezzer, in total the kit contains about 2500 lines of code.)

The kit also includes a small Cannon that can be fired to start off the toppling. The cannon has sound and smoke particle effects, and does some physical recoil when fired.

There is a lot of safety built into the kit to make sure the bricks do not bother any neighbours or other people in the SIM.

It will be fun to see if anyone else thinks playing with dominoes in SL is cool, or if it was really only fun for me while making them:-)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A kinky ending!

Spending most of my time in RL this XMas, I want to give you a short peek into how to be a real Norwegian: You have to watch the short move "Dinner for one" on TV the night before Christmas Eve. And do try to get the rather kinky point at the end:-)

To understand the cult-like status this piece have in Norway, you have to know that prior to 1992 (when we got TV2), we only had 1 - one - national TV channel. Some lucky few could get the two Swedish channels, and there where those with huge satellite receiver discs in the garden, but for most Norwegians, watching television at night meant watching the one government-supported channel available.

Of course, this meant that the probability of hitting a show you really liked was often slim. The upside, however, was that everybody else was forced into the same TV evening, so you had some common ground to criticize the channel during lunch the next day. It's kind of telling that when Norwegian TV started to show "SOAP", we had a hard time following the sarcasms because there had been no soaps aired in Norway before:-)

Anyway, since here in Norway we celebrate Christmas Eve (that's when the kids gets their presents), December 23rd is a kind of "last evening" to get everything done, so often enough one ends up wrapping parcels and decorating the tree while the TV churns out expert advices on how to best prepare the classical Norwegian Christmas dinners.

During the 80's, these shows was particularly dull, mostly consisting of elderly retired people listening to old artists doing sing-a-longs of old songs. So dull, actually, that the one bright spot the entire evening was Dinner for One, or "The Countess and the Butler" (my translation) as the film is named here. So, around 9:15 in the evening, most Norwegians would gather their families in front of the TV to enjoy a 1o minute break in the Christmas preparations.

While the talk shows the night before Christmas has gotten better, national television still has "The same procedure as every year, James".

I will do my very best:-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

4 of 52 - Merry Christmas!

Inspired by the RL snow we got this weekend, I took the trip to the Norge sim to find a motive for this years Christmas Greeting card (no, I'm not as politically correct as some of my friends, for me its still Christmas!). Anyway, even with a knitted wool sweater it was kind of cold, so it was nice to warm my selves by the fire.

While GIMP'ing the card I sat down inside the church and contemplated about lives. Thinking of people I met this year; some have became close, some have faded away to the stage where the only communication left is the holiday card. But that's kind of nice also; most of us don't have the capacity to be close to a large number of people, but it is nice to know that a number of people knows about you, and you know about them. To all of you: I am steadily thinking about you, and hope you are well.

And then there are all those SL'ers I have never met but just enjoyed reading their blogs - it's like I know them also! Thanks to all of you for enriching my life the way you do.

Also a bit close on my mind these days is my new build: I started setting up a shop for a new product that hopefully will be finished soon (LOL I have only been working on it for some months; somehow I am never quite satisfied with it).

In these days, when the slogan "Politicians Speaks, Leaders Act" from the demonstrations in Copenhagen actually came true, I found it important to make an environmentally friendly and carbon neutral build. So, in the best Norwegian tradition, I decided to make a dam and power the place using water power:

The pipe from the dam goes below the building and out on a plaza where I am going to put up the power plant. The water then flows down through some additional dams, just for the fun of it:-)

While I worked the snow started to fall and the water froze, so I lit a fire to warm my hands...

But now it's the holidays, and I guess this avatar needs some rest. Thankfully, some of my fellow Norwegians put out a sleeping bag to keep the cold out while waiting for Santa.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Or is SL the ultimate romantic comedy?

I always gets all sentimental at Christmas time, so what can be better than sliding Love Actually into the DVD player while wrapping presents and enjoy the most well made, top actor, silly but oh so charming combination of sticky sweet romance and holidays celebration.

But I do wonder: In the end, is SL an even more ultimate but a bit darker love comedy? More of the Romeo and Julie type where where everybody ends up dead instead of coming back from the US with 3 hot avatars LOL sorry, girls:-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

3 of 52 - Exploring Linden Homes

I spent my first 2 weeks in SL on Orientation Island - somehow I had read in a blog an advice of not going to the mainland too soon, because there was a lot to learn and pick up first, and once gone you could never return.

I did soon tire of rezzing at the landing point on top of some ones head, so I found a spot in the woods where I would normally go to before logging of, so I could come online again a bit by myselves. That was actually my first home in SL:-)

Once I did the crossing I was shocked at how empty mainland was. Compared to the buzz of OI, with lots of fun talk and old residents showing off their blings and fancy costumes, it was actually a real downturn.

Later I rented a house to get my first place, and that place really meant the world to me. There, I could learn to move prims around, and had a place to invite friends to. I guess the real attraction of SL did not start until then.

Looking back on my first hours experience, I can certainly understand why lots of new people just drop out. I do wonder how SL would have seemed to me if I had been placed directly into a house of my own, with lots of other people living close by? I can't help but think that this would help a lot more people trying out SL to actually become residents.

And that leads us to the Beta continent of Nascara. The Linden Homes. What they will offer those signing up for premium subscriptions. I have done some exploring:-)

These modern "park" is not exactly my style; and there don't seem to be a frigging single real city around! How come they ALLWAYS use that dull green kind of grassy texture on the ground? Where is the concrete and the asphalt? Those square houses would have fitted much more nicely besides square stone-paved walls. But they do promise more themes:-)

The Moles have created several themed villages in Nascara. As they previously showed when making Nautilus, the Lindens are not afraid of putting in a lot of empty public spaces when they make flagship continents. If you walk away from the rather cold modernistic style you find yourselves crossing a stone wall, and suddenly the all-green trees gives way to more colourful plants:

Moving forward for a while I find my selves in the outskirts of a Japanese village:

Actually, this is my favourite spot so far; unusual trees, stone pavements, peaceful houses, back alleys:

One really interesting question is how residents with different cultural background will populate these areas: Will all the Japanese gather in these kinds of village? Will there be US or European "subcultures" in eastern style areas? Are there fairies in Japan?

I really could imagine having a good time in here! And that's good, because they don't even allow skyboxes in this continent LOL.

Then there is Hobbiton, also quite a cozy place:

My fairy alt would love this place, maybe she should have a premium subscription for Christmas?

Root and branches, where is Radagast the brown when you need him? The lindens have cut down Fangorn forest, and the Ents are mighty angry!

One of the coolest things about these "homes" is that they are all mostly autorezzed. LL claimes the whole continent of 64 sims was rezzed in 13 minutes; they will certainly need that kind of capability to scale if tens of thousands residents wants a place here:-) I do hope they will keep up this "small village" kind of setup, mixing different themes like they do now.

All in all, I think the Linden Home offer will be a great enhancement of the premium subscription. The Lab and their moles have done some nice work; its mostly aesthetically nice and will give new people a taste of what SL can be. Really looking forward to see how it will work out!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2 of 52 - Christmas, graphic cards, Linux, Obama and the first ladies

Jayn has been working on some Christmas decorations at the Thistle estate. The picture does not do the place enough justice; the mere feeling of being immersed on the frozen water surrounded by crystal white trees is more than I was able to put into the photo.

I visited the place yesterday too, but then I was using a PC with integrated graphics. Now, an nVidia 220 GPU is breaking the silence with its rather noisy fan, but what a difference a mere $80 card can make for the SL experience. Even on full graphics I get a livable 15-25 FPS, and things do look great!

Ever visited Misty Acres? If not, you owe it to yourselves to see this place. It's an amusement park with some very nice rides, including a roller coaster completely out of touch with reality LOL. Again, this graphics made all the difference, sitting in the cart in mouselook mode I almost felt the tingling in the stomach before the dives:-) Hagrid (my big ugly laptop), go to bed:-)

OK, that was fun, but so far I was running on Windows Vista 32 bit (sigh).... How would it work with a decent OS? Ubuntu 9.10 64 bit went into the CD tray, reboot, resize the Vista partition, some upgrades, and installed the proprietary nVidia driver. WOW! Framerate is up by 5-10, and the roller coaster ride is even more realistic! Whoever said you needed Windows for games? (Ok, SL is not a game, yakk, yakk, yakk.. :-) )

Just remember: Whenever buying a computer that is supposed to run SL, go for an Intel CPU and nVidia GeForce graphics card. The shop sales people may tell you that ATI Radeon cards are as fast or faster, and that may be true for most Windows games, but SL is a cross-plattform, OpenGL based application, and that is an area where nVidia excels. And the difference is even greater when running Linux on the PC. The ATI Linux drivers sucks big time.

When reading reviews before purchasing this card it was quite clear that to the hard-core gaming community, this was an entry-level card, not really suitable for gaming at all:-) So, since it seems to run SL rather smoothly (LOL sure, I would have loved 60fps, but is it really needed?), it occurs to me that virtual environments will soon become feasible on almost every computer. I guess that might do the same for the Grid as Windows did for the Web. Hmm.... how many Linden Homes will the moles be able to raise, /me wonders?

In short, it seems there is no longer any real reason to nag Linden Lab about how they make a viewer too resource hungry for mere mortals. Even if you are not a vice president in an advertising agency and can afford a snazzy MacBook Pro to view SL (Em, this is just some good-natured mocking, you deserved that job, really happy for you, hope you are happy too!) you too can see for less than the price of a normal pair of spectacles.

And for those of you stuck with some Intel integrated graphics: The feeling one gets after a long chat with a good friend is more valuable than any entertaining ride, and its completely free! So I give you all a challenge: If you stumble over a lone SL'er, especially a new resident, say hi! You may end up with a friend for life:-)

Speaking of friends: The US President is in Norway even as I write, to accept the Nobel Peace Price award and make some new friends perhaps? I have been (and still are) sceptical to the choice, but today that's not an issue. Peace is in the focus, and we can only hope for it.

Do any of you notice how much more fun the ladies seems to have? For the record, it's the Norwegian Prime Minister showing Obama some dull view from his office, while his wife are telling the First Lady something funny (could she be showing her a pic of her SL avatar? LOL, really don't know if she has any, but one can always imagine:-)

1 2/3 of 52 - A just and lasting peace - Update 2

Barack and Michelle Obama on the balcony, celebrated by ten thousand Norwegians.

As Oslo is a rather safe town, the President could appear quite close to the public. Michelle was clearly touched by the sight.

Update: Tonight, ten thousand people are celebrating Nobel Peace Price Laureate and President Barack Obama in front of his hotel in the center of Oslo. He will be appearing on the balcony on the first floor in a few minutes.

"We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honour those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard."

-- Barack Obama, Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize Thursday, December 10th, 2009 Oslo, Norway.

Yes, he is a master of speeches. Politician incarnated. In this one, everyone gets recognition, both the military, NATO, UN and peace activists. And I guess that's the way to go if you really want to achieve something.

But that quote is so essential; if he can only make that one happen, he will have deserved this prize.

Congratulations Mr. President, and the best of luck!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

1 1/2 / 52 - Where do I hang my hat?

Is the Nascera SIMs the new Linden Home Beta continent?

One really should be careful what to wish for.... in my previous post I hoped that the next big mainland thing should be high-density city sims - and what do we get? Bag End in The Shire, ROFL:-)

Oh well, the Lindens want to offer premium account holders the option of having a double-prim 512 with a non removable house INSTEAD OF the "free" 512 tier that is part of the deal now. The parcels will be on a new separate continent, with several different themes available in addition to hobbiton, LOL. Can we at least hope for something a bit like a small city with streets and a harbor?

Someone discovered a new small continent on the map, a 8x8 sim grid all named Nascara 1200 910 and counting (column/row), and speculations are growing. You can't TP there and see though; whatever they do is just visible on the map. But that certainly looks like the Shire for now:-)

Prok and the other mainland landlords targeting newbs are of course outraged, but I don't think they need to be. There will still be lots of people who wants to put up the house of their own choice. With a bit bigger parcel. And without committing to the USD payments.

It also seems that these parcels, unlike the other mainland, will be given away for free, no need to actually buy them.

I think this is great for new residents. From other games and virtual environments, like Sony's PS Home, The Sims and Little Big Adventure, people are used to being dropped into a space of their own. A home. Even Prok have experienced lots of new residents on his public infohubs that thinks they are really home when they rez, and not just "home" at a street corner:

"o there was a girl who kept saying "Get out! get away!" In my experience, this is usually somebody young and unschooled in worlds who thinks she has landed on a space that is her own personal starting pad with a house there waiting for her, and she is mad that other people have invaded it -- you'd be surprised how often that happens LOL."

But unlike any other environment that I know of, in SL one can actually walk outside of ones home and visit the neighbors. And since these parcels will not be subject to property speculations, they will not be vacant.

And that is my biggest hope for these parcels: They may provide the first large-scale, densely populated residential area in SL. With lots of new people moving in and out. Each sim will have 32 parcels; since estates normally have much larger parcels they offer fewer neighbors in the sim.

So, I for one will definitely want one, not as home, but as a kind of vacation spot for when I need to get away from my quiet solitude in the sky.

But my hat will not move I think:-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

1 / 52 - Cityscape

I have had comments and talks in-world that I really did not expect, and feel deeply humbled, touched and inspired by them. Delivering the final blow to this piece of electronic paper by pressing Delete Blog now seems to be as hard as it was to continue writing it.

But, truth is, "Lefavre's Life" just could not go on, for several reasons, so I decided to try again with a slightly different theme. I have republished prior posts that still seems relevant, including some I know others have linked to.

I was wondering about jumping the 365 bandwagon, but that seems a bit over the edge when I wanted to close down shop only 2 weeks ago. So I will make it a bit easier on myself and try one post a week instead.

Typical Bay City (Tanelorn) - Did someone just say City?

Today I want to talk about cities. I guess I am inspired by spending this week in a large RL city, something that I absolutely love. And as I walk the well-lit Holiday-season decorated streets in the evening, I wonder why SL have no true cities. Sure, we have Bay City, but thats more of a ghost-like village. Even the nice Staten Island Street is just these low deserted buildings. Where are the 10 story malls, apartment buildings and skyscrapers hovering above crowded streets?

The answer is of course the low prim density of SL. 15.000 prims per sim. Just too little. If I could have one wish for the next big mainland thing after Nautilus, it would be a true city continent:
  • 12 times the prim density, that is 180.000 prims / sim, 4 full 4-core CPU-s dedicated to that one SIM (instead of one core running a sim as they do today)
  • 16 times the tier, that is a 1024 should count as 16K mainland (US$75/month)
  • 47 plots per sim
  • 80 avatar's on sim limit
This would give 3750 prims for each 1024, and since the common areas with streets and lights and sidewalks would not need 12 times as many prims, there would even be room to put in a few extra parcels. 47 parcels would still leave 3750 prims for roads and decorations. By comparison, Bay City has only has room for about 30 double-primmed parcels.

When you cram the prim equivalent of an entire openspace into a single 1k parcel, you force people to build in several levels. Also, to be able to justify the tier if you run a mall or rentals, you have to make tall buildings with room for many tenants. Tier should be high to discourage the property speculation that is making Bay City even more empty than it ought to be.

Yeah, and the street sims should have the water level set at 0 meters, parcel ground should be at 12 meter to allow a floor beneath street level (streets just being prims after all; they don't actually need to rest on land:-)

With several times the number of shops in one sim, chances are also much higher to actually meet other people when out shopping. The "emptiness" of SL is one of the major obstacles to acceptance by RL businesses; high-density sims may be able to rectify that.

Of course, these kinds of "super sims" should be available to estates as well, should anyone have the courage to commit themselves to the kind of increased tier LL would want to charge:-)

Would it be technically feasible? I can't see why not; It would require high bandwidth to the server, AND not the least lots of house walls hiding most of the prims to make sure the viewer is never exposed to 180.000 visible prims at once... LOL, now THAT would be a lag worth complaining about:-)

Probably the biggest obstacle is the business and governance side of it. And maybe its a dream not really shared by many other people in a world where beaches and protected sea-front parcels are among the most expensive.

But Christmas is the time for dreams, is it not?