Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Second Life: VRMLers' Great Intimidation

Still coming down from last weekend.  It will be good to hit Toontown tonight.  But first a little offline work for some folks.

A longtime friend from Cybertown - for whom I had high hopes once they upgraded their PC - told me the inevitable last night: he wouldn't be building anything in Second Life.

High hopes because the ones who tend to mentally crash and burn when making the transition from VRML to SL have been handcoders; they never grasped wysiwyg creation over typing coordinates in notepad. 

This lush forest was probably handcoded

My friend wasn't like them.  He used Spaz3D like me for a building tool, except he learned every nook and cranny of its settings to make his own avatar,  vehicles, interactive stuff (such as a knife throwing act), roller coasters, an aquarium and a fjord with intermittent glacial avalanches which my friends and I used to surf.

In the interim he took up nature photography, again learning every setting and control on his camera to produce the most dazzling images.  Several won him awards and have appeared in exhibits in his home town.

But after two years he's still in a noobish human avatar (unaware he is wearing some vampire scam group's tag), and thoroughly unwilling to see how easy it is to adapt to inworld building.  Even before his upgrade he could have worked with offline modeling progs (after all, what was Spaz3D?) and mastered sculpts.

We all go through the phase of wishing the dozens or hundreds or so builds we made for another platform could be converted and uploaded into Second Life.  Years of work down the tubes.

He and I were among a group of creators categorized as "world builders.".  Let me explain the nature of VRML 2.0 before going any further.

The filetype wrl refers to "world" and in a way, anything VRML can be a world.  From avatars to objects to the environment itself, it's all the same file type.  Griefers would wear a house or whole world as their avatar and enter a world.  Very existential.

 Exact replica of Wetzlar Cathedral in Germany

However, the title of world builder refers to creating a world/ environment / dimension/ universe within a finite space (which could still be vast), have sky or boundaries and be where people can exist.  Add Blaxxun plug-in capability and associate with a hosting network and it becomes a shared world among many.  A very different sort of build from an object or creature.

 Peter the Pig's Lost at Sea at low tide was
a tribute to tsunami victims

Let me tell you about the difference in building rules.  The build structure worked like a tree.  The wrl was always linked but you could make subgroups and move portions or objects within a build.  Groups contained and retained their properties - for example phantom - while other grouped parts retained theirs.  An example was when I first came here and learned that setting the water prim of a pool to phantom would have consequences if I were to link it to the rest of the build. I really miss that aspect of VRML creation, but I learned to pack them into rezzers here.  And being able to use a shape to bite a hole or piece out of another.  Also extrusions in Spaz3D were very, VERY easy to manipulate.

 Me as bacon crossing a bridge

 It's what we did as world builders.  Some like my friend incorporated interactive elements like rides or shootable cannons (or that time we all piled into a glass case to see how many of us could disappear together in his illusionist magic act).  He'd wear his blimp as an avatar and ride us around.  I think he likes doing that sort of thing the most.

 Kirido in one of four modes with a central observatory
and a breathtaking view

Here in Second Life we have not just blimps and airships but historic models, models which were designed but never flown in RL, some used for advertising as in real life, and so on.   While building inworld has its limitations, creators have managed some incredible things.

Consider that for most of Second Life's heyday, sculpts didn't even exist.  It's all about prim mangling.

To me, both platforms have much in common.  As a traditional artist, I had to first establish the perspective that 3D modeling meant breaking an object down to its basics and plan what shapes comprised it.  Here the same approach applies to what I had to do for VRML.  From that point you plan based on the shapes you know you're capable of creating and you're on your way.

 Antoine's Aquarium is in a room - and you're bait-size

Those who have made the transition are successful in Second Life.  Modesty forbids me from namedropping publicly, but many have been here since 2004 or 2005.  Also I share a view that it takes a type of person who wants to be known for who they've met instead of what they themselves have done.

I regret that my friend was more discouraged than inspired when he finally got here.  Guess there was always that possibility.

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