Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stick it where the sun does shine!

I was out and about, snapzing some new pics. As I often do. (And gosh darnit, why can't Blogger retain the exact original image dimensions?) It just so happened the sun was rising—although it looked more to me like a sunset as I flew up, and I summoned up memories of all the risings and settings of the SLestial bodies I'd recorded over time. And then, this, in the process, got me thinking about missing the obvious.

Let's go for a jiggly jaunt now. First, keep in mind I edited this pic to add additional saturation: you won't find this vivid a sunset in SL au naturel. What we do have is beautiful, but I want so much more. Second, consider the case of Michio Kaku's rhapsodizing on civilization types. It got me thinking in a very metaway, curled up into a ball and then explodey like popcorn. How advanced can our SLivilization become? We are capable of some truely great feats with prims, but we have not yet mastered control on the very small (i.e. physics imprecision) and very large levels—sun, moon, stars! For the latter, there are some rudimentary utilities like Force Sunset—which really means Force Daylight—but why is it the Mr. Sun & Mrs. Moon only get swapped out during holidays like an upcoming Halloween, and Valentine's Day? Furthermore, stroll along this thoughtline with me, and ponder: why can island estate owners change textures on the ground, but not alter the appearance of the sky, or even the water? This is a frustrating conundrum.

Let's examine several things. First, we know that sun & moon can be changed. This is a part of our established canon, and keeping that framework in mind, I don't know whether the changing process is automated on holidays like some computer game easter eggs (think of Santa in Sim Tower), or if a Linden activates it accordingly like a god in the machine. We also know the scope of the sky is much grander—and seemingly infinite—compared to explorable ground terrain. Furthermore, there exists a related variety of scattered factors: different types of terrain get "crossfaded" as to appear seamless, water is pretty uniform and doesn't change in that respect, it might be disconcerting to see suns switch as you travel between regions, etc.

To elaborate on that last point, if you've been on privately-owned continents, you may have seen a sudden switch in "time of day" when walking from one sim to the next. It's not the smoothest of processes either. There is a certain fade with the sky gradient, but all too often, you'll see the sun or moon not display correctly for several moments more. (I have this tendency of seeing a black sun that suddenly turns red when I force daylight.) It can be a minor cosmetic annoyance, but can also be a big boon for some very unique effects. AS SEEN HERE... CAPTURE THE MOMENT!

Narrow it down to integral simplicity: if we could change the cosmic textures more flexibly, this would open up a new chapter in artistic expression! Have you seen the green grasses of Taco? The pink what-the-heck of Nomine? Imagine even how better they'd feel, they'd be with skies that actually complimented the earth. Taco could have a freakin' happy face smiling back atcha, baby! If you've been to other online worlds and games, you've surely seen others. Stared at Lineage II's lunar body? It looks like it could hit your eye like a big pizza pie! I'll even say we're currently a FarCry from what I'd like to see. Hopefully you have ideas of your own.

All that said, I find it bizarre we can customize so many aspects of our world (our imagination), but for now, the outer limits remain untouched by Residents's particle pointers. Some things:
  1. This seems relatively straightforward and easy to do. For simple color changes of the sky, some additional UI controls for those parameters would suffice. Beyond that, a texture picker much like any other, and that's a good base.

  2. Consider how much of your screen what I'm referring to takes up. It's above the horizon for a reason. If you don't think it would have much impact, close your eyes and try to visualize SL's skybox replaced with a solid white. How would this affect your emotions?

  3. Greater immersion, enhanced realism. I'm not kidding. We have a Japanese grid expansion on the way. Why's Japan called "the land of the rising sun"?

  4. Connections: a proposal for weather has been accepted.
Now, it's time for a Torleytangent! Earlier, I mentioned water. I'm going to take this thoughtline and ride it down a different tram. If you've been in Second Life for a goodly time, you've prolly already noticed a certain, telltale water loop that's been pitched up about an octave or so, and is used in a number of inworld fountains. It sounds like a wet load of squealing hydro, and it's been perpetuated from one Resident to another. Not to criticize it (apart from being glaringly inaccurate), but rather, it made me notice the lack of diversity when it comes to the environmental audio aspects of SL. This coming from someone who often has mute on, too. The same nature sounds are used by many people, which is mechanical and unnatural in the bigger picture. And the wind? The wind is a nice touch, but how can it sound similar all around the gridverse? A Pocahontas song, "The colors of the wind", says it all!

Right now, in Second Life, there are gaping holes. And one of those is ample room for sonic experts to come on in, set up shop, and start selling their original sounds (especially tailored for this medium—and not just copied from public domain archives on Internet). Resis who understand working with the technical constraints (like a 10-sec. max length), who can participate in sculpting better atmospheric experiences, and essentially, compensate for what is a very underrated audio market in the world. Someone with heart who takes their portarecorder down to a creek, slices up samples and performs the requisite EQing and enhancements, then loops them into the ideal wife for a silent waterfall. Fresh exclusives available nowhere else.


  1. i think you raise an interesting continual debate when it comes to sim customizations and controls. Beyond the technical limitations that exist today because of LL's architecture, there is the design question. What is this world / metaverse / thingy to look like, to feel like? Is the main grid a unified environment where the sun and land and roads of one sim blend into its neighbors, or should it be a patchwork of microcosms?

    There are a lot of debates that swirl around this issue... customization levels (not just textures and colors but things like gravity rules), telehubs (fundamentally, I'm with you on that issue Tor), decentralized customer-hosted sims, etc.

  2. I've often thought the same thing about the nature sound effects in SL. God bless whoever took the time to get them inworld and distributed them for free - but damn, you'd think someone would have taken it to the next level by now. Maybe we don't have our fair percentage of audio geniuses in SL, which is a shame - Torley's gonna have to keep on picking up the slack ;)

    And since we can force daytime, why can't we force nighttime?

  3. Cory, under the debug menu you can place the sun wherever you like via mouselook, including straight down (which forces nighttime).

  4. For, the "gravity rules" makes me think of Marathon, a decade-old classic. Have you ever played it? It has such a deep and intricate storyline, with many hidden references that are still being discovered today at the Marathon Story Page. One of the very easy things to do (and the game had a lot of extraterrestrial settings), was easily modify gravity. Some levels included this deliberately with puzzles that required you to tether, float, and balance. I'm very much interested in doing this in SL too... this is a WEIGHTY TOPIC with so many tentacles.

    As it currently stands , there is a slanted disproportion of realistic to unrealistic builds in SL. I use this as a generalization and empirically, but I will just say that there's got to be more regions to indulge creative wackiness without fear of scaring the neighbors. Ironically, some of the oldest (like previously-mentioned Welsh) are the best to do this.

    I wonder it'd be like if LL came out with a bunch of regions with the ground all purple and fuzzy... how would residents react? What would the land prices be like? Would the shade match the sun? ;) I can imagine some would say, "I just made a white house and picket fences, can the ground please be changed so I live in a normal place?" It has a sort of psychological uncoupling effect.

    Cory, about your comment, there is something profound I've noticed... it's a recurring theme, things getting developed to a point and then halted. Either by Lindens or Residents. Like the old "Simple Airplane Script" that was in circulation for years until Cubey stepped up to the plate and gave new Resis who want to build a plane an easier, more helpful path with his DIY kit. Or some aspects of the Gestures controls that bug me (can't use two-word triggers, why?). And all the stale stuff in Library—ever notice the "Community Standards (April 2004)" in there and the fact newer Linden content like the Ben-Go isn't there?

    And yes, I've written in about all of these... hahaha. :D