Tinkering with builds in SL: Trompe Loeil’s Iona Conservatory

2015 was a year with many ups and downs, both in RL and SL, and there have been numerous ways in which RL affected my SL and vice versa – and not always in a favourable manner. At any rate, what matters is that I’m still around, and have managed to improve several important parts of my RL.

One of the things I describe myself as is an amateur builder; although I don’t have any proper 3D graphics skills, I do dabble in modifying all sorts of stuff I can get my hands on, provided it comes with the appropriate permissions. I might want to personalise something and make it fit in with a certain project or look I have in mind, or I might want to make it look more realistic, especially when it comes to scale; either way, I don’t usually leave modifiable things “stock”.

With Second Life prefab builds, scale is one of my pet peeves. As both I and Penny Patton have explained before (my post and Penny’s), the viewer’s default camera offsets give a skewed perspective and this leads to oversized, poorly-proportioned avatars, and we design our builds accordingly, i.e. small homes with ceilings 7 meters high, doors 5 meters tall and 2.5 meters wide, and don’t even get me started on things like staircases.

Now, many of us have bought prefab buildings at one point or another. Most of them, sadly, are made for SL’s typical gigantic avatars and waste too much virtual estate, plus their sense of place generally sucks, simply because of their proportions. A few are spot-on. Others are a mixed bag.

A case in point is the build I’m presenting today: Trompe Loeil’s Iona Conservatory. Released at January 2015’s Collabor88 event, it’s a gorgeous build, generally well-dimensioned, enhanced with materials (specular and normal maps), and I highly recommend it – it even comes at a very attractive price. It would make a gorgeous greenhouse, art studio, office, or whatever for your region.

Trompe Loeil's beautiful Iona Conservatory build. Image credit: Trompe Loeil

Trompe Loeil’s beautiful Iona Conservatory build. Please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in a new tab / window). Image credit: Trompe Loeil

However, it has two of my pet peeves: The entrance’s stair steps are a bit on the high side, and the doors are exceedingly tall (the handles are near my chin, and my avatar, wearing high heels, is 179cm tall; not exactly what you’d call “short stuff”).

The Iona Conservatory as you see it when you rez it. As mentioned, its doors and stairsteps are a bit on the high side, but thats nothing that cant be fixed. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version opens in ne w tab window).

The Iona Conservatory as you see it when you rez it. As mentioned, its doors and stairsteps are a bit on the high side, but thats nothing that cant be fixed. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab  / window).

Honestly, though, these are things that can be fixed. Being the die-hard tinkerer that I am, I set out to work on this build. First, I set out to resize the doors, as per the dimensions I gave in my scale-related post from 2014. The target height was 280cm (2.80 meters). Obviously, resizing the doors would leave a gaping hole between them and their surround. So, I needed to fill that space with something. Before resizing the doors, I noted down their width and height, as these would help me determine the “filler”‘s dimensions. Then, I set out to make (with prims, and then create the mesh with Mesh Studio) a new frame of sorts. After resizing the doors, I performed the necessary calculations for proper positioning of the various bits, and then, after creating the mesh, I imported it back into SL. Each door has its own extra frame, and the LI for each side is 7. Let’s have a look at the door frames, shall we?

As said, my avatar with these shoes on) is 179cm tall. Now that the doors are 280cm tall, things are much more proportionate.

As said, my avatar (with these shoes on) is 179cm tall. Now that the doors are 280cm tall, things are much more proportionate. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

Originally, the doors were set to open outwards, robbing the little porch in front of them of some useful space. I opted to rescript them with Kool Door scripts.

And now the doors open inwards...

And now the doors open inwards… Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

But the steps are still a bit high; these will be taken care of soon enough.

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The steps are still rather high, but I’ll take care of them soon enough. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

Now comes the interesting part. What do you do to texture this thing, especially when you don’t have the original textures? If you can’t get the creator of the product you bought to help you by providing sample textures or AO maps, you have two options: One is to take a bunch of snapshots and start working on them in GIMP or Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro or whatever; the other is to use a tool like the SL Cache Viewer to locate the textures you need in your viewer’s cache, open them in your favourite graphics app and make new textures that will fit in with your modifications. Whichever course you take, don’t even think of selling the modified textures. You must always understand that there’s a very thick line between modifying a product for your own use and enjoyment – you have every right to do that – and infringing on someone else’s work.

Now we come to a way in which prefab designers could make themselves a lot more helpful: Offering, either bundled with the build, or as an additional product (with its own price), the textures, UV and AO maps for that specific build, they could encourage people’s creativity and gain extra credit for customer service. And I do believe they’d be safe when it comes to their intellectual property, because mesh builds come with their own AO maps that are applied on the various textures, and trying to use the new, modified textures with different builds is completely useless.

At any rate, I sat down and created textures for the windows and irons of these new frames. Here’s the end result (for now):

Not meaning to brag, but I'm pretty pleased with how these extra bits turned out. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

Not meaning to brag, but I’m pretty pleased with how these extra bits turned out. Again, please click on the picture for the full-size version (opens in new tab / window).

So, that’s it for now! The stairsteps will be handled soon enough. I’ve got plans for this build, along with others. There’s this project I’ve got on my mind, and I’ve located some buildings and mesh creator kits that have caused a rush of ideas I’ve experienced only a few times before in my life.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-Md

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6 thoughts on “Tinkering with builds in SL: Trompe Loeil’s Iona Conservatory

  1. The extra height for the stair is a common practice. If you notice, that extra height extends as a base all around the building. I do this on my buildings also as a way to provide a bit of room to lower them into the terrain, allowing for a certain amount of “fudging” room to move it up or down. When placed, it would be closer to the dimensions of the other stairs from the ground level.

    1. They don’t want to upset a large number of users who use the default settings; and also, they don’t want to upset a large number of content creators who have made their stuff based on the default settings and can’t be bothered to adapt. They know very well that these groups are very prone to dramatic outbursts, and LL’s personnel doesn’t want their drama. What can be done is for each one of us to adopt the better defaults and dimensioning and tell the default crowd “sorry, we can’t be bothered with your ugly stuff.”

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