Tinkering leads to a product update

The updated Bentley, by Luna Fatale. I had the pleasure of contributing to its improvement. Click on any image to go to its full-size version. Links always open in new tabs.

The updated Bentley, by Luna Fatale. I had the pleasure of contributing to its improvement. Click on any image to go to its full-size version. Links always open in new tabs.

I’d stated before that I don’t drive in Second Life, and I usually don’t even incorporate cars as props in my builds and photoshoots. There are many reasons why I typically avoid them like the plague, and I’ll get – once again – into some detail below.

For starters, the vast majority of cars in SL handle like a drunken pig on ice skates. They steer in a completely unrealistic, twitchy and vague manner, not least because of the lack of integration with simulator-style controllers, such as steering wheels or analogue joysticks, that would make in-world cars steer progressively and with the precision and fluidity we’ve come to expect from a real-world vehicle. Also, in-world vehicles are – and will continue to be – plagued by the vagaries of region crossings, which can cause all sorts of trouble, from camera issues to the vehicle continuing its course without its occupants, or even crashes. These issues take much of the enjoyment of going for a ride on an automobile, a motorcycle, a boat, an aeroplane out of the experience.

OK then, crap handling aside, what is it that has always kept me from using them as props? The truth is, most vehicles in SL suck. There are far too many meshes taken from other games; other models are taken from game mods, and these are of varying quality. And, of course, there are also models purchased or downloaded from other sources. I don’t have a problem with a vehicle creator who decides to use a 3D model they have acquired legally. If you’re more skilled as a scripter than you are a 3D modeller, by all means, either employ someone else to make the mesh or go out and purchase one from the market. Where I do find issues is the deployment and use of these meshes in SL.

With the new rims, it looks much, much better.

With the new rims, it looks much, much better.

Because of the now well-known and well-documented issues with the default camera offsets, the default avatars, scaling in SL is completely out of whack, This also applies to vehicles. Cars and motorbikes are, like everything else in SL, ridiculously oversized – at least 20-30% larger than the real thing! This means, for instance, that a tiny 1960s Fiat 500 has the same size as a 1970s American land yacht. Don’t get me started on their texturing: Most have terribly sub-par texturing and colouring, and they don’t take advantage of recent advances like normal and specular maps, so you are stuck with the horrendous default shininess. The poses and animations used in them are ancient, made for the god-awful T-Rex avatar shape. Many of these cars have completely wrong, ugly wheels fit only for rice-burning crap, and they simply don’t look right on the car. The headlight scripts are, for the most part, crap, as they simply apply full bright and glow to the head lamps and emit a non-focused light from the centre of the car. And forget about resizing, retexturing, or otherwise fixing the damned things, or even rescripting them to use as props, with your own hand-picked and / or custom-made poses thrown in: The vast majority don’t have modify permissions, because the creators, in their infinite wisdom, don’t want you to actually own what you bought.

Luckily, Luna Fatale Motors, a division of Wendi Nitely’s Luna Fatale Creations store, does actually provide modifiable cars, which are actually quite nice to begin with. So far, I’ve bought two of them.

Today, I’ll write about the Blower Roadster 4.5 Litre 1929 RHD (formerly named the Blower Roadster 4.5 Litre 1926 RHD), which you can purchase on the marketplace and in-world. It’s not the only in-world version of the famous 4,5-litre Blower Bentley, but it’s one of the best, and it’s modifiable, and comes with version 7.02 of the ACS scripts.

I quickly set out to bring it to RL size. To do this, I had to first thicken (temporarily) some parts which had a dimension of 0.01 meter (the smallest permissible by SL’s building system) and then, with an open source resizer script, I progressively brought the car down to RL size, comparing its dimensions with a box I made, which had the RL car’s dimensions. Then, I started getting rid of the dreaded default shininess, by applying specular maps. I already said that, unlike most other cars in SL, this one can be modifiable. And not only that, but Wendi has included the diffuse textures of the car in the package, so that you can use them to customise it. This is a nice, convenient, and thoughtful touch. In most cases, the diffuse textures worked wonderfully and I didn’t need to make special ones. In other cases, such as the interior upholstery and carpeting, I didn’t have reason to apply specular maps. And now, I’m in the process of choosing poses (and, thankfully, I’ve found several really good posemakers who cater to proportionate, realistic avatars) in order to use it as a prop for photoshoots, complete with AVsitter scripts.

The initial version of the 4.5-litre Blower Bentley, resized to RL size and enhanced with specular maps by me.

The initial version of the 4.5-litre Blower Bentley, resized to RL size and enhanced with specular maps by me. I also edited the tyre sidewalls to remove the white lettering. I still hadn’t gotten the chrome parts right, though.

It wasn’t, however, without some drawbacks. The wheels and tyres were not correct. The wire-spoked rims weren’t right: They were distinctly American-looking and would fit a 1930s Packard far more than they’d fit a 1920s Bentley. The tread on the tyres was from a generic modern radial tyre, and the sidewalls not only had white lettering, but the size inscription of them was not period correct at all, as it corresponded to a tyre size used by modern cars.

An RL specimen of the 4.5-litre Blower Bentley. The different wheels are quite obvious.

An RL specimen of the 4.5-litre Blower Bentley. The different wheels are quite obvious. Photograph by Brian Snelson from Hockley, Essex, England (1929 Bentley 4½ Litre Blower) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

I spoke to the proprietor, Wendy, who told me the car was in for an update anyway and that my communication with her offered her the perfect excuse to rectify these issues. So, with reference material at hand (photographs of period tyres, photographs of the car itself, etc) I helped source, she got to work and I acted as the “test pilot”. The result is that the car now looks much nicer, is 100% period-correct, and the new version is already available on the marketplace. And, of course, it’s copy  / mod, so you don’t have to deal with the aggravation several other car merchants in SL put you through.

Much nicer sidewalls and tread on the tyres, and the rims are now completely true to the RL original.

Much nicer sidewalls and tread on the tyres, and the rims are now completely true to the RL original.

A closer look at the spare wheel...

A closer look at the spare wheel…

As to how it drives, I must say it’s pretty nice for an SL car (I’m talking about both the previous and the updated version). The steering isn’t too twitchy, and, in a refreshing change from the annoying discrepancy I’m used to seeing in in-world cars, its transmission has as many gears as the RL car had: four forward, one reverse. Seriously, who thought a seven-speed gearbox on an Interbellum-era car would be realistic? I’m pointing this out, because I’ve seen such stupidity. At best, from 1920 to 1985, passenger cars and light trucks with manual transmission had five forward speeds, with four being the norm (sometimes with  overdrive), and auto ‘boxes had two or three forward speeds, with five-speed auto ‘boxes becoming available only in the late 1990s.  If it was already pretty good in its previous version, the new, updated version is better, and not only visually. Its steering is somewhat more fluid and progressive, always within the constraints of SL, and driving it does sound and feel convincing, with custom animations for parking, changing gears etc. The Bentley also offers a few extra gifts for you: two period umbrellas, which have now also been updated with Bento holding animations, and a mechanic’s creeper.

In all, I believe it offers very good value for money, and I also appreciate the fact that Wendi’s the sort of content creator who’ll listen to customers and collaborate with them to further improve her products.

.

Album on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm5pW7m3

SL marketplace listing: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Luna-Fatale-Motors-Blower-Roadster-45-Litre-1929-RHD/8657412

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-SF

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3 thoughts on “Tinkering leads to a product update

  1. When you “quote” lack of integration with simulator-style controllers, such as steering wheels or analogue joysticks, that would make in-world cars steer progressively and with the precision and fluidity we’ve come to expect from a real-world vehicle.”unquote” are you saying there is a way to make them compatible via scripts or is a limitation of SL by itself?

    1. I’m saying that their integration isn’t satisfactory. We have 3D mice used as camera controllers; joystick support exists, but so far I’ve yet to hear of anyone using a joystick in SL, and I’m not aware of any sort of support (even rudimentary) for steering wheels, yokes, rudder pedals, and other things that would make driving and flying more realistic. Perhaps it’s because actual demand for this sort of integration is very low.

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