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The Emerald City on Wizard

5/5/2009

Wizard is the world of Catalina McCaw, and has seen several incarnations. In this latest one, it is host to the famed Emerald City. As I reimagine Wizard, I will document it from the ground up. Literally!

When Catalina contacted me to create the Emerald City, what I was handed was a Tabula Rasa. A flat, square patch of sand rising a scant meter above sea level! She told me how much space she wanted allocated for the Emerald City, and for all the rest of the sim. I submitted a drawing, and when it was approved, it was time to terraform.

The first draft

The first draft

The first thing I did was carve out the waterways that will course through Wizard. I laid out a grid, whipped out the bulldozer, and dug the interconnected channels that provide each parcel with access to all of Wizard, plus the neighboring sim Paradisos. I made the canals wide enough to allow passage of most SL watercraft, with enough bends to make it look relatively natural. (In all my builds, whether a full sim or a desk lamp, I try to bring a strong sense of realism into play).

Wizard Terraformed

Wizard Terraformed

The next, perhaps most crucial step, was to create the look of the terrain. I raised a couple higher plains and mountains up so I could gauge the effect, and then dove into my frighteningly large texture library. After much trial and error, I found a warmer sand than the SLDefault, a good, rich green for the lowlands, a moss-and-stone middle ground, and a nice gray granite for the peaks. With that step done, it was time to paint the landscape!

Wizard Purple Mountains Majesty

Wizard Purple Mountains Majesty

While the bulldozer is too reminiscent of the old Sim City tool, I tend to think of it more as a paint brush in Photoshop, or the terrain editor in Bryce. I imagine the terrain as a grayscale map, using the various tools such as Raise, Lower, Flatten, Smooth, and the rest to carve my landscape. It’s my hope that someday soon, Lindens will spend a little time improving these tools so that it doesn’t feel like I’m performing brain surgery with a screwdriver!

Wizard reimagined

Wizard reimagined

Update: As of RC 1.23, the bulldozer has taken on much more subtlety – it’s smoothly sizable instead of small/medium/large, and the largest option seems to be about twice as large as the previous “large.” Thanks for the gift, Lindens!

The Yellow Brick Road

5/8/2009

Construction on the Yellow Brick Road commenced, marking the installation of the first prim on Wizard. I tossed in some summer grasses from inventory to get a feel of what it might look like. Next step is to add bridges across the water. Then it’s time for waterfalls!

Ando Joubert - out standing in his field

Ando Joubert - out standing in his field

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I seem to have a difficult time explaining to friends and family just what it is about Second Life that draws me in and keeps me there. Maybe if I explain it here, I’ll develop a better sense of how to explain it out there.

One thing people ask, both in and out of world, is “what brought you to Second Life in the first place. It wasn’t any one thing in particular, but a number of elements all coming into focus at roughly the same time – reading Neuromancer by William Gibson; my ongoing love of Photoshop, 3D graphics and animation, and an idea for an animated short; and an article in the Wall Street Journal about a virtual world and economy known as Second Life. Once in world, I learned quickly the craft of building – crudely at first, playing with a friend making mazes in the sky, but from that, I learned the basic tools of SL. My technique improved with each successive house I built, and friends started to ask me to build for them. Sadly, as it does for many, SL got “dramatic,” RL demanded my focused attention, and for a couple months I was largely absent from the grid.

When I returned to SL, I made a conscious decision to not jump back into the same social scene with the same bad actors, or even the same friends, but to start fresh and re-focus on what I truly loved about SL – creating imaginative and interesting structures.

I bought a small parcel high on a hill in Avendale Ruins, one of Mystical Cookie’s wonderful sims, and built what one builds on the highest hills. An observatory, with an antique telescope!

Avendale Observatory

Avendale Observatory

Of course, such a thing used up my prim count, and so, the next parcel over was bought, and a pavilion was raised, overlooking the gorge. It was ideal for dancing on a moonlit night, or wandering among the wildflowers and trees, perhaps taking an afternoon nap surrounded by the sounds of nature. Before long, my prim count was looking pretty low, so the next two adjoining parcels were purchased. As I built first the telescope, and then the pavilion, I began developing a history to match the builds. The pavilion had been erected on the site of the cistern that had provided for the needs of the observatory. That cistern was made obsolete by the waterworks I built on the furthest parcel.

Avendale Waterworks

Avendale Waterworks

The waterworks drew water in from the river, filtered it in 3 large tanks, and provided water for drinking and the hydraulics used to power the movement of the telescope. Note: the texture below for the wall of the intake pipes came from a photo I took of an old cistern in Portland Oregon. Art imitates life!

Intake Pipes

Intake Pipes

Water Treatment Tanks

Water Treatment Tanks

Waterworks Control Desk

Waterworks Control Desk

The space between the Waterworks and the Observatory I devoted to Waterworks Park. Here was a pond surrounded by lush autumn trees, with leaves drifting down and romantic dancing poseballs strewn about for my partner and me, and our guests.

Waterworks Park

Waterworks Park

I began to notice a curious thing as my little slice of SL was born – people started visiting it. Not just friends or family, but people wandering the grid. I’d frequently find people at the pond, or at one of the many dancing locations scattered about the sim, slow dancing with their honey. Avendale is a friendly bunch of sims, and so I took no steps to boot them or even prevent anybody from enjoying that build. What I did do is run out of prims again! This prompted me take that big leap of faith – buying my first sim – Symphony.

More on that later, though. It’s late and time to post. Stay tuned for more as the story continues!

-AJ

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