Monday, October 28, 2013

Let's build a boat

There are so many fantastic boats in SL. For a long time I wanted to try to build one myself, but the process is rather cumbersome and lengthy. Building a boat like the Laser takes maybe 200 hours; If your into it. Starting from scratch will take much longer. So, it is hard to find the time for it. However, here's an initial experiments of mine. I decided to share it; Perhaps it could inspire someone else to get started building. I know I needed a push to get started. Thanx Jim.
Start with the simplest building blocks
Creating building blocks is easy. It only takes a few seconds to click and voila - there's a cylinder, a box or a sphere. That's what I did in the image above. I got six simple shapes - aka prims or primitives - from which I will build a boat. The simplest possible boat would be something like a sphere cut in halfs, then slightly elongated. In RL it would float, but it would not provide any stability. You could go with a box. That would help on the stability, but not in SL. More on that later on. For now I decided to make it just a tad more difficult and make a sailboat.
Adjust the width, length and diameter
In the first image it is probably not very obvious what will happen. Check this one. These are the same building blocks, but they've been adjusted to suit my needs. Left to right you see a mainsail, a mast and a headsail. The latter has not yet been flattened. Then there's the hull consisting of the aft, the center and the bow part. All all I need to do is to position these correctly and glue them together.
Just add waterproof glue
Here it is. Five minutes after I started I have something that appears to be a little boatlike. Just in case you can't see it, it's a sailboat with a mast, two sails and a pretty clumsy hull. All made of plywood. Yes, even the sails are plywood. Remember Plywood Marina? Plywood is the default appearance of prims, so all parts of the boat will need to be textured to look like real materials. The system itself (SL) has a handfull of different materials, but they seem to make little difference.

On with the building. There's no rudder. We'll add that later on. Sailors would also complain that there's no keel. Not a problem. The SL physics works in mysterious ways. More on that in a while. Right now let's just see it float.
OMG! My shoes...
Here it is. It appears to be floating, but it is really not. Right now the thing is simply hovering - like it did on the previous picture. This time it is just hovering at a height that makes it appear as if it is floating. The weird thing is, it won't float. The water doesn't work. Even though the boat is made of plywood, it will sink the minute I set it to be physical. If I set gravity to zero, it will stay at a certain height. If I set gravity to a positive value, it will sink. Negative values will cause it to be very unboatlike. It will fly like a rocket to the sky and never come back.
Well, almost ready to float
So here's what happens when the boat goes physical. Not much fun. The physics engine isn't really made for this kind of action is seems. In fact the boat sank to the bottom and then it started tumbling further down to the deep side on the left. Boats simply need to hover, and it that respect all virtual boats are really spacecrafts carrying an anti-gravity device. So that's why there's no keel. The water does not provide any bouyancy, so a keel would make no difference; Except for the appearance of course. SL is nothing but an illusion. Surprise, hehe.

So! This post shows how boats were built in the old days. The Tako was built kinda like this. Then came the sculpts. They are just a weird way of controlling the shape of these basic building blocks. Still, amazing boats were built using sculpts. The Flying Fizz is one. The virtual 2m from Qyv is another. Today, boats are built with mesh technologies. Modelled outside SL and imported to the grid. While this facilitates much more complicated structures, - it is also a bit sad. The idea that you can build inside the grid is very nice; I guess merging SL with photoshop just isn't an option. The important thing to know is, that the Laser is built with mesh, so there's no reason to learn sculpting.

All in all it seems boatbuilding is pretty simple. There are three phases: The shape, the texture, the script. There is a fourth phase and that is to get some kind of wind blowing. That built-in SL wind is no good for sailing. Here's a note on that, but that's another story.


  1. You can build using reg prims, then by a program inside world (Prim generator) convert them to sculpted and (as im not sure but i do think it already exist a mesh generator as well) export via singularity feature, convert it to mesh and import it!
    So yes you can still build in world and end with a mesh! So there is still a reason to learn to build in world (even if i do agree, using blender and other programs one can obtain a much more amazing end product!

    1. Thanx ZZ. I've heard of those prim to sculpt converters. They'd make sense to me, provided I could take my boat from this post, convert it to (preferably a single) sculpted prim and then tweak the shape to be better with a sculpt tool. If I could then take the resulting sculpt and make it a mesh object, then I'd still be able to have that lego-like experience of the prims. However, it makes the building a 3 stage process, and it will probably be easier and faster to use Blender from the start.
      Singularity can export sculpts?? So I could export stuff, take it into Blender for improvements and perfections, and then upload it back??


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