July 20, 2008

Fabb Ion: A house comes together

So, every time I dial up the Grid's total "draw distance" here at home on my Mac Mini, so that I can get some decent images, my computer keeps crashing, keeping me perpetually frustrated by it all; but rest assured that I've been getting a ton of work done this week there on Fabb's first house for sale, the half-house/gazebo "Ion." In fact, here above you're seeing the house pretty much complete; all that's left, in fact, is some stuff you can't tell is missing just from still photos, like a couple of animation scripts that still need added, as well as to link the whole thing together and to figure out my new "Rez-Foo" house-rezzing system, which I specifically bought so to make the Fabb "unboxing" procedure as painless as possible*.

As I mentioned last time, the Ion will be the smallest of the first homes for sale through Fabb; it has a total footprint of only 10 by 10 meters, in fact, a total height of only 16 meters, specifically for people not only on a beginner's 512-square-meter plot, but those who want to use as much of that lot as possible for landscaping, a vehicle, or simply enjoying the view and not feeling crowded. As I've mentioned here before, when thinking of why most individual private players (i.e. non-business-owners) wish to own land within the Grid, it's helpful to think of the environment as the most kickass chatroom ever invented; a place where not only you and your online friends can gather together to "gab" (text) in real time, but using a 3D, walkable, "real-space" interface, where not only the avatars of the speakers but the very room itself can be customized from literally a blank slate if one wants.

As such, then, most private landowners will never have outside of five to ten people gathering on their land at once; when owning just a small plot of land, many of these people find it necessary only to have one large central, private space in order to host get-togethers, parties, chat sessions, etc. That's exactly what Ion provides, at a price I think pretty reasonable (6 dollars/4 euros/3 pounds); here above, for example, is the main room in question, decorated in a way that might be pretty typical for a new player in the Grid. (Don't forget, none of the furniture seen here is actually included with the home, nor the Jackson Pollack print seen on the front porch/telehub. I purchased most of this from a great store called Maximum Minimus (er, I think that was the name); I'm pretty sure, in fact, that everything you see here can be yours for less than twenty bucks, and take up as many prims as the house itself.)

And then here as we make our way up the narrow stairs to the second-floor loft, we get a better view of the approximately 10 x 8 meter floorplan of the main room. Don't forget, it's insanely easy to swap furniture in and out of a room in Second Life, and even to automate the process through a professional rezzing system; in a pinch (i.e. owning a beginner plot), this room can be easily remade into a dancefloor, a spa, the most Scandinavian Modernist sex dungeon in existence, etc. And since Fabb homes are completely copyable and modifiable, the home you're looking at can be "modded" to fit whatever specific needs a homeowner might need; the windows and doors removed to make this a true garden gazebo, the stairs removed if you prefer flying.

And now here we are on the second floor, which technically isn't large enough to be considered a practical room unto itself; you don't get practical second-floor rooms with only a 10 x 10 footprint, which is why I specifically call Ion a half-house or gazebo. As you can see, the second floor is instead a four-meter-deep overhang (two meters outside, two inside), just perfect for having a private conversation during a party, or maybe an intimate chat with a friend during a particularly spectacular sunset. It's my allowance for a sense of elegance, something I want to build at least partially into every home Fabb sells; that yes, technically this is only a low-prim gazebo, something designed only to provide one main room, but I might as well built a half-floor upstairs since I can, as well as trick the eye so that it looks from the outside like a big giant cube on top of a squat area, while inside the bottom squat area looks like the main part.

And now here I am back at the house a little later in the evening, all gussied up and ready to host a little pre-clubbing get-together at my place on a Saturday evening; and this gives me the perfect excuse to snap off some photos of the Ion at sunset and midnight, and especially how natural it looks within the upper-class neighborhood of "Linden's Vineyard" where the Fabb store will eventually be located. As these photos hopefully show, the Ion really is about as small as you get and still be called a cool home; and this is part of the point I'm always making within Second Life, frankly, is that there's actually a lot of extremely cool things that one can do with a nice little inexpensive small space in the Grid. Most of those other buildings you're seeing above, after all, are fellow private homes, just blown up into gargantuan size because of inefficiency, requiring an amount of land that is costing that homeowner several hundred dollars a year (and I mean real-life, American dollars). All modesty aside, I think Fabb's cute little Ion is just as much a nice little living space as any of the other monstrosities seen in those images; and since it can fit on only half a beginner's 512-m2 parcel, it means the land needed to maintain it is essentially free, after your one-time cost of actually purchasing it from someone else**.

Okay, so what's next? Well, first, to link it all up and add the final animation scripts for the doors; then to figure out this Rez-Foo system and make sure I can box these homes up in a nice easy way; then to duplicate Ion in the other four color/texture combinations I've picked out for Fabb, to coincide with various environments within the Grid that are popular ones in which to live (sky, urban, forest, desert/beach, water). Then get my vendor kiosk ready; then get the Fabb store ready; then get my online account at SLExchange set up. And then...and then I think I'll be ready to actually start accepting orders! Hallelujah!

As always, more updates as they're warranted; here's hoping it won't take me as long next time as it did this time.

*Not a Second Lifer yourself, and don't know what the hell I'm talking about when I refer to "rezzing?" Basically, all players in the Grid carry around an infinitely large suitcase, known as their "inventory;" and when I say infinitely large, I mean you can carry a hundred homes inside of it with no problem, a hundred vehicles, ten thousand pieces of clothing, and still never run out of room. To actually see or use one of these items within the Grid itself, then, one needs to pull it out of one's inventory, and place it on land where one has permission to place items on the land; within the Grid this is known by the slang term "rezzing," cribbed from the early-'80s movie Tron. Since most homes are too large to be linked together all as one big piece, it's of crucial importance to home-sellers like myself to get a reputable "rezzing system;" it's a series of scripts, basically, that will take the contents of a box (say, the three or four pieces that make up a prefab home), and automagically put it together for the customer simply by them removing the pieces from the box. (This is opposed, say, to the customer manually lining the pieces up themselves, a tedious process that's never done exactly right, which is why customers tend to avoid prefab companies like the plague unless they use a good rezzing system, like the commercial "Rez Foo" system made by yet another SL entrepreneur and simply purchased by me earlier this week.) Whew!

**Why is it so difficult to talk about land in Second Life to people not familiar with the Grid? Well, because there are actually two costs -- the initial cost of actually buying the land from someone else, either another citizen or Linden Lab (owners of Second Life); and then a monthly "virtual property tax," or many times called a "tier fee" or just "tier," basically a flat rate per month based mathematically on how much land you own, as a way to pay for the electricity and bandwidth costs you're incurring on that particular server by owning land that particular server hosts. This is in fact the only difference between free players of Second Life and paying members; the latter are allowed to own land, the former not. So once you pay your fee to be an advanced player, then (something like $80 a year, actually a lot less than one of their competitors like "World of Warcraft"), you're actually allowed to own one of these beginner 512-square-meter lots for no monthly tax at all, simply a benefit to becoming an advanced player to begin with; and that's why there is such a plethora of landowners within the Grid with only 512-m2 plots, and why there are giant "virtual suburbs" there just full of hundreds and hundreds of these tiny plots on an unending grid, and why the prefab-housing market within Second Life is so focused on such homes, because once you're an advanced-enough player to own more land, you're usually advanced enough to know how to build your own house too.

Double whew! Sheesh, sometimes I really hate talking about Second Life online at a blog; I always feel the need to cover basic info in every single entry, just in case that's the first time that particular reader has ever heard of SL or any of its endless series of slang terms and tech items.


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