February 14, 2008

Asimov at night (one possible configuration)

I was logged into the Grid the other night, and thought I'd snap a few photos of my starter home "Asimov" under evening conditions while I was there; after all, I'm about to empty the model home again, so to free up some prims and do some more construction, and figured I'd get some images taken of the set-up as long as it's still set up. And indeed, this is something I want to emphasize over and over here at the blog about these latest batches of images, that the furniture and lights you see are from other companies and do not come with the house itself; in fact, this is something I do deliberately, in that I think one of the most fun things about being in Second Life is all the excuses there are for incidental shopping (for things like furniture, clothing, jewelry, land, etc etc), a simple joy I don't want to take away from customers by loading the prefabs down with premade furniture.

That said, I'm hoping as soon as possible to get some furniture and lamps/chandeliers designed on my own, to be able to sell through Fabb; as big a fan as I am of the furniture you've seen, for example, I have to admit that they're complete prim-hogs, clearly designed for giant estates and full of unnecessary flourishes that sometimes add dozens of unneeded prims to a piece. I figure that I can make some stuff almost as nice but at a fraction of the prim count; they can then be marketed at the store and online at the same time as the starter homes themselves, for those looking to optimize on prim-count as much as possible.

Anyway, so I'm off after this entry to the Grid yet again, this time to sit down and finally teach myself everything there is to know about artificial lights in Second Life; that will let me create my own chandeliers that will look like the third-party ones seen in the above images, as well as candles, floor lamps, embedded lights for the rooms themselves, and all kinds of other nice little touches concerning the finished houses. And if I'm feeling like it, I'll even take screenshots along the way and write up everything I learn as a little tutorial for here at the blog! You see what I do for you people!?

February 12, 2008

First look: Fabb Asimov, furnished, part 2

(This is part two of a report I started yesterday, taking a first look at "Asimov," one of the first prefabricated homes I'll be selling through Fabb, shown fully furnished here as if it were actually on a customer's estate already. Please read part 1 if you'd like today's half to make more sense.)

Okay, so here we finally are at what I'm hoping will be a really striking "signature element" of Fabb buildings; a dedicated space inside the homes themselves, that is, to do traditional-style landscaping, either water- or land-based depending on the model purchased. And why is this so important to me? Well, because of a conversation I had with my friend Jim here in Chicago about six months ago, back when I was tooling around with Fabb's first house designs but not yet serious about starting up an actual business.

Jim mentioned that, although he liked the designs I was coming up with at the time, it also seemed to him that there's an awful lot of Modernist architecture in the Second Life Grid these days, precisely because the building tools in SL promote the use of clean, boxy, Euclidean building blocks in which to create constructions. It's certainly not the only type of architecture you find in the Grid, not by a long shot; just that it's an easy style to pull off, and so therefore populates the low-end section of SL's prefab market like a weed, with the Grid full of cheap cookie-cutter homes that all look at least semi-decent, because of it not taking much under the rules of Modernism for something to look halfway decent.

Jim inspired me to go back and really think again about what exactly landowners are looking for in their prefab housing; of what could be most useful to them, what they would build themselves if they couldn't find it for sale. And I realized, that for a lot of beginning land owners who are in the middle of one of those vast "512 ghettos" you find on the mainland (where an entire suburb's worth of land, that is, is cut into hundreds and hundreds of beginner 512-square-meter rectangular lots in an endless grid), it is simple noise pollution from the neighbors that is the most persistent issue -- of those hundreds and hundreds of other beginner plots directly around you, that is, filled with all manner of 100-foot-high neon-green penises and all the other loveliness you find all over the unzoned, unchecked Grid.

For many beginner land owners, their first home is not so much an aesthetic reflection as it is a simple barrier against the chaotic land around them; a fortress that blocks out all the craziness while they're at home, allowing them to instead blacken the windows and dial down their draw distance and have simple fun parties with their friends. In such an environment, then, any customized landscaping a person does will naturally have to take place outside the actual home, breaking the fortress illusion they're trying so hard to maintain; I figure that what a lot of these types of people would enjoy would be a chance to do some landscaping actually inside their home/fortress, giving them all the fun of making a garden or pond or tiny island or tiny forest, but within their "safe space" where their view is not constantly clashing against the giant green penises and all the rest of the junk found in 512 ghettos. I'm hoping, then, to enmesh such a thing in some way or another in all the buildings I end up creating, which will hopefully make Fabb stand out more; not just another of the hundred Modernist prefab companies out there, but one with a few extra "oomphs" not seen in most of the micro-businesses.

Anyway, enough of that -- let's make our way to the second floor finally, shall we? Here it is from the viewpoint of the top of the stairs, looking sideways along the home's length; as you can see, it contains a lot less floor space than the first floor, a space mostly for overflow from parties, the installation of something small like a dining-room set or bed, etc.

Another shot of the second floor, this time looking in the opposite direction. Notice there on the left, how I'm once again trying to do interesting things with the concept of space and flow within my homes; how while you're in the bottom half of that landscaping area, the space feels very formalist and boxed-in, while by the time you get to the top of the stairs the space blooms into a bright, expansive aerie.

Here, just one of the things a homeowner could do with a space like this -- set up a dining-room set, for interesting-looking views from above during conversations with friends.

And here, yet another option for the second floor, as a bedroom of sorts. Frankly, this is another must-have space for a lot of residents, a bedroom space for animated sexual activities, a big activity among a whole lot of residents. This is where the window-tint feature of Fabb's homes will come into play; by the time this house is for sale to the general public, there will be a button on the wall you can press repeatedly, to dial through various tint shades on the windows from fully transparent to fully opaque.

Yet another shot from the second floor, right at the doorway to the upper patio and looking back towards the interior stairs.

And then here's the upper patio itself, a great place to set one's teleport-landing spot for example, as well as just to hang out and talk with friends. You can't have a SL house, after all, without tons and tons of patios; otherwise what's the point of owning a house in SL in the first place?!

And then finally, a full-length shot of the back of the house, with the camera set up perfectly perpendicular to the home itself. Ahhhh, all my geeky little geometric Modernist wet dreams, suddenly come to life.

Anyway, so that's it for now; what's next, then, is to get a fine-tuned editing done of Asimov's walls and windows, as well as all the scripts installed that will animate it all. Then a tutorial on lights, so I can create some lamps and chandeliers; and then hopefully my first Fabb machinima, showing all the newest crap off in glorious real-time animation. See you!

February 11, 2008

First look: Fabb Asimov, furnished, part 1

So although I hope for Fabb to eventually offer all kinds of different prefabricated buildings for sale, from starter homes to mansions and even retail environments, I've decided at first to start on the smaller side of things; that's who constitutes the majority of prefab home buyers, after all, are beginning players with beginning plots who don't know enough yet about building to create their own home, who are willing to spend maybe US$5 to 10 for a nicely-done house but not much more than that. I've decided, then, to get a total of three small homes finished before declaring Fabb open for business; today's entry concerns the largest of these three initial homes, the one I'm calling the "Asimov."

As you can see, the Asimov will technically fit on a starter plot of 512 square meters (or 30 x 15), but is realistically designed more for estates of the 1000- to 2000-m2 size; it's a 70-prim building, after all, taking up over half the prim count of a 512-m2 plot but only a third of a 1024 one. (For those who don't know, you can only erect a maximum amount of "prims," or primitive shapes such as boxes and cylinders, on any given piece of land, 117 prims per 512 square meters; this is how Linden Lab makes sure that no particular piece of land there is overtaxing the physical server it's located on.) This is the constant battle that SL land owners are going through, then, of how much of their prim count to devote to a house, how much to landscaping, how much to furniture, how much to a vehicle, etc etc etc. And that's why this will be the largest of the first three homes as well, so as with the other ones to give land owners as many prims as possible for other things; the smallest of the three, for example, will consist of no more than 30 or so prims, which on a 512-m2 plot would leave almost 90 prims left for landscaping and furniture.

In these photos, for example, I have rezzed the house on a 1,536-m2 plot, not an unusual size at all for someone who plays SL daily and takes the environment seriously; between the home and the furniture you're seeing, I have almost all the 350 prims allowed on this space maxxed out, or in other words around 280 prims' worth of furniture alone. It's important to understand that as you look at these photos; that even though this house will technically fit on a 512-m2 plot, you wouldn't nearly have the prim count left over to rez the amount of furniture seen here. (With a larger estate, though, it's not only possible but easy.) Of course, there's also the danger of using images illegally, like I am here with this Jackson Pollock painting adorning the front patio of the house; that's why the Pollock painting doesn't come with the house itself, but is merely a decoration on the model home to show an example of what can be done with the space.

So then here's what you see to your right when you first come in the home -- the main living space, that is, around 150 square meters in size, where a person can put together a main living-room set of furniture like you're seeing here. This is an important part of owning a home in SL, I've found; having at least one space within it where you and your friends can sit around "looking" at each other while chatting, versus your avatars standing around and blankly staring into space. It's the small things, really, that most transport all the niceties and details of real life into an SL environment.

And then here's what you see at the front door if you look left; the door to the back porch, the stairs to the second floor, and of course the signature indoor landscaping space, something I'm hoping along with elaborate waterfalls to make an ongoing feature of Fabb constructions. But more on all that in a bit.

All right, so here we are in the living-room space! Like I said, this is an extremely important space to have in a prefabricated home within SL; a 3D equivalent of a chat room, that is, where you and your friends can gather your avatars when having a group chat, something that gives the physical semblance of you all sitting around and actually having a conversation, since that's what you're precisely doing at the time through text and voice. It's just one of the things I've noticed about the Grid after being there myself for almost two years, that there are certain simple elements that come up as important time and time again with all kinds of different residents; and this is definitely one of them, a central gathering space, something I encourage all virtual architects to build into their creations there.

All right, so out the back door of the house we go, and onto the back patio. And here you can see a good example of something else I hope to make a signature detail of Fabb buildings, is a complex interplay between "outdoor" and "indoor" space within finished homes; note, for example, how the roof of the second floor creates a natural cavern-like patio space here in the back of the house, an intimacy as if the space were enclosed but with it not actually being enclosed, and in fact with the option to remove the wall-sized windows if you want and make the entire first floor a breezy exotic indoor/outdoor space simultaneously. I'm hoping to build such elements into all eventual Fabb creations, something I hope especially useful for those installing such homes in forest environments as elaborate treehouses.

And then here, yet another detail that I hope to make a signature element of Fabb homes; a complex waterfall, like I said, that I'm hoping in the future to get even more complex as far as it winding in and out of the house itself, one I finally take some classes on waterfall creation and get a lot better at building them. Why waterfalls? Why not? They're just as cheap to install as anything else in a digital environment, look impressive to the easily tricked human eye (who automatically thinks of waterfalls in private homes as flashy and expensive), and are animated so even look cool within SL itself.

As mentioned, I'm purposely leaving the interior of Fabb houses as blank as possible, specifically because a big part of the fun in SL concerns interior design one you actually have a house built, and of course the subsequent shopping to go find the perfect furniture to begin with. Here, for example, I'm using a simple series of minimalist Asian chairs, envisioning a home where mostly it will be quiet conversations among friends going on out here; but you could easily place a dining-room set out here, a dancefloor, an extension to a pool or garden if you were on land, or all kinds of other things.

And here I guess I will leave things for today, contemplating yet another perfect sunset on the South Continent where I live, and where Fabb's eventual retail store will be. Tomorrow, part 2 of this first look at the furnished Asimov, detailing the second floor and roof. Thanks for coming by!

Fabb: An introduction

Greetings to anyone who's coming across this blog for the first time; my name is Miller Copeland, otherwise known in real life (RL) as Jason Pettus, owner and right now sole employee of the Fabb prefabricated housing company for the videogame Second Life (SL). You've come across the official blog for Fabb, where throughout the year I'll be posting news, photos and videos concerning the latest with the company; and since this is the very first entry of the new blog, I thought I'd take the opportunity to explain a little more about me, my history with SL, and the aims of Fabb in particular.

I've actually been a resident of SL now since spring 2006; what I did for my first year there was actually run an arts-and-culture publication called In The Grid, which covered not the workings of SL itself but rather the activities of its most interesting artists, programmers, sex workers and more. ITG was an extremely fun blog to maintain, and definitely had its share of readers in its heyday (actually being ranked at its height by Technorati.com as the 13th most popular blog about SL on the planet); but unfortunately the game client for SL itself kept getting more and more complex and bloated during that same time period, eventually becoming almost impossible to run on my piddly little Mac Mini here at home in RL Chicago. I was unemployed at the time, so couldn't justify buying a brand-new computer just to play SL, especially when my Mini worked just fine for everything else in my life I do with a computer; and this all happened in spring 2007 as well, at the same time I first opened what has now become my main day job, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP). For all these reasons, then, I decided in April of that year to finally shut down ITG probably for good; and it was also then that I got out of the habit of porting into the Grid on a regular basis, the situation that existed all the way to winter 2008.

It was in January of this year, in fact, that for the first time since getting my beginner's plot a year previous, one of my neighbors decided to sell land that was directly adjacent to mine; I ended up buying it off them, raising my total land ownership in the Grid to 1,536 square meters, meaning that I now would have to pay a monthly "property tax" to Linden Lab for the first time. I used this additional expense, then, as an excuse to finally get serious about a small-business idea I've had for awhile now, a prefab housing company specifically inspired by Modernist architecture from the 1950s and '60s, but also containing space-age elements and other physics-defying details one can only accomplish in the Grid. My goals are real simple for now, to merely make at least the US$8 a month I now have to pay as a property tax on my virtual land; and since I enjoy obsessively detailing things, I thought I'd go ahead and get the Fabb blog up before any other aspect of the finished company, so that I can actually share the details of setting up the company itself.

I encourage people to drop me a line if they'd like at ilikejason [at] gmail.com; or just keep coming by the blog, where over the next couple of weeks I will be getting into Fabb's philosophy, posting a ton of photos of the company's first three houses, and explaining more about how for a short time you'll be able to earn a free house if you're interested. For now, though, I welcome you, thank you for coming by from wherever it is you came from, and invite you to come by again on a regular basis (or just subscribe to the RSS feed and be done with it -- I make it a full feed just for that reason). Oh, and if you're curious about the dual-gender portrait seen in this entry, I happen to be what's known as an "omnisexual" in SL; that is, I exist as both genders there, and switch between bodies on a whim depending on my mood, two halves of what should ultimately be considered one person. I mostly exist as a woman in the Grid, to tell you the truth, despite being a male in RL, mostly because women's fashions are a lot cooler and more interesting there than men's; needless to say, the gender reversal has led to all kinds of interesting situations and realizations in my life over the last two years, especially into the ways that men treat women when there are no other men around to see them. Yes, I'm very upfront about my real-life gender while in SL, even when rezzed as a woman; the times I play a female there are strictly for the fun of it, not to pull a fast one over anyone in particular.