Long absence and a USCSS Conrad Post-mortem

It’s been a while since I updated this blog and I haven’t been in SL much either. A combination of things have been keeping me away – relatives in and out of hospital and some personal issues that kept me away.

It’s not all done with yet, and I may still not be back on a regular basis for a while, but I hope things are tending more towards the calm now, so fingers crossed.

 

The last thing I was working on was the USCSS Conrad build. It was a fun project but as it grew it became very clear that a build like this needs to be quite meticulously planned in advance rather than just thrown together in an extended manic episode. I may make a better planned attempt at it later but for now it’s a question of picking over the things I’ve learned and hoping you can learn something from them too šŸ˜‰

Part of the reason I began building the Conrad was to have a bit of a play with SL’s Advanced Lighting Model. I wanted to explore what could be done with projector lights, scripted lighting and a few other things.

 

Setting the environment

Controlling environmental light in SL isn’t an easy thing – everyone can set their lighting settings to whatever they like, but I wanted the Conrad to beĀ dark and to only have the light that I wanted in there.

The solution I was running with in the end used a small HUD that used RLV to set the user’s environment to a completely blacked out one and prevent them from selecting another while they were inside the build. Access to the ConradĀ would be by donning the HUD and being teleported to the entrance.

This allowed me, for RLV users anyway, to control the environment and trap the players in the darkness – something I felt was important. If they could turn the lights on at any time it’d lose a lot of impact. There would have been a “bailout” option that would teleport the player out of the build and release the environmental controls.

To give the players some control they would have been given a torch. I played around with this in a number of ways and eventually settled on a two part torch solution. There would be a simple prop torch that the avatar would hold in their hand and an invisible prim that attached to the avatar’s eyeball that would actually project the light into the scene. This allowed the torchlight to follow the avatar’s gaze in mouselook or to follow the movements of their mouse when in third person view.

Conrad Torch

Scripted Lighting

There’s a scene inĀ Alien where Dallas visits Mother, the ship’s main computer. As he enters the computer core the fluorescent lights come on, flickering then stabilising, with that characteristic ticking noise. I always liked that look of the environment blinking into life around the character.

The very first part of the Conrad that I built was a corridor with a door at one end. When you clicked on the door to open it the lights in the corridor would flicker on, illuminating the previously dark corridor. I thought it made a good introduction to the scene.

Conrad Main Door

The lighting clusters are scripted to listen for a message from the door saying that it’s either opening or closing. When they receive this message they enter a randomly timed sequence of flickering on and off before settling. The script affects the projector light component, the “full bright” and glow settings of the fluorescent tubes. The projector texture is one I made in Lightwave depicting the light cast from a similar lighting assembly – it’s mentioned in a previous post.

There’s various other scripted lighting events around theĀ Conrad build that add some reactivity to the environment, but they mostly follow a similar scheme to the one above.

One that doesn’t is in the main lounge area. The lighting here is completely dark except for some light cast into the scene from four screens set up near the ceiling. One of the screens is broken and dark, two display information about the ship’s condition and one is flickering.

CONRAD Lounge

This screen is scripted on a loop to just flicker on and off endlessly. The picture is warning about a biohazard alert and projecting its flashing light onto the door that leads the player down into the lower decks. I was trying to use this to begin to set a gradually more dangerous feel as the player moves down through the ship.

Animated Lighting

In a previous post I talked about making the classic cliche light-shining-through-a-fan. I covered that pretty thoroughly there, but I figured that while I was making animated GIFs I ought to toss one of that in here.

Conrad Cargo Bay

 

So, where now for theĀ Conrad? I’m probably going to tear it down, strip out the useful and re-usable scripts, make some notes on my mistakes (of which there are many), and wait for the mood to take me with another idea where I can use these techniques. I’m going to try to package up as many of the props and textures as I can and distribute those for free so anyone can use them in their builds – watch this space.

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