Tunnel vision

Lego aside, there are not many building systems that permit the level of complexity and flexibility afforded by SL. No matter what you’re constructing, the simplicity and adaptability of the simple prim for construction is remarkable. If it’s greater realism or intricacy that we’re looking for – and our skills are up to it – then mesh more than adequately fills any gaps, and all in all, there’s really not very much that can’t be built, either inworld or imported in, no matter how demanding our specification. Where I think SL does fall down a little, however, is in allowing us the flexibility to adapt our surroundings to complement our builds.

Before I came to SL, if you’d mentioned terraforming to me, my mind would be filled with visions of alien planets being prepared for colonisation by dedicated, hard-bitten world-building teams at the far reaches of the galaxy, (usually, it ended badly, thanks to the inevitable alien nasties, lurking in the shadows, but then again, I watch far too much sci-fi for my own good!)

Bearing that in mind, it was somewhat disappointing to discover the limitations of inworld terraforming which, unless you’re fortunate enough to own your own private island, is pretty much limited to making bumps and depressions, and even if you are an estate owner, you’re still pretty limited as to the extent that you’re able to customise the land you own.

One thing I find particularly annoying is how limited your choices are for tunneling, burrowing and other underground earthworks. Whilst there are a number of ingenious – and not so ingenious – solutions that you’ll see around the Grid, none of them are as straightforward and satisfying as simply being able to tunnel through a hillside or dig a cave with real ground above you. And, whilst we’re underground, there’s that water table issue to be considered… There’s nothing that ruins the illusion of plunging beneath the earth quite so much as being forced to make a transition between dry land and being completely submerged underwater simply because we’ve descended below sea level.

I’m also irritated that I can change the appearance of my sky, daylight cycle and water, but my parcel is stuck either with the terrain textures selected by the estate owner – and arbitrarily based on height maps – or I have to go to the trouble of creating fake ground cover to make up for my lack of control over customisation.

There must, obviously, be sound technical reasons that preclude giving residents the ability to modify their land beyond the existing constraints – but if it was possible, it’s something that would definitely appear on my wishlist, and I sure that there are a great many who would agree with me, although it’s something that I doubt we will see any time in the near future, if at all. In the meantime, I guess we’re stuck with all those alternative, but not quite satisfactory solutions, that we’ve developed over the years instead, although it does seem a bit perverse to me that some of the best ‘underground’ locations in SL are actually located in the sky, which is just fine, until you inadvertently cam out to discover you’re inside a giant floating box.

Or worst still, as I seem to manage to do every single time… You find the only gap, and next moment you’re plummeting through the sky, falling – bizarrely – from deep underground!

s. x

And the public wants what the public gets
But I don’t get what this society wants
I’m going underground
Paul Weller – Going Underground

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