So, last week I talked here in a special two-part report, about how I had finally found some land for myself in the grid, in order to build a headquarters and event space for this magazine and blog. That's always been part of the plan for ITG, after all, is to mesh together real life and Second Life in as many ways as possible: to have the blog here on the web, a monthly magazine you can print on paper, an in-game headquarters for artistic events and reader meet-ups, to sponsor a big fun party at next year's SL Community Convention, and hopefully even have a paper book for sale by then too, collecting the best 40 or so essays and interviews from this blog over the last twelve months.
So I've been hard at work this week, then, actually constructing the ITG headquarters; which is why I haven't been going to many events, which is why I don't have my usual "random photos of the week" entry, which I usually run here on weekends. So instead I thought I'd give you a little photo tour of the complex as it now exists; which is almost in its final form, but you know how fluid the concept of "final" gets within a virtual reality. The building process, in fact, has turned out to be so much simpler a thing than I thought it was going to be -- more like a 3D version of Photoshop or Quark XPress than anything else, where you simply pull out basic shapes (called "prims" there), click and drag them into any size you want, click and drag them into any position or angle you want, and then add whatever .jpg image you want to its sides as a texture. Now, the old rule of creativity and technology still applies -- it's only those who become masters of the software who can do masterful things -- but for the rest of us newbie schlubs, constructing an eye-pleasing structure isn't nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be.
Now, be warned that the full photo essay contains a lot of images, 30 altogether, which is why most of them are located after the jump instead of the front page. That said, please feel free to click through and check things out if you have some extra time and bandwidth; I had specific reasons for doing all the things I did, which I explain as we go through the tour. Enjoy.
So here's the first thing you see when you teleport in from the official landmark [Yongdong 186/177/21]; the teleport pad, a small section of ground away from the main complex, where new arrivals can take a moment to rez in or change outfits or whatever. I'm a fan of places that dedicate a separate space away from their centers for teleporting in (which is not what you have to do in SL, by the way -- you can set your landmark for the middle of a dancefloor if you want); I think it helps with the sometimes jarring experience of landing somewhere new in the grid, especially when you're on a slower computer like mine (a Mac Mini sole processor, about as slow as it gets while still being able to run the SL client).
And then when you turn around, you get your first view of the ITG complex itself, there in the near distance, connected by a marble plankway. And then to your left there is an interactive advertisement; clicking on it will open the web browser on your computer and load this blog. Sweet! And then once the first issue is out, there will be another ad below this one, where clicking on it will give you an in-game "Heads-Up Display" (HUD) version of the magazine. As the marketers might say, it's a floating hepcat lounge and a branding experience!
Once you walk over from the teleport pad, then, this is the first area you interact with; an informal greeting area, patio, foyer, whatever you want to call it. This gets into one of the various things I had to keep in mind while designing the ITG complex, which is that it's eventually going to be used for multiple types of events; from one-on-one meetings with advertisers and interview subjects, to informal social events and small artistic discussions, to full-blown fashion shows and dance parties. It was important to me that I create a series of "spaces" within my land to accommodate such events, so that none would feel inappropriate.
Here off the greeting area, by the way, you can see one of the only elements of the entire complex there purely for ornamentation; my nice little random growth of bamboo, right next to the walkway. For as much evangelizing as I do about the big things that can be done with small spaces (and I do a lot of it, as you'll see below), there is of course also a problem with minimal parcels like the 512 square meters I have; that according to the rules of the game engine, I'm only allowed to build 117 prims on it altogether. And with many pieces of furniture being comprised of dozens of prims on their own, you can see how quickly this can add up when trying to erect a house on top of it. If you want to get creative about using a small parcel, you have to start thinking in terms of combining the functional with the ornamental; like how that hanging ivy you see in the background doubles as a load-bearing wall as well. Such things are only possible in the grid, where the normal laws of physics don't apply; those who take advantage of it will find themselves with the opportunity to build much cooler things for a lot less money.
So here then is the inside of the first-floor area, where you can see very plainly what I'm talking about when it comes to space. The area we're looking at is basically 10 meters by 10 meters (30 by 30 feet), the largest a single prim can be stretched; and most in SL think that this is just such a tiny, utterly inconsequential amount of space, and can't wait to start linking those 100-square-meter prims together into something truly substantial. But hey, as you can see in this photo, 900 square feet isn't something to sneeze at! That's roughly the size of most convenience stores in RL, after all, a size that can easily hold a 20-person social event. It's a shame, I think, that so many people rush out and spend so much extra money to have a large parcel of land, when a small one that's a free part of their Premium membership will often do the trick just as nicely.
Another one of my personal design goals, then, was just a purely personal quirk; I wanted to blur the lines between outdoor and indoor space at the ITG complex as much as possible. Hey, why not, right? In a world without weather damage or theft, what's the point in the first place of all those walls and doors and ceilings and whatnot? This, then, blended nicely into my other design goal, to create a series of distinct spaces for accommodating different numbers of people; see this deck area outside, for example, which definitely feels like a distinct area separate from the interior "room," just through the addition of a waterfall, two trees and a piece of smoky glass.
Here, by the way, is what the land of my western next-door-neighbor looks like; not much more than undeveloped beachfront and a tasteful house. As I mentioned in my land-shopping report last week, this was one of the many reasons I decided on this parcel in the first place; that at least so far, my neighbors are mostly a mix of wealthy private individuals and tasteful businesses.
Okay, time to go up! Because, see, that I think is one of the ways a person can still be highly creative with a small parcel of land; by simply building vertically instead of horizontally. I mean, a landowner's got what, a half-mile in the sky or something now that they can build skyboxes and the like, along with every foot from there all the way down to the ground as well. There are many ways to travel vertically in SL, from teleporters to elevators, multi-prim staircases to single-prim ramps, even simple flying. In this case I chose a single-prim glass ramp, just because I thought it looked cool, and because people don't have a long way to go to their destination.
And here's the destination; the main floor of ITG headquarters, a 1,500-square-foot exhibition hall, capped by a 30-foot-high glass cube. Oh, c'mon, like you wouldn't kill to own a 30-foot-high uncrackable glass cube to throw dance parties at in real life! Admit it! This is going to be a perfect space, I think, for all of the larger events ITG ends up hosting in the grid; fashion shows, Skype talks and poetry events, film festivals, dance parties and more. And really, seriously, how can you beat a 30-foot-high glass cube with your company's logo etched into the side of it?
And then here you can finally see the source of the mysterious waterfall on the first floor; I have an entire working pool up here on the second, being fed by a mysterious fountain on the east and flowing westward through the wall and down the side. This is all animated when you're actually in the grid, by the way; it really does look like the water is flowing westward and downward. Even cooler, the prim itself is just a flat transparent block, so it acts as if I had enclosed a glass top on the pool; people can stand on it, walk across it, without getting "wet."
Oh, and then this photo shows two details I wanted to mention:
1) Unfortunately, to create a space for the stairway to connect, I had to place a prim on either side and leave out a gap in the middle; there's sadly no way to "take a bite" out of one flat prim. I could've filled it in with more smoky glass, but decided to hang a big red velvet drape instead; perhaps my little ode to "Twin Peaks," who knows, I just think it looks cool. I have artificial lighting effects, then, that I can hang on this at night, to make it look especially dramatic.
2) Another secret to building cool things on small parcels; try to ignore the laws of physics as much as possible, unless it's to your advantage. If a fountain, like shown here, doesn't actually need a pedestal attaching it to the ground, but can rather hover magically in the air of its own volition, why not let it? That's the thing that always gets me about so much furniture you see in the grid, and why certain builds are just the prim-black-holes they are; because so much extra work has gone into building the extraneous supports not technically needed in SL itself. If you stretch out a little bit, start thinking a little more space-age and minimalist, you can make a tiny amount of prims go a much longer way there.
Now I admit, the original design of the ballroom called for a completely closed-in cube; once I built it, though, I realized it felt rather claustrophobic. That's one of the nice things about building in the grid, after all, is that changes don't cost any more than the actual construction; just grab one edge of the prim with your mouse and drag, and you suddenly have a 20-foot wall instead of a 30-foot one. I like this updated look much better, plus gives avatars a little more walking and looking-around room, plus of course affords a very dramatic view.
And a couple more shots of the two floors we've now seen. There's an interesting glitch to the texturing process you're seeing here, by the way, that in this case works out to my advantage; that the game engine renders the texture on both sides, not showing the contents of the other side, even when the texture itself is transparent. That's what allows the ITG logo to read correctly (left to right), no matter which direction you're viewing it from. Pretty cool.
All right, ready to head up again? Why yes, there is still another floor of the ITG complex! In this case I chose a minimalist elevator for transporting between spaces, just so there wouldn't be a big ugly tube in the sky for all my neighbors to have to stare at. The second photo, then, shows our destination overhead, the ITG sky garden.
Going up! Naturally this is animated when you're actually in the grid; you actually watch the view drop around you in real time as you rise, and in my case even with sound effects and a greeters voice at each floor. It's great fun to play with from a rolled-back camera angle.
And so here it is, the ITG sky garden, just as minimalist as the rest of the complex, built simply because I thought it'd be cool to have a garden in the damn sky.
Of course, it'd be kind of pointless to build a complex construction in the sky garden, because the entire reason for it existing is to get these breathtaking views of the surrounding area and all my neighbors that are scattered along it. If I haven't mentioned this yet, I live right on the western mouth of what's known as a "cove" or "cape;" as far as I know, in fact, it's the only cape yet existing in the entirety of the public grid, a place I've started simultaneously referring to as "Cape Linden" and "Linden's Vineyard" (because of the tasteful wealthy surroundings; it wouldn't surprise me at all to see James Taylor's avatar wandering around here one day). In fact, as dorky and old-mannish it makes me sound, one of my favorite activities these days is to simply sit in the sky garden and watch the events of my neighborhood unfold, as I'm doing administrative work or categorizing my endless list of landmarks, IMing with friends and the like. Jeez, no wonder so many people here buy homes for what at first seems like no discernable reason!
And then here's a shot of the complex from as far back as the camera will go, straight overhead as if you were looking at "Google SL Satellite" or something. And this is just to remind you of what a small parcel of land we're talking about, and how I was able to do this all in a so-called "newbie" 512 square-meter chunk. When all is said and done, that's roughly 1,700 square feet, and that's all the space even my real-life arts center will be looking for, down the road when we're ready to actually open a physical center in Chicago. 1,700 square feet at one's disposal is nothing to sneeze at; quite a lot of amazing things can be done with such an area, both in RL and in SL.
And then here finally are two more long-view shots of the entire ITG complex, one from overhead and one from my neighbor's house. Not too showy, not too obnoxious, I don't think; not something I think my neighbors are looking at while shaking their heads and saying, "There goes the neighborhood."
Okay, so that's it for today; and make sure to come back next Tuesday for part 2 of this report, where we go out on the water for the first time! (And where gratuitous topless photos of yours truly appear!) Topics will include: the frustrating construction of my underwater lounge; my first snorkeling adventure; the amazing underwater landscape builds my neighbor is constructing right now; and the purchase of my first sailboat (from my southern next-door-neighbor, no less). Ahoy, mateys! Arrrgh!