Sunday, February 7, 2010

Living the Good Life on 20 prims

Sculpty antique pottery and books in my new office.

I've been getting more involved at Hogwarts lately--getting ready to start teaching a class in magical research and the handling of enchanted books and documents, among other things--and so I finally decided to request an office space at the castle. Doing so truly brought home to me the extent to which sculpted prim and carefully textured low-prim objects have revolutionized how we can deal with that SL equivalent of original sin, the prim limit ("Forgive me Father, for I have prims...").

What lay at the heart of my little epiphany regarding sculpted prims was that when Hogwart's beloved owner, Stormcloud Criss, built my office space in the library, she informed me that my prim allowance for furnishing the space was a princely 20 prims. Now mind you, it had been a while since I had really tried to furnish a space that had a serious prim limit on it. In fact, it had been some time since I had furnished a space in SL, period. So I was not looking forward to this process. I was thinking, "Great...I can have a desk...and a chair--or maybe a cube to sit on--and oh maybe a picture stuck on the wall..."

But then I figured, you know...maybe this isn't so bad...maybe...this could be like a challenge, and if I go look to see what people are making in the way of low prim and sculpted stuff...maybe this will turn out allright.

And it did. With a bit of research and some suggestions of places to look from people like Clay, I learned that low prim and sculpted does not mean ugly and clunky.

Yes, I am aware that sculpted prims have been around forevah, but you know. so much of it lookd dirt-grubbin' butt ugly. But not anymore. The quality of sculpty goods in SL has advanced by leaps and bounds. There is much more to choose from, and more of it looks really, really good. Furthermore, the creative and judicious use of textures also has vastly improved the appearance of low-prim objects that are made from only a few conventional prims.

So here's some of what I was able to do with my 20 prims:

My new office in the library at Hogwarts.

Actually there are some other things you can't see in the image: a couple of decorative vases, some more books and a chest of drawers. I am quite happy with how it turned out, and this really struck me, because I can remember times in the past where I felt like 200 prims wasn't enough for a small space like this.

Here's what's in the office:

* 2 "leather" easy chairs by Pedrolucas Landar at 1 prim each

* a 1-prim bookcase and a 2-prim Tiffany lamp by Brenda Hoisin (Brenda's House of Low Prims)

* a big 2-prim decorative pot by Tan 260 Talon

* a 1-prim ancient Greek-style pitcher by Katelyn Barom

* a huge 2-prim safe and a 2-prim desk by Master Glendevon

* a batch of 1-prim stacks of books by Franklee Anantra

* a 1-prim chest of drawers by Hawk Clayton

* a 1-prim arm chair by Stormcloud Criss

In addition, I also made a number of 1-prim books myself, and a 1-prim rug complete with scorch marks.

Furthermore, by utilizing a "clutter" textured flat prim provided by Glen (Master Glendevon) and some of the books I bought or made, I managed to create the SL manifestation of my vision of what a busy person's desk should look like:

Hey! Don't clean that stuff up! I won't be able to find anything!

And speaking of the joys of sculpties and makin' stuff, I have also got inspired to do some more crap that will be used when I present my class on research. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that these ancient "books" are currently residing in the restricted section of the library and not in my office, so they do not count against my 20 prim limit. Nonetheless, I am confident that their impact is quite minimal: some are very simple 1 or 2-prim cuneiform tablets, while others are 1-prim sculpty papyrus scrolls made with the "cartography pack" (with magnifying glass) from Anthony's Sculpty Republic .

Behold! My papyri, and the crappy cuneiform tablets I made myself. Like Clay says, "makin' shit is addictive..." And that is true, even for those of us who can make only the simplest of objects.

Now, I know there is someone out there who is gonna say....

"But scultpies cause laaaaaag"

(Please note that the above line is best appreciated if spoken with a sharp, nasal whine).

Yeah, I've heard that before. I heard it the other day, in fact. So I looked into it and found that much smarter people than me have already commented at length on the issue of sculpties and lag. So after reading pieces like that, and talking to some friends who make stuff with sculpted prims, I have found that the consensus is, yes, they do cause lag. And they can also reduce lag. Apparently it depends on if you use them wisely. And maybe if it's a full moon or not.

So anyhow, yeah, I know that all this is old news. It's another example of me being way behind the curve (and go on you kids, get off my goddam lawn!). But it really just struck me how much things have changed when it comes to "dressing the set." Content creators in SL keep progressing in not just lowering the number of prims in their products, but also in improving the overall appearance of these items. I am deeply indebted to the people who are doing such creative things with sculpted prims and low-prim objects--and making the end result look so good.


  1. I read this avidly, as I had a similar challenge in furnishing the dorm rooms at Oxbridge. Not being a sculpty wizard I managed to create a room pack with a sofa, a bookcase, a rug, a picture frame with photos inside, a lamp and a sculpted fireplace with log and fire for under 18 prims. My other challenge was the requirement that it all be full permissions, which meant I could not source out with some of the amazingly talented sculptors I knew (besides my in-house tech support who made the lovely fireplace). The Messmers of Amusing Details (who just recently left SL, sadly) have been making some gorgeous Victorian low prim furniture for some time and have provided much of the upholstered furnishings of my places all over SL. Nowadays talented sculpt artists abound, and low prim furniture is so amazing to merit accusations of the Dark Arts being involved in their creation :)

  2. Hey Fogwoman!

    Dang. I'm sorry to hear that the Amusing Details folks have pulled the plug. Dang.

    But I do like you tale of the 18-prim dorm room kits. Hehe, yes, actually I think you hit the nail on the head, that what many of these lowprim/sculpty crafter folks can accomplish is nothing short of magical. I'm not sure if they actually had to enter into some kind of Faustian bargain to do so, but I wouldn't be surprised.

    Hmmm. Now you've got me curious. I'm going to go check to see if there's a "Mephistopheles Linden."

  3. A lot of the sculpted furniture is amazing. The one downside I see to it though is that it raises the bar dramatically for new content creators based largely on the scarcity of prims.

    A lot of the low-prim sculpted furniture contains no more detail or features than can be achieved with normal prims. However making a low-prim sculpted piece requires skill with or access to often expensive and complicated third-party software.

    Its proliferation is part of what I see as a gradual move within SL away from amateur resident creators and towards people with RL professional skillsets and software making all desireable content.

  4. As someone who can hardly rez a plywood cube, I have to buy pretty much everything I have in SL, so this kind of development is (mostly) all good to me. The "mostly" is that those sculpted prims seem to take forever to rez into shape, which means going from place to place is less than thrilling; the first ten minutes are spent watching blobs slowly form into shapes.

    But I can see that this sort of thing discourages the amateur creators and diminishes the "fun" of SL for them. The Linden gods giveth and taketh away...

  5. Hey Rhia and Ernst,

    Yeah, that is an interesting question you bring up. Although I would argue that there has always been a certain level of disparity between novice and amateur builders, and the skilled pros who have significant business prospects.

    The fact was that it always required practice and hard work to make the most saleable products. But at the same time, anyone could start mashing prims and experiment and often timed they eventually would catch the bug to get on with learning how to make better stuff and to get the tools and skills to do so.

    And there still isn't anything to keep the most unskilled prim masher--like me--from making stuff you need and or want. You just have to accept that it may take a lot more prims than someone else's elegant textured sculpt work. Like I say, I am a complete clotpoll at building, but the platform provided tools that allowed me to make things like pontoon bridges, dry sinks, miners' bunks, tables, benches, bars, cuneiform tablets, rock piles, garden follies, fortifications, temples, artillery carriages, framed pictures, stove pipes, roads and sidewalks, watch towers, railings and lamp posts, and a blacksmith's forge, among other things.

    Even though I can't work a sculpty to save my frakkin' life, I still feel like Crockett Johnson's "Harold and the Purple Crayon," capable of drawing things I need from thin air. Yeah, they may be a little crude sometimes, or they may require more prims to make than would be considered ideal, but they cost me nothing except the texture upload and some time. But then I'm usually not interested in trying to sell these things.

    So is it harder for a new craftsperson to begin making stuff and to compete on a commercial level with skilled and experienced content creators? Yeah. But then you can also argue there is another level of disparity that exists within the advanced commercial class as well. It's like Ernst's hammerless shotgun or Jasper Kiergarten's Sharp's rifle. These are just so beautifully made that they completely kick the asses of other similar weapons that successful, experienced weapons makers are producing and selling.

    It's really kind of a crap shoot isn't it?

    If people get discouraged from making things because other people already make really great stuff....geez, I don't know what to say to help them feel better about themselves and maybe go ahead and try. Sometimes you gotta be willing to run the risk of failing, and just grab yourself by the crotch and drag yourself forward into the fray.

  6. I'm not so much concerned that new residents/creators can't compete with experienced ones, people new at something will always be at a learning and skill disadvantage in a market.

    I was thinking more that the addition to sculpties into SL sort of "broke" the idea of SL as a building platform in itself. The basic idea of prims and the building menu within the viewer made SL its own 3D modeling platform that every resident could use to the best of their skill. With sculpties (and soon meshes) this shifts to making the focus outside third-party software, uploading creations ready-built into SL for use.

    Progress? Sure. But sad in a way. I still would like to see some basic yet useful tools for creating animations and sculpties/meshes integrated into the viewer. It wouldn't have to be anywhere near as good as the commercial software, but it would give a much larger group of residents a chance to try their hand at their creation.

  7. Hey Ernst,

    Ok, I see what you were getting at. Yeah, that would be nice if there were simple tools built in so it would be convenient to work with the forms even on a somewhat basic level.

    So any thoughts why why they wouldn't have introduced those "basic yet useful tools"?

  8. I'd say mainly because they don't care. It would take time to code and test, and there is enough free third-party software that it isn't a necessity. I'm actually more surprised there isn't a native animation creation method than there isn't one for sculpties.