Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Landscapes Unlimited in The Drax Files: World Makers

Draxtor Despres has made a video about me and my work in SL. It's episode 36 in The Drax Files: World Makers. Please have a look and enjoy the result of Draxtor's work. It was a true pleasure to work with him, and I'm very proud of the result!

When Draxtor propsed to make a video about me and my work I was reluctant to go along with it, because, obviously, I'd have to be on camera in real life and I wasn't sure if I'd want that. Draxtor convinced me he wouldn't make me look (or sound) bad, so I agreed. I wish to congratulate Draxtor with the beautiful, visually very attractive result and thank him for the professional and fun way in which he produced it!

Several customers helped in making the video by showing how they use my designs in Second Life, and many even agreed to record real life footage for Draxtor to use. I'm very grateful they did, it shows Second Life is all about real people realising their dreams in our virtual world, and it makes me very proud to be a part of that. I would especially like to thank Nora Vanderpoole, Corwin Lacourte, Nekome, Merrick Falconer, Zachh Barkley, Origen (love the suit!), Annakari Genesis, EloiseBlake and Stavaros, and also Marianne McCann for making the moon base on my sim.

You can visit a few scenes that were used for the video here:

Yosemite Surround

Sahara Solid Sky Landscape

Lunar Base Solid Sky Landscape

Landscape Store with Hebrides surround

Som's Retreat with Patagonia surround (open to the public)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Version 6 surrounds released with several innovations

It's time for a big new release: I've added nine completely new scenes to my collection of full sim surrounds.

Pathagonia, with waterfalls

I've regarded it a challenge to improve my work in as many ways as possible, and it's for you to judge if I've succeeded. Here is a list of all technical changes:
  • All textures have normal maps, which means shadows are sharper and lighting is much better, and 3D details are visible that wouldn't be visible without them;
  • All textures match perfectly with the land forms. Waterlines are horizontal, like they are in the physical world;
  • Waterfalls have a natural shape, have a low-lag type of animation, and have normal maps to make them look 3D;

Tropical Paradise, with waterfalls
  • All landscapes have baked texture sets for four seasons (except the Tropical Paradise, which has four scenes instead of seasons). Switching from one to the other is easy by using the HUD;
  • There are more off-sim trees than ever before, as a result of using a billboard technique. As many as 42 trees are shown by one single mega prim. The trees have normal maps as well, which makes them appear fully 3D. The trees are alpha masked, which means they do not cause alpha sorting problems ("alpha glitch"). Pine trees for all seasons, palm trees... They're all there and can be chosen by HUD;
  • 31 Matching terrain textures are included, for all seasons: perfect to make your sim terrain match the surroundings;
  • These landscapes do not blank out the world map: a technique is used to prevent that from happening.
Gorges du Veron, winter scene

Besides these innovations, other succesful changes introduced with the version 5 landscapes have also been applied:
  • An advanced menu lets you remove all scripts after deploy;
  • They do not obstruct any kind of sitting animation (unscripted sit, multi-sit), nor will they cause spikes of lag on your sim.
Unfortunately, normal maps can only be seen when Advanced Lighting is switched on (Graphics section of your Preferences).

For now, this new set of surrounds is only available for single island regions. You can find them here in my store. Free demos are available, make sure to use them before purchasing a real one! You can get them all in one buy as well.

Changes in store assortment: many items dropped, some items added

The assortment of items that can be purchased in my in-world store has changed. I've noticed that in my old store there were too many things to choose from. This made it hard for people to decide what to use. Added together, there was a staggering number of 231 items in my old store.

All Version 4 landscapes, that were originally released in 2009 and 2010, are now only available in single All-In-One items. You can select the landscape you want (and change its textures etcetera) by using the HUD. Because you cannot choose a cheaper single version anymore, I've lowered the price of the All-In-One items considerably. There is still one very popular original sim surround available in a 'Lite' edition: no HUD, but still copyable.

All original (version 4) land level landscapes; four All-in-One items and one 'Lite' surround

I don't distinguish between Gold, Silver and Bronze version 5 landscapes anymore. All are now copyable and have a HUD to change scenes and textures. Previously these would have been called Gold. The most popular ones (the Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Tropics landscapes) are also available in a 'Lite' edition: they have no HUD, but are copyable. This is better than the previously called Bronze landscapes, because these weren't copyable. That makes the best ones available for people with less financial means.

All 'Lite' surrounds and some version 5 land level landscapes. Touch the pictures and see what they look like in the pit

New in the assortment are the Version 6 full sim surround landscapes. All new ones are copyable with a HUD, that allows for season and texture change. Three scenes are also available in a 'Lite' edition: copyable, but without the possibility to change them. Read more about them in this blog post.

All recently added version 6 fulol sim surrounds, including the (orange) 'Lite' version of some of them

In my store there now are 79 items available (43 sky landscapes, 36 land level landscapes), including 11 new version 6 surrounds. That should make it a lot easier for you to find what you need!

The in-world store has moved to land level

Today I opened my new store on Landscapes Unlimited. During the last few years, my store was in the sky, and consisted of wooden terraces surrounded by a sky landscape. From now on, the store will be at ground level. All people arriving on my sim will land on the top of a rocky island, covered by a pine forest. This island, completely made of mesh, is surrounded by the brand new Hebrides sim surround landscape. Read more about my latest sim surrounds in this blog post.

The mesh island with the store in the middle, the new Hebrides surround around it

A path on the Eastern side leads you down to several stone terraces with my products. Five terraces have a pit in the middle, where you can see a tiny version of the landscapes that can be purchased at that particular terrace. You can click the pictures on the boards, and the demo will change accordingly.

In pits like these you can see what the landscape on the pictures looks like in 3D

I've brought down the number of items that can be purchased in my shop. You can find more information in this blog post. What it comes down to, is that you can still find everything I had previously, but it may now be part of an All-In-One item. From 231 items in my old store, the new one has now only 79 items. This includes 11 just released version 6 surrounds. This change should make it a lot easier for you to find what you want.

The hot air balloon is doing its tours again around the store and surroundings. Hop in and enjoy!

The mesh island in the middle will become more interesting over the next few months. You can already enjoy a ride in the hot air balloon, or sit on a bench and admire the view with a friend. Soon there will be a boat that you can steer around the island. Every now and then I will add new features. I'm planning to make a small fishing village, roads with hairpin curves, winding up the steep slopes, tunnels, an occasional waterfall, secluded beaches and a labyrinth of caves and tunnels. Since the ground is made of mesh, this should all be possible. I'd like to make a really nice place where people come to relax with their friends and enjoy some of the beauty Second Life has to offer.