Time for a break but
what have we learned?
When I started writing about vehicles in SL, there was an element of exploration into this area of the animated chat room. Lately, it has become increasingly like a job and I'm going to take a little break to see what comes next with SL and the SL vehicle industries.
What have we learned from this exploration?
Development and Evolution
The ACS/KCP script is the market leader into ground and some water vehicles. The script works and for builders, it seems relatively easier to use this type of scripting on their vehicles than perhaps other market based or proprietary scripts. SL makes a very poor simulation environment and as such, we can't truly expect vehicle simulation or emulation. Instead, we have functional vehicle similarity.
I have said before that there is room for an evolutionary transformation into vehicle scripting and there are many bright minds to do this. A case in point is the BWind script for boats and the scripting that builds from that one free script. What you have are sailboats such as the Bandit which more closely emulate RL in look, feel and challenge. Aviation scripts more closely emulate RL aviation in feel and function even as gravity is similar to what exists on the moon not to mention the lack of a relative wind impacting control surfaces. So why is it that ground based vehicles are stuck with ACS/KCP?
The answer lies in the development costs and how that translates into the builders' development costs to reconfigure or rebuild their vehicles using a new technology. Would ACS/KCP create a new mousetrap? Would the builders use the new mousetrap to attract and retain customers? What you would have is similar to the conversion from prim based objects to mesh based objects, the evacuation of those who built a business around one principle only to be flummoxed by a new basis of design and building. Anyone remember Ramos Designs?
In 2008, I started in SL. I would see at login 60K to 80K users online. Sure, some were bots but most were people like you and me. That number is close to half of what it was. Is there a demand for a newly scripted class of vehicles with a declining and aging population inworld? From a business point of view, I would be doubtful though it might drive interest for people to become involved in SL going forward and now we're not talking about LL's boondoggle, Sansar. This leaves the ground vehicle sector at its limits and while this position might be fine for many, I find it very disappointing as a consumer.
There are very distinct industry sectors for vehicles: aviation, watercraft and ground vehicles. There are sub classes with subcultures for each. These subcultures drive the development of newer vehicles and how quickly they are brought to market. Ground vehicles push to market at a rapid pace where the aviation sector may see a new better aircraft a few times a year, maybe more. Watercraft is the slowest.
It appears to me a greater demand exists for new motorcycles or automobiles than there is for a new airplane, helicopter or sailboat. Though when a new helicopter or sail boat is released, the subculture releases its lindens like dollars during a lap dance. You can probably count on two hands the number of legitimate aircraft and boat builders, collectively, whereas, there are a plethora of bike and automobile builders. Is there demand for new bikes or is the market saturated?
The markets are significantly and differently sized across sectors. Also, pricing for a new bike design (considering development and asset creation costs) is probably lower than a new plane or boat. Just think of it, a sailboat is far more complex with far more moving parts than a motorcycle. This impacts profit margins and the time a builder has to invest in new designs and product releases.
Here is another sector, law enforcement and emergency services roleplay vehicles. I was police chief of a role play community for awhile and did law enforcement role play at other communities for several months. For a moment, I was king of the dweebs, lovingly said.
There are really only TWO vehicle builders who make and sell police vehicles in SL which are also more or less realistic: SZYM and ProStreet. From a RP point of view, the vehicles are incredible in their functionality and lighting systems. Driving them, well that's another story. The SZYM, though it drives well, has too active a suspension and doesn't tolerate mesh roads by bottoming out while the wheels search for something solid and the ProStreet vehicles behave as if you're driving on ice. Damn they look good though!
Wolf Tactics makes an awesome police motorcycle using the KCP scripting though it is sized horribly small and when you scale it up, the geometry of the riding position makes it look kind of wrong. When it comes to emergency vehicles, HUDs are necessary to control the lighting and sirens as well as radar systems. Also, the lighting has to be bright, flexible and of a high quality, simple flashing scripts aren't going to cut it. Emergency services RPers are plentiful and they want low lag performance, ability to easily customize markings and relative reality.
We had a number of builders get tossed out of SL as well. Probably the most prolific bike builder was tossed out of SL, rightfully so as he did violate the rules LL has established and made clear. Others have been spanked by big brother for misusing RL brands and trademarks.
Some builders may believe that SL is its own microcosm and disregard trademark laws in order to make a buck...or linden. Many come from other nations than the one governing LL and SL, the United States. If they think, "I don't live in the States, I can do what I want." They find themselves very mistaken. It still happens though. I've seen Harley logos, Chevy bowties and aviation trademarks. It happens in SL and happens in other games too. Still, follow the law and you'll still make money. If you don't....see ya!
We Had Some Fun Too!
We tried drag racing and I won the races three times. This was cool and then we learned how the NRRA drag system works. It is the system most used and we have heard of a new system being developed.
NRRA bases wins on who crosses the start line (reaction time) quickest providing the racer finishes the race and does not exceed the class speed limit. If two racers have the same reaction time (crossing the start line) then the elapsed time decides the winner. Elapsed time is somewhat arbitrary and isn't based on the formula D = R x T or if it is, there are other anomalies influencing the value. What should matter in a race is who crosses the finish line first providing the racer didn't red light or exceed the class speed limit. We still had fun doing it and have no regrets!
Lizzy and I have also sailed hundreds of sims and spent a lot of time growing with one another while we explored. Sailing remains the most soothing of experiences and sometimes Lizzy wasn't lulled to sleep. It was the sound rather than the conversation. What's bizarre is my most read article is the one I did a long time ago about the Bandit 60. It must be linked somewhere else.
Motorcycles became the centerpoint of what we write about and what we do. They are still a lot of fun within the limits they have. That said, there are fewer tracks to ride. Sim owners incur an expense to owning a sim and if you own one with skytracks or an airport, it is very tough to have it break even.
I can't move on without touching on one subject however. Lizzy and I owned a popular live music venue for quite awhile. We closed it completely this year and haven't looked back. I found a great deal of joy in what we had accomplished with the venue but also became disillusioned with the live music sector and the motivations of some of the people in it. When you go hear an artist performing live, take a moment and think about the people who own the venue. They are the only ones losing money and they are losing a lot of money. When I see FB posts about artists complaining about not getting paid enough, in my mind, our decision to leave live music is reinforced.
This blog has been such a blessing and so much fun to write. We have met incredibly talented people who have also been supportive of what we are doing...and get it. Things That Move is not a business because I don't charge for services. Some people could say by giving me a bike or car to review, that is compensation. It isn't, I have dozens and dozens of vehicles in my inventory, most I seldom pull out after writing a review. The writing and photographs matter yet what matters most is to expose SL pixel people to what exists and what they can expect.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Lizzy and I are going to be back from time to time but we're playing another game and both of us need some time away from the flat earth of SL. Also RL is kicking up for both of us and the time needed to properly review a product is becoming harder to invest. Also, I'm burned out. Any one of those reasons is enough to dim the lights.
Every now and then, I might fire up the keyboard and start writing here. Is it right to say writing can be cathartic? I don't want this project to feel like it is a job, I want it to feel creative and maybe thought provoking...or whatever. It needs to feel right to the writer and the reader. Hell, I've tweaked this article a few times since publishing. Mostly to fix some edit issues but to add a few thoughts as well. So yeah, I still enjoy writing.
How does one be creative in reviewing a product while balancing criticism without pissing someone off? I've played nicely in my reviews and only reviewed builders who make products I like. If I'm going to slam a builder, I doubt seriously, that same builder will be inclined to invest in a product review knowing I'll pick the product apart. Maybe they will and perhaps I should go down that path.
At present, I'm not interested in melting snowflakes however and SL is a small world. If it were me and someone shredded my product, I might consider the review as constructive and build a better one next time. Or I might pull a product off of MarketPlace because OF a bad review when the product was crap...thanks Pixlights!
Maybe it is time for someone else to step in the void and start punching keys to write their own product reviews. Maybe its time for me to be selective, critical and direct in my own reviews. Anyway, it is time to take a little break so I can focus on other areas of life. I'll continue writing when the mood suits me and I have the time to do it.
Life is a journey not a series of destinations. Lizzy and I always keep the sails up and looking for wind to keep our journey in motion. We are our own Things That Move in SL!
Let's get moving Badger!!
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You can get updates and new reviews through our Facebook group "Things that Moves in SL" which you should absolutely join or on my Google+ page. Lizzy and I review bikes, boats, cars and aircraft. If you would like us to review something that moves, send us a message.