Sunday, May 07, 2006

Balloons, Diplomacy, Appeasement and Potted Meat

I have been informed several times in the last week that my Touring Dirigible in Caledon has been found in peculiar places. Some of these places are understandable - say, trapped in a tower which has grown somewhat since I last plotted the course - but some are frankly inexplicable. For instance: even given the vagaries of the physics engine, how could a dirigible find its way inside the top floor of the Academy, when it is actually too large to enter?

I suspect that some person has been taking pot-shots at my balloon. This is not a pastime that meets with my approval. I have therefore put into place further scripting which will enable me to locate any such culprit should this occur again (as well as raising the travelling height of the balloon somewhat).

Further on the subject of balloons, various of the landed gentry of Caledon seem to have become recently most interested in the practice of diplomacy, manifesting itself in the construction of gunboats. Whilst I am at heart a peaceful soul and wish no part in imperialist endeavours, I clearly cannot let such a craze go past without contributing in some small way, lest my reputation as a gunsmith suffer.

Gun balloon Gun balloon firing

Hence the Ordinal Gun Balloon, built around a giant cannon somewhat reminiscent of my Engine Rifle, though much larger. A most diplomatic device, I'm sure you will agree, though pedestrians should be aware that it is, well, almost impossible to actually hit anything smaller than a wildebeest, except perhaps by accident.

To be honest the building was largely inspired by my desire to build a vehicle that utilised Mouselook for its guidance. Whilst not in Mouselook, one controls the Gun Balloon fairly conventionally, rotating it, moving forwards and backwards and the like. Whilst in Mouselook, however, the balloon orientates itself to point in the direction that you are looking.

This is not a terribly complicated effect to achieve at heart, merely requiring the use of llSetVehicleFlags(VEHICLE_MOUSELOOK_STEER);. However, I was somewhat perplexed for a while as to how, precisely, to get this to work. The mistake that I was unknowingly making involved the angular motor. The Wiki is fairly clear on this, but I had, ahem, not actually read that section.

For the direct information of those reading though, the issue is that the value of the angular motor whilst VEHICLE_MOUSELOOK_STEER is active is not actually the value of the angular motor, as such. Instead, the angular motor is controlled entirely by the direction that the avatar is looking in and its difference from the vehicle's current forward X-axis - and the value of the angular motor is in fact a scaling factor for this. So, if one uses:

llSetVehicleVectorParam(VEHICLE_ANGULAR_MOTOR_DIRECTION, <1.0, 1.0, 5.0>);

whilst Mouselook Steering is active, rotation about the vehicle's Z-axis will be five times more responsive than about other axes. Being the silly sausage that I am I was regularly setting the angular motor to zero, thus cancelling all of my piloting mouselookery completely.

~ * ~

The vital issue of suitable hats, though, has not been satisfactorily addressed in Caledon to my mind. One cannot have naval vessels, aerial or otherwise, without appropriate headgear, and, to be frank, epaulets are needed as well. Hats first, diplomacy later.

~ * ~

I am aware that I seem to be spending less and less time here writing on the subject of the actual mechanics of scripting. I am not precisely sure why that is, but to be frank, I suspect that it is because I am now past the stage where I am constantly encountering new functions within LSL of which I was not previously aware, and am now more at the stage where one wrangles with reality itself, using the functions as a tool with which hopefully to beat the laws of physics into submitting to one's will. Quite frequently, of course, the capricious spirits governing the natural sciences within Second Life merely laugh at the feeble attempts of mere mortals to achieve their goals, and there is little that one can do against their will.

I was wondering whether one could take a different approach to trying to beat them with Science, and instead try to appease them. Praying to their masters is sometimes effective but again, a slow process. I thought, for instance, that one might have a vehicle which, upon approaching the famously haunted borders between Sims, began a ritual chant and perhaps lit some incense. I am not quite sure what sacrifices the Spirits Of The Physics Engine really appreciate - they certainly seem to enjoy taking my balloons, so perhaps a set of smaller balloons could be launched to meet their approval.

I have found, on this subject, that when a dirigible is crossing these boundaries, if it slows down to a walking pace and begins to repeat a mantra, it is much less liable to being thrown into the centre of the Grid or otherwise discombobulated. (One cannot actually hear the mantra, but trust me, it is repeating it within its little scripted mind.)

~ * ~

I must mention finally the most appropriate movement by certain of those with Power in Second Life to remove the detritus that silts up the Events listings, sometimes involving the presence of a green and purple pony. I am not one to criticise potted meat, a fine invention, but really - it is appropriate for sailors, explorers, students, not lists of Events, where one should be able to find unique occurrences rather than simply folk playing baccarat or whatever it is people do all day in casinos.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hats first, diplomacy later."

I have to say, with this statement, I couldn't possibly agree more.

I found myself at your shop a couple of days ago with a friend, (I'll be moving into the Highlands sometime most likely today or tomorrow) and after perusing your many wonderous creations, we went upstairs to find the touring derigible. I saw only the gunboat of which this post speaks and though thinking it odd that a touring derigible would have a large gun affixed to the front end, not to mention but one seat, I hopped on. My friend found a rather precarious perch on one of the balloons. After waiting a moment for it to go, and experimentally touching various parts of the vehicle, I'd realized we had perhaps found something entirely different, though I decided to give the throttle a tap (I frequently lose battles with my curiosity) and it lurched forward. To make a long story short, we took the gunboat around for a spin. I'm quite picky with my vehicles, being an avid collector, but I have to say it was a wonderful flight, you have my compliments. Hopefully you don't mind too much! (I do trust you found it in the condition, and location that I originally found it?) Would you by chance be considering selling any of them in the future?

I do hope to meet you soon, as a fellow citizen of Caledon, and as a prospective student of the School that I understand you've had a hand in founding.

Till then...

Jaseppi Calliope

5/10/2006 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Aldo Stern said...

I am intrigued by your contribution to the "arsenal of diplomacy"--in many ways it is suggstive of a steampunk version of the A-10 "Warthog" which is essentially an airframe built around a massive 13-foot long General Electric 30mm revolving cannon. Your Galting-style piece with its prominently visible barrels is so sufficiently intimidating on a visual level that I suspect whether or not you can acutally hit anything with it, is largely peripheral. I imagine merely its appearance will encourage Caledon's neighbors to be favorably inclined towards an attitude emphasizing international cooperation and friendly relations.

And yes, Caledon's desparate lack of fore and aft hats, epaulets, and nice blue tailcoats with lots of cuff lace is rapidly approaching the critical point. I have asked a freind of mine who is very creative in the production of themed clothing, to see if she can come up with anything and suggesting some illustrations of HMS Pinafore costumes as inspiration. We will see what she is able to accomplish, although she said she had tried to make chapeau de bras in the past and found them rather difficult.

5/11/2006 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Ordinal Malaprop said...

Ah, I seem to have missed the first comment! Please do not be concerned, Mr or Ms Calliope, I did find the Gun Balloon. There was a period when the touring dirigible had to be removed for maintenance and I suspect that you came across the plot during that period. I am most gratified that you enjoyed the flight and am pleased to say that I will indeed be selling the design, once I have improved a few other details.

Mr Stern: indeed! That was one of the machines that I had in mind when designing it; basically, one is sitting upon a large cannon, which also happens to have a propulsion system. The steam engine provides power for the rotation of the barrels and a difference engine compensates for their recoil with extra thrust. I am considering making the shells themselves explosive, so as to increase the likelihood of damaging targets, but as you say the visual effect is already most intimidating, and they do make such a terrific noise as well.

I am extremely pleased to hear that a talented tailor is thinking on the matter of naval attire, as I have found it most difficult to find myself, and I have no talent with a needle and thread. I have found many modern naval uniforms, but really, they don't even have feathers, it's most inadequate.

5/11/2006 07:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Aldo Stern said...

My dear Miss Malaprop,

Explosive rounds from that monster would have an astonishing effect, I think. Much like the standard loads for the GE GAU 8/A 30MM of the A-10 which utilizes a 3-round mixture--explosive, incendiary, and and an API that has a projectile consisting of a light aluminum jacket around a depleted uranium core.

The AP round's depleted uranium core is of course incredibly dense. When it hits armor it sheds the jacket and plows through the metal, and then the friction of entering the target heats up the uranium so that it ignites upon entrance to the interior of the vechicle.

Nasty but effective stuff, especially as rate of fire on the damned thing is about 4,200 RPM.

I was interested to learn that the rotation of your revolving cannon's barrels was driven by power provided by the craft's primary steam engine--I suspected it might, as opposed to early gatlings, which of course were manually turned by means of a crank handle, or the later motorized versions that are electrically driven.

I must confess, that I am still hoping that you, skilled gunsmith that you are, dear Lady, will attempt a water cooled Maxim-type MG (the most complex part I believe would be the T&E mechanism on the mount--everything else is pretty much simple rectangles and tubes). Jeremy Pertwee, whom I believe you know, has expressed interest in doing a Lewis gun, and I think the two different types of authentic period full-auto weapons would very nicely compliment each other.

I'll keep you posted on the hat and epaulet progress--haven't heard anything yet.

Aldo Stern, Madman

5/12/2006 06:21:00 AM  

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