Monday, 7 June 2010

My Spaceship Project

When I came onto Second Life as a child avatar I was inspired by a story I wanted to tell and a roleplay I wanted to create, and I was looking for a kid friendly sim with land to rent and a beach to build on.

Over the last six months I've been developing my building skills and looking around lots of different places. But I really wished that Loki Eliot's Goony Island, the best place on Second Life for adventurous kids, was a full sim open to builders because it was the perfect place and had the audience I wanted for my story.

About three months ago Loki started talking about plans to change Goony Island from a homestead into a full sim, open to builders who wanted to make their own projects fitting in with the adventurous theme of the island. I immediately started pitching my idea and making sure that my particular requirements for a parcel that overlapped a beach but was mostly underwater would be possible.

Well this weekend Loki made his plans for Goony 2.0 public. There's an introductory blog post up at the moment and a fantastic interactive in world presentation that I recommend you go and visit, and a video version of the presentation online here. I'm sure Loki will be making more blog posts soon about his exciting plans to make Goony Island into the best adventure sim in Second Life.

For Friday's presentation, Loki asked me to also present my story and concept art, to inspire people with the sorts of far out ideas that will work on the new sim. I did this in two parts. The first part was an illustrated retelling on the first part of the story, that will be revealed in world through reading diary entries left at beach level. Think of this almost as a 'trailer' for the bigger story that'll be revealed through exploring the build. The second part was presenting a set of concept images I'd created that show what I plan to build, and talking about how it'll work and the influences behind it. Here is that story...

The Back Story...

Alien treeThe story starts with an unconscious boy, washed up on a beach, waking up to see a weird, unearthy thing growing out of the sand dunes like a giant alien mushroom. The boy doesn't remember how he arrived on the island, he wasn't on a boat, last he remembered he was in the city.

For a few days he lives wild on the island, foraging for roots to eat, knocking coconuts from the trees. He's very hungry but he finds he can't bring himself to kill the deer on the island, or even use his knife to escape from the sharks in the sea.

He's explored every part of the island but he keeps finding himself drawn back to the alien tree on the beach. He can't explain it but he feels like he's meant to be there.

One night he dreams of the alien growth, towering over him, calling his name, calling out so loud that he shouts back, shouts until he wakes up...

Alien spaceship under water...and sees the sea below him has lit up with a strange light...

He swims beneath the surface and discovers there's something huge and alien down there, something fleshy and alive, poking out from below the beach.

Alien tree with closed doorAlien tree with door openingHe surfaces and feels compelled to dig below the alien tree. He has to know what's there, what lies below. He digs at the sand with his hands until he uncovers a puckered round surface.

As he brushes the sand away to get a better look, his hand strokes across the skin-like surface and it twitches under his touch, then begins to retract, to open like a portal into another world.

It's dark inside, he leans in to get a better look, but he slips on the inner rim and falls inside like Alice down the rabbit hole...

Alien spaceship designInside the boy learns that the mysterious object under the beach is an alien spaceship. By exploring and interacting he learns the secrets of the ship, where it came from, how it came to be buried under this beach, why it came here and how he came to be on this island, drawn to its call...

The spaceship is alive. It was grown. It's as much a creature as it is a vessel ...and it has a story to tell...

The Concept

The build will tell a story you learn by exploring and interacting. There will be two different paths to the story, the items, sketches and diary entries left behind by the boy and the secrets to be revealed within the ship.

At the end of the story you learn about a roleplay group based around the secrets of the spaceship, and you find out what happened to the boy, how he came to the island, why he was called, where he's gone now and if he will ever come back.

The Inspiration

The spaceship design is inspired by sea creatures. The exterior is modelled on a 'sea pig', fleshy pink sea creatures with stubby growths coming out of them.

Alien tree with door openingThe interior will be very alien, full of organic shapes without any corners or straight edges, illuminated by bioluminescent glow, inspired by deep sea jellyfish. Think alien looking glowing veins, think 'organic Tron'.

The last concept image shows a cross section of the spaceship allowing you to look inside and see some of the bioluminescent interior.

The Next Step?

As well as making dozens of iterations on the concept art, and working out the story I want to tell, I've also started building experiments as proof of concept that I can make the sort of organic shapes I've imagined.

So far I've built a smoothly animated, scripted organic door that opens and closes like something between a sphincter muscle and an iris. You can go and try this yourself for the next week at the Goony 2.0 Presentation.

I've also experimented with building under water and worked out how to work around the challenges this raised; made a proof of concept oraganic room with no straight lines and an organic doorway using combinations of twisted prims with different cut settings; and produced some early bioluminescence tests.

I'm planning to give progress reports and some tantalising glimpses of the spaceship here as I build, so keep a look out for those!

But Goony 2.0 and my spaceship build can't happen if we don't get enough people involved with the island, adding their projects. So if you're interested in Second Life and have some exciting adventurous build ideas of your own, please get in world and take a look at Loki's presentation this week!

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