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How To Become an Accomplished Architect in Second Life

If you have ever dreamed about building a castle, now's your chance. Learn to manipulate Second Life graphics primitives, and the only limit is your imagination.


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uilding and scripting are two very important skills in the MMOG Second Life. Building is the process by which you create complex 3D structures. Scripting is the process of using a script language to allow those 3D structures to perform tasks, in the game. My last article focused on scripting. In this article I will cover building. I will cover the fundamentals of building and show you how to create a set of 3D objects that will allow you to construct castles, such as the one shown in Figure 1. Understanding Primitives
To begin building you will need to create primitives, called prims for short. Prims are very simple solid geometrical objects. Second Life lets you create 13 different prim types. However, these are made of only seven different basic shapes. For example, a sphere can become a hemisphere by setting a "path cut" begin and end. Using path cuts you can remove a portion of a prim, creating a different shape. Figure 2 shows the seven basic shapes.

 
Figure 1. A Completed Castle: This castle was created from scratch in Second Life.
 
Figure 2. The Seven Primitive Shapes of Second Life: Everything you see in Second Life was created from these seven basic shapes.
Figure 2 shows my game avatar, Encog Dod, standing by the seven primitive types. From left to right, the figure shows the box, prism, cylinder, sphere, torus, ring, and tube. To build one of these primitives, select the "build" option from the bottom of your screen.

 
Figure 3. Creating a Box: Select the magic wand icon from the top of the Building window to create a default "box" primitive.
Author's Note: If build is not enabled, then you are not on land that supports building. Generally you must be on your own land to build. However, if you do not own land, you can use a sandbox. To find a sandbox use the search and search for a sandbox. Sandboxes are regions that allow anyone to build. You'll often find other builders present in sandboxes, so things can get a bit chaotic. Additionally, most sandboxes are cleared out daily. So make sure you take a copy of your creation, if you want it saved.

After you select build, you will see the building window (see Figure 3). To create primitives, select the magic wand icon. By default, you will create a box. If you click anywhere near yourself you will see a box created, as shown in Figure 3. Note that the small "wood textured" box in Figure 3 is selected when you create it. You can tell that the box is selected by fact that there are red, green and blue arrows on the box. These arrows let you move the box any of the three dimensions. Second Life opens a window that shows you options that affect the box primitive. I'll discuss these options later in the article.


You can also rotate and resize primitives in a manner similar to moving an object. You use the mouse to drag and rotate or resize a prim. To rotate a prim use the CTRL key. To resize use the CTRL-SHIFT key combination. Grouping Primitives

 
Figure 4. A Snowman: This group consists of three linked spheres.
You create complex objects by combining primitives. To combine two prims they should be touching, or at least very close. Select your first object normally. However, when you select additional prims hold down the SHIFT key. This lets you select multiple prims. Select all the prims you want to group, and then select "Link" from the tools menu. To unlink a group of prims, select the group, and then choose "Unlink" from the tools menu.

In Figure 4 you can see three white spheres combined to create a primitive snowman. To make the spheres white I used the "Texture" tab of the prim's option window. From the "Texture" tab you can choose a color. The only other changes to the spheres were sizing and moving them into place.

One of the first things that most Second Life users want to build is a house. After you have land, you can create your own place to live. There are many different types of houses in Second Life. In this article you'll see how to construct a simple castle, built of basic castle building blocks; you can build as large or small a castle as you like. You'll also see a useful terraforming technique that you can use with any building type.



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