Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Basics of Flight

Here’s another tutorial for the new resident!

Of the three ways of getting around in SL, flying falls in the middle. Walking is fine for short distances, flying for a few hundred meters or so, and teleporting is tops for covering long distances in almost no time. But flying has a special charm all its own…I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to fly?

Flying is not too difficult in Second Life. Hit the F or Home key to start (or stop) flying. Or, you can press and hold E or PgUp. Once you are aloft, hold E or PgUp to fly higher, C or PgDn to descend. Hold C or PgDn all the way to the ground to execute a soft landing (instead of falling out of control and going splat). Use the keyboard arrow keys, the W,A,S,D keyboard keys, or the on-screen movement controls to fly forward, backward, or turn sideways.

Another cool way of flying is to use Mouselook. Fly up, then hit the M key to get an avatar’s-eye viewpoint. Hold the keyboard up arrow key or W key to fly toward your mouse cursor crosshairs. While holding the movement key, move the mouse to control the direction your avatar flies…you always fly toward wherever your mouse is pointing. This gives you much finer control over your direction and altitude. Hit ESC to exit Mouselook.

Your unaided avatar has a very limited flight ceiling, about 200 meters or so. If you are higher than that (say you fall off the edge of a sky platform), you sink slowly, even if you hold the PgUp key. You can overcome this limitation with a flight assist. Flight assists are built into many objects…I have some sunglasses that have an assist, and my MystiTool has one that lets me fly faster as well as higher. There are a number of freebie flight assists; one very common one is called a “flight feather”. Just wear the assist to fly at any altitude.

As you fly higher, you’ll notice several key altitudes. The classic SL cloud layer is at about 100 meters or so. At 1,000 meters, the ground no longer rezzes and all you can see is unbroken ocean far below. This is important for reasons of lag. When the viewer has fewer textures to render, lag goes down. I get much higher frame rates in my skyboxes at 2,500 m than I get on the same parcel at ground level. The build limit is 4096 meters. You won’t find skyboxes above that level. Also, there’s a minor bug in Viewer 2 that keeps the altitude coordinate from updating correctly above this level. It reports correctly when you stop and hover, but reverts to 4096 as you are actually flying up.

No one has ever found the ultimate altitude limit. Back when physics was less constrained, some experimenters used powerful pushes to orbit themselves to great heights. Some reached well over 100,000 m. These SL astronauts report that at extreme altitudes, odd appearance effects begin to occur.

Some landowners disable flight on their property, perhaps because it’s contrary to their concept of a “realistic” virtual reality. If you are flying when you enter such an area, you won’t crash, but when you land you won’t be able to take off again…unless you have set the viewer option to override this setting. I often do this in No Fly areas, for convenience…but be aware that the landowner may take exception to that and kick you off for not following his or her rules.

Your AO can contain animations for flying, flying slow, hovering, flying up, and flying down. Like your walks and stands, you can find cute, sexy, or funny flight animations to make your avatar even more unique.

You can get various accessories to make flying more fun, such as jet packs, rocket boots, or wings. One of my favorite tricks is to step off a high sky platform and plummet earthward. The idea is to open my inventory on the way down, find my parachute, put it on, re-read the manual, and deploy the chute before impact.

1 comment:

  1. My personal record is somewhere over 500km with my finger on the page-up button. I don't know what the record is for "assisted" flight (i.e., a quarter stuck into the keyboard).