#15. My Second Life: Landscaping

In other posts I’ve started writing about real estate (here and here) and building in Second Life . These are really ongoing topics and I’ll return to them in the future. Today I want to talk to you a bit about what you do on your land other than putting buildings on it. I’m talking about landscaping, of course.

The basic plot of land in Second Life is 512 square meters and this was made into a popular size by the First Land Program. This program was recently terminated by Linden and it will be interesting to see if this changes the average size plot that people own.

On those 512 sm, you have a budget of 117 prims, or primitives, those basic shapes that are linked together and have one or more images applied to them so they look like things from real life (RL). It’s quite easy to burn through those 117 prims with a house and some furnishings, leaving nothing for a bit of green outside.

The terrain of your land can take on several different looks and can vary within a sim, or named region. It can be grassy, snowy, sandy, watery, or rocky in appearance, and there are several variations for each. In addition, you can move your land up or down by using the Edit Terrain menu. When I first started I thought that I could only move the entire plot up or down, or flatten, roughen, or smoothen it. I later learned that by clicking the cursor over portions of the land and holding down the left mouse button, I could selectively terraform just parts of my property.

This may move more than just your land, since it is connected with that of your neighbors. That is, if you raise your land to its maximum height, this may pull up your neighbor’s land along the border, leading to snow, say, in their living room. They can then lower their land and leave part of your building up in the air. Repeat for maximum fun and community discord.

Snow in an SL cabin due to terraforming

There are trees and grasses that are part of the basic primitives with which you can build. These are special and respond to wind in the sims. These can only be placed in the ground. There are other things which resemble such flora and these can be placed anywhere. Most regions are filled with free trees provided by the Lindens. My land is in the snowy areas and you can see hundreds of these snow covered evergreens as you fly around the region. They’re pretty good and the price is right.

Many times these are images of trees that are duplicated and placed at right angles to each other so that they look decent independently of your viewing angle. These Linden trees may appear to have multiple prims but they just count as one. If you make your own, more prims may be employed.

This is important to remember, because landscaping objects count in your prim total, especially if you purchase your plants. I’ve visited many of the inworld nurseries but the best plants by far are those that are produced by Lilith Heart. She recently got her own sim and I encourage you to visit it since it really is some of the best work done in Second Life. She has plants suitable for a wide variety of regions as well as indoors. A few days ago I bought a few things to start an indoor water garden.

When you place trees and other plants from your inventory, they all tend to be oriented the same way. That’s not what nature does in real life. For variety, mix up the spacing between plants and rotate them at random angles until they look more realistic. You can also raise and lower them. If they are modifiable, consider changing their dimensions as well. If you terraform your land after placing plants, go back and check them again to make sure they are not too high or too low.

How much should you keep to your regional theme (for example, winter) when landscaping your area? That’s up to you, but it is odd to see a palm tree in the snow.

Soaking my feet in the winter pond

As you travel around SL you’ll see people who build platforms, cover them with grass, and then build whatever they want on them, even if it is a beach hut in the middle of a snowy mountain. My hunch is that over time, most of the architecture and landscaping will line up more with the regional theme, particularly as the old First Land gets sold and consolidated with nearby plots. Of course, it seems that the majority of SL land is the green stuff, so good for a lot of different landscaping options. I recommend that you buy land in an area that has the right terrain for you and then be consistent in what you do from there. Beachfront land is particularly expensive, so shop around.

The final thing that I wanted to mention is that a lot of the building and landscaping in SL happens very far up in the air, sometimes as high as 1000 meters. I believe that anything over 500 meters will not appear on the map, so these are pretty exclusive spaces. In fact, it is hard to get up there unless you are thrown there or have an HUD (“heads up display”) that assists you in flying. For the latter, I recommend the MystiTool HUD. It has a lot of useful features beyond the flying controls.

Shop in the air

That patch of land that seems abandoned may just be underneath something pretty spectacular up high. Access control only works to a certain height, so if you do put your little piece of heaven in the stratosphere, be aware that you might have guests dropping in unless you use some other access control method than the basic one on the Land menu.

If you have the prims, this allows you to put your house on the land and a shop or club way up high above it, or vice versa. You could also vary the design of the building and landscaping for each. Some areas, particularly those with covenants, having zoning requirements for what you can put on the land. Make sure you know the rules and always aim for good design.

Final tip: Use Ctrl-Alt-Shift-P to toggle the display of land property lines. The areas enclosed in yellow are for sale, purple are up for auction, and red are not for sale.

Also See: Landscaping II

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