Thursday, 20 November 2014

082: "Virtual World Design", by Ann Latham Cudworth

Title: Virtual World Design
Author: Ann Latham Cudworth
Publishers: CRC Press/Taylor and Francis Group
Published: 2014
Price: Around CDN$40, Kindle or paperback
ISBN: 1466579617

Earlier in the year I saw this book announced and used my library connections to get a copy; while it was a few months after publication, it saved me about $40 getting it that way ... and I wasn't precisely sure what I was getting.
     Now that I've had a copy for a week or so, and dipped into it in various places, I'm still not 100 percent sure what I've got. I've figured out that I'm not precisely the best audience for this book, since I'm not particularly interested in building within Second Life, but I was curious about whether this book might spark my interest in doing that.
     Well, the answer is no, not really; I'm still not all that interested. This book is aimed at people who have experience in Second Life or Open Sim, and who are interested in 3-D modelling, terrain, textures, lighting, cameras, and other stuff. And honestly, it looks like the author is very experienced in these matters and has a lot of useful advice to offer. She covers not only the mechanics of how to use the tools, but also goes further and offers you ways to think about organizing your work so that it gets done without slowdowns or mistakes. If you are someone interested in this work, I think this would be $40 well spent.
     There was one thing about the book that I thought was both a virtue and a drawback. Cudworth has a very nice conversational tone, a little professorial but definitely the voice of experience. What I read told me that a lot of the experience of the book would be like having a friendly expert sit in the room with you while you were building, indicating what sliders did what effects and that kind of thing. That would be a great way to learn; the trouble is, I suspect that it would be an even better way to learn if you actually worked with a mentor in Second Life to get that information. I'm not sure about building, but a couple of times I have had the experience that if I needed to learn how to do something in Second Life, it was easy to find another resident who knew how and who was delighted to have the opportunity to teach it to someone -- and then you can save your $40 to buy textures and pay tier.
     As I said, I'm still not interested in doing this kind of work, but that is completely my issue rather than any flaw in the book. (I'm the guy who can tell if what I see is going to let me do what I want, rather than wanting to shape it or tweak it until it does; in other words, I'm a shopper, not a creator.) I can tell that this book collects the kind of information that I would want to have right beside me if I ever get the urge to design a sim from scratch, and if you think you're going to do that, I recommend this book.


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