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I'm curious to know the planning process behind creating a sim. Specifically the layout. I see some amazing community sims and I'm just like, "Where did you even begin to start making something as intricate as this; how do you turn a blank sim with nothing on it into something like this?" I'm someone who's always struggled with composition and layout and can't make a pretty sim unless I have a map or reference pictures of rl places so I can replicate it in second life. It's the same thing with other games like sims and animal crossing: new horizons. My island on animal crossing looks like an actual hot mess. I'm wondering if there's anything I can do to get better at this. Do you guys draw out a layout for where you're going to place buildings etc for your sims. Is there a program that makes creating maps easy? Like a program where you're just like "Ok I want a house in this exact spot, and a river in this spot, etc." I haven't come across anything like this but I would love to give something like this a try.

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Posted (edited)

I start with a very detailed plan, then I build something completely different.

Edit: That's not just a joke. You do need a clear idea before you start but you don't really know how it'll look before you actually see it so be flexible and ready to adjust throughout the process.

Edited by ChinRey
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i start with a fairly solid concept of a theme

then I make a colour tone palette with 5 complimentary contrasting colours.  The main builds are going to use these colour tones primarily.

then I make lots of coloured prim blocks and lay them out on the region.  Here will be a building, here another building and so.  Then depending on theme, Here will be a water feature, here will a forest/glade, here a meadow, here a plaza, here a formal park, and so on

then still using colour blocks, I lay out the pathways that will connect the main parts

i drop all the colour blocks quite loosely, in a close enough is good enough way.  After walking around for a bit and moving blocks about I end up with a coherent movement flow for people walking around the region

then I chop parcels for each of the main build areas, and terraform. Hills, rises, hollows, waterways etc.

then I start replacing all my colour blocks with the built assets. The big stuff. Buildings, paths, water features and large trees

small things like plants, flowers, lighting, seating, etc I treat as accessories and garnishings, same as furniture, which I don't mount til I get all the big stuff in place

once all the big stuff is in place then we can potter about mounting all the small stuff, which adds the garnishing colours to the main builds which adhere to the colour tone palette

 

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6 hours ago, Mollymews said:

then I make lots of coloured prim blocks and lay them out on the region.  Here will be a building, here another building and so.  Then depending on theme, Here will be a water feature, here will a forest/glade, here a meadow, here a plaza, here a formal park, and so on

That's a really good trick. I sometimes make a scale model with prims too.

Another thing to keep in mind is performance. Both the simulator and the viewer have limited resources to handle objects and it's easy to overload one of them or both if you're not careful:

  • Think layers: Try to use low poly, low lag objects for background, fairly low lag objects in areas people aren't likely to go too often, not too laggy objects for most of the upfront content and the laggy stuff only for a few prominent feature items.
  • Make sure you only use objects with good LoD. Check everything at the max. view distance they will have at your sim before you buy anything. If it's a public build, set your LoD factor to 1 before you check. If it's for you private use only, keep the LoD factor at whatever you usually have. Avoid houses with outer walls that break down at any view distance.
  • Don't use too many objects with 1024x1024 textures. A few of them won't make much difference but too many of them are murder.
  • Good ground textures can add a lot to the quality of the build but keep in mind that wide stretches of exposes ground can be rather laggy in itself.
  • Avoid plants and other items with alpha blending, use alpha masking instead. To see what is what, make sure you have ALM switched on and hit Ctrl+Alt+T to make transparent surfaces visible. Alpha blended surfaces will show up in red, alpha masked in blue. Note that windows and other semitransparent surfaces have to use alpha blending, that can't be avoided unfortunately.
  • Be careful with sculpts but don't rule them out completely:
    • If you want a surround landscape, you have to use sculpt ones because meshes can't be made that big
    • Ground cover grass/flower/fern/etc. fields can be sculpts. They need so many tris anyway so there's not much to gain by doing them as meshes. The same applies to large groups of rocks and such.
    • Sculpts are perfectly OK for large groups of plants - say about 40-50 or more in a single sculpt.
    • A few large sculpt trees aren't going to cause much trouble. But don't use too many of them.

---

An important rule to keep in mind: Content is King but without Queen Context, he's nothing at all.

Tehre are so many lovely, elaborate meshes on the market in SL and it's always tempting to fill up your land with them. But not only do they reduce the performance, as often as not, those details only serve as distractions from the whole picture. They may look gorgeous on their own but do they fit in?

Remember that less is more or to put it another way - the Golden Rule for all art: Kill Your Darlings!

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Once you're good with the terrain editor, it makes a dandy brainstorming tool. It's like sketching with a bulldozer!

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It is a lot to think about. Chin is right to say you need a plan.

First think about what your goals are for the sim. Do you need to make money from it? Is it just for your own enjoyment? What kind theme do you want?

Look at other sims, and keep landmarks of the ones you like. You will start to notice some commonalities between them, and can work from that.

Don't just drop down buildings! Plan first!

I do sim design, and can give you some guidance if you would like to contact me inworld.

Annabell Wandsworth

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On 7/17/2020 at 5:28 AM, ChinRey said:

I start with a very detailed plan, then I build something completely different.

Edit: That's not just a joke. You do need a clear idea before you start but you don't really know how it'll look before you actually see it so be flexible and ready to adjust throughout the process.

yes this is about right and often the case. :)  

As a Landscaper by trade in SL - i often study the land and draw a skech/plan of what the customer wants & where items i think, that they request would look best. I also like to make my landscape sim designs as realistic as possible , so i look to nature for reference and inspiration.  mine craft (creative) is quite a nice landscaping practice tool. 

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I should have planned more than I did, but I find it more fun to jump in and start doing things. Of course, you begin to regret this later, especially if you already rented out parts of the sim and can't go back and re-parcel.

The very first part of the plan is: how will this sim get paid for? Unless you are paying for it as a hobby. So I did plan out the rentals from large to small. I should have perhaps first parceled out the sky platforms, then put out the giant villa with the landing points for each platform, but I did it the other way, to fit the landscaping (Mainland only goes up or down 4 or so meters so you are sometimes limited in what you can do).

If you go to the sim of Crespo, you can see how I made my community called "La Montana Rosa".

o Italian villa on the top of the mountain

o Sky platforms divided up across this area

o Adobe homes at levels going down the mountains

o Small cabins

o Adobe build from which small skyboxes are reached

o Inca ruins and caves

o Stone steps

o Towers (to hide a neighbours ugly purple tower top -- well, it's Mainland.

So I was left with little problems here and there which I solved over time, sometimes re-classifying some of the rentals from homes to platforms, which sell better. But it was a lot of fun. It's the first whole sim I have done since my original flagship sim of Ravenglass. On that sim, I had help as a newbie from a landscaper and builders. I also put levels of cottages, and a big Celtic tower on the little Mainland island. So I have larger waterfront parcels and cabins and also skyboxes. I wanted to make sure it had a park running through it to provide nice views. I then later put a Celtic forest in the sky for quests and hangouts.

I have gone back and built a lot more in the skies in recent years as I see prims not used up and ways of doing things differently, and also saving prims with mesh.

Professional builders like Aria Baroque plan out their sim builds to the meter and spend weeks on them. I'm an amateur and for me it is more fun stumbling along some times so it doesn't feel like a job. There are certain sims I look at only now in horror at how poorly planned they are, and I try to remedy it a bit.

But there is an inimitable law: every meter costs US $0.00267 and has to get paid for.

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While I agree that a plan is good for many to most folks, my last sim design had no plan at all and amazingly I have had more compliments on it than any other sim I have designed (well, hey practice counts for something I guess).   I have made very few changes as I have gone along.  For the city which is up at 2510 meters I put the subway in first as you needed to build the ground AROUND that (ground as in asphalt and up in the air not terraformed). Then I decided where I wanted my shop and built sidewalks and roads from there.  I let it evolve which was lots of fun.  

 

It should likely be noted that I played SimCity for MANY years (since number 1) and only quit when they really blew it with the last one LOL.  So I sort of have an ingrained idea what "the citizens" want and what not to put next to each other LOL.  

 

The one thing I did do was watch the framerates (currently about 60fps for me which is quite good as my computer isn't all that new any longer) but again I have done this fairly often and know how NOT to have the framerate plummet.   

 

If you have to redo -- then you redo. Presumably you are enjoying yourself so it really shouldn't be a big issue.   

 

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My favourite sim was constantly being rebuilt. It was at ground level an urban level with roads going up to other levels. The ground level turned into a maze over time as ring roads and bypasses and junctions were added, creating such confusion you could easily get lost and getting out of it took practice and trial and error. There is no way the organic confusion could have been planned in advance.

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