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What do you think about Automated Transport Vehicles on Mainland?


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We had a topic about YavaScript Pods in particular last weekend, out of an issue that has been since resolved. However, one thing that I found really amazing was that many people took the time to share their opinions and experiences about the Pods, and some other means of automated transportation on Mainland were mentioned as well. As I am a fan of these automated vehicles since I stepped out onto a mainland road the first time when I joined SL, I was glad to see so many opinions about them, but it was mainly focused on the Pods there. Now I'm curious what people think about the automated vehicles in general, and the different ones in particular.

These include the Yavascript Pods, the distinctive green SLGI ships, Bay City's Public Transport, the maglev railcars of the Okemo, Nakiska and Southern Railway (ONSR) in the Snowlands, and of course anything that's automated and runs on Mainland.

What do you think about them? What experiences do you have with them? Which one is your favorite? I'd like to hear any opinions and experiences, good or bad, and pro/con arguments are welcome too, just please keep it civilized. If you know about more automated vehicles running on Mainland, feel free to tell about them too! Maybe this topic can help us explorers, and new people to find more fun ways to see Mainland and get to know it from another perspective! :)

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Working on a roadside wed-o-matic chapel on our land, I was so pleased to catch a gif of a pod-rider passing by.  This was the second pod-rider I saw passing in the space of 40 minutes when I was work

i am waiting for somebody to make a vehicle chasing dog.  Like it just lies on your parcel by roadside then when it sensors a person on a vehicle then it perks up and chases after them going ruff! ruf

I really enjoy jumping on a pod to explore areas in SL. At times when my arthritis is really bothering me, it's really nice to be able to ride passively and not have to guide a vehicle with my mouse.

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I'm a bit reluctant to state my personal opinion since I have friends I respect with very different views on it and I do see both the pros and cons of the automated vehicles. (Yes, I know it's not regarded as politically correct to try to keep a balanced view on anything these days but I've never cared much for political correctness anyway.)

There is however one aspect of the automated vehicles we've never discussed before and I think we should consider: they move. One of SL's biggest flaws is that it's too static. Too often it seems more like a three dimensional picture than a living, dynamic world. This doesn't mean that anything that is animated is a good thing of course but it's certainly something we should take into consideration.

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1 hour ago, ChinRey said:

There is however one aspect of the automated vehicles we've never discussed before and I think we should consider: they move. One of SL's biggest flaws is that it's too static. Too often it seems more like a three dimensional picture than a living, dynamic world.

 

I like this! One thing that really impressed me, and still does, maybe while learning it, it's getting even more impressive, is the overwhelming amount of scripted stuff to do various things. So basically automated vehicles can make the world look more dynamic and vivid even without people, which on one side definitely defeats the "transportation" aspect, but on the other one, helps to make the places where they "move" more lively.

I'd definitely like to see much more traffic with real people on mainland, and there are populated areas like the Blake, which is definitely buzzing with people using their own air- and watercraft, there are regular sailing, flying and driving group events, etc, so it really depends on when and where you are at the moment. I always like to see people passing by, and I see the automated vehicles as a form to promote mainland activities - who knows, maybe the random person that comes across riding one of them while I'm driving my car, will get motivated to get a car too and start to drive on the roads regularly?

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i wouldn't mind to see some more traffic on the roads, bút if it's automated, it needs to be regulated, otherwise it might get so populair that jams start to pile up and really start using measurable region resources.
The risk of too heavy build/scripted should also be something that has to meet requiremenst for using public/shared (as scripttime) resources.
3 or 4 moving vehicles a hour is great and fun, but 4 in a minute gets a bit much ( just as example)

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Agreed that the motion of automated vehicles is a big part of their appeal, even if nobody is riding them at the time they're seen.

(In contrast, I find animesh NPCs and really any scripted humanoid avatar-like assortment of moving pixels to be disturbing -- enough so that I will leave a region altogether, rather than have their spooky, depressing hollowness in view. I'm not sure I completely understand why I have such different reactions... but then I also suspect my extremely negative reaction to NPCs isn't common, so maybe not worth exploring further.)

Another part of the appeal is that they could be ridden by real avatars. They represent opportunities to learn and explore -- they're not only animated decor. So they have actual, practical value, but also there's appeal in just knowing they're available and another will be passing in a few minutes.

Through accidents of history, I've inherited responsibility for maintaining the "VRC Ferry" that loops between the Tuliptree and Bhaga SLRR terminals, stopping at the Hyles InfoHub. That means it passes through a bunch of Atoll regions, and regularly "discovers" sims that are down or in complete Physics lag, often due to old timey griefing. If they don't recover after a while I'll report them -- which must cost somebody in Operations a minute or so to kick them back in order, so I hope it's on balance beneficial to have regions working in advance of when "real" avatars want to visit them.

Full disclosure: I'm also responsible for what may be the shortest automated vehicle route on the grid: an early KFM pontoon raft that circles across a Snowlands river in Eagan, ferrying between an ONSR landing dock and a little VRC installation on the other side. Doesn't get much use, but it's pretty much the only thing that relates to that landing, which was there long before the ferry.

All that said, I do think there's a tacit assumption that such vehicles share resources, and need to be responsibly scripted and operated for the commonweal, not interfering with the average user's experience of the Mainland -- explicitly including sim performance, viewer rendering, and just in general not getting in the way of other experiences, vehicle-based or otherwise. That is, to operate autonomous vehicles on Linden land is not a Mainland birthright; if suddenly everybody in Bay City started operating automated milk trucks, some compromises would need to be negotiated.

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4 hours ago, Qie Niangao said:

All that said, I do think there's a tacit assumption that such vehicles share resources, and need to be responsibly scripted and operated for the commonweal, not interfering with the average user's experience of the Mainland -- explicitly including sim performance, viewer rendering, and just in general not getting in the way of other experiences, vehicle-based or otherwise. That is, to operate autonomous vehicles on Linden land is not a Mainland birthright; if suddenly everybody in Bay City started operating automated milk trucks, some compromises would need to be negotiated.

 

I actually had a few experiences like that too, one in Bay City and the other one on Satori, where quite poorly made automated vehicles really started to occupy the roads, like in BC they went around even the airport close to the runway, and in the docks, and the Satori ones were simply oversized and drove in the middle of the road. Both ended up invading the roads not in the 1 per 10 minute or so manner, but in dozens per minute, and after some kind requests and suggestions on how to make them better, their owners rather decided to turn them off. So definitely, they have to be made carefully and precisely to work as you described, otherwise it can easily ruin the experience for others, even if not intentionally.

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5 hours ago, Qie Niangao said:

(In contrast, I find animesh NPCs and really any scripted humanoid avatar-like assortment of moving pixels to be disturbing -- enough so that I will leave a region altogether, rather than have their spooky, depressing hollowness in view. I'm not sure I completely understand why I have such different reactions... but then I also suspect my extremely negative reaction to NPCs isn't common, so maybe not worth exploring further.)

Your reaction is quite common, common enough to have a name even. It's called uncanny valley.

 

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17 hours ago, ChinRey said:

There is however one aspect of the automated vehicles we've never discussed before and I think we should consider: they move. One of SL's biggest flaws is that it's too static. Too often it seems more like a three dimensional picture than a living, dynamic world. This doesn't mean that anything that is animated is a good thing of course but it's certainly something we should take into consideration.

I think in the past we've only discussed this in the negative:

collisions, invading land, physics calculations lag, etc...

 

But I've always personally viewed it in the positive: SL is too static, and all those random vehicles that used to roam mainland breathed some element of 'life' into things for me.

For me, the costs of having to deal with an occasional vehicle that went off route and got stuck or hit somebody else's vehicle were small compared to the added value of seeing some motion in SL.

It's something that gets on my nerves from time to time. Lately as I've toured MMORPG games I've become keenly aware of how many NPCs just stand in one spot for years on end waiting for someone to walk up to them. The very few MMOs that put NPCs on 'life cycle pathing routines' - something like the 'AI Overhaul' mod of Skyrim does for a single player game... those few MMOs, just seem more 'vibrant' to me even when less actual players are around.

(As they are 2 games that are 'free to play' at the initial stages, you can compare this by looking at Guild Wars 2 in one of it's cities, and the 'hangout spot' of PSO2 when your character is not 'on a mission' - in one there are characters scripted to walk around and say things, even though it's repeated dialog. In the other they just stand in spot all day and do nothing until you click on them. Ignoring how radically different these two games are - just this one metric alone creates a starkly difference experience.)

SL claims to be a 'Virtual World'... yet it has LESS "world" than even a single player action game like 'Skyrim', let alone multiplayer games like MMOs

 

Things need to move... soundscapes need to exist... or it's just weird.

And for that reason, the faults and flaws of those vehicles always seemed minor to me compared to what they added to the experience. I've long been sad to see them have been kicked off the grid...

 

Edited by Pussycat Catnap
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2 hours ago, Haruka Mistwood said:

would be cool to see them updated with modern appearances like a taxi, or bus or something to make it a bit more 'realistic',

I'm with you there. I've discussed it with Yavanna too and if I understand her right, she doesn't disagree. There are a couple of technical and practical issues though. Without going into details, a pod replacement that would fit into the surroundings throughout its entire route would be extremely difficult to make and script, would certainly be far more prone to all kinds of failures and may not even be possible.

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13 minutes ago, ChinRey said:

 a pod replacement that would fit into the surroundings throughout its entire route

without going to copy.. perhaps something like the Segway S-pod or a gyrosphere ( example the pods in Jurrasic parc:)  )  perhaps not too far from the original?

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1 hour ago, Pussycat Catnap said:

It's something that gets on my nerves from time to time. Lately as I've toured MMORPG games I've become keenly aware of how many NPCs just stand in one spot for years on end waiting for someone to walk up to them. The very few MMOs that put NPCs on 'life cycle pathing routines' - something like the 'AI Overhaul' mod of Skyrim does for a single player game... those few MMOs, just seem more 'vibrant' to me even when less actual players are around.

One problem with animated NPCs in SL is that that it seems that either it's done at all or it's overdone. You have static ones that just stand or sit there liek statues and you have ones that run around as if somebody dropped an entire anthill into their pants but you have very little in between. Take a look at @Rhonda Huntress's bartender at the Forum Cartel Hangout. He's an old sculpt build with rather jerky animations so he's probably rather outdated by today's standards. But Rhonda had exactly the rigth idea and she did the best that was possible back in those days. Just some very subtle body and head movements, you hardly notice them but it's enough to make him seem alive - far more alive than the busybody ants-in-their-pants NPCs.

It's a similar sotry with those animated plants we see all over SL these days. I've commented on them here before and people may get the impression I'm against plants with wind simulations (one of the more prolific makers of them even got so offended she abnned me from her store ;)) but I'm not. What I don't like, is when the animations are so overdone they look more like tentacle monsters than plants. It seems others agree with me too, once they see the difference. I'll be including optional animation to most of my plants from now on with five preset levels from barely noticeable to almost but not quite tentacle monster level. I gave some text examples to a friend who has filled up her sims with "regular" animated mesh trees. She started with the heaviest animation option but then she gradually toned it down and ended up with the most subtle one.

Anyway, I suppose this is a digression. Maybe we should go back to talking about vehicles.

 

Edited by ChinRey
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43 minutes ago, Pussycat Catnap said:

But I've always personally viewed it in the positive: SL is too static ...

It's something that gets on my nerves from time to time. Lately as I've toured MMORPG games I've become keenly aware of how many NPCs just stand in one spot for years on end waiting for someone to walk up to them. The very few MMOs that put NPCs on 'life cycle pathing routines' - something like the 'AI Overhaul' mod of Skyrim does for a single player game... those few MMOs, just seem more 'vibrant' to me even when less actual players are around.

...

SL claims to be a 'Virtual World'... yet it has LESS "world" than even a single player action game like 'Skyrim', let alone multiplayer games like MMOs

Things need to move... soundscapes need to exist... or it's just weird.

I tend to agree, which is what got me into making NPCs that can really move. The trick is to make them interesting without being annoying. That's hard.

npcatdecampion.thumb.jpg.2fb73ea58960d2788503f70eeded3ab2.jpg

Dani, at GTFO De Campion

This is one of my experimental NPCs. She's a security monitor for a GTFO hub, by arrangement with GTFO management. First decision was that she's not dressed as a cop or guard. Her t-shirt has a GTFO logo on the front, and Hub Loss Prevention on the back. So she clearly works there, but isn't intimidating. Making her interesting while not interfering with what else is going on was tough.

She has a number of goal points, and walks from one to another, picking the next one randomly. At each goal point, she stops and waits for a while. She goes up and down stairs and avoids obstacles, including avatars and vehicles. She's not just running on a fixed track. When a new avatar, not seen in the last 15 minutes, shows up, she approaches them, faces them, and says hello.  She's aware of which way you're facing and tries to get in front of you at a proper conversational distance. If that's not possible, she'll get a few meters away and say "Hello there". Right now, that's all the conversational ability she has.

She's not doing all that much, but it's enough. Anyone who visits the hub gets the feeling that it's not a dead place. There's someone there, and the place is in active use. That alone seems to cut down griefing. There's a feeling that someone is watching.

She's not a phantom; she's keyframe animated and can bump into avatars. She tries to avoid avatars, and will stop and say "Excuse me" if she bumps into someone, then move on. Phantom NPCs get no respect; people go right through them like they're not there.

It turned out that wasn't enough for a GTFO hub with heavy truck traffic. She was getting in the way of people trying to park trucks. There were some annoyed people. So I added an additional behavior. She tracks vehicles, and tries to avoid the space they will occupy in the near future, based on their velocity.

That wasn't enough. One day she knocked over a semitrailer truck! Turned out that the trailer had a physics model with holes in it, and the ray casts didn't see it. There was also the problem of standing in front of a stationary truck, keeping the truck from moving. So the next behavior was to simply stay 5m clear of the bounding box of any active vehicle. (Active means physics on, avatar on board. Stop the engine and the vehicle becomes approachable). That worked. Now she can be active in a busy hub with large trucks moving around, and there have been no complaints for months.

So that gives a sense of what automated vehicles need to be like. Either phantom and ignorable, like Yava pods, or very aware of their environment and competent at driving. Getting this right was a lot of work.

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18 minutes ago, Alwin Alcott said:

without going to copy.. perhaps something like the Segway S-pod or a gyrosphere ( example the pods in Jurrasic parc:)  )  perhaps not too far from the original?

The problem is that the pods move across such a wide range of environments and across so many regions. That means both scripts and build have to be kept as simple as possible to minimize sim crossing issues and makign them touch the ground is rather risky.

They also need to be able to morph between land vehicle and boat and some of them also need to become railroad carts when needed. Prims can easily be scripted to change shape but with mesh you'd have to essentially make two or more completely different vehicles and use transparency to switch between them. That's a helluva lot of extra geometry to drag around.

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@ChinRey @Alwin Alcott

First to Alwin: I think I've encountered that NPC and if it's the one I remember I liked it.

That noted yeah - people are still fumbling about with animesh and so we tend to either see not enough or too much animation. With time some people will get better. But of course this being SL and anyone able to make stuff we will always have the new person coming along and doing it poorly. We all kind of have a tolerance for noobs though, it's some of the charm here to watch that new person fumbling about... 🙂

So far the animesh items I've looked at all had way too high of land impacts for me to get them and put them out... Is that a limit of the technology or am I just seeing the wrong products?

 

But yeah... vehicles... It's 2020 and we already have a historical example of random vehicles wandering the grid that got a lot of people angry...

Could we redesign the same "concept"... but do it right this time? What would that mean? How do we make it in a way that makes more people happy than it does angry? I think it could be done and done right... and I'd love to see it.

At the least we'd need them to be better at not going 'off route'. We'd need them to not collide with objects so people on the roads didn't have freak outs. And we'd need them to know to self destruct if something did go wrong - but of course that might never work as when scripts crash, they crash... But it can be thought about and maybe there is a way to make them and make them liked.

 

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given the recent vehicle server side changes I moved to a roadside parcel which is level with the LDPW road and has no walls. So I can have a play with making vehicles again

the automated vehicles on the road I have seen so far are: the Yavapods (turned back on seems like), the Ana green spaceships, and a pink delivery van. Of the three I like the delivery van the best. It looks like a regular van seen on any regular road. Which the road by my new parcel is: A regular two-lane blacktop    

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1 hour ago, Pussycat Catnap said:

At the least we'd need them to be better at not going 'off route'. We'd need them to not collide with objects so people on the roads didn't have freak outs. And we'd need them to know to self destruct if something did go wrong - but of course that might never work as when scripts crash, they crash... But it can be thought about and maybe there is a way to make them and make them liked.

 

Well, all the automated vehicles I know up to date, are set to phantom, so they don't literally crash into anyone or anything, and most of them are scripted to self-delete after getting stuck somewhere unable to get back on their route. The big caveat of this is one thing: people that know oh so much about land settings disabling scripts on their roadside parcels, and leaving autoreturn off. They prevent the vehicles from deleting themselves and also trap them by the lack of autoreturn. Even I have a script in my personal vehicles that reports me the vehicle's location if it gets lost and who knows where it ends up - the results are sometimes really amazing for what they are - but obviously, if some people were so clever to disable scripts and keep autoreturn off as well, it's only the visual and area search methods that can help to find what you lost. I'm just glad that isn't too common.

And bad crossings are likely going to be a thing in the future too, the updated crossing code made things worse in some aspects, while the only real good aspect is drastically reducing the crossing time, so it's unlikely that vehicles, automated or not, won't end up on roadside or waterfront parcels.

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2 hours ago, animats said:

Dani, at GTFO De Campion

This is one of my experimental NPCs. She's a security monitor for a GTFO hub, by arrangement with GTFO management. First decision was that she's not dressed as a cop or guard. Her t-shirt has a GTFO logo on the front, and Hub Loss Prevention on the back. So she clearly works there, but isn't intimidating. Making her interesting while not interfering with what else is going on was tough.

 

Oh, security monitor? Phew, good thing I've never shot her, I'm always so tempted! 😂Jokes aside, I'm not a big fan of moving NPCs in SL, with my about 12 years of experience in MMORPG games, I could even say I'm not a big fan of moving NPCs at all, but it largely depends on how well they're made. If they look decent, and are programmed to walk between places to act like pedestrians, random crew on a ship, etc, sure, they add a lot to the environment. (For example, Star Trek Online did a great job on that in my opinion, and I couldn't even imagine it without them, because every place is so naturally crowded with them.) I'd say with more and more improvements, the two NPC girls in the GTFO HQ can reach a level where they would be truly decent, and maybe even be able to perform some tasks which could make them a good product as well. One thing for sure, even if she reminds me of those old zombie NPCs as she's coming closer and triggers my "Iwannashootit" reflex, I'm glad to see her, she indeed makes the place a bit more lively!

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What NPCs should be doing is an useful discussion. There are several NPC systems in SL already. SmartBots remote controls avatars with external servers. It's pretty good, but expensive, because it requires a sizable chunk of a server 24/7 to drive the avatar. There are some scripting systems that take NPCs through canned sequences and paths. There are pathfinding-based systems. There's Virtual Kennel Club. Any other good examples?

The practical problem with NPCs and automated vehicles is complex setup. The end user needs to spend too much time filling out obscure notecards, fussing with obstacles on their parcels, and learning about fine details of SL pathfinding few should have to worry about. Then they have to monitor operation and adjust things until the NPCs run reliably without attention.

Same problem with automated vehicles. Someone has to pre-record the route. Someone has to monitor their behavior and deal with problems. It's not just a sell and forget product, it takes administration. A support organization is needed. Like the SLRR, or the Virtual Kennel Club's approved trainers.

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I rather like the automated vehicles and even after 11 years in SL I still like to hop on one occasionally.  Of course I have to admit that I enjoyed the ones that got people really mad precisely because they did not work all that well.  You never quite knew how long it would be before you hit the wrong region line and went flying off into space.  It added a delightful random element to an environment that all too often worked perfectly.

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I just love them. One of the reasons I chose my little parcel in Mainland was that it was located in front of a road, where I can hop on them. They remind me of my good old days in SL, although an update would be great

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I rather like the design of the Yavapods. Their function and place in history dictates a form elegant in its simplicity. In a world where neighbours are often furry, Tiny, or other weird and wonderful forms I don't think the need for realism argument can be pushed that far.

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On 8/26/2020 at 7:53 PM, AlettaMondragon said:

We had a topic about YavaScript Pods in particular last weekend, out of an issue that has been since resolved. However, one thing that I found really amazing was that many people took the time to share their opinions and experiences about the Pods, and some other means of automated transportation on Mainland were mentioned as well. As I am a fan of these automated vehicles since I stepped out onto a mainland road the first time when I joined SL, I was glad to see so many opinions about them, but it was mainly focused on the Pods there. Now I'm curious what people think about the automated vehicles in general, and the different ones in particular.

These include the Yavascript Pods, the distinctive green SLGI ships, Bay City's Public Transport, the maglev railcars of the Okemo, Nakiska and Southern Railway (ONSR) in the Snowlands, and of course anything that's automated and runs on Mainland.

What do you think about them? What experiences do you have with them? Which one is your favorite? I'd like to hear any opinions and experiences, good or bad, and pro/con arguments are welcome too, just please keep it civilized. If you know about more automated vehicles running on Mainland, feel free to tell about them too! Maybe this topic can help us explorers, and new people to find more fun ways to see Mainland and get to know it from another perspective! :)

They are spam

100% of the time when I see them, they are empty, so they are not used as imagined. Here's some I happened to see. All empty. If I made an effort, I could put 100 more. 

Again, they are empty every time I see them, and I go to multiple sims where I have land, and I work on that land, so I see them go by -- empty.

They should put them on rez on demand, at stations spaced appropriately across sims.

 

Hector 10 22 pm.jpg

Yelas 1 52 8 26.jpg

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On 8/27/2020 at 4:17 PM, ChinRey said:

The problem is that the pods move across such a wide range of environments and across so many regions. That means both scripts and build have to be kept as simple as possible to minimize sim crossing issues and makign them touch the ground is rather risky.

They also need to be able to morph between land vehicle and boat and some of them also need to become railroad carts when needed. Prims can easily be scripted to change shape but with mesh you'd have to essentially make two or more completely different vehicles and use transparency to switch between them. That's a helluva lot of extra geometry to drag around.

Well, there's another solution to this: don't have them run all the time.

Have them at stations to rez on demand. A given station will be associated with a given style, fitting in with the environment. So if you want the boat, you go to a waterfront sim; if you want the space ship, you go to the space sim etc.

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