Periodically Second Life® gives “Premium Gifts” to its premium members (ie; those who pay a small monthly fee for extra benefits.) In late August they handed out a dune buggy. Along with the buggy they created an “off road playground” called Racer’s Gulch for premium members to drive their dune buggies in. I decided to grab one of the buggies and check it out. At first it was a bit problematic… but as I discovered, there are a few tips that will get you flying though the virtual desert.
About the Premium Dune Buggy
The buggy is a nicely-detailed, rear-engine, rail-type buggy with lots of customizable features. You can change the colors of various parts of the buggy, as well as patterns, and the flag type. When driven the dune buggy lets out the robust, but decidedly “bug”-like engine sound you might expect of a classic dune buggy, and sand throws off from the back wheels. The front wheels don’t turn when steering, which is a bit unrealistic, but is understandable once you consider the lag that extra wheel movement would add. Once you try driving it you will understand why there is a need to keep lag minimal!
Did I mention lag? When I first tested out the buggy yesterday evening I was pretty disappointed at my almost complete inability to control it. It careened wildly out of control, wouldn’t reliably stop or steer, got stuck repeatedly, and was a flat-out disappointment. There was only one other dune buggy in the sim region with me, so it wasn’t like there was a crowd using up resources. However, if you have been around Second Life long, you realize that crowds aren’t the only thing that causes lag. If it has been a while since a region reboot, things can get pretty slow and unpredictable. Especially if a lot of people are rezzing objects in the sim, like say, dune buggies. So I decided to try again this morning.
What a difference a day and a freshly rebooted sim make! Not to mention a little practice. This morning the dune buggy handled much better and was much more responsive. I was able to negotiate my way around the entire course, over several narrow bridges, I could pop wheelies, etc. So the lesson is, if it isn’t performing well, try again later, preferably after the sim region has rebooted.
How to Drive Your Dune Buggy
First thing, landmark the rez zone when you arrive in the Racer’s Gulch sim. If you get your dune buggy stuck in the sand or water, you are going to need to teleport your virtual butt back to the rez zone.
Basic controls for the buggies are simple. Arrow keys control the movement. Up arrow is forward, down backwards, left and right turn the buggy. Shift+left or right arrow applies turning brakes for making sharp turns. Turning is a learned skill, the response time is a bit slow so you need to anticipate turns in advance. The turning brakes are nifty, but they only work if there is almost zero lag in the sim. Unfortunately my experience is that most of the time they are useless.
A double tap of the up arrow key will cause extra acceleration, the result is you will pop a wheelie if on level ground (wheelie: front wheels lift off the ground.) But that extra acceleration may flip you over upside down if you are facing uphill! If you land on your side, upside down, or planted underground, tap the PageDown key. In fact anytime you seem stuck, try the PageDown key.
If you get stuck in a deep, steep-sided sand trough or underwater in the pond, the only way I found out is to stand up. If you are in the Racer’s Gulch sim, when you stand up the dune buggy will be derezzed in a couple of seconds. You will have to teleport back to the rez zone to rerez it, you can’t rez objects anywhere else in Racer’s Gulch.
Tricks for Better Dune Buggy Control
Here are a few suggestions for controlling your dune buggy.
- Tap the arrow keys rather than holding them down. This seems to make controlling the buggy much easier.
- Turn off your AO while driving or riding the dune buggy (if you have one.)
- Close other applications on your computer, your viewer is going to need all the resources it can get.
- From main menu select Me/Preferences/Graphics, set to Mid, click Apply. I found that for my computer the low graphic setting actually was worse than mid. But if you have problems you might try low.
- Go slow at first until you get a feel for it.
- You can’t turn the buggy unless you are moving forward or backward.
- Stay away from the pond by the dam, if you get stuck in it, I’ve not found a way out except to stand up!
- Momentum will carry you up steep hills if you get a running start. Otherwise you just spin your wheels without moving, or even slide backwards.
- If you get stuck, try backing up using the down arrow. You may be able to back all the way out of the sand trap. If not, back up as far as possible, then double click the up arrow to accelerate forward and get momentum and climb out.
- There are no brakes for stopping. If you stop moving on a hill, you will roll down it.
- If you run into another dune buggy, they react like bumper cars!
- If you find you are driving on your side, press PageDown.
- Anytime anything seems screwed up try pressing PageDown.
Of course you have to be a premium Second Life member to get the free dune buggy and get into the Racer’s Gulch sim. Have fun! OK, I’m heading out to drive around for a while in my dune buggy at Racer’s Gulch and take some pictures. If you have other suggestions from your own experience driving the buggy, please share them in a comment below! Thanks!
Where’s Racer’s Gulch?
Here’s the location coordinates for the Racer’s Gulch rez areas, there is a Premium Gift Kiosk at each where you can get your free dune buggy:
“Racers Gulch Rez Zone and Finish Line, Salt Gulch (33, 61, 51)”
“Racers Gulch, Rock Gulch (80, 47, 52) ”
Copy and paste the text in quotes above into your viewer location bar, then press Enter. Remember, you must be a Premium Member.