Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Ship Review - Rising Star by Agent Tairov

Agent Tairov is a shipbuilder who has come from being a footnote in Moo Spykers' early ships (she helped code the Leviathan) to the centre stage of the starship market in a remarkably short time, and in the process has raised the bar in many ways for what people expect from a large moving starship. Rising Star features all of her trademark gadgets (jump drive, Panopticon sim scanner, teleporter) but is the first ship in her range where the texturing has really come together. Amazing though the Atlas and Panther carriers were, the texturing always felt a little cartoony. The Rising Star, however, is understated, sleek red curves with nothing more than subtle shadowing for details over most of the hull, and the interior...the interior is beautifully decked out in a Japanese theme, with shoji doors, wood and rice paper walls, and oriental decor. The effect is to give the ship a unified feel, and at the same time make it stand out from the crowd. This is not just a starship, this is a home, a yacht in space. The furniture is nothing exciting, but neither is it bad, it is just functional and does the job nicely, blending in well. It has a hot tub, too...

The build of the ship is good, with only some minor texture flicker around the airlock doors from the outside; it's all in line from stem to stern, and there is no prim wastage; Agent builds simply, using megaprims and sculpts, and this saves prims in the long run and creates simple, elegant shapes. Rising Star is very retro, looking for all the world like a ship out of the original Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon series, with fins and engines. Granted, it is inspired by the Outlaw Star from the anime series, but Agent has plumped out that design to make it spacious inside.

Scriptwise, a sim's script meter barely flickers when you rez a Rising Star; the flight scripts generate almost no lag whatsoever, and the other scripts in the ship have all been trimmed to take as little of your sim's precious processor time as possible. The downside of this is that, in motion, the flight script is a little clunky looking, and lacking in fine control, but at least the ship's bits all end up in the right place when you stop flying it. The flight system in Agent's ships (from the Panther onwards) also feature 'Acro' mode - an alternative flight mode that allows you to pitch and roll the ship, so you can in effect fly it nose down through a sim - this is a wonderfully novel answer to the limitations on lateral space in a SL sim for a large spacecraft to maneuver in. Levelling up after diving and rolling and climbing can be a nightmare, but thoughtfuly Agent provides you with a button on the pilot console labelled 'Level' which resets the ship back to zero rotation.

The FTL works well, though there seems to be a slight glitch with the fighter docking system - most of the time a docked ship jumps with the ship, but every so often it will get left behind and, oddly, eventually catch you up as you fly around. Jumping across sim borders is also fraught with peril, and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're playing in a sim where the owner won't mind finding 500 prims of spacecraft bits under the ground. It works most of the time, but fails spectacularly enough that it's not recommended. Not Agent's fault, I hasten to add, SL lag seems to be the issue.

The Panopticon radar is Agent's finely scripted sim scanner that launches a probe that travels through set points throughout a sim and builds up a picture of who is present, their position and their movement on the 3D map. The ship is also shown, as is the ground, for reference. This is a great idea, and once you've detected avatars, you can send them messages from the ship, offer to teleport them aboard and send out a beam, teleport down to them, set them as a target for weapons fire should they stray too close; all in all, a well thought out system. About the only niggle is that it is a bit fiddly to figure out and the probes don't always derezz themselves when they are done. Tiny flies in an otherwise perfect ointment.

This is the first of Agent's ships to feature her T-Rezzer system, a scene rezzer that allows detailed scenes to be stored for later use, keeping the basic prim count of the ship low in use, an idea started by Smith Fizz, and later developed to include almost the whole interior of the ship by Podwangler Zapedzki. In Rising Star you have choices of a research lab, a throne room, two offices, lounge, conference room, medical bay, bedroom and a briefing room. None of the scenes rezzed are quite as polished (or, conversely, as damaging to the prim count) as Smith Fizz's furniture sets, but they are very serviceable nonetheless. My only gripe with them is that there are not more things to actually do in most of the scenes; the lab scene looks interesting and has control panels next to what look like two reactors, but it would be nice for example to have had those buttons mapped to turn the reactors on or off, or generate a sound effect. The infirmary is better and has a working medical scanner and medical computer that gives out random notecards to diagnose people; no bacta tanks though, I'm afraid, Star Wars fans. The office scenes, bedroom and lounge sit well with the Japanese theme of the rest of the interior, and I just love the idea of a ship with a throne room.

Upstairs the ship has an oddly empty area that is devoid of rezzers - looks like Agent thought about having another rezzer here but instead opted for empty space and a couple of small bars at either side. Strangely, considering the polish of teh rest of the ship, this feels like she forgot something. Forward of this is the bridge, with space for the pilot (the ship is group pilotable, like all of Agent's ships), a comms officer, drop pod and teleport controller, and a tactical officer, with a strange flotation tank that, I guess, must be for the wealthy captain to flot in whilst giving their orders to the crew! The aft of this deck leads to two doors which open onto a pair of mirroring oriental themed private suites with their own colour themes; one is mostly greens and darker wood, the other blues and black wood. They give a nice sense of space and privacy here, ideal quarters for the crew.

Downstairs, and going back from the rezzer area and the airlocks are another pair of doors, one on either side; one leads to the aforementioned hot tub and bathroom suite, the other to a third bedroom, considerably smaller than the ones above; one can only assume that one of the crew is not as worthy as the rest! This room is decked out in the same beech / red Japanese theme as the rest of the interior. At the very aft of this deck is the hangar, where you can rezz Agent's trademark drop pods. These are a design weakpoint; they really do just look like flying dumpsters. In a ship so elegant and well designed, it might be worth her while redesigning them with her newfound skills and confidence. In the hangar, it would also have been nice to have seen a landing pad with her excellent (if sometimes twitchy) docking script so that shuttles could land here, dock, and then move along with the ship when it starts moving off.

Downstairs again is a space that I guess you could call engineering - there seems to be some fuel tanks, and an engine control panel, but otherwise it's empty - cargo storage space, I can only assume, which would be necessary on a ship this size. Nicely, the interior of this deck forgoes the oriental sophistication of the habitation decks and is instead quite functional and 'techy'. This is the place where the captain never goes.

Overall, although there are some minor flaws, Rising Star is a stunning ship, and one that has placed her slap bang in the middle of the starship home market and in direct competition with Smith Fizz. Smith might be able to make nicer furniture, but so far Agent has the edge on scripting and gadgetry. Time for the competition to up their game, perhaps?

Build Quality - 85%
Excellent throughout, Agent is a meticulous builder, every piece of the ship is smoothly joined and positioned with mathematical precision. The only bug is the flickering texture around the airlock on the outside, which seems like an odd bug to have missed, but given the solid quality and excellent use of prims on a ship this size, she can be forgiven for it. The dumpster design of the drop pod though is somewhat less forgivable. Marks off for that one!

Scripting - 95%
This really is Agent's forte, and it shows. From the clever Panopticon scanner, through the amazingly low lag and versatile flight scripts, to the T-Rezzer, this is a ship that certainly won't crash a sim when you rezz it. In fact, you'll barely even notice it's there. This is how ships should be scripted, and it's nice to see that she is clearly selling the script system to others, as I've noticed that Podwangler Zapedzki's last few big ships have all been advertised with Agent Tairov's flight system. This is no bad thing.

RPability - 85%
Like Smith Fizz on the Gunn, Agent has tried to have it both ways with the use of the rezzer, and managed to successfully blend a big and stylish skybox with some serious RP possibilities. The infirmary with it's notecard giver, the office space, the throne room, all of this goes towards making the Rising Star a damned good ship to run an RP from.

Gizmos - 95%
This ship has gizmos in spades. FTL drive? Check. Sim scanner? Check? Transporter beams, drop pods, chat spy probes, sim probes, targetable weapons? Check. It will take you a while to read through the manual, but it's worth it to explore what this ship can offer.

Value For Money - 95%
If this had been a Moo Spyker ship, it would likely have clocked in at about L$4000. If it were a Smith Fizz, it would have been about L$3500. Agent has set the price at a ridiculously low 2500, and has recently dropped it to L$2000, a far fairer and more affordable price point that most people could either afford without too much worry, or believably save up for. At L$3500, this ship would have been pretty good value. At L$2000 it's a steal.

Overall - 91%
A superb ship at an astounding price. If you have the money and are into your starships, it shouldn't even be one you think about, just buy it. Stylish and useable, packed with kewl gadgets and superb scripting, this one puts Agent on the map, and is a must-have for any serious starship collector.


  1. Fascinating!

    I would be interested in what you think of Battlecarrier Poseidon, although you might want to wait until it's finished.
    -Agent Tairov

  2. Smith doesn't do his own scripts (by my understanding), so it may take a while before the next upgrade cycle there. For what it's worth, his starlight's highly regarded and I recommend it to newcomers to the SL ship scene in my role as an estate administrator.
    It'd also be cool to see a full review of a Spyker or Podwangler ship in detail.

  3. Thankyou for the recommendations, Agent, I have a friend who has the Poseidon Beta, I was very impressed with the sculpts inside, it does indeed look quite amazing. I will try to persuade him to leave me alone with it for a few hours one day and write up a report on it! ALso, thanks for the pointer towards Podwangler's ships; I had stayed away from them as the first few he turned out looked a bit basic, but having now tested the Alexander, I have to admit he has hit his stride as a builder. Very impressive features.

  4. Heh, come to think of it, definitely wait until Poseidon hits 1.0 or later to review it. There's still plenty more work to go. (Like weapons! :o)