Thursday, 21 January 2010

Ship Review : XGP15A-II by Moo Spyker

Moo Spyker has been making huge starships for years; his Leviathan was one of the first ships I ever checked out when I discovered the sci-fi scene on SL, and I recall being amazed that one could own a ship so huge. The MOO Carrier and MOO Cannon similarly defined quality roleplayable SL starships for quite some time; whilst Smith Fizz was busy making, essentially, luxury apartments that could fly, Moo Spyker was making hard sci-fi ships with gun turrets and decent-sized hangars. The build was always solid, if a little ugly - but hey, there's no rule that starships have to be pretty, especially military ones. Then he found sculpties. It took a while, but the Prometheus smashed its way into everybody's life in late 2008 - everybody who had a vague interest in SL sci-fi couldn't help but hear about this huge 3000+ prim monster that could barely fit in a sim. It was a talking point, but ultimately impractical as hell; at 3000+ prims, you needed to either own a sim or know someone who owned a sim; the sheer amount of sculpted prims and textures involved meant that people on even reasonable machines were getting bogged down by client-side lag; and it's initial 10000L price tag made it unattainable for many.

Moo learned from this, and the XGP - also known as the Outlaw Star from the anime series ship on which it is based - was born. Granted, it consists of more sculpts than you can shake a stick at, and so takes a good few minutes to properly rezz on a mid-range system, but it is still under 700 prims - more than manageable - and uses Agent Tairov's superb, low-lag flight script to keep its flight gymnastics up to scratch with today's competition.

Fully rezzed, the XGP is breathtakingly gorgeous; the sleek lines and immaculate texturing have the same effect on the ship geek as a Lamborghini has on a car geek. When you go to view one, take some tissues with you to mop up the drool that will pour from your hanging mouth as you behold the XGP's sexiness. Seriously. You see this ship and want to own one. I can't fault Moo's sculpting and building techniques, they are superb.

Inside is no different. As soon as you open the airlock to enter the ship, you just know that attention has been lavished on every little detail. First of all you have to click on a panel in the hull next to the airlock hatch. The panel slides across to reveal a keypad. Click on the keypad, and the airlock door pulls inwards and then slides across to allow you in. Once inside, hit a similar keypad on the interior and watch the airlock door slide back into place, particles spray as it repressurises, and you can turn around to see the wickedly sculpted and textured interior door, which swings open with a hearty clang. You are now in the main corridor that runs the length of the ship. Directly across is the airlock on the other side of the ship; head forwards and another pair of doors await you. These are the sleeping quarters; two tiny rooms with storage lockers and two Japanese pod hotel style bunks apiece. Again, amazingly detailed sculpts and textures. Ahead is the bridge, which is unusual; a central console dominates the cockpit, and has four seats on it. At first I thought I'd made a mistake and that this was some vehicle that detaches and flies around, it looks so unusual and vaguely land-speederish.

Heading towards the back of the ship, there are two more doors on either side. On the starboard side is a bathroom complete with lavatory, sink and shower unit. The texturing in here is particularly superb, it must be said, with a light glare from the floor tiles and excellent shadowing making an impression. On the port side is what I can only describe as a utility room, with a washing machine and some cupboards. Which makes sense, I would imagine a self-contained ship would start to stink quickly if nobody washed their clothes. The final pair of doors on either side lead into a galley on the port and a lounge on the starboard side. Both are tiny, and access to them is a little cramped, but they are still perfectly servicable.

At the very aft is the engine room, a small affair dominated by the four large, cylindrical engine cores that need to be pulled out in order to start the ship flying. A nice touch, and one that gives a ship's engineer something to do other than pretend to make repairs all the time - I've said it before, more ships need things for roleplayers to do, and things like this are exactly what I was thinking. Sound effects are superb here as you pull the cores out and ready the ship for flight.

Back in the corridor and you notice hatches in the floor and ceiling. The floor hatch opens up into a tiny storeroom; the upper hatch - well, I'm not really sure, you find a tiny space with another hatch which has hovertext saying "Click here to extend assault boat" but clicking it doesn't really do anything. I'm assuming that this is for a planned update. Likewise the hatch in the floor close to the bridge doesn't open either. This makes for a fairly limited roleplay area; one tight corridor and a handful of tiny rooms does indeed give the impression of living on a tiny, tightly packed ship, but in SL space is important to give cameras enough room to swing around behind an avatar. Here, you will only get the most out of it if you walk around in mouselook. This is a little disappointing, as the presentation and build quality of the ship is simply outstanding.

In flight, it uses a menu system to start the engines and then prepare to fly it, which takes a little getting used to, but adds a nice layer to the roleplaying. As it uses Agent Tairov's scripts, the features are fairly simple to pick up, although the functions have been hiden away in the menu system - so to change flight modes from flat to acro, or to make a jump, you need to go through the menu. I somehow prefer Agent and Podwangler's approach to making these buttons actual buttons on the bridge console so that the pilot can click them easily in flight without leaving mouselook. This gripe aside, however, the XGP flies beautifully, with simulated inertia (it doesn't just stop dead when you stop moving forward, it glides a little first), banking (doesn't do a thing in space, but it looks damned cool), and in mouselook, even the dials on the pilot's console change as the ship picks up speed or drops in altitude. There is also a handy position and rotation meter in the pilot's view, which is a very useful tool indeed. Free flight is basically Agent's Acro mode in which the ship can pitch and roll and dive and climb - an impressive looking set of maneuvers for a ship this size. The flight script is, presumably due to its exceedingly low lag nature, a little clunky looking, so the ship sections do shuffle a bit as you're flying, but this is par for the course with quality large ships these days; only Smith Fizz uses a smoother flying script, which is very laggy, and ends up with ship sections not returning to their right places after flight. I can live with shuffly movement if it means that my ship has no big holes in it when I get out of the pilot seat. The jump drive is curiously limited to just an altitude hop instead of full x,y,z co-ordinates, and furthermore works in a very different way to Agent's usual system by adding the height you type in meters on to your existing altitude rather than jumping to the altitude you type in.

The weapons systems are nice, with auto turrets being able to fire at independant targets that get too close to your shiny ship, or you can target them at objects or avatars with 96m; the missile system can likewise be targeted and is most impressive, using the targeting system from the Vortex Missile Frigate, which is a lot of fun to use. The downside is that a system like this should ideally be operated by a gunner, but all of the control falls to the owner through the HUD - there is a reference to bridge control panels, but I don't know if I'm just being dense, but I couldn't see any. This seems to be a bit of a lost opportunity to enable the crew to do something in the event of a battle, and frees up the pilot to just fly the hell out of there instead of fiddling about with the HUD and menus.

In summary, the XGP promised so much; it was by far the prettiest ship I've ever seen on SL, with some amazing texturing details both inside and out; but despite the engine room having a nice touch, the RP ability felt a little flat. The only rooms in the ship are tiny and claustrophobic; the cockpit's controls are limited to the pilot only, including the weapons. It's a shame, because with a bit more interactivity and flexibility, this would have been an absolutely amazing ship to rp in.

Build Quality - 95%
Say what you like about sculpties, nobody in the sci-fi market uses them or textures them as well as Moo Spyker. The quality of the build on the XGP is nothing short of staggering, and really does establish him as a master builder. Well constructed, and pant-wettingly pretty.

Scripting - 85%
Although he uses Agent's flight scripts, Moo has implemented them in an unusual and somewhat restrictive way, nesting the flight mode and jump controls in layers of menus. I much prefer being able to simply stay in mouselook and click a screen or button to change mode. Seriously. Makes the whole thing a lot more immersive. Having to jump out of mouselook kind of breaks the fourth wall for me and reminds me I'm still in SL instead of flying a magnificent starship through the void of space. The ship is well scripted throughout, but the implementation of the flight controls is an annoying inconvenience.

RPability - 75%
It is pretty, but a lack of interior space, seperate controls for the gunners and anything for other crew to do other than turn the engine on is a real limiter. Not a great deal of interaction going on there for roleplay, which is a damned shame because it really could have had so much more.

Gizmos - 65%
No scene rezzers, sim scanners, teleporters, just some guns and missiles that, although fun, are only operable by the pilot. It's a ship, it flies, it has a jump drive, it has kewl gunz. Apart from that, that's pretty much it. I shall await the update with the grappling arms with bated breath.

Value For Money - 65%
As Moo has just reviewed the price on the XGP and has cut the price from 7500 to 3750, I feel it's only fair to edit and revise this part of my assessment - at this price it is much more within most people's reach and is a beautiful, beautiful ship. At this price, you don't mind paying for beauty as much!

Overall - 80%
An amazing looking and beautifully constructed starship, marred by flawed controls, lack of interactivity for other crewmembers, cramped interior and a crippling pricetag. As I said in the original review, if the price was halved this would be a solid 80% - and so it is.


  1. Ophelia; when you get a chance in the next few weeks you should come and check out the Cybershow at Greenies sim. Most of the items there are sci-fi and futuristic clothing; but there's also items from C&D Designs like a Captain's Chair, a hangar for spaceships and all kinds of interesting bits and pieces.

    I stumbled across your blog today; I'm glad I did. Your reviews are very comprehensive and well written. And you've made me NEED to check out the Prometheus, being a mad keen Gater!

  2. Winter, Moo's Prometheus is not the one from stargate.
    -- Agent Tairov