Monday, 5 April 2010

Ship Review - Barracuda, by Agent Tairov

See it at Xstreet!

Where Rising Star was a yacht, a mansion in space with luxury and an opulent Oriental interior, Agent's next outing saw her moving into a different area. The Barracuda is a big freighter, not enormous, but definitely chunky, with a large, multi-storey fore that houses the crew quarters, an insectile midsection that can rezz a pair of bulky cargo containers, and an aft that is purely a drive section with no interior. Access is granted through the hatches to either side of the midsection which have rezzable docking tubes for easy access from a station or other ship.

Inside the midsection you see two floor hatches and a pair of T-rezzer units on the wall. From here you can choose which of the cargo modules you want to rezz, and there is indeed a wide range to choose from; refugee transport (complete with crate furniture and graffiti), large, opulent bedroom with a similar style of Oriental decor to the interior of the Rising Star, a small hangar, and a meeting room. For modding purposes there is also an empty container to fill with whatever you like. All of the scenes suffer slightly from their vertical construction and access through the roof, but they are superb roleplaying tools nonetheless. The furniture within is up to Agent's usual standard; useable, functional and attractive, if not bleeding edge fashionable, and much use is made of sculpties to keep detail high and prim count low. This counts for a lot, and allows the ship fully rezzed to scrape in at just over 800 prims despite cramming in a lot of small details. The texturing is consistent, if a little plain and slightly cartoony on the interior, with similar textures to the Panther interior. They are clean and neat however and, let's face it, this is a freighter, not a yacht. Utility is the name of the game here. The exterior is every bit as nicely textured as the Rising Star, with plain colours shaded neatly from one panel to the next and without awkward detailing.

Moving forward into the fore section, we walk straight onto the bridge, which is dominated by one pilot seat that is at the end of a single suspended walkway. Previous Agent Tairov ships have had multiple crew seats, but Barracuda has just one pilot seat, with access to all of the stations to hand, and it is only on the other decks that we find other seating for the crew. From what I can gather, Agent was one of the first shipbuilders to start putting in stations that other crewmembers could control, and to lose that functionality on the Barracuda is definitely a step backwards from my perspective. Interactivity fo other crewmembers can make or break an rp situation that involves action or flight, and here the pilot is a bit too far removed from everyone else to be a part of it. This is a personal niggle, however, and might not worry everyone. From the bridge there is a ramp down to the next level, which seems to serve a curious mish-mash of purposes; there is a Panopticon sim scanner rezzer in the fore, a galley in the middle with a food replicator (very handy), and in the starboard 'bulge' are some chairs, like a casual lounge area. To get further down in the ship we need to take the elevator, and we end up in another area that seems to not be entirely sure what it's purpose is. There is a desk with an animated scanner screen (I think this ship marks the first time I ever saw brota Kornfeld's excellent and now ominpresent animated screens), a reactor core (which turns out to be a rezzed scene that you can replace with a medical area or a pair of office chairs), and in the fore is what looks like an office desk. Agent's excellent shipboard teleport system is also present on this deck. Heading all the way to the bottom on the elevator, we come across the final deck, which has Japanese-style sleeping pods along one side, a large semicircular lounge in the fore, and a locker room setup in the starboard bulge that can be swapped out with the rezzer to make a brig (although, unusually, the shower door does not derezz and remains to the side of the brig, creating access to a small and completely useless space). On this deck also can be found the escape pod, which is rezzed by clicking on the platform, and it will plummet to the surface in the event that your ship is in serious trouble.

My impression of the interior of the Barracuda's living area threw me, as it all seems a little jumbled and not quite sure what it wants to be, which is a surprise after the superbly compartmentalised interiors of Agents' previous ships. She seems to have crammed a lot of stuff into the space, and not all of it into perhaps the right space. The curious and spurious shower door that remains when the brig is rezzed also seems like an uncharacteristic oversight. However, this aside it has some good roleplay space for a fair sized crew, and is certainly very distinctive both inside and out.

In terms of scripting, Agent pulls her usual tricks out of the bag with Barracuda; superb flight system that is low lag (if slightly clunky-looking in action) and boasts full 360 degree movement, including rolling and pitching; awesome Panopticon sim radar that scans the whole sim and then keeps track of people's locations, and allows you to teleport them aboard if you want to; useful teleport system that allows ship to surface beaming, and can be used to beam people aboard if needed; jump drive that allows the whole ship to leap to another set of co-ordinates in the sim; a series of probes including a chat spy. But where Agent has excellend herself is in the addition of the database for the crew. The Barracuda can be fed a list of names and ranks to assign those names to allow the crew access to different functions. This takes a little setting up, and the manual is a tad daunting on the subject, but it is a whole new level of access control over the usual owner/group options found in the past. Oddly there is a weapons console, despite there being no weapons - it does mention a future upgrade with weapons in the manual, but the Barracuda has been out now for some time and the weapons haven't yet materialised.

The sheer joy of the acro flight mode is always entertaining for noth crew and pilot alike, so the Barracuda scores highly here, but although it is generally a superb and good-looking ship, it does seem to be a little confused in its layout, have some odd little quirks, such as the forgotten weapons and the shower door in the brig. Despite these things, however, Barracuda is still a great vessel for roleplay, and the database system for crew access certainly raises the bar for detail in this area.

Build Quality - 80%
As usual, Agent's build is simple yet elegant, creating an interesting and unusual shape for the body that is compact and very distinctive. The underslung cargo pods are an interesting idea, if they can be a little fiddly to get into and out of. The living area seems to be a little jumbled up, and I'm still not convinced about the lone pilot up on his or her lonely bridge. The odd shower door is something of an anomaly and seems to have been almost forgotten about when designing the brig scene.

Scripting - 95%
Again, I almost can't fault Agent's scripting, the usual excellent quality of the flight script, teleport, escape pods, Panopticon and the rest of the gadgets is also supplemented by the new database access system which is a real innovation, and certainly a step up from having to go round every door on a ship and add users to the access list. However, I'd rather like to see some sound effects in there. The hum of the power core or the distant rumble of the engines would be a great addition. I'm nitpicking here, but it's a good point and one that can help with roleplay immersion too.

RPability - 85%
What it loses from the unusual choices made for the living areas and the awkward access to the pods, it gains from the database system. This is a ship that truly allows your crew to feel like they have a rank in your ship, and therefore a place. The gadgets help immerse your troupe in the sci-fi environment. As mentioned above, sound effects would be a nice addition too .

Gizmos - 90%
Whilst this ship has most of the gadgetry of the Rising Star, it lacks weapons (despite there being a console for them), but adds in to the equation the database system. Panopticon is always fun, and the teleport system, probe launcher and escape pods are great fun to play with.

Value For Money - 92%
Like the Rising Star before it, the Barracuda is perfectly poised in terms of the bang you get for your buck. L$2300 places it around the same price range as Podwangler's excellent range of freighters, with which it shares Agent's flight system.

Overall - 88%
Despite not being quite as brilliant as Rising Star, the Barracuda is still a superb freighter that maintains Agent's position as one of Second Life's foremost shipbuilders. The Barracuda is a superb base for roleplaying; it flies beautifully; it doesn't lag out a sim with its scripting; and it looks excellent and distinctive. There are some minor criticisms, but don't let them put you off - overall the Barracuda is a damned fine ship.

No comments:

Post a Comment