Sunday, 4 April 2010

Ship Review - Mercury Shuttlepod, by Podwangler Zapedzki

See it at XstreetSL (bear in mind this is the old version, the update will be released in the next few days I am assured)

Podwangler has, as we have seen, moved into the shipbuilding scene very quickly, and perhaps unusually, unlinke most of his competitors, does not specialise in either large ships (llike Smith Fizz or Agent Tairov) or small, physical ships (such as Priest Varun or Cunningham Capalini). Instead he offers a range of sizes, from one-man physical fighters, through multi-person physical shuttles, all the way up to the large multipart ships at the top of his range. I picked the Mercury as it is most likely the shuttle I have seen more often than any other out in the wild. It's a blocky affair on first examination, consisting of a box that tapers up to the top and down to the bottom slightly, with landing gear and an engine/wing arrangement at the back. Odd-looking, and yet slightly cute and, more importantly, very compact. Upon opening the door (which neatly splits, with the bottom half becoming the ramp and the top half swivelling up above your head) you see that this tiny ship has a deceptive amount of space, with seating for a pilot, copilot and two passengers, and headroom enough to allow most non-ridiculous-giant avatars to stand upright. This is quite a nice idea as it allows you to stop the ship up at a good altitude and stand up without being unceremoniously catapulted out of the ship and into a 2000m plunge. For roleplay scenarios, this is an invaluable feature. The size of it is also very handy as the Mercury, I found, will fit inside many larger ships' cargo bays and hangars, making it a superb extra for a roleplayer who needs something to zip back and forth to the surface in.

The sculpts on the wings, engine and landing gear are effective, and the engines themselves give off an unusual green glow when activated. In flight, this ship uses a familiar hovermode flight script, which although I can't be sure, I think is a modification of a freebie script. It doesn't use mouselook and therefore won't intimidate those who don't enjoy or can't fly mouselook ships, and it also boasts a non-mouselook flight mode with diving and rolling. It's a simple script, but it is smooth and effective, and easy to use. After the fun autoswitching modes offered by Cunningham Capalini and Neocrypter Rojyo, it seems a little no-frills, and it seems odd as Podwangler uses Neo's scripts for many of his fighters. I did ask him about this, and his response was that he only puts the mouselook switching script in shuttles that have weapons and therefore need to be aimed carefully. He is also very conscious that not everyone likes mouselook flight, and is therefore offering this as an alternative. As he rightly points out, his Talon variant is, basically, a Mercury with the mouselook flight, a gun turret and a missile launcher, so I guess if you want this ship with that script, you have the choice, which is fair enough. Freebie though it is, I did have a blast in the flight mode, looping round asteroids and invariably smashing into them. It's clearly been heavily tweaked and so produces a controllable and easy-to-learn system.

In other scripts the Mercury has retracting landing gear, engine particles, the rather neat opening door (complete with nice, meaty mechanical sound effect), an FTL drive with a neat rezzing jump effect and particles, and the VICE combat system so you can get shot down. Podwangler did pass me the latest upgrade that will be released by the time this review is finished, I guess, so I'll cover the new updates too; in-sim comms radio to communicate with any other Zapezki Shipyards shuttle or ship in the same sim; lockable pilot seat that can be opened to group or open mode, and also locks the doors; and sculpted one-piece seats instead of the two-piece seats in the current version. Also featured are some rather tasty sculpted controls courtesy of that superb ssculpter Ifrit Skytower. This is a serious step up from the original Mercury, and the whole ship feels that bit more finished. There is a price - after his Easter sale the price will be going up to 500L, but even at this price it's fair. There are very few other decent shuttlecraft that are a) this small, b) this well-featured and c) this...cute. Yes, cute. It still looks oddly blocky, but then it's a utility ship, built to move people and fit in small cargo bays. I've seen considerably worse out there and for far more money, too.

In conclusion, and especially with the upgrades, this is a great little shuttle that is fun to fly, ideal for roleplay, and fits in most hangars. The fact that you can fit three friends in it with you is a major bonus. And all of this for only 500L - within most people's range. Recommended.

Build Quality - 75%
It's a fairly basic build, but executed well enough. Good use of sculpts for the engine section, seats, controls and landing gear, and a neat opening door, and reasonable, workmanlike texturing. Not the best design I've seen, but usable and inoffensive.

Scripting - 85%
As usual, Podwangler uses other people's flight scripts, but everything else is his own, and he has tweaked the flight script considerably it seems as well. The communicator works nicely, the ship locking system also locks the radio, which is a nice touch and stops people spamming the airwaves with it when you leave it parked up, and the hatch doors open and close slowly and smoothly. On top of it all, the ship is very low-lag, so it's not going to kill a homestead. Nicely polished.

RPability - 87%
Between the radio, the passenger capacity, the addition of VICE, the small and compact size, and the fact that you don't get thrown out of the ship if you dare to stand up, this is a fine ship for roleplaying. It's modifiable, allowing people to personalise it as much as they want to.

Gizmos - 85%
There is more than enough here to satisfy most people; a combat system, a comms system, lockable doors and pilot seat, FTL drive, dual flight modes. It's a great deal of fun, and has a good number of gadgets for the low price, all of which seem well-scripted and work effectively without lagging out a sim.

Value For Money - 90%
At it's old price of 350, this shuttle was a bargain, nay, a silly price for such a ship. Now, with the updates and the new price of 500L, it's still a bargain, and possibly still a silly price. Seriously, although you can get prettier shuttles out there, and you can get better specced shuttles, there aren't many of both at this price or cheaper.

Overall - 84%
In summary, this is a great little ship. It's compact size and ability to carry three passengers as well as the pilot make it great for most people, and its' rp value is enormous. Ship to surface shuttle? No problem. General runabout? It'll do that too. Maintenance pod? You got it. The combination of gadgets, useability and low price mean that it's hard not to recommend this ship. A great place to start, and as much as most will ever need!

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