Friday, April 27, 2012

Virtual Yosemite

Wandering around SL the other day, I was informed of a place called Virtual Yosemite. It is touted thusly: "Enjoy the natural scenery of Virtual Yosemite. This virtual version of the famous national park in the USA is an example of a whole new generation of sculpted off-sim environments by Sominel Edelman (Landscapes Unlimited). More info at"

I don't know what I was expecting, but when I got there, whatever original expectations I'd had were quickly shattered. This is one of the best sims I've seen on the grid in a long long time, and the effort really shows. It's a pretty open sim, surrounded on all sides by off-sim mountains representing the area around Yosemite. There's a little campground, a store to buy the off-sim mountains and environments, a little wooden lodge, and... well, that's it, really, but no one ever said a sim had to be full to bursting of prims to be attractive. I looked around and then got in touch with the creator of this wonderous landscape, Sominel Edelman, to talk to him about his masterpiece of Virtual Yosemite.

Sominel Edelman, "Hi, welcome!"

Xymbers Slade, "This is quite the landscape. I haven't seen many, if any at all, better than this one in a long time. (smile) How long did it take to design all of this and put it together?"

Sominel Edelman, "It may very well be unique in SL; about a month, perhaps even a bit more. I've used a new technique on this one. That's why it takes so long, the first one is the hardest."

Xymbers Slade, "Was it a difficult process? Or do you find generating landscapes comes natural to you?"

Sominel Edelman, "The technology can be difficult, but the process of sculpting itself is fun. Nothing but fun (smile). I'm a geographer myself in real life. I studied landforms like these."

Xymbers Slade, "What got you interested in landscapes specifi... well, I guess that answered that, then. Heh."

Sominel Edelman, "At first I did jewelry, but I didn't find that very motivating. I'm not a jewelry type of guy (grin)."

Xymbers Slade, "So you go around looking at landscapes all the time?"

Sominel Edelman, "No, I don't go around that much. Except in real life, I love to travel there, visit new places. in Second Life, I'm mostly just busy making new things."

Xymbers Slade, "I guess I was expecting to see Old Faithful or something here. I don't see it included... didn't want to add the most famous part of the place?"

Sominel Edelman, "Uhm... Old Faithful is part of a different park (grin). That's Yellowstone, this is Yosemite."

Xymbers Slade, "Shows how smart I am, I have the direction sense of a brick and the geography sense of a bag of apples."

Sominel Edelman, "This is what it should look like: "

Xymbers Slade, "What do you use to make these kinds of wonderful landscapes?"

Sominel Edelman, "A few 3D programs and a couple of scripts. I won't be very specific about that.... I'm sorry."

Xymbers Slade, "Ah, ok, no problem. I can understand not wanting to 'reveal trade secrets.' Is there something you want to do landscape-wise but can't, due to limitations in SL or something else?"

Sominel Edelman, "Well... The amount of detail you can get in off-sim builds is not that big. It would be great to be able to use mesh, but meshes can't be that big."

Xymbers Slade, "I wasn't aware meshes had a limit but then again I don't build."

Sominel Edelman, "The waterfalls, for example, I wish I could make a more natural shape. They can just be 64x64x64 meters... this is 1024x1024 so they [mesh] would be way too small."

Xymbers Slade, "What's your next planned project? I find this hard to top off the top of my head."

Sominel Edelman, "I do have the Grand Canyon high on my list, but... there are not that many trees there, and I do love the off-sim trees."

Xymbers Slade, "Heh. Maybe add a little creative artistry then and add more trees (grin). I've never been out there so I don't have a clue (I live in a major city, so)."

Sominel Edelman, "I have a couple of other environments that I want to make, I think they should all be on the Unesco World Heritage list."

Xymbers Slade: "You mean the Grand Canyon isn't?"

Sominel Edelman, "I want to go all over the world (smile). It is, this is too, but it should be special to people, and well-known all around the world."

Xymbers Slade, "Ok, last question in this little rapid-fire... do you do commissions?"

Sominel Edelman, "How do you mean, commissions?"

Xymbers Slade, "Like if someone asked you for a specific landscape or skybox (off the top of my head I know a dragon looking for a new lair, so to speak)."

Sominel Edelman, "No, in general I don't. I did that for a while, but it made me go off-track. I want to keep my focus."

Xymbers Slade, "I know what you mean (smile). Keeping focus is definitely a skill in Second Life when there is so many things to see/do/create and whatnot."

Sominel Edelman, "And, it's hard to create something someone else has in mind. They can almost never show me a picture, and that makes it hard."

"That's great, thank you Xymbers! How did you find this place?"

Xymbers Slade, "Honestly, my editor mentioned it to the rest of the reporters and went 'who wants it?' --- I haven't done a piece in months, so I said I'd take it on. (smile)"

Even as a big open space, it's a wonderful quiet spot for when you need to unwind from the hustle and pixel-flavored mayhem of SL. Without a doubt I'm giving it 5 Dragon Hoards out of 5, and I'm not even a huge wilderness buff!

Virtual Yosemite can be found at the Landscapes Unlimited sim: Landscapes Unlimited, (99/143/22)

Xymbers Slade

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