Terraforming

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In Second Life, not only do you have the power to do amazing things like fly — you can terraform, which means you can change the shape and elevation of land (terrain) in seconds! All it takes is a few quick clicks.

Squirrel Wood's "Professional Terraformer" in action, a scripted gadget. See video further down the page.

Terraforming can range from the realistic...

Georgian, a vehicle sandbox, looks like this when objects are hidden.

... to the whimsical and beyond.

"Enigma" in Dark Spirit region with distinctive swirls.

How do I terraform?

  1. Right-click the ground and choose Edit Terrain. This opens Build Tools - Edit Terrain.
  2. Select a terrain editing tool (Flatten, Raise, and so on).
  3. Move your cursor over the terrain. You should see small white arrows showing the size, strength, and direction of your current "terraform brush".
  4. Start "painting" the ground by clicking and dragging.
  5. Adjust Size and Strength to taste. Sometimes you'll want to paint in very broad, dramatic strokes — other times more subtlety is called for.

This video tutorial shows you how to quickly get started:

Alternatively, if you want to terraform a specific selection:

  1. In Build Tools - Edit Terrain, click Select Land.
  2. Click and drag your cursor across the terrain to select.
  3. Select a terrain editing tool and adjust Size and Strength.
  4. Click Apply. This affects all selected terrain.

Where can I terraform?

You can terraform land you own or group-owned land you've been granted the ability to reshape.

However, the range you can terraform depends on region settings which may be controlled by Linden Lab or an estate owner/manager. See Land Limits.

Where do I enable/disable terraforming?

A landowner can always terraform their own land, provided there aren't greater restrictions.

If you want to allow others, including random strangers to terraform your land parcel:

  1. Choose World > Place Profile > About Land.
  2. In the About Land window, click OPTIONS tab.
  3. Check Edit Terrain tab.
Warning: Be very careful before enabling this! Edit Terrain is off by default because you, as the landowner, don't need it to terraform. Many builds are dependent on the shape of the terrain, and allowing passerby to incidentally or intentionally change your terrain can destroy builds — raising the terrain can return objects to their owners.

Further up a level, terraforming range can be changed by estate owners and managers:

  1. Choose World > Place Profile > Region/Estate.
  2. In the Region/Estate window, click Terrain tab.
  3. Set the Water Height, Terrain Raise Limit, and Terrain Lower Limit.

See this for a further explanation of what each control means.

Does enabling "Edit Terrain" do anything else?

Yes, strangely enough, it also allows Linden trees and other plants to be placed on your land. These are special objects unlike Resident-created tree objects which have some weird properties you should know about.

If I don't own any land, can I practice terraforming?

Yes, there's a quick and easy place you can feel free to mess up — Torley's landbox, which you can teleport to now. It's featured in the video tutorial above.

How do I change terrain textures?

Terraforming controls one part of your land's look: another part is the textures which are mapped on the surface to simulate grass, snow, or stranger stuff.

See "Creating Terrain Textures" for further details.

How do I prevent terraform griefing?

"Terraform griefing" refers to intentional destruction of your terrain, which can also affect objects which were previously resting on or near your terrain. As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

First of all, as mentioned above, never enable Edit Terrain on a parcel unless you're absolutely sure you want everyone else in the world to come by and change your terrain. For example, enabling Edit Terrain would be appropriate if you have a chaotic creative space that Residents are free to litter on, but you wouldn't want it on if you've meticulously sculpted a mountain.

Furthermore, if your land is group-owned, make sure only intended group members have the ability to turn Edit Terrain. As a group owner:

  1. Choose World > Place Profile > About Land.
  2. In the About Land window, click General tab.
  3. Next to Owner, Click the name of the group.
  4. On the inspector that appears, click View Profile.
  5. In the sidebar now showing the group info, click Roles to expand it.
  6. Click the Roles sub-tab.
  7. Click a role. For example, "Everyone".
  8. Scroll down to the bottom where it says Allowed Abilities.
  9. In the list of abilities, scroll down and make sure Toggle 'Edit Terrain' is off. (It's off by default for "Everyone" but on for "Officers" and always on for "Owners".) Repeat this for each appropriate role.

Applicable for estate owners and managers but just as important — make sure to click Bake Terrain (found in the Region/Estate window's Terrain tab) when your terrain is set as you like it. As described here, this sets how the terrain looks when you use the Revert land tool.

Optionally, if you want no terraforming happening on a region you own/manage:

  1. Choose World > Place Profile > Region/Estate.
  2. In the Region/Estate window, click Terrain tab.
  3. Click Bake Terrain and confirm this is the shape you want "frozen".
  4. Set Terrain Raise Limit and Terrain Lower Limit both to 0.
  5. Click Apply.

This means no one else (like renters) can alter their terrain across the entire region, not even you — unless you change the limits.

If your region was terraform-griefed, you may want to consider using the Revert land tool, but if objects were also returned or other substantial damage, contact Concierge to request a "rollback".

This video shows how to do most of the above:

I own an estate, what terraform settings should I use for my regions?

That depends on your vision and intent for the estate.

  • If you've just gotten your region, you'll need to terraform it to initially shape it. So you'll probably want to set Terrain Raise Limit to 100.00 and Terrain Lower Limit to -100.00 but make sure Edit Terrain is off on individual parcels.
    • Or, in Region/Estate's Estate tab, uncheck Allow Public Access so wanderers can't come in until you say otherwise.
  • If you have a themed region where the experience is tightly controlled, not allowing terraforming is common. Nothing wrecks immersion like being in a sandy desert and watching a spike shoot out of your neighbor's parcel, after all (unless you're emulating the sandworms from Dune).

I see regions that have such cool terraforming! How did they do that?

Like this?

Various regions belonging to Linden Concierge.

As with many things in Second Life, creativity is endless and methods vary, so ask the estate owner and/or manager. They'll likely enjoy hearing that you noticed their art!

Beyond "by-hand" shaping, there are two advanced ways to terraform:

  1. RAW files - Specifically-formatted computer graphics files. There are ways to convert a normal picture into a RAW file.
  2. Scripted gadgets - These assist you with automating terrain changes. Search the marketplace for "terraformer" as there isn't a specific category devoted to them.

This video shows Squirrel Wood's "Professional Terraformer" scripted gadget:

In addition, clever Residents have come up with "terrain extenders" and other enhancements which aren't technically terrain, but objects designed to complement the overall look of your region. Like a really pretty wig. These can also be found on the Marketplace.

Landscapes Unlimited pioneered using a combination of sculptie megaprims which greatly enhance the built-in terrain system.

See also

Link to more awesome terraforming info here!

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