Can You Feel a Snowflake?

Saturday, December 5, 2009 Saturday, December 05, 2009

Normally, snowflakes melt when you touch them. But that doesn’t happen in Second Life; they merely float away. But you can still feel them.

I make snowflakes - particle ones, of course - and have several versions for sale at Electric Pixels. I’ve had various types of snowmaking attachments and gadgets on store shelves for over two years, but this year I wanted to try something a little different.

I made Giant Snowflakes.

Crazy, you think? Perhaps, but here’s the theory: virtual reality is all about immersing people into an environment. Immersion is a combination of visual, auditory and situational factors that when combined, make the resident feel like they are somewhere other than sitting in front of their computer. We’ve all experienced and appreciate  carefully engineered immersions.

To achieve the desired immersion feelings, I try to engineer my particle effects to be realistic (well, or seemingly realistic for those items that aren’t really possible in real life). For example, my older snowstorm drops thick clods of snow that kinda looks like real snowfall, or my RainMaker attempts to look like real rain.

However, I tried something different. Instead of making realistic snowflakes, which would be so small you can’t really see them on the screen, I made giant snowflakes, a meter across. Totally unrealistic, yet it seems to work. When you see the flakes, you feel kinda snowy.

Why does this work? I believe it’s because the crisp images of snowflakes immediately register in your brain when they’re seen. The snowflake symbols evoke feelings of snow. The unreal becomes real!

I’ve used these giant snowflakes in some new particle effects, now on sale at Electric Pixels. SnowFlurry (image at the top) creates a tiny snowstorm around you, while SnowWeddingRing (image) produces an amazing animated ring of snow around you and your partner. There’s also a SnowRing for singles. And for those who want even more, I have one more giant snowflake item hidden in a hunt item (for the Snowflake Grid Wide Hunt, no less). I hope you enjoy them!


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