Terrified of Terraforming

Cornwall College Island is starting to shape up. Julala Demina (a colleague of mine from Cornwall college – the corporation’s e-learning manager – Julia in RL) and Bex Mavendorf have spent a lot of hours after work and at weekends building, playing, demolishing and re-building and things are starting to take shape.

We are nowhere near finished – and what we’ve done is only a representation – a draft copy – made from things we’ve begged, borrowed, stolen and rezzed ourselves with no money.
However, now that my boss had had a look around and agreed with our plans we have been promised some funding to replace our representations with better versions of what we have there already. So it’s goodbye freebie Pirate ship…and hello Onedin Line!!!

One should never rest on one’s laurels though. Yesterday, it went horribly wrong. I was tinkering around on the island – re-arranging bits and pieces, moving objects, just sort of pottering…when I noticed that a huge bit of the island (one of the corners) was underwater (which is how the island had been baked in the first place – but I was in one of those curious moods fuelled by a Bank Holiday “free” day off and too much chocolate). I thought it would be a good idea to do some terraforming, and raise the area so that I had a smaller island next to the main island…I had lofty ideas of making a small version of Brunel’s Tamar Bridge to join the two, so adding to the Cornish theme of the island.

I selected the area I wanted to terraform, set my “move land” slider to the halfway point, clicked on “raise land”, pressed “apply to slected area”….and the land rose a little bit, but not enough as it was still submergedunder water. So I clicked again. Twice, randomly, whilst watching an episode of Ashes to Ashes that’s I’d recored the week before and not paying the sort of attention that terraforming warrants.

Suddenly I started geting an avalanche of messages telling me my objects were being returned to my inventory after going offworld. The avalanche was so big, the system had to disable itself for 10 seconds while more messages came in and objectsd flew back into my inventory. For a second or two I wasn’t sure what was going on, and couldn’t see what had happened, so I decided to fly upwards to see what was happening. That’s when I saw the the whole island had turned into one ENORMOUS mountain. Everything was buried under hundreds of feet of virtual granite.

I felt physically sick. All the hard work Julala and I had done (a good 80-100 hours) had gone in two stupid, thoughtless clicks. I clearly hadn’t checked to see how much of the island I had highlighted to terraform (assuming arrogantly that I had only highlighted the tiny corner I wanted to raise) and had clicked twice in quick succession without checking how much the land was moving by. Worst of all…there didn’t seem to be a simple”edit-undo” facility that undid something as severe as this.

I IMd Julala immediately to tell her what I had done, and she was amazing – she flew into SL within minutes landed on the island and started telling me that it wasn’t a problem, not to worry about it and that, as we were going to effectively rebuild everything soon anyway, it didn’t really matter. We had agreed last week that we needed to do some major re-terraforming to make, for example, sweeping cliffs as opposed to the odd “Sugar Loaf Mountain” cliff face we had made, and there was even talk of buying another island or homestead to join on to the island to make some seriously dramatic (and massive) landscapes (soemthing Cornwall is famous for). She said that the hours we’d put in hadn’t gone to waste becauuse we had both learnt a lot about building, landscaping and managing land and to log out and try not to think about it.

I logged out and went to Twitter, thinking that this was a great opportunity to “say what I was doing”:

Just destroyed Cornwall College Island on SL by setting the area I wanted to terraform incorrectly. There goes 2 months hard work!

After a few minutes I got a couple of responses from fellow Twitterers (who were also Second Lifers) who suggested I contacted Linden Labs and ask for a rolback. I didn’t know that this was even possible, so suddenly I had a gleam of hope! Logging into SL.com as my ALT (and island owner) Hebask Falconer I set up a ticket, explained what I had done and when I had done it and asked whether the island could be rolled back to a couple of hours before it had all gone pear shaped. (Or mountain shaped).

At 6.30 this morning, I got an email from Linden saying the following:

Hello Hebask,
Thank you for submitting your rollback request. Typically we would not be able to approve a request such as this. Rollbacks are a recovery method for catastrophic loss due to means outside of your control rather than an ‘Undo’ due to errors made in the region. However, I have decided to approve this request as a One Time Courtesy Rollback. Cornwall College has been rolled back to Mon May 4 05:24AM PST.
Have a terrific week 🙂
Izzy Linden

The island is back to how it looked before I started playing with underwater corners. Rarely have I felt such relief…however, this story has made me reflect about building in SL to an extent I hadn’t before:

  • Terraforming is NOT an easy thing to do – it is better to make tiny changes in small areas and build upon them slowly and carefully than to try to save time by thinking it best to highlight huge areas of land and terraform them in one fell swoop.
  • If terraforming CONCENTRATE. Do not have the television on or partners, dogs, kids or anything else running around the room. Do not have the telephone switched on or the new Metallica album playing at 1,000 decibals.
  • If you are lucky enough to own an island complete all terraforming first and do the building “stuff” ONLY when you are happy with what you have done to the island’s geography. That way you lose none of your precious building if it all goes wrong, and can simply revert / take back to the baked state in which the island was presented.
  • If you make a mistake it’s not as easy to repair as simply clicking on “edit undo” (as you would in “Word”!)
  • Make sure the positions of objects are locked: this will also stop random visitors to your land accidentally moving / deleting / stealing your objects
  • Linden Labs were really kind to let me have this one-off rolback – but it IS a one off, so making stupid errors and asking to tavel back in time to before it all went wrong isn’t something that can be requested – or done for you – at the drop of a hat.

The repercussions, even after a successful rollback, can be quite big too. I may have everything back to how it was now (I tentatively logged in after getting the email this morning, just before going to work, and was so pleased to see every picture back in its frame, every building back in it’s position and every hillock exactly where it should be), but tonight I have a meeting at 8.00 GMT on the island with the the rest of the project development group (those who are watching development go on but not doing any of the building themselves) – and I actually feel a little embarrased at making such a stupid error and am terrified of terraforming. Not sure if I can look them in the virtual eye without cringing…but I hope this stupid phobia goes, or my life as an avatar will be severely stunted.

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