Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Considering the Shelly and Her Ilk

The Shelly Fizz debuted the other day to much fanfare at the Starboards Yacht Club. It is a free boat, developed by the Schiffsratten Yacht Club and Mothgirl Dibou, the proprietor of the Flying Fizz boat. The Fizz has just been updated to include more realistic features, and she graciously allowed the Ship Rats to make a training boat with the new Fizz engine.

As a teaching boat, it's fine. It only has two modes - fun mode and novice mode. Fun mode is as simple as it gets, just hop on the boat and steer. Novice mode is more of what I'm used to, with adjustment of the sheet versus the wind. The key difference in my experience is that there is no HUD, you have to tell by looking at the sail whether or not you're getting it right.

So far, so good. I also benefited a little bit from going to the beginning sailing class and practiced "beating" - shifting back and forth to sail upwind. This was the thing that really got me about the Leetle Cat, that made it less enjoyable - I wasn't good at sailing upwind and desperately wanted a motor. To dock my boats, I would drop the sails and start up the motor at a low throttle power, to have more control over where the boat went. It felt more finessed than messing with the wind.

So I at least feel better about sailing upwind, and will give the Leetle Cat more use. Like the Leetle Cat, the Shelly has a centerboard that can be raised for going through shallows. It's just a very different experience since there is no HUD. I don't mind it, although I still prefer a HUD telling me the wind speed and direction.

Is this what the Fizz itself is like? I don't know. It can't be too far off. My reaction in light of what I already experienced while cutting my teeth on Trudeau yachts is "meh." But it would take a full demo to find out, and I don't know if I care to do that in light of what I've read about future Fizz-style boats. Just some ugliness since Mothgirl plans to sell a separate key to make Fizz derivatives work. Instead of just licensing the engine to shipbuilders, she is collecting from individuals who want to buy Fizz-powered boats, 500L for a separate key on top of their boat purchase. It is highly inconvenient and raises the relative cost of owning a Fizz-powered boat, even though the cost is a one-time purchase.

I don't think this is a wise business decision, but it's not mine to make. The vast majority of people who sail in SL don't give a rat's tush about the sailing clubs or racing. They just want to have fun and enjoy the water. So far, this is exactly what I've had with the Trudeau boats. Pure fun, with a little bit of a challenge in learning how to control the boat's sheet angles.

If the shipbuilding kit really is all that, and so many people are anxious to build with it, then I feel that she would be better served licensing it at a reasonable rate such that shipbuilders would be able to resell at a rate comparable to the Fizz (L$ 1250) instead of selling us their stuff at L$ 1250ish and then oh-by-the-way, you have to pay Mothgirl an extra 500L, albeit once.

I don't know Mothgirl from Adam, and the things I've read from her and some others - venting her frustration at others, most especially at Jacqueline Trudeau, about the slow adoption of her new engine and her new windsetting scheme - definitely make me cool to the concept of buying a Fizz at all. I know she's done a lot of work to improve upon the work already done by Kanker Greenacre and possibly others, and she deserves to be rewarded for her hard work, but I don't think this is the wisest way. Plenty of people who know a heck of a lot less than I do about her may be disinclined to bother paying for a key. She says it'll go to good causes like Sail for Life, and that's great. But why should anyone who hasn't even heard of the yacht clubs care?

It's not really about the money, since just about everything in Second Life is less than the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee, but it sort of is - it's both money and inconvenience. But relative to other boats? It begs the question if dealing with all this brouhaha is really worth it.

For me, that jury is definitely out.

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