Sunday, February 17, 2008

Jaymin Carthage's fast-propagating "Branch" - Scripting in the service of bodacious virtual nature

Not so long ago, there was a freakish bit of "News of the Weird" about a tree that tried to eat cows... and then there's the Royal Empress tree that can grow up to 25 feet in three years... but nothing in Real Life can compare with Jaymin Carthage's "Branch."

Acting on Tezcatlipoca Bisiani's hot tip, I wrote to Jaymin - an IBM software architect and active Second Lifer - to learn more about his "Branch."

I was at my home in Chakryn Forest on Friday evening, conversing with Morris Vig, founder and owner of Second Life's much-esteemed Oyster Bay Gallery, and learning the sad news that he is closing its doors, when Jaymin sent me a "Branch" of my own. Not thinking, I rezzed the one-prim-wonder in front of me and continued chatting with Morris.

In under five minutes - and much to our astonishment - the branch had gone bananas (actually, in this case apples) and was growing this way and that, spewing apples and particle effects and what not, until finally it stopped when it had filled the parcel's remaining allotment of just over 500 prims.

Jaymin explains that his supernatural self-growing fractal tree is "(very) loosely based on the description I heard of a tree at Burning Man made of welded brass tubing that shot out flames at night and a cooling mist by day."

Instructions for the organic plant-and-grow system are simple but think twice where you do this! Rez the root branch and click on it once.

To give you a demonstration, I textured the root branch and touched it, and within one minute it had already become a strong little sapling.

According to Jaymin, "It will then start to grow taller, sprout branches, and eventually spout flame or mist and drop apples. After about an hour it will be full size and consume, roughly 1000 prims at default setting."

Within 15 minutes, the tree had outgrown the black shadow box I had rezzed it in for photographic ease.

While the "Branch" is freeware, and you can copy, modify, and even resell it, Jaymin asks that - if you are so inclined to compensate him for it - you make a contribution to Heifer International via AM Radio's celebrated wheat field, "The Far Away," which is currently running a creative writing and photography competition.

Furthermore, you can "prune" the growing branches, turn the whole shebang off by touching the root prim once again, and when you move the trunk, the rest of the tree will slowly follow.

Twenty five minutes after rezzing the root prim, or "branch," my tree is fully grown.

In the accompanying notecard, Jaymin explains how it works:

"As a fractal, branch works through self replication. Real trees work similarly, and that's why there is a resemblance. Other than fruit, there is only one prim, and one script. Each branch or limb is a repeat of the same thing. It rezzes a copy of itself as each limb that grows.

When a child branch is created, it is passed a generation number through the start parameter. This is used, at a base level, for scoping, so that it does not grow indefinitely. By default it is restricted to 8 generations.

Each child is also passed the identity of the parent that it came from. This is important for positioning. A child takes its position cues from the parent. So as the parent grows, the child adjusts itself. This makes the whole tree grow organically.

Lastly the child prim gets passed a sort of "serial number". The root has a serial number of "T". Each of its limbs has a number of "T0", "T1", "T2", etc. "T0"'s children are "T00", "T01", "T02", etc. This is used to facilitate preferential killing. Essentially when you prune a limb, it announces this with its serial number. Any limb that also begins with the same serial number, suicides.

The tones used for the collision sounds on the branches and fruit are cello plucks taken from a mediawiki site. Taking inspiration from the orchestral crescendo of "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles, they are all steps in the chord of A major. Each higher order branch is tuned to a note further up the arpeggio... so when they sound together it is melodious and not discordant."


Edo Autopoiesis said...

Oh, this sounds wonderfull ! I've got to check this in world. (Wish I had made it...)

note: Isn't this quite close to actually possible in rl? (not that I mind)

Chrisy Jewell said...

Reminds me of Plantpets!Except they are plants growing in pots!But this is a tree!How exciting :)

Bettina Tizzy said...

edo, now that I've given you a copy, what do you think? PIRL? or NPIRL?