The Piloting and Maintenance of the Terra-Kojima Merlin-class Cutter Airship
– or –
How to Avoid Exploding in the Sky: Your Practical Guide to Airship Pilotry
Welcome, Airship Pilot, to a new world of lighter-than-air aviation, in which one navigates the clouds as easily as a steamship plies the waves.
Through the advances in modern mechanicals and automation, the Merlin-class cutter airship may be crewed by a single individual; however, in the unfortunate event of an engagement with an enemy, you may wish to call upon the assistance of up to two gunners, with a third individual as lookout, for a total of four crew including yourself.
- Basic Flight: A brief summary of how to fly your airship
- Paint and Flags: How to customize your airship’s appearance
- Tours: How to create autopiloted tours
- Combat: How to destroy enemy craft
Created by Cubey Terra and Reitsuki Kojima
Ironclad Combat System (ICS): Kandace Commons
Merlin Basic Flight
The first individual to board the Merlin-class cutter airship becomes pilot unless they explicitly sit at another station, such as a gun or the aft bench.
- While standing at the ship’s wheel, say MERLIN to show the menu.
- Click “Get HUD” to get the control HUD attachment.
- Start the ship’s engine in one of these ways:
Click the “E” button on the HUD, or
Say START in chat.
You are now ready to fly.
Adjusting Your Sit Position
While at the ship’s wheel, click it to open the sit adjustment menu.
You can control altitude using the knobs on the bottom of the Merlin control HUD. These knobs indicate the desired change in altitude, ranging from the lowest on the left to highest on the right. The centre knob maintains the present altitude. So for example, if you want to descend, click a knob to the left of centre.
Your present altitude is indicated on the control HUD.
Alternatively, you may use your keyboard:
- Holding [Page Up] or [E] will make the airship rise gradually.
- Holding [Page Down] or [C] will make the airship sink gradually.
You can also use the UP and DOWN chat commands (see the section on chat commands).
You can control speed using your keyboard:
- Press the up-arrow or [W] to increase the throttle by one setting.
- Press the down-arrow or [S] to decrease the throttle by one setting.
The current throttle setting is indicated on the control HUD by the dial on the right.
You can steer the airship provided it has forward or backward speed.
- Press the left-arrow or [A] to turn left.
- Press the right-arrow or [D] to turn right.
To end your flight, click the “E” button on the control HUD or say STOP in chat. Your airship will shut down the boiler, lock the propeller, and anchor itself in place.
Using the Control Panel HUD
The Merlin-class cutter airship includes a control and instrumentation attachment called a “HUD”. You use the HUD to control your airship and to get information such as altitude and throttle.
To get the control HUD, say MERLIN to open the menu, then click “Get HUD”.
Centre gauge indicates present altitude in kilometers. For example, small hand on 4 and long hand on 1 indicates 4.1 km altitude.
Right gauge indicates engine speed setting.
- E – Start or stop the engine
- C (left/right) – Fire the port or starboard cannon (requires that the land below permits object creation).
- T – Drop torpedo (requires that the land below permits object creation).
- M – Open the menu.
Bottom knobs control automatic altitude control, where the centre knob requests present altitude. Knobs to the left request a lower altitude in increasing increments; knobs to the right request a higher altitude in increasing increments.
Issuing Commands in Chat
The following is a list of commands that may be issued in chat to which your Merlin-class cutter airship will respond. Commands (shown here in upper case) may be chatted in either upper or lower case.
Say this to open a menu of configuration options.
Say this to see this instructional text.
Say this to start the airship’s engine and ready the craft for flight.
Say this to stop the airship’s engine and anchor the craft in place.
LOCK <OWNER | GROUP | ANYONE>
Say this to control who may pilot your airship in your absence: only you (owner), only individuals whose active group matches the airship (group), or anyone. For example, to prevent anyone other than you from piloting, say, “LOCK OWNER”.
Say this to eject all avatars from the airship. The airship vanishes in approximately thirty seconds after ejection.
Say this to drop a torpedo. (See the section on combat for correct torpedo use.)
UP <# of meters>
Say this to ascend to the number of meters that you specify above your present altitude. For example, say, “UP 25″ to ascend twenty-five meters. Nota bene: Maximum altitude is 4096 meters, above which your airship will simply vanish into the aether. Scientists are still exploring the reason for this phenomenon. Reports of crew vanishing cannot be substantiated, but caution is advised.
DOWN <# of meters>
Say this to descend to the number of meters that you specify below your present altitude. For example, say, “DOWN 25″ to descend twenty-five meters. Nota bene: Minimum altitude is determined by the ground or another solid object.
Say this to descend until you encounter either the ground or another solid surface, such as a landing platform, a rooftop, or somebody’s head.
Autopiloted Tour Commands
Say this to initiate the autopilot. The airship will read all waypoints from its notecard and attempt to follow the specified route. (See the section on tours for more information.)
Say this to cancel an autopiloted tour that may already be in progress and take manual control. (See the section on tours for more information.)
Say this to make the airship say it’s present position in the form of an autopilot waypoint. You can copy this text from chat, verbatim, if you are building an autopiloted tour route. (See the section on tours for more information.)
Merlin Paint and Flags
You can change the appearance of your Merlin by choosing a new paint scheme for the hull and for the fins. Using the Paint menu, you can choose from pre-made schemes in a variety colours. If you have a talent for PhotoShop or another image editing application, you can create and apply your own texture as a “Custom” paint scheme.
Nota bene: The Nation and Ensign flags can be used in combat while using the ICS combat system; they determine which side and team you are on. Otherwise, their use is purely aesthetic. You can add your own flags using the chat commands described later.
Painting the Airship Using the Paint Menu
- In chat, say PAINT. The Paint menu appears.
- Choose which part of the airship you want to paint: the fins, the hull, or both.
- Use the “<<Paint” and “Paint>>” buttons to cycle through the available paint schemes.
- To change the forward flag, use the “<<Nation” and “Nation>>” buttons. A few premade flags are available.
- To change the rear flag, use the “<<Ensign” and “Ensign>>” buttons. Several ensign flags are available.
Nota bene: Clicking “Del. Nation” or “Del. Ensign” deletes a flag from the list, provided that it’s a “custom” flag that you added to the list using the chat commands that are described next.
Chat Commands for Textures and Flags
You can use any texture in your inventory as a paint scheme or flag. Naturally, not just any old texture will necessarily look appealing, but this feature allows more customisation than the Paint menu permits.
To apply your own custom texture, you first need to find the textures “UUID” or it’s unique asset identification key. To get a texture’s UUID, right-click it in your inventory and choose Copy Asset UUID. Then you can paste it into the appropriate spot in your command by pressing CTRL+V.
PAINT <HULL | FINS> <uuid>
Say this command to apply a custom texture from your inventory to the airship’s hull or fins. In this way you can create your own hull texture.
For example, to paint the hull with a texture UUID copied from inventory, say:
paint hull fa69d14e-51fd-2a6b-255f-032403cd82ef
The newly-applied texture is saved as the “Custom” texture in the Merlin paint menu.
Say this command to apply a custom texture from your inventory to the forward flag. Should you engage in ICS combat, this UUID will determine your airship’s nation.
Nota bene: This section is for SL residents who are comfortable with some advanced tasks, such as copying and pasting text, editing notecards, and SL’s grid coordinate system.
Tours let the airship to fly a preset route across a very large distance either empty or carrying passengers. It can fly in an endlessly looping course or wait to be manually started to fly the route once.
How It Works
The Merlin airship reads a list of global coordinates (and other data) from a notecard, then flies to each location until the last one is reached. You can create your own tour by editing the waypoints in the notecard.
Tours are a strict “point-to-point” path that can span several regions (sims): it simply points itself at the next waypoint and goes. Upon reaching the waypoint, it turns immediately towards the next one until it runs out of waypoints.
Starting and stopping a Tour
Any authorized pilot can start and stop tours. To start a tour from the menu:
- Say MERLIN to open the options menu.
- Click “Tour…” and click START TOUR.
Alternatively, you can say AP START and AP STOP to start and stop a tour.
If you want, you can allow anyone to start a tour even if the airship’s access lock doesn’t allow them to be the pilot. In that way, your airship can be a public attraction without giving full access.
- Say MERLIN to open the options menu.
- Click “Lock…” and “Owner”. Your airship now allows only you to be the pilot.
- Click “Back…” to return to the main menu and click “Tour…”.
- Click “Tour Lock” to toggle the lock state so that the menu indicates “PUBLIC”.
Now, when an unauthorized person stands at the ship’s wheel, instead of unseating them, the airship lets them start a tour. Tourists can start tours, but not stop them. Only a pilot can stop a tour.
Creating a Tour
You can create a tour by entering properly formatted waypoints into a notecard and putting that into your airship. To be safe, we suggest that you drag a copy of the “waypoints” notecard to your Inventory for safekeeping, and edit that copy. There is less chance of losing your work that way. You can replace the “waypoints” notecard in the airship when you’re done editing. The notecard must be named “waypoints”.
Plotting the Route
While planning your route, keep these points in mind:
- Waypoint Spacing: Ideally, waypoints should be spaced up to 500 meters apart. You can space them less than 10 meters in some cases, but it may become confused and skip waypoints inappropriately, or even get stuck trying to reach a waypoint.
- Obstacles: Although you can place waypoints farther apart than 500 meters, the chance of encountering an obstacle increases with distance. You never know when someone might decide to build in your flight path. The airship has no obstacle avoidance ability, which means that your route will have to be carefully plotted along the safest path.
Nota bene: It’s always a good idea to make your airship “phantom” (i.e., not solid) on a tour. That way obstacles are less of a problem
In the notecard, a each waypoint is a line that begins with “WP=”. To add waypoints, add a new line that starts with “WP=”. The airship will give you the correct format, as we will see in the following steps:
- Start by deleting all existing waypoints (the “WP=” lines) in the notecard. We should start with a clean slate.
- Put your airship at the start location, get in, start the engine, and fly manually to the first waypoint.
- At your first waypoint, say WP in chat. The airship replies with your current global location in correct waypoint format. Copy this line into your notecard. The waypoint will look something like this:
Each value is separated by the pipe character, “|”. Do not use spaces.
- Verify that the altitude (the third value) and throttle (the fourth value) are correct. Replace the name of the region with any comment that you want the airship to say upon reaching the waypoint. Here is an example of the previous waypoint after editing altitude, throttle, and comment.
WP=256214.578125|255456.875000|740|8|Below us, you can see Abbotts Aerodrome!
- Fly straight to the next place where you want to create a waypoint and repeat the WP command. Remember that tours fly straight point-to-point lines, so make sure that the path between one waypoint and the next is clear of obstacles.
- When you have finished adding waypoints, replace the waypoint notecard in the airship: Delete the waypoint notecard from the airship’s Content tab, then drag the one you have edited from Inventory to the airship.
- Right-click the airship and Take it into Inventory to ensure that you don’t lose it.
You’re ready to test your tour! Go to a location near the first waypoint, rez your airship, and start the tour with the AP START command.
If you want, you can put “LOOPING=TRUE” in the “waypoints” notecard, and the airship will keep restarting the tour until you tell it to stop.
Tour Chat Commands
These commands start and stop the tour. Stopping the autopilot also shuts off the engines. If you are a long way from the first waypoint, the airship will say so. The farther you are from the first waypoint, the more likely it is that you will encounter an unexpected obstacle.
Say this to get your current location as waypoint data. The airship says your global position in this format:
Throttle is a number between 1 and 10, where 10 is the fastest. The default is half speed (5).
Troubleshooting Autopiloted Tours
Issue: The airship flies right past the waypoint without turning.
Solution: This can happen if your airship flies too low over “no-script” land. Sometimes entire regions can have the scripts turned off. If the autopilot script can’t run, it will never turn. Make sure that the path between waypoints is free of no-script land, or if that’s unavoidable, plot the waypoints high enough so that you’re above the effect of “no-script” (I think that’s about 50m or so).
Issue: My airship keeps getting returned with a message about going off-world.
Solution: Your tour flies too close to the edge of the map. If it touches the map edge and nobody is aboard, SL will return your airship to your Lost and Found. Plot a new course that’s farther from the map edge.
Issue: My airship keeps getting returned to my Lost and Found with a message about a parcel.
Solution: This is one of the hazards of owning an autonomous vehicle. Some parcel owners set their land to block object entry. Sometimes parcels are simply too full.
If the parcel is set to block object entry, plot a new course around the parcel. If the parcel is too full, try making the airship “temp-on-rez”. Full parcels can usually handle a temp object sailing overhead.
Issue: My airship keeps getting stuck on objects.
Solution: Make your airship “phantom” (say PHANTOM in chat). That means that it will pass through solid objects (but not the ground). A limitation is that passengers in the airship will remain solid, so you can’t actually fly through a wall, for example, if anyone is aboard.
Issue: My airship keeps going missing.
Solution: Possible reasons this might happen…
* Someone hopped in, turned off the autopilot, and flew it manually for a while.
* A landowner grabbed it and returned it to your inventory.
* A sim crashed while the airship was in it.
For any of these issues, I suggest using a Terra Perma-rezzer, which is included with the airship. It’s a small prim that can re-rez the airship if it goes missing. If you use a perma-rezzer with the airship, make sure the airship is also phantom and temp-on-rez, to avoid problems of multiple airships accumulating in one spot.
Issue: My airship is pointing in the wrong direction when it ends the tour.
Solution: The airship always points towards the next waypoint, so to make it turn, add another waypoint just to one side, with the throttle set very low. The airship will turn to face that waypoint.
Issue: I keep falling out of my airship when I pass through a sim corner.
Your Merlin-class airship is equipped with the Ironclad Combat System (ICS) by Kandace Commons — a team-based combat system that simulates incremental battle damage and sometimes localized battle damage. ICS is widely used in not only “ironclad” steamship combat, but also in many other fighting vehicles, including ships, boats, tanks, and now the Merlin-class airship.
Nota bene: In most locations in Second Life, people have rules against the use of weapons. Using a weapon without permission might get you banned locally. Repeatedly doing so could result in abuse reports against you. Please use your weapons responsibly.
ICS Combat Specifications for the Merlin-class Airship
In terms of combat capabilities, the Merlin-class airship is relatively vulnerable, and carries only two light cannon. Its real punch is in the four “medium” power torpedoes. This makes it very dangerous to sea-borne targets, provided you can fly within range without being shot down.
- Hit points: 100
- Clockwork torpedo: 4 x ICS “spar” torpedo (medium) v3.0
- Cannon round: 50 x ICS light cannon round v3.0
The cannon and torpedoes can be fired by the pilot, though to aim the cannon, you will need additional crew members.
Where to Engage in Combat
- You can fire your weapons only where the land permits you to create objects.
- Land should be set to “safe” (no damage) or hits to your vehicle may “kill” you inappropriately and teleport you home.
- Before firing your gun, always make sure that the landowner and other avatars present will not mind.
Firing the Cannon from the Pilot’s Position
While piloting the Merlin-class airship, you can fire the port and starboard guns by clicking the left and right “C” buttons on your pilot’s HUD. You cannot aim the guns from this position except by turning the ship.
Firing the Cannon from a Gunner’s Position
- Right-click a gun and choose “Get In”. Your avatar kneels at the gun and a menu pops up.
- Click “Get HUD” from the pop-up menu and wear it.
- To aim, use the arrow keys on your keyboard. To fire, click your mouse anywhere except on the ship or the HUD.
Things to keep in mind while operating the gun:
- Avoid aiming too close to your ship, as it is very easy to cause serious damage to your own vessel.
- Your cannon fires in an arc trajectory, so elevating the muzzle can increase distance. Keep an eye on the smoke trail.
- You can aim and fire only if you wear the gunner’s HUD.
Destroying Targets with Torpedoes
Torpedoes are your primary weapon, and can be used in a conventional way against sea-borne targets and as a bomb against land-based targets and ships.
Sinking Ships and Submarines
Torpedoes can be launched from quite high up, but their clockwork mechanisms run down in about half a minute, so the lower you are when they launch, the better chance you have of hitting your target.
- Approach the enemy target and point your bow towards the centre of the enemy.
- When you are within 100m of your target, click the “T” button on the HUD or say T in chat. A torpedo releases and falls into the water.
On splashdown, it motors forward until either it hits an object or its mechanism runs down.
Nota bene: After splashdown, your torpedo will rise to the surface. Be aware that it is not effective against completely submerged targets.
You can damage or destroy targets by dropping torpedoes directly onto them. For example, dropping a torpedo onto the deck of a ship can be just as effective as firing the torpedo into the water to strike it at the waterline. Though a hit is just as effective, accuracy is extremely difficult.
Getting Damaged or Destroyed
Each time you are hit by enemy ordinance, your airship registers damage according to the power of the enemy weapon and the location on your ship.
- If your airship is hit by a cannon round on its gas bag, it will cause a partial or complete loss of buoyancy.
- If your rudder or elevators (wings) are struck, you may lose some or all steering.
- If your engine is struck, it can be catastrophic.
A sufficiently powerful explosive to any part of the ship or accumulated damage will cause your ship to explode and burn, after which you must wait until the airship “regenerates”. When it’s ready, the fire will go out and your airship will be once again ready for battle.
Using Flags to Assign Teams
ICS uses “nation” and “ensign” flags to assign vessels and targets to teams. A nation would be the primary team, while an ensign would be a sub-unit of the primary team. You can apply nation and ensign flags using your airship’s Paint menu (see the instructions on painting your airship).