There's probably a time in every builder's life when they come upon a realization, they're going to run out of prims.
For those not familiar, the basic building blocks in the Second Life world are known as Primitives, or Prims, for short. These come in different shapes (cubes, spheres, cylinders, torii, etc...), and have operations such as texturing, resizing, streching, twisting, and many others, enabling builders to turn them into whatever might be needed.
Each piece of land in Second Life has a certain number of prims attributed to it, roughly 7 prims per 16m^2 of land. Buildings on an apportioned piece of land are limited to the prim count available to the owner.
At the Nonpolynomial Labs SL site, we have 2048m^2 of land, giving us 447 prims to build with. As of earlier this weekend, my prim count stood at 64. This is with a minimum of exhibits, and nothing in the shop. Most of this was taken up by the lounge, or by parts of the building that simply wern't being used.
During the first build of the Nonpolynomial Labs building, the floor structure was a 3x4 grid of 10mx9.3m prims, giving me 3348m^2 of floor space to fill. That is a MASSIVE amount of space, and when combined with the fairly small prim count of the parcel, meant that I was basically going to be stuck with an empty warehouse.
A few weeks later, realizing I'd blown a full 4th of my prims on the building structure alone, I cut off the back 4th of the building. This left me with 2511m^2 to fill. Still a LOT of room, considering I had nothing to sell, and very few museum exhibits to show.
At this point, I started filling up the 3rd floor, which turned into a lounge/club. Due to needing a seating arrangement and a dancefloor, it was fairly easy to fill this up. However, the bottom floors were still absolutely desolate. By taking out 2 of the center panels on the 2nd floor and putting in railing, I created a nice, open feeling between the shop and museum floors, but there was still no way I was going to fill them. On top of that, I was standing at that 64 prim count, meaning I had very few prims left to create the meat of the content in the building.
Then, this weekend, I came upon a realization. In this world, there's no physics unless you tell it there is. So, why build a box with a ton of wasted space when I could simply reduce the floor plans accordingly on each floor while still having a sleek, accomidating design? Out of that was born the inverse stairstep design that is now seen in the lab.
I now reduced the floor space by half, with the shop having the smallest floorspace. Vendors aren't that big, and I'm not really interested in selling a lot of different things nayways). The museum has the second most.floorspace, which is fine since exhibits are made in containers that are fairly small and line up easily. The lounge, having already been built, kept all of its floorspace without having to be changed.
Now, not only had I reduced the number of prims, I had an interesting design that wasn't just your normal box of a building. This led me to think of other ideas of reduce prim count.
In SL, there is no weather (yet), nor is there any real way to shoplift. So, why have windows?
Removing the windows allows for free flying access to all floors without people being confused as to whether or not they are phantomed (meaning there is no collision generated between the prim and other objects). The windows on the bottom floor stayed because they created a nice effect with the doorway and logos on the front of the building.
After all this work, I'd pushed myself back above 100 prims, meaning I'd have a ton of prims left over for whatever I might need to do later. The building looked great, but for some reason, it just didn't feel right without a support structure of some kind in the back. The urge to link the whole building, put something heavy on the part of the 3rd floor with no support, set the whole thing physical and watch it fall on its side was just to great. To remedy this, I made a completely unneeded support structure.
Pretty, curvy, and completely unfeasable physically, but since I have control of the physics, who cares? It makes the building touch the ground more than it did without it, and the effect produced by looking through the front of the building from the plot across the street is absolutely stunning.
So, I learned something valuable out of all this. In a world where you don't need windows, putting them in because it just feels right isn't always right. Adapting to the standards of a new situation allows you to budget in new ways, while hopefully making others realize what you just did.
And lord knows, there's a ton of people out there who want a world without Windows.