Loki Avatar 3.0 – Part 6: Avastalling the Consumer Version

2 months later and Avastar has progressed to RC14 and unable to fix a major issue that came with RC13. Its frustrating to have come so far along with my Bento avatar only to suddenly have to halt.

A friend of mine asked for base files to make clothes for my Bento avatar seeing as it appeared to be swiftly approaching final release. I hesitated and decided not to agree and good job i did because the latest versions of Avastar will not allow me to even export a fitted mesh avatar.

The modern mesh avatar uses fitted mesh to allow slider customisation so you can be fatter or thinner or customise the face. This fitting can also be added to the clothes made for that avatar so they deform along with the customisation. The modern avatar also uses Bento bones and avastar has 129 bones for its skeleton. Second life though only allows rigged objects with up to 110 bones to be imported. The advice from an Avastar documents (which i can’t find at the moment) was to chop up the avatar mesh once you are finished and use a special tool ‘clean weight maps’ to remove unused bone groups from the chopped parts. The avatar is then a collection of objects each with less than 110 bones attributed to them allowing for import to SL.

This was working perfectly until RC13. Now when i cut up the avatar it looses fitted mesh support and i haven’t been able to find a work around. It’s possible that they have changed the workflow and have yet to inform me of the new one, but It’s been like this for over a month now and the recent RC14 does not resolve the issue. I haven’t been able to import any new version of my personal avatar and the Consumer version i was working on is in limbo right now.

I did manage to get a few Consumer Version test kits out to testers before RC13 came along. Working on a classic avatar head shape and testing wether users could replicate their classic faces. The main issue i had was with the neck and jaw but things were progressing well.

Two testers recreating their classic style faces. It became apparent that Avastar is unable to replicate exactly how the jaw is presented in SL

With the help of my testers i hope to allow users to get as close as possible to their original avatar faces but its slow going with Avastar.

It is a little bit frightening in a way how much my avatar work relies on Avastar now. As much as i appreciate Avastars mission to make mesh avatar creation as simple as possible, I’m at Avastars mercy. But then Avastar 2.0 is STILL a work in progress, i just didn’t realise the Release Candidate stage would take it all year.

The Dagoma Neva 3D Printer is Awesome

Unlike iPhones, 3D Printers are coming down in price and are getting progressively easier to use. If you are a DIY freak you can get a 3D printer for just £100 with hours of fun putting it together. I’m More of a DIFMP (do it for me please) and 3D Printers that are ready made and designed to make printing as simple as possible tend to be more expensive choices.

I’ve had a 3D Printer before which was a massive metal cube with a cloud based slicer. That was four years ago backed on Kickstarter and was promoted as the ‘true consumer oriented 3D Printer’. The print heads clogged up, the prints kept getting loose from the print bed and the final prints were not that good quality. Then the company collapsed after the founder was in a car accident. Then the printer became unusable because the cloud based software went down. I was practically left with a big metal cube of junk.

 

Along Came Dagoma

I had pretty much decided to forget about 3D Printing until i saw the Dagoma Kickstarter campaign for the Neva. Im now a lot more aware of Kickstarter and what to look for when backing these days. Dagoma had a proven track record in the 3D printing industry already and their new Neva was already a fully working product they could show. It was also much cheaper. So i backed the project to get an earlybird reward. Two months later and the 3D Printer arrived with complimentary  sweets YUM!

 

Simple

The simplicity of this printer compared to my previous printer gave me confidence that this was going to be a much better experience. The triangle design with its three pairs of magnetic arms is simple to put together and looks dam cool.

Dagomas website needs some work and it took me a while to find their custom version of the slicer software Cura. The Slicer Software is what calculates how the 3D Printer will layer the melted plastic to build your prints. The software is very simple with very minimal options and profiles. You can see what you are printing in 3D placed on a virtual triangle print base.

When ready you simply click ‘prepare for print’ and it will save to the included SD card (Gave me a reason to finally use the card slot on the iMac). You then just plug the SD card into the Neva Printer and click the single button on the front to activate the printer. It warms up, calibrates then gets to business printing.

Occasionally with fiddley prints the Print head would knock the print free from the base, but usually the print sticks firmly and there are some options in the software stage to add a more substantial base. From my amateur experience the 3D Prints were pretty good quality even on the lowest quickest settings. Changing the filament is easy once you know what to do. Their videos show that you can pause the print at any time and change the filament by simply clicking that one button, then double tapping the print bed. What was not clear is exactly where you are supposed to tap it and what exactly happens when it works. I later discovered that the touch sensitive double tap location can vary from one neva to another. Mine turns out to be just over the small letter ‘A’ at the end of the word Dagoma thats printed on the print bed. Once this double tap activates the extruder takes a moment to heat up before the motor in the orange side box reverses and ejects the filament installed.

I originally did not know what was supposed to happen, so i would double tap and nothing would happen. So i would try and pull out the filament by hand which i now blame for the super clog.

 

The Super Clog

So after three days of use the Neva clogged bigly. I do not blame this clog on the 3D printer, rather my inability to understand how to properly replace the filament. The Neva could not push the filament into the extruder and i could not get into the extruder to unclog it. I read up on countless un clogging tips online and contacted Dagoma via their kickstarter page. At the advice of other printer users i used tiny needles to try and push up through the nozzle, and tried pushing hard through the top. I used my iPhone to get a look down into the extruder and there seemed to be some hard filament blocking just as the filament would enter the heating block. The advice i got from Dagoma was ‘You should try to “launch a print’ and then pause it and unclog it once heated. To do so, you can use a needle, and go through the bottom of the printer and/or, try with a thin screw through the top of the nozzle’.

down deep inside is a piece of plastic causing me a week of grief!

So i went out and came back with a thin drillbit. Pushing hard and twisting seemed to do the trick cracking the hardened plastic. Now my printer is back in action and in a way the experience has given me a lot of info on how the printer works, how it can be easily unscrewed to get to parts and the various ways to try and unclog in future, plus Dagoma were pretty good with their responding to questions.

 

Printing things!

So with all that out the way i’ve been having fun printing out different projects. It’s fun experimenting with what can be printed and the various ways to print things.

This temple ruin was built for the Second Life Tea party during one night of the Escapades 7th Anniversary weekend, now printed as a reminder of that night.

This figure was first made from sculpted clay, then scanned into digital form, then rigged in blender, then worn by Draxtor at SL14B Second Life, before being printed out into reality again as a plastic figure.

Was able to print out an addon upgrade for the Neva printer to hold the filament spool.

Though i had the clogging issue i’m still very pleased with the Dagoma Neva.

• It looks great, is light and easy to move.

• Its not to noisy

• One button to start and pause

• Easy to change Filament and Colour even during printing

• Simple software for preparing models for print.

• Dagoma responds to questions pretty quick.

I’m a total newb at 3D Printing and my experience with this printer has been one of fun exploration. There is always an element of DIY with 3D Printing even though when you press the button you’re mostly just letting it do it’s thing. I’m looking forward to getting my nephew involved with printing out things next time he comes round to visit. It’s a great new area of creativity. 🙂

If you’d lie to know more about the Dagoma Neva such as prices, check out their website for the US or France

Escapades 7th Anniversary Video

As always i record the festivities during the Escapades Island anniversary weekend

Here is the edited down highlights of the fun and game for you to reminisce or if you missed some of the events you can watch what you missed. Highlights for me were the Ground to Air cannons added to the Battle Balloon contest. Thanks to everyone who came along to the event and contributed to the fun.


Escapadse 7th Anniversay by lokieliot

Celebrating 7 years of that virtual space Escapades Island

OMG here we go again another epic Escapades Island Anniversary weekend of Epicness!!. It feels like only a couple years ago that i got a group of friends together and conned them into helping fund a full region in Second Life, and in the beginning it was a little touch’n’go to wether the island would survive a year let alone seven!

Some of the digital objects on the island have not changed since they were first placed there seven years ago, (and they look it). Sometimes i wonder if the magic has left the island, but then i get a message from someone out of the blue expressing how much they love the place.

In the beginning i had planned to build a whole series of interactive stories on the island explaining how things came to be, from monster hunting girls, to squabbling pirate brothers but Linden Lab took far to long to introduce the experience keys and the enthusiasm faded away, the stories forgotten… until now.

This Anniversary weekend of events on the island will surround the untold Founders tale explaining many things about the island. There are special events on Friday, Saturday and ending Sunday and wether you are a Kid avatar, Adult, or furry all are welcome to the island of adventure to take part or simply watch the events this weekend!

FRIDAY

12pm slt: The Goony Adventure: Join us as we gather to go on an adventure together to another realm.

2pm SLT: The Tea party:  (includes The Founder RP encounter) There is always a theme to these tea parties and its always interesting to see what people come dressed as. This year is a ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ greek theme. To find the secret Tea Party step through the Rickety Town Centre fae Gate to arrive!

SATURDAY

10am slt: The Founder RP encounter: Stranger things occurring on the island.

11am slt: The Great Hydro Turtle Race: Jump on a Hydro Turtle and race against strangers & friends to win a coveted Escapades Trophy. last year this evolved into two rounds, a simple straight forward race and a free for all weapons allowed race.

1pm slt:  The Battle Balloon Contest: Grab a friend to join you and battle it out against the others for supremacy of the skies and the might Battle Balloon Trophy. This year spectators can take part making the contest harder by using the ground to air cannons.

3pm SLT: Pirate Party: Gemini Enfield sets the atmosphere with tunes found in his old crate. Dress up as a pirate , drink rum. You never know who might turn up to start a fight! Perfect end to the evening!

SUNDAY

10am slt: The Founder RP Game: The Relic Hunt: Learn the truth behind everything by playing this special treasure hunt game!

2pm slt:  THE MEGA BRAWL: Traditionally and excuse to hit lots of things with what ever you have, battle monsters galore as you battle to save the island!

After the Mega Brawl:  Beach fire chill out session: At the end of the day, join Loki chilling out by the fire on Hawkings Bay discussing life.

 

I hope to see everyone at some point during this weekend. Start by arriving at Rickety Town where you can grab a free anniversary T-shirt, Poster, KickScooter & Backpack. The poster this year is based on sketches i drew seven years ago while planning Escapades Island content.

Sansar: The Phantom Menace of Virtual Worlds?

A couple years ago when Palmer Lucky was cool, Linden Lab did an experiment. They attempted to make Second Life accessible through the Oculus Rift DK, and while the addition of every Second Life option as a heads up display was mind numbingly nauseating, there was a glimmer of something amazing.

I kind of wished that they had separated the VR headset side of things as a ‘mode’ in which we could when ever we wanted to briefly immerse ourselves into our Second Life creations without all the options. Because an immersive VR Headset is a different experience to our ‘Desktop’ experiences and finding the balance between the two seems to be very challenging. After 14 years of crafting and socialising through the augmentation of a desktop platform with an avatar thats been refined and brought to life through many techniques (and often hacks), our expectations are understandably very high for ‘Sansar’.

Sansar is the result of realising that Second Life can’t be adapted for the modern immersive VR headset’s of the neoVR crowd. Instead Linden Lab decided it was time to start from scratch and build a new platform from the ground up ready for what the NeoVR industry has in store. I’m interested to see what they have decided to keep from Second Life’s diverse abilities, and what they decide to do differently because of how Immersive VR works with things like controllers and tracking.

I’m a mac user so i’m already one foot down on the ‘Love Sansar’ movement, but i swallowed my pride, installed windows in bootcamp and took Sansar for a spin. From the start Sansar feels modern and welcoming in its simplicity. There seems to be no performance options so if Sansar does not work… it just won’t work, can’t get much simpler than that.

The premise for Sansar is quite simple at this stage. You have three free spaces to build what ever you want in the confines of what is currently possible. Whats currently possible  feels quite limited from the point of view of a Second Life creator. Part of this may be my own limited experience with Sansar and C# but currently most places i’ve visited are very static with no life to them. Even the avatars are lifeless, gormlessly starring into nothing, all standing the same as if everyones AFK.

Creating and Editing can take a while, i find myself spending more time trying to view an object than placing it and if you find something wrong with your objects texture you can’t edit and adjust it. Instead you have to re-upload the whole object again, which if your original object is on a mac partition can really get frustrating.

Thats me in the green shirt… happy

At this stage you probably get the feeling i don’t like Sansar, well.. it’s not that simple. Sansar is still in Beta, some even saying in Alpha. There is also a tonne of high tech stuff under the hood i don’t understand to really appreciate. A lot of people are comparing Sansar to when Second Life first appeared with bare bones features, when it was still just an online social creative experiment before Facebook and twitter came along. Except back then there was no user base eagerly anticipating it.

I find myself comparing Sansar to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the great anticipation leading to disappointment. The Original Star Wars movie came out of nowhere spawning a lifelong fanbase, much like Second Life did. So while I’m slightly disappointed with Sansar, i’m also keeping in mind that i harbour a boatload of expectation thanks to how amazing Second Life still is and should give Linden Lab more time to suit Sansar up.

My experience of Sansar has so far only been the Desktop mode as I don’t yet have a Vive headset to experience Sansar from the VR headset side of things, and I’m probably not alone. I have the PSVR and used to use the OculusDK when they supported Mac, so I’m fully aware of how spaces can be a completely different experience in a VR headset. Places that feel static and devoid of life in Desktop mode may be a sublime experience in a VR headset. I’ve been wondering if Sansar’s drowsy desktop experience is to do with keeping a balance between VR headset mode and Desktop mode until they better understand how things should go.

If you have a VR Headset i would imagine Sansar is already a pretty amazing and compelling social experience. But if you are a Desktop user coming over from Second Life, then you might find your expectations are too high.

My first Sansar experience has you walking through woods towards strange lights