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No Bento Loki Avatars until next year.

Over the weekend i took another brief look at Project Bento that was highlighted on the Drax world makers back in February.

If you don’t know what the Bento Project is, basically it’s an update to what people can upload for avatars in Second Life adding extra ability to rig facial expressions and fingers.

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First announced last December of 2015 and still in testing, i hope to at some point work out how to use it. the Avastar plugin for blender should make things easier eventually but at the moment that also is still in testing.

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I’ll keep an eye on how it continues to evolve, but i now don’t expect to update my free mesh avatars to include bento until next year. In the mean time there are plenty of other features i can add to Loki Avatars that people have asked for.

Areas i hope to improve are the ability to change and customise skins and try a new way of masking body parts. I’d also like to experiment more with re-rigging the body shapes now that Avastar has evolved more. This would lead to backwards compatibility issues with older clothing though so we’ll see.

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Escapades Island: More British than Britain itself.

Anyone who follows me on twitter will no doubt know, if hadn’t already realised, i am from the UK, and that currently it’s going through a rather large self inflicted crisis. 

If i was from another country following me on twitter i would be by now fed up of the barrage of tweets and retweets about Brexit. But i can’t help it, i can’t stop reading about it or discussing it because it’s the strangest most gut wrenching feeling I’ve ever experienced regarding my country. It is really hurting because i was so sure i knew what my country was. Now its confusing, now i’m trying my best not to be angry at our older generations, trying not to be angry at the younger generation, trying not to be angry at those who lack basic qualifications, trying not to be angry at the politicians. I’m just trying so hard not to be angry.

I built my place in the virtual world of Second Life around the values i believed my country was built on, values that we share with other countries. Escapades Island is home to people from around the globe, the UK, France, Germany, America, Japan, Mexico and a whole lot of other countries. Half the time the question of where we all come from never crosses our minds until we discuss our differences in a delightful nostalgic enlightening way, or during Eurovision when we poke fun at each others entires. We help each other maintain the island and keep it open for anyone to come and explore and decide if they want to make it their home too.

When ever i discuss Second Life, the way we can connect to people of different countries and culture is always first on my mind. My own countries culture is such a mash up of different influences from across the globe going back hundreds of years and I’m so proud of that aspect of Britain, that is the bit thats ‘GREAT’ about Britain. Or at least thats what i think, turns out half the country might not agree.

As the British pound drops off a cliff, i realise some Uk renters at Escapades may find Linden Dollars suddenly more expensive. The savings from the region buydown kicks into effect end of july dropping the price of rent on Escapades plots, i hope this will make things easier for all island renters. The Island itself should not be effected Tier wise by the UK downturn.  If you are a UK renter and are worried about falling behind on rent due to the financial crisis, please IM me and have a chat so we see what we can do together to ease things. Britain might appear to have lost its identity this week, but Escapades Island still sticks to its multicultural collaborative values as I’m sure many places in Second Life still do.

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Still finding new things to do in Second Life

During this week of celebrating Second Life’s 13th year of ‘still being around’ or ‘a thing’ i find myself reflecting on what there is still to do in Second Life. Im going to blog about the stuff that still interests me in SL.

 

Bento Mesh Avatars

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i made the loki avatar to the best of my abilities back in 2014-15, could i now create something better? probably!

Last year i released my first ever mesh avatar body. A year later Linden Lab release Project Bento so like meh, fine ok, perhaps i should have waited a year because it’s probably easier to make and rig a mesh avatar now thanks to the Avastar and Mayastar people.

When i used Avastar to make my first mesh avatar it was still in early stages of development and caused a few oddities for me as a kid avatar. Since then it seemed to have come along in leaps and bounds and is pretty much the only way to make mesh avatars and clothes these days.

With the addition of the new Bento gazillion boned avatar skeleton i will have to start looking at creating a new Mesh avatar for myself. I want expressive fingers, and it’ll be interesting to see how easy it’ll be to create animations for it.

If i had the technology i would mocap the crap out of my hands and give away an entire catalogue of hand animations for use with bento. Actually why not get Linden Lab to pay someone to make a large free catalogue of hand and facial expression animations to distribute to the users. I guess we could wait for content creators to amass a large full perm archive of animations, i don’t think the buzz over bento will last long enough though.

I’ll admit that i am a bit scared of Bento. Creating rigged stuff for second life is stupidly hard, and the idea that there are over twice as many bones in this new version of the avatar makes my brain break. But i’ll have a go and see what’s possible. I already did one test earlier this year to rig my avatars hands and it seemed to work.

 

Adventure Games

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I have three locations in New Babbage just waiting to be used for adventures

I have spent SO many years trying to learn the best way to present adventures. I waited for three of those years for Linden Lab to bring out the Experience Tools. Making experiences for SL requires a lot of different skills, from model making, animation, scripting, voice acting and even UI design and presentation. All of this takes time and effort with little in return for the effort, especially not enough to support a team of creatives like in the real game industry.  So I’ve been building up experience and tools and systems that would allow me to efficiently and quickly create adventures. I think now i am all set.

People have enjoyed T H E  W E L L , and the experience at this Years Fantasy Faire and SL13B worked pretty well. So now its time to go bigger and for that i plan to return to New Babbage, my role-play homeland in Second Life.

There have already been five stories told in New Babbage still whispered amongst the residents in the back alleys of the steampunk town. Using the same location based Story Mode i’ve used in the past year, i plan to retell the New Babbage Chronicles. It’ll be the biggest game project I’ve ever done in Second Life which is why i’ve decided there will be no new T H E  W E L L this year.

 

Project Sansar.

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I’m on the wrong operating system for the advances in VR technology, well at least this year. I decided early on in the year that i would be waisting my time entertaining aspirations of content creation on Linden Labs next thing, but you never know.

I might end up on Sansar via Bootcamped Windows on a future mac machine with a HTC Vive. I’m still waiting for Mocap suits and other backed VR hardware on kickstarter to arrive and they will need windows on my mac machine in order to be of use.

One of the things I’m quite aware of, is just how long it’s taken me to get to grips with scripting in SL, and the idea that i can’t just pick up in Project Sansar were i am in Second Life gives me more anxiety than wether i can use it or not on a mac.

Second Life continues to be relevant to me and my work.

 

 

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SL13B: Shared Adventure into Knightmare

On Sunday 12pm slt the doors open for the Second Life community to flood the SL13B regions celebrating thirteen years of the virtual world platform. After Fantasy Faire i chose to make something small… that didn’t go to plan.

Shared Adventures

My exhibit this year focuses on my group of friends in Second Life called the SL Goonies. The group was founded back in 2005 to recapture the nostalgia of childhood adventures, celebrating the spirit of the classic 80s movie ‘The Goonies’ and other magical memories of childhood. The SL13B theme this year is ‘Shared Adventures’ and for the first time i think my exhibit captures the spirit of the theme more than any previous year.

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Dungeons & Knightmares

At SL13B i invite you to try and master the Dungeons under the castle ruins, solving riddles and navigating passages to reach the Crystal at the centre of the dungeon. There is one catch… you can not do it alone. This is an adventure to be shared and so you must bring a friend with you to help each other. There are also guides that will give guidance along the way.

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SL Experience

The exhibit uses the Second Life Experience tools to make a seamless flowing adventure which starts at the entrance tot he dungeon at the top of the ruined castle. Simply click the sign to don the Helmet of justice then enter the doorway.

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TIME TO PARTY!

I hope everyone finds time to check out the adventure and all the many other exhibits at this years SLB community festival. This will be the last Second Life Birthday celebration before Project Sansar appears on the scene and while many scramble over all the new shiny Virtual Reality hype, it’s still nice to see so many groups with so much energy still put into Second Life after 13 years.

Happy Birthday Second Life!

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4 tips for building in modern Second Life

The PRIM is a lie. 3D content is not made up of cubes, it is instead more commonly made up of points and lines, Verts and edges. But for democratising the ability to create 3d content Linden Lab created a system where users could simply create cubes and link them together and it was a brilliant invention.

Linden Lab could not have predicted just how many ways Second Life users would use their PRIMATIVE invention to create astonishing things, and there lies the problem with Second Life’s ongoing struggle with performance. We build and build and build in many different ways in our virtual world with no real clues into how some things are a strain on performance. So i’m going to share some of the rules i try to stick to when building things in Second Life. These are practices i’ve picked up from my own experiments and from advice given by other creators.

 

1. Don’t use Sculpts because they are big fibbers

Sculpts are often used because they can produce very elaborate and large mesh like shapes at only 1 land impact. mainly used for large parts of landscapes or trees. You know when you have arrived in a Sculpty region when everything first appears as big grey blobs that take forever to load. Sculpts are evil and use up more computing resources than they lead you to think. If you want to use Sculpts then keep it to a minimum.

 

2. Don’t distort your prims.

Prims are still a great tool for quickly creating structures. I often use them with my mesh builds for creating wooden structures and supports for more detailed mesh. I also use them a lot for creating invisible simple physics. But Prims have a dark side and can quickly become nasty if you start to split them, make holes in them and twist them (tampering and slanting is fine). Some people find when they link a distorted Prim with mesh they see the land impact shoot up by 100, thats not a bug, thats the mesh recalculating how much resources that prim is actually taking up. An undistorted Prim is a much happier Prim.

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slicing the prim can have huge ramifications for things like physics

 

3. Only use Blended Alphas Textures when you really need to.

Did you know there are two types of Transparent textures that can be set on the surface of an object? ‘Blended’ and ‘Masking’. In the old days we only had the choice of ‘Blending’ transparent Textures. This often lead to transparency flipping where the computer could not make its mind up which texture should be in front of the other, often seen in trees. A lot of processing power goes into working out how the background looks through a blending transparent texture. Places with big forests and fields of grass covered in blended Alpha textures tend to be more laggy because of this. With the introduction of Materials Linden Lab added ‘Masking’ Alphas. This allows you to create a hard cut out  of your transparent texture that has a clear line for the computer to calculate greatly reducing the resources needed to display them. So take note of your transparent textures and always set to MASKING alpha when you can, your visitors and friends with love you for doing so.

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Left: Masked Grass – Right Blended Grass Most people choose blended alphas for trees and grass because it looks better, but at the cost of performance for those who are supposed to enjoy it?

 

4. Don’t use scripts that change the state of something every single second.

Each time an object has to change something it has to send a message to the SL servers so it can tell everyone else that change has occurred. At least thats my understanding of it. So if we script something to do something like say constantly change colour, each colour change has to be reported to the servers and distributed to everyone who can see that object change. Lag and rubber banding can occur if to much info has to be sent to everyone. Because of this belief, i try to create stuff that does not send updates unless it really needs to and refrain from creating things that constantly change state. That includes, colour morphing, Texture Side/face flipping (alpha swapping) and animating Prims.

 

These are my own practices which may or may not be correct but they work for me, at least i think they do 😛 If you have any tips you would like to share or if you want to correct me, fill up the comments 🙂