Putting the Cyber Grunge into the Vortex VR Club

September 23, 2014 in The Vortex Club by lokieliot

So the V5 opened up on monday and for 12 hours straight the dance floor was packed, uncovering bugs and issues i need to fix, while also highlighting what happens when we reach the limits of the platform XD.

Science Bit

The New Vortex club is simplistic in its shape and low in textures,  but that low resource is cancelled out by materials. For every texture you see, there is also a Normal made and a specular map needed to download in order to show bumps and shiny stuff. It’s hard to gage how well a build performs in Second Life. What is it that causes textures to blur out, or causes you to crash? is it the stuff around you or the people around you?

Overall the New fifth version of the Vortex club is half the land impact of the previous prim version, thats including the City street section. It’s basically simple cubes of mesh but with material mapping giving the illusion of lots of detail. I had a lot of fun exploring how light bounces off surfaces such as windows and i used an old technique to create the illusion of reflections in wet puddles. Finally we have the tools game devs have had for decades and it’s been fun experimenting with wet roads, dirty road sides, Glistening windows and changes in surfaces.

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DrawBack

While the texturing looks awesome, and i did try my best to optimise the use of textures, it does fall victim to the evil Texture Thrashing Issue in #SL. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when your viewer downloads a texture, loads it in high rez, then repeatedly goes blurry, then focussed, then blurry then focussed. It’s as if the viewer feels the need to download the texture over and over again, which is stupid. If it’s in the cache then why is it reloading?. This happened worst on the dance floor at the vortex, which seems even more stupid because its the one texture we are all looking at the most, so you’d think it would never feel the need to reload. I pray it’s someday not an issue.

FeedBack

The response has for the most part been very positive commenting on the detail and atmosphere. Some not realising this sort of thing was possible in Second Life which is encouraging. Others have commented on the scale and how it feels bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. Some have said it looks ugly from the outside which i guess is fair since i did not really consider how its viewed from outside.

End of the Day

So the open party was a blast even if i did repeatedly crash and Linden Lab restarted the region half way through the party hehe (just like old times). I managed to stay up for part of Trever Flumes Live acoustic with was awesome before i had to go to bed. Now i just need to get my Oculus DK2 working on my Mac so i can see how it looks up close.

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I made  quick video showing the New Vortex, but it’s got to a point where you need to visit places in virtual person.

 

My latest Project is almost here #V5

September 20, 2014 in The Vortex Club by lokieliot

Dance clubs are a big part of the SL experience. They are the places that people meet and discover new friends. They are the place long time friends can dedicate time each week to drop what they are doing and hang out with friends from around the world. You click the dance ball, leave your avatar to do their moves and kickback while engaging in chat. It’s something that hasn’t really changed in SL after all these years.

At the start of this year my SL brother entertained the idea of rebuilding the Vortex dance Club again. For those who don’t know, the Vortex is one of the oldest clubs in SL. First opened in 2006, it has gone through four iterations and for the fifth i decided to help my bro in designing something that used all the latest building features, from mesh to materials and projector lighting.

Beginning work on it back before the SL11B Cake Stage, it of  course i started as a small idea, but..well.. you should know me by now….

 

The new V5 Vortex will open on Monday the 22nd of September with a line up of DJ’s and live performers starting at 9am SLT to 6pm SLT.


The Vortex Club

One of the longest-running clubs in SL, The Vortex Club hosts a collection of devoted DJ’s who play new, classic and eclectic tunes. Check out @vortexclub on Twitter for more info, including DJ schedules.

Visit in Second Life

The 4th Anniversary of Escapades Island ROCKED!

September 9, 2014 in Escapades Events, EscapadesAnniversary by lokieliot

Four years ago i decided with the help of my friends to upgrade my old homestead to a full region, allowing for more room to expand creativity and adventure. Each year we celebrate the arrival of Escapades Island with a weekend of manic events from your traditional music gatherings to shared racing and roleplaying stories The schedule of events is pretty much the same each year but the events themselves always seem to produce unique unforgettable experiences.

The Events

This years Founders Tea party theme was Camelot castle where the founders of Escapades and their friends dressed up as knights or medieval garb. Surrounding a round table there was an experimental food fight game using the new XPtools to allow for throwing pies and getting covered in Goo. It kinda worked :-p

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There was another Airship Brawl Battle in the skies above Escapades. I created this game last year and for some reason have not found the time to release it to the public. Would be nice to get this game out for christmas as not only is it a really exciting team player game, but its also very fun to watch. Fl0 Cal and Richardus Raymaker won the Airship Brawl this year.

I usually do a race on water around Escapades Island with some obstacles, but what the residents race is always different. Last year they raced on the backs of Whales, this year they raced Surfing giant Squids. As with last year i  handed out the squids before hand with the texture files to custom. This lead to some awesome custom squids. Super Suz lead most of the way but hit a surfboard right before the finish line allowing Hexapoda to whizz past and steal 1st place :-p. Suz came 2nd while 3rd place was joint grabbed by both Lyo and Matthew who crossed the finish line together.

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My SL brother Gemini Enfield hosted the Pirate party again at the John King Tavern playing suitable music for the Tavern Brawl that seemed everlasting. The Tavern Brawl game allows people to grab a chair and throw it at others breaking tables and people in the cross fire. Soon the Tavern was full of chairs and yet Escapades Island seemed non plussed. showing how much more stable the grid has become.

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Sunday saw the usual two hour Goonies Beach Party which seemed to fly by. Then it was the final race of the weekend the great Offroad Dodgem Car Race. I had basically thrown together these Dodgem Cars in the morning and thought it would be fun to have the cars slowly fall apart if you bump into each other. Of course these things play out differently in a real scenario. All the cars lined up for the race and promptly fell apart. Eventually we managed to get a line ready and they were OFF. Much hilarity ensued as people raced around the track leaving behind bits of car bumping each other off, crashing , then running back to the start to get another car. In the end i could not keep count of the laps or any idea of who wa sin the lead so i gave everyone a Gold Trophy and called it a day.

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Through out the weekend there was also a Roleplay Story to get involved in. On Saturday the guardian of the Island known as Dogstar requested a group of residents to find some rare mushrooms for a stew. While completing this quest the residents uncovered a sinister plot to find hidden device that could be used to separate an ancient dragon from the dreams of an old man. The residents managed to save the old man from the evil clutches of the resident bad guy the Grand Master, but not before the Dragon was released.

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On Sunday the residents had to find away to banish the Dragon and its Dark Rider using a trap built by the Sky Pirates many years ago. After a a lot of running about the residents found the Sky Pirates Floating Island trap and lured the Dragon Rider into it, banishing it for ever?

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Doing the Roleplay was hard, because Roleplay in Second Life is more like Live Action Role Play (LARP) than an RPG. People with the freedom of choice they have in Virtual Worlds, tend to be a lot more unpredictable. Also with different people being on at different times meant the people who uncovered parts of the story in the morning, were not around to pass on that info to the the people in the evening. Even now i don’t think anyone got the full story of what happened over the weekend. “It appears to be a griefer” to quote Draxtor Despres when the Dragon Rider appeared breathing fire above them.

VIDEOS

During the weekend i filmed some of the events taking place and cobbled together a highlights video. These days snapshots do not do the SL experience justice so check out the Escapades Anniversary Video on Telly or embedded below. Draxtor Despres also filmed two events with commentary. You can hopefully still watch the archived video of The Super Surfing Squid Race and the Offroad Dodgem Car Race on Escapades Island TWITCH channel.

 

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So thats it for another year, it was a lot of hard work, but it was all worth it seeing all the snapshots on SL feed from all those who had fun. The next year promises to be even better as the grid is more stable than ever before. Thank you everyone who supports the Island :)

Oculus DK2 and why it’s just a bit Meh

August 28, 2014 in Oculus by lokieliot

IMG_5593Arrival of the DK2.

So my DK2 arrived just before i was gonna head out the door for a weeks holiday. I thought maybe i can quickly set it up for a half hour play…. but no, the DK2 was not plug n play. It came up with some error where the config could not find the device. So i went on holiday disappointed.

When i arrived home of course i immediately went back to seeing what i needed to fix in order to use the DK2. Turns out the problem was because i am a Mac user… oh that old chestnut. The DK2 uses the SDK4 and at that point there was no SDK4 for the Mac or Linux Platforms.

A month later SDK4.1 arrives with Mac support. HAZZAH!?…right?… well… this is where things start to get really frustrating.. or concerning.

 

It’s my own fault?

FacebOculus have stated from the start that the DK2 is for DEVELOPERS ONLY. While I’m not a developer in a code monkee sense, i do plan to use the oculus to explore creative developments in Second Life and High Fidelity Virtual Worlds. But the DK2 really is still an experimental Kit with bugs and serious compatibility issues with OSX and Linux.

When the 4.1 Update finally arrived, the Headset was recognised but a new weird thing occurred. If you read other articles from DK2 users you will hear about how the DK2 displays at a 90 degree angle.

The reason for this according discussion on the FacebOculus developer forums, is because the DK2 uses a rather basic off the shelf smart phone display which is built to be seen in portrait. In the Oculus this display is rotated to landscape and when connected to a computer using a ’DirectHMD’ mode, the content is rotated to Landscape.

The problem is the DirectHMD mode seems to be “pretty unstable, as well as pretty thinly tested”according to one developer.DirectHMD is also not available at all for the Mac. 

Of course developers are fiddling with work arounds. You can get a Mac to ‘extend’ its display into the oculus, but you have to then set the Oculus’s extended display to rotate to landscape. But while you are able to finally view demos and games on the Mac in DK2, it comes at a very dramatic performance cost. While the DK2 picture quality is vastly improved over the DK1, , the frame rate and latency drops negating any point in upgrading from DK1.

But this is a development Kit so i can’t really complain, it should get better,  though i was expecting the Oculus to have come a lot further along by now.

 

Who Loves Oculus and who does Oculus Love?

I can’t use my DK2, its sat in the corner waiting for an SDK thats more, i dunno… complete. Maybe FacebOculus is just concentrating on the PC gamers market to start with. I’ve already seen Developers tell others to invest in a PC instead of using Mac… yeh, same old same old crap.

I didn’t think the Pc Gaming community was that big anymore when compared to console gaming and mobile gaming?

Anyway, I’m initially disappointed with the DK2 because I’m kid who can’t get his new toy working. Hopefully updates to the SDK with improve the situation, but at this stage, it just makes me wonder how many years away we still are from getting a consumer version.

 

The Legend of the SL Experience Tools.

August 26, 2014 in Gaming SL by lokieliot

gandalf-the-lord-of-the-rings-16472The Myth

Many Many years ago at the dawn Second Life’s Dark Ages, after the excitement of Rod Humbles arrival as CEO died down, it was announced at SL Community Convention 2011 (SLCC) that the Lab was messing around with ways to make it easier to do games in SL.

Second life has always been great at creating awesome looking environments and with scripts you can bring these places to life. You can also make attachments that do helpful and fun things, but it has always been strangely difficult to make gaming experiences.

The reason for this is a thing called ‘permissions’. The SL etiquette requires ‘one must ask permission from other to do something to them’, thats why you get pop up boxes that say things like “Dance ball wishes to animate you, is that ok?” or “Gemini reluctantly wants to hug you, accept YES or NO?”.

These permission requests occur when ever an object wants to animate you, teleport you, attach something to you, take your controls, change your avatars position… anything really that involves interacting with your avatar. Having to ask you to give a monster permission to squash you completely spoils the immersion of an experience or  breaks if you don’t give permission.

The permission requests placed a huge hurdle for those who wanted to make gaming experiences so i was excited when Linden Lab showed off Linden Realms. Just simple little things like, having a HUD automatically appear in your view, or being teleported to a respawn point after being hit by a monster WITHOUT having to click a Permission request made such a monumental difference. I was giddy with excitement over the new possibilities.

 

Three years and another CEO later, my excitement was replaced with scepticism that now legendary new permissions system would ever appear. I heard from people who had been on the beta team that LL staff that had been working on the Experience tools had left. The Beta group had no idea what happened or wether the project was still happening.

Then finally, Experience tools started to get hinted at again in user group meetings and finally at the start of summer 2014 Linden Lab officially announced experience Tools and requested beta testers and i almost nocked everything off my table as i lunged to my keyboard to reply to the Lab.

 

Becoming a Games Master.

So what is these fabled Experience Tools? Well it’s a new Feature in SL that allows a creator to become a sort of ‘Games Master’, a person who manages what happens to you in an adventure. It’s called ‘Experience Tools’ because experiences don’t necessarily have to be a game, so maybe instead of Games Master, it should be termed Experience Master :-p

You grant the ‘Experience Master’ permissions to animate, teleport and what ever else is needed to give you the full immersive experience. After you finished the experience you will then be able to retract your permission from the experience via a special list in the Viewer that organises all the experiences you are part of.

Linden Lab are currently looking for a bunch of experiences to showcase and I’m working hard to supply them with something. Although after three years of waiting and hearing nothing i decided to get on with other projects which are now preventing me from doing any large scale Experiences… typical.

I have updated my Islands bashing game to use Experiences. Its a simple game of bashing things with a stick to find prizes while avoiding biting monsters. The Experience Tools have made it a much more fluid experience, you get a stick and hud auto attached, you bash, you find prizes, you get bitten by monsters, you pass out and you are teleported to the lost point. As simple as that sounds it was far more difficult to achieve before Experience tools.

There is a lot to come, i have tonnes of ideas and am most interested in story telling experiences. Three years ago i wrote  a whole bunch of stories for escapades island expecting XPtools to be released back then. I also have a series of stories and mysteries in New Babbage. While i haven’t currently got the time to build these experiences right now, they will be on my list of projects for next year.

And for those who groan at the thought of being forced to play games, the experience tools also open up opportunities for creating learning tools to help new users. I wonder if Linden Lab will create their own new user learning experiences or leave it to SL creators? or why not both :).

 

Things the Experience Tools do not fix.

Im excited by how the experience tools will make things simpler to do in SL, most of you won’t even notice it. While XPtools fixes some major obstacles to making easy and immersive experiences in SL, there are still three areas where i’m frustrated.

1. Windlight Settings – The amount of times I’ve created dark moody experiences only for a user to arrive with their viewer set to default midday. It would have been good if Experience creators could get permission to llSetWindlight on a scripting level so for example if you went into a cave the wind light settings changed to dark misty atmosphere. Or if you got beamed up into space, then a script could change your wind light to be nighttime with stars. – JIRA

2. Sitting on things. – Say you walk into a monster plant by accident and that plant then automatically flips you in the air and eats you with a gloriously graphic animation. Well that can’t be done, because you can’t be made to sit on an object just by colliding with it. I and my friend spent an entire day trying to work out a way to do it and we ended up with a really complex work around that just did not give satisfactory results. We need something like permission to llSit. – JIRA

3. 3rd person action key – In the Oculus viewer the LL team added an ‘X’ action key this allows those with a VR headset to use mouse button to fire a gun, and then the X key to open doors. They did not however expand the action key to 3rd person mode, but its possible they could if we badger them enough. – JIRA

 

Meh?

XPtools might not stand out to many as an exciting amazing new feature, after all what it allows is mostly assumed already possible. Some people might think it’s to late and lost all enthusiasm for SL. But i for one understand how crucial this new permissions system will be in opening doors to new opportunities of creativity, the likes of which we probably won’t start to see until early next year after creators fully explored the possibilities.

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