Nine Years invested in the virtual World of Second Life

October 21, 2014 in SL Thoughts by lokieliot

“When Linden Lab finally get round to releasing Experience Permissions i am gonna be SOOO ready.” Thats what i said on my rez day last year. Turns out i was far to busy with other projects when Linden Lab finally announced the Experience Tools Beta. I’ve reached NINE years, almost a decade of my life shared with virtual world existence. Still no sign of any cake from the Lab, i guess they really don’t do that anymore. I don’t mind since the Lab seems to have been very busy after the Ebbe liberation. 

LokiEliotOvertheYears2014

So as usual I’ve added to the ever growing faces of Loki over the years. This was the year i finally set to task at creating a replacement mesh body. Ever since mesh was introduced to Second Life people have been asking me when i would make a mesh body. Well now i have and it’s allowing me more freedom to craft great looking clothes much quicker. I also did some new experiments with hair this year and am actually a tad shorter in response to everyone wanting to be a more accurate size. This is the most i have ever messed around with my avatars shape and while the body is now meshed up to the neck  my avatars head remains the same head i’ve always had and still uses the default SL male avatar mesh. I also replaced my ears with mesh ears, not that you will notice under those surfer locks.

For the most part i think people still easily recognise my avatar and that the improvements this year are enhancements to resolution rather than replacements. What is essentially Loki has been preserved i hope :)

 

 

Exploring the future of my Avatars Shape – part 5

October 20, 2014 in Making a mesh by lokieliot

It has been nearly three months now since my last update on my Mesh Avatar, so where are we?

The Pixar Magic

Well first of all i explored having a more stylised avatar that was more characteristic of Pixar or Disney. This started off with some very cool results in blender and creating blend shapes for facial expressions was great fun. But SL can not transfer blend shapes to mesh avatars so i had to decide which fixed expression to use. I tried smiling, toothy grins, determined eyebrows but in the end settled on a sort of vacant whimsical faint smile.  Recently though i read that Linden Lab are actually looking into ways to allow creators to upload expressions with mesh avatars. Wether this will be for SL1 or ‘The New Thing’ only time will tell.

Another thing that took a while to get right was eye size and chin shape. It does not really matter how the model looks, but when you stand with a group of friends in their old default avatars there is a sense of being an alien and i felt ugly. in the end i had reduced the eyes to what i believed to be an acceptable size that did not freak people out.

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First experiments with creating a pixar/disney style head had rather large eyes but showed the sort of expressions possible perhaps with HyFy.

 

 

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Even without expressions the bigger eyes sometimes do a great job of conveying emotion.

I now really like this anime style avatar as I think it has real fun character and looks pretty dam kool. Im tempted to wear it as my full-time avatar, but I’m too loyal to the old face of Loki :) For High Fidelity though i’m definitely going to be using the Anime model along with the blend shapes to see if i can create a fun expressionate avatar. He’ll be like a dark haired HyFy mirrorverse Loki with black hair and toothy grin.

 

Letting others join the fun.

With the Full anime avatar finished it’s now time to move onto making it possible for others to use these avatars. It’s not a simple task of just giving people the avatar though, as others will want options to make their avatar unique and i need to supply them with those options as easy as possible.

Some ideas i had back when i first set out to make a mesh avatar have changed, either because they are too hard for me to do, or too complex to expect others to do.  I’ve also tried to think of different ways to make things possible. In the end i settled on a system i call the ‘SKNpod’.

SKNpod

 

The Good News

On release all my mesh avatars will be completely free for everyone to pick up and use. There will be four Mesh Avatars in total; Teenboy, Teengirl, Kid and Anime. There will be a free mannequin blender file from which creators can make their own clothes for the mesh avatars.

Each avatar has a built in menu accessible from the ankle. This will bring up options to change the visibility of your avatar under clothes you wear. You can also choose to have hands gripped or relaxed. You also have advanced options to reset your avatar or SYNC it with the SKNpod.

Although the avatars are free, in order to change skins and skin tones users will have to purchase the SKNpod and SKNpaks. With the pod you will be able to change your avatars Skin tone and also replace your avatars Skins with SKNpaks that i will be creating. If you are about to go out and play in the mud, you can step on the SKNpod, drop the dirty SKNpak on the small fold out table, click it and POW, your skin is now dirty. (sort of the opposite to having a bath)

The Avatars skin appears wet automatically if you go under water and slowly dries out in the sun. You can also overide and reset the wet feature for swimming pools.

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When you stand on the SKNpod, the camera pans round and the front flips down with a colour palette, simply select the colour then click the coloured square to transfer to your avatar. HULK SMASH! PUNY GOD!

 

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You will be able to collect SKNpaks for different occasions. All you do is place the SKNpak on the flip down table while you are stood on the SKNpod then click the SKNpak to transfer the new Skin to be worn.

 

menu

Clicking a secret point on your avatars ankle will bring up a menu of options to better fine tune your avatars look.

The Bad News

Seeing as this is a totally rebuilt from the ground up avatar it unfortunately will not be compatible with clothes created for the old SL default avatar. The Joint Rigs of the armature is different meaning you will have to settle for what i and others make for this avatar shape.  Sometimes you might find trousers and shorts that work, but its rare.

You can’t simply wear the meshy kid avatar with your default avatars kid sized shape. You will find it shrinks below what you currently are. You will need to record your avatars facial settings by number and create a new avatar shape from scratch to use with the mesh.

There is a viewer bug. When you take off or swap the joint rigged mesh avatar, it will bork your avatar and the only way to fix it is to relog. This is a problem that effects all joint rigged avatars apparently, so Linden Lab are working on a fix. They almost did fix it too in the latest maintenance viewer, so hopefully it won’t be long before this is no longer an issue. But i can tell you its added 10 times more work for me since overtime i upload the mesh avatar i have to then relog.

 

Creating for the old school crowd.

Now that I’ve been using this mesh avatar for the past three months i can’t take it off. If i do take it off i see my horrible old  blobby wrists, block feet, sloped shoulders, chunky arms. The Default avatar simply was not designed to be shrunk into kid size. But now i’ve created a  way to work around it. Creating clothes for this new mesh avatar is a breeze since i don’t have to shrink and smooth out the bumps, and the results are always better than anything I’ve done before. Plus armed with a better understanding of LSL scripting i’m able to add fun features to clothes.

clothes

Clicking the V4 T-shirt’s back will allow you the option to have with or without Longsleeve shirt under short sleeve shirt.

But i still have to think about my friends who don’t feel right in a mesh avatar after all i’m first to admit that my Mesh Avatar shapes will not suit everyone. So i have to continue offering my clothes designs for the old default avatars alongside the new mesh avatars and thats the next part of the project. I’m in the process of figuring out the easiest ways to create a piece of clothing for my mesh avatar which is already super easy, and making the same piece of clothing for old lumpy default avatars which in comparison is very very hard.

messmesh

Being an oldschool kid in SL can get seriously Meshy.

Originally this last part of the process was just an afterthought, but after a few unsuccessful tests I’ve now decided i really need to sit down and think it through. I have a few ideas. It just seems ironic that after setting out to replace the old avatar with a new better one, I’m back where i started in a way.

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.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that the textures are probably being dumped due to my graphics card filling up. How the SL viewer manages how much graphics memory the Mac Viewer can use is another issue entirely. As far as i know, the SL Mac viewer is using 512mb of my 2GB dedicated card.

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

A1

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.

A4

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.

A6

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 :)

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