The state of many virtual things

I may have taken on to much this year as so much is going on in Second Life and VR.

Loki Avatars.

This time last year i was working my ass off to try and get my new avatars out for Christmas 2017. In the end after suffering a horrible cold virus i decided that wasn’t going to be achievable. The avatars didn’t get released until March 2018 and since then i have bee slowly building up clothes and accessories while also rebuilding my store. It’s also been quite difficult to work out how to promote the avatar and it’s clothing along side SMB and Classic avatars. 

BakesOnMesh

Im going to try and do a big promotion of the avatars to my community of kid avatars this christmas but Linden Lab threw a spanner in my work by announcing the ‘Bakes On Mesh’ Project. I created a SKIN BOX system for customising Loki Avatar skins, which is potentially made redundant by the easier to use BOM feature, which is cool, but waiting for such features to be released burns me out.

 

Clothing Business

Im trying hard to stick to my Clothing and Accessory Road Map but I’m finding it hard to keep creating new designs once the base model for things like Shirts and Jeans have been made. It helps that others have bought the Prefabs and are creating and selling their own designs for Loki Avatars.

 

 

I’ve started to look at Marvelous Designer software that creates clothes via sewing patterns rather than building polygons. It also simulates the draping of clothe around an Avatar giving realistic wrinkles. A lot of cloth makers use MD to create clothes and Sansar actually has a feature that allows MD clothes to be tugged and frozen into new customisable positions. 

My hope is MD might allow me to make realistic clothing quicker for Second Life and also for Sansar.

 

Escapades Rebuild.

I was worried when i finally got round to starting the big rebuild. I deleted almost everything and wasn’t quite sure how i was going to go about re-creating it all. The aim was to make the island form a more consistent whole and perhaps achieve what i originally tried to build eight years ago. 

Before and After rebuild of Hawkins Bay

As of writing i’ve finished rebuilding the mountain, the south tropical side as well as adding the rock cliffs and base for Rickety Town. I’m really happy with how the Mesh rock and mountain turned out. I was sceptical that i could convincingly replace the old Second Life terrain almost completely with mesh. In fact the only bits of Second Life terrain is the sandy beaches of Hawkins Bay and Nemo beach.

I replaced the old cabins with slightly bigger new ones and and the whole place is more vibrant with plants and walk ways connecting everything together in ways that i hope is fun to explore. 

While there is still more to add to the Island, the Cabin Rentals are open again for anyone who wants to support and call the new improved Escapades Island home at L$175 per week and 120 Li allowance. 

I will probably be adding more through the start of 2019 such as a hidden cave system and new bashing prize finding game. But right now i need to build places that people will want to sponsor as right now i’m struggling to raise enough for the monthly tier cost of the place. In the end Escapades will only survive the coming years if people want it to by visiting and supporting the island, and i hope the rebuild will encourage that.

 

Animesh.

This new feature has come along almost perfectly timed with the Escapades Rebuild. Perhaps once firestorm gets the feature i’ll be ready to start adding Animesh characters to the island. Originally i wanted Animesh so i could make monsters and i still plan to do that, but also Animesh will allow me to create characters you can interact with for stories or gifts or simply just enhance a scene. 

Environmental Enhancement Project

Another feature that could greatly enhance peoples experience of the Escapades rebuild. EEP massively expands the ability to control the lighting of a place. With scripting i could change your viewers lighting to go from bright midday sun to very dark as you enter a cave. This will give me complete control of how you experience and view Escapades Island.

 

Sansar.

I really like Sansar and enjoy going on the Drax Atlas hopping on Saturdays and sometimes go along to other events. I don’t use it in desktop mode, i go to Sansar purely for the thrill of the VR headset support. At first i found Sansar very worrying, suffering anxiety at using voice to communicate, but after a while and because i know drag i was able to overcome the anxiety. I still get blindsided sometimes when an overly extrovert stranger gets all in my avatars face and i have to back off and remind myself I’m not really there. 

Eventually i hope Linden Lab will allow custom skeleton sizes so i can get off the big robot legs, at which point i plan to invest more time to build spaces that take full advantage of VR. No rush though as i have plenty to do in Second Life right now.

The news that Pfaffenthal is leaving SL to go to Sansar left a few to comment that this was the start of the ‘mass exodus’ of Second Life. This won’t happen with Escapades Island as it only exists with the support of Second Life users and was built for use via a 3rd person desktop mode. Any projects i create in Sansar will be built to take advantage of VR Headsets and as a result use very different approach. I won’t want to remake Escapades, i’ll want to build something new.

But there are some things that can potentially cross platforms such as eventually avatars, but more promisingly clothing and attachments. Sansar plans to join the STEAM store around Christmas which i need to try and cash in on. Hopefully Marvelous Designer will allow me to have a few things on the Sansar Store by Christmas.

So yeh thats it, thats all the things right now, hope i can keep it all together. Trying to do it all at the same time is hard :-p

GROUPS

Where would SL be without groups? In the early days i’d wager that groups gave Second Life the concurrent users it needed to explode. You arrived, you made an identity for yourself, explored and then you found a group, maybe more than one group to feel part of a community and that’s why you started to return day after day. 

SL Groups have a simple yet powerful function, allowing a community of friends to communicate all at once in a small chat box window allowing us to quickly gage opinions, get collective help and locate each other if lost. Notifications can be sent to all members of the groups, which they read either in the group chat or pop up when they log in. This was when social media was forums and bulletin boards, before facebook and Twitter.

Eventually Second Life communities grew so big some needed extra features which SL Groups didn’t and still don’t offer. The Steampunks of New Babbage moved a lot of social functions to a social forum which it still uses today for posting stories, news, events calendars.

 

The Age of Social Media

As Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Plurk and other social sites started to gain traction i would imagine a vast amount of SL users time was spent discussing their Second Lives while not actually in Second Life. Could this have been why Linden Lab decided to purchase Avatars United, a social media site for virtual World Avatars. It all seems rather bizarre then that Linden Lab pretty soon after shut down Avatars United (Could you imagine what AU might have become? a home for SL Users, OpenGrid, Sansar, VRchat, HighFidelity, anyone sick of Facebooks ‘real identity policy..o.0 ).

I assume Linden Lab used the Avatars United acquisition to ad it’s own ‘web based’ rolling news feed. It was vastly inferior to what Avatars United was doing but gave me the hope that it would grow in features. I used it a lot to see what friends were doing, adding comments, reading what people said about my work, it was like facebook or twitter. Yet it was very noticeably it’s own thing. You could not post a group notice and it appear in the feed, and the feed was nothing to do with the groups, so it became it’s own separate social group on the Second Life website. 

Then Linden Lab announced not enough people were using SLfeed and decided to no longer work on it.

 

The Future of Groups

I was In Sansar last weekend and a discussion about Discord came up. Sansar has no groups. You communicate through nearby open chat or private friend chats. For the Sansar community to collectively discuss things off line Discord is used. Discord is basically where bulletin boards have ended up and has become popular for gaming communities to create simple small groups to communicate. Some SL groups are also using Discord. 

During the discussion in Sansar the question was posed wether Sansar will get it’s own groups like SL has or will it stick to outsourcing to things like Discord. If LL was to spend alot of time adding a Discord style groups function in Sansar they would have to make it as functional as Discord or people would just continue to use Discord after all that hard work, so i would not imagine them even trying that. Instead i would assume it easier to make things like discord groups more accessible from within Sansar. 

In Second Life however we already have groups and will still use them as old as they are. But should Linden Lab spend any time improving them or should they like with Sansar just let us link out to thrid party Social groups such as Discord? 

At the recent Townhall meeting i asked ‘Will you guys ever consider looking into improving Groups Features’. Their response was to ask for what we felt could be added to Groups and to open Jira Request (Warning could take 7 years). Perhaps a Calendar Feature that integrates groups with the events feature, Group users could see a list or calendar of events tagged specifically for that group. Or Group Polls, Im pretty sure we used to have these before at one time. Getting the opinions of the group for things as simple as ‘what’s the best time to hold an event’.

Or maybe just ad a Discord group link in the SL Groups Info tab.

My Virtual World avatar is now A TEENAGER!

On Sunday my Virtual world persona reached the scary age of thirteen, and so came an onslaught of well intended friendly advise about puberty… all over again .

It’s now been one year since i made the switch to an all mesh Bento avatar in Second Life and during that year i have steadily made new outfits and accessories for it.

This time last year i was excited about Animesh and it’s still not released. Linden lab were always sloooowwww, but not in Sansar it would appear.

During the year i managed to port my Loki Mesh avatar to Sansar, all be it, on the back of a robot. I got a few cheers for that fact i look exactly like i do in Second Life, but then that was one of the aims when spending 2017 creating the Mesh Loki, the ability to platform hop.

Things are not feeling great in Second Life at the moment. My optimism is working hard to outweigh my lack of confidence. I finally started the much needed rebuild of Escapades Island drawing from the past few years experiences building at Fantasy Faire and all i’ve learnt about Experience Keys. But in the end Escapades Island will only survive if others deem it worth calling home and handing over cash to pay the tier.

My work in creating avatars and accessories hasn’t been as successful as i’d liked. My biggest issue has been a reluctance to list things on marketplace. I keep finding excuses to delay having to type out all that crap.

So my fourteenth year could be the make of break year for me. I don’t know if Escapades will survive and i don’t know if i can sustain anything anymore.

But then i am thirteen now, perhaps i am just suffering teen angst.

[UPDATED] 5 things that could make me use the VR World of Sansar more

It has become a regular occurrence now that i go to Sansar Atlas hopping on Saturdays. It’s basically a rip off of the Goony adventures we hold every last Friday of the month in Second life where my friends and i venture to new places and explore. 

It is interesting how my new friends in Sansar are beginning to blame all mischief on me, wether that’s due to my name, my avatar or my actions in VR i don’t know for sure. It could well be the sum of all three.

Watch LIVE from [BETA] 114 Harvest: Atlas Hopping Episode 58 [Cuddlies] from sansardrax on www.twitch.tv

Anyways, Sansar is a once a week thing currently. Partly due to me having to bootcamp into windows every time i want to go there, but there are other reasons. So i have made a list of five things i think could entice me to use Sansar more.

 

5. ANIMATIONS

For literally YEARS i’ve wanted an update to Second Life that would allow me to animate mesh objects with an animation. This year we finally get it in the form of Animesh, a feature once considered ‘something more suited for the NEW THING (Sansar)’. It’s interesting then that Animesh appears in Second Life before Sansar, which just goes to show that Sansar doesn’t get all the new features first. If the Lab ads the ability to animate mesh via custom skeletal animations or blend shapes in a way that is as simple as Unity3D then i can see myself choosing sansar over unity3D as a quick place to build and record VR Machinema while also building places that come alive.

[UPDATE] So right after posting this blog i discovered the Lab has quietly added support for rigged animated objects. So everything i said above…. forget about it. 

 

4. Make VR and Desktop more friendly towards each other.

I spend all my Sansar time in VR mode with a headset on after getting past the initial social anxiety and i’ve noticed there are two plains of existence that habit the same space, The VR world and the Desktop world. So i can be talking to friends in Sansar on voice and as you get to know people you start to put voices to avatars. But you notice there are the quiet ones that dont talk and you ignore them not realising they are very vocal in text chat. You can peek into this world by opening the chat window and reading their secret conversations.

’Hey’ 

‘Hi’, 

‘They dont know we are here because they are talking in VR and we are trapped in this box’ 

‘Welcome to the box’. 

The way the chat window works could do with a rethink maybe, since it just floats at a single point and disappears when ever i visit a new place. Perhaps add an ability to post ‘quick messages’  to reply in chat. I basically screaming for some kinda wrist based quick buttons for various actions in VR mode from dancing, sitting to Emoticons and sending quick messages via chat, preferably on a Nintendo Power Glove.

 

3. Custom Avatar Sizes.

In Second Life i’m a kid persona, In Sansar I’m the same kid but on a robot because Sansar does not yet allow Custom Avatar Sizes. Places like VRChat and High Fidelity allow for any avatar of any size and any shape imaginable, but Sansar went a different route with more advanced avatars, with more advanced clothes system and more advanced facial animations which has led possibly to some limitations. Using marvellous designer people can create clothes that you can adjust and even flip over your avatar and there is a synergy to the Sansar avatar. Then there is me who just wants to break all that synergy.

The Lab introduced ‘custom’ avatars to allow creators to import their own creations. With custom Avatars, the more you deviate from the original Sansar Avatar Skeleton the more things break so i’m guessing thats why there is a hight restriction until they can work out how to go forward. Is it a technical problem or a branding problem with regards to the differences between the Super high tech Sansar Avatar and Custom Creator Avatars. In any case, being able to get off that robot would be awesome, because i know a lot of friends who would then visit from Second Life. 

 

2. SpaceNavigator

OMG this stupid 3D mouse has ruined everything by being the best way EVER to navigate 3D Space. The Conncexion3D Space Navigator is even better than actually moving around in VR. I use mine more to navigate Second Life, Blender, Substance Painter. All those fun gifs from my DJ set are taken using the SpaceNav. It is the peak of navigating 3D space on a desktop, so WHY the HELL does Sansar not support it at least for the editing mode? I would be experimenting faster, building faster, with more precision and i would be enjoying it. 

 

1. Mac version

Yeh well…. what ever.

It’s time to change things

All this talk of VR and Sansar could lead you to believe i don’t do anything anymore in the biggest user created Virtual World.

Following Fantasy Faire i’ve been slowly building up accessories for my Kid avatar range, built a new mega store and created BMX bikes. I scanned in some old shoes that seemed to be perfect for Second Life Kids and once i feel ready i plan to promote my Avatar range properly. Before that though i need to deal with the Escapades Island Issue.

About a year ago i sat down with some of the Islands plot renters/owners and discussed possible ways to breath new life into the island. Nothing lasts for ever, everything marches on and old places need to be injected with fresh relevance. 

It’s coming up to Escapades Island’s 8th year of existence and if i’m truthful the Island has never been finished, never lived up to the original ideas proposed. There was plans for lots of Role-play groups, games and events but this in the end never really materialised. The island never reached the planned potential, partly due to how people use the island and partly because my own ideas were too big for the platform to meet. 

So with that in mind i proposed to rebuild parts of the island with the goal of giving the island a refreshing boost. The idea is to rebuild around how we now know people are using Escapades Island with the hope of giving a better more story driven atmosphere of the island. Currently its a hotchpotch of different concepts that never fully reached completion. 

 

Pro Plots and Basic Cabins rethink.

In the beginning there was Pro Plots and Basic Cabins. It was expected that people who wanted to build big projects on the island would rent a pro plot while those who didn’t have much interest or skills in building could rent a basic cabin much as they did on Goony Island. 

The Basic Cabins seem to do well, you choose your spot and you deck it out with your own items. I’ve watched people take great creative care in setting up their cabins spaces. 

Some pro plot renters have made a place of their own and have remained there from the start. i really appreciate this and don’t want them to change at all. 

The Fae forest and the John king tavern have ended up becoming ‘sponsored’ plots leading me to wonder it it were not better for users to ‘sponsor’ a place on escapes that already comes with a story behind it rather than an empty flat plot or boring empty building with now story behind it.

 

Places of importance that will be re-developed.

Nemo Beach

This was the original beach created back in the days of Goony Island. The shape of the beach hasn’t changed much , but i would like to expand it a bit more by removing the old Shop building and reduce the size of the clubhouse repurposing it as a small beach side shack. The Goony Clubhouse would be moved to Rickety Station to what is currently called the Town Hall where we have weekly meetings. 

The Mountain

The volcano mountain is the centre of the original mythology. Back when it was Goony Island, the islands were in a ring and there was stories of the Volcano exploding at some point. Then the not of time was re-tied and the island was transformed back to before the volcano exploded.

The mountain was made hollow with he plan to place all sorts of fun inside it. This never happened and instead i discovered it was better to teleport people to cave systems elsewhere. So i would like to rebuild the mountain entirely and note have it hollowed out. The mountain would be bigger and more detailed with more nooks to explore. It might not even be a volcano any more and instead have something else to discover at its peak for when we burn the wicker man. As for the Inferno and bone organ, it’s possible to create a more atmospheric version of these secret places using the Experience Keys system to teleport explorers to rooms rather than having the mountain hollowed out. The Cliffside Cabins should remain as they are but the waterfall might receive a facelift.

Rickety Station.

Originally envisioned as being a town of ‘Rickety’ market buildings, this area of the island really didn’t become anything like what was planned and was very hard to sell plots. What i would like to do here is turn the centre of the island into a small Spielberg style abandoned research town beside a road that curves up a hill. The places was mysteriously abandoned years ago. The buildings will have hidden spaces for users to set up a home, and bigger spaces to rent for shops if they wish. But the over all goal here is to bring a more unified atmosphere and mystery to the story of the island instead of the randomness that’s been there before.

The Goblin Village.

A fun little place to bash Goblins. One of the more atmospheric changes i’d like to do with Escapades is make it less high fantasy, so while King Goblin and his gang will still live on the island, their village will be completely rebuilt along with the Mountain. Instead of the huts and stone buildings , their village will have a more natural vibe, such as creepy stone Trees with symbols. For visitors this will ad a more mysterious perhaps darkness to the side of the mountain.

The Goondocks

Originally set up as a series of plots with remade pirate themed buildings they were always difficult to get rented. The original Escapades Concept was of different gangs on the island, one of which was a pirate gang but this idea of themed gangs never took hold. The only building there that was of use was the John King Tavern which still gets visitors today. I would like to update the john king experience with the modern XP tools. As for the Goondocks area, i am thinking of dropping the pirate theme but keeping the area as small abandoned dock. The Tavern would remain, but i would create a more picturesque cove with cabins and the odd sponsored building. One such building would lead to the sky pirates platform high in the sky and elaborate on the levitation crystals.

The Meadow of contemplation, Cutterstone Gorge and Fae Forest.

It would be nice to make all these areas seem more integrated. At the moment they all seem like plots next to each other. I would like to make the Fae forest seem more seamless and even expand up to Rickety Station. The Mine shaft that tunnels under the Cutterstone gorge could be filled in and have users teleported to an underground cave system that joins with other entrances on the mountain using XPtools.

Hawkins Bay

Originally the main village for all the Basic Cabins. It used to have a kids pirate fort on top until i ran out of prims and had to remove something fast. It still has the tunnel that lead from the fort down into the strange cave. I would like to rebuild the cave area to look more natural and maybe make Hawkins a more interesting place to live. 

Clifton House

The old building is one of the last remaining builds to use sculpt. If i rebuild it i will make it a possible Sponsored spot

 

A simplified overall Story to Role-play

back in the day there was all these plans for different gangs on the island, Timerascals, SeaPups, Darkagers and Tronics, each with a founders backstory and a themed area to live in. This was asking far to much of the Users so we’ll be simplifying the story of the island so everyone can just be who they wants and live where they want. 

What Has Come before

It all started thousands of years ago, a god known as the Dagda created the island to conceal his earth born son from the harm humanity could do. The boy called Mabon lived on the island which changed and formed around his imagination until found and brought back to earth by a legendary King. 

Remnants of Mabons many adventures still remain on the island as do the lesser Sidhe who maintain the islands power. Over time the island has called out to other children in need of escape. Some of which stay for only a while, others have stayed for years never raging a day. 

The Lost Kids.

Visitors to the Island can spend all day exploring the islands many secrets trying to work out what it all means. Those who stick around can try and make sense of it all by placing items to make it feel more like home. It can be a struggle for some to find clothes and food, building shelters either in the abandoned cabins or in other spaces dotted about the island. Some kids have become quite nomadic while others still retain their innocence living alongside the mysteries of the island.

The Rickety Station

The island has occasionally been discovered by accident and in once instance a scientific colony was placed on the island to learn it’s secrets. The Richard Ketty Research Station (known by kids as Rickety Station) is an abandoned small town in the centre of the island. Who built it and why it was abandoned is a mystery. The Rickety Logo seems to appear on all manner of strange looking abandoned technology laying about the island covered in grass and moss. 

Mood Board of how i’d like Escapades to feel after the rebuild.

 

Tools For Plot Owners and Sponsors

A simplified set of tools will be developed for the Plot owners and Sponsors to allow them to easily create interactive objects on the island. These are all things i’ve already created so know are possible.

Portal Kit: Allows you to create automatic teleportation between rooms so you can have secret rooms hidden high in the sky for visitors to find.

Bashable Kit: Allowing you to create items that can be bashed open revealing gifts. 

Story Kit: Allows users to click and receive an auto attaching hud that tells information about you place, objects or even a story.

Discord Server: For those who want expanded group features never added to Second Life’s limited group functions.

The rebuild will start on Monday the 10th of September straight after this years 8th Anniversary weekend and you can go visit the presentation in Second Life to look at a large model of the proposed changes.