tips

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 🙂

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Is it just me or is the Second Life Mac Viewer the worst it’s been for a while?

The performance of the Second Life mac viewer is the worst it has been for a long time. It is so bad it actually makes me not want to login.

The performance really started to degrade more than it usually is just before Fantasy Faire. I put it down to traditional low performance before major SL events but its persisted and perhaps got worst. maybe i should be filling Jira reports but I’m not really sure where to start and i’m never sure if its just me who’s having the troubles.

When i say poor performance i don’t mean low frame rates. I’m a mac user so am used to existing and working in a low FPS world. The performance loss starts with simply logging in. It’s taking three times longer than usual just to log in. Once i arrive inworld i am greeted with the usual ‘wheres the dam cache?’ phenomenon. Non existent cache has been around for me ever since the lab switched to using CDN’s to quickly deliver nothing for 3 minutes. This is ok as long as I’m not crashing at an event where i need to quickly get back into SL. It’s the next thing thats really causing me grief.

The UI has become a sticky horrid experience of constant pauses. It used to be that when i clicked to open preferences window i’d get a pause of about five seconds. Now that pause has gone up to 20 seconds and isn’t localised to just preferences, it happens when you open an IM with someone, click to open inventory, and most annoyingly clicking to open the texture window when editing objects. It’s driving me mad.

Also should mention i still can’t post snapshots to my SL feed since the last official viewer update.

The performance drop is across all the official Viewers and release candidate viewers. Of course it’s not happened in the Firestorm viewer, either because the Firestorm viewer has yet to add this performance drop or because the firestorm viewer is 64bit. I don’t know.

I don’t want to use the Firestorm viewer even though it gives a smoother frame rate experience. I find it bloated with options and features, but i may have to if I’m going to build an Exhibit for SL13B. Makes me wonder what we’re going to be celebrating. Not improved stability, well i won’t be.

Is anyone else is having the same performance drop? i’d like to know incase it is just me and my stupid computer is to blame. That would be embarrassing.

[UPDATE] I made a video comparing the firestorm viewers performance with the current Official viewer, see I’m not going crazy it is poor!

Firestorm/Official SLviewer Comparison by lokieliot

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The 11th Beltaine Wickerman on Escapades Island

Fantasy Faire has a habit of being on during the first of May, which ends up pushing the Escapades Island traditional Wickerman Experience back a week.

So it was that the 11th Beltaine Wickerman festival kicked off last saturday. I’m still surprised how many come to this simple 2 hours experience of holding a torch and walking up a virtual hill to watch a virtual wickerman burn and fall apart.

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There was nothing new about it, nothing different, but then i guess thats the lasting appeal. It’s always the same, it feels like tradition for as much as a tradition in a virtual world can be.

This year for the first time the event was filmed. I don’t know if this will cause the year to be cursed but if you would like to watch what a Virtual World tradition looks like, check out Richardus Haymakers awesome video of this years Beltaine Wickerman.

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Escapades Island lower rentals are coming

So with Fantasy Faire out of the way i had a short break, but managed to get round to sorting things out with Escapades Island taking advantage of Linden Labs latest offer to buy down the islands tier. 

Paying a one off $600 fee reduced the monthly maintenance tier from $295 down to $195. Now obviously i want get some of that one off fee back, but i also want the islands residents to benefit from the lower rental costs as soon as possible.

The plan i have decided is to keep the Pro plot and Cabin rentals as they are for a further three months allowing me to make back $300 of the one off payment. I will also set up a donation board to raise a further $150 by July 21st which if successful, i hope will be when the new rental costs will come into effect.

I want to thank everyone who has stuck by Escapades Island and rented Pro Plots and Cabins at and I’m looking forward to lowering your rent at last.

 

The lower rental costs will be as follows. (unless i change them again)

Basic Cabin rentals with 90Li allowance – from L$200pw down to L$140pw

Pro Plots 512 with 234Li allowance – from L$500pw down to L$325pw

Pro Plots 2014 with 468Li allowance – from L1000pw down to L$650pw

 

If you would like to donate towards part of the one off fee you can do so by visiting the donation thermometers located at Nemo beach and Rickety Town Centre.

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Democratising #VR will need democratised 3D Content

I watched two things yesterday that caused me to think about the democratisation of VR. The First Was a video of Ebbe Altbergs DIY VR talk at Collision Conference, the other was Lab Chat 3 in Second Life.

In Lab Chat they discussed an upcoming feature addition codenamed Project Bento. This project will allow Second Life content creators to ‘access more options in the creation of Second Life avatars‘. That’s my misleadingly simplified explanation of the feature, because rigging 3d models for Second Life is actually stupidly complicated.

Lab Chat was interesting because of how a lot of questions seemed to be wishes for features to allow users easier creation of things. The Labs answers were either flat out ‘NO’ or confusion about what the user was talking about.

The equal playing field of content creation that Second Life started with has vanished. Where we once all built with cubes inside the Second Life platform itself, is now a domain of Pro Creators and User creators. The Pro builds the content using years of experience with 3D Modeling software, while the User arranges the content in manner that is also considered creative.

This is what Second Life evolved into and what will be carried across to Project Sansar if the DIY VR video was anything to go by. Ebbe specifically talks about democratising a medium, showing how photos went from being something only professionals knew how to do, to where everyone now can hold up a phone, click a button to take amazing quality images, and then share them in an instant with everyone they know. Project Sansar hopes to democratise VR experience by taking VR experience creation away from Game Developers and giving users the ability to build their own VR spaces with simplistic ease.

PSansar

Even if Linden Lab succeed in making the usability of Sansar easier than Second Life with the addition of immersive VR, there is still the issue of content creation. Because that big divide i see in Second Life where users don’t even know where to begin to make 3D Content may also come across to Project Sansar.

It’s an issue that probably needs addressing by the 3D Content industry rather than Linden Lab or High Fidelity. There needs to be easier ways for users to build 3D Content without spending years to gain the knowledge.

This is already being explored in some areas. Adobe bought out Mixamo rebranding it into FUSE. The Software is like an avatar/Game Character customisation tool that you can export models for anything that will accept the formats. I’ve used it to quickly create static characters for Second Life Experiences (FantasyFaire & THE WELL).

The most interesting for me is 3D Scanning. The idea being that you can use your smartphone to 3D scan any real object into a Digital 3d Model and then import it to what ever software supports it. I can see myself sculpting models out of clay or building stuff with my Nephew out of Lego then scanning them into the metaverse.

Box of Dinos- #3DST40
by Bart
on Sketchfab

 

Perhaps it’s only matter of time before the next iPhone or Samsung Brick has a built in 3D Scanner bringing with it democratised 3D Content that can be used in these upcoming VR Worlds. Only then will VR be truly democratised.