Exploring the future of my Avatars Shape

April 9, 2014 in Making a mesh by lokieliot

Since mesh first appeared on the Second Life Beta Grid i’ve been toying with the idea of replacing the SL Default avatar mesh with one build by myself.

From the point of view from anyone outside of the Second Life Virtual World this might seem like a simple easy thing to do by just replacing the avatar mesh, but there technical aspects that a replacement Avatar Mesh can’t replicate that i feel are important to giving my avatar life in SL. So when approaching replacing my avatars default mesh there is a lot of things to consider.

1. Do i want my avatar to still be able to smile and laugh
2. Do i want my avatars head to still be customisable with the SL build in editor sliders?
3. Do i want my avatar to be able to wear the same clothes as everyone else?
4. Do i want my replacement Mesh Avatar to be some i can offer commercially to others?

I started with CyberMeshing my avatar by replacing his legs and feet so i finally had individual toes and legs that did not look like tree trunks. I also changed my hair to mesh and occasionally toyed with replacing my arms and hands. Combined with my clothes my Avatar started to look more like how i envision him and less like a 2005 Default SL Avatar.

Every now and then i would consider wether replacing my entire avatar with a mesh one was worth it? If my avatar spends most of his time covered by mesh clothes whats the point in making a mesh avatar that ends up covered up? But an argument for working on a replacement mesh is simply progress. The more i work on making clothes for my avatar, the more detailed they become, the more i find issues with how the default mesh deforms to get my size and shape.

So now i’ve come to a point where i’m really starting to look into the possibilities with making a replacement avatar. I’ve seen some great ones already on the grid. Some avatars are total replacements, some only replace to your neck to leave your head. I’ve not yet decided which approach to take and will probably try them all and there is a lot of different issues that arise from each method.

Method 1: Replace Default Avatar Size.

I would create my mesh shape to the size and rig of the Second Life default male avatar then shrink using the ‘tiny avatar’ work flow. This should result in 5.5″ avatar with all custom sliders set to 50 as if a full size default avatar in theory. The reason for doing this is hopefully the shoulders will bend more naturally. I really have a problem with shoulders.

Method1

 

 

 

Method 2: Replace Deformed Size. 

I grab my avatars current deformed state and import into blender and rigg my new mesh shape in relation to the deformed hight. This would be compatible with my clothing, but i’m left with the horrible shoulder problem that i really have a problem with.

Method2

shoulders

The Evil Shoulders problem is when the deformer shrinks the arm but does not move where the pivot points are leading to low rounded shoulders.

Keeping Face

Which ever method i go with, i have to consider keeping the default mesh head. I have seem some replacement avatars do this really well and it might be worth doing just to keep my avatars facial expressions active. For a commercial possibility, keeping the avatars default head would make sense since a big part of creating your own avatar is the ability to make a unique face. The difficulty is getting the neck of the replacement mesh to align with the default head seamlessly.

keepingFace

 

 

Method 3: Total Replacement.

Why so much trouble to keep the face? Perhaps just simply replacing the entire thing is best? Well thats another avenue to explore. I’ve seen people with hamster avatars, horse avatars, all sorts of avatars that have limited customisation and facial expression, but they manage to bring their own spin on it that defines them from others with the same avatar shape. Perhaps this need for retaining my avatars expression is making the whole process harder than it needs to be.

Method3

 

test

 

I’m still in the early stages of exploring whats possible with mesh and my avatar. There is no guarantee that what i finally decide on will be released commercially. What if i end up with something that looks great but in doing so end up with something with clothes that can’t be worn by regular default mesh avatars? So there is a tonne of testing to be done yet. I’m always open to suggestions and tips from those who have already experimented in replacement avatar mesh, so feel free to comment.

 

Avatars of the Future

As more virtual worlds come online perhaps they will allow for more freedom in the type of avatar i have created from scratch. Creating shape keys for my avatars unique smile and expression.  It’ll only be a matter or what that platforms supports rather than what it allows so really i should be creating a new avatar with that in mind.

My top 5 films about VR

April 2, 2014 in Uncategorized by lokieliot

Here is a top 5 VR Movies i’ve seen over the years which some of you might agree with or not depending on how you view and experience virtual realities. If you know any more, post in the comments :)

 

No.5 – The Lawnmower Man

5

This came out when i was around 13 year old and i had only just started delving into computers at school. This was the era of what some might call ‘the first VR fad’. The story was ‘very’ loosely inspired by a Stephen King short story and tells of a scientist using virtual reality to unlock the brains ability to learn. The film is typical 90′s tomfoolery but the idea of using virtual reality to expand the mind through virtual feed-back loops is a good one and there is lots of studies about how Virtual Reality can be used to improve learning.

 
 

No.4 – The Matrix

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Yeh so you can’t really have a top five VR movies without the Matrix being in here somewhere. I was at collage and just getting into Cyberpunk 2020 and this film not only changed everything to long black coats and wearing dark shade in the dark, but it also boosted the idea of virtual realities into the mainstream asking the question ‘what is reality?’.


 

No.3 – Existenz

3

A classic Cronenberg movie where game consoles are biomechanical pods and the players end up in a game within a game within a game, a confusion that was way before ‘inception’. I loved how it asked what games are and when do they stop being a game, when reality becomes so real do games stop being game?. This being a Cronenberg film its full of gorgeous oddities and the rather intimate nature of plugging yourself into virtual reality is something current VR is only just now starting to play with.

 

No.2 – Surrogates

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A  future where people use Robots called Surrogates to walk around in the dangerous world for them. The film follows a detective investigating the murder of a guy who died while plugged into a Surrogate. For some reason i loved this film. Its not really VR, its probably more Augmented Reality but the film resonated with me because of the way Surrogates mirror many aspects of having an avatar in VR. the whole film is packed full of VR ideas that if you use Second Life you will find yourself relating to this future world. I especially liked how the main character gets sensory overload & anxiety attacks when stepping out into the real world for the first time in ages.

 

No 1. Summerwars

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Yeh this is an anime film, but its a good one. It directly looks at the VR of today (or a few years back) and projects a world where we all use Virtual World Wide Web called OZ. It follows an OZ maintenance coder who gets roped into a weekend with a friends family. Meanwhile the Virtual World of OZ gets taken over by a mischievous AI called ‘Love Machine’ that causes the whole world to come to a stand still since its so dependant on ‘the internet of things’. The film while having some great ideas about Virtual Worlds and Avatars has a great message about family, friends & community which was unexpected. Although it is funny how Phillip Rosedales ‘Love Machine’ project is the bad guy :-p

 

Bonus – Tron

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Disneys Tron was ahead of its time in all respects. The special FX team were not considered to have artistic merit as CGI was simply typing in numbers and so were not entered for an Oscar nomination. many people just did not get this idea of a computer world. As a kid watching it, and then later seeing virtual worlds, the two seemed the same. To me Tron also introduced the idea of an avatar, although called Programmes, they took on the appearance and characteristics of their User Programmers much like how our Virtual World avatars are a collection of our own characteristics and inspirations.

Do Second Life avatars dream of relevance?

March 29, 2014 in SL Thoughts by lokieliot

dreamsplash

It was during my weekly DJ set at the long running Vortex virtual dance club that the news broke of Facebook’s acquisition of OculusVR. Amongst the avatars enjoying the selection of tunes i was playing, the first responses were not happy ones.

A few days later and regardless of the distrust of the Zuckeberg empire it can’t be denied that VR has suddenly jumped up several levels in the worlds conscious mind. Suddenly this week everyones talking about VR and the Tech media blogs are ablaze with their predictions of what Facebook will do. I read these articles dumbfounded at the claims of what might come, knowing dam well that it’s already here in Second Life.

At Tech Crunch Dan Kapla says …

“In one potential future, the identities we project into the metaverse will be fuzzy or even obscured. Here, our avatars will have little or nothing in common with our actual selves in the real world. They will range from pseudonymous constructions to total fantasies, like the socially-awkward straight male who plays the female dark elf seductress when he enters cyberspace.”

For years Second Life users have shouted and screamed at the top of their voices to show how relevant Second Life is now and to the future, but our voices fell unheard by media. Now VR is on the tip of every tech tongue and they simply ignore us. Second Life has 11 years of experience and evolution behind it. It predates Facebook and twitter and has had to solve lots of issues Facebook has yet to even try. I wonder wether Facebook will have to tip toe around any patents Linden Lab might own about Virtual Worlds.

 

By adding Oculus support to Second Life will this mean Linden Lab are ahead of the game?

The creation of Oculus isn’t just about being fooled into thinking you are IN your favourite virtual places in Second Life. The breakthrough of cheap head sets and tracking is pretty much done by the OculusVR team, the real important work, the revolutionising part, will be in the exploring of how we can control and interact within virtual reality without the need for all these 2d UI options.

Simply adding the Oculus to Second Life does nothing to compete with the large community of developers trying out UI ideas never before conceived. Wether you care or not about Oculus, Linden Lab are going to be forced to be right there with these new developing platforms if they want to stay relevant to virtual reality or end up like Active Worlds, still around but important to the past.

While I’m not all that impressed with Linden labs first efforts to incorporate Oculus into Second Life, it is a start in a direction they have to take now. It won’t be long before competition comes on line from Facebook or High Fidelity or even Yahoo. Linden Lab haven’t really had competition before, and we users have never had any good alternatives to SL before. Will future Virtual Worlds platforms just do what Second Life does now? or will they do more? or will they simply just need to do the same things but better in order to pull us away from Linden Lab to new shiny cheap Islands of social creativity.

wearehere

I want to stay relevant.

So here i am, an avatar who makes a living in the metaverse, cyberspace, the grid. I am what Dan Kapla dreams of  being yet Techcrunch ignores me, they pretend i don’t exist yet. I still crave the acceptance of the wider world, i want to be relevant to mass media. Facebook blew VR up big and bold so surly Second Life and all that it’s achieved should be visible now, surly i should be relevant now?

 

Returning to freeform Role-play

March 24, 2014 in Gaming SL, New Babbage Steampunk by lokieliot

babbgechronicles_avatarIn 2011 a group of Second Life role-players watched as an entire pumping facility collapsed around them in the Steampunk city of New Babbage. So ended a story that had started in 2006 and evolved in to this monster of story telling, scripted HUD’s, machinema and clue hunting.

It all started fairly simple and random. I built an abandoned theatre and placed dark brooding murals in the attic. Then a user known as Professor Nishi blogged about finding them and speculated about their meaning. This sparked and idea to set up a murder mystery, the murder of Alexander Eliot and from there grew stories of a secret device, doors to other worlds, old gods, cloud angels, Homunculi, buried statues, crypts, ancient knights, prisoners on the moon, a great fire and secret organisations.

Since the Story finished i have been rebuilding my steampunk plots using mesh trying to achieve a much darker and grittier atmosphere. I have also been trying out new ways to achieve complex RP. In the past there has been two sides to the Roleplay story, one is the HUD based clue hunt mysteries where anyone can grab a HUD and go search for clues uncovering a story. The second is an ongoing interaction of players who who can contribute to the over all story in a freeform style RP. One is like and old style RPG adventure, while the other is more akin to Live Action role-play in virtual space. I was never happy with how both seemed so separated from each other making it hard for me to maintain a unified experience.

So i’ve gone back to the drawing board and learnt some new tricks with Second Life and have finally returned to RP in New Babbage with the Clock’in system.

clockin

The Clock’in System will hopeful lay the the foundations for a better role-play experience…. fingers crossed.

Introducing the New Babbage Chronicles – Clock’in

The city of New Babbage slowly recovers from the time of the Dark Aether falling. The iron grip the Van Creed society had on the cities businesses has collapsed leaving room for new ventures to take advantage of the large potential working class. Set in the steampunk city of New Babbage, two large factories are looking for street urchins or adult working class citizens to come work for them. 

What is it?: It’s a points based casual RP game that anyone can get involved with but does not require you to Roleplay if thats not your thing.

How does it work?: You choose a factory to work at, visit the Punch Clock and grab the free HUD, then click the Punch clock once everyday to gain attendance points.

Do i have to be there everyday?: By clicking your factories clock every day you gain attendance points. The more points you gain the higher in rank at the factory you become and the more items you can collect such as Hats, boots, and even special tattoos.

Where does the story come in?: The story will unfold over the coming months with events and encounters pitting factory against factory, mysteries to work together to solve and what ever else players might come up with by themselves. In some cases people will earn bonus points, while in other situations points will be deducted.

What if i don’t care for Points and just want to RP?: The story and roleplaying will unfold regardless of the attendance points system, it just means you won’t be able to get the collectable items from the Clock’in.

Is the Workers HUD just for the Clock’in?: No the Workers HUD also gives you extra options for using special work animations in the factory and will be updated with new ideas to help with role-play encounters and mysteries in future.

The Clock’n system is an experiment and is free. I’m hoping the system will allow me to do more complex ideas and allow those who love to invest in proper Roleplaying and those who like a gaming experience both to enjoy themselves at the same time. With so much going on with new features and updates and OculusVR, its nice to get back to what SL is truly create at, immersive experience.

If you are bored and want to try a new role-play then join one of the factories and help New Babbage become great again.

BC_about

If you have any questions about the Clock’in system feel free to IM me in world. You can also find out more from the Babbage Chronicles website.

I need to thank my friends Matthew for being such a great and patient teacher with Scripting and PHP, Jimmy for helping with one half of this on going story and Myrtil, Max and everyone else who has helped test the HUD and joined the group to help push the RP forward. Im really looking forward to finding out where this all leads over the next few years :).

I think the OculusVR Hyperbole is hijacking ‘VR’

March 24, 2014 in Oculus by lokieliot

So i was listening to the Draxfies Radio hour on friday. The debate between Drax and Ben Lang on ‘what VR is’ interested me.

Im pretty sure VR or Virtual Reality is being hijacked and repurposed by the OculusVR hype. As if any use of the term before we strapped sensors to our heads is not valid anymore, and that Head Mounted Displays ‘HMDs’ are the ONE TRUE form of Virtual Reality thats never been possible before now.

I’m reminded of an interview with Ray Kurzweil where he once said even “The Telephone is Virtual Reality, you enter a virtual space as if you were together”. There was also a point made about one being a world seen through a screen while the other is not, …except it is, thats what the ‘Display’ part of a Head Mounted Display is referencing.

There are differences between the two experiences, i accept that, in fact there are a lot more different ways to experience virtual reality. But i don’t agree with this notion that HMD experience is the ‘One VR experience that rules them all’.

More than one VR experience

Second Life allows for lots of different ways to be immersed in VR. It gives the user choices which best suit their personal abilities and those who have become attuned with the Ui Language can fully immerse themselves emotionally. I have memories of fantastic events, and the friends who were there. Trying to argue that this is not proper VR because i don’t have a sensor strapped to my head to fool me into thinking I’m really there, is sort of arrogant and a clear sign to me of HMD hyperbole.

HMDs are just a sensor tracked screen on your face. It helps fool you into thinking you are somewhere you are not. To people who lack the ability to use imagination this will be like magic. Don’t get me wrong, the HMD experience is definitely amazing, but for long time users of VR i think what they value in VR is above and beyond what is basically an extra depth to VR perception and if they can’t find that value while using HMDs then they won’t use HMDs.

AlanGrantonVR

Final thoughts

It’s fine if champions of the HMD want their own little VR gang where they can feel all superior with their lack of immersive imagination, but don’t hijack the whole plethora of Virtual Realities to hype your fancy sensor tech. :-P

 

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