My hopes for Second Life and other things in 2018

Last year i left 2016 rather optimistic for 2017 and wrote a list of things i’d hope to do this year. I said i would take a step back and get more involved in things. As it turned out many of those things did not happen, but thats not because i decided not to, but because 2017 was a year of constant unexpected delays.

And to finish the year i have had a cold, headaches, blocked nose and a sore throat all through the holidays delaying even the little final things i wanted to do. So i’m now hoping that as the new year approaches this dam cold will finally die along with 2017.

So here is my list of things i hope to achieve in 2018…


1. Start to truly experiment with VR.

At the forefront on the theme of delays during 2017 was VR. Last January the only VR headset i had was the PSVR and boy was i having fun with such amazing experiences as Resident Evil and Farpoint. But I’m far from mainstream when it comes to VR, i’m a Second Life user, i dream of getting down and dirty with creativity in VR. There were many factors in 2017 that didn’t allow me to just jump into VR, for one i am a Mac user, another was price of hardware. Slowly and surely Apple added VR support to new Macs and VR Headsets finally cut costs so that by the end of 2017 i finally have the set up and am looking at 2018 as the year i get to, as Star Lord would say ‘Build some crazy shit’.

I plan to start by creating a sort of VR workshop in Unity3D that is mapped to may actual real studio but not looking exactly like my room, a workshop full of stuff that i love, a place where i can tinker on VR gadgets and characters. From there i might be able to export my experiments to High Fidelity or Sansar.

2017 was the year the new VR Virtual World of Sansar finally opened up and i did explore and try to use it, but with no mac support i’ve turned my attention now to Unity to experiment in VR. Second Life is still the best Virtual World out there where all my friends still are and i’m able to do far more interesting stuff than i currently can in Sansar. For instance i cant even make my own avatar in Sansar yet.


2. Release the Bento Avatar & rebuild my clothing empire!

In 2015 linden Lab announced their new Bento Avatar system. Two years later and i still haven’t released my first bento Avatar. This is all because of the Blender Plugin ‘Avastar’ which took over a year to develop but while i moan about how long it took and how many sleepless nights it caused me in 2017 i have to explain that this plug in is amazing, and as complex as it is, it actually makes the creation of Bento avatars much easier. It lead me to realise just how un-friendly Second Life has become to some creatives.

So early in 2018 i hope to finally release my Bento Kid avatar. There are still a few beta testing and adjustments needed on the Basic Free Ruthus version, plus i need to create some custom ethnicities and skin textures for the planned Pro versions.  Then of course i hope to spend 2018 getting back to making clothes using my new toy Substance Painter.


3. Be a part of Fantasy Faire again.

Last year i just helped with the Roleplaying side of things at Fantasy Faire which was great fun until my nephew gave me a horrible cold to battle through. This year i would like to be a region builder for Fantasy Faire again. I learnt a lot about how the faire works in 2015 and would love to contribute something very different to the faire possibly utilising the new Animesh feature if Linden Lab somehow get that finished before April (yeh right).  I’ve yet to ask if they need any more region builders.


4.  Tell more Tales, organise more Roleplays

This was on my list last year and really will probably be on the list every year. Strip me of all my tools and what you’ll have is a story teller. At the start of 2017 i was fully committed to creating a New Babbage Chronicles Story Game. I was creating multiple illustrations and writing pages and pages of plot only to suddenly stop as preparations for Fantasy Faire and the need to try and stop my clothing business from collapsing by working on a Bento Avatar took precedence. Then as Avastar development went beyond its predicted release date and other events came along the Babbage Chronicles started to collect dust.

That’s not to say i didn’t create any story experiences this year. Fantasy Faires tale of stone frogs and malicious bards was a joy to help bring to life and The final chapter of  T H E  W E L L  seemed to entertain and freak out those who played it. There was also the Escapades Anniversary revealing of the Founders Tale.  I’m still not sure when i will return to working on Babbage Chronicles but the hope is that once the Loki Bento Avatar is released i can get back to doing other things, Babbage Chronicles possibly being one of them.


5. Rebuild Escapades Island.

Half way through 2017 i had this really odd feeling. I’d been to see the long awaited Sansar and i had explored the immersive realms of VR, and Linden Lab made tier cuts plus added more prims to Second Life Regions.  I had logged into Second Life and was standing at the memorial stone for my old friend Sven Homewood looking out over Escapades Island. i was considering all that i had learnt in in creating things in Second Life, what works, what does not work so well, and what i had hoped to do on the island and what i now know is not possible on the platform. I began to think about Escapades Island relevance.

Now that i know what second life can do, perhaps i should rethink what the island is for those who live here, and perhaps try to simplify its themes encoring the residents to contribute to it’s mysteries and bring a synergy to the whole island.

I plan to create a presentation of plans and concepts for this rethinking of Escapades Island early in the year in order to get the residents on board since without them the island would certainly not exist.


6. Become a 3D Printer Nerd

In 2017 i randomly backed a Kickstarter for a 3D Printer that actually turned out to be mega awesome indeed. The Dagoma Neva printer will hopefully path the way to 3D printing models that i then plan to paint old school style.


I’ve experimented printing temples, Fidget Spinners and star wars snow flake decorations but next year i want to do some proper action figure prints. Thats why for Christmas i got lots of paints and grey colour filament. I love this whole idea of creating something thats ends up being both digital and physical. Printing out my Loki Bento avatar as an action figure would be just amazing to do.


Things i did not accomplish in 2017

I wasn’t on the Drax files, but im pretty irrelevant to his show now he’s moved to Sansar :-p (i’m kidding!)

I hoped to get into 3D Scanning during 2017, but while the Bevil3D Scanner turned out to be a complete waist of time i did experiment with Photogrammetry, the process of using many photos to calculate 3D volume. The results of which i used to create parts of T H E  W E L L  experience and who knows, might get used for the rethink of Escapades Island.

I also did not get my PrioVR Mocap suit which was a kickstarter thats 3 years lates. I keep getting promises that i’m next for shipment, but if it’s to arrive it wont be until 2018 now.


Happy New Year

2017 felt like a right sludgy year where one step after another seemed to take forever. My hope is that 2018 will be the year where the giant rusty cogs of progress start to move again and i get to do some really exciting things in Second Life as well as other platforms. Hope everyone has a great new year 🙂

Loki Avatar 3.0 – Part 7: Avastar Unleashed

It’s been over two months since i last posted an update on my Bento Avatar, that’s partly to do with working on T H E  W E L L and New Babbage traditions. The other reason was that Avastar wasn’t doing what i wanted and i was getting more and more frustrated with it and i’m sure the Avastar team were getting fed up with my support tickets.

Avastar was finally released 2.1.0 in October with the same problems that caused me to halt all work. Then in 2.1.1 i discovered the ‘bake to mesh’ option. What this feature seems to do is glue any changes made of the mesh shape to the Avastar bento rig, either moving verts, adding new verts or cutting the mesh into bits. Suddenly Avastar went from being a frustrating mess to SUPER AWESOME AVATAR BUILDING MAGIC PLUGIN.

Not only did ‘Bake to Mesh’ button fix my chopped up avatar issues, it also made making changes super easy and quicker than before. Now i don’t know when the button first appeared, as i don’t ever remember seeing it before 2.0.1. There was never any documentation to say when it should be used and the Avastar team never mentioned it to me when i sent support tickets crying. I also cant tell wether it was a feature planned at the start of Bento Avastar development or just a sudden ‘oh that would fix everything’ moment near final release. In any case it really has made things simple again especially with making clothing and is a welcome addition. Though it does come with some side effects which if not kept an eye on could cause issues.

When i discovered the ‘Bake to Mesh’ button i started using it all the time. I would make a change, then ‘bake’, upload a test, see something wrong,  go back to blender, make another change then ‘bake’ again. It wasn’t until some of my beta testers mentioned the eyes looked odd that i realised some how the face had changed from how it originally looked. Upon investigating i discovered that ‘bake to mesh’ actually warps the mesh shape ever so slightly each time it’s used. You would not notice it.

This revelation has resulted in me having to go back to previous mesh shapes created before ‘bake to mesh’ appeared and start again to remove the warped effect. Knowing now whats happening, i try to only ‘Bake to Mesh’ when i really need to.

It has not stopped me from going forward with my Bento Avatars and i hope to finally have my Bento Avatar ready for users to play with before Christmas. The next Update Post will explain more about the features built into my Bento Mesh kid Avatar.

As of posting this Avastar has a 2.1.2 release, but i’m too scared to try it.

Presenting T H E  W E L L : Ultimum

It has been two years since the 3rd chapter in the Well Series which saw Second Life visitors get lost in a healthcare centre trying to work out what the hell was going on. Some people hated it, other loved it and i thought that was it with regards to The Well. But here we are again with a 4th and this time (i promise) final chapter.

This time the story (if there is one) takes place before all the other episodes in a dark wood full of secrets. In an empty room you find a diary, a last page written by a frightened boy who writes that something is banging on his door. From there you venture out into the woods to learn if you can what has been going on.

If you managed to visit the other chapters you might understand things more than others but it does not really matter with The Well. I’ve always aimed for The Well to be more about atmosphere than the story telling. The original inspiration was to see if i could really scare visitors in Second Life using a variety of cheap jump scares and unnerving atmosphere.


For best results i recommend having Advanced Lighting enabled, Windlight set to the regions default settings and turning your speakers up or wearing headphones for the sounds of foxes howling in the night. A torch is supplied as you venture into the woods and will light up your way.

The experience also occasionally uses Media on a Prim to display haunting nostalgia from the 80s and in fact the whole experience aims to give an somewhat hauntological vibe.

The experience is purposely dark making it hard to see whats out there breathing in the shadows.

The very dark woodland was created using my experiments with photogrammetry. I went out into real woods and took photo surveys of muddy pathways. These were then used to create 3D models of the woods which i then used in The Wells woodland scenes in the hope of adding realism to the spooky atmosphere.


A lot of work also went into the Experience Tools HUD that pops up to tell you info and parts of the story while hopefully keeping the experience easy and simple to use.

The Well game will be open for as long as there is interest from people to check it out. There is a fee to enter The Well (L$200 – $0.80 – 60p) , but once the pass is purchased you can return to the well when ever you feel the desire :). Especially since there is a whole playlet to collect this year.


Hope everyone who visits has an enjoyably frightening time. You can visit T H E  W E L L :Ultimum HERE

My Virtual World avatar is now 12 yrs old!

Loki is now 12 and since last year has had a massive overhaul thanks to the Second Life Project Bento.

From 2006 to 2013 my avatar which is represented by a mischievous and creative kid has steadily improved in fidelity and visual personality. One of the most flourishing aspects of the virtual world of Second Life is the ability to pretty much completely customise what represents you there.

Many eventually settle on a look and over the years fine tune it based on their personal likes, culture and influences. friends learn to recognise each others avatars based on their avatars appearance and even mannerisms.

Between 2014 and 2016 my avatar did not change much at all. I had reached a point where i thought there was nothing much more i could really do to improve my avatars fidelity and other projects got in the way of improving clothes. That was until this year when i decided to explore ‘Project Bento’.

Project Bento has allowed me to completely recreate my avatar with higher detail than before that includes complete control over the 3d Model, animated fingers and facial expressions opening the door for an avatar that expresses even more personality.

It was not easy either, with Avastars 5 month rocky release candidate road i nearly went stark raving mad and it took a lot of patience and Blender3D knowledge. But we got there in the end and while my current Bento Avatar is almost complete there is still a lot of extra stuff to explore with expressions and animations.

This year has gone blindingly fast and It’s been a year of waiting for things to be released from Sansar,  Apple, Avastar, or Animesh. I cant help but feel that some very cool stuff will be possible next year all across the world of VR and AR as well as Second Life.

Thanks to everyone who’s encouraged me through the past year 🙂

Still waiting for MacOS VR Support

It was an exciting keynote at Junes WWDC2017 not just because Apple finally introduced new upgraded mac computers, but also because they seemed to have teamed up with Valve to bring native support for the HTC Vive and finally gain support for VR on MacOS.

On the day of release for MacOS High Sierra there was much Tech Media fanfare announcing that the latest high end Macs ‘finally support VR’, they obviously had not even tried to run VR on the new OS. Even Apples website declares that High Sierra has ‘Optimised support for Valves SteamVR.


The reality for me has been one of frustration as while the HTC Vive connects and is recognised by valves SteamVR beta software and displays a white grid room complete with tracked controllers , i’m unable to run any MacVR titles from the store. I am also unable to run the VR Headset alongside the MacVR Preview of the Unity Application.

The interesting thing is that even though i can not preview VR experiences created in Unity on my Mac, i am able to build them. I was able to build a VR Experience in unity on MacOS that could be run in windows, just not on the mac. It’s as if SteamVR on Mac is unfinished and prevents VR Apps from being played on the headset. Yet Valve keep updating SteamVR on the mac and every time its not working. Someone isn’t telling someone something. Either SteamVR is broke and not bridging the apps to the headset, or SteamVR is working but valve has not updated the unity plugin for Unity, or High Sierra changed something and apple didn’t inform Valve. In any case its very frustrating being so close to creating VR Experiences on Mac.

While there are plenty articles online spewing out how MacOS finally has VR support, it’s very hard to find any information about actual VR usage on MacOS after the release of High Sierra. There is no push from Valve towards mac users finally having access to VR Applications, there is nothing on HTC Vive website about Mac support arriving. It’s all surprisingly dead silent with very little information at all.

I’ve posted questions on SteamVR support, and on Unity MacOS VR Preview forums and had no answer at all, only replies from other confused mac users searching for clues on where Mac VR is.

There is only one app on SteamVR i’ve found that works, Blobby tennis. I’ve messaged the developers asking what they are doing thats different to everyone else. So until the fog lifts from the whole sorry scenario i’ll just play some tennis… against a blob.