It’s lonely being a MacOS VR User

This time last year i was waiting for apple to release a new Mac any Mac as a sign of there being continued progress from apple in the desktop market. I’m fed up with Apples obsession with shiny health trinkets and Music. Apple did finally release a new iMac but to my surprise they also demoed support for VR, specifically the Vive Headset. Big shiny tech media articles shouted with enthusiasm that VR had finally come to MacOS. 

A year later and you’d be forgiving for thinking it was all just a dream. The XLab demo showcased at the Apple event is no where to be seen and the supposed HTC Valve support for MacOS is not mentioned at all on their website. But Mac DOES support it, i know because i made my own experiences for it.

 

SteamVR Supports Mac

SteamVR does have a MacOS Version of its client. It’s over a year old now and still does not include many of the features the Windows version has enjoyed for years now. There is no SteamVR Home feature and the built in menu (when it works) has no point because there is only one mac native VR game (as i know) called Blobby Tennis.

 

UNITY Supports MacOS

Unity3D supports the creation of VR applications native to MacOS. Once you figure out which version of unity to use (2017.2) and make sure its using Metal2 api, it’s actually quite simple to set up a template using the easy to configure SteamVR plugins and templates pack. I made a few kool tests creating spaces with a temple, animated objects, tracking a vive tracker. I let my Nephew explore a massive minecraft cathedral i downloaded from Sketchfab.

 

But no ones developing VR for MacOS

All the major Virtual World VR experiences such as VRchat, HighFidelity, Sansar are windows only, which i guess is understandable if i am the only Mac VR user in the village. (Technically HiFi allows mac support in desktop mode) 

It’s frustrating, especially when im using a Mac to make content that can be used in these spaces. I created a VRchat Avatar easy and uploaded it to VRchat then had to reboot into windows in order to try it out. 

My VRchat Avatar, the space suit ended up in Second Life too.

Bootcamping Windows on my mac is what alot of people have told me to do, and thats fine for a while but ive learned that bootcamped VR on a mac takes a resolution hit and is no way as clear an image as when run natively in MacOS. 

In October last year many tech news sites reported that the latest version of Parallels Desktop which runs windows in a window on Mac OS had gained VR support. This turned out to be fake news, as not only does it not work, the Parallels website has no documentation mentioning VR support.

 

WebVR saving the day?

The one place where a Mac user might find VR Support is WebVR that allows VR Users to access VR experiences via a web browser cross platform. At the moment the only MacOS supporting WebVR Web Browser is Firestorm Nightly. A the time of writing this MacOS WebVR support has been broke in the latest version 62, in order to run WebVR with SteamVR you have to download version 59.0a1. One step forward 3 steps back.

 

It’s lonely being a Mac VR user

I would like to put aside more time to explore VR on MacOS. I want to make my own Aech’s Garage, a specific demoing and building space where i can work on new ideas. Maybe I could build little MacOS VR Experiences and make a killing on Steam, but maybe there is no point if i’m the only Mac VR enthusiast. Eventually one of these VR worlds will open up to Mac users and allow me to then export across my experiments. Until then i’ll be tinkering in my VR Garage and perhaps posting WebVR.

CALLING ALL KID AVATARS THIS IS #FANTASYFAIRE2018

At fantasy Faire there is a role-play group for Kid Avatars and ANY kid avatars can join the gang to role-play a story as it unfolds over the coming week.

This year the group will be playing the Magpies, a bunch of michevious street kids who pick a pocket or two. They live amongst a busy bazaar market deep underground in what was once a prison but now is known as the Bazaar Dungeon.

All through the Fantasy Faire week there will be role-play events to help the story evolve while helping raise funds for ‘relay for life’.

To take part in the Fantasy Faire Magpies role-play week…

• Simply turn up at the Magpies Nest at Fantasy Faire SLURL HERE! Fantasy Faire officially opens 9am SLT on Thursday April 19th.

• There is a Role-play starter Kit that includes Magpie cloak, gloves and hat to help you become a magpie. (all proceeds of which goes to Relay for Life)

• There is an event board with a schedule of times that encounters or music events will take place.

• Have fun and explore the rest of Fantasy Faire as one of the Magpies!

For more information check the Fantasy Faire Magpies page.

 

The event schedule. The first main encounter starts on Saturday 21st allowing plenty of time to get into a character and explore you Magpies home.

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