My optimistic list for Second Life in 2017

Well that was a crazy year, and while for many real life resembled a heavily griefed region in 2007, i left the year feeling quite optimistic with Second Life. So here is my 2017 list compiled with a reflection of 2016.

1. Continue to rebuild and develop Escapades Island.

You can’t really build a place in Second Life then expect it to just sit there remaining relevant all by it’s self or can you? Some places during 2016 ran into trouble, disappeared then reappeared, all thanks to the dreaded high tier prices… all so they say. Escapades had the best year ever with regards to support from it’s renters and also benefiting from Linden Labs buy back grandfathering and prim increases in a sort of parody fortune switcheroony of Uk reality.

I used SL13B celebrations as an excuse to rebuild the Castle ruins while also adding a small adventure game inside the Mountain. People enjoyed the experience when it was free, but i got a lot of grief from people who felt once they had played the experience that the payment for the pass  was too much.

 

2. Babbage Chronicles becomes a proper gaming system.

After the Escapades anniversary finished i put all my resources into working on the New Babbage Chronicles. This was something i have been wanting to do ever since the last big Steampunk Roleplaying ‘Dark Aether falls’ in 2011 but i had to wait for Linden Lab to release XPtools and also learn to script what i wanted.

During the autumn i finally released a small test story ‘A Girl Meets a Boy’ which gives a good idea how things will progress. Using minimal discrete HUD system, the Babbage Chronicles will allow it’s players to explore New Babbage and uncover hidden stories. With the groundwork finally in place i will spend 2017 promoting to more users and building more stories to offer players in Second Life to investigate.

 

3. Help with Fantasy Faire.

In 2016 i created a whole region for Fantasy faire called Echtra. Not only did i have great fun building the muddy gloomy atmosphere but i was blown away by those who took up the roleplaying and helped uncover the mystery behind the place. It was the most magical satisfying experience of the year for me.

In 2017 i will be taking a step back. I will probably get involved with the roleplaying organising and prop building, but i won’t be doing a region this year. Thats not to say i won’t put myself forward next year 🙂

 

4. The Loki Bento Avatar.

In 2015 Linden Lab announced Project Bento and everyone including myself assumed i would create a new Bento Loki Avatar in 2016. This didn’t happen. About half way through the year i decided to wait for Avastar to finish their very important big update to include Bento Skeletons in the Blender workflow. It soon became apparent that Bento would not be released until the end of the year, so i made the choice to halt all avatar and clothe making until the 2017.

With my first Mesh Avatar i made a lot of mistakes. Avastar was still in it’s early years and now offers a much more flexible and stable feature set combined with Linden Labs new Bento Skeleton system. Usually i’d be all over the new features but decided to wait. Once Avastar is complete i dive head long into creating a new avatar for myself and then create new clothing.

 

5. Tell more Tales, organise more Roleplays

With he groundwork in place for the Babbage Chronicles Story game system thingy, i hope to also create other mini story adventures for places like Escapades and Geminis Vortex City (try to time it with the new Bladerunner). Last minute additions to XPtools such as ‘ForceSit’ lead to Egnog the Christmas Troll being able to eat you, an ability that wasn’t possible a few months ago, not that you would have noticed that :-p

How simple it is to adapt the system to other themes will determine wether i decided to release the XPtools story system for others to grab and create their own. It also kinda depends on how easy Linden Lab make it for others to gain XP keys.

 

6. New Technologies

I’m expecting technology to get more expensive not cheaper. The prospects of me getting an HTC Vive or Oculus in 2017 are slim, but there are other technologies i backed before Brexit that i hope will usher in new creative paradigms for me in Second Life. One is a 3D Scanner called the Bevil. Apparently being shipped and should arrive any day now, this device will 3D scan physical objects which i can hopefully use via Blender in Second Life.

Another device is the PrioVR motion suit which also has apparently shipped. The PrioVR boasts the ability to allow your body to be mapped in a VR game, but im more interested in using it to record motion capture for use in quickly creating poses and animations for Second Life. There is also Leapmotion which has been around for a while now but has become slightly more relevant with Project Bento what with the possibility to motion capture hand gestures.

 

7. Be on Drax Files.

Years ago Draxtor pleaded for me to be in one of his world maker videos and my reply was that ‘im not ready yet’. If you are going to be profiled on your work, you want to at least have the work completed, and for years it felt like nothing was completed, everything felt like an experiment for a bigger thing to come. But with Escapades Island fully rented, and New Babbage Chronicles close to being what dreamed it would be…. maybe just maybe i’ll be ready to be in a Drax Video.

 

Sketches from 2016

Throughs he year i create a lot of sketches while planning projects for Second Life. Here is a video of just a few from 2016. Have a great year!

Sketches 2016 by lokieliot

What if reality has replicated what we experienced in Second Life six years ago?

What if the boundaries separating the physical world and cyberspace have became so blurred that griefers, trolls and ‘drama of the individualised self’ has projected back into reality?

What did Second Life residents do when faced with trolling hate and grey goo (self replicating objects)? They put up ban lines and sought more controls to manage people on their land. Some users started Abuse Reporting other people for mildly irritating issues.

What happened relatively recently in reality when extremists and haters randomly started dealing out abuse, death and carnage? People sought to close boarders and get more control on managing people. Ok, i’ve  generalised the worlds extremist issues, and i can’t really compare digital trolling with murder.

Maybe Second Life as it is now is a glimpse of realities future? The users all know Second Life has the ability to be open and free yet most choose to lock down their places or only let those vetted to have the privilege of rezzing stuff, while curiously celebrating how creatively free and open Second Life is.

Perhaps Sansar will represent a future world where the choice to be free is removed completely, instead given only to those privileged?

 

Still finding new things to do in Second Life

During this week of celebrating Second Life’s 13th year of ‘still being around’ or ‘a thing’ i find myself reflecting on what there is still to do in Second Life. Im going to blog about the stuff that still interests me in SL.

 

Bento Mesh Avatars

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i made the loki avatar to the best of my abilities back in 2014-15, could i now create something better? probably!

Last year i released my first ever mesh avatar body. A year later Linden Lab release Project Bento so like meh, fine ok, perhaps i should have waited a year because it’s probably easier to make and rig a mesh avatar now thanks to the Avastar and Mayastar people.

When i used Avastar to make my first mesh avatar it was still in early stages of development and caused a few oddities for me as a kid avatar. Since then it seemed to have come along in leaps and bounds and is pretty much the only way to make mesh avatars and clothes these days.

With the addition of the new Bento gazillion boned avatar skeleton i will have to start looking at creating a new Mesh avatar for myself. I want expressive fingers, and it’ll be interesting to see how easy it’ll be to create animations for it.

If i had the technology i would mocap the crap out of my hands and give away an entire catalogue of hand animations for use with bento. Actually why not get Linden Lab to pay someone to make a large free catalogue of hand and facial expression animations to distribute to the users. I guess we could wait for content creators to amass a large full perm archive of animations, i don’t think the buzz over bento will last long enough though.

I’ll admit that i am a bit scared of Bento. Creating rigged stuff for second life is stupidly hard, and the idea that there are over twice as many bones in this new version of the avatar makes my brain break. But i’ll have a go and see what’s possible. I already did one test earlier this year to rig my avatars hands and it seemed to work.

 

Adventure Games

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I have three locations in New Babbage just waiting to be used for adventures

I have spent SO many years trying to learn the best way to present adventures. I waited for three of those years for Linden Lab to bring out the Experience Tools. Making experiences for SL requires a lot of different skills, from model making, animation, scripting, voice acting and even UI design and presentation. All of this takes time and effort with little in return for the effort, especially not enough to support a team of creatives like in the real game industry.  So I’ve been building up experience and tools and systems that would allow me to efficiently and quickly create adventures. I think now i am all set.

People have enjoyed T H E  W E L L , and the experience at this Years Fantasy Faire and SL13B worked pretty well. So now its time to go bigger and for that i plan to return to New Babbage, my role-play homeland in Second Life.

There have already been five stories told in New Babbage still whispered amongst the residents in the back alleys of the steampunk town. Using the same location based Story Mode i’ve used in the past year, i plan to retell the New Babbage Chronicles. It’ll be the biggest game project I’ve ever done in Second Life which is why i’ve decided there will be no new T H E  W E L L this year.

 

Project Sansar.

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I’m on the wrong operating system for the advances in VR technology, well at least this year. I decided early on in the year that i would be waisting my time entertaining aspirations of content creation on Linden Labs next thing, but you never know.

I might end up on Sansar via Bootcamped Windows on a future mac machine with a HTC Vive. I’m still waiting for Mocap suits and other backed VR hardware on kickstarter to arrive and they will need windows on my mac machine in order to be of use.

One of the things I’m quite aware of, is just how long it’s taken me to get to grips with scripting in SL, and the idea that i can’t just pick up in Project Sansar were i am in Second Life gives me more anxiety than wether i can use it or not on a mac.

Second Life continues to be relevant to me and my work.

 

 

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.

What is the Spirit of Second Life?

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How much of what we are accustomed to in Second Life will port across to Project Sansar? There seems no shortage of debate about what Second Life features will be possible in Sansar. CEO Ebbe of Linden lab famously said something along the lines of ‘Project Sansar will be in the spirit of Second Life’. But what is the spirit of Second Life?

At the last Lab Chat CEO Ebbe said that there would be no inworld Primatives (prims) building toolset in Project Sansar and other stuff i have read give a picture of Spaces/Experiences where the creators will have ultimate god powers dictating your appearance and what you can do. Does this sound like the open world freedom we have in Second Life?

I spend a lot of time each week returning random prims left behind by Newb users visiting my island. “Why not switch on ‘no Build’  or ‘Auto Return’ i hear you say?  Well i’ve always felt this went against the principles of Second Life, i mean isn’t Second Life supposed to be a platform for freedom to experience and democratised content creation like Draxtor fervently celebrates with his videos?

The things i find being left behind by users are often just plywood boxes or the occasional table. Does anyone really still build with prims, or have they moved to making mesh, or worst, given up all together, discouraged by the growing number of complex low land impact mesh they have no idea how to make. The marketplace is a great resource for buying items, many people use it more than going to an inworld store these days. I bought my new Drax Cap from marketplace, I’m not even aware of wether it’s available to buy inworld.

I love seeing whats left behind by users though, it’s like seeing the footprints of adventurers on the island but It’s sometimes a lot of work maintaining the freedom of the island. Occasionally i have cabin renters complaining that they are fed up with others that can just stroll into their place and sleep in their bed. So i understand why most places in Second Life are locked down preventing people from building freely or rezzing stuff. It’s probably a combination of fear and laziness. Fear of having to deal with things being messed up and laziness to have to clean up others mess?

The junk yard on Escapades is a specific place for people to practice building, but usually ends up a mountain of prims.

The junk yard on Escapades is a specific place for people to practice building, but usually ends up a mountain of prims.

So i’m starting to wonder, when i sit down and look at how Second Life is actually working these days. No one really uses prims to build big content, only skilled or amateur 3D Artists are creating the content, most people buy items on the marketplace and most places on the destination guide are locked down preventing the rezzing of items. Is this the real spirit of Second life, and is this what will be refined and used as the basis for Project Sansar?

I still believe in the old open world of Second Life and still encourage my friends to build (it’s actually really hard to motivate people), But if Project Sansar turns out to be less open due to how we the Second Life community have ended up using SL, I actually don’t have a problem with that, but for those who still see Second Life through old school eyes might find Sansar an eye opening experience.