I cant control how you see my world.

Every now and then Second Life seems to get into this ‘THINGS ARE HAPPENING’ atmosphere, and thats whats currently happening now.

Those who know and in the know will know that we are approaching the 10th anniversary celebrations, Oculus Rift is just around the corner as is the now called ‘Experience keys’ system and the Materials System and Shining project fixes… Of course corners in SL arn’t exactly right angles and can be quite curvy making the time taken to travel past said corner last sometimes years.

But even with all these exciting new things arriving i’m still not happy yet Mr Humble, so here are two things im still gonna be waiting for in order to make really good interactive immersive experiences in SL.

 

1. Animated Objects

Pathfinding, Great feature, awesome Ai. But i cant get my animated creatures to appear . Im getting increasingly fed up of making multiple posed objects and having to script the transparency of faces to simulate animation. I currently import rigged objects that copy the animations of the avatar, why cant we animate the objects without them having to be attached to an avatar? i would have backed Karl to create code for that rather than the stupid Fashionista Deformer. People are already building these assets, we just need the dots connected.

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Simplify the animating process by using other assets we already use for rigging mesh clothing and avatars and we’ll have Hobyahs that animate 1000 times better and more efficiently.

2. Materials and Windlight

In the right lighting environment custom Normal and specula maps can make for a really detailed immersive atmosphere to rival AAA games. But thats the thing, i cant control how you have your atmosphere (wind light) settings. I could create a wonderful dark cave with specualr mapping optimised perfectly for being seen by torch light at midnight or a custom windlight setting. Then you come along with your settings set to midday with a stupid face lamp ruining EVERY bit of atmosphere i crafted GAAHHHH!. Perhaps now is the time to give me perms to control your viewer side windlight settings, i already have perms to animate you, control your camera view, teleport you. Give me perms to change your windlight settings and i can give you the best atmosphere i can at any given time, wether it be when entering a dark cave, or transporting into space.

 

I know what i want to be able to do In SL, i know what sort of experiences i want to give my friends in SL, we’ll get there eventually ­čÖé

Content Creation Conundrum

Freedom is a major part of the second life experience. Freedom to be who you want, do what you want and build what you want. Did it ever occur to some of us that being able to build what ever we wanted could be a major factor in why the grid struggles sometimes.

In the past i’ve spouted a lot of stuff about how mesh is amazing and will bring a better more efficient grid, and while i still believe mesh import is amazing I’m beginning to realise that efficiency is not guaranteed.

Like most user is Second Life my 3D modelling experience started with the Primitive building Blocks system. I became pretty experienced with what was possible with those restrictive blocks. In fact many of us pushed the primitive blocks system to its limits and beyond.

Truth might be that Prims are not all that efficient to start with. When you link a primitive cube to a mesh apparently it switches from an old prim calculation to a newer more accurate mesh calculation. If you link prims that are cut, have holes or just plain wonky to a mesh you suddenly get a confusing rise in land impact calculation. And don’t get me started on Sculpties again.

A 3Dmodeller from the games industry background could easily come into SL now and totally understand the finer points of efficient building from the amount of polys to the size of the textures to UV repeat mapping and Specular Mapping – Sheesh.

And while its awesome that the grid is now able to accommodate  proper 3D models it is silly to think that creaters who spent the first 8 years of Second Life using prims are going to suddenly move to making efficient mesh. Firstly many including myself had never even used a 3D modelling programme and secondly most of us including myself have no experience in 3d game modelling efficiency.

So while its nice to be able to import any mesh model, wether the grid is better or worst depends on wether that mesh model is constructed by thousands of polys and has over a hundred 1024x size textures on it. But how are we to know and learn? we’ve never had to consider such things before with the Primative blocks system?

Which brings me to the final thought. If anyone new comes into second life and sees a beautifully detailed mesh object, how quick will they learn that creating something similar is just not possible with the primitive blocks system? Where once we had a system that everyone built as equals now we have a split. Either learn to build with inefficient cubes or find a 3D modelling course. I don’t believe Primatives are pointless now that mesh has arrived. I still use Prims a lot. But for new users i don’t believe the Prim as a building system is ever going to have that importance it once had to content creation. Yet mesh for all it’s potentially efficiency and stability is no where as accessible as the Prims system for content creation.

Celebrating Second Life

It’s not long now….

All through the year there are events that i take part in.

All through the year there are many events i dont take part in.

 

Events are what make Second Life really tick.

Being in second life and understanding what to do is an achievement in itself, but to then step out into the grid and find like minded people in a community that share the same loves?

Achieve that and you will be able to understand how important Second Life is to so many.

Yet so many never get to achieving that sense of belonging and freedom of self expression.

But every year people from all across the grid gather to celebrate in one place testing the SL platform to its very technical limit.

An exhibition of what is possible, presenting hundreds of little communities, a moment for thousands of people to contribute and shout about what they love or feel proud about.

All these people from all over the world from countries i was never even taught about in school.

All these minds gathering in one virtual shared place.

It is not just a thing thats happening in a wrongly labeled ‘failed game’ , SLB is a world wide collaboration that happens every year

It’s surely one of the single most creative collaborative worldwide events of the year, yet you wont hear about it ever on the news.

It’s the greatest SL event of them all.

 

SL10B will be the 10th celebration of this platform we love and hate. It’s open to EVERYONE to take part. It’s not just for the elite creators and doers to show off their latests shiny metaphorical bollox. Sure it has a theme,’Looking Forward, Looking Back’, but don let that stop you from doing what ever you feel like doing.

This celebration is about the users who ever you are what every your creative experience. It’s for you to shout HEY IM HERE TO! in what ever way you can (as long as it does not break TOS or have nipples).

So what are you waiting for?, think up an idea, grab some friends, fill in┬áthe application and see if the organisers will give you a FREE plot to build on. It will be the BEST Sl Experience you’ll ever have… possibly ­čÖé

 

Escapades Beltaine Wickerman 2013

It’s become a greatly anticipated event to those who have experienced it before and each year the crowd grows in numbers.

I’d say this year it was double the size of last year and thanks to the SLfeed we even had people pop up who just randomly caught a post promoting the event minutes before it started.

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This was the 8th Beltaine wickerman on the island and the basic premiss hasn’t changed at all. We all meet on the beach, hold burning torches and march up the hill to the wicker man then listen to a speech about saying good bye to the past and welcoming the summer months.

Each year i try to add something new and this time i created some antler hats and warrior painted tattoos to give it a more feral feeling.

I dont think the events pagan origins are what draws the crowd,  its the intense immersive experience. The parade, the fire, the music the setting sun and the words spoken in the ritual are all packed into a condensed 30 minutes. There is no room to step back from it or you risk missing something so instead you are drawn deep into it.

The event also draws upon friendships and camaraderie. Dogstar the Fae’s speech is all about remembering those who have been lost in the previous year, and encourages those present to appreciate the ones stood beside them now as friends experiencing the same thing. This makes the whole event personal.

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When you logout of SL and your memory is one of colour, sound and friends rather than chat boxes, crashing and missing prims then you’ve truely had an experience and thats why i think so many love the Wickerman event.

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I never document this event in video, it’s one where ive decided you must experience it for yourself.

Take care of each other over these summer months ­čÖé

BELTAINE, BELTAINE BELTAINE!

Pathfinding Post Mortem

Im starting to see a pattern in how i get excited about new features in SL. The fun and excitement comes from the announcement then the downloading of the development viewers to test on the Beta Grid. The blogging about how it will add so much to Second Life once they iron out the bugs.

By the time the features come out on main grid or in the release viewer no one gives much of a crap because the features have no effect on how they use Second Life. Only the super content creating geeks get giddy over the new tech.

So it was with Pathfinding, this amazing bit of tech used for more dynamic movement of NPC’s or AI’s or bag guys,. Before Pathfinding┬ái had been using sensor scripting with ‘move to target’ commands so my goblins would sense a user, target them and move to that target, then sense again and move to new target.

Pathfinding  allows the goblin to target a person and then track that person without any further censoring. It allowed the goblin to stay rooted to the surface it was walking, and it allowed the goblin to run away, intercept and find pathways around object to reach its target.

Pathfinding is amazing, it really is great but now that it’s out on the grid i cant find any use for it. Or should that be i can find uses for bugs are stopping me from using it.

My first test of pathfinding was rats using an animation technique called Alpha Flipping. This technique allows for smooth animations by flipping through the faces of an object. The test Rats on the beta grid worked really well and i showcased them in a video.

My first proper main grid use of Pathfinding was to be the Cheese fairy quest. I had the cheese fairy woddle about and wonder freely but i started to notice that his appearance was getting stuck or he would disappear entirely. Investigating more lead to the belief that Pathfinding was having some kind of side effect with the alpha flipping technique. I filed a bug report on the Jira and a Linden investigated but eventually i got snowed under with other projects.

Months later and a new project required new NPC monsters so again i looked at pathfinding. This time they were big crazy rabbits that pounced at you when they got close. The animation looked awesome. But this time i discovered that when the animated rabbits had pathfinding scripts put in them they would fail to rez at all. More investigating revealed the object wasn’t being rezzed at all by the viewer. In the mean time i decided to remove the animated aspect of the rabbits in order to keep the pathfinding.┬áFiled another bug report, a linden came to investigate and then i got sidetracked with other projects.

So a month later and i’m now working on new NPC monsters for the latest upgrade to my weapons system. These little critters are also animated and like the rabbits fail to rezz so im probably going to not use pathfinding this time. I want to, i find the movement and tracking to be really challenging for users and take things a step forward to being more like proper gaming. But i want my NPCs to look lively and engaging which i cant get with pathfinding anymore.

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Its rare to find pathfinder being used anywhere, i think the best example i saw was of cockroaches scurrying around on the ground. Im sure at some point ill find a good use for dynamically moving static objects

Maybe LL are working on fixing this issue, maybe the issue is related to the big problem of objects not rezzing, which is in turn probably related to shining project,  in which case id expect it to be fixed  eventually. All i know is that i cant do what i did when testing in the Beta stage and that ultimately SUCKS because they did a lot of work on this feature and i wanted to move forward.

Of course the whole thing would be a mute point if only LL implemented a way to animate a rigged object.┬á­čśŤ