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I think for the most part  hardcore Second Life users are a rather forgiving bunch. To be an SL user is to have learnt the art of patience and tolerance. Its hard for me to find another example where i pay a premium for software that i spend most of the time learning work arounds to get it to do what i need it to do.

Right now Linden Lab is rolling out new this and that, in fact they have been rolling this and that out for about a year leading to some news blogs repeating the same news. It’s also beginning to feel like things are breaking under the pressure.

Im sure its all been wonderfully explained somewhere about how the new beta/development/maintenance viewers work, but I’ve lost the plot. I can no longer tell which viewer performs best, or what bugs are known about, or which ones are not bugs but my incompetence, or wether its a third party issue or a first party or a second party???

Much fan fair has been made about the new materials feature, and as a creator i love the extra detail. But the viewer tells me i best not have materials switched on my top of the range iMac. In Fact even switching Advanced Lighting on to take a snapshot is a dangerous gamble that could lead to crazy pixilated nightmare screen that requires a force quit.

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That moment when the viewer turns against you

It’s ok really , i can live without materials, although i suppose i should start adding Minimum System Requirements on all my Marketplace Products that have Materials Enabled. I should probably also start adding which Third Party Viewers my products are compatible with since I’ve started getting Messages from people who’s mesh items don’t appear or who’s eyes bug out when wearing an item. The first question i always ask is “which viewer are you using” and its always the same third party viewer. It’s beginning to feel like developing content for Android.

Eventually combined with other little annoying failures such as, the release viewer crashing almost all the time on initial start up, Objects never appearing, textures never loading full detail, Sl profiles taking ages to load, SL feed failing to load, NOTICES FAILING TO FRAKIN LOAD, Inventory search going blank, constant system wide memory Freezing…….. it all just gets to much.

I am often in SL building and taking snapshots in my sky studio. These moments are bliss, frame rates are high, settings are maxed out and I’m building awesome things. Its on the occasions i meet with friends and go on adventures that require a lot of ‘moving’ and ‘communicating’ and ‘socialising’ it’s then that i get the distinct feeling of playing in a train wreck.

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As long as i dont move, meet other people or be anywhere near other object or the ground… i should be fine.

As the Lab pushes on with releasing an apparent backlog of fixes and features, i can only close my eyes and walk head first into the storm hoping it’s just getting worst in order to lay foundations for improvement. Thats my D.O.* speaking

ThreadError: deadlock; recursive locking

 

*Draxtor Optimism.

Starships, PEW PEW!

StarTrekBattles_BoxArt

Ok so its no secret that ive in the past week been messing about with some Star Trek models i found on the web.

Originally i made the enterprise for my friend Billy who is a big Star Trek fan. I prefer to reference culture rather than replicate it in SL, but in this case i decided i wanted to give Billy something epic.

I didn’t want to spend ages painstakingly  building from reference images so i found a trekkie fandom forum that had some fan made models freely available for sharing and what not. The only thing i needed to do was add the new materials feature and some lighting effects to help the starship pop out, then script a basic vehicle script so Billy could boldly go where Billy has not gone before.

I was quite chuffed with the results of using materials for the extra shiny detail  so decided to make another ship, then another and before i knew it, id made Billy a fleet. So i decided to combine this with another project to create the basics for a battleship game.

The final game is one of moving your ship into position and then firing then moving out the way, not quite pew pew galactic whizzing. There is the added element that the klingon ship has shorter range, lower shields, yet faster and has two canons compared to the federation ship. Also you can regain health from the little floating space station included with the pack. I say little, but the ships are between 30 and 40 meters long, perhaps not healthy for a sim to hold a galactic space battle.

So anyways im letting everyone have this small project for FREE because its an experiment and two because i cant really charge for the excellent model work of those star trek fans who built them…. oh and cos star trek is copyrighted innit.

Eventually i hope to develop this system into an airship battle game, so this is but a tiny taster.

So yes go to this SLURL and click the box to get the galactic goodness and find a good stable sandbox to rez the planet and ships and go for it, share them, mod them,   enjoy yourselves, thats what we are here for!

NOTE: The Enterprise and Daedalus starships were gifts for my friend Billy only and are not available in the pack, sorry. Also i can not give any support for any issue anyone may have with what i’ve built.

Getting physical in Second Life

For years I’ve seen youtube videos of people experimenting with all sorts of ways to control Second Life.

I remember this vid by Mitch Kapor who was a chair at Linden Lab. It showed a kinnect style motion camera interacting with SL and much was said about how this would change the face of virtual worlds…… meh…

Ok so THAT never happened and ill blame M Linden as i always do.

In the past year there has been a veritable barrage of input devices coming onto the scene specifically designed for multiple uses with what ever software might want to use it.

 

oculusThe Oculus Hype

The Oculus Rift is a streamlined headset display that gives you a proper immersive visual experience and is currently in development to be supported by Second Life.

The more i think about the Oculus Rift the more i begin to realise how it could possible impact the SL platform.

If the Oculus is as cheap as they claim it will be, if it gets good game developer backing and more importantly if the public get on the hype and buy it on mass then all Linden Lab may have to do is say “Got an Oculus Rift? Why not take it for a spin in an endless world of virtual space? FOR FREE”.

I mean if you get an Oculus Rift and do not have any official games, Second Life could be there and ready as the ultimate Virtual Immersive FREE experience, Maybe even sneak a sign up card in every box of Oculus Rift.

Depending on what Linden Lab settle on for Oculus UI, they could have a welcome Island specifically for Oculus users who want nothing more than to simply experience a virtual world with oculus rift. They will want the ‘OMG I’m like totally in a virtual world, woooooow” factor.

 

leapLeap into creativity.

The Leap motion is a small box that sits just infront of your screen and can see your hand movements and even determine which fingers you are holding up.

Some have expressed interest in how this could change the way people build stuff or interact with stuff in Second Life. For items that need a lot of precision i can’t see myself relying on anything other than a mouse, but for simple interactive tasks the leap could an interesting tool for exploring and socialising in SL.

 

bandThe Jedi arm band

[UPDATE] Nat reminded my of MYO which does a similar thing as Leap Motion but from a different direction. It senses the differences in your arm muscle when making hand gestures which can be transformed into interaction of virtual space. Im not sure weather it can track your hand movements or just recognises your hand shape.

omniRUN “Second Life”

The Omni VR Rig is a rather large frame so far resembling something out of Red Dwarf. It uses rather simple ideas to track and convert your leg movements into virtual movement. Basically when you run on the spot in real world the character in the virtual space runs also. Personally i fly everywhere in Second Life so i doubt i’d use it.

 

3DmouseThe Awesome Nipple Mouse.

Otherwise known as the 3D space navigator, my Nephew has no idea what it does but loves messing about with it. It has been out for quite a while and has had no revision in design because … well it’s already perfect. The Spacenavigator is an input device specifically tailored for navigating 3D space and i can’t live without it. How the Spacenavigator might work with Oculus Rift will be interesting to see as its more intuitive than using keyboard and it’s already fully supported by the Second Life viewer.

 

iwatchiWatch

Now you might be wondering why would i be mentioning the rumoured new wearable Apple product in relation to Second Life? Initially id imagine the iWatch would have specific support for interacting with an Apple TV or MacOSX features, but its potential motion sensor capabilities could allow developers to use it with other platforms.… such as Second Life. If the iWatch follows the path of most Apple products we could see a large amount of people wearing motion trackers, a resource that Linden Lab might be able to tap into with a simple iWatch App.

 

Combine to create MEGASECONDLIFE

The problem here is you can see the different techs, and they all give a part of a puzzle that when combined would create a Second Life experience that not only make interacting and experiencing SL more intuitive and simple, but also more Physical. I for one would welcome a more physically challenging Virtual Experience.

I recently got myself a Nike+ Fuel wristband, a rather cool gadget that keeps track of my activity through motion sensors and gives me feed back on how active i am through the day. Suffice to say I’m not as active as i could be while using Second Life.

I would like to see my fuel score increase when using SL in future, from having to look around on the spot when using Oculus Rift. Having to reach out and wave my arms around to activate things either by using Leap Motion or sensor tracking the iWatch. I might even consider the Omni VR Rig for a quick jog around my island instead of flying or teleporting. It’s a new direction where using more physical ways of interacting with virtual space becomes an important addition to UI rather than a simple gimmick.

While i look forward to more physical ways to interact with SL i am aware that there is a fair amount of SL users who have physical handicaps who might read this and think “pffft what ever”. Perhaps the fact all these techs are coming from different places means we can taylor our interaction with SL to our personal needs.

These are exciting times, ideas suggested years ago during Second Life’s hype peak are starting to appear, but is the Lab and Second Life Platform open enough o support them all?

SL10B – Aftermath

First a big thank you to all the volunteers who brought SL10B together, a marvellous job. Sim performance seemed better than ever before due in part to the great shared knowledge of the organisers and the Exhibitors. On the opening day i hardly experienced any lag and was kind of disappointed that i would not experience any matrix moments.

I unfortunately did not get to see everyones exhibits this year and i only managed to film tiny moments from two of the main stages due to ongoing problems currently with the Viewer. The live shows gave me that great festival feeling that only avatar presence can get from the interwebs. Having Lindimoo beautifully sing and dedicate Puff the Magic Dragon to my Behemoth Project was a highlight.

There was a bit of drama over some exhibits appearing to be ‘blatant’ adverts for SL Business. Now I’m more forgiving as long as their presentation is a nice example of whats possible in SL. In a way we are all advertising what we do, some are just more subtle than others. I did notice for the first time quite a few exhibits that were either exactly the same as last year or changed a little bit from last year. I don’t know whether the exhibitors had no time to do anything original or were simply lazy, but as a visitor seeing something you saw last year gave an impression of no progress. I tended to think ‘hmm saw that last year, so i don’t need to see it again’. It’s got to a point where some commentators are calling for the Volunteer Organisers to be more strict in future, but i feels thats going to far.

The message about repeat exhibits should be aimed at the exhibitors, and if they want to persist in boring the visitors with the same thing every year then its their call.

Exhibits aside i was truly amazed at the stages this year. Their is something very glastonbury about how they take on a theme of their own and add to the magic of the event. You can look back and say ‘remember that stage that was on the back of a giant turtle when listening to live acoustic shows, and the dance stage under the rocket in a an old power station  chimney.

 

 

The Behemoth

I set out to make something never before seen in Second Life that used every ounce of skills id learnt since last year and expressed my love for Linden Lab, the Second Life Platform and all thats inspired me in my life…. so nothing to hard this year :-p

Actually it was not to hard. Over the past year I’ve been slowly building up a series of scripting systems that would help me with story telling and interactivity. Ive been practising more and more with Blender and learning the tricks and workarounds to making efficient low land impact mesh. So when it came to SL10B there was nothing new to be learnt, i just had imagine it and then build it.

Thanks to Draxtor Despres i actually got quite a head start since it had been planned to feature the Behemoth on the Rod Humble Episode of the Drax Files. The distinctive animated look of the Behemoth unfortunately looked out of place from everything else seen in the episode so both Drax and i decided to cut it from the show.

Building the Behemoth was a test in balancing Landimpact, LOD and Size. All three effect each other, removing from one adds to another. On the final day of building i was looking for where i could shave land impact so that i could add pecking birds on the fountain. Took me half an hour to finally squeeze them in, so important they were to finishing off the whole look and feel.

I always aim to create HUDs that are as simple as possible to use. For the Behemoth i created the most simple HUD yet. Through Listen commands activated by touch the HUD hears a special keyword and moves a Mesh plane display up into your view showing a texture devoted to what ever you clicked. It also positions your camera view to focus on characters or views, then waits for your permission via clicking an arrow to move on to the next part of the story. This is the closest i think to how RPG games tell stories and was recognisable and easy to use for the majority of people who visited the behemoth. Of course there were some who still found issues with the HUD but they still enjoyed walking up the Behemoth.

The overall size of the Behemoth came in exactly on the parcels land impact allowance of 269. You maybe surprised to know that half of that was the cell shading black line effect used to make it look like a Studio Ghibli creation.

 

The People Love the Behemoth.

I got more feed back and comments about the Behemoth than any other SLB Exhibit and it’s really supercharged me for the year ahead. It’s really great to know so many are enjoying the things i create. Here are a few things people have said about the Behemoth.

“The Behemoth was the most fun I’ve had a a SL#B, what a clever and adorable metaphor. Back in 1995 I longed to see this very thing of the Internet, nicely done”

“someone’s seen labyrinth too much”

“The Behemoth is epic. Easily my favorite exhibit in SL10B. Please accept this complimentary jar of Awesomesauce.”

“I visited the Behemoth yesterday, fairy early on without too much lag. It was an incredible experience with a wonderful message. Thank you Loki for all your outstanding contributions to the ‘Behemoth’.”

“This is the exhibit I kept taking my friends to see. Well done”

“Love your build at sl10b it’s by far my favorite xD”

“i have just seen your exhibit at SL10 and it is fantastic!  I dont mean to sound like i am nitpicking, it’s really just a question – is it pronounced “be-oh-moth” or something else?

“when i look at his face, i think he should be called “George” or something haha :-)”

“I have just visit your build on SL10B and I loved it! Thank you for the lovely enjoyment! ^^”

“Hallo Loki, I just wanted to let you know that The Behemoth is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my five years on SL.  Thank you so much for your contributions to SL and I hope you keep up the awesome work, I’m really hoping to see so much more from you now. \> 3</”

Not only did i get great feedback i was delighted to see so many snapshots taken. It seems standing on top of the Behemoths head people could not resist taking a snapshot of themselves 🙂

The Behemoth maybe gone, probably for ever, but there is no shortage of ideas in my head and with the lab still to bring out new tools for easier interactivity there is plenty more to come from me. Thank you for your support, i love what i do thanks to all of you.