Loki’s Predictions and hopes for 2015 in Second Life.

WOW, what a year it has been here in Second Life. For VR enthusiasts it’s been quite a roller coaster ride. For some the VR world was flipped on it’s head, for others not so much.

For instance during 2014 Linden Lab completely changed, not just inside, but the way i perceive the company. My perception of our place in the bigger VR picture was expanded, and suddenly there is this renewed energy in all things virtual reality.

I found myself having to validate my place as a member of the VR community as gamers tried to pretend that VR had not existed since the 90’s. Many tried to argue that virtual worlds are not VR because they are not immersive and lack the presence of ‘proper VR’. I would argue that immersion depends on the person experiencing the VR, that some people can be easily immersed than others. The Oculus and it’s 3rd party plugins are for the most part simply accessories to visiting worlds I have already been exploring for a long time. I’m part of the virtual reality community thats explored what it means to own something that does not exist, battled the drama and ethics of virtual relationships, griefing, grey goo. My minds been opened by the lack of boundaries in this virtual space, interacted with people from all over the globe who each bring to me a glimpse of their own countries and communities histories and dreams. I’ve witnessed how similar we all are on this planet, how we all assume the same things, how we all seem to get the same wrong impressions of each other, and how we can all change and form friendships while other times become enemies. I’ve watched shy awkward users with language difficulties become confident friends. This is virtual reality for me, it has changed my world view, this is what’s important to me in all this VR nonsense.

While the gamers are getting giddy with the extra sensory perception of killing people, my interest is now in how the VR accessories can enhance and open up the way i’ve been using VR for the past 10 years. Luckily all the changes to Linden Lab seem to be pushing it into this direction.

So last year i made list of predictions and i bet you are dying to see how much i got it wrong :-p…

1. Second life will finally get the ‘Experience Permissions System’.

NO FRIKIN WAY, it actually did finally arrive. Linden lab announced a Beta programme in autumn and i got to play with it on Escapades. Unfortunately i was bogged down with lots of other big projects that i was not able to fully explore the possibilities but in 2015 i think i will be able to do some amazing things with the Experience (XP) Tools.

2. Linden Lab reveal Bigger Plans.

Linden Lab announced they were working on a totally new virtual world currently known as ‘THE NEW THING’, a new virtual world based on all the latest tech in the land, is that big enough for yu?

3. Rodvik Linden will be defrosted from carbonate now that Shining project is almost complete so he can introduce Linden Labs Bigger Plans.

Well Rodvik did break his silence long enough to announce he was leaving and we’d be getting Ebbe as a new CEO who then went on to opening the blinds to the LL offices.

4. Object export will arrive in the Official SL viewer because its a good idea.

Pfftt, this didn’t happen, so i still have to switch viewers just to export reference models. Maybe i should submit the idea via LL’s new feature submission thingy.

5. Linden Lab starts to add a clause into new employment contract that prevents them from being poached by High Fidelity if they show talent. 

This may have happened, how would i actually now, this was a stupid prediction.

 6. Linden Lab will dedicate some time to fixing its Whale Failing Web based services.

They did do this, SL feed has become more and more reliable throughout the year as has the SL Marketplace. There was also mention of a new Web Plugin in the works .

7. Premium Membership will gain worth.

Erm, no…. still not seeing any benefit from being a premium content creator yet.

8. A official version of the SL viewer will appear for Tablet devices.

OK i cheated a bit since i was on the beta programme for SLgo, although it took FOR AGES for the iOS version to be released and it never works well enough with my network to be regular useful.

 

Well i don’t think i did to badly last year, it kind of puts pressure on me predicting 2015 :-s but i’ll try my best lol.

 

HERE BE LOKI’S MEGA AWESOME BUT PROBABLY WRONG PREDICTIONS FOR 2015 IN SECOND LIFE.

1. The true awesomeness of the Experience Tools won’t be realised until spring or even summer.

One thing i have noticed about new features of SL, is that it can take a fare while before the features filter out amongst the creators. One reason is because it takes a while for Creators to learn then create for the features, another is information strangely takes a long time to reach everyone. But i also think non-creator users will be none plussed and probably assume XP tools had always been there.

 

2. Web on a prim will work again better than before and be more useful.

When Linden Lab first announced Media on a prim i was like ‘OMG’, but it fell short of the potential. It arrived just as HTML5 was making waves in web design and the potential for web applications inside the VR world was exciting. Unfortunately the Webkit used to display web on a prim would crash when ever heavy HTML5 was loaded on my mac. Then Adobe updated flash in a way that was no longer compatible on a mac. In case you did not know, i own a mac, so my experiments in Web on a prim ended. It’s a feature that could have been a lot more useful if it could load the sort of interactive content making waves today.

 

3. Linden Lab will stop doing major big ideas for SL as the ‘NEW THING’ approaches.

It makes sense that as the NEW THING is developed, Linden lab won’t want to do major new features for the old platform when they could better use it in the next virtual World. This will annoy me and others, but we’ll get over it. From now on it’ll be a matter of improving what we’ve already got which lets face it, is still potentially a lot of work.

 

4. Linden Lab will announce a closed Alpha for the NEW THING and SL users will get even more worried and be vocal about that.

Come on you know this will happen, but it won’t matter.

 

5. Linden lab will create their own VR hardware devision to create their own VR immersive hardware accessories.

Ok this is more a fantasy than a prediction. It seems the Problem with being a VR software maker in a world where VR hardware is taking centre stage is that you have to keep adding and updating and reinstalling API’s for all the various accessories who think they are the most amazing thing since iPhone. In a perfect world where Linden Lab had grown huge, they invested in hardware to expand the VR experience…. that never happen though.

 

6. The Consumer version of Oculus will not be released in 2015.

I’ve discovered how unfriendly the DK2 experience is. I thought it ws a mac user only problem, but it seems some windows users have display issues too. Some Devs and even our own Linden Lab have expressed they are patiently waiting for updates and better support for openGL. Oculus themselves have recently bought new tech such as NimbleVR to experiment with. All this suggests to me that a consumer version will not be ready in 2015. If true, this might actually be a good thing for Linden Lab as they work on their NEW THING.

 

7. Premium membership will gain worth

Well i gotta keep hoping.

 

So thats my predictions for 2015, nothing really exciting from an everyday SL users point of view. I don’t think anyones got anything to worry about until 2017. Have a great new year and here is to a productive 2015. I for one am looking forward to exploring the many ways to use XPtools for everything, so keep an eye on this blog 🙂

Egnog the Winter Troll Returns once again – with a quest!

escapades

Back when my island was called ‘Goony Island’ it would get to these winter months and christmas would slowly take over Second Life. But rather than celebrate a coca cola deity, we decided to create a character only available in Second Life that all countries could meet.

Inspired in part by the Sendek’s Where the Wild Things are, Egnog is a Troll who’s magical grotto appears around christmas time and remains at Escapades island as long as the yule time spirit is strong. Those who manage to find him in his cave will often be given a free gift, while some are gobbled up as a winter snack.

WinterEngineer

This Year the Winter Engineer who maintains the Magical Portal Fob Watch has lost the four Crystals that power the Watch. He needs your help to find the Crystals and open the Portal to Eggnogs Winter Grotto.

The small quest uses the new XP Tools to create a simple clue hunt quest and is a sample of what i hope to expand on next year. Simply Click on the Winter Engineer, accept the request to join the Escapades Experience and start the quest!

Engnog2014_Instructions

Everyone is welcome to come to Escapades Island via the destination guide listing below between now and New Year to find Egnog and receive a free toy.


Eggnog the Winter Troll

Eggnog the Winter Troll has returned to Escapades Island to give a special gift to all in Second Life. Unfortunately, the Winter Engineer lost the four crystals that open the doorway to Eggnog’s grotto. Help the Winter Engineer find all the crystals to meet the big, cuddly winter troll. This game is available to play until New Years.

Visit in Second Life

V4 Clothes Range is here, but is it too late?

Say Loki Eliot and most people will think of my clothing range. It did not take me long to turn my designer skills towards customising the skin texture based clothing of Second Life avatars back in the beginning and now I find myself doing more and more complex stuff.

Over the past year i have been exploring and developing my own Mesh kid avatar in the hope i can create clothes for myself that look better than whats traditionally possible. This has taken a lot of time an effort but the results where quite promising using material mapping for extra details.

hoodys

The new V4 Hoody is jam packed full of gadgetry

But making clothes has gone beyond just texturing a shape. I wanted to make clothes that were little experiences in themselves. For instance the new V4 Hoody is scripted to allow you to flip the hood with a little animation and sound, the front zip can be pulled down to reveal a t-shirt underneath. I’ve also incorporated the experimental Wet Mode that reacts to being in SL water turning darker to look damp using materials to give a wet shine. They then dry over time. The christmas Jumpers/Sweaters have animated flashing fairy lights which you can switch on and off quite easily.

Jumpers

Snapshots look the flashing animated Invaders as well as the subtle details of light reacting to the material mapping

 

Creating clothes for my new mesh kid avatar is so easy but what i found difficult was making the new clothes compatible with the old classic avatar. In the end i think i managed to make sizes that will fit old kid avatars, woman and adult men, all in the pack.

PJs

Also releasing my first ever Pyjama sets

Over a year ago i created the V3 range which used shoulder joint rigs to improve shoulder movement on smaller avatars. Unfortunately there was a bug in the viewer than meant if you took the shirt off, your avatar would spasm and deform out of shape. This led to a lot of people thinking my shirts were broke and it wasn’t until this month that Linen Lab managed to fix the bug. The V4 range is not joint rigged because i created an entire mesh avatar instead. So a lot is riding on the new V4 range, will my clothing business succeed again, or has it been irreparably damaged by my incessant need to innovate and try out new stuff?

I’ve managed to release Hoodys, Snowboard Pants, Christmas Jumper and Pyjamas before christmas with T-shirts, Jeans to follow in the new year. I’m hoping that with the base shapes for my new Mesh Kid Avatars and the Classic Avatars, i should be able to create quicker and with more interesting designs in the coming year.

You can check out my new experiments on Marketplace or my inworld store, Demos are free and designed to look as good as the clothes on sale.

Yes action games can be made in Second Life

Over a year ago i created some star trek models for my friend Billy who is a big trek fan. While doing this i also scripted a small battle game into the ships just to see how playable a ship battle game would be. A few months later and i had taken the concept to a more original level using specially created Airships and Battle Balloons was born.

I think for a lot of people the experience that is Second Life revolves around visiting places, looking at pretty objects and chatting to people. There are the odd rides, combat systems and roleplaying groups but its always a bit rare to find simple instantly fun epic gaming experience.

Once upon a time i did find a pirate ship battle game. To me it was the most intuitive and epic battleships game i’d yet seen in Second Life. You clicked a vendor to rez pirate ships then battle friends shooting cannons. I was blown away by it, but also shocked when i discovered it’s creator had pretty much given up on it and left SL.

Battle Balloons is a Game i created where teams off two shoot each other out of the skies

Battle Balloons is a Game i created where teams of two shoot each other out of the skies

Battle Balloons

Years later and i finally learned how to create and script my own battleship game, but this battle game is set above the clouds.

PILOT: It is the pilots job to keep the airship in the sky, avoiding other cannon fire while collecting repair crates.

GUNNER: It is the Gunners job to shoot down the other teams battling for air supremacy. Gunners must be careful not to shoot repair crates, unless of course you are trying to prevent the other teams from getting them 😉

As you receive damage your Battle Balloon will start to smoke. Bells will warn you that you are about to explode. To repair your Airship in mid flight you should collect Air Crates from floating repair Dispensers, otherwise you will explode in a ball of fire and plummet to the ground.

The game while a shooting game is also one of corroboration. While the Gunner is on the offensive, the pilot is on the defensive and success often relies on a balance between the two as you compete against others.

I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible without needing to find things given to you in your inventory. You click to rez a balloon, click to sit, type ‘start’ to turn on the engines, then move by the usual WASD key controls.

 

With the Oculus Rift

The game was delayed while waiting to see what Linden lab did with the Oculus viewer and the XPtools. The game works pretty well with the Oculus Viewer i think. You can look behind you and see you pilot comrade looking down at you. In fact i put forward a request to have a special new action ‘X’ key specifically so the gunner could shoot in Oculus mode.

 

Finally Releasing for everyone!

For the past year the Airship Battle Balloons Game has only been available on my own Region of Escapades and you can still grab friends and come round to have a game.

Or you can purchase the game yourself on Marketplace to put on your land high up in the clouds for friends and visitors to battle it out.

Comments people have made give me great encouragement to continue what I’m doing and expand the Battle Balloons experience in future: “So simple and fun to play”, “It’s like Guns of Icarus but inside Second Life!!”, “I didn’t think this kind of thing was possible in SL” And it was even featured in episode 20 of the Drax Files.

Pagan Traditions in Virtual Space

Eight years ago in the newly born steampunk city of New Babbage we did an experiment. An event was held to bring the fresh VR steampunk community together and get to know each other. Eight years later we are still holding the same event like some folk tradition started by the founders.

The event is based loosely on old long gone traditions of rolling burning barrels through streets of english towns. Some town still do this, though now carry burning barrels instead of rolling.

barrellineup

The New Babbage Burning Barrel Race has always been a good indication on how much the Second Life platform has improved from year to year. Some years things are worst, while others are vastly improved as a large collection of particle spewing physical mesh objects are flicked down the texture heavy streets across region boarders past crowds of onlookers towards the finish line.

This year performance was rather spiffing with the CDN and HTTP pipelining and the Shining projects completion earlier in the year. Some experienced the CDN issues of slow or failed texture and mesh loading, but for the most part people had better than usual performance during the race. Nor did the regions crash unlike last year.

marshmellows

Some people saw Marshmallows instead of fireworks due to complications with the CDN/http pipeline feature

 

Not satisfied with just throwing burning barrels down the streets, we also had an incident where a victorian shopping arcade caught fire and soon blazed out of control. With pieces of building collapsing all around, most of the towns people simply stood in awe of the spectacle, and when you reach that point where you are no longer thinking in turns of performance specs and are just drinking in the sounds, visuals and reacting to the moment with friends, then you are immersed and Second Life has taken you that step further. These are the moments i think all SL role-players strive to achieve, the moment when the memory of whats going on gets burned into your brain as a real shared experience. So this year will be remembered as “that year the old arcade burnt to the ground after the burning barrel race”. 🙂

Anyway, along with Second Life’s outstanding performance this year i also managed to film the whole thing and uploaded to ZippCast.
 

 

And for those who are interested, here is the first recording ever of the Burning Barrel Race on youtube