Exploring the future of my Avatars Shape – part 2

My experimenting continues with my avatars new body shape. I managed to create something that seemed to move well and deform well but at a cost. 

For a decade we’ve been making clothes and accessories for the Second Life Avatar, a rigged mesh shape that has not changed since SL was released. We were given templates for layering textures over the top of these mesh avatars and the ability to attach prims to parts of the avatar skeleton and thats how its been and still is. Even in an age where we can import mesh, we are still using that same avatar mesh introduced over a decade ago, but simply attaching another mesh onto of the old.

 

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Almost happy with the neck issue i had. Wether i can make it so other users can use this type of avatar, I’ve yet to decide.

 

You have to give Linden Lab credit though, as they have allowed us to customise the old avatar mesh in almost every way possible. But I’m starting to feel it’s getting real messy in the avatar market space as more and more people send feedback saying their clothes don’t fit, have spikes, look like plastic, look flat, don’t look like the picture, look stretched, won’t load, body pokes through…… and on and on.  The simplicity of  buying a shirt and wearing it has gone, but the quality of the products has dramatically increased.

Showing how settings change quality.

Showing how settings change quality.

 

 

So many factors seem to change how users see SL these days, it is hard to create something that everyone will see the same resulting in people leaving negative product reviews. Basic shaders, Atmospheric shaders, Advanced lighting model, hardware skinning, having just one of these things switched off in your graphics settings can greatly effect how you see Second Life. I’ve even had people come to me saying they see all my stuff as if its made of plastic only  to find the third party Firestorm viewer has even more graphical options with regards to advanced lighting and materials.

Then there is the onset of Mesh Avatars which unless they are based very closely to the original decades old mesh avatars won’t be comparable with a lot of mesh clothing created in the past three years regardless of the fitted mesh feature.

Linden Lab is aware of this mess though, this is why they introduced some icons to try and categorise what fits with classic old avatars and stuff that fits with new User created avatar brands. This is probably where I’m heading with my own avatar because my new body shape was built from the ground up and joint rigged in a manner thats not the same as the original SL avatar. The advantage is i can create clothing that fits perfectly with my avatars body shape, but i can’t use clothes i created for the old SL avatar. Not only that, but the clothes i make for my new Mesh Shape can not be used by people wearing the old avatar shape.

If i decided to sell my new mesh shape for others to use, it will lead to a situation where i have to make a shirt model for my new avatar and a shirt model for old style avatars. How much work this will end up being for me i’ve yet to figure out. How confusing this will be to customers depends on my marketing skills, but eventually Second Life Users will have to change the way they see Second Life avatars in general. Not as one default shape, but a collection of competing avatar brands, each with their own official fitted clothes that may or may not be able to mix and match.

This maybe how it will end up being in the new upcoming virtual worlds where there is no real ‘standard’ for avatar sizes and shapes so perhaps i should embrace this new and chaotic way of things.

Mapping a Gamepad to Second Life & OculusVR with Voice to Text

Im fighting my own opinions about the SL OculusViewer. One side of me thinks it’s a terrible Oculus experience that puts to many options in your face, the second side of me thinks the OculusVR is just an overhyped headset and only one part of a large amount of hardware that’ll be needed if we are going to take full advantage of what Second Life has to offer.

The First side of me has spoken with many who haven’t been able to try an Oculus with SL yet but are very interested. They ask me things like “how great is it to build stuff with the rift?” and my answer is ‘pretty crap’. I blamed the UI for this, having all the same old hard to use UI thats hard for people to even use without an Oculus on.  I was hopping the Lab would perhaps take advantage of an opportunity create a new simplified UI for a new different way to experience Second Life, instead they wrapped EVERYTHING around your field of view and expect you to be able to touch type which i know some superhuman SL users can do. Im not one of them unfortunately.

The Second Side of me decided to try and achieve the type of simplified experience i wanted from using Oculus with Second Life. I got an old Xbox controller out of the cupboard and bought a copy of the MAC Peripheral mapping software ‘Controllermate‘ ($25). At first it looks complicated but there are some good tutorial vids online that help show just how simple it is to map any device to keyboard keys and combos (I used this tutorial by dude called Mo).

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For those interested in mapping their Xbox Controllers to SL here is my mapped settings that you can open up in controller mate

Not only did i want to map the key important Second life short keys such as ‘hide UI’ and ‘open nearby chat box’ as well as navigation, i also wanted to map a dictation feature of OSX Mavericks that allows me to voice to text conversion.

The result was very kool as i hope you can see in the accompanying video. I was able to use the Gamepad to quickly navigate and activate options that would otherwise have me thumbing for the keyboard. I was also able to continue using text without having to type on a keyboard.

So after this experiment the Second Side of me realised the OculusVR while giving us that visual immersion can’t be expected to solve every VR Ui issue. It will suck to build stuff in Second Life until things like PrioVR, STEM, Notch or Leapmotion allow us to do away with the mouse and keyboards. Even Apples Siri or Googles Cortana could in future lead to a better less cluttered Oculus view of Second Life by allowing us to use voice commands at a click of one button. 

The First side of me however is thinking if all these options suck until better hardware solutions come along, why bother having them all in the oculus view. Reluctantly though the first side agrees with the Second side of me that i’ll continue to play with the Second Life Oculus Feature as it evolves over the coming decade as new hardware comes on the scene to improve it. So don’t expect your VR dreams to stop at just buying an Oculus Headset!.

Seeing Second Life via a 3D headset is still bloody awesome though. :-p

The future of my virtual reality


I got asked to do the SL11B cake stage this year (Second Life 11th Birthday). While the event seems to get smaller and smaller every year compared to the mega events of the first era of SL, i still find great honour in building the central stage of the anniversary event.

This year the theme is more predominantly focused on the future of Second Life, and i find myself conflicted with the theme. While all the evidence is there that Virtual Reality and Virtual Worlds are again proposing exciting innovations and futures, it’s only assumption that Second Life will be part of it.

Im watching HighFidelity propose and demonstrate really exciting ideas. Fresh and new with the goal of actually being the underlying protocols for an open 3D internet from the start, it’s hard not to get excited about it. In a few years time you could find yourself hosting your own virtual space like you would a wordpress blog while also contributing computing power to the greater grid. The possibility might be there for entire builds to be exported from apps such as Blender or Unity to use on HyFy. The Cyberpunk in me grins at the prospect of having my avatar saved on a chip embedded in my arm that can wirelessly connect to my iPhone so where ever i am, my virtual identity is with me in the decentralised metaverse. Ok i might be getting a bit far fetched… maybe.

So the future of Virtual Reality is revitalised, but SL11B is about the future of Second Life and here i’m somewhat stumped. The future of Second Life is…. erm….. ok i’m sure there are lots of plans and ideas the Lindens have. I know for instance that The Experience Permissions system will eventually arrive and change how we experience stuff in SL. The addition of the Oculus will be awesome along with the changes to controls. But where does SL fit in with the bigger picture of the metaverse?

If HyFy (trendy marketing rebrand of HighFidelity) becomes a proper successful underlaying protocol for a 3D internet, will Second Life remain a separate grid or join the proposed metaverse? I would imagine some of the Lindens groaning at the prospect of trying to adapt the Second Life Grid to a new open metaverse. But with all their experience i can’t imagine Linden Lab just sitting and do nothing while a new metaverse grows beyond the numbers of Second Life and OpenSim.

I can’t help but compare the possible situation to that of AOL before CERN released their WWW technology. AOL used to supply internet connectivity on their own system, but eventually like everyone else joined the World Wide Web. Is this a situation Linden Lab are likely to face in Second Life’s future?

The 9th Burning of the Beltaine Wickerman.

BT0During Fantasy Faire opening weekend it was also the Escapades annual burning of the Wickerman which has occurred in Second Life every beginning of May for the past 8 years. Annual events like this are a great way to gage performance and stability of the grid. This year nothing went wrong, and for me at least there was no lag even though we had more people than ever turn up for the Parade up the mountain side to where the Wickerman waited. Performance and technology aside, the Beltaine experience is a spiritual one. No matter where in the world and what religious baggage your culture has, In Second Life on top of Escapades mountain it’s all about the immersive memories shared with your friends there on the night. It’s a simple experience where you just have to be there with others and watch as the wickerman burns and slowly falls apart while hearing emotive music and the sounds of cheers. I think its that simplicity that allows people to become so in the moment and come away with such a striking a memorable experience. Once the parade of torch bearers arrived on top of the volcanic hill the group met Dogstar who gave a few words before setting the wireman ablaze.

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Greetings visitors, it is time for your appointment with the wickerman.

I am Dogstar lessa Sidhe of the seelie court of the Island and i welcome all.

We stand together this day once again.  Look to your left… look to your right…

No matter who you are or where you truly are, we all share this moment this night. 

This is the moment we think of those who are no longer here to share this moment.

This is the moment we appreciate those who stand beside us and share this moment.

Give way the cold, let the thaw begin, As Winter transforms to Spring again. 

Let all creatures of cold slumber rise, And feathers on wings fill the skies.

The wicker man is set upon high, burnt to send wishes to the sky,

Beltaine brings the passion to grow, to reap the benefits of seeds we sow. 

Beltaine blessings to each and everyone, and hear us cry BELTAINE!! BELTAINE!!  BELTAINE!!

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It was great seeing snapshots on SLfeed after the experience, seeing everyones different perspectives showed how similar everyones experience of the event was. I don’t film this because it’s something you have to experience. Below are some snapshots taken by those who took part in the 9th Beltaine Wikerman.

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A Lostboy at Fantasy Faire 2014

Fantasy Faire last year was new to me and i had such a great time there that come this year i was quite excited. The event is a collection of regions devoted to all things fantasy with lots of creators and merchants. You have to sometimes take a step back and remember that all this is user generated, not some game developer team. All trade there goes towards cancer research.

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Weasels & Shadows

This year Myrtil Igaly and Jimmy Branagh helped organise a roleplaying group called the Rickety Weasels with an ongoing story of kidnap and rescue which anyone can jump in and take part. I had great fun working on a costume for my avatar just for this event that uses my new work in progress Mesh Avatar. I also made some hats and a Dreamcatcher Staff which are on sale as part of the fun raising event and you can get them at the Rickety Weasels camp.

On Saturday a gang of misfits known as the Rickety Weasels celebrated the Beltaine with a ritual around the magical stone circles summoning the wisdom of the four elemental guardians. Unfortunately a group of nasty folk known as the SHADOWS gatecrashed the ceremony kidnapping the guardians of fire and water. Now all the Rickety Weasels are out searching for clues to where the Shadows are keeping the guardians and what nefarious plans they want the guardians for.

If you are at Fantasy Faire and you see a small scruffy kid asking questions about pirates and shadows, do give them some help and even join their quest to uncover the truth behind the kidnapping of the guardians!.

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ServerStorms & Seeing Red

Unfortunately during the Beltaine ritual and in fact the entire evening, the Second Life grid suffered a server storm. People just call it Lag, but it was not really laggy. Mesh fails to load leading you to bump into invisible walls. Since my body is now completely mesh all people saw was my head which rezzed perfectly now that Linden Lab added the server side baking, which is also ironic in a way. Then Inventory started to fail, and transactions which was terrible for an event that was trying to raise funds for charity. At first i thought it was just Fantasy Faire suffering from the same high server demands as last year but soon Linden Lab was tweeting unscheduled maintenance grid wide, so it looks like it was just very bad timing.

Another thing i noticed is Avatar Weight. This was something Linden Lab introduced a while ago as a handy tool to help people reduce their avatars cost to render. All you do is enable ‘advanced’ menu in preferences, then goto ADVANCED MENU> PERFORMANCE TOOLS> SHOWDRAW WEIGHT FOR AVATARS. This give you a coloured number that represents how much resources your avatar takes to render. Green is good, yellow is ok, red is BAD. If your avatar is in the red then you are costing yours and others computers a lot of computing resources. Now when i switch on Show Draw Weight  pretty much everyone is red. There is a complete lack of awareness about Avatar Rendering Cost or ARC,  and what causes your avatar to hit the RED, it could be something as simple as a heavily scripted pair of glasses. Would you like to know more?

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Everyone is in the red, we should think more about the nature of the grid man.

 

Worth the Struggle.

ff6Those who managed to relog after spontaneous mass-logouts soldiered on and in a way the issues become gamified in the challenge to keep heading to mount doom. In the end me, Nat and Pokute managed to arrive at a place inspired by Minas Tirith and re-enacted the scene from return of the king where the steward of Gondor jumps to his death :-p

There are busy places, great complex architectural marvels of the Fae Court, while other places are more calm and simplistic environments. Some spots had me stumped on how they got it to look such a way. You must have your wind light settings set to default because the settings the creators place on the regions are part of the grand picture they have painted.

The adventure is in the exploring. Each location has a pathway that leads to the next region. Finding these pathways can also be a challenge so grab yourself a fellowship and travel the lands of Fantasy Faire before its gone for another year!

Fantasy Faire is on all week so you have plenty of time to visit. I will be popping in all over the next few days to find out where those kidnapped guardians went.

Also i think King Goblin will be making a visit sometime soon so follow his SL Feed for clues to where to find him to get a free Wizards Hat.


Fantasy Faire 2014

Celebrating its sixth year, the Fantasy Faire is the largest gathering of fantasy designers, enthusiasts, roleplayers and performers in the virtual world. From May 1st through the 11th, treat yourself to eleven days of shopping, live music concerts, auctions, hunts and roleplaying. Come join thousands of Second Life residents and creators as they bring their visions together in support of the American Cancer Society.

Visit in Second Life