My thoughts on a Second Second Life

So Linden Lab announced they are working on a newer virtual world that will use all the new snazzy new tech that’s making VR a buzz word again, so why is that such  bad thing?

It’s not a bad thing, its a great thing. Only a few weeks ago during SVVR i was questioning Drax ‘why should Ebbe Altburg even be on the Virtual World Panel when it seems that Second Life has no part to play in the up coming VR resurgence”.

Sometimes when I’m working on a modelling project for SL i end up doing stuff I’ve never done before and have to start experimenting, researching in order to figure things out. I sometimes get to a point where i think ‘if i start again with what i know now, it’ll be a better model’ so i make the choice to dump three days work knowing that the next attempt will be far better.

I often wondered what might happen if Linden Lab went this route. While not dumping Second Life, they are taking all they know about VR and starting afresh. This is mind blowingly awesome and i don’t understand why so many are against it!

I guess it’s easy for me to dump my inventory (all 50,000 items), i’m confident enough now to simply recreate it again elsewhere better. Im also the kind of artist who destroys old art to make way for new superior art. That cake stage at SL11B? probably never see it again after next week. As for my clothing range i sell, i don’t imagine people wanting to wear the same thing a year from now, i want people to keep buying my new stuff. I mean, why would you want to keep using something that looks crap compared to an up to date awesome looking version?

But i understand when people get nostalgic about items and places in SL. People fell in love with my old Island Goony island, and when i upgraded to Escapades and totally terraformed the place some people were like “it’s not the same :(”.

I don’t know whats going to happen when this new Second Second Life arrives. Wether people will flock to it. Wether people will carefully migrate places. How big a difference will there be between platforms? Second Life is what it is due to the limits imposed on its creators and users by the platform itself. With those limits lifted by new technology will creators and users build something radically different? it’s all so exciting!

So far it’s all been just talk. In a way Linden Lab had to announce this to stay relevant in the tech media as Virtual Worlds start a new hype cycle, this time with HyFy and Facebook World in the game. How this effects the traditional Hype Cycle i can only guess, can a technology go through a second peak of inflated expectations?

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Has Second Life been thrown off the slope of enlightenment y the tsunami of Oculus,HyFy and facebookworld?

Before last week i was moaning about how HyFy was experimenting with all these cool new ideas, the future of Virtual Worlds seemed only to be alive at HyFy. Now the Lab has announced their plans I’m very excited about the future. But the news isn’t going to stop me working on new projects in Second Life, that would be stupid.

The future is uncertain, but at least there is a future!

Second Life, turned up to 11

Since SL10B things have been interesting in that there has been a real focus shift towards Virtual Reality and new platforms,  although it kinda feels Second Life got reluctantly pushed amongst the hip VR crowd… anyways screw all that Oculus VR rubbish. 

It wasn’t until i started playing around with High Fidelity that i realised just how much we take for granted stuff like the mesh importer, the chat set up, the sense of scale and presence in virtual space, Inventory,  how simple SL actually is for what it does and provides. I think as other platforms finally rise, we will suddenly be a lot more appreciative of what those who worked on Second Life achieved… if not, then we should.

As we party into SL11B I’m cautiously optimistic but also incredibly upbeat about whats now possible in SL. In the past few weeks we finally saw an end to project sunshine, which to be honest i can’t tell if its improved things or not since like everything the lab does it was a gradual thing that i never really noticed. I still crash in busy places, and while Avatar faces and skin loads super fast, their mesh clothes seem to have increasing difficulty. But things have improved and you can see this when looking back at old videos.

 

Building, turned up to 11

This time last year the materials feature was just out, and since then i’ve got to grips with Normal Maps and Specular maps, all of these things i knew nothing about until it was added to SL and it really has taken everything i build up a notch. Combing Material mapping, mesh modelling, Alpha masking and Lighting can produce truly amazing results that were never possible before.

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Since SL10B the Material Mapping feature has allowed me to create spaces with incredible atmosphere.

 

Clothing, turned up to 11

I hate fitted Mesh, well… i mean… i hate that i haven’t quite figured it out yet. The Lab didn’t just add mesh import, they designed an interface for importing mesh with lots of considered options with previews. Fitted Mesh is sort of a hack job slapped on, you can’t even preview the fitted aspects of your creations, you just upload and cry as you end up spiky to infinity.

My experience with fitted mesh is a combination of Experimental Avastar, beta Blender and Original Mesh Avatars, so i basically made it as hard as i possibly could to start with. But my first Mesh Avatar is partially fitted which for now is enough for what i want to do and I’m sure by Sl12B Avastar and fitted mesh will mature.

The Combination of Fitted Mesh, Materials and Alpha Masking is also allowing for some fantastic effects and surfaces on clothing to rival AAA games. I’m also considering a step backwards for my clothes. I’m increasingly aware now that not everyone is comfortable being on the bleeding edge of whats possible in SL, so while i work on a mesh avatar with accompanying clothing, i will also make clothing more tuned for use with old default avatars.

I think we are at a point now where Mesh Avatars will really start taking off, and perhaps we’ll see a competitive battle for users and supporters while working around the limitations of the base avatars everything is built on.

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Other than loosing quite a bit of weight, my avatar is starting o look increasingly detailed thanks again to material mapping, making pictures from 2007 look 2D rather than 3D.

 

Experiences , turned up to 11

Im still waiting for the Experience Tools being released. I’ve read a few blogs recently saying Linden Lab will announce a Beta next month, but i simply don’t believe that, it’s all just an elaborate tease as they know how much i want the experience tools.

If it was true, i would be able to Ask you for permission to be god when you arrive at Escapades Island, then i could attach a HUD to you that would give you a stick and a mission to complete and off you go. Meet a troll who asks you a question, get the question wrong and i can animate you as you are swallowed by the troll and teleported inside the trolls tummy where you meet a Goblin who asks you to help him escaped the troll.

It’s all a combination of HUD story telling, teleporting, attachments and animating all of which i can can do now, just need to assign all the parts to ONE experience which you can give permission to. Really it’s all a matter of trust, will you trust a boy called Loki to animate, teleport and attach things to you :-p

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There are some amazing experiences in Second Life already , the Experience Permissions will simply make them easier and more immersive to use. If you haven’t tried this epic viking ride at Folkvang at Lexicolo region, check it out!

 

Ignoring the VR Hype, turned up to 11

So regardless of the news of SecondSecondLife, HyFy, FaceBookWorld, Oculus and born again VR evangelists, Second life this year is emerging from its dark ages into a time of enlightenment. More stability and the maturing of features & tools are allowing us to create some stunning works and new experiences.  I don’t want to speculate about how awesome things will be in future, things are already awesome, and getting better each day… or each month at least. In regards to how Linden Lab will compete with other platforms, the other platforms don’t have us users backing them… did i say backing, i meant standing behind the Lab with sticks shouting “FIX THIS , FIX THAT, WHY DID YOU ADD USERNAMES!????”

Anyways, Happy 11th anniversary Second Life, it’s changed how i view the world and the infinite variety of people living on it and allowed me to share my dreams in so many creative ways.

 

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Thinking about this year so far.

Fast approaching half way through this year. So far it’s been a mixed bag in regards to Second Life.

We’ve had a new CEO and with him a sort of shrinking sense of the Lab now that they’ve opened the windows to let us peer inside. We see a team struggling with the legacy of a decade while around Second Life are rising new stars of VR who would sooner forget the lessons learnt about human interaction & embodiment in a goaless digital virtual shared space.

The hype of the Oculus is already wearing off, as the dream of what i could do with it is always a much more simpler dream than the reality it is. The reality of course being that in a few years time rather than right now, after buying more hardware to cover my body, only then will i be closer to the dream.

As we reach the halfway point in 2014, i find myself discontented with my clothing range. In an attempt to create a better looking shape, i created a monster that people felt uncomfortable with, so now I’m putting in even more time to research the ultimate way to supply demand for clothes that just work and don’t break in TPV’s or bugged Main Viewers.

Fitted Mesh is being very difficult to get my head around. So far it’s still looking like for best results stay an adult size, because once you stray off that path you end up on the dark side of fitted mesh. To make things harder for myself my new custom rigged avatar is proving a real challenge to add  fitted mesh bones to allow slider customisation. If i could pull this off then maybe the future of my business will be much brighter.

Finally looking ahead to the second half of the year i’m starting to cut projects. There will be no halloween experience this year, and i will not be taking part in Burn2. Instead i will be concentrating my efforts towards running an RP story in New Babbage and rebuilding Escapades Island. Escapades still has large sections created with Sculpty prims which i hate. The pirate village, Castle ruins, and pathways all need to be rebuilt in mesh while the Bashable game system needs a major overhaul.

While Sl11B looks to the future of SL,  i need to get my head down and think about whats here and possible now.