Where are the Seamless Experiences?

Some people might be wondering where i’ve got to with regard to the Experience Tools…. well, i’m working on it!

Two months ago Linden Lab finally released the Experience Tools to a flurry of Blog Posts. Since then  no ones really heard much about it. The Destination guide list nine places as Experience Tools ‘Seamless Experiences’. Only Facebook users get to comment on the experiences though, which probably leaves them vulnerable to Facebook looking through and deleting profiles of those users :-p.

As is the case with most new scripting features of Second Life, Experience tools risks getting lost and forgotton in the sea of LSL Wiki pages like Pathfinding. It’s hard to promote a feature that requires the user to script it, unlike the Materials Feature which every user could learn to do by dropping images on a square in the edit window and see the result. To learn XPtools you need to find the tiny wiki page with bare bones examples of the scripts. Linden Lab don’t hold special developer keynotes showing off the new features with big examples or workshops to help creators   get to grips. They just throw it out there and hope someone picks it up and learns to use it.

The fact you have to script XP tools is one of the reasons why even though Experience Tools has been released you haven’t seen anything exciting yet from me. I used experience tools at SL12B for a simple task of auto attaching a hud to visitors but everything else such as story pop ups and camera overrides were simple actions that did not acquire XP tools. Escapades Island has a very basic implementation of the XP tools that auto attaches a HUD and teleports you when needed, but so far thats all it does and should not be taken as a great example of what XP tools can do.

It’s the 5th Anniversary of Escapades Island next weekend which means five years ago with the help of my friends i planned to make an island of adventure. But i’ve so far been unable to do the kind of experiences that really immerse people in an adventure. I know its possible now with XP tools, but i’m having to work hard to learn the extra scripting needed to do exactly what i want to do, especially regarding storing player data ‘Item Inventories’, ‘Leveling up’,’story Positions’ etc. But my goal is finally in sight as i work on the system that will allow me to quickly cobble together adventure stories.

Experience Tools is here, but you have to wait just a little bit longer to see what i’ve dreamed of doing for the past 5 years.

Battle Balloons Expansion : Battle Airships – Icarus Mk5 Pt3

Ever looked up into the Second Life wind light Sky dreaming of being a captain of a steampunk Airship, with a crew of friends manning cannons that can take down another in ship to ship combat, Yes? Then i invite you to try the new Battle Balloons Game Expansion – Airships.

I think it was two years ago i started working on a basic ship to ship star trek battle game for my friend Billy in practise for a Steampunk Airship Battle Game. I later released Battle Balloons, a team based aerial combat game that required a pilot and a gunner to defeat other Air Balloon teams.

Battle Balloon
by lokieliot
on Sketchfab

 

Those who have played it fall in love with it and can soon end up logged into Second Life longer than they usually do as they team up with friends and struggle to stay in the air while shooting down opponents. It’s a game that causes people to wish they owned land in order to own and set up their own games, highlighting the tragic effects of region tier costs on selling some types of games.

 

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The Icarus joins the Battle for the Skies

So recently i have been working on a new 5th iteration of my classic Icarus Airship and decided to make a version that was compatible with the Battle Balloon game.

The NEW Battle Airship comes with four mounted cannons, each one can be manned by a friend while you pilot the aircraft. There are also nine pose sit spots for other friends to join the adventure as crew dotted about the ship so you can really get a pirate crew feeling (if you have enough friends in SL).

Gameplay wise the Battle Airships take more damage than the smaller Battle Balloons before they go down in flames. Strategy is needed by Battle Balloonists in order to defeat the Airships such as teaming up or finding blindspots. As the airship takes damage it’s cannons start to fail making it easier to take down if unable to get to a repair crate.

 

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The Battle Airship comes as a Vendor Rezzing Game like the Battle Balloons which a region owner can place on their land for anyone to rez ships and play. There is also a Single private Battle Airship version and a peaceful explorers edition that has no cannons.

And if you want to find new friends to test your battle Balloon & Airship skills against, there is a Battle Balloons group to join.

Check out the NEW Battle Airship expansion for FREE at the Escapades Island Sky Pirates Platform in Second Life!!

Would Casual Cardboard VR be better suited for Second Life Users than Oculus?

‘What you up to today’, my friend asked on WhatsApp, ‘Oh i just ordered a cardboard box’, i replied. ‘Is that something to do with your virtual stuff?’. I first heard about Google Cardboard sometime last year and kinda scoffed at it. How can a Mobile device placed in a cardboard box give any kind of decent VR experience?

During SVVR i watched a panel called ‘Rise of Consumer VR’ and on that panel along with Amir Rubin of Sixsense, Nicholas of Samsung and of course Palmer Lucky was Clay Bavor from Google. Through out the talk Bavor slowly won me over on what Google cardboard was. It’s not the total immersive experience Oculus is aiming for, it’s a more casual instance that can quickly transport you into a VR for brief experience.

So i recently invested £12 into getting a Google Cardboard 2.0 from ‘I AM CARDBOARD’ and i was quite surprised how cool it is. I’d compare it to the Oculus DK1 in terms of that ‘this is awesome’ feeling you get from experiencing immersive VR for the first time, but the iPhones retina display gives a much clearer image all be it a smaller field of view. I assume you could probably also use an iPod Touch?

 

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The Cardboard while made of cardboard came incredibly well packaged and was very easy to set up. Turn phone on, launch VR app, place in cardboard and hold up to face. If only Oculus DK had been that simple to set up.

 

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First app i tried was ‘Dinotrek VR’. Its a simple experience on rails where you float along beside dinosaurs moving your head around to see the adventure unfold.

 

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The Next App i tried was ‘Vrse’ This is a VR video platform where you can choose 360 videos to download and watch. My favourite video was ‘Evolution of Vrse’  which started with floating you over a lake as the sun rises. Then it presents a flurry of ribbons before a steam train hurtles towards you, perhaps a nod to the 1985 Lumiere Train film. Finally you find yourself  beside an unborn baby who smiles and waves at you. That final moment i found incredibly profound and caused a tear to well in my eye.

 

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The third app i tried was also a VR video platform called JauntVR. With this app you ‘stream’ 360 video. I watched an extreme sport video of a guy on rocks, Paul McCartney playing a ditty tune, but it was the short video ‘Other Space VR’ that really peaked my VR interest. While i like VRs ability to place me at live events or on top of a rock it’s the ability to affect a persons sense of self that interests me. In OtherSpace you are placed on a space ship and the crew walk into the room and start talking about you as if you are an alien. They all stare at you, point at you and in some fun moments get all up in your personal space causing you to react by stepping back. It’s a great playful example of how VR crosses the boundaries to effect you psychologically.

I liked the Other Space VR video so much i made my parents watch it and their reaction was one of fun and amazement. Thats how Cardboard works and i can understand how this mobile VR little brother of Oculus and Vive could actually take off bigger. At the moment the mobileVR space seems to be filled with 360 streaming video but as the devices gain more power CGI experiences could take advantage of the ease of Cardboard. For instance Sketchfab who use WebGL to showcase model makers content in a browser have already developed an extension allowing you to view all their models in CardboardVR mode.

 

Casual VR in Second Life?

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Being a Second Life content creator i started to of course wonder wether Google Cardboard could be used with Second Life. We already have Oculus support and i think i said it was great to finally stand in your favourite places and look around as if actually stood there. Due to Second Lifes complex nature, being in Second Life with immersive VR and interacting with the many features plus options becomes a real head ache. Perhaps Google Cardboards casual brief experience is better suited to Second Life than the Oculus extended use.

I started to imagine building stuff in Second Life with my Desktop computer then picking up my cardboard and quickly getting my avatars view of the world before putting down the carboard continuing with building. Or imagine arriving at a Music venue typing hello to all my friends then picking up the Cardboard to experience the live act from my Avatars point of view. Such a thing i can imagine would be better suited to how people use Second Life. Rather than having users decide on wether to be either in immersive VR mode or Desktop mode, allow them to quickly  and simply switch between the two. There are moment in Second Life where VR would add to the experience, but their are many moments where you really don’t need to be that immersed.

VR hardware is a bit icky at the moment. While Cardboard is cross platform with Android and iOS, its not  compatible with Windows or OSX desktops. Oculus stopped development on Mac and Linux systems and i’ve still to learn what HTC Vive will support.

Second Life’s immersive VR problems are probably unique to Second Life with solutions that can’t be borrowed from other more recent platforms. Project Sansar may be built with extended immersive VR use in mind, but i’d hope that for veteran platform Second Life , perhaps a more casual immersive VR feature could be implemented once the VR Hardware giants settle their tech.

Adding Substance – Icarus Mk5 Pt2

Recently Linden Lab announced Sansar would support Substances. Substances are kind of the next generation of textures. In the old days you would slap a texture on a 3D model to give it colour and detail. But now we have substances which add colour and detail but also shiny surfaces, bumps and even light all in one.

A Substance breaks down into channels which can consists of Base colour, Normals/Bumps, Metalic/Specular, Hight, Emissions and more. I don’t need to go into details, all you need to know is a substance is a highly advanced form of texturing that can make it easier to get great results.

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Messing with Substance
For the Icarus Mk5 i decided to experiment with a trial of allegorithmic’s Substance Painter software to see what kind of results i could get. In many ways Substance Painter is a cross between Photoshop and Blender. I watched a few Tutorial Videos and after one day i eventually managed to produce something i was happy with. The key to using Substance Painter for me is mastering the masking of layers. I especially liked how you can add stains to fabric using particle bursts for fun results.

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Anyways, you might be wondering why I’m doing this since Second Life does not use Substances. Well Second Life’s Materials feature does use three out of the of the five channels that create a substance – Base colour, Specular and Normals.

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So while i upload my Airship to the Online 3Dmodel network SketchFab which already supports Substances and PBR (Physically Based Rendering), i also import to Second Life minus two material channels rendered in Windlight or what ever LL call their rendering engine.

I thought maybe the results may give a glimpse at what the difference might be between content created in SL and that possible in Project Sansar?

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Comparing the Airship rendered in Second Life (left) minus two channels, and in Sketch Fab (right) with all five substance Channels & PBR.

 

You can check out the fully Substanced Mk5 on my SketchFab account embedded below.

Icurus Mk5
by lokieliot
on Sketchfab

Virtual Steampunk Airships – Icarus Mk5 Pt1

Forget Sansar or High Fidelity, there is still way to much stuff i want to do in Second Life, new clothes, new buildings, new experiences. It’s hard to decide which one i should start on next but this week i began work on a new version of my Icarus Steampunk Airship.

Icarus Class Airship MK3 taking the Goonies on a flight over i cliff top town.

Icarus Mk5
To my Goony friends in SL the Icarus Airship is to me what the Batmobile is to Batman, the Tardis to the Doctor and the Delorean to Marty McFly. Countless adventures have been had boarding the ship.

The first iteration of the Icarus Airship was built back in 2006 loosely based on the film Star Dust. Using some hover vehicle scripts i found in a freebie box i have slowly over the years, refined, improved and figured out how the scripts work.

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In 2011 i made the jump from Sculpts to Mesh creating the Mk4 using very limited new modelling skills. I didn’t even use Blender at the time i used some modelling software called Silo.

Since then i’ve got quite a bit better at 3D modelling and Second Life has added material channels for more detailed content, so it was about time i updated the Icarus Airship. I also hope to add cannons for the first time allowing the ship to be used in my Battle Balloon game.

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The Mk4 is currently 36 Landimpact. Would be nice to keep the Mk5 around that size but with more detail.

Everything about this version should be better than the Mk4 from modelling, to texturing, its physics and scripting. There was a lot of stuff i did not quite understand when i made the Mk4 such as how to keep Land Impact low.

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A key to quickly modelling can be the Mirroring Modifier. It reflects one side of the object meaning half the work is done. It also applies to UV unwrapping, so if you unwrap one side then the texture will be reflected on the other side also when finished.

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Adding a lot more detail to this version as i would like it to sit happily next to the Battle Balloons and not look less quality.

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Part 2: Adding Substance – Icarus Mk5 Pt2