Bento, Babbage Chronicles & Loki Clothing

This year has not started off as well as i had hoped. I managed to get through the holidays without catching any type of sickness then just as i settle down to start projects i develop a cold that takes me out for a whole week. I need my head to be clear and focussed otherwise i start wanting to play star wars battlefront. Thankfully I’m hoping this week will be the moment i really get stuck back into things.

 

Project Bento.

bentoI did manage to do a quick test of applying the Project Bento Skeleton to my mesh avatar. Seeing my avatars hand open and close into a fist was exciting for a moment until you realise SL default avatars have done that from the start 12 years ago. I get that sinking feeling of ‘why has it taken LL this long’. The test wasn’t worthy of showing on Drax’s video and i will probably do some more experimenting every now and then, but currently my focus is on on other projects. One interesting thing about the Project Bento Project is the rather random ’joint rig stretchy bug’ is getting more interest, a bug that will need to be fixed if Bento is to be taken as a serious new feature.

Project Bento is not just about rigging cool mesh avatars, there is also going to be needed a lot of animations. If someone made a library of hand & facial expression animations that everyone could use, that would be awesome. Its a shame we can’t script animation UUIDs.

Im not yet totally clear on how i might use Bento. For things like my NPC characters, Briknal, Goblin king and the grand master, i don’t really see the need to go back and re-rig them. Currently the thought of rigging faces for all the bento bones makes me dizzy so i am reluctant to even try. I do however see a very definite need to rig my mesh avatars hands. I could script the Loki Avatars to have more than two hand pose options. There is also the possibility that i could place hand animations into objects that when held by a bento avatar animate the hand to grip more accurately the shape of the object.

For such an update to the Loki Mesh avatar i might as well look into the other issue many have with my mesh avatar, and thats Skin customisation. Currently you can’t create your own skin for my mesh avatar due to the solution i used in masking the body under clothes. I have come up with another possible solution though and hope to test that out later this year.

 

Babbage Chronicles.

It’s been far to long since i did a proper story in New Babbage. In a way learning all this technical stuff about building hud and using XPtools has dragged me away from simpler immersive roleplaying. I am determined now to get back into New Babbage and deploy a remix of the old stories. Using what i’ve learnt the past three years i plan to retell four steampunk stories that have actual history in the virtual steampunk city of new babbage. It will be my biggest project yet.the_lab1In the New Babbage Chronicles you play the part of an Investigative Journalist who’s just been hired at the Babbage Chronicler. You are given a new type of invention that can extract memories from locations. Armed with this device you are given the choice of four mystery stories to uncover. Clues will lead you through the soot filled city uncovering parts of the story and clues to other locations. Hopefully it will be simple and fun for new users as well as those who took part in the adventures all those years ago.

How long this will take i am not yet sure. I have to rerecord a lot of voice acting and plan out what order people uncover the plot, but in theory it should not be to much work. After all the aim with my XPtool HUD system was to make it easier to deploy adventures in SL. New Babbage Chronicles will be the first test of wether it works :-p.

 

My Clothing Business.

I make most of my income from selling clothes in SL, and the market in my particular sub community definitely went through changes in the past few years. After doing a survey i realised i needed to support established mesh bodies more than classic default SL avatars. Gone are the clothing sizes i did for Adult Men and Women as no one used them. Now I’m working on making sizes for Super Mesh Bros (SMB) and Todleedoo mesh avatars.

lokixmas

The hope is those who hate my clothes because they don’t fit their mesh avatars will find they fit better and stop sending me hate messages. The recent parka coats were well received and gave me confidence i was getting back on track.

Im also preparing a new main store thats more simple to navigate and less land impact.

So thats what I’m currently trying to get started on.

I hope to get all this done before Fantasy Faire comes around. ppfttt. right lol.

Waiting for my #VR upgrade

Looking forward to the impending explosion of immersive VR i feel a little bit like an eccentric old timer with a condescending knowing smile. I’ve been using virtual Reality for ten years, i look down at all these upstart VR newbs as they delight in sharing a space with another person as if its the first time thats ever happened ever. 

Truth is I’m jealous. I want in on the new stuff. I want to be able to waltz into AltSpace like some VR veteran and sit around a campfire telling stories to the youngsters of how it was all different in my day. “We had to use ‘ALT’ + Left mouse click to look around”.

Of course every article i read that mentions Ebbe Altberg and Project Sansar gets me more excited about this future of virtual reality and creativity. But the rampant speculation from all the Second Life Bloggers (myself included) just makes me want to forget about Sansar and continue throwing parties at the Virtual music venue Vortex.

During the past decade i’ve got a lot out of my virtual world on a flat 2D screen. I know what Immersive VR could do if they combined Virtual Worlds with Immersive presence and from what i’ve read it’s what everyone wants, not just the Second Life crowd. We all want the Matrix/ Oasis/ Metaverse.

Project Sansar might be the next step towards that, or at least we stuck in Second Life hope so. I’m a casual gamer and i appreciate how awesome some games are with HMDs. My experience of HalfLife2 was geektastic. But i’m itching to use immersive VR in my own virtual space with my friends in Virtual Reality. I don’t wanna play games, i want to get on with expanding that ‘one to one’ interaction across the globe in an awesome shared environment! DAMMIT! Will Sansar allow this? maybe, but even if it does, will anyone be able to afford to use it? (yes I’m going to moan about the price now).

CES2016

The oculus is around $600, more if like me need to change hardware, OS and get controllers. It’s not looking like HTC Vive or even PSVR will be cheaper. It’s disappointing. I’m left wondering if many developers who are not making ‘AAA games’ will find an audience for their work in the hardcore gamers that fork out for these expensive peripherals.

I’m grumpy because i wanted this tech to be more accessible and it currently isn’t looking that way.  It seems like that for a lot of stuff these days. Gone are the moments where tech appeared and was  instantly WOO YEH CHANGED MY LIFE!!!!. Now it’s always, “nice i can see the potential of where this potato will lead us”.

Still much to still do in 2016

I said at the start of last years project list that SL is still far from dead and again this year as i write down a list of goals for the coming year Second Life is still far from dead.

 

1. Continue rebuilding and developing Escapades Island.

Same goal as last year, and will probably never end. SL is a constantly evolving world that’s never left Beta. We build, we get new features, we rebuild. How much longer we’ll keep getting new features on top of this rickety old code in light of Project Sansar is the topic of debate. The recent announcement of the new Bento Avatar Project showing that there is still tonnes more improvements to be had.

During 2015 i managed to rebuild the cutterstone path, the Goondocks & John King Tavern while replacing some trees. But the biggest changes came from the residents who live on the island calling it their home. People come and go and move from plot to plot meaning Escapades Island is constantly changing through out the year.

This year i hope to finally rebuild the Castle ruins and the clifton house while retexturing and improving rocks and caves.

 

2. Upgrade the Bashable System.

It took a while for Linden Lab to officially release the XPtools this year. This might have been because is taken a while for creators to learn and implement tools in original built for experiences. It took even longer for me to develop key features i want my gaming system to use. I got close to figuring out how to store items and HUD based inventory but it’s not simple enough for me to use yet so in 2016 i will expand on that.

In 2015 i was able to test out various ideas with my HUD at SL12B, T H E  W E L L and Egnog. Each time it was easier to put together and worked effortlessly.  I hope by end of 2016 i will be ready to deploy a much better Bashables gaming system at Escapades where you can collect items, talk to characters, uncover stories at the island. That has been my goal ever since we got Escapades up and running.

 

3. Back to Organising RolePlay Events.

This didn’t happen in 2015. The only time i got into Roleplaying was at Fantasy Faire and i loved it so much i hope to be a bigger part of it this year. I just never had the time to return to New Babbage and run a new story, but one of the first big projects of 2016 will be to reimagine my Babbage Chronicles stories to use my location Based HUD system and the new improved media on a prim and I’m very excited to finally get started on this. Hopefully it will lead me onto telling the new stories i had planned later in the year.

 

4. Fantasy Faire 2016

Previous years I’ve wanted to do LEA but never found a route into it. This year i have put myself forward as a region designer for Fantasy Faire. The two previous years i have loved the week long festival of roleplaying, art & fundraising and decided at the end of last years event that i wanted to try and get in on the action. Fingers crossed all goes well because i really want to push myself on this project drawing from childhood and local cultural influences.

 

5. SL13B

I will admit i currently have no idea what i’m going to do this year. Usually by now i already have a good idea in my head. For me, each SLB seems to feel smaller than the last. Wether thats because there are lest regions and exhibitors, or because i don’t explore the other builds as much. Perhaps i should try and build something that counters these feelings and encourages visitors to explore and interact with each other?

 

6. Project Bento

So i finally finish and release my Mesh Avatar only for Linden Lab to announce Project Bento, a new system allowing creators to ring avatars with posable fingers, facial expressions wings and tails. Thanks Linden Lab :-|.

During 2016 i will of course experiment with this new feature. When it comes to avatars I’m sceptical of new features. I’ve never been able to get fitted mesh to work on my avatars and clothing. I spent a good month trying to understand how it works and ended up more confused than ever.

I don’t want to bore you with the technical mumbo jumbo, but i think i decided that Fitted Mesh works best on avatars at default size and settings, namely normal looking men and women avatars and not fat little hamsters or giant hippos. So I’m a little sceptical towards the usefulness of Project Bento for any avatars other than adult humans until i have a go myself and see what i can do with it. But i’ll admit I’m a little put off by the amount of new avatar bones, it’s never been a fun job to rig & weight paint mesh in blender.

In 2015 i learnt to create facial expressions using shapekeys. You model the mesh and take a sort of snapshot, then you can blend between two or more shapekeys to create movement. This technique was employed in Faceshift and Sketchfab to create facial expressions but Linden Lab of course chose i different technique rendering those skills i learnt unhelpful lol. Facial expressions aside i really hope i can add posable fingers to my mesh avatars, i think animated fingers alone could vastly effect the way we express ourselves in SL during 2016 with hand gestures.

 

7. Loki Mesh Clothes

During 2015 i had a kinda of crisis with my clothing. But after doing a few surveys and taking a step back accepting some truths, i hope to improve my clothing range in 2016 as well as build a new store to try and make it a much more simple experience to find what people want.

 

8. More Experiences.

As mentioned before i plan to make 2016 the year i build proper experiences using XPtools. First i will revisit New Babbage to re-imagine the New Babbage Chronicles stories, while also breathing new life into the old Clock- in game. Then i plan to create a story to uncover in and around the Vortex club streets to bring life to those dark alleys. I also want to eventually turn my attention back to Escapades island and the for ever planned Founders Tales.

 

9. Project Sansar

Im still fully invested in Second Life. Wether Sansar will come along and seduce me away from Second Life, who knows? I know so much about how SL works, and nothing about how Sansar works. Project Sansar would have to be so incredibly easy to import and create worlds with hardly any new learning involved for me to drop what I’m doing in Second Life. Instead i rather think if i end up doing anything at all in Sansar it’ll be in 2017. Linden Lab might surprise me though… might.

 

As you can see 2016 is full of projects, there is no let up. So don’t say to me SL is dead. Anyways below is a short video showing a selection of sketches i made to visualise content and experiences created in 2015. Here’s to all the awesomeness to happen in 2016!

Sketches 2015 by lokieliot