Review of my 2013 in Second Life

There have been a few reviews of Second Life 2013 already and i don’t know how mine will differ being that i’ll be discussing only the things that have effected me this year, so if your second life has any similarities to mine then you may find this interesting.

2013 started with a lot of optimism that Linden Lab would put some work into fixing issues plaguing the 10 year old platform. I moaned near the start about how Groups and SL feed where failing to hit full potential. As we enter 2014 the SL feed has suffered an almost catastrophic failure leading many unable to post their happy experiences for all their friends to see on SL feed and removing the ability to have off world conversations over the busy holiday period. I think the issue fully highlighted how in 2013 many of my friends started using and got used to using SL Profile Feeds as vital component in communicating with their communities and friends. My old idea about integrating groups with SL feed is still valid i think.

“Any method that will make it easier for a user to share their second life is valuable for the user”

In January we also got a new look Chat box code named CHUI which spawned a lot of star wars jokes during my DJ show as i informed all my Phoenix Viewer users about how it was good if you were willing to change how you text chatted. They all scoffed at me “Bah we’ll stick to our trusted Phoenix Viewer thank you very much”, if only they knew what was to happen.

As we went through the start of 2013 i was becoming quicker and more confident at making Mesh, rebuilding places on escapades and removing the scourge that is Sculpties. While residents became more and more adept at making a mesh the rest of the tech industry was pushing user generated 3D services for 3D printing and 3D in your web browser using the experimental WebGL which becomes more adopted as 2013 continues. One such service i joined called SketchFab allowed me to create a Web Portfolio to show what I’ve made for SL.

Its around the end of February i decided to try out Mocap tech. I got my hands on FastMocap and an Xbox & Pc version of the Kinnect in the hope i could quickly make natural looking animations. What a complete waist of time and money. It was a case of hype overshadowing where the tech actually was.

Around mid March i learned that the team behind the long awaited ‘Experience Gaming Tools’ had gone. This plunged me into a frustrating mood since i had been holding off a lot of projects waiting for the era of ease in creating experiences. On top of this Pathfinder was proving to be so complex that no one was using it and lots of high profile creators were still making sculpty prim objects. At this point something snapped and i started working on HUD based RPG game system. Based on my experiment last year ‘The Cheese Fairy’ it had Auto Attach, Auto Teleport and also controlled the avatars camera to present more cinematic story telling. This System was first used in the Easter Holidays Rabid Rabbits then later improved on for use at SL10B Behemoth, The Bashables, The Well 2 and Egnog the Trolls Grotto.

To help irradicate the creation of new Sculpties and dispel the notion that Mesh is always to much land impact i created a blog post explaining how to optimise the import of Mesh Objects to create low Land Impact mesh. All through 2013 i’ve seen some great work by my friends who only started to use 3D software middle of last year. 2013 also saw the addition of Collada Export to one Third Party Viewer allowing people to export an object as a .DAE file. For me this was a fantastic tool for creating reference models for size and shape which you could then build over in Blender.

But for me the one feature in SL that changed everything for me was the addition of Material Mapping introduced in April. I first used it to create highly detailed rocky interiors and statue reliefs. I then went on to use it to create fantastic wrinkles and folds in my V3 Clothing range and by the end of the year i was using materials to create a gloriously detailed Cobble stone street with reflective puddles of water. But you needed to turn on ‘Advanced Lighting Model’ (ALM) in order to see all this new amazing detail and realism which many didn’t because it would bring their viewers to a crawl reminding me how terribly demanding the SL platform still is, and how little control i have over how you see what i build.

By mid June i was frantically working on my SL10B Project and this being the 10th anniversary i wanted to try and make something thats never been seen or experienced before using everything i’ve learnt. I settled on a story that either through parody, symbolism or metaphorically summed up Second Life and its relationship with the Lab and the users. I think many enjoyed it, some got the story and found it a memorable SL10B experience either for its uniqueness or simply because it stood out from all the displays reused from last year. SL10B has not been spoken of much since which is a shame because it was a grand event held by residents of SL not the lab.

B1

In July i started to experiment a little with creating a combat system. I created Star Trek ships for my Friend Billy and incorporated a system for taking damage and regaining health. I would later use this for an Airship battle game that i’ve still yet to officially release. The Health/Damage system would Join a three part Experience Toolset i hope to develop for easily creating RPG experiences in future. The Three Parts are ‘Story Telling, ‘Health/Damage’ and finally ‘Score Keeping’ which I’ve still yet to figure out.

pic2By August i had turned my attention back to my clothing range. I made Version Three of my popular tShirt range and Jeans that took full advantage of the new Material Mapping feature well ahead of Third Party Viewers. I tried a new experimental technique that ‘Joint Rigged’ shoulders to try and get a more natural shoulder movement on smaller avatars. I also released new shorts, long sleeve shirts and a Hoody that had a dynamic flip up hood effect. By the end of 2013 Linden Lab had decided to use a technique commonly known as Liquid Mesh that allows clothes adjust better on the avatar. I’ve still yet to fully experiment with this new feature.

The majority of my sales are done through Marketplace, but many still want that inworld shopping experience to see what they are buying and try on demos. So this year i rebuilt my store completely to show off my work and the new material mapping.

It was also around this time my Oculus Rift Developer Kit arrived and i was able to see for myself wether the hype about Oculus was true. I must say i was surprised. The total immersive quality of the Rift leads to a very new experience of Second Life and this is what many seem to feel will take Second Life to a new level. But i don’t like to get out of balance with hype so while i recognise the Oculus will open doors to a new area of unexplored experience for users, i’m not yet convinced a majority of users will be all that interested. I did one experiment with my Airship Battle Game which could be enhanced by using Oculus, but other than that I’m having to wait until Linden Lab bring out their Official Oculus Enhanced Viewer before i can really have fun.

Im not really in the ‘Majority’ of SL users though so I’m fully excited about Oculus as well as the Leap Motion, STEM and other sensor equipment thats in development. The whole tech industry is currently moving towards sensor tech and augmented gadgets and its possible Virtual Reality hype could be coming round for a 3rd time. But Second Life might not be the platform everyone talks about. Even though Second Life is still developing and has a user base that knows more than any other community about virtual spaces and communicating within those spaces and the benefits and disadvantages of shared virtual spaces, a newer platform might steal the limelight in the sensor driven future. Im talking of course about High Fidelity which throughout 2013 gained more and more tech press. Second Life was mentioned by the tech press twice, first on it’s 10th Anniversary, 2nd when it was revealed Linden Lab apparently invited the NSA to watch how we use Second Life.

The beginning of September saw the 3rd Anniversary weekend of Escapades Island and much fun was had with airship battles, Whale Races and parties. The Big surprise was a fully realised Evil Grand Master NPC character, a giant pirate Lizard man with a cannon for a hand. For 5 years he had only been mentioned and heard through intercepted radio transmissions but this year i finally made him come to life in a way that only a year ago would have been impossible to do.

GM

October saw Burn2 arrive and i reluctantly took part. I was concerned i would not have to time to work on Burn2 as well as my Halloween Project ‘The Well 2: Sollititus’. Thankfully my escapades friends helped with the Burn2 stuff and we ended up with a great experience where you learned about a magical sand fairy and had to find friends or strangers to help summon the Sand Fairy in order to receive free gifts.

As for THE WELL 2, I worked as fast as i could to incorporate everything i’d learnt in 2013 to create an experience that was fun while scary. I learnt a work around for an animation bug while also learning a more efficient way to animate. By the time i had submitted to destination guide it was almost Halloween and now after christmas the landing point still gets 50 visits a day even though i asked Linden Lab to have it removed from the guide ages ago.

well2_1

By the end of November i was back in the Steampunk Town of New Babbage rebuilding my 3rd and final plot called Cobblestone house. It is my last and creation of 2013 and combines everything i’ve learnt. As is customary in the winter months i added snow covered textures to all my Babbage builds to create a magical winter wonderland in the street. I’m hoping that with the rebuilding that i started back in 2012 now being complete i can move forward and use the places for story telling and RolePlay. In fact 2014 should be all about story telling fingers crossed.

BurstHydrant

Many people are looking back at 2013 as being not that great but i’ve had a rather spiffing year. I’ve learnt a tonne of new stuff, built some fun stuff and had great feedback and encouragement from the Second Life Community. Even though the future seems to have ‘High Fidelity’ written all over it, the present here in Second Life still has plenty of challenges and unexplored experiences to be had. The five people who still work at Linden Lab did a lot of work slowly rolling the grid over and replacing large old pieces with new chunks of delight and while the benefits arn’t that noticeable I’m sure they will lead to a good 2014.

I met quite a few Lindens In SL this year and while they did not add me to their friends list for long, it was long enough to realise that while Linden Lab Sucks, those individuals who still work there are brilliant people trying their best to keep this behemoth of a grid going. I regret that i sometimes forget this when paying my premium fee. :-p

Here’s to an awesome 2014, i’ve got SOOO much i want to do!

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