I nearly died in Sansar VR from laughing to hard

There is something that’s holding me back from using Sansar. To some it seems stupidly unimportant but for some reason the default avatars in Sansar make me not want to use it.

I’m Loki, i’ve been Loki for 13 years now, and when i put on the disguise of these random Sansar default avatars i don’t feel like ‘ME’. In the end i just feel like i’m waiting for the moment when i can look the way i want to. Gawd knows what this means for my psychological state in the real world. :-s

 

Custom Avatars

Two or three weeks ago something changed though. Linden Lab updated Sansar to allow ‘Custom’ Avatars and for the first time i was able to be ‘ME’ in Sansar and it felt great. Now i must point out that Sansar still does not support any avatar size other than the default adults avatars, so to get my Kid size persona into Sansar i had to be creative.

I placed my avatar on top of a mech-robot and rigged it so that the Legs and arms moved in sync with the default Sansar Skeleton and posed Loki so i looked like i was controlling the robot with two joysticks. The Head of my avatar ended up being at the right hight to be rigged with the Sansar Armatures head so when i look around in HMD mode so does the kid avatar.

 

Being at Ease with your avatar.

With this avatar i ended up spending almost 2 hours in VR talking, and thats all i did, i talked, and laughed… on top of a roof…. to a man in a rabbit suit, a crocodile, a blue jelly bear… and Draxtor… and it was the funniest thing i’ve done in ages. 

I’ve complained before about how hard i found it as an introvert to be outgoing in Sansar while everyone else seems so out going. I went to one of Draxtors ‘Atlas Hopping events’  and felt more at ease on top of my robot but Atlas Hopping wasn’t as fun as i was expecting since the loading times of experiences meant i was already left on my own by the time i got to places. 

The next day i decided to go to the Custom Avatar Contest at a grand theatre hall. I turned up an hour late and didn’t understand what was going on but then i heard Draxtor up on the roof. While up there we discussed all sorts of things and i surprised even myself with how outspoken i had become in voice. How much of this is simply because it’s Drax I’m talking to (he actually talks like he’s interviewing you) or has there been a kinda self confidence boost knowing that they now see me as Loki rather than some freaky default avatar?

At one point Silas showed us one of his many avatar experiments which was a big blue jelly bear with eyes that were wide open and looking about in a constant shocked expression that inflicted everyone with fits of laughter. Then to really kill us off Silas had an internal issue of angry cat fighting. I had to leave the party and remove my steamed up Vive headset to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes. 

 

Limited Experience

I’ve read that the Lab do intend to allow Armature resize eventually, and when they do i’ll be able to get off the robot and will probably build a lot more stuff. Second life still excels at the art of collaborative creation and sharing, with features such as drag’n’drop giving items which you can edit and hand back to friends missing entirely from Sansar.

Sansar is still very limited, but that limited use is still very powerful in HMD mode compared to desktop. The simple experience of being with others from around the world in one place, able to pick up things and laugh about stuff in HMD mode is SO powerful yet SO simple. Second life is a lot more demanding in this respect for it kinda demands more things for us to engage with. It makes me think about what sort of spaces to build in Sansar that can boost the enjoyment of such a simple premise. 

How i made that Mirror at the Bazaar Dungeon.

I was endlessly surprised at the messages i received about the Bazaar Dungeon but one of the most asked questions was ‘how did you make that mirror?”

The mirror was in the Spring of Souls, a chamber with a big tree in it, the roots of which reached out across the floor between puddles of water. Against the tree was a big mirror which when you looked in saw a reflection of the room but filled with ghosts.

A month or so before fantasy faire 2018 i saw a post on a Second Life Jira request for real time mirrors to be added to SL, which isn’t going to happen. At the bottom of comments was a post by Beev Fallen that took me to a video on Flikr showing a rather impressive cracked mirror effect, but not only was the room reflected in the mirror,  the walls around the mirror showed slight mirrored effect also. I contacted my friend Silas who has been working on Mirrors for a while and he too was very impressed. We both visited Beev’s amazing demo room and spent a while trying to figure out how the effect was done. This wasn’t a simple projected single image, the whole room was being mirrored 360.

I was later contacted by Silas with a workflow on how to create the illusion of 360 Mirroring in Second Life and it’s this i used to create the mirror in the Spring of Souls. 

There has recently been a few articles pop up about mirror illusions in Second Life but none has yet explained how to do 360 mirrors. Silas has given me permission to share the trick but before i do i should probably explain a few things. 

 

Environment Map

In second life every object can be set to be shiny using the objects material ‘Shininess’ settings. You have glossiness which if you have played with before know that it makes object look kinda shiny plastic. For mirrors this needs to be set to 255. Underneath that is ‘Environment’. Raising this setting determines how much of Second Life’s ‘environment map’ is reflected. 

 

The environment map is a giant spherical 360 image that is reflected in anything shiny. It’s quite boring, a simple line that is a bit like the SL horizon. The higher you raise the ‘environment’ setting the more visible this horizon image becomes on your shiny objects surface. Now the trick is to override this default Environment map with our own mini localised environment maps using the projector features.

You can grab this ready made Projector Cubemap from the Castle ruins on Escapades thanks to Silas Merlin.

 

We basically create a six sided inverted cube that projects it’s sides in on it’s self. Anything shiny inside the cube reflects what is is projected onto it. People already know this part, but what i was asked alot was how did i manage to 360 mirror the environment?

The answer is it’s now possible to take 360 snapshots in Second Life using a project viewer and convert them into what is known as 360 Cube Maps. Cube maps are 360 spherical images cut up into 6 textures. 

Once you have vertically flipped the Cube Map textures (in order to mirror the environment) you just upload and apply these textures to become projectors in the inverted cube.

Once all the projectors are set on the cube map simply position the phantom cube over the area to be mirrored. The resulting effect is a complete 360 mirroring of that environment. 

 

 

To see the effect for yourself and to grab a simple list of instructions visit the Castle Ruins on Escapades. 

 

Notes: 

There are some drawbacks to this illusion.

1. The obvious note is that you have to have advanced lighting enabled to see the effects.

2. Consider where you are going to place the Projector Cubemaps. They work best in small rooms as projectors only project up t0 20 metres. 

4. Any moving objects obviously wont appear moving.

5. Projectors will not project onto anything set to transparent.

6. Skies do not change so if you create a cube map out in the open during the day, by nighttime the reflection will still be showing daytime.

 

The benefits

In the right place this mini environment projected Cube Map trick can really add an effect of detailed realism. At the Bazaar Dungeon it was used to tell part of the legend about a Knight who had killed many traders, their souls appearing in the rooms reflection, not just in the mirror but the floor puddles too. At the Vortex Club there is a Projector Cubemap that ads an extra layer of sparkling cyberpunk colour to anyone wearing shiny attachments. 

It’s another example of how some features added to Second Life (360 Snapshots) end up being used in unexpected ways in the hands of the users.

It’s lonely being a MacOS VR User

This time last year i was waiting for apple to release a new Mac any Mac as a sign of there being continued progress from apple in the desktop market. I’m fed up with Apples obsession with shiny health trinkets and Music. Apple did finally release a new iMac but to my surprise they also demoed support for VR, specifically the Vive Headset. Big shiny tech media articles shouted with enthusiasm that VR had finally come to MacOS. 

A year later and you’d be forgiving for thinking it was all just a dream. The XLab demo showcased at the Apple event is no where to be seen and the supposed HTC Valve support for MacOS is not mentioned at all on their website. But Mac DOES support it, i know because i made my own experiences for it.

 

SteamVR Supports Mac

SteamVR does have a MacOS Version of its client. It’s over a year old now and still does not include many of the features the Windows version has enjoyed for years now. There is no SteamVR Home feature and the built in menu (when it works) has no point because there is only one mac native VR game (as i know) called Blobby Tennis.

 

UNITY Supports MacOS

Unity3D supports the creation of VR applications native to MacOS. Once you figure out which version of unity to use (2017.2) and make sure its using Metal2 api, it’s actually quite simple to set up a template using the easy to configure SteamVR plugins and templates pack. I made a few kool tests creating spaces with a temple, animated objects, tracking a vive tracker. I let my Nephew explore a massive minecraft cathedral i downloaded from Sketchfab.

 

But no ones developing VR for MacOS

All the major Virtual World VR experiences such as VRchat, HighFidelity, Sansar are windows only, which i guess is understandable if i am the only Mac VR user in the village. (Technically HiFi allows mac support in desktop mode) 

It’s frustrating, especially when im using a Mac to make content that can be used in these spaces. I created a VRchat Avatar easy and uploaded it to VRchat then had to reboot into windows in order to try it out. 

My VRchat Avatar, the space suit ended up in Second Life too.

Bootcamping Windows on my mac is what alot of people have told me to do, and thats fine for a while but ive learned that bootcamped VR on a mac takes a resolution hit and is no way as clear an image as when run natively in MacOS. 

In October last year many tech news sites reported that the latest version of Parallels Desktop which runs windows in a window on Mac OS had gained VR support. This turned out to be fake news, as not only does it not work, the Parallels website has no documentation mentioning VR support.

 

WebVR saving the day?

The one place where a Mac user might find VR Support is WebVR that allows VR Users to access VR experiences via a web browser cross platform. At the moment the only MacOS supporting WebVR Web Browser is Firestorm Nightly. A the time of writing this MacOS WebVR support has been broke in the latest version 62, in order to run WebVR with SteamVR you have to download version 59.0a1. One step forward 3 steps back.

 

It’s lonely being a Mac VR user

I would like to put aside more time to explore VR on MacOS. I want to make my own Aech’s Garage, a specific demoing and building space where i can work on new ideas. Maybe I could build little MacOS VR Experiences and make a killing on Steam, but maybe there is no point if i’m the only Mac VR enthusiast. Eventually one of these VR worlds will open up to Mac users and allow me to then export across my experiments. Until then i’ll be tinkering in my VR Garage and perhaps posting WebVR.

Fantasy Faire felt really good

My work there is done, but the virtual world Fantasy Faire 2018 in Second Life is still open for another extended week, so if you haven’t visited yet do find some time this week.

On Saturday i spent over an hour just discussing with my friends Nat and Strifeclaw about how the roleplaying went, how the Bazaar Dungeon was received and how sad it’ll be as it always is when the fairylands disappear for another year. 

Fantasy Faire 2018 - The Bazaar Dungeon

I really do enjoy building for this fundraising virtual festival. The challenges of creating something original to experience, presenting a space for merchants to sell items while also providing a place to get immersed and role-play. Unlike most fairs in Second Life you are just shopping, but FantasyFaire has become so much more.

Watching the variety of avatars come through the dungeons was my favourite aspect for me. From Vader Kittens discovering hidden treasure chests to finding a giant dragon sleeping in a room full of gold coins, i was constantly delighted by who turned up.

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I want to thank everyone who joined the Magpies Role-play group during the week and to Strifeclaw organising. When people carry on in character long after i’ve logged out to go sleep then i know we’re on to something. That some of the story elements were only discovered hours after scheduled events by those who could not make it earlier gave much more life to the family atmosphere of the Magpies. We write the story and schedule the events but at the end of the day its those who role-play that bring it to life, so thanks everyone, this year was an amazing atmosphere.

 

Oh look another subtle phoenix image.

I also want to thank everyone who sent me kind words about the Bazaar Dungeon. I was surprised at the amount of comments i got from complete strangers and im so pleased it was enjoyed so much. To everyone that messaged me about how i did the mirror effect in the well of souls, i promise to make a blog post about it soon :-p

Finally like to say thanks to everyone who donated to the kiosks and bought the RP kits, all of which goes to Relay for Life.

To finish off this post i’ve embedded the video i made of the 2018 fairelands. If you still haven’t walked around them all yet, THERE IS STILL TIME!

Highlights Of FantasyFaire 2018

CALLING ALL KID AVATARS THIS IS #FANTASYFAIRE2018

At fantasy Faire there is a role-play group for Kid Avatars and ANY kid avatars can join the gang to role-play a story as it unfolds over the coming week.

This year the group will be playing the Magpies, a bunch of michevious street kids who pick a pocket or two. They live amongst a busy bazaar market deep underground in what was once a prison but now is known as the Bazaar Dungeon.

All through the Fantasy Faire week there will be role-play events to help the story evolve while helping raise funds for ‘relay for life’.

To take part in the Fantasy Faire Magpies role-play week…

• Simply turn up at the Magpies Nest at Fantasy Faire SLURL HERE! Fantasy Faire officially opens 9am SLT on Thursday April 19th.

• There is a Role-play starter Kit that includes Magpie cloak, gloves and hat to help you become a magpie. (all proceeds of which goes to Relay for Life)

• There is an event board with a schedule of times that encounters or music events will take place.

• Have fun and explore the rest of Fantasy Faire as one of the Magpies!

For more information check the Fantasy Faire Magpies page.

 

The event schedule. The first main encounter starts on Saturday 21st allowing plenty of time to get into a character and explore you Magpies home.