SL project updates 21/2: NEW project: applying baked textures on mesh avatars

During the Content Creation User Group meeting held on Thursday, May 25th, Vir Linden announced that Linden Lab is now formally investigating applying baked textures to mesh avatars in Second Life, a project that has been on the request list since at least the Bento project.

In short, if it can be implemented, it would mean that textures such as skins and make-up layers could be applied to a mesh avatar in much the same way as system layer clothing can currently be applied to system avatars, thus in theory reducing the complexity of mesh avatars by reducing the number of “onion layers” they currently require in order to simulate the capabilities of the baking system.  This in turn should ease the rendering load mesh avatars place on CPUs and GPUs, thus hopefully improving people’s broader Second Life experience.

HOWEVER, the project is only at its earliest stages, and it will be a while before there is anything visible to see with regards to it. The following is a summary of the project’s current status:

  • The first aspect of the work will be to update the existing baking service.
    • This currently operates at a maximum texture resolution of 512×512.
    • For mesh purposes, this needs to be increased to 1024×1024 (which can already be used directly on avatar meshes via textures and / or applier systems).
    • As the baking service hasn’t been touched in some time, updating it may take a while, and any progress on the rest of the project is dependent upon it being completed.
    • Once the baking service has been updated, then the actual work of extending it to support mesh avatars should be fairly straightforward.
  • The exact specifications for how the bakes will work have yet to be defined, so there are no feature / capability details at present.
  • The capability will not support the use of materials, as the baking service as a whole has no notion of materials at present; it only produces a composite of diffuse textures, and there would be a considerable amount of additional work required to make it “materials aware”.

It is important to note that this capability is not necessarily intended to replace applier systems; rather it is to add flexibility to using texture bakes with mesh, and potentially reduce the complexity of mesh avatars.

Further updates on this work will come via the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meetings, and I’ll report on them through my usual CCUG meeting updates.

The following is an audio extract from the May 25th CCUG, at which Vir announced the project.

Note: there was a broader discussion on the avatar baking service, and this will be covered in my upcoming report on the CCUG itself.

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A Meadow Rose in Second Life

Meadow Rose III, Tyme; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr Meadow Rose III – click any image for full size

Meadow Rose III, designed by Rye Falmer, is a homestead region open to the public offering a  romantic setting for visitors, with much to see and do – and appreciate. For those reading the region’s descriptions, there’s even an extract of a story they might decide to continue for themselves.

The overall design may initially strike one as a period setting. There is a Tudor look to many of the buildings which can easily lean one in that direction. However, there are more than enough clues to reveal that while the buildings are period, the setting is modern.

Meadow Rose III, Tyme; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr Meadow Rose III

Instead, what we appear to have is a stately home sitting amidst extensive grounds with formal gardens  of the region suggests this is the ground of a stately home, one which may well have been built centuries ago, but which undoubtedly sits in modern times, the grounds around it pointing to even older occupation, containing as they do the ruins of a more fortified former home, the stone from which may well have gone into the building the current house and some of the other buildings to be found here.

For both Caitlyn and I the overall impression of Meadow Rose is akin to that of many of the grand estates managed by the National Trust here in the UK. That is, lands held for generations by a family, bearing all the hallmarks of their long ownership during which the passing of time gave rise to different forms of house – castle to manor, for example – but which are now maintained for the wider appreciation of the general public, their gates and doors open to visitors to enjoy them in their natural splendour.

Meadow Rose III, Tyme; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr Meadow Rose III

The land is broadly arranged in a U-shape around a central channel of water which runs northwards from the middle of the region. The landing point sits on the north-west arm of the U, and the manor house on the north-east, reached via a gated, covered bridge from the landing point. The latter sits between a chapel and a stone-built house, and features an events deck offering live musicians and DJ sessions on a regular basis.

The manor house – open to exploration – sits within formal walled and hedged gardens offering opportunities for walks amidst flowers and hedgerows. It is backed by stables where horses can be obtained should people like to take a ride through the landscape. The glass roof of one wing of the house and the greenhouse alongside the stables, with its scattering of modern gardening implements, are two of the hints that this isn’t a period setting.

Meadow Rose III, Tyme; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr Meadow Rose III

To the north side of the manor house is  a small group of standing stones, again suggesting this place has long been a place of human habitation. To the south and east, beyond the more formal gardens and reached via path and stair, is a pavilion sitting out over the water overlooking the neighbouring regions.

Paths and trails wind through the region, leading the way to the points of interest – such as the aforementioned ruins of a castle, or to a Romany camp, where fortunes might be read, before returning to manor house or landing point (depending upon the initial route taken). Throughout it all, there are places to sit and enjoy the views or to snuggle, enjoy a romantic dance, go fishing – or even have a swim. Those seeking a more active pursuit can enjoy a round of bumper boats on the water of the little lake.

Meadow Rose III, Tyme; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr Meadow Rose III

Meadow Rose III is a charming, romantic setting; ideal for quiet exploration, photography, and idling the time away. By day the region is softly lit by a late summer sun; by night torches and braziers light the paths and mark doorways, again offering an air of romance beneath a glittering aurora. To the south and east, the region connects to the other in the estate – although these might not all be open for the public to freely explore. However, a teleport board at the landing point offers access to those areas within the estate open to public visits, for those interested in exploring further afield.

This is truly a delightful region to visit, and if you have not already done so, we can very heartily recommended.

SLurl Details

SL project updates week 21/1: server, viewer

Costa Blanco, Costa Blanco; Inara Pey, May 2017, on Flickr Costa Blancoblog post

Server Deployments

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest updates and news.

  • On Tuesday, May 23rd, the Main (SLS) channel was updated with the server maintenance package previously deployed to LeTigre in week #20, containing the updated server-side parcel access override settings (more below)
  • On Wednesday, May 24th, the RC channels should be updated with a new server maintenance package containing the parcel access override controls, together with a fix for BUG-100704, “[Server] If Anyone Can visit is selected after Allow Group was set only group members can enter”.

SL Viewer

The Maintenance viewer, version 5.0.5.326444, dated May 18th, 2017 was promoted to release status on Tuesday, May 23rd.

This viewer is notable for its inclusion of some improvements to Trash purging behaviour, and support for the parcel access overrides which as of this week are fully deployed across the grid.

I have an overview of this viewer, which examines both the Trash purging changes and the parcel access overrides in detail, as well as touching on the other updates included in the release.

Outside of this, the current pipeline remains as:

  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Voice RC viewer, version 5.0.5.325998, dated May 5th
    • Project AssetHttp project viewer,  version 5.0.5.325940, dated May 4th – This viewer moves fetching of several types of assets to HTTP / CDN – overview
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer, version 5.1.0.505089, dated May 11th
    • 360-degree snapshot viewer, version 4.1.3.321712, dated November 23, 2016 – ability to take 360-degree panoramic images.
  • Obsolete platform viewer version 3.7.28.300847 dated May 8th, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Expect the two RC viewers to be updated to bring them to parity with the new release viewer viewer.

Infrastructure Updates

As noted in my week #20 updates (notably the TPV Developer meeting notes), the Lab is working on a range of infrastructure updates, together with updates to things like the teleport re-try throttle (which can place a considerable load on the “receiving” region’s simulator). It is hoped that these updates will a) help SL progress into the future, b) potentially offer further increases in the numbers of avatar regions can support.

Other Items

Changes to Mesh Upload Access

Linden Lab recently changed the requirements for being able to upload mesh content to Second Life. For more information, see my separate update.

Instancing Regions?

Note: this is not an actual project with the Lab, nor is it necessarily on the roadmap for SL development. What follows is purely in the realm of speculative discussion.

During the Simulator User Group Meeting on Tuesday, May 23rd, it was asked if instancing regions (notably private standalone regions) might some day be possible. That is, if there is a stand-alone region hosting a very popular event, a copy of the entire region might be spawned, which would then allow people into it to deal with the demand.

While there are a wide range of infrastructure, permission system  and other issues associated with it (how is the instance to be paid for? what about No Copy items, can they be reproduced in an instance of a region, where technically they aren’t a duplicate? How is the required hardware managed & what happens when demand for additional server space isn’t high?, etc.), the idea wasn’t ruled as being completely out-of-bounds. Right now it remains purely on the “someday maybe” wish list.

Second Life mesh upload prerequisites revised

The Mesh Upload Tutorial is no more

When mesh content was being introduced to Second Life, linden Lab implemented a “gate” on people’s ability to upload mesh models to both Agni (the Main grid) and Aditi (the Beta grid).

In both cases, anyone wishing to upload mesh had to:

  • Provide payment information to Linden Lab
  • Complete a mesh intellectual property rights tutorial / questionnaire.

This has now been streamlined so that all someone who wishes to upload mesh needs to do is

  • Provide payment information to Linden Lab
  • Confirm they have read / agree to Linden Lab’s Terms of Service and Intellectual Property Policy, and acknowledge they may be subject to Linden Lab’s removal procedures should you fail to comply with these policies.

For those already “cleared” to upload mesh to Second Life, nothing changes – you remain approved.

However, if you are new to uploading mesh models to SL, you now have a far more streamlined process to complete in order to do so, as noted below.

Go to your dashboard at secondlife.com, and select Mesh Upload Status from the left-hand Account menu. This will display a summary page of your current status. If you have previously provided payment information to linden Lab and previously completed the Mesh Upload Tutorial, your information will be shown in green (below).

If you are registered for uploading mesh, both parts of the Mesh Upload status page will be shown in green

If you have not provided payment information to Linden Lab (only required for uploads to the Main grid) and / or you have not confirmed you have read the Terms of Service (ToS) / the Intellectual Property Policy, one or both of the status boxes on the page will be red.

Further, note that you cannot confirm acceptance of the ToS  / the Intellectual Property Policy until you have provided payment information, as shown in the image below (note the second red box).

The Mesh Upload status page for someone who has not provided payment information to Linden Lab. Note they cannot accept the Terms of Service / Intellectual Property Policy until they have.

If payment information needs to be filed, clicking the My Payment Info will display your account’s Billing Information Page, where you can add a payment method. When you have done so, you can return to the Mesh Upload Page, which will show the payment information section in green, indicating your payment method is on file.

You can now proceed with accepting the terms and policy, by clicking on the Accept The IP Terms link.

The Mesh Upload status page for someone who has provided payment information, but who has not confirmed they have read the ToS / Intellectual Property Policy

Doing so will display the Accept IP Terms page, which has a large I Accept button, and links to the ToS and the Intellectual Property Policy. note that both of these will open in the same browser tab as used by the Accept IP Terms page, so use your browser’s Back button to return to it when you are ready to accept.

When you are ready to do so, click the I Accept button to confirm your agreement to adhere to the ToS / Intellectual Property Policy. The Mesh Upload status page will update to show the required fields are green, and you are cleared to start uploading mesh models via the viewer.

Again, if you were already able to upload mesh to Second Life, nothing has changed. You do not need to re-affirm your ability to do so. The reason for this change, so far as I can tell, is because the tutorial  / questionnaire was seen as a little cumbersome and top-heavy.

With thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the nudge for me to take a look.