Daily Archives: June 8, 2011

Mesh uploads to be gated

Tateru Nino relays the news that Mesh imports to Second Life are to be separately gated. According to the SL wiki page on Mesh Upload Enablement:

“In order to prevent usage of intellectual property with the mesh upload tool, prior to uploading a mesh with a Mesh enabled viewer, 2 checks will occur before the user will be allowed to upload. The first check will be to verify payment information is on file and the second is a chance to educate the user with a short tutorial. After the user completes the tutorial, they will be enabled to upload content.

“A flag will be added to the CSR tool which will allow supoort [sic] to enable and if approriate disable the ability to upload mesh. The viewer will use the user’s enable mesh flag to activate the upload mesh capability. If it is disabled, a message will appear and a link to the secondlife.com link for the tutorial. The scope of this testing is to confirm expected results for this setting on Mesh and non Mesh viewers as well as test the tutorial and ensure it enables mesh ability accordingly.”

Once the criteria of having PIOF and going through the tutorial have been met, people will essentially be “licensed” to upload mesh creations. However, like any license, the ability to upload mesh can be revoked:

“If Lab determines user is in violation of IP mesh upload terms, user can be indefinitely flagged as not mesh enabled regardless of how many times they continue to complete the tutorial.”

Clearly this is intended to help deal with matters relating to IP and copyright violations, DMCA claims and suchlike, all vital to protect the authors of mesh files and content in the event of theft. Let’s face it, the whole issue of IP and copyrights are convoluted when it comes to mesh; therefore caution is required.

 Take a look at the picture on the left. It’s a mesh model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Kaufman house, “Fallingwater”. It’s available on a website for $75.00USD. It can apparently be purchased legally.

But who actually owns the copyright? The website? The creator? Or the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation?

The question is important because the FLW Foundation is jealously guarding anything and everything it considers to be its intellectual property. Just last year, after cooperating with it, they issued cease and desist letters against the Frank Lloyd Wright Museum in Second Life, forcing it to close its doors. As such, who is to say that even a product like this, brought in good faith, will not land someone wishing to upload it to SL up in a world of hurt? And the FLW Foundation isn’t alone in guarding its property.

Right now, mesh is the elephant in the room; hard to ignore, but not the easiest thing to deal with. The risk of copyright violations, claims of illegal usage, the potential involvement of legal teams from major organisations is a risk; just a glance at all the Star Wars, Star TreK, DC Comics and other meshes available off the web has to give rise to the question, “Yes, but how much of it is actually licensed? Ergo, Linden Lab need to take steps to protect themselves against major upsets and openly discouraging people from knowingly uploading content they shouldn’t be bringing in-world – and making the accounts they use to upload said content personally linked to those using them is certainly one way of going about it.

But it also means that those creators who would stick to only uploading their own creations but who have preferred not to / been unable to give PIOF are going to find themselves ostracised, and this could well result in the new requirement being subject to upset and consternation.

Gating uploads also has a secondary potential benefit: mesh is both an unknown quantity and a complex subject. While it has been under extensive testing on the beta grid, its still not entirely clear as to what impact it might have on the main grid – and there is a risk that poorly-developed meshes could do more harm than good when it comes to sim performance. Ergo, providing a means of blocking ill-developed models from being imported until such time as the creator can improve their technique and keep within whatever parameters are required without having to block their account in its entirety would also seem to be a wise step to take.

Advertisements

Destination: Mont Saint-Michel

Sitting in the mouth of the Couesnon River roughly a kilometre offshore from the mainland, and connected to it by a causeway, lays the magnificent Mont Saint-Michel. Occupied since before the Roman times, the islet (less than a kilometre square) rose to prominence in the middle ages as a religious centre, gaining strategic significance when it was annexed by William Longsword, Duke of Normandy in 933, and 100 years later when it supported William, Duke of Normandy’s claim to the English throne.

It’s also famous for being painstakingly reproduced to careful scale within Second Life by Moeka Kohime. Featured on the French version of the Second Life homepage, the sim is a magnificent testament as to what can be achieved when building in Second Life with the humble prim – or in this case, 14,328 humble prims.

Mont Saint Michel, Second Life

The Mont faithfully reproduces the original in almost every visual aspect; no mean feat given it occupies an area a quarter of the size of the original. Yet it is not just a mere “look but don’t touch” showpiece: it is also scaled to allow avatar access, providing a fully immersive experience for visitors who can walk through the narrow streets, browse shops and wend their way up to the magnificent monastery that crowns the island.

I’ve known about the Mont in Second Life for years – yet I’ve never visited it until this week; I now regret not having done so sooner. Arriving (via a friend’s Tp) in the causeway car park (something that will hopefully vanish in the near future, to reflect the fact that it is being replaced at the real Mont as a part of the project to return it to its original island status), which sits on an adjacent sim, I carefully crossed into *Edelweiss* and followed the walkway to the entrance.

On entering the citadel, the attention to detail is immediately apparent – two massive wrought-iron bombard canon, left by the English after they failed to capture the island during the great siege of 1423-24, lay in the entranceway, just as they do in the original. Beyond these, past the information bureau is a small wooden bridge leading you into Le Grand Rue, and the sim’s shopping mall filled with boutique-style shops that fit the look and feel of the original Mont.

The streets of Mont Saint-Michel and Mont Saint Michel in SL

From here you can choose to either wander the Grand Rue, browsing the boutiques, or you can take one of the many stairways leading further up onto the island and towards the towering edifice of the abbey.  This is one of the joys of the Mont is Second Life – it is a charming warren of walkways and passages that – as with the actual Mont – make exploring it full of anticipation: what lies under the next arch, at the top of the next stairway, around the next stone-walled corner? As you wander, you can peek through windows into the homes of the “locals” (none of the houses are actually occupied, but the detail again adds to the charm and realism of the place), or pause for a breather along the way at one of the many vantage-points and simply enjoy the view.

The sea walls

The monastery itself is beautifully reproduced in some detail, from the stepped entranceway through to the high cloister and its covered walkways and garden, suitable for quiet contemplation. The interior captures the magnificence of a medieval abbey, and one can almost imagine the monks chanting prayer, or quietly going about their business, conversing in hushed tones as they walk around the cloister. I have to admit that the mood for me was heightened as I was listening to Christopher Franke’s The Celestine Prophecy while exploring – but even without it, it’s hard not to fall into the atmosphere of the place.

Wandering the isle

There are a few things to be wary of: in a couple of places, the build exceeds the sim boundaries, and if you try to follow the outer sea wall all the way around the island, you’re going to find yourself inexplicably bouncing against empty air in a couple of places (and may get bounced right through a wall and down to the sim-edge below). Keep an eye on your bearings, and use the provided covered walkways to avoid this. The Mont was also constructed with the default camera angle in mind. As such, if you use adjusted camera positioning, either through a HUD or Penny Patton’s super Camera Offsets, you may experience the odd camera movement stutter or find your camera swinging unexpectedly through a house wall to give you a view of the interior. This is worth it however, as overall, you get a much more “involved” feel for the place with a decent set of offsets.

Of course, if you are good with navigation, the most immersive way of experiencing the island is through Mouselook – and I really recommend you try; the Mont comes alive in so many ways, and you really do not know what awaits you around the next corner. It is certainly worth keeping to Mouselook when walking around the monastery itself.

Cafe au lait among the rooftops

When you’ve done with your wandering, make sure you seek out the Café Poulard and have a well-deserved rest, either in the café itself, or out on the upper floor balcony with its sea view. It’s also a great place from which to camera around the island and make sure there is nothing you’ve missed in your wanderings, and which might be worth a Mouselook attempt to find when you leave the café.

If there is one thing perhaps missing from the build, it is the opportunity to learn about the history of the real Mont Saint-Michel; the museum is devoid of displays, information plaques are minimal, and so on. This is a shame, as the sim represents a superb place to enthral, educate and promote. Of course, no-one wants to be bashed over the head with facts and figures and historical diatribes, but it would be nice to see some context around the build and its real life counterpart.

Mont Saint-Michel is – to use the superlative yet again – a truly magnificent build. If you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend you do; you will not be disappointed, and you’ll be capturing a slice of history from two worlds in the process.

Cloisters – real and reproduced

Le Grand Rue

Mont Saint Michel

Addendum

When someone says to me, when I mention Mont Saint-Michel, “Did you find the hanger and the spaceship under it?” I tend to think they are trying to tug on my leg in the hope that bells ring. When three people independently raise the same subject (one of whom swears they’ve never read my blog), I get the feeling that either there is something to the comments, or the world is out to get me.

The Edelweiss

Given the second reaction is pretty much my everyday state of being at the moment (you’d be the same if you’d had the same issue with technology this last week, believe me), I opted to go with “there is something to the comments. So off I zoomed to have a nose around. And guess what? There is a hanger hidden under the Mont – although I’m not sure if what is inside is a spaceship or so kind of futuristic aircraft.

The Edelweiss sits in a bunker under the Mont, apparently fuelled and ready for flight (although you don’t appear to be able to board her), lit from above by powerful spotlights.

It’s a strange thing to have under an abbey atop a small islet, and certainly well-hidden from casual eyes; had I not received three separate prompts on the matter, I’d have remained in ignorance of it being there. But it does raise an interesting question…given the accuracy of the rest of the build…is there yet something extraordinary to be found under the crypts of the real Mont Saint-Michel? Could it be that those 11th and 12th century monks who built the original abbey actually knew more than they were letting on?! The mind boggles! ;-).

That said, I’m not telling you where it is. Go and find it for yourself! ;).

Related Links