Mesh clothes: a way forward?

Mesh is here, as we know, and not entirely without problems. I, and many others, have commented on the fact that is it not easy to adjust mesh clothing to sizes that ideally fit individual avatars. Maxwell Graf was well aware of this problem, and put forward a solution via JIRA SH-2374 back in July, proposing the use of a parametric deformer.

Downgraded

As I reported on the 27th of last month, the JIRA was downgraded in status to Someday / Maybe – which came as a blow to a lot of people.

To be sure, Max’s solution was by no means easy in terms of coding – as he has always been the first to admit – the algorithms required to make the system work as presented would require considerable changes within the Viewer itself; and this clearly involves a cost element. As the current take-up of Mesh within SL is relatively low right now, that cost element, it would seem, is something the LL find hard to justify at this point in time, given what else they can potentially achieve elsewhere for effectively the same cost.

Nor, if I’m to be totally honest, did LL ever commit to making mesh suitable for all market opportunities – something I commented upon way back. Nevertheless, the fashion market in Sl is big, and LL cannot be unaware of this fact (they did host Fashion Expert Days last month) – so one might have thought they’d be aware of pressure to provide a means of clothing resizing for the advent of mesh – or at least to be prepared to be honest on the limitations.

In this regard, it has to be said that Linden Lab didn’t help themselves in the matter at all. Even after the initial roll-out,Linden staff were talking – albeit cautiously – about the limitations of mesh as a clothing medium and about Maxwell Graf’s idea  – and the appearance was that things were being earnestly looked at. Then the JIRA was downgraded without any commentary whatsoever from the Lab, leading to upset and consternation – a situation that was the same right up until yesterday, when Charlar finally commented on the JIRA thus:

“Hi everybody,

First, because we’ve wrapped the Mesh release 2 project, we’re moving items into other backlogs. We don’t have any subsequent dedicated mesh project planned so all remaining items, including this one, will end up on our general viewer or the server backlogs.

“This does not mean anything as extreme as some residents have assumed. The fact that the backlog is called “someday/maybe” means that it’s something we want to do, but can’t commit to a timeframe yet.

“We did some investigation into the problem that Maxwell’s solution attempts to solve. We’re doing some more research and prototyping, trying to find a solution that might be faster/easier to implement. We have Top People on it…

“…I can’t promise anything – we might come back and say ‘no’, we might say ‘yes, but later’ and we might say ‘here’s what we doing’. We might say something i haven’t thought of yet.”

It’s not the most positive of statements, but at least it demonstrates that this issue is possibly not a dead horse. Why then, couldn’t the message be communicated earlier? Even a simple, “This is the situation, we’re thinking it through and will get back to you one way or another”, would have been preferable to what appeared to be an attempt to simply ignore the JIRA before quietly moving it to an inert status.

(On a wider front, I’m looking at Charlar’s comment as meaning the “non-trivial” Mesh update he mentioned at SLCC 2011 is now going to be delayed  / scrapped given he states: “We don’t have any subsequent dedicated mesh project planned“.)

Alternative

However, it now seems that matters are moving on through other means. When Hamlet Au reported on the downgrade on the 30th September, Karl Stiefvater, formerly known as Qarl Linden, dropped a comment into the feedback that at first appeared a little tongue-in-cheek:

“Anyone wanna fund an ex-linden to do it?”

Maxwell Graf, unsurprisingly, given his involvement in the issue, has taken Karl up on this offer. As reported in PrimPerfect today, Max has set up a project to enable Karl to develop an alternative solution for the issue of resizing mesh clothing in SL. Max explains it thus:

“I have established a fund on the website http://www.indiegogo.com [a leading international funding platform] for this project. You can go there and read about the project and use the secure transaction methods to contribute to hiring Karl to do this project. Our goal is US$5400.00, $5000 of which will go to Karl, and $400 of which will be used to pay for the project and website fees. No amount of donated funds will be for my personal profit or use.

“The direct link to the project fund site is here: http://www.indiegogo.com/Mesh-Clothing-Parametric-Deformer-Project

“There is no fixed amount for donations – contribute what you can. That’s the beauty of a project like this. Small amounts add up!”

The project has 61 days in which to raise the $5400 in order for it to happen. This is a not inconceivable amount, although the question will inevitably be asked “What will it give us?” Max doesn’t shirk on the answer:

“To be clear, this will not solve every problem with mesh clothing. It will not create a layered hierarchy system of deformers as mentioned in the JIRA. Once the work is done, mesh clothing will not suddenly work perfectly for you, or work in the official LL viewers (unless they put the code in).”

What the project will potentially give is:

  • A working version of a single mesh deformer in the Snowstorm open source client
  • The ability for mesh clothing items to adjust automatically to fit an avatar’s size and shape without the need to use alpha layers to hide body parts
  • Less complexity of sizing considerations for clothing designers (no alpha maps, rigged adjustment, multiple sizes, etc.).

The finished code, presented as a part of the Snowstorm project, will be available to any third-party Viewer developer / team wishing to adopt it – and will obviously be available for Linden Lab, should they fail to define  / agree upon their own alternative to the original deformer suggested by Max.

Karl, as Qarl, is no stranger to mesh in SL – he developed much of the original code prior to departing Linden Lab, and he was responsible for the sculpted prim. As such, he is ideally suited to developing the code in question.

Not Ideal

This is not an ideal solution – again as Max clearly states. It doesn’t solve problems relating to modifying mesh clothing, etc. It does, however, overcome the immediate issue of fitting mesh clothing by default and it does – and pointed out above – reduce the overall complexity of mesh product creation for clothing makers.And at this point in time, many are of the opinion that something is far more preferable to the “nothing” Linden Lab may yet opt for.

Even so, there are questions that will be asked about the project as it stands – perhaps the biggest being, “What if Linden Lab do in fact come back with a solution of their own in Charlar’s promised two week(ish) time frame?” Will this project press ahead? Will it be cancelled? What of the money raised to date if that happens?

Clearly part of the answer to all of these questions will depend on precisely how effective any alternative presented by Linden Lab is, and the timeframe they assign for its implementation. As such, it is possible that some who might otherwise fund this project may await further feedback from Linden Lab, through Charlar or otherwise – and given the overall funding timeframe for the project, this shouldn’t impact it that badly.

However, given LL’s reticence to address this issue – or even (until yesterday) give direct feedback on concerns – one cannot fault Max or those following his lead for taking this route. Indeed, one could say kudos is due here for taking this particular bull by the horns.

Note: at the time of writing, $705 had been raised for the project. This represents some 13% of the total raised in just 9 hours.

Updates

  • 6th October, 13:30 BST: the project total stands at $2,150 – almost 40% of the required $5,400, raised within 24 hours
  • 7th October, 23:00 BST: the project total stands at $2,728 – just over 50% of the required total, raised in 48 hours
  • 8th October, 23:00 BST: the project total has passed through the $3K barrier
  • 19th October, 19:30 BST: the project stands at $3,787, just over 70% of the required total
  • 20th October, 23:55 BST: the project has broekn through the $4,000 barrier in just 15 days with a total of $4,223, just over 78% of the required total
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11 thoughts on “Mesh clothes: a way forward?

  1. I agree on the communication issue, the label of Someday/Maybe isn’t helpful at all, especially as it doesn’t mean what it implies.

    The other issue will be if Linden Lab develop a competing solution, communication really is key here.

    Like

    1. It’s really about time the Lab’s management took a long, hard look at how and when then communicate with their users. I almost feel like sending Rodvik the essays I wrote eariler this year on the subject, as the company clearly are not learning.

      Like

  2. Thanks for helping to spread the word on this Inara!

    In re. to the funds raised, the indiegogo.com website stipulates in its terms that the donations received for a project cannot and will not be refunded, which is out of our control. Any funds raised for this project will go towards exactly what we state they will. If the total is not received within the time frame, another will be opened and we will keep starting new rounds of funding until the goal is met.

    I would love to see LL develop something on this, but, they have only mentioned that they will begin to look back at this and let us know what they think in 2 weeks, not that they will have a solution or begin working on one within two weeks, or even that they will be willing to do this at all.

    Another consideration is that if they do develop something, it would most likely involve the use of the Havoc APIs, which would leave any possible TPV or open sim development out of the loop, much as the situation with the mesh upload capabilities and the Havoc physics code. In order to have any TPVs capable of mesh uploads, a completely different method must be created, which fragments development into the haves and the have nots. Hopefully, with Qarl as the developer on this, they will agree to implement the code into the official releases. He is the catalyst for this project.

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    1. Max,

      Thanks for coming back to me on the funding situation – I did actually zap through the site, but missed that specific term. It’s good to get the work out on all aspects of things.

      As to LL – I agree fully. Coming back in 2 weeks and saying, “we’re still thinking”, or with anything wishy-washy is going to be pointless. Any response they give must be framed in terms of a reasonably-stated time frame (“We’ll be starting on this in month X, and all being well we’ll have a solution available for testing in month Y” – no matter when X is (next month or next year, or how far apart X and Y are). Doing so is the only open route that the Lab can justifiably take in the circumstances, as it would do much to put this initiate in perspective with a far wider audience, and help people determine their own role in providing funds.

      I’m really pleased to see that Maria Korolov has also blogged on this in Hypergrid Business – as mesh is slowly growing out in OpenSim, and I’m not aware of any similar capability there, this initiative would seem to be ideally suited to meeting needs well beyond Second Life.

      You raise an interesting point on the Havok code issue – given that various TPV devs are looking at implementing mesh upload capabilities using open-source physics tools (I understand the Firestorm team is getting somewhat closer to having a solution in this matter), one assumes there is the potential to overcome physics engine limitations through co-operative engagement with those investigating the upload capability as this project develops.

      Very much looking forward to seeing this project move forward – and of contributing to it wherever I can.

      Like

    1. Well, in fairness, it tends to mean any one of “We don’t have it scheduled / we don’t have the resources at present / we’d like to do it – eventually / if it gets to the top of the backlog, we’ll look at it / don’t hold your breath on this one” – and so on. (take your pick).

      Sadly, history tends to show that many items that go to “Someday / maybe” end up as remaining so – an item on a wish list.

      Like

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