Mesh deformer: interview with Qarl Fizz

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Wednesday June 20th was Mesh Day at SL9B, and featured speakers and presentations on the subject of – you guessed it – mesh. The day saw the auditorium area swamped with people anxious to hear all the news and join in with practical discussions (for future SLB events, it might be worthwhile putting the auditorium at the junction of adjoining regions if hot topics are to be featured as a part of events).

One of the discussions taking place featured Karl Stiefvater, aka Qarl Fizz (formerly Linden). Qarl is the man most closely associated with the mesh parametric deformer project and who was, while working for Linden Lab, both behind the sculpty and a member of the Lab’s early mesh team. He was talking with Saffia Widdershins and taking questions from the audience.

The following is a transcript of the discussion between Saffia and Qarl, which covered the deformer and a few other things as well. It is taken from an audio recording I made and includes questions from the audience given in open chat during the course of the talk and which are addressed by Qarl. Please note that I unfortunately had issues actually hearing / recording Saffia’s audio feed (depite efforts my end, her voice was extremely faint both on SL Voice and in the recording), and I’ve had to edit out those comments I could not clearly discern (my apologies, Saffia!).

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Saffia Widdershins (SW): I would like to introduce to you to Qarl Fizz, who many of you will remember as Qarl Linden. When Qarl was working at Linden Lab, he introduced very innovative tools and was working on mesh, I believe before you left the Lab, weren’t you?

Qarl Fizz (QF): I was on the mesh team.

SW: So when mesh came in … I’m not sure that the Lab actually expected mesh to be put to all the uses that the creators in Second Life probably put mesh to.

Qarl’s familiar prim mannequin at SL9B, where he discussed the mesh deformer

QF: I would say that the Lab was not expecting the clothing at all. I think some of the people in the mesh beta group had warned that clothing would be huge, but they didn’t see it coming, no. So it caught them by surprise. They thought houses, and you know, cars … well, the developers are all boys so, you know (laughs).

SW: And the next thing of course is that people say is, “It doesn’t work. The clothes don’t fit. We can’t get the clothes to fit” – and I can see the Lab going, “We didn’t actually mean it…” “I don’t care! Clothes don’t fit! Fix it!”

QF: Right, right, right, right, right. That’s exactly what I saw happen. Yeah, because mesh is traditionally – honestly, this isn’t a problem that shows-up in computer graphics often. It’s only in the setting of avatars and people customising their avatars and that doesn’t happen a lot in 3D. So I can forgive them for not seeing that coming. Although Blue Mars had faced the same problem so, you know, they could have learned something there.

SW: I think that quite often the Lab do seem to under-estimate the creativity of the residents … the whole OpenSpace thing was an example of that: you give people scripts and you give them homesteads and what do they do? They build! So, anyway – there was a problem; the mesh clothing has a problem with fitting. Could you explain, first of all, why it has a problem fitting? I mean if I wear a system skirt or a system blouse they fit whether my boobs are out to Christmas or not or if I change my height; my system blouse and my system skirt are going to fit. Why doesn’t mesh?

QF: Well, the system skirt and the system clothes are a part of your avatar, so when you change your avatar, they change as well; they were built-in. But The other mesh stuff that you build – like even you know, when you build with prims [because] it’s not just meshes – when you’ve made a prim skirt, you would have to readjust its size to make it fit. And that’s because these things are rigid; they are imagined to be rigid and other things can move inside and outside of them. That’s the way Linden Lab expected them to behave. So the problem is that you put on a blouse that’s meant for a small person, and you dial-up your sliders and your skin just comes through the blouse, because the blouse is a rigid shape and it doesn’t change when your avatar changes shape, and ideally you would want it to.

SW: If I get a prim skirt, say, and it doesn’t quite fit me, generally I can play with it to get it to fit. Sometimes – not always – I can move it in and out, I can change things around. But when I get mesh, I can’t change it at all; that’s the deal….

QF: That’s true to. But … a prim skirt is a very simple thing, and these mesh clothing items that we’re getting are very complex and they fit tightly in places and, you know, standard scaling would not have been enough to get the clothes to fit, so something needed to be done.

SW: And that came up, I believe, in quite a casual conversation … where you suggested something could be done.

QF: Yeah. Maxwell Graf was a developer for Blue Mars and he was making mesh clothes over there, and he saw – before Linden Lab even had mesh – he saw this clothing fitting problem, and he worked together with their developers – and I guess a bunch of people did,  I don’t want to short-change anybody – to develop a system that would work. And the system he developed he tried to get Linden Lab to pick-up as well, and they were less interested in doing that. So I mentioned, “Hey! Linden Lab doesn’t have to do it. We, the residents can take these things into our own hands.” And that’s how the project was launched.

Blue Mars users faced similar issues with mesh clothing

SW: We’re developing a habit of taking over projects for ourselves – like this birthday!

QF: And honestly, when we do, it tends to work-out pretty well. So maybe that’s a signal…

SW:  So the project was set-up and the money was raised really quickly…

Funding raised through Indiegogo (organised by Max Graf)

QF: Yeah, it was like a week or so, so that was nice; you know, the community was very, very strongly interested – which we kind-of knew from the JIRA, from the comments – but when people put their money where their mouth is, I think it speaks more loudly … Yeah, we got the money, we got the funding, we did the development, and it works pretty well …

Sunshine Spiritweaver (asking from the audience): So now we can resize the mesh clothes?

SW: OK, good question. What does this mean? How does it work?

QF: What happens is your mesh clothing is treated very much like the system skirt or your blouse or your system clothing. As you change your own avatar’s shape, like you make yourself fatter or taller or more muscular, the clothing will – “deform” is the the technical term – will deform with that shape so that it remains fitting. It’ll get bigger where you’re getting bigger and it’ll get smaller where you’re getting smaller. And you know, it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t work for everything, but it works OK. It works pretty well, you know – and its a lot better than nothing. So if you fire it up  – I think Linden Lab has a Viewer you can download and test – as you change your avatar parameters you’ll see your clothes change along with your body, you know, your clothes get bigger.