If you take the Trooble to visit Amazon…

amazon-6The Lab launched its latest Amazon offering to US residents on Friday April 12th: Trooble Pigs. The accompanying blog post gushes:

We’re happy to announce a new special offer for Second Life on Amazon – a pack of virtual pets!

The Troobles have arrived and are squeaking with excitement to be the stars of our third limited-time, special promotion on Amazon. From now to April 24, 2013, you can get the Pet Pack – The Troobles (a $9.95 value) for free.

The Pet Pack includes an adorable family of Trooble Pigs including Daddy, Mommy, baby sister, and baby brother. Each Trooble has their very own fashion accessories and special talents. Mommy Trooble offers customized greetings to your visitors, Daddy Trooble can go into guard mode and teleport trespassers, and the babies are always up for a cuddle.

This is the latest of “premium packs” and “special offers” being supplied to SL users  / Amazon customers located in the USA through Amazon’s online game service, presumably as a means of promoting Second Life to the latter – something which didn’t exactly start off overly well when the original offer backfired and resulted in much amusement. Well, for me it did.

I’ve actually nothing against the Lab trying to reach out to new audiences and build new, engaged users. Rather the reverse; I believe it is more important they do so than it is for them to cut tier. As I’ve previously pointed out, tier cuts (for the foreseeable future) are liable to do more harm than good, whereas building an engaged user base can only be for SL’s betterment.

However, what I do feel – and continue to feel – is that offers like this tend to miss the point, and that if the Lab really is after attracting new users from the masses who use Amazon (even if only those located in the USA), then there is fair more they could do in which to make SL appear attractive and worth the investment.

As it is, the virtual pet / fashion accessory pigs are here and will remain “free” until Tuesday, April 24, after which they’ll presumably continue to be offer at $9.95. So if you’re of a mind and in the USA, you can hop over there and pick them up – dare I say – with no trooble at all.

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SL project updates week 15 (2): Materials, AO capabilities and group bans

Server Deployments Week 15

  • As reported in the first part of this week’s update, there was no Main channel deployment on Tuesday April 9th, the result of issues arising with the previous week’s RC deployments, which LL wanted to fix rather than having them propagate across the grid
  • Magnum retained the same package as week 14 (Monty Linden’s next batch of HTTP updates) and a fix for a crash mode
  • Continuing issues in getting the anticipated updates for the BlueSteel and LeTigre deployment packages ready meant that on Wednesdays April 10th meant that these two channels received the same package as the Magnum RC channel.

The switch-out with the Magnum code being deployed to BlueSteel and LeTigre meant that those regions “lost” the new LSL Animation Override capabilities – existing scripts using the capabilities will still run, but new scripts using the functions cannot be compiled.

Materials Processing

Viewer Update and Documentation

Discussing the materials project at the Open-source Development meeting on Wednesday, April 10th, Oz Linden indicated that an updated version of the project viewer should be available shortly – possibly by the end of the week, as  “lots of fixes are accumulating”. In the meantime, a mixture of Linden Moles and volunteer users are working on materials-focused updates to go into the Good Building Practices guide to help other users get to grips with materials processing and optimising things for SL use. In the meantime, the Materials Data information on the SL wiki continues to be updated.

As pointed out by Mona Eberhardt in the comments relating to materials in this blog, Laverne Donat has produced a very tidy and short demonstration of materials in SL, which I’m including here.

Alphas, Transparency and Costs

Laverne also asked, via Plurk, if and how a specular map can have transparency with the materials processing, before going on to comment (via my blog) that, “After some testing, it seems that you can get specularity with diffuse maps with alpha masking, but not with diffuse maps with alpha blending. I don’t know what the intended behaviour is, but that’s how it works at present.”

This prompted Geenz Spad to reply, “The intended behavior (eventually) is that alpha blended objects will be able to support both normal mapping and specular mapping. Currently this is a work in progress, and due to its current state, it hasn’t been added to the viewer just yet.”

As Alpha Blending is currently the Alpha Mode which is unaffected by the materials / LI accounting situation which has been reported by Qie Niangao, I asked Geenz if Alpha Blending was liable to “trip over” into the LI accounting system, rather than being “grandfathered” (as currently appears to be the case). He further clarified the situation by replying, “Only if you use other material parameters (such as specular mapping, normal mapping, etc.). The only reason why we didn’t add support for shiny on all semi-transparent surfaces, is because it would break content.”

Future Development

In terms of future development, it is unlikely that anything will be happening soon, other than enhancements / fixes for what is currently in the project viewer. While there is a roadmap for future features and additions to the materials system, the Lab is wisely not commenting on plans and direction at this time. Rather, they prefer to see what the overall take-up with the new system is over time and how people start using it (which may in turn affect how and what the Lab decides to do with regards to a “materials round 2”). However, one thing which does appear to be clear is that there are no plans within the current roadmap to extend materials processing to include avatar skins and clothing layers.

AO Capabilities Update

New server-side AO capabilities: udpates delayed until week 16
New server-side AO capabilities: updates delayed until week 16

Although it did not get deployed in week 15 (but should see the light of day in week 16, commencing Monday, April 15th), the update to the new AO capabilities which should have reached BlueSteel and LeTigre is intended improve compatibility between the new animation override system and other scripted objects that animate avatars (such as poseballs). The update was developed as a result of Code Violet raising a JIRA (BUG-2164) pointing out that the new capabilities did not “play nicely” with things like sit animations in poseballs / furniture.

Maestro Linden, speaking at the Best Server meeting on Thursday, April 11th, described the situation thus:

If a user had a custom ‘sit’ animation set, the seat wouldn’t be able to stop the animation properly because if the seat called llGetAnimationOverride(“Sitting”), it would get an empty string unless the exact animation also happened to be in the seat’s inventory. Kelly has a nice solution to this problem, which is to make ‘llStopAnimation(“sit”)’ stop your custom animation, if you had overridden your sit animation. Conveniently, this change means that existing poseballs won’t need any updates to play nicely with the new AO system.

The Beta Server meeting saw some discussion on the new AO capabilities, which enabled Maestro and Kelly Linden to offer further clarifications.

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