Sunday May 26th saw the SL10BCC regions open to exhibitors and their helpers to start building / dropping in their exhibits. Since that time, the lonely patchworks of grass and water, neatly cut by sidewalks and piers I described in my last update have begun to vanish.
Like flowers bursting into bloom at the first touch of spring sunshine, so new builds have burst forth across the SL10BCC regions. Awesome builds, multi-hued builds, towering builds, quaint builds, charming builds, scary builds.
Everywhere is a hive of activity, as everyone works towards the deadline of June 13th, when the regions will all be closed ready for final testing and to allow the press and blogging community to preview all of the builds and the festivities to mark SL’s 10 birthday.
Well, almost everywhere.
Sitting between the builds are unattended parcels. Sad, forlorn parcels without even a prim to proclaim that they are loved and wanted. Even after a week of frantic building, they remain unclaimed.
Given the volume of applications received for exhibitor space, this cannot be allowed to continue. So the warning is going out far and wide:
If you have received an offer of a plot at SL10BCC and have not yet claimed it, you now have less than 24 hours in which to do so! Plots which remain unclaimed after Sunday June 2nd will be re-allocated!
If you have NOT claimed your parcel, then make sure you do so ASAP, by following these steps (as detailed in the Event Policies):
Asking for an EA (Exhibitor Assistant) in the Second Life Birthday Community group chat (there may be a delay in getting a reply, as the EAs are working as quickly as possible but are busy, so please be patient).
When an EA is available, they will tell you in the group chat to check your IMs.
The EA will IM you. Let them know that you’re ready to proceed.
Accept the group invite to Second Life Birthday Exhibitors group.
Accept the teleport offer.
The EA will give you a slice of birthday cake that contains helpful notecards and other goodies.
The EA will ask for the following: Parcel Name, Parcel Description, Parcel Texture (full-permissions texture), Build Assistants (Maximum of 4), Music Stream URL, Media Stream URL, Deed any objects (A land radio or media player), and Landing Point
NOTE: You can request these at a later time.
The EA will tell you who your Sim Coordinator is.
Set your group tag to Second Life Birthday Exhibitors group.
Rez a prim on your parcel to claim it.
Please, please, please note (10.). If you have gone through the above steps, but have not placed a prim on your parcel, then make sure you do at the earliest opportunity!
Again, parcels which remain unclaimed on Sunday June 2nd may well be allocated to others!
Yesterday, I reported on the SUN-74 issue (Apparent avatar skin and eye texture asset corruption with Server Side Appearance), which can impact users with avatars wearing modifiable skin and/or eyes and/or hairbase who enter (via teleport or crossing a region boundary) an SSB/A-enabled region while using a non-SSB/A enabled viewer (e.g. such as Phoenix or the v1.23.5 viewer) and leave them with a corrupted copy of the worn skin / hairbase or eyes. At the time I noted that the matter was under investigation by Linden Lab, and no decision had been made on how to handle it.
Speaking at the TPV Developer meeting on Friday May 31st, Oz Linden provided an update on the issue and spoke more generally on the issue of the use of olfder (non-SSB/A capable viewers) going forward:
We don’t actually know what’s ultimately going to be done about that; that’s a subject of vigorous discussion that’s going on even as we speak, so we’ll see how that plays out. I think it’s fair to say that regardless of what happens with that particular issue … I will just make the observation that there are still people really, really old viewers [and] there is no way, no way at all, that we could even begin to test for compatibility back with all of those viewers.
As it is, as recently as this last week there were 1,665 different viewer version strings reported as connecting to the main grid (these include 151 versions of Singularity, 50 versions of Phoenix, 262 labelled as Firestorm, and so on). Some of these may be “one offs” self-compiled builds (which may or may not have the most recent updates to support something like SSB/A), but even so, given the overall number of viewer strings, it is understandable why the Lab view attempt to ensure so many different viewer versions were fully compatible with anything on the grid is a next to impossible task.
This does not mean that the Lab is going to ignore SUN-74, right now they are still investigating the problem and trying to reproduce it in a consistent manner (which is apparently proving difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that some older viewers simply crash when attempting to repro the corruption). However, what it does underline is the need for people to upgrade to an SSB/A-enabled version of their preferred viewer sooner rather than later.
The reason for this is that very soon the Lab will start undertaking more widespread testing of the new service by enabling it across a number of regions across the grid. These regions may not necessarily be constrained to any of the usual RC channels, but could well be a mix of regions from all of the various simulator channels, making them harder to identify and avoid. This testing will be to gain greater insight into how the service stands up under “real avatar loads” – something which is impossible to carry out to any great depth on Aditi, as there simply isn’t the volume of users active there.
Once this more widespread testing starts, then it is entirely possible that users who remain on non-SSB/A capable viewers are going to encounter issues and problems beyond seeing grey avatars which the Lab are not going to address, simply because the issues can be resolved by a viewer update.
After recent delays as the code passed through QA, the Materials Processing viewer unexpectedly reached beta release on Friday, May 31st with the release of version 126.96.36.1995764, accompanied by a blog announcement from the Lab.
Materials processing brings normal and specular maps to object surfaces in Second Life (prims, sculpts and mesh – but not avatar skin / clothing layers). The capability has been developed as a collaborative effort between TPV developers (notably from the Exodus, Catznip and Firestorm teams), content creators and Linden Lab.
Note: The following two sections are not intended to be a technical discussion on computer graphics mapping or a detailed analysis of normal & specular maps. It is intended purely as a broad, non-technical of the latter.
Normal Maps in a Nutshell
Normal maps (sometimes referred to as bump maps, although they are more rightly the most common form of bump map) are a means of faking high levels of detail on an otherwise bland surface by means of simulating the bumps and dips that create the detail. Normal maps can be created in several ways.
For example, when working with 3D models, a common method is to make two models of the same object: one a very complex, highly detailed model with a high polygon count, the other a much lower polygon count model with significantly less detail. An overlay process is then used to generate a normal map of the detailed model’s surface features which can be applied to the less complex model, giving it the same appearance as the highly detailed model, but for just a fraction of the polygon count, reducing the amount of intensive processing required to render it.
Another common way to produce a normal map is to generate it directly from a texture file. Most modern 2D and 3D graphics programs provide the means to do this, either directly or through the use of a plug-in (such as the nVidia normal map filter for Photoshop or the GIMP normal map plugin). When combined with diffuse maps, the normal map creates the impression of surface detail far greater than can be achieved through the use of the texture alone.
Specular Maps in a Nutshell
In the real world, every highlight we see in an object is actually the reflection of a light source. Surfaces and surface details reflect light differently to one another, depending on a range of factors (material, lighting source point(s), etc.). Specular maps provide a means of simulating this by allowing individual pixels in an object to have different levels of brightness applied to them, giving the illusion of different levels of light being reflected by different points on the object.
Like normal maps, specular maps can be produced in a number of ways, both within 3D graphics modelling programs and in tools like PhotoShop. As shown above, they can be combined with normal maps and textures to add detail and realism to 3D models and flat surfaces.
Second Life itself already includes a very dynamic example of how materials can be combined to create in-world effects in the form of Linden Water. This is created using an animated normal map to create the wave-like effect for the water, while an animated specular map adds the highlights and reflections. The result is a very realistic simulation of moving water able to catch and reflect sunlight.
Some key points about materials processing:
Effects will currently only be visible when using the Materials Processing beta viewer
In order to be visible in your world view, whether you are creating objects using materials processing OR whether you simply want to see them in-world, you must have the Advanced Lighting Model (previously “Lighting and Shadows” and often referred to as “deferred rendering”) option in Preferences > Graphics enabled
Note that this does not mean you also have to enable shadows themselves – you can leave the drop-down set to None and still see materials in use in-world, thus minimising any impact on your frame rates
The Lab has done a lot of work on the rendering pipeline to improve performance; as such, if you’ve not run with the Advanced Lighting Model / deferred rendering enabled on your computer due to previous performance issues you might find you can now enable Advanced Lighting Model in your viewer without experiencing a dramatic loss of frame rates
When creating objects which use materials processing, note that they will automatically move to the “mesh” accounting system for land impact, which can affect the impact value assigned objects and models
Materials capabilities do not work when under Linden water.
I recently previewed Sniper Siemen’s new LEA exhibit, Da Vinci’s World. If you’ve not already visited, I really do urge you to do so: the exhibit runs through until the 21st July and is a fabulous piece.
In the meantime, I put together a little video from snaps I took when preparing my original article – please hit the YouTube cogwheel and up the quality to 720p for best results.