SL project updates 2017-7/2: Content Creation User Group w/audio + HTTP assets

The Content Creation User Group has re-formed out of the Bento User Group, and is held at the Hippotropolis Camp Fire Circle. Imp costumes entirely optional :D .
The Content Creation User Group has re-formed out of the Bento User Group, and is held at the Hippotropolis Camp Fire Circle. Imp costumes entirely optional 😀 .

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group meeting, held on  Thursday February 16th, 2017 at 1:00pm SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle. The meeting is chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, etc, are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Core Topics

  • HTTP asset fetching
  • Potential project: animated objects

HTTP Asset Fetching

In 2013 / 2014, the Lab made a huge change to how avatar appearance information and texture and mesh assets are delivered to users, shifting them away from UDP (User Datagram Protocol) delivery through the simulators, to HTTP via Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) – see my past reports on the HTTP updates. and CDN work.

As was indicated at several TPV Developer meetings recently (see here for an example), the Lab has been looking to move more asset types for delivery over the CDN, and this work has now started, with a focus on animations and sounds. This should see improvements in both the speed and reliability of assets, which should be particularly beneficial to animations.

The work is in the early stages, and progress will be tracked through my SL project updates.

Potential Project: Animated Objects

A topic of common conversation at various user group meetings is that of animated objects – e.g. objects which can be animated but which are not necessarily part of the base avatar mesh, and / or things like non-player characters (NPCs).

Decent NPC a possible future project? Lab wants feedback on use-cases for animation objects
Decent NPC a possible future project? Lab wants feedback on use-cases for animation objects

While it is still very speculative, the Lab is considering how this might be done and what sort of applications people would use such a capability for. One idea has already been extensively documented – “created agents”, which are avatars which do not necessarily have a connection to a viewer in order to operate – see feature request BUG-11368.

The main aim would be to use the same base avatar skeleton for this work, as well as it being compatible with existing rigged objects, rather than introducing something like custom skeletons (seen as a much bigger project). A lot would also depend up things like performance impact (if the simulator is operating a certain volume of NPCs or ridable objects, for example, then these could impact on resources which might otherwise be used by avatars, etc).

One potential way of achieving desired results would be to animate rigged meshes using the avatar skeleton, but without necessarily having the actual avatar base mesh underpinning it. For example, when we use a mesh body for our avatars, we use the base avatar, but hide it with an alpha mask, with the avatar skeleton animating the worn mesh. With an animated object utilising the skeleton, there is no real need to have the underpinning base avatar, as it would in theory never be seen.

One issue is that many mesh models are multiple parts, therefore some means would be required to control them, and this could be lost without the base avatar, together with the ability to attach static objects to something like an NPC. Hence the idea put forward in BUG-11368; the “created agent” would effectively be a special object class, providing the means for multiple animated meshes to operate in concert.

It is unlikely that the bone limit for a given object would be raised to accommodate animated objects, as this is pretty much a limit imposed by people’s graphics cards. During testing, the Lab found that if too many joints are defined for a single object, some graphics cards are unable to render the object correctly. This impact has actually already been seen with some Bento content (FIRE-20763).

Other aspects which would have to be considered are things like Land Impact. Avatars don’t have a land impact, but that may have to change in the case of animated, avatar-like objects – again, seen the performance concerns above. There are also some concerns over possible griefing vectors.

Performance-wise a potential benefit would be animated objects would not require alpha swapping, which requires a fairly hefty performance hit – but this could be countered to a degree (and depending on where you are and how animated objects are used) but the volume of animated objects around you.

Right now the idea is still being discussed internally at the Lab – there is no defined project. However, if you have views on things, attending the Content Creation meetings would be a good place to get them heard.

Other Items

Applying Baked Textures to Mesh Avatars

Still under consideration is a project to allow baked textures to be applied directly to mesh avatars (see here for more). This is still under consideration, but has yet to be formally adopted by the Lab as a project.

Modelling for Efficient Rendering

The subject of efficiency and LODs was the focus of an extended conversation. As I reported in my last Content Creation UG meeting report, Medhue Simoni has been producing a series on the use of Level of Detail (LOD) to help with generating rendering efficient models in Second Life. All three parts of the series are now available on his YouTube channel, and he and I will be discussing them in this blog in the very near future.