Once more down The Well in Second Life

The Well: Ultimum

After a two-year absence, Loki Eliot’s The Well has returned to Second Life for the Haunted Season. This is the fourth instalment of hat had been intended to be a 3-part series, as Loki explains, ” I thought that, with The Well Infirmos, that was it with regards to The Well. But here we are again with a 4th and this time (I promise) final chapter!”

The Well The Well first appeared in 2012, offering a horror themed mystery adventure centred on attempts to rescue a little boy who had fallen down an old well and into the labyrinth of tunnels and caverns which lay beneath it. In 2013, he followed this with The Well: Sollicitus (see here for more). There then followed a two-year break before the aforementioned The Well Infirmos appeared in 2015 (see here for more).

The Well: Ultimum

With each iteration, Loki has expanded The Well to incorporate various capabilities which were, at the time, either new to Second life (such as materials and Experience Keys), or new to Loki. The latest instalment continues this tradition, Loki having used  photogrammetry to help him develop the build:

I went out into real woods and took photo surveys of muddy pathways. These were then used to create 3D models of the woods which I then used in The Wells woodland scenes in the hope of adding realism to the spooky atmosphere.

Having spent well over an hour within the latest instalment in the series, I can say the Loki’s efforts in modelling this way were well worth it. His woodlands look and feel “real”, and are about as confusing as walking at night through a dense woodland can be.

The Well: Ultimum

So, what is The Well: Ultimum all about? To start with, it is something of a prequel to the other instalments, the story focusing on a young boy (the one from the original 2012 instalment?). He perhaps doesn’t live in the happiest of households, as we learn through his diary. It’s a place where strange activities take place, and even the youngster himself seems to be drawn to the dark things that may be creeping through the woods – and to the mysterious well of the title, which he sees as a maw waiting to devour people, spurring him to wonder what it might be like to be eaten alive…

Those who have played previous instalments of The Well will recognise the basic format: read the information regarding viewer settings, join the game experience (if you’ve previously played The Well Infirmos and have not revoked permissions, you’ll already have the Experience permissions enabled), pay a fee (L$200) to gain the game HUD (which will attach to the bottom of your screen and needs to remain attached through your visit), then read the instructions which are initially displayed on your screen once the HUD is attached.

The Well: Ultimum

I don’t want to give too much away as to what you’ll find / encounter along the way. Suffice it to say, the game is interactive – there are items scattered around  the various locations you must stand near – or avoid.

Those you must stand near are located in the first two locations in the game  – the boy’s bedroom and the woodlands outside his home. They are signified by rising orange particles, and when close to them, an orange-on-black information icon is display on the game HUD – clicking it will display instructions or a page from the boy’s diary. Returning to any of these information points will display the Information icon as yellow-on-black, indicating you have previously read it.

There is one piece of information you must obtain before you can leave the boy’s bedroom, while the woodlands have multiple information points scattered through it, although the goal is to reach the titular well. It’s worth spending a little time in the woods to make sure find most or all of the information points. There are also additional interactive points in both the bedroom and woods, which give insight into the boy’s interests.

The Well: Ultimum

The well itself drops you into a labyrinth of tunnels. It is here that the SANITY bar in the HUD comes into play, as you are warned on arrival Do Not Touch The Shadows. These are blood-red apparitions which will appear and attempt to touch you (so don’t stand still for too long!). If they do, you’ll find your sanity slipping away. There are other things in the tunnels which can drain your sanity – but oddly, they can also give rewards!

As with the woods, the aim is to find your way through the tunnels to where another portal lies. This leads you on to – well, I’ll let you find that out on your own.

The Well: Ultimum – for those from England, there are some Easter eggs to be found: poetry by Robert Duncan and an appearance by Michael Parkinson (above). “He’s a throw back to when I was a kid watching Ghost Watch,” Loki said. “It was one of the first ever reality TV shows. The fact Parkinson was presenting it convinced many it was all true.”

The Well: Ultimum is as enjoyable as the previous instalments of The Well, and well worth the L$200 HUD price to play – although I’d recommend giving yourself at least an hour to do so, particularly as this really is the last instalment in the series.

“Next year will be even more terrifying with Animesh!” Loki informed me as we chatted about the adventure. “But I think I’ve done enough with wells. It will be something new!”

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SL project updates 43/2: Content Creation User Group

A rally of (Animesh) raptors on Aditi!

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group meeting, held on  Thursday, October 26th, 2017 at 13:00 SLT. For the purposes of Animesh testing, the meetings have relocated to the Animesh4 region on Aditi, the beta grid – look for the seating area towards the middle of the region. The meeting is chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Audio extracts are provided to provide additional content. Note that some of the audio extracts have been gathered from various points in the meeting and presented here as a concatenated whole by subject heading for ease of reference.

Animesh (Animated Mesh)

“I like the name ‘animated objects’ because I think it’s unambiguous, but it takes a long time to type!” – Vir Linden joking about the name “Animesh”.

Project Summary

The goal of this project is to provide a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features via scripted animation. It involves both viewer and server-side changes.

In short, an Animesh object:

  • Can be any object (generally rigged / skinned mesh) which and contains the necessary animations and controlling scripts in its own inventory  (Contents tab of the Build floater) required for it to animate itself.
  • Can be a single mesh object or a linkset of objects (link them first, then set them to Animated Mesh via the Build floater > Features).
  • Has been flagged as and Animesh object in the project viewer, and so has an avatar skeleton associated with it.
  • Can use many existing animations.

However Animated objects will not (initially):

  • Have an avatar shape associated with them
  • Make use of an avatar-like inventory (although individual parts can contain their own inventory such as animations and scripts)
  • Make use of the server-side locomotion graph for walking, etc., and so will not use an AO
  • Use the avatar baking service
  • Will not support its own attachments in the initial release.

These are considered options for follow-on work, possibly starting with the notion of a body shape (to help with more fully-formed NPCs).

General Status

  • The project viewer is now available, and testing can be carried out on  5 regions (4 Moderate + 1 Adult) on Aditi: Animesh1, Animesh2, Animesh3, Animesh4 and Animesh Adult.
  • Feedback can be offered through the Animesh forum thread, while specific issues, bugs, and / or feature requests related to the project should be made via JIRA.
  • A filter for raised JIRA reports is available.

Root Prim Object

There have been a number of requests to allow Animesh objects to have a non-rigged mesh (e.g. a prim) as the root object. Vir has been working to make this possible. He’s also looking at the issue of non-rigged mesh links in an Animesh object becoming invisible when the Animesh flag is set.

Limits

As has been mentioned numerous times in these updates, Animesh will have some constraints / limits placed upon it in the interests of the capability not unduly impacting performance. For the purposes of test, these have been set at 200LI and a maximum of 20K tri maximum per Animesh object, and only one Animesh can be attached to an avatar at a time. As data is gathered on performance, etc., it is hoped these can be relaxed; however, some creators are requesting limits such as the tri count be raised sooner rather than later. Vir, understandably, would rather wait until more data has been gathered, rather than randomly changing constraints.

There has been a proposal for an alternative method of account put forward with regards to Animesh – BUG-139203.  Vir also reiterated the likelihood that the Animesh limits, once finalised, will have a smaller emphasis on constants such as land impact or the cost of having one attached, and a greater emphasis on the complexity of the Animesh itself (tri count).

Linksets / Permissions Issues

See also Piscine Mackenzie’s forum post on this.

As currently defined, Animesh does not allow for any avatar-like attachment  / detachment of objects (e.g., allowing a pet cat to wear a hat sometimes); the approach is more along the lines that everything that is intended to form the Animesh is attached as the time to object (/linkset) is flagged as Animesh.

This is because adding an avatar-like means of supporting attaching / detaching objects was seen as too high an overhead in terms of development time frames and complexity – although it is not entirely ruled out as a possible future capability.

In the meantime, scripted means to attach / detach items from an Animesh object is possible, but this requires the base Animesh to be modifiable. As detailed in Piscine’s post, and highlighted in the following post from Medhue Simoni, this opens the door to potential exploits / threat vectors (e.g. compromising a supporting ecosystem for pets / breedables to the potential for launching DDOS attacks against the external servers managing pets and breedables).

Vir recognises the issue, and has stated he’ll look into the in more detail. One possible solution has been suggested via feature request BUG-139168, and a possible scripted workaround has also been suggested – although it potentially has its own problems.

An offshoot of this is that it could lead to people including multiple accessories within the Animesh linkset. The problems here being a) doing so would immediately require much higher tri counts per object even after the current 20K limit is raised; b) it will require alpha swapping to hide / reveal different accessories, creating performance hits; c) it will limit the ability for new accessories to be easily added to creations.

Sitting Animesh Objects

Will it be easy to have Animesh sit on other objects (e.g. to have Animesh “mannequins” which could be used with demos of furniture so couples poses could be checked by just one person, etc)? Short answer: not easily. Sitting on objects is avatar-specific, which, among other things, involves re-parenting the avatar to the object it is sitting on, and there is no means to replicate this when trying to “sit” an Animesh (which the server sees and just another in-world object) on another object.

In Brief

  • Lack of Shadows with Animesh objects: this is a know bug, thought to reside within the rendering pipeline, which has yet to be tracked down.
  • Dropping mesh: as noted in my previous CCUG update, by default, mesh attachments cannot be dropped in-world. This means that the only way to currently “pick up” and “put down” an Animesh pet which can roam in-world / be held, is via inventory. Vir has been looking at this, and it is not any easy fix, requiring server-side work (including with physics handling to ensure things land correctly – such as pet on its feet rather than on its side / head) which may preclude it being dealt within the immediate future.


Medhue examines Animesh. Via Medhue Simoni

Bakes on Mesh

Project Summary

Extending the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves server-side changes, including updating the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures, and may in time lead to a reduction in the complexity of mesh avatar bodies and heads. The project is in two phases:

  • The current work to update the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures.
  • An intended follow-on project to actually support baking textures onto mesh surfaces. This has yet to fully defined in terms of implementation and when it might be slotted into SL development time frames.

This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing baking service.

Current Progress

Load testing with the updated server using 1024×1024 textures is in progress. The next phase is liable to be comparing the load test data with that of an existing baking server using 512×512 textures.

Bakes on Mesh and Animesh

Because of the complexities involved with Bakes on Mesh, it is not seen as a dependency for Animesh, as doing so would greatly extended the time frame for delivering Animesh. The Lab would rather implement both incrementally, rather than try to run everything into one huge project.

Environment Enhancement Project (EEP)

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements, including the ability to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds) at the parcel level; a new environment asset type that can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others; scripted, experience-based environment functions, an extended day cycle and extended environmental parameters. This work involves both a viewer updates (with a project viewer coming soon) and server-side updates.

Current Status

No major change from my previous work. Rider has been working on a simhost issue unrelated to EEP for much of the time.

Final Notes

  • Those requiring access to the JIRA to comment on files issues / request, can send an e-mail request to LetMeIn-at-LindenLab.com.
  • There is no CCUG meeting on Thursday, November 2nd, 2017. The next meeting will be Thursday, November 9th.

 

Dementophilia in Second Life

The Vordun: Dementophilia

“We are chased by evil throughout our lives.” Federico Sosa (TheBDKX) states in introducing Dementophilia, his new exhibition at The Vordun Museum and Gallery. “Devils we try to hide, and slowly eat us up from inside, draining our strength. The worst of all evils. Ourselves.”

Dementophilia is described as “an abnormal, obsessive attraction towards insanity, and it is the perfect title for this exhibition. Located in the rear hall of The Vordun, it features eight paintings and eight sculptures, together with a large central mixed 2D and 3D element – the Vortex. Together they personify the darker imaginings from the depths of the mind

The Vordun: Dementophilia

The eight images and eight statues are paired, the statues physical manifestations of the paintings, brought forth by the vortex bursting forth from the rear wall of the hall. Each painting / statue represents a creature – or is that an elemental aspect, a beast if you will, of our psyche? In addition, each painting is partnered with a description of the demon it represents:  Enktrik, Zatrunnya, Beltaka, Fenniaq; Nelikaw, Trezykoy, Melkyze, Yiennak; each description reads as the writings of an unsettled mind – and what mind wouldn’t be unsettled seeing creatures such as these rising from the subconscious.

Thus, entering the hall is akin to entering those thoughts beneath our reasoned consciousness; a place where our personal devils reside; parts of our being alien and terrible – yet playing a vital role in forming our personality, again as Federico notes: “Locked inside, they can heal our wounds. Out in the open they reign. Beasts from within. Beasts of love and Pain. Beasts that are on the loose, fighting against the external consciousness.”

The Vordun: Dementophilia

Within this exhibition, these beasts have been named, their nature understood, suggesting their keeper is long familiar with them. Their presence speaks to that battle with an “external” consciousness, a mind acutely aware of their existence. A mind willing to make them manifest – or, perhaps, a mind succumbing to their dominance. It is down to us to decide which.

Dementophilia is intriguing in both its concept and interpretation. As manifestations of darker thoughts and desires, they capture the unreality of the subconscious. As pieces of art, they offer an abstract hint of demons from the realms of Hieronymous Bosch.

The Vordun: Dementophilia

I did find myself wondering how much deeper the impact of the exhibit might be if presented in a more tailored environment / setting and with an appropriate Windlight, but nevertheless, it still makes for a thought-provoking visit.

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