D 0 X: an Island Fantasy in Second Life

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

Update: D 0 X has closed, and Paradise has a new setting – Tokyo Street. Read this review for more. SLurls removed from this article. 

D 0 X is a Homestead region designed by Paradox Ivory, and the home of the Urben Gallery. Open to the public, the region, at the time of our visit, lay split into three winter-bound islands, rowing boats (via rezzer) enabling explorers to travel between them without the need for flying.

Visitors arrive on the largest of the three islands, on the north-west side of the region, where snow is falling heavily. The landing point is on the central neck of the island, a short distance from the warehouse forming this single living space on the island. This has been converted into a cosy home, where someone has been baking and the table is set for dinner. Through a glass panelled door, the bedroom is scattered with the bric-a-brac of daily living, the entire scene within the building one of homely warmth, perfectly contrasting with the snowy scenes visible through the windows.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

Outside, paths offer ways west, east and south. The latter is the shortest, running past an old church gatehouse (in which sits information on the region and a teleport up to the Urben Gallery, which will open on January 7th, 2018. This path ends at a wooden jetty where a rowing boat can be reached, providing the way to reach the remaining two islands.

The path to the east climbs a little set of stone steps under an arch of rowan boughs string with lights. It leads, by way of a path running between trees and bushes, to a rocky outcrop providing a view out over the winter waters to the smallest of the three islands, the home of a ruined lighthouse. Westwards, the path is wilder, again running between trees and bushes to a south-facing headland and offering a view towards the second largest of the islands.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

With a grey rocky skirt topped by undulating snow, this island is home to a barn converted into a warm snug of a home, where the traditional bed appears to have been replaced by a chaise. The fireplace sparkles with flames, armchairs you could lose yourself in ranged before it, with all the accoutrements of life again scattered cosily around. Whoever lives here obviously isn’t put off by the cold: the brick paved terrace to the front of the property features a table set for dinner, an outdoor fireplace glowing with warmth alongside it.

The barn is reached via a path rising by step and curve from the island’s jetty, guarded at either end by gabled gates. This path runs alongside the house, offering access to the front terrace before continuing on to another outdoor seating area atop a small squared-off terrace and warmed by another fire. A little to the south from the barn, and overlooking a little inlet, is another outdoor fire and seating, a Thermos available for hot drinks.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

The northern end of this island is crowned by a great wind turbine – presumably providing electrical power to the properties on both of the larger islands. Its great blades turn steadily, shadows seeming to slice silently over the snow, completely ignored by the deer roaming here.

With two further (off-sim) islands to the north-west and south-east, D o X has the feel of a tiny winter-bound archipelago in which seasonal retreats have been established. Set beneath a twilight sky circled by an aurora and patrolled by deer, it is a picturesque setting. We’ll doubtless be returning in the new year, when we’ll also pay a visit to the Urben Gallery up in the sky.

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o X – click on any image for full size

Sansar Product Meeting 2017 week #50

Sansar: Winter Wonderland by Beverly Zauberflote

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, December 15th. These meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

Nyx Linden attended the morning session; a former member of the engineering team for Second Life, Nyx is perhaps best known for his appearances in-world as the Tiny Robot, and leading the “old” Content Creation User Group meetings which used to take place in-world on Mondays. Nowadays, Nyx is a member of the Sansar product team, working on the planning / road mapping side of the platform’s development and coordinating the various development teams.

Fashion Release

Again, please refer to my week #49 and week #48 updates for notes on known elements in the upcoming release.

  • The Fashion release should be deployed during the week commencing Monday, December 18th.
  • This initial release will not include cloth physics within the run-time mode (although they may be available in the Avatar App). Instead the baking service will continue to handle clothing as is currently the case.
  • The avatar mesh models will be provided via the Knowledge base when the release is deployed. These will most likely be supplied as .FBX files, rather than a blend file – but this is still TBC.
  • It will be possible to upload hair attachments, but the recommendation appears to be for creators to initially keep to shorter hair styles to avoid hair cutting into the avatar bodies at this point in time
  • On the non-Fashion side, the release will include a number of script updates including keyboard commands for scripts and updates to object APIs.

Modifying Materials on In-World Objects

There is still considerable upset over the decision to allow experience creators to modify / change the materials of in-scene items. This change is due to be deployed with the Fashion update, but does not extend to avatar clothing or attachments and any changes made to an object last only as long as the object is within a scene – they cannot be saved back to inventory when the object is removed.

  • Some creators see this as a reason not to upload their items until such time as the permissions / licensing system is deployed.
  • Some want to see a guarantee from the Lab that the change will not be extending to include accessories / clothing in a future release, ahead of the licensing / permissions system deployment. This is to be escalated to senior management for feedback.

Character Creation Flow

A point to note with the Fashion release is that users logging-in to Sansar the first time after the release has been deployed will have to go through the character creation flow.

  • This is because existing clothing will no longer work with the update.
  • It will mean that any custom work done to the avatar’s face will have to be re-done as well.
  • It should not break existing attachments.
Sansar: The Club by Marcus

In Brief

  • Sansar Store: Product Updates: Nyx indicated that there are still complexities around licensing / pricing which need to be resolved. As such, the Lab is considering possibly going with a basic system to allow for updates through the store, and then enhancing it as other elements of work fall into place.  However, there is no time line as yet on when something might appear, but it is on the road map.
  • Permissions / Licensing System: the Lab is actively working on a permissions / licensing system, however, there is still no time frame as to when it might start to be deployed.
  • Dynamic mirrors and using in-scene cameras to record and project the scenes onto a surface: neither are on the road map as present. Dynamic mirrors can be rendering-heavy, and are not something the Lab is currently looking at.

SL project updates 50/3: TPV Developer meeting

The Outer Garden; Inara Pey, November 2017, on FlickrThe Outer Gardenblog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, December 15th 2017. The video of that meeting is embedded at the end of this update, my thanks as always to North for recording and providing it.

SL Viewers

[2:35] The Alex Ivy 64-bit RC viewer has one more bug the Lab would like to resolve, this one with the updater within the viewer. The hope is a fix for the issue will be in a further update to the viewer at the start of week #51, commencing Monday, December 18th. If so, the viewer might be promoted to de facto release status before the holiday break.

[6:46] Once the Alex Ivy viewer is promoted to release status, the Lab will move to block versions of their viewer older than the 5.0.6 viewer (the HTTP updates from June 2017).

[4:00] The Voice RC viewer updated to version on December 12th. This is doing “very well” and is currently being held from promotion due to the wish to promote the Alex Ivy viewer. As a result, the Lab might do a further RC update for it, with a new update from Vivox.

[5:19] A new Maintenance viewer, version, appeared on December 13th. It features a range of fixes, and is code-named Nalewka, in keeping with the Lab’s new habit of naming Maintenance viewers after alcoholic beverages. Nalewka is, according to Wikipedia, a rather interesting beverage mixing alcohol (vodka or neutral spirits) and fruits, herbs, spices, sugar / molasses and which has a liquer-like taste.

[5:43] The anticipated 360-snapshot viewer update has been held while it is integrated with Second Life Place Pages. This will allow 360 images to be uploaded to Place Pages and used in hero images, etc. It is anticipated that these updates will now appear early in the New Year and the viewer should move quickly to RC status thereafter.

[4:43] TPVs attempting to use the viewer updater have encountered issues, often resulting in them disabling it. Oz Linden acknowledges it isn’t easy for TPVs to update it, but has offered to work with them to fix issues once the Alex Ivy viewer (which uses a new version of the updater) reaches release status, coupled with a code refactoring to make updating it easier in the future.

Linux and the Viewer

[20:51-24:28] As per my previous TPV meeting notes, once the Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer (Windows and Mac) goes to release status, the Lab will look to TPV / open-source developers to help move the Linux viewer build to a Debian package without the additional libraries. this will allow TPVs to add the dependencies they require for their flavour of Linux build. If help is given and the project is successful, the Lab will then maintain the Linux build, with the caveat that it will only be subject to cursory QA, and will continue to look to the Linux community for fixes.

A repository for code submissions will be made available, together with a blog post / open-source community notification on the specifics, after the 64-bit viewer has been promoted to release status. Those wishing to support the work will need to sign a contribution agreement with the Lab.

Texture Decoding and Texture Memory Limits

[28:23-29:52] The Lab is making improvements to texture handling (e.g. using raw texture data rather than encoded). Some of this work is in the current rendering project viewer; there is another non-public viewer which uses a new structure for the rendering cache – although this hasn’t been overly successful in testing thus far. Oz is anticipating his team spending more time on rendering in early 2018.

Environment Enhancement Project (EEP)

A set of environmental enhancements, including the ability to define the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds, water settings) 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.

[10:01-11:34] “Rider’s been on a power trip since starting this project!” Grumpity joked at the meeting, “Moving these celestial bodies around the sky!” – which Rider admitted was fun.

Progress continues, and it is anticipated that test regions on Aditi and a project viewer will be available “soon after” the new year, although these may not initially support using environment settings and inventory assets.


Server-side Reset Skeleton

[30:10-35:25] Bento introduced a reset skeleton option for details with avatar deformations. However, it is viewer-side only – therefore, if someone swaps between skeletons / avatars + attachments and is displayed deformed (e.g. BUG11310) or with attachments wrongly place (or a combination), they, and everyone viewing them has to individually perform a reset skeleton on their avatar to correct how they appear.

A preferred means of handling this might be for a local reset to be sent update the appearance system to ensure everyone gets updated (so if I’m deformed, I can use reset skeleton, and everyone around me gets the update as well, rather than having to also use the reset skeleton option). Oz has requested clear, concise feature request on the idea. Grumpity has indicated she’ll follow-up on the specifics of BUG-11310, which the Lab thought to be resolved through and internal JIRA.

Simulator Resources and Simulator Crashes / Performance Degradation

[43:53-50:20] Discussion on simulator resource use / loading balancing. This proceeds from the false assumption that a region / simulator can be crashed “just” by overloading it via a resource / physics hungry script. While there may still be exploits where this might be the case, the Lab long ago imposed absolute limits on script and physics time per frame. What more usually happens is that excessive script / physics loading on a region as whole as a whole can degrade performance as some script / physics executions are skipped within a frame (so scripted objects are slow in responding / may not respond as anticipated, for example); although it is acknowledged that specific items – intentionally or through bad scripting – can have an undue impact on performance.  Anyone encountering specific objects, which can individually adversely impact region / simulator resources / performance is asked to file a JIRA with details of the object in question, so that the Lab can obtain a copy and poke at it.

Other Items

  • [13:24] Estate access / ban lists: (Estate/Region floater) – work has stalled on this.
    • [14:21] A question was raised on the ability to teleport others home from, or out of, your own parcel, a capability that had been available in the older v1 (and v2?) viewers. Having an ability to remove people at parcel level is something the Lab will likely look at as they continue to work on the land tools.
    • [16:59] the updates to the estate tools will include a log of ban actions taken – who banned whom and when – which will be visible to all Estate Managers (not general group / land users).
  • [35:35-36:20] Semi-automatic viewer tests: Kitty Barnett (Catznip) have a number of semi-automated viewer tests (e.g. checking to see if all UI elements / floaters work in different languages). The Lab have found that as the viewer is updated / changed so often, such tests rarely maintain their value over a period of time. However, Oz is willing to learn more about at Kitty’s framework if it avoids such issues.
  • [36:39-37:53] Viewer support for local meshes: this has been a frequent request, particularly with content creators. It is also something the Lab and Firestorm have looked into. However, supporting multiple mesh formats, dealing with LOD compositing, etc., makes it complex and difficult to implement within the viewer. However, if the Lab can find a way for the viewer to do this, they would consider implementing it.
  • [50:43-55:07] Phishing/ URL link spoofing: a discussion on the use of URL link spoofing – which has affected Second Life and is a general issue on the web as a whole. Short version: always check URLs before clicking whatever you’re doing, and in terms of SL: always treat links receiving (e.g. via dialogue boxes, via unexpected / unknown IM, etc.) with caution, and while it does not eliminate risks, configure your viewer to use an external web browser to open external links. Obviously, and like any other company, the Lab cannot – and will not – every guarantee the safety of accessing URLs which are outside of its control.
While not foolproof, setting your viewer to use an external web browser or to only use the built-in browser for trusted links from LL, might provide some added protection against scam URLs you might obtain through in-world sources
  • Lab No Change window: runs from Thursday, December 21st 2017 through until Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018.
  • Next TPV Developer meeting: Friday, January 12th, 2018.
  • Firestorm release: the next Firestorm release now looks set to go to beta in the week commencing Monday, December 18th, with a release to be made early in the New Year.