2018 SL UG updates 45/2: CCUG summary

Frog Hollow; Inara Pey, September 2018, on FlickrFrog Hollowblog post

The majority of following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, November 8th, 2018 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

SL Viewer Updates

The Spotykach RC viewer updates to version 5.1.10.521459 on Thursday, November 8th, 2018. Otherwise, all other viewer remain as per part #1 of these weekly updates.

Environmental Enhancement Project (EEP)

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements allowing the environment (sky, sun, moon, clouds, water settings) to be set region or parcel level, with support for up to 7 days per cycle and sky environments set by altitude. Uses a new set of inventory assets (Sky, Water, Day) that can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others, and which can additionally be used in experiences. A new set of render shaders to support atmospheric effects such as rainbows, crepuscular rays (“God rays”), better horizon haze and fogging (but will not include rain / snow). The ability to change the Sun and Moon and cloud textures with custom textures.

Resources

Current Status

The new simulator update deployed to the Snack channel on Wednesday, November 7th, 2018. This allows environment information to be pulled from the parcel or region, and further scripting work is due in time. There will also be further updates to the viewer in due course.

There has been a request to allow parcel owners set the transition time for EEP settings when moving between parcels, rather than just using the fixed (roughly 10-second) transition time. This is something Rider is reluctant to consider for the first pass of the EEP work, as it is a complex matter to tackle, and constitutes the kind of scope creep he’d rather avoid in trying to get the first pass of EEP out of the door. However, it is among the items to be considered as a part of any EEP follow-up project.  This said, it will be possible to set the transition time on EEP settings directly applied to avatars (once the scripted EEP support is available).

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.

Graham is working on the support for crepuscular rays and on improved shadow maps, etc., for EEP, but this work will still take “soon time” to publicly appear.

Resources

Current Status

The Land Impact fix for Animesh is now deployed to the RC channels – this ensures that Animesh objects with a regular prim root (rather than a mesh root) should have their default 15 LI including in land impact calculations. If all goes according to plan, this fix will hopefully be deployed to the main (SLS) channel in week #46.

There are no specific updates in the works for the viewer at present, so the simulator update might see Animesh go to release status in the immediate future.

The meeting covered a lot of ground covered in the previous meeting – performance / bound box fixes; avatar shapes for a follow-up project, etc., so please refer to my notes from that meeting for details.

Bakes On Mesh

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 viewer and 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.

This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing Bake Service, nor are they recognised as system wearables.

Resources

Current Status

Work is continuing with fixing the Bake Service / appearance service. Some of this work is currently with the Lab’s QA team. Anchor is also working on some viewer-side issues as well.

Normal and Specular Maps Support?

By default, Bakes on Mesh will not support normal and specular maps. This is because the Bake Service managing the avatar appearance does not recognise normal or specular maps, and updating it to do so is seen as a major task in terms of software and hardware.

However, in examining the issue, Cathy Foil has put forward a way to allow Bakes on Mesh to indirectly support normal and specular maps using a combination of three additional bake channels within the Bake Service and a scripted “applier” option, similar to current skin and clothing applier mechanisms.

Would this conflict with mesh body parts that already have a specular or normal map already assigned? While she’s not tested the idea in practice, Cathy believes not, as the additional Bake Service channels are not actually applied to the avatar,  they are simply a means to communicate what should be applied.

However, Graham Linden believes that even this approach would still require alterations to correctly composite the normal and specular maps. It would also likely need some kind of alpha masking capability to ensure odd outcomes are avoided (such as a normal or specular map for, say an underwear layer bleeding through to a skirt layer of clothing).  Cathy has indicated she’ll try doing some testing ahead of the next CCUG.

If nothing else, the provision of further Bake channels that might be seen as for “general purpose” use could lead to creators using them in a variety of ways, leading to further consumer confusion simply because there is no standard approach to how each auxiliary Bake channel is to be used.

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2 thoughts on “2018 SL UG updates 45/2: CCUG summary

  1. There seems to be a huge amount of mesh content that doesn’t bother with normal and specular maps, often with hugely complicated meshes.

    I sometimes wonder if any creators really care about this. OK, I know of a couple who manage to produce items with low complexity/display-weight, but I find it hard to be confident about the quality of the documentation we will get. This changes many things, and will the old documentation ever get updated?

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    1. In terms of clothing and applier clothing (a lot of which is materials enabled). As Cathy notes, the lack of specularity and normal support has been the voiced by makers of applier clothing as the biggest negative they see with BoM. Other creators, it’s true, see things differently.

      As to documentation, that’s something that is repeatedly raised at the CCUG meetings. Efforts are being made to address it going forward with new features, but there is a lot of historical documentation that needs to be parsed through and updated, it’s true. This has been made that much harder since user editing of the wiki was restricted due to the repeated bot spamming incidents.

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