2019 SL User Groups 5/2: Content Creation summary

Nevglide Forest; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Nevgilde Forestblog post

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, January 31st, 2019 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.

Environment Enhancement Project

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. It uses a new set of inventory assets (Sky, Water, Day),  and which include the ability to use custom Sun, Moon and cloud textures. These can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others, and can additionally be used in experiences.

The project also includes a new set of render shaders to support atmospheric effects such as rainbows, (hopefully) crepuscular rays (“God rays”), better horizon haze and fogging (but will not include rain / snow).

Resources

Current Status

  • There should be a further EEP simulator RC deployment in week #6 (commencing Monday, February  4th).
  • It has been decided that due to a number of performance issues that have yet to be resolved, EEP will not initially have crepuscular rays when the viewer is promoted to RC status, although hopefully these will come in time.
  • There is an issue with the Linden terrain appearing blurred in the viewer, this should be fixed in the next viewer update.
  • When importing windlight settings into EEP, it should be remembered that there will not be a precise 1:1 match when converting; some elements of an environment’s lighting might be darker or lighter than their windlight equivalents (as can be seen with the sample EEP assets now available in the EEP viewer’s system library). This is because the underpinning rendering in EEP is very different to the current windlight rendering.

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 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. Adding materials support may be considered in the future.

Resources

Current Status

  • There are still a number of issues to be resolved within the viewer (e.g. bakes not being seen by other viewers,plus the “black skirt” issue that can result in an avatar appearing to wear a long, jet black “skirt”, at least one UI issue with a button not working correctly) so no updates at the moment.

Animesh Updates

  • Vir is looking at the way object updates are handled in order to find the best way to send and receive shape information to Animesh objects, should the system be extended to allow shapes to be applied to Animesh.
  • Right now, the Reset Skeleton option only applies to the local view; there have been requests to make this a system command (so if I use Reset Skeleton, a message is sent to all viewers around me to perform the reset against my skeleton as well, rather than other users having to do it manually if they see something wrong with my avatar after I’ve changed shapes).  This could also potentially benefit Animesh, and Vir is also looking at the idea as well.
    • The focus here will probably be on triggering the reset through the UI, as described above, rather than allowing a LSL function to trigger it. The problem with the latter is the risk of people using it indiscriminately in avatar models, triggering unnecessary (and impactful) updates on systems.
  • Adding attachments to Animesh is also a request, but this isn’t being looked at right now.
  • Currently, an Animesh can keep an animation as a prim property, regardless of whether or not the animation is there (e.g. add a bouncing animation to an Animesh, remove it, and the animation will persist, even if the Animesh is copied and distributed). This is not expected behaviour and will likely be fixed.

Other Items

  • Visual size overlay when editing appearance: this feature request from Penny Patton (see BUG-225513) has been accepted by Linden Lab, but is currently on the back-burner of things they may consider in a future project, but is not currently being actively worked on.
  • Next meeting: it is likely the next CCUG meeting will be on Thursday, February 14th. However, check the wiki page for confirmation ahead of February 7th.
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Art and artists at La Maison d’Aneli

La Maison d’Aneli: Xirana

Now open at La Maison d’Aneli Gallery, curated by Aneli Abeyante, is an interesting ensemble art exhibition featuring the work of Nabrej Aabye, Xirana (Xirana Oximoxi) and Betty Tureaud.

A writer and artist in the physical world, where she is known as Núria Vives, Xirana presents Women Artists XVI-XIX, intended to both showcase the work of ten female artists from the 1500s through to the early 1800s. In particular, the exhibit is intended to illustrate “the difficulties they had to deal with to be recognised as professional artists”.

La Maison d’Aneli: Xirana

The ten artists in question are presented with a portrait by Xiranna, together with (for the most part) 2 of their paintings. The critique they faced is designed to be evidenced by the male silhouettes passing comment in speech bubbles.

However, how representative the comments are to critiques the artists may have faced is perhaps questionable. For example, the idea that Élisabeth Sophie Chéron was unknown as a painter in her lifetime is hard to reconcile with the fact that while alive, she was acclaimed as a gifted poet, musician, artist, and academicienne. I found myself having similar niggles around the presentation of several of the other artists as well (notably Mary Beale and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun – with the latter, it is not unfair to say many artists, regardless of gender, depended upon the patronage of royalty and / or the rich).  The flip side to this is the controversy of accreditation of Judith Jans Leyster’s work is pretty on-the-nose. As such, in lieu of notes from Xirana outlining her view on how these artists faced prejudice, I would suggest taking time to Google them and draw your own conclusions.

La Maison d’Aneli: Nabrej Aabye

Across the hall, Nabrej Aabye presents a series of his vibrant paintings, split between those created in the physical world and those that appear to have originated with images captured in Second Life, all of which are framed by a story mounted on the wall in alongside the entrance to his display space.

These are all remarkable paintings, a good number abstract in nature, but all alive with colour and depth. Alongside  of the abstract are portraits suggestive of an origin within Second Life (Recto Verso and The Architect), while also to be found in the mix are animal studies, two of which also appear to have their roots in SL (The Elephants’ Dance and Refugees).

La Maison d’Aneli: Betty Tureaud

The final exhibit is a 3D installation by Betty Tureaud, which appears untitled. I’m note entirely sure how to view it myself so, and without wishing to appear in any way dismissive, I leave to visitors to define it for themselves.

SLurl Details

More Classic starter avatars for Second Life

The eight January 2019 start avatars (l to r): Gretchen, Monique, Trixie, Bitsy, Ashton, Leonard, Greg, Monty. Credit: Linden lab

As noted in an official blog post, Linden Lab has issued another set of new Starter avatars.

The eight new avatars are all of the “classic” type, using the basic Second Life system mesh, rather than dedicated mesh body parts (although they have mesh clothing items). Between them, they offer a mix of more “everyday” types – as the official blog post again notes, previous starter avatars heavy leaned more towards the fantasy side of things.

The eight characters are (in the order they appear in the Avatar Picker):

  • Bitsy (complexity 15,813) and Ashton (17,268): two twenty-somethings(?) with an up-and-coming urban air and style, complete with pet dogs.
  • Gretchen (complexity 29,332) and Leonard (10,656): two older characters in more formal wear.
  • Monty (complexity 19,016) and Trixie (14,732): two younger avatars with the look of teens or early twenties, Monty coming with an electric guitar.
  • Greg (complexity 10,733) and Monique (9,226): two possible ’70s throwbacks.

(Complexity figures include all attachments.)

All are, as per the Lab’s usual procedure, supplied with No Mod elements (although the shapes are Modify). Surprisingly, given recent additions to the starter avatars, no discernible AO are provided (although some have poses that are activated on wearing them), with Gretchen being the notable exception to this approach. This lack of AO leaves the avatars with the horrendous Duck Walk.

I also admit to being a little confused by the promo picture used for the avatars: it shows Ashton with his dog on a leash, but so far as I could tell, the only option supplied with the avatar is a “carry” version of the dog.

The January 2019 new starter avatars are the default choice on the Second Life sign-up page

As starter avatars, these new looks are directly available to new users accessing the Second Life sign-up page on the web. Those already in-world can take them for a spin from the Me (/ Avatar) menu, and then selecting Choose Avatar. This will bring up the avatar picker (shown expanded, below), which will automatically default to the eight new avatar styles, then simply pick on the one you want to try.

The eight January 2019 “classic” starter avatars in the viewer’s Avatar Picker

Selecting an avatar will see it replace your current look (so if it’s a new look you’ve put together and haven’t saved – be sure to do so first!), and add the avatar to your Clothing folder. Or, if you prefer, you can open Inventory and navigate to Library > Clothing > Initial Outfits > then right-click on the relevant folder name and select Replace Current Outfit. This will also cause the look to be worn and copied to your own Clothing folder.

Having a broad choice of starter avatars is a good thing; I’m just a little surprised these come largely sans an AO; in this respect they seem a little at odds to previous classic and mesh starter avatar updates.

 

Endless: lowland beauty in Second Life

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless – click any image for full size

Endless is a region of desolate beauty that is quite stunning to behold in its naturalness of setting. There is a wild, unfettered allure to it that can instantly capture the eye and the heart.

We were drawn to it thanks to an  IM by fellow grid traveller Annie Oh (AnnieBrightstar). A Full region, it has been designed by Sombre Nyx (SombreNyx) in reflection of a coastal wetland or fens, and influence by the Camargue in the South of France. It offers a mostly low-lying area of land, cut through with shallow waters hidden by shrubs, tall grasses and reeds, weathered old bridges linking the swathes of drier land that sit just above the waters. All of which is watched over by the tall finger of a lighthouse and the squat box of an old fortification hunched on a low hill.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

The latter looks across the lowlands to a ridge of hills, a dirt track curling around them, hinting that something may be hidden beyond their steep sides, while overhead dull clouds scud their way across a sombre sky; perhaps portents of inclement weather yet to arrive.

This is a place that has an immediate impact on the eye and heart; it breathes a naturalness that is almost intoxicating. In looking around on our first arrival, I was immediately put in mind of remote coastal areas of north and east Scotland – but also found myself put in mind of the moors of Devon, North Yorkshire and Northumberland, the wetlands and flamingoes notwithstanding. But Endless is a place that could exist almost anywhere; including purely in the imagination.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

It is also a place that leads forth quiet contemplation as much as it does exploration. The wide open spaces encourage visitors to stand and look, while the ambient sound scape (do make sure you have local sounds active) causes the mind to drift on its own wings; Endless is a place where stories await our imaginations to give them life, as Sombre herself notes:

Stand in a corner; drink in the ocean. Nobody will come to push you out of that reverie. They have their own to engage them … You’re the writer of stories made here. I offer you the pen. Dipped in the ink of my dreams.

– Sombre Nyx, describing Endless

Where you choose to wander on arrival is up to you; the landing point sits towards the middle of the region, and the track winding forth from a nearby barn, hugging the feet of the sheltering hills is certainly one path to take – although this quickly branches, demanding choices to be made. But there are also paths between bushes and shrubs and the low bridges spanning fingers of water that also call for feet to tread them. And then there is the lowering bulk of the old fortification sitting on its hill, its call to be explored perhaps a little too strong to be resisted.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

Old it may well be, but the rooms within it offer the warmth of a fire, the comfort of a sofa and the hint of an artist’s place of work, while the crenelated walls of its flat roof enclose a most curious yet comfortable setting – although I’d perhaps question taking a bath with what sounds like a cold wind buffeting those same walls.

Should you follow the track around the hills to their northern flank, you’ll find more signs of human habitation and stories waiting to be told.

From Tuscan villa to fisherman’s shack, the buildings sitting in the northern lee of the hills offer a delight to both eye and imagination as they face the cold, hard sea in an almost defiant line. Close by, on a small tongue of land sits a graveyard, adding a sense of settlement and history to this place of stark pulchtricude.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

Nor does it end there; the beauty of Endless is not only on the macro level, with its sweeping vista, buildings and sounds. It also exists on the “micro”, the careful use of small details that add further depth and life to the region, again as Sombre notes:

Nudge your horse through shrubs, listening to its hooves squelch in the mud … Notice a duck, a dead bird, a narcissus, a slice of freshly cut orange, brilliant on its white plate. Be aware of it all.

– Sombre Nyx, describing Endless

Her description also hints at a further attraction: the region is perfectly suitable to exploration on horseback, if you have a wearable horse. I don’t as yet, but I confess the promise of being able to ride through Endless at a slow pace, imagining that mud sucking at hooves and the hypnotic swaying induced by riding while looking out over that serene landscape has brought me one step closer to doing so.

Endless; Inara Pey, January 2019, on FlickrEndless

Yes, there is a lot going on in the region that can pull at viewer performance (including an element yet to open to the public). But with careful shepherding of viewer options, these should not prove insurmountable or unduly spoil a visit. Certainly, the effort in making adjustments is more than worthwhile, because Endless is a genuine place of beauty and peace, perfect for photography, for contemplation, for exploration or as a means to recapture memories of the wilder, more remote places we cannot always visit with ease in the physical world.

SLurl Details

  • Endless (Haraiki Bay, rated; Adult)

2019 SL User Groups 5/1: Simulator User Group

Wild Edge; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Wild Edgeblog post

Server Deployments

At the time of writing there was no server release thread, I’ll update this article should one surface. The following notes are directly from the Simulator User Group.

  • On Tuesday, January 29th, 2019 the SLS (Main) channel was not update, and remains on server maintenance package 19#19.01.09.523003, comprising logging to gather baseline information on simulator performance in various areas of interest together with additional logging.
  • On Wednesday, January 30th, 2019 the RCs are likely to be updated as follows:
    • BlueSteel will hopefully receive an update to the EEP code. However, this is dependent on Rider Linden resolving a bug that is currently blocking EEP progress. This causes the time on a EEP region to become “stuck”.
    • Magnum and  / LeTigre will receive a server maintenance package, details undefined; the other should receive an update with internal changes.
  • There is currently a small Cake RC on Agni that is being used to iron out some transient network issues with the newest server operating system update, prior to it being move to a full RC for testing. Cake may grow a little larger before this happens.

SL Viewer

There have been no updates to the current official viewers to start the week, leaving the pipelines as follows:

  • Current Release version 6.0.1.522263, dated December 5, promoted December 13. Formerly the Spotykach Maintenance RC viewer – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • BugSplat RC viewer, version 6.1.0.523335, January 23. This viewer is functionally identical to the current release viewer, but uses BugSplat for crash reporting, rather than the Lab’s own Breakpad based crash reporting tools.
    • Estate Access Management (EAM) RC viewer, version 6.1.0.523351, January 23.
    • Love Me Render RC viewer, version 6.0.2.523177, January 16.
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Misc Items

Mesh asset UUID flipping

Being able to flip between mesh objects via script used to be possible in SL. However, it was blocked as it was being used as a means to animate meshes – but not very efficiently (the option places a lot of strain on the asset and physics server).

Recently, there have been requests to re-enable the capability because “now we have Animesh, there’s no need to flip this way.” There are also some use-cases that could benefit from the capability – such as being able to provide customisation options to customers who can then use a scripted mean to add them.

However, as Oz Linden pointed out, the availability of Animesh doesn’t necessarily negate mesh UUID flipping being abused. There is also a risk that the ability could be used to enable IP theft, and the approach – as noted – doesn’t really fit with the current SL design due to things like the asset load, etc. Ergo, it is highly unlikely to be allowed.

SL QA Engineer

If you’re a QA engineer and in the San Francisco  / Bay area, you might be interested in a QA job at Linden Lab working on Second Life.

Nostalgia in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Mareea Farrasco

Nostalgia is the title of an exhibition by Mareea Farrasco that opened at DiXmiX Gallery curated by Dixmix Source, on January 26th, 2019.

Presenting twelve soft-toned images that perfectly reflect the idea of memory and nostalgia, this is a hauntingly beautiful display of art, each image almost heart-rending in its sense of wistfulness.

DiXmiX Gallery: Mareea Farrasco

Mixing landscapes with what might be regarded as avatar studies, clues to the pieces can be found within their title – Freezing Point, Islands, The Rain Army – which may suggest interpretation or may simply offer a clue to the story within. But what that story might be really comes down to your mood / frame of mind when viewing them.

Indeed, such is the personal nature of the images, to offer any interpretation here would be pointless; the most I can offer is the impact they had on me. Such as with Mer étale (Sea Spreads), a piece that to me captures both the loneliness we can feel in life – and the need we all at times feel of wanting to be alone.

DiXmiX Gallery: Mareea Farrasco

In this respect, were I to suggest a single emotion that seems to pervade several of the images offered, it would perhaps be solitude; this sense of being alone contrasting with a desire to be alone.

Given the depth of meaning present within these images, they each deserve study and time; they are pieces that should be considered, not just glanced at; absorbed, not just seen.

SLurl Details