2019 SL User Groups 5/3: TPV Developer Meeting

Zimminyville; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Zimminyvilleblog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, February 2nd, 2019. A video of the meeting is embedded below, my thanks as always to North for recording and providing it. Time stamps are provided to the major topics of discussion , which will open the video in a new tab for ease of reference.

Note that, as per the warning at the start of the video, there was an immature attempt to disrupt the meeting using voice / audio, and so there are lengthy periods of silence in the video to mute out the attempts.

SL Viewer

There have been not updates to any of the official viewers through week #5, leaving the pipelines as follows:

  • Current Release version, dated December 5, promoted December 13. Formerly the Spotykach Maintenance RC viewer – No Change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • BugSplat RC viewer, version, 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, January 23.
    • Love Me Render RC viewer, version, January 16.
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version, 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, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

[00:00-2:57] The three RC viewers have all had recent issues which have prevented their promotion to de facto release status.

  • Of the three, the EAM RC might be the closest to being ready for promotion.
  • The Bugsplat RC has been delayed due to the need to remove the code that allowed the viewer to be installed on Windows at account level, rather than at Admin level due to internal issue with Second life :URLs not working. This will require a further RC release before the viewer is liable to be ready for promotion.

Visual Studio Update

[2:49-3:42 and 19:50-21:51] The work to update the viewer build process to use Visual Studio 2017 is progressing well, with the focus on rebuilding all the various libraries need by the viewer to use VS 2017. The move to automate as many of the update processes as possible when updating the Visual Studio 2013 a couple of years ago means that this update should be significantly easier.

One outcome of this work is that when complete, it will allow LL to provide better  customised CEF support.

Environment Enhancement Project

[3:45-4:53 and 18:00-19:29] Please see my January 31st CCUG summary for a complete update. In brief:

  • A further simulator RC roll expected in week #6.
  • The viewer is close to being ready for promotion to RC status, and the next update should include a lot of bug fixes.
    • When this happens, it will not include crepuscular rays (and possibly some other atmospheric effects) due to performance issues that are still being worked on. Hopefully the capability will be added in the near future.
  • A final decision on capabilities that would make the cut for the initial viewer update / the release was due after the TPVD meeting, so expect further updates possibly at the week #6 SUG meeting.

Non-HTTP Asset Fetching / UDP Path Deprecation

[17:16-17:45] The work to remove all asset fetching UDP messaging from the simulator code will see the updated code deployed to Aditi in DRTSIM-400 (pre-RC readiness). It will then appear in an RC release on the main grid some time in the next couple of weeks. Once deployed, this will mean anyone using really old viewers that do not have HTTP asset fetching will no longer be able to obtain responses to asset requests.

Linux Viewer News

[21:54-23:20] The Lab is starting to receive some good input from Linux contributors to help get the official Linux flavour of the viewer back up and running. As noted in my previous TPVD meeting summary, this may not be a 100% functional version of the viewer; for example, Voice will likely not be supported, due to the fact that Vivox no longer supports Linux, and internal changes to the viewer mean that older version of the Linux voice plug-in will not work with the current viewer code. Those that need voice on Linux can try running the Windows SLvoice EXE (or even the entire Windows viewer) under Wine or similar emulation.

Other Items

  • [9:46-11:05] Mac OS voice issues: these are known about by the Lab. The Mojave issue cane be solved by giving the voice application permission to use the microphone; if users can’t get the permission dialogue, the route (for now) is to delete the viewer completely and re-install – just be sure to keep an eye out for the dialogue after the re-install and when trying to use voice (check all your monitors, check behind other open application windows, etc.).  There is also a contributed fixed from Firestorm’s Tonya Souther (and currently in the BugSplat RC) that should also help with Mac OS voice issues.

The otherworldly beauty of Whats Lost Spirits

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits – click any image for full size

We were drawn to this Full region of What’s Lost Spirits on the recommendation of Annie Oh (AnnieBrightstar). In all, there are three different areas to be discovered, but in this article I’m concentrating on the remarkable ground level design by region holder Stabitha Chronotis (What88 Zond) – although I will give some information on the other levels further below. I’m focusing on the ground level because it is perhaps the most marvellously bizarre, otherworldly, beautifully imaginative and utterly unique designs I have ever visited in Second Life. It simply defies description – and quite wonderfully so.

When I say “defies description” you really can take me at my word; there is no obvious over-arching physical theme; what is offered is a unique series of visual vignettes, each one whispering its own tale. However, they are all drawn together, somewhat subliminally, through the use of certain motifs and in the roots of their design, as Stabitha openly notes.

I have severe bi-polar. One of the fun little side-effects for me are hallucinations and very, very, vivid dreams. When I sleep, I am often taken back to familiar places and people. Time passes while I am awake, and the structures change, but the place always stays the same. Some islands represent those places, while others are based on real life experiences, fears and how I see the world.

– Stabitha Chronotis (What88 Zond), describing Whats Lost Spirits

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

A visit actually starts somewhat innocently: in the main hall of what appears to be a psychiatric hospital. At the reception desk, a nurse with a look that suggests she should perhaps be one of the patients, is trying to tempt you with a handful of pills; in a doorway stands an ordinary-looking gentleman is somewhat Victorian garb – ordinary on his left side, that is. Cam up to the floor above (the elevator  didn’t appear to be working at the time of our visit) and you’ll find a trio of skeletons apparently discussing matters of life or death while armchairs float around their heads; across the room a model house burns, books pirouette in the air and grandfather clocks look down serenely, gravity having turned a blind eye to their misbehaviour.

All of this may sound typical of many a haunted asylum experience, oft to be found in Second Life. But trust me, it’s not. When set with Stabitha’s description of the region, it is clear this scene, complete with its set of very distinctive inmates, represents something both personal.

To help guide visitors through this world of dreams, Stabitha is adding a series of pictures frames in the region. Blue in colour, these present background story notes (you’ll need to read them; they are not touch for text / note card). The first can be found behind and to the right of the ground floor reception desk, indicated by a sculpture of a hand pointing to it, and another is to be found on the upper floor of the hospital.

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

However, for the real proof of the region’s stunning uniqueness, simply step outside, walk across the board walk and down the stairs to the waterfront pier. What you’ll see through the haze of a twilight sky may take time to fully make out, but it is guaranteed to have your jaw dropping.

What lies before you is the most incredible archipelago of island, both sitting on the grey waters and floating in the sky – some anchored by heavy chins linked to hands grasping at the sea floor to prevent them drifting off. Most of the islands are static, each presenting its own scene, but wait a moment or two and you’ll witness that two will actually detach themselves from a larger island and either rise or descend to join seamlessly with another, thus forming the most remarkable elevators one might imagine, complete with giant elephant on one and chapel on the other.

But to reach, them, one must first cross the water. While this can be done by flying, a more interesting way is to travel over the water via the bumper boats that can be rezzed as most water level locations. But be warned – passage using them can be slightly explosive!

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

From across the water, the setting for the landing point hospital can be further appreciated: it forms part of a broken, Gotham-like vision of New York backed by high cliffs to one side, and which has clearly experienced some form of cataclysmic event – an element shared with other parts of the archipelago.

Life and death are very much part of this setting – as witnessed through the motif of glowing-eyed skulls, and a large sculpture contained within a greenhouse entitled Birth of a World. This greenhouse is reach via an avenue of trees resembling grasping hands rising from the ground in another possibly oblique reference to death. Similarly, the chapel on one of the island “elevators” might be seen as a sideways reference to the journey of the soul, post death, as it repeatedly rises and descends. But if so, which of these is the journey to heaven?

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

There are other, more “traditional” (if such a word can be used in so imaginative world) elements of fear and nightmare to be found here. Travel north-east beyond the central island rising from its screaming head base, for example, and you could find your way to run-down carnival with not-to-friendly clowns.

Throughout the build, the attention to detail is superb – if a little macabre in places; I have to say, I love the spirit of a dead horse rising from the corpses of several, but this might not be to everyone’s taste. It’s a wonderfully evocative motif for mind state. There are also a very subtle use of certain elements that help link the floating islands with those rising from the waters below, offering a gentle visual reflection of Stabitha’s comment that in the country of her mind, Time passes while I am awake, and the structures change, but the place always stays the same.

One thing to not is that not all the regions can be reached by boat or elevator, you will have to fly up to some to appreciate them fully; if there is a teleport system linking them one to the others, neither Caitlyn nor I spotted it.

Whats Lost Spirits; Inara Pey, February 2019, on FlickrWhats Lost Spirits

High above the region are two more settings: Super Orbital Time Station Zenobia, built by Vic Mornington (Victor1st Mornington) and Slime Square, a further build by Stabitha. The former has a certain Gallifrey citadel feel to it – although please note this may well be going away in the near future – so be warned when teleporting! The latter is (to me at least) the more interesting for exploration, offering a Ghostbusters role-play environment (do look for the “underground” elements as well). However, it is first and foremost Whats Lost Spirits that captivated my eye and imagination, and really should not under any circumstances be missed as a destination.

SLurl Details

Sansar 2019 Product Meetings week #5: release R29 summary

Scurry Canyon shooting game by FullSpectrum

The following notes were taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, January 31st. The full video of the meeting is available here. These notes highlight information pertaining to the upcoming R29 release, and user engagement discussions.

Upcoming Release Highlights

Emotes  / Animations Fix: there is an issue with the current release that can see some odd behaviour with animations, particularly for those in VR. There will be a fix for this in the next release, however, it will mean that users with custom animations will have to re-assign them to their perferred emotes. This will only have to be done once.

Teleport Portal Feature: the next release will include a new chat-driven teleport portal feature. This allows a limited time portal to be created in an experience that can be used by anyone to teleport to another experience. The command will take the format “/portal”, and the portal will exist for around 2 minutes.

So, for example, if you are with friends in an experience and decide you all want to visit Aech’s Garage, one person in the group can type:

/portal https://atlas.sansar.com/experiences/sansar-studios/ready-player-one-aech-s-garage

The rezzed portal can then be clicked on by those wishing to use it to transfer to the other experience until the portal times-out and vanishes. Should this prove intrusive, the Lab will consider adding an option for experience creators to block the capability, if required.

VR IK Improvements: updates to the IK system should mean that hand movements will not lag so noticeably behind actual hand movements when in VR. This is part of work to improve overall IK responsiveness.

R29 should also see the removal of the height calibration menu and storing a person’s height when using VR. There will still be options for setting it, if required (such as when a headset is being used by two different people); but where the headset is only used by the one individual, once height is set, it will be saved, and it will no longer be necessary to re-calibrate in different sessions. In addition, it will also include the ability to manually adjust the recorded height.

Hidden surface removal algorithm: this should seem significant improvements when selecting / updating your avatar looks (the in progress spinner shouldn’t appear for quite so long – the reduction in time estimated to be from the current 20-30 seconds to around 7 seconds.

Edit Server Fixes: R29 will include a number of Edit Server fixes. It is hoped these will help reduce the number of Edit Server disconnects experience creators can be faced with when working on a scene. This work is part of the overall effort being put into stability across the entire platform.

User Engagement

Avatar Movement / Controls

There have been complaints (and still are) about various aspects of Sansar’s control options (many of the complaints on Steam, for example, target the “non-intuitive” set-up of the VR  hand controller options).

One area of frustration many have is in avatar movement. In SL, for example, using the D key will orient the avatar and camera so the avatar is clearly facing the direction it is walking in. In Sansar, the camera will remain in place as the avatar walks to the left or right, giving what can be an odd “strafing” slide to the camera until it is re-oriented.

The problem here is which sort of controls are best: it might be argued that the “strafing” approach is something common in games, while the SL approach is more “non-standard”. However, users coming via Steam seem to be experiencing issues with turning their avatars when walking. So, the lab is seeking feedback on how best to consider possible improvements.

Quest / Progress System and user Engagement

To help new users, LL are working on a “quest / progression” system for Sansar.

  • Initially this will be a tutorial style option for new users, designed to take them through a basic quest and learn to use the basic controls (VR and keyboard), carry out tasks (pick things up, use them, drop them, teleport, etc), complete with some form of rewards / progress system that will deliver them to their Home Space on completion.
  • It will likely include a “come back and do this later” opt-out to allow people who are joining Sansar to attend a specific event (e.g. a show or performance) to log-in and get directly to the event, rather than being diverted into this on-boarding process.
  • Over time, the Quest / progress system will be opened out to experience creators, so they can embed it within their own games / quests, offer their own rewards / prizes (initially via the store), etc.
  • This system will (eventually) include infrastructure and capabilities that will include: information on the current quest a user is playing; how far they have progressed; what their upcoming task(s) is / are, etc.
  • Ideas put forward by both the Lab and creators at the meeting) for quest / game environments that might be built on this system include:
    • Hunts of some description, which also might be across multiple experiences, should experience creators have their builds included and add rewards to the quest.
    • Escape Room style games.
    • Story-based quests  – mysteries to be solved, etc.
    • More social-style games were also suggested, such as board games, card games, etc., that can easily be played by a group of friends.

For new users, there needs to be a clear distinction between goals and achievements. For example, Making 10 new friends might be considering an (unadvertised?) “achievement” within a quest, were a new user happen to do this as they played it; but it would not be a stated goal of the quest (as in, “you must now gain 10 friends in order to proceed to the next level”). This is to avoid new users lobbing multiple friend requests every time they come across other people and possibly annoying them. However, going to X, solving Y / overcoming Y to receive Z from the store, would be a goal / reward.

Another idea put forward is a system of badges / medals that can be received through repeated engagement in the platform. This type of system is used within Steam and is apparently popular there, and High Fidelity utilise a similar system as well.

Platform Promotion: VR AND Desktop Accessibility

One issue seen with Sansar gaining new users is that it is frequently perceived as “VR only” (this is a common form of feedback among Second Life users – I’ve seen it in comments on this blog).

In 2018, the Lab adjusted some of their advertising to de-emphasise the VR aspect of Sansar (such as removing some of the VR bias from the Sansar.com homepage); but conversely, there are still events that are promoted with this bias – Comedy Gladiators being a case in point (e.g. Comedy Gladiators, from Comedian Steve Hofstetter, Takes Live Entertainment to New Heights with Real-Time Ticketing & Physical Merchandise Sales in VR – Linden Lab press release, November 29th, 2018).

It’s been acknowledged by the Lab, that more needs to be done to emphasise the fact that Sansar can be enjoyed directly from the PC desktop without the need for a VR headset.

In Brief

  • Simple Scripts: it is widely felt these are under-utilised by experience creators. One issue is the lack of detailed documentation / tutorial material to go with them. This is apparently being addressed by the Sansar team.
  • 3D Mouse systems: following repeated requests from creators and machinima makers, initial steps have been taken to investigate whether support can be added to Sansar.
  • Other points of discussion, such as bugs, questions on specific aspects of content creation, etc., can be obtained by watching the video.