2019 SL User Groups 22/2: Content Creation summary

Copper River; Inara Pey, April 2019, on FlickrFlourishblog post

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, May 30th 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 includes the ability to use custom Sun, Moon and cloud textures. The assets can be stored in inventory and traded through the Marketplace / exchanged with others, and can additionally be used in experiences.

Due to performance issues, the initial implementation of EEP will not include certain atmospherics such as crepuscular rays (“God rays”).

Resources

Current Status

  • It has been noted that the current EEP RC viewer – version 6.2.3.527250 – is a “little rough”, with issues around midday light, ambient lighting, water transparency, projected lights, etc. Additional effort is being put into checking code merges to try to avoid similar issues in the future, although viewer updates may be a little slower as a result and involve smaller changes.
  • An updated EEP RC viewer is with the Lab’s QA team that should fix many of the current issues, and should be available soon.
  • Alexa Linden, who a Product Managing EEP, and who spends a good deal of her time in-world both exploring and building, as well as designing environments, is spending more time in checking upcoming EEP builds to help get things back on track.

Non-EEP Viewer Rendering Issues

  • Following the simulator deployments of week #22, there have been a series of reports of windlight settings failing to render correctly in either non-EEP viewers or the EEP RC viewer.
  • The Lab is unable of any simulator changes that would cause this.
  • BUG-226815 outlines one issue, and further bug reports have been requested as the Lab investigate the problem.

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, but 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

  • A BUG related to the AUX channels showing up black for BOM has resurfaced.
  • An updated viewer with a fix for his issue has been undergoing testing and should be available “soon”.
  • This update also requires an appearance service update as well.
  • It is hoped that the bug fix and viewer update will allow BOM to progress.

Animesh Follow-On

  • Gif showing Vir’s first pass at using LSL to change the shape parameters of an Animesh object. Credit: Vir Linden

    Vir continues to work on adding visual parameter support to allow shape adjustments to be made to Animesh.

  • He now has the LSL side of things working “fairly decently” – the command allows users to set individual parameters, and correctly handles vertical height placement, as demonstrated on the right.
    • The LSL capability allows multiple shape parameters to be adjusted.
    • Parameters can be looked up by name or ID, and the command uses ranges for 0 to 1.
    • This allows shape parameters to be adjusted in a similar manner as would be seen when using shape sliders when manually editing an avatar’s shape, albeit with different value ranges (0 to 1 being equitable to 0 to 100 on a slider).
  • In the example clip, right, the LSL is being used to apply settings to the Animesh height, arm length, shoulder width, leg length, etc., simultaneously.
  • It has been suggested having a Get command to obtain parameter settings would be useful, and this may be added.
  • A further question is whether there needs to be a capability to remove parameters (by default an Animesh does not have any visual parameters until they are set – and once set they cannot be removed..
  • Overall, the plan remains to get the capability into a usable state and then provide a project viewer for further testing within test regions.
  • The meeting also included further discussion on allowing Animesh characters to have clothing / outfits in a similar manner to an avatar’s Outfit folder, and to support attachment points.
    • A problem here is that the Outfit Folder runs through the Appearance Service, which would have to be extended to encompass Animesh objects.
    • Similarly, attachment points operate via the concept of avatars having an associated  agent – which Animesh objects currently don’t have.
    • While neither of these have been entirely ruled out, they are considered significant projects which have their own set of implementation issues that would have to be considered.

“Dear Ebbe II” (on the subject of Basic account changes)

The Colder Water; Inara Pey, April 2015, on Flickr The Colder Water, April 2015

Update, June 1st: Following the amount of feedback concerning the planned reduction in the Basic account group allowance, Linden Lab has amnnounced this will not now be changing on June 24th, 2019. See: Group Limits Update: No Changes for Basic Members (Linden Lab) and LL reverse planned Basic account group limits reduction (this blog).

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Dear Ebbe,

Five years ago I wrote to you as you formally joined Linden Lab as the company’s new CEO. At that time, there was a certain degree of disillusionment among Second Life users about the platform, and I took it upon myself to comment on one area in particular: that of communications.

In the years since then, Linden Lab, Second Life and its user community have come a long way. It’s no exaggeration to say that things in 2019 are a lot different than 2014. Not just technically, but across a range of fronts, most especially that of the relationship between users and Lab.

You’ve seen this first-hand with regards to people’s attendance at Lab Chat and SLB Meet the Lindens events, where audience support and response has been positive and supportive to many of the programmes and developments the Lab has implemented, and towards the drive to increase awareness of, and involvement with, the platform.

True, things have not always been plain sailing; there have been hiccups along the way, but the Lab’s drive to improve SL and respond to many of the requests put out by the user base has been enormously appreciated. However, the most recent changes announced by the Lab with Land Price Reductions, New Premium Perks, and Pricing Changes (May 29th, 2019) have given me pause, and to take the time to write to you once more.

Throughout the last five years, I’ve personally appreciated the efforts Linden Lab have put into trying to meet the demand for lower land tier and to make virtual land holdings in Second Life more attractive. I also understand the need to offset such reductions with increases elsewhere to ensure LL as a company mains a good revenue flow. As such, while the fee changes announced on May 29th have caused me something of an “ouch!” reaction, I can understand the motivation behind them, and will learn to live with them.

However, what I feel is ill-conceived are the proposed Basic account changes.

Although I can understand there may well be technical reasons for doing this (load balancing to enable the increases to the same capabilities that are to be offered to Premium subscribers, perhaps?), the fact remains this these reductions come across as best as being punitive and at worse entirely mean-spirited towards Basic account holders. As my friend and fellow SL user Will Burns has noted:

One increases the value of a Premium account by actually increasing the value added proposition, not forcing the issue by reducing the value added of the free account.

I would therefore urge you to re-consider this move, and allow Basic members either retain their current 42 group limit, or as a compromise (and while I appreciate this is easier said than done), seek to allow current Basic member retain the current 42 groups cap whilst restricting those joining after June 24th to a maximum of 35 groups.

I am not the first Second Life user, Premium or otherwise) to voice concerns over this move. Please do take the time to consider what is being said the changes to Basic accounts via Twitter, in the SL forums and other social platforms, and how they could stand to significantly alienate a good portion of a user base that, while they may not pay subscription fees, nevertheless play an important role in both the economic and social fabric of Second Life, and who – like all of us engaged in the platform – want to see it continue to thrive and grow and remain a part of our lives.

My best,

 

Inara

Sansar R33 Give More Get More release overview

Courtesy of Linden Lab

On Thursday, May 30th, Linden Lab updated the Sansar Give More, Get More (R33) release. An official summary of the update is available, and please refer to that document for details of bug fixes. Highlights of the release key features reviewed here are:

  • Client Atlas updates.

Initial Notes

As with the majority of Sansar deployments, this update requires the automatic download and installation of a client update.

Client Atlas Face-Lift

R33 bring with it an overhaul of the in-client Atlas. The new format comprises three broad categories: What’s Happing In Sansar; Popular Now and Featured.

The new in-client Atlas Discovery panel

This appears to in preparation for changes to the Atlas outlined by the Lab in recent Sansar Product Meetings that will see the Atlas display three selections of experiences that have been previously defined as:

  • Three featured experiences reserved for the Lab’s content partners.
  • Three featured experiences that align with other internal goals the Lab has which “may or may not be obvious”. These might, for example, focus on live music concerts.
  • Three  featured experiences open to Sansar creators, and will be changed on a weekly basis, and selected through a new criteria mechanism (details TBA).

The Experiences category will switch to the familiar listing of Sansar experiences, complete with the sub-selection options (All, Friends, Favourites), search bar and ordering options drop-down menu.

The new in-client Atlas experiences layout

The final category option is Events, offering the familiar listing of upcoming events with the sub-categories for listing past events, those you are hosting, and your calendar of all events you’ve bookmarked, and which are rounded out by the button for setting-up new events you wish to host.

The updated Atlas Events category

Other Updates with R33

  • Gifting: transaction fees for gifting Sansar dollars are to be removed, so the full amount of Sansar dollars will be passed to the recipient.
  • Event creation  / experience caps: as per my Sansar week #20 Product Meeting notes, with R33, event versions of experiences will no longer count towards the total number of experiences a creator can have published. Creators will for now be able to create / host as many events as they wish without hitting the ceiling on the total number of experiences they are allowed to have published within their subscription banding.
    • This is seen as a “temporary” change, pending further revisions to the events system, including finding a means to link events back to the originating experience.
  • New Item inventory icon: new items purchased  / obtained via the Store will be tagged with a “new” icon in their inventory thumbnail image.
The “new” icon for new i(and previously unworn / used) items in your inventory
  • New progress bar scripting API: this enables creators to add a progress bar or countdown timer when an action is triggered in an Experience. Descriptive text may also be included with the progress bar.
  • Foot IK improvement: an avatar’s feet turn when it changes direction in desktop, just like in VR
  • New right click capability: this enables users to cut, copy and paste text on various text fields.

Improvements List

This list taken directly from the release notes:

  • Avatar related:
    • Upgrading an avatar caused the Marvelous Designer clothing to fit over whatever the avatar had on during the upgrade process.
    • Marvelous Designer clothing can now be adjusted with two hands in VR.
    • The Customise option no longer exists after upgrading an avatar that has been deleted from the user’s inventory.
    • Make an empty fist in VR without worrying about other controller actions from working.
    • The scale values now apply properly on avatars using avatar animations that were uploaded using a partial skeleton.
  • Decimated crashes triggered from the avatar editor and scene editor.
  • New fix for exposure metering on Nvidia RTX GPUs to correct the problem that varied the experience brightness from one video card to another.
  • Making changes to a group of similar script attributes no longer changes the wrong attribute of some of the selected scripts.
  • Assets that contained unlicensed information no longer prevent the gizmos from appearing when selecting object structure components such as containers, static meshes, or volume components.

Linden Lab announces significant SL fee changes

via and © ™ Linden Lab

Update, June 1st: Following the amount of feedback concerning the planned reduction in the Basic account group allowance, Linden Lab has amnnounced this will not now be changing on June 24th, 2019. See: Group Limits Update: No Changes for Basic Members (Linden Lab) and LL reverse planned Basic account group limits reduction (this blog).

On Wednesday, May 30th, Linden Lab announced further changes to Full private region fees, significant changes to Premium subscription fees and to credit processing fees, and changes to some Premium and Basic account capabilities.

As detailed in an official blog post, the changes can be summarised as follows:

Full Private Region Tier Change

Source: Linden Lab

The Lab notes that:

  • These fees are exclusive of VAT, where applicable, and do not apply to Skilled Gaming region.
  • Education / Non-profit (EDU/NP) discounted Full islands will be re-priced to maintain their 50% discount off the regularly priced Full island fees.

Premium Subscription Fee Increase

In the same blog post, Linden Lab have announced a re-structuring / re-pricing of Premium subscriptions as follows:

Source: Linden Lab

Notes:

  • The monthly fee increase represents an annual increase of 26.21% (from US $114 pa to US $143.88 pa).
  • The annual increase represents an annual increase of 37.5%.
  • Quarterly subscriptions are to be retired as an option for users wishing to upgrade to Premium, but will still be available to those already using this plan. The fee increase of US $22.50 to US $32.97 represents an annual increase of 46.53% a year (US $90 pa to US $131.88 pa).
  • Both monthly and quarterly subscription fees will be subject to VAT, where applicable.

With regards to these Premium subscription changes, the Lab note:

To help with the transition to the new pricing, starting June 3, we’re offering a limited-time opportunity for existing Premium members to lock in their current rates for one more billing cycle, including extending an existing monthly to use the current full year rate by upgrading now to annual. Simply renew before June 24th to extend your current Membership at the same low rate. For example, monthly members will be billed at the lower rate for one more monthly billing cycle, while annual members may renew (or monthly users may upgrade to annual) early to add one more year to your existing Membership at the current lower rate. We will update when the option becomes available on June 3rd. Until then – if you are not up for renewal already, you will not see the option to lock in your current price. Keep an eye out for updates.

Credit Processing Fee Changes

In what will be seen as a further blow to those regularly / routinely cashing-out from Second life, the blog post also announced changes to credit processing fees, to wit:

Effective June 24, the fee for processing credit transactions (i.e. paying real money into a PayPal or Skrill account) will be 5% per transaction with a minimum fee of US$3 (there is no maximum fee).  The fee is currently 2.5% per transaction. This fee change offsets increased regulatory and compliance costs to Linden Lab and is in line with our continued commitment to the long-term successful operation of Second Life.

Change to Premium and Basic Account Capabilities

In order to try to offset some of the negative feedback these changes have already cause (as per at least two forum threads, here and here on the topic), the Lab also indicated increases to a couple of perks available to Premium members, together with a decrease in the same capabilities available to Basic account holders, a per the table below.

Source: Linden Lab

Note that group membership will not be revoked for Basic members who are involved in more than 35 groups at the time this change comes into effect. However, Basic members will be unable to join new groups until they reduce their group enrolments to below the new 35 group limit.

In addition, the Lab indicate that further improvements to Premium memberships  will be announced later in the year, as will a new Premium membership level, “for those who want to get the absolute most out of their Second Life.”

Thoughts as Premium Member

As one who is a Premium Member, I’m not entirely sanguine about the pricing increase – although I appreciate that in trying to pivot revenue generation away from a reliance on virtual land fees, Linden Lab must ensure any potential shortfalls are adequately guarded against. I’m also aware that while the Premium fees increase does hurt – it is actually the first such increase I can recall for a long time.

How this effects Premium level overall remains to be seen; however, my personal feeling right now is that unless the to-be-announced Premium membership level is truly exceptional in terms of benefits and opportunities, it is going to be hard to justify making a leap to it based on the prices announced with these changes and what might be taken from them in estimating to potential cost of any new membership package.

Those who are likely to feel particularly aggrieved are those who do routinely cash-out from Second Life, given credit processing fees have seen a number of increases over the last few years. While the Basic account changes come across as punitive in nature.

Please refer to the official blog post for the full text relating to these changes.

The waters of Blaylock Island in Second Life

Blaylock Island; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrBlaylock Island – click any image for full size

Occupying a Homestead region, Blaylock Island – Where Peaceful Waters Flow is a stunning design by Jaccy (Jaccaranda Jael) with the support of Magenta Silverfall and Tira Langur (Tira Yalin), that has rightfully been getting a lot of attention from bloggers and photographers of late.

The region presents a wonderful feeling of being on a remote, rugged island where the weather is such that it has encouraged the growth of a local rain forest which does much to canopy the islands rocky splendour, whilst the coastline presents a veritable tropical paradise.

Blaylock Island; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrBlaylock Island

It is on the coast that a visit commences, the landing point being on a long tongue of land extending into the western sea, rocks and breakers to the north testifying to shallow waters there. further around this curve of sandy coast sits one of a three major dwellings on the region. These do not appear to be private residences, but given they appear to belong to Jaccy, Magenta and Tira, some circumspection when visiting might be in order if they are present during your explorations.

Blaylock Island; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrBlaylock Island

This is a place defined by the action of water. The central peak and high cliffs of the island feature great falls of water that tumble into bays and channels that cut through the landscape, forming deep ravines and sand banked waterways that twist their way to more open waters whilst also splitting the land somewhat. These waterways can be navigated using the little motorboat awaiting passengers close to the landing point, and which will periodically re-rez.

For the more adventurous, the island’s cloud-wreathed peak offers a series of wooden platforms linked by steps. These climb around the mountain to a final platform where a zip line can be taken back down to a raft anchored with one of the island’s bays, a short wade / swim from one of the beaches.

Blaylock Island; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrBlaylock Island

Amidst the verdant trees and undergrowth sheltering the waterways, visitors can find other points of interest – a houseboat moored among mangroves, tree houses sheltered from the waters falling from above by a great natural arch of rock, and a variety of wildlife from flamingos to seals.

Throughout it all are numerous places to sit an relax and appreciate the setting, as well as those options for exploration, all of which – together with the rich sound scape – add depth to Blaylock Island that encourages the visitor to tarry beyond a brief visit.

Blaylock Island; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrBlaylock Island

This is another very different and very engaging region design that offers numerous opportunities for exploration and photography. Beautifully present, it is easy to explore without significant impact on the viewer, and one will worth taking the time to visit and appreciate.

SLurl Details

La Galerie D’angle in Second Life

La Galerie D’angle: Donna Giordano

Officially opening on Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 with a special celebration starting at 18:00 SLT, is La Galerie D’angle, curated by Mary Zimmer. On display is a exhibition of art by Donna Giordano (Ohsoleomio), and it’s an intriguing exhibition for an inaugural event.

An abstract artist in the physical world, Donna presents almost 30 pieces of her art, the majority of which offer rich rich palettes of colour and wonderfully abstract images that offer suggestions of a sunset on water, fields in the breeze, coastal landscapes and what might be storm-struck rocks – or lightning-split clouds, sailing ships on the ocean, and more.

La Galerie D’angle: Donna Giordano

Mixed with these are pieces that have a wonderful geometric look and feel to them and mosaics with a depth of colour within them that makes their texture almost tactile in its richness.

As some who appreciates abstract art, these are pictures which hold a strong appeal; but while the colour images have a marvellous attraction, I admit to being deeply drawn to the monochrome images there is a depth and rawness that is stunning. In this I would particularly single out Perfect Storm, the aforementioned piece depicting what might be lightning and storm clouds or foam-topped waves crashing against rocks.

La Galerie D’angle: Donna Giordano

This is a superb exhibition with which to open a new gallery,piece that invite the imagination to take flight. I wish Mary every success with her venture. Those wishing to celebrate the opening with her can do so from 18:00 SLT on May 28th, with music from Bill Tigerpaw, who will be followed a 19:00 by Djembe Dragonfire before DJ Skip takes over from 20:00.

SLurl Details