2019 SL User Groups 24/2: Content Creation summary

Yúcale; Inara Pey, May 2019, on FlickrYúcaleblog post

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, June 13th 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

  • A further EEP RC viewer is in the works, but no current ETA.
  • The most recent EEP RC viewer (version 6.4.0.527723, dated June 6th. 2019), has not received a lot of feedback. It’s not clear if this is because issues aren’t being noted or if people aren’t filing them. If you’re using the viewer and see a problem, please raise a bug report, even if you think it may have been raised before.
  • Graham Linden continues to work on the shader / rendering issues.
  • A simulator-side RC update is anticipated for week #25, which will hopefully address some of the region windlight rendering issues currently being seen.
  • Rider has been away from EEP, looking into the issues of simulator  / script performance (again, please refer to my recent Simulator User Group notes).

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

  • As noted in my Simulator User Group update, there was a new BOM RC viewer update on Monday, June 10th, with the release of version 6.3.0.527701.
  • A potential issue has arisen around the new “universal” texture channels (e.g. Left Arm) and how people want them to work. The expectation from the Lab has been that while these might be transparent, there will always be an opaque texture “under” them. However, there have been attempts to either use them with a transparent underlying texture or have them partially transparent (currently, the “universal” channels aren’t recognised / masked by an alpha wearable), and this has led to errors in how the Appearance Service is handling them when compositing / baking (unfortunately, no bug report was reference so I cannot verify the exact issue). It’s currently not clear how this might be resolved if it is an issue.

Animesh Follow-On

  • Vir has been carrying out further investigation into the mechanism for adding new attributes to objects with a view to trying to make it easier to do so. This might, as an example, make it easier to add new body sliders to the avatar (although there are currently no plans to add sliders to the avatar – this is purely investigative work).
  • In terms of the visual parameters work to allow Animesh objects to be resized:
    • Originally there was going to be the one command to set visual parameters (llSetObjectVisualParams). This was to work on a list basis that alternates between slider ID (or name) and parameter value (e.g. Slider ID A, value for Slider ID A; Slider ID B, value for slider ID B, etc).
    • However, a request has been made to be able to query a set of visual parameters (e.g. llGetObjectVisualParameters), and the logical format for this is for a list of parameter IDs to be supplied, and the corresponding list of values to be returned.
    • This prompts the question of whether llSetObjectVisualParams should use this latter approach.
    • The consensus is to use an approach consistent with the rest of LSL parameter setting.
    • As a side note, it is unlikely manipulating slider values via LSL would be extended for use with avatars, as this could potentially conflict with the back-end system that currently manages the slider mechanism as it affects the avatar.
  • There are a large number (200+) sliders, not all of which affect bone position / scale, which can make it potentially confusing when trying to set values against Animesh objects. To this end, Vir has updated the Bento Skeleton Guide with a list of slider names that actually affect bone position / scale.

Sansar Product Meetings week #24: more on Avatar 2.0

Sansar Social Hub

The majority of the following notes were taken from my recording of the Sansar Product Meeting held on Thursday, June 13th, which primarily focused on the upcoming Avatar 2.0 release. The official video of the meeting is embedded at the end of this article.

R33 Update

A third R33 Give More, Get More update was deployed on June 11th. This comprises:

  • A new ability to copy and paste components within the “Object Structure” panel – creators can copy and paste audio, light, and script components in the ‘Object Structure’ panel via the right-click context menu. Components may be pasted within an object, or into another object.
  • A fix to prevent crashing when editing scenes that have objects with joints.

Avatar 2.0

Target Release Periods

  • The target date for the initial Avatar 2.0 update is early September 2019.
  • It is hoped that the Avatar 2.0 reference files will be available for release to creators in early August 2019
    • This is to allow creators to gain familiarity with the new skeleton ahead of support being deployed to Sansar, and to start updating those items they make / sell that require adjustment / re-rigging to work with Avatar 2.0.
    • As a part of this, the Lab will be running a Creator Programme, this will:
      • Allow creators to develop assets (avatar, rigged items for avatars, etc., and pass them to linden Lab for testing in an environment the Lab has that support Avatar 2.0, then allow creators to receive feedback on their assets: did they work, were there problems, did things not fit as expected, do adjustments need to be made, etc.
      • Be open to all interested creators, and details on how to participate will be made available when the avatar reference files are released.
      • It is noted that this may not be as effective as creators testing their items directly; however, as there is no public beta testing environment, there is no real alternative.

General Notes

  • This is both a new avatar skeleton and mesh. As noted in my previous meeting notes, this will support:
    • Bone deformation, allowing the avatar’s face to be directly selected and shaped / contoured / scaled as the user wants (default avatars only with the initial release, but will hopefully be extended to support custom avatars in later releases.
      • Facial presets will be a part of this, allowing users to make adjustments to their avatar’s face from a pre-set look.
      • These presets will extend to allowing creators to make and sell their own facial presets.
    • Blend shapes (initially just for the base avatar, but hopefully to be extended to support custom avatars).
    • Support for uploading and using custom skins for the base avatar.
  • A large part of the reasons behind the update are: to support bone deformation; to make the avatar more expressive, and to allow users to give their avatars more in the way of individuals looks.
  • Avatar 2.0 has:
    • A skeleton with 170 bones (compared to the 230 for Avatar 1.0), which should simplify skinning to it.
    • Bone-based facial deformation (rather than blend shapes) to better support both facial deformation and to support attachments that will correctly move in response to changes to the facial bone structure.
    • A more neutral avatar mesh to better support deformation.
    • A set of skeletons, from “complex” to “simple”, to make it easier to develop custom avatars (if you have an avatar design that doesn’t require all 170 bones, use one of the simpler versions).
  • It is acknowledged Avatar 2.0 represents a substantial change (particularly the male avatar).
  • Both the male and female default avatars will be of the same shoulder height (but obviously this can be adjusted through the uniform scaling option).
  • The overall aims for Avatar 2.0 is to provide an avatar system that:
    • Meets requirements as expressed by creators, and which forms a solid foundation for all future avatar enhancements / updates without having to completely overhaul the entire avatar system again.
    • Can be used to develop avatars using the default avatars which can in turn be solid through the Sansar Store.
    • Can be used to create wholly custom avatars.
  • Avatar 2.0 sees a re-working of the procedural speech animations and some IK reworking, both of which should result in improvements in animations and VR-related movements during body tracking.

Avatar 1.0 and Avatar 2.0

  • The Lab will not continue with supporting Avatar 1.0 when the new avatar is deployed.
  • Rigged objects (hair, clothes) designed for Avatar 1.0 will need to be re-rigged for Avatar 2.0.
  • There will be little in the way of bone matching between Avatar 1.0 and Avatar 2.0 (although creators can obviously do re-mapping through their own tools, if they wish, allowing for the potential of texture stretching).
  • As recorded in my previous meeting notes:
    • The Lab has been working on Marvelous Designer scaling and translation. This, together with a clothing translation tool LL are working on, should allow MD clothing to be more easily updated to fit the new avatar skeleton. However, some of this may be limited due to the fact that MD only support uniform scaling.
    • Run-time re-targeting in being introduced to allow animations and emotes using the core bones should work with Avatar 2.0.
      • Very specific custom animations may require the creator to re-target.
    • Similarly, a re-mapping capability for attachments is being looked at, primarily aimed at allowing attachments to be moved between attach points, but which may also ease some of the transition to the new skeleton.
  • Compensation / redelivery: it has been intimated:
    • Those who have purchased custom avatars / rigged items using the current avatar may receive some form of refund / stipend from the Lab in lieu of no longer being able to use those avatars.
    • Some form of update system will be made available to creators to allow them to make updates to items they’ve made specific to the current avatar to work with Avatar 2.0, and notify customers the update is available.

Capabilities Release Order

  • Lab’s first priority is to get Avatar 2.0 working smoothly enough for an initial release, which will support facial deformation.
  • Open things to allow texture (e.g. skin) uploads that can be applied to the base avatar (providing skin uploads for custom avatars is regarded as a harder option to support, due to the need to support custom UV maps).
  • Then extend support to full body bone deformation etc.

Custom Avatar Skeleton Pre-Morphing

This is a “would like to have” from the Lab. The idea is that for custom avatars with unusual both shapes (e.g. a gorilla with longer arms, shorter legs and a tapered torso), the skeleton can be morphed and skinned through Maya (or other tool), thus avoiding the need to additional UV work to avoid stretched textures when users adjust the avatar. The morphed skeleton (and skin) can then be uploaded into Sansar and run-time animation re-targeting can be used to ensure the default animations / emotes work with it.

Ultimately, the Lab would like to get to the point of supporting fully customised animations / locomotion graphs, but this is still a way off, and this is seen as a good initial step to help better support custom avatars.

A zoological visit in Second Life

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019 – click any image for full size

Zoos can often generate mixed reactions. On the one hand, there are questions of proper animal husbandry and welfare; on the other, there’s the fact that some zoos and zoological parks can play a role in helping with matters of conservation, research, breeding, and the re-introduction of animals into the wild.

I admit to having mixed feelings on the subject myself, although it is not unreasonable to say that – while there are still significant issues around holding wild animals in captivity in multiple places around the globe – the presentation of zoos has changed in many parts of the world in the last 50 years, with the old “cage and hay” approach long since replaced by larger spaces for housing animals that are more reflective of their natural habitat, with much improved care and encouragement to live and breed more naturally.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

The unusually named 56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785 is something of a reflection of this more modern approach to zoological gardens. Occupying a sky platform above a Full region (and utilising the additional 10K land capacity available to full private regions) this is a group build, led by Sergio Castellanos Sr. (Seriouslly) that we were pointed towards by Shawn and Max, and one that makes for an interesting visit, even for that pricking of the conscience that may be felt should thoughts of animal welfare tickle the back of the mind.

The layout comes across as something of a cross between a zoological garden and theme park, comprising an entrance area, complete with turnstiles, ticket booths, and aviary, car park and refreshments, and three major zoological areas: Asia, Africa and a “sea world” style of environment.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

Sitting with these are two “islands” – Fantasy Island and Discovery Island, which give the setting that theme park feel. The former is home to creatures one would not normally expect to find in a zoological garden: mermaids, unicorns and dragons; but this is Second Life after all, and it’s not as if these creatures are unknown to us here! Discovery island, meanwhile, presents a children’s petting zoo, a learning centre that appears to be for special events (unfortunately, the connected information page for it sits behind the Facebook log-in so I couldn’t take a peek to see how frequent events might be, or their nature), and children’s rides.

All of these areas are connected by paved footpaths radiating out from the main entrance, and also by wooden walkways, while cliff-like walls help break up the setting, giving it a more natural as well as helping to very naturally divide it into the various “theme” areas without anything feeling remotely forced.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

The wildlife within the “zoo” areas of the park might be as expected: tiger and pandas leading the way in the Asian section, both with large enclosures reflective of their habitat, while wild boar and flamingos occupy smaller enclosures  before Asia folds its way into Fantasy Island. For those interested in the animals and creatures, information boards alongside each enclosure are ready to provide note cards.

Africa, meanwhile – and also as might be expected – offers open-air enclosures for elephants and rhinos, giraffe and zebra, and lions, all built around the park’s main café, sitting on a little rocky plateau. Also to be found here are the enclosed primate areas and walkways leading up to the upper level of the “sea world” area, home to dolphins and Orca. This area is split on two levels – the lower accessed by way of the children’s corner and petting zoo (and passing by way of a little Jurassic display),  and providing and “underwater” view of the dolphins and Orca. I admit that this area particularly left me with a slight feeling of discomfiture, as I am uneasy around attractions where creatures are expected to perform, no matter how “happy” they may appear to be.

56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785; Inara Pey, June 2019, on Flickr56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785, June 2019

I’ll also admit to having one or two niggles with the size / re-sizing of some of the animals and with the slight alpha issues the tigers can exhibit under some windlight settings (which suggest they might fair better if they were to be switched to Alpha Mask if they are Modify). However, these weren’t enough to put me off appreciating how well the gardens have been put together, and the care taken to give them a logical structure.  While “56578 Go Wild Blvd, Watery Cove, IS 245785” might be a handful to type, there is no denying it has more than enough to keep visitors engaged (particularly around Discovery Island), marking it as an interesting and diverting visit.

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