2019 SL User Groups 33/2: Content Creation summary

North Brother Island; Inara Pey, June 2019, on FlickrNorth Brother Island, June 2019 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting, held on Thursday, August 15th 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.

Items Coming out of the SL Summit

  • LL might potentially be looking at a refresh of SL terrain texturing in the near future.
  • Pathfinding is recognised as a pain-point, but no resources are available within the Lab to tackle improvements / enhancements in the immediate future.

ARCTan

Project Summary

An attempt to re-evaluate object and avatar rendering costs to make them more reflective of the actual impact of rendering both. The overall aim is to try to correct some inherent negative incentives for creating optimised content (e.g. with regards to generating LOD models with mesh), and to update the calculations to reflect current resource constraints, rather than basing them on outdated constraints (e.g. graphics systems, network capabilities, etc).

Current Status
  • The project has been on hold for some time, but due to be rebooted during the current quarter.
  • Emphasis will initially be on data gathering, as previously.
  • No decision has yet been made on whether or not the first pass of work (once the data has been gathered) will include avatar accountability (including a further pass with Animesh), or initially only focus on in-world objects.
  • The overall aim is that of encouragement – getting users to think and want to be on-board with the changes, as they can see the benefit.
  • This work will not reduce the maximum texture size (1024×1024 – and remembering that for Bakes on Mesh avatar texture sizes have actually been increased from a 512x512cap to 1024×1024). However, ARCTan might penalise for “improper” use of textures (e.g. multiple uses of unique 1024×1024 textures across object faces, no matter how small the faces might be).
  • There are a lot of ideas around ARCTan (e.g. finding a means to not encourage lowest LODs of near-zero triangles, not penalising people if they include valid LODs, etc). However, threading the need to find the right balance on how things should be handled is acknowledged as being difficult, and as such, do not expect ARCTan to start changing anything soon.

Environment Enhancement Project

Project Summary

A set of environmental enhancements (e.g. the sky, sun, moon, clouds, and 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 now likely not include certain atmospherics such as crepuscular rays (“God rays”).

Resources

Current Status

  • The viewer should be updated shortly to bring it to parity with the most recent viewer release (version 6.2.4.529638, formerly the Love Me Render RC).
  • There are still issues on the rendering side affecting people on various graphics systems that need to be resolved, together with some remaining performance issues.

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 Bake 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

  • Still a number of bugs to be resolved, and Vir is now working on these as well as the Animesh follow-on (below). These include, but are not limited to:
    • Shadows are failing to render correctly.
    • Issues with some alpha settings.
  • Otherwise, most of the functionality is now believed to be in place.

Animesh Follow-On – Project Muscatene

  • DRTSIM-421 on Aditi (region Bakes on Mesh) now has the server-side code to support the new visual parameters LSL code.
  • Project viewer supporting the new LSL code should be out for use on Aditi in the next week.
    • This will provide the means to test the new LSL code functionality, but as with all project viewers, may not work 100% in all other areas.
    • May get enhanced with additional Animesh-related capabilities, although this is dependent on commitments with other projects, notably Bakes on Mesh and Prject ARCTan.

General Discussion

Possible SL Wiki Deprecation?

  • For the last few years, the Lab has been moving information away from the SL wiki and into knowledge base articles.
  • During a recent Web User Group meeting, it was indicated that this trend will continue, and that the use of the SL wiki may be deprecated over time.
    • One of the reasons for this is the wiki software has some issues, and there are problems in opening the wiki for general management by users.
  • These changes will not result in the wiki immediately vanishing.
  • It’s not clear as to the best mechanism for getting outdated / incorrect knowledge base articles corrected – potentially the best way at the moment is to raise a bug report.

Documentation

The wiki situation prompted a broader discussion on documentation.

  • LL has been considering how to better provide documentation and demonstration videos for upcoming features and new capabilities.
  • It has also been suggested a Content Creation blog where notes on projects, best practices relating to them and for things like mesh design – LODs (including how to make efficient low LOD models rather than just tossing a low number of tri into the mix) – uploads, etc., and other content creation information could be posted.
  • It is acknowledged that there is a lot of expertise within the Lab and within the community for content creation, and none of it really resides within a single individual – therefore determining what should be documented, how it should be documented, etc., is not an easy matter.
    • A lot of the existing best practises for content and build has come from users / creators.
    • Given the status of the wiki, adding to this is currently difficult.
    • While creators have produced their own documentation, etc., it does come at a cost, and tends to focus n their own specifics. Leveraging this into a more general set of best practices and documentation library would take a lot of further time and effort.
    • As such, some sort of collaborative effort between creators and the Lab might be the way forward, although even organising this and ensuring a consensus of opinion may not be easy.
  • Another way to enhance documentation might be to submit new articles / updates to existing articles through a mechanism like the open source contribution agreement.

Mesh Uploader

Work is continuing on improving the mesh uploader – notably with the contributed updates from Beq Janus of the Firestorm team (see my Firestorm 6.0.1 review for details).

Further work could be done to improve feedback information given by the uploader, but this is currently seen as being more UI intensive, and outside the immediate scope of this updates.

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Wandering Highland Hills in Second Life

Highland Hills, August 2019 – click any image to enlarge

Highland Hills is the name given to a quarter Full region designed by EloiseBlake, and it is a place that packs a lot into it. Open to the sea on two sides, the parcel is described as the “Highlands of Scotland. A forgotten era. Ruined, rural and rustic. Where nature has claimed its home.”

As a representation of the Scottish highlands, I’d perhaps suggest the parcel is intended to offer some the many aspects of the highlands – the rugged hills, the rough, weather coastline, hints of glen-like slopes (al be they narrow), rushing streams, and so on – rather than any single place within them. In doing so, it presents a rough-hewn landscape that is entirely its own, one that invites exploration.

Highland Hills, August 2019

The ruins referenced in the description come in multiple forms, from the great round bulk of a coastal tower, sitting atop a shoulder of rock and protected on two sides by open sea – or perhaps intended to command an offensive view over the waters – to the squat rectangle of a castle keep brooding against the western cliffs of the land.

Between and around these two are multiple signs of what might have once been an extensive fortification – the ruins of curtain walls, ached entrances that might once have been guarded by stout gates, the remnants of a chapel, and so on. Are these all symbolic of a once might castle that dominated the landscape at some point in the past? Or are they indicative of multiple attempts to fortify and hold the land during different times in its violent history? That’s one of many questions the visitor might be tempted to ask, although the lay of the land perhaps points to the various ruins being somewhat separate in nature.

Highland Hills, August 2019

More recently, the land has become home to a small farm, the house of which sits in the lee of the great round tower, with a cattle barn sitting across the parcel from it, overlooking the eastern coast. The latter is intended to be the home for shaggy highland cattle, but the cows appear to have had other ideas, an open gate affording them the opportunity to wander down to the rocks sitting above the coastal waters.

Also down among the rocks can be found the detritus of human life: abandoned crates, broken rowing boats and so on – some of which offer places to sit. More places to sit and relax can be found scattered across the parcel, most of them easily reached from the landing point by following the dirt tracks that roll away from it. One of the latter will take visitors past the great tower, then the little farmhouse, and onwards to where beehives have been carefully set among the heather. Just to one side of these a great tree has, at some point in the past collapsed, its aged trunk now a convenient bridge by which to reach the rectangular castle keep.

Highland Hills, August 2019

In truth, getting around parts of the region can require a bit of scrambling and / or searching. Take the main steps up to the castle keep, for example. They link keep with an entry arch and one of the tracks running through the land – but the entrance itself is blocked by the stones that have fallen from the top of the arch, the keystone presumably having given way at some point in the past. On the one hand, this leaves visitors struggling to get over the fallen stones in order to climb the steps beyond, but on the other it cleverly encourages people to look for an alternate route – and those who do can be rewarded by further discoveries of hidden spots on their way up to the keep.

Similarly, finding the way up to the round tower is – without cheating – a little bit of a game of exploration. While it is possible to get up to it from inland, the easier route perhaps lies elsewhere. All I’ll say by way of a clue is that to go up, you first need to go down.

Highland Hills, August 2019

Finished with a sound scape fully in keeping with the setting, Highland Hills makes for a diverting visit with plenty to see without taking up a huge amount of time, and opportunities for photography, and pictures can also be submitted to the parcel’s Flickr pool.

SLurl Details