A farewell to Annon in Second Life

Annon, November 2019

Alia Baroque is one of Second Life’s foremost fantasy designers. His avatars, clothing, and accessories for fantasy role-play in SL are legendary – as are his region builds for each year’s Fantasy Faire. His base of operations in-world has been – and remains-  a set of regions focused on his in-world store at Selidor, which had additionally been places for exploration and photography.

I mention this because Annie Brightstar brought to my attention the fact that Alia has decided to retire Annon, one of his regions and a well-known setting in Second Life, and will be doing so at the end of Sunday, November, 17th 2019; so I decided to hop across to take a last look.

Annon, a homestead region, is the home of The Tower Gate of Annon and Flowing Monastery. It’s a place I’ve visited on numerous occasions – although I’ve only actually blogged about once, far back in 2012. It’s also a place with a long history, dating back to 2010.

Annon, November 2019

The Tower Gate originated as a build for the 2010 RFL of SL weekend, and was constructed in just 7 days. A prim build, it is has been standing guard over the Fallen Gods regions largely unchanged since being relocated. Alongside of it, just across the water, sit the Flowing Monastery, another prim build sitting atop a rugged knuckle of and island. But for a single blossoming tree in the cloister, the monastery is an empty building, lending a haunting beauty to it and the island on which it sits. The Tower Gate, however, offers multiple points of interest for those exploring its halls.

As Alia notes, both builds have stood for almost a decade, almost unchanged through the years – and certainly untouched by Alia for around half of that time. Thus, while they are in some ways monuments to Second Life’s history, they are also something that now sit outside of his Second Life vision. So, he plans to retire the builds to inventory before returning the regions to Linden Lab on November 20th, 2019.

Annon, November 2019

In retiring the region, Alia has emphasised hie is doing so not because of issues with tier or anything like it, nor does he wish to have donations made towards their possible upkeep or enquiries about purchasing them, noting:

They need to go to allow Selidor and Athan to flourish and be reborn … I am not interested in selling them or any contribution for their extended existence, the tip jar was always there so it won’t make a difference as I take this choice happily and without regrets. So please, if anyone has a sudden moment of making a fund-raiser thinking I am doing this because of a dire need, don’t.

I hope you enjoyed it until now and will remember the region with fondness, happy memories and longing, but I also hope you will be excited to see the new rebuild and update of the rest of the Archipelagos of Fallen Gods that I plan, hopefully soon.

– Alia Baroque, November 13th, 2019

Annon, November 2019

Those who wish to pay a last visit to Annon are encouraged to do so before the end of November 17th, 2019 (SLT). In addition, those who can are invited to join a Fantasy Faire LitFest tour of the region that will start at 14:00 SLT on Sunday.

SLurl Details

  • Annon – The Gate (Annon (rated Moderate)

2019 TPVD meeting week #46 summary

Unconditional, October 2019 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on November 15th, 2019. A video of the meeting is embedded below, my thanks to Pantera for recording and providing it. As always:

  • Time stamps are given with links that will open the video at the appropriate point in a separate browser tab for reference.
  • Core points of the meeting are listed below. Other subjects of lesser import may have been discussed, please refer to the video.

Simulator Script Management Improvements

[1:25-2:35]

These continue to be deployed across the grid, with the Lab believe the results have been “mostly good”, but noting that there may still be some scripts that may be affected by the changes (and some have been reported – such as BUG-227864).

Those that are experiencing issues are asked to file a bug report, as the Lab is willing to offer assistance. Note that example scripts may be requested as a well.

SL Viewer News

[2:45-6:33]

  • On Friday, November 15th:
    • The Maintenance RC viewer updated to version 6.3.5.532739.
    • The Copy / Paste project viewer updated to version 6.3.5.532780.

The rest of the current viewer pipelines remain as follows:

  • Current Release version 6.3.4.532299, formerly the Ordered Shutdown RC viewer, dated November 4.
  • Release channel cohorts:
  • Project viewers:
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17th. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.530473, September 11th.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16th.

General Viewer Notes

  • A further update to the Legacy Profiles viewer is close to being made available. If the comments from the Web User Group are correct, this will see Profile Feeds appearing in the Profile floater, presumably in a new tab on that floater.
  • The first of the viewer builds using the updated Visual Studio 2017 / Xcode 10.3 (?) that had been anticipated as appearing “soon” at the last RPVD meeting apparently did not pass QA testing, and is now subject to debugging code changes that were made to some of the coroutines in the viewer.
  • It appears that work has resumed on the contribution towards viewer camera presets (STORM-2145), with “good progress” being made, but no indication on when a project viewer will surface.
  • The Lab is trying to generate bandwidth to implement mesh uploader improvements (these are most likely based on the Firestorm improvements to the uploader, the code for which has been contributed to LL).

Two-Factor Authentication

[15:43-16:46]

Two-factor authentication for log-in has been s subject of comment and requests from some time. Linden Lab is actively working on it, noting it is “firmly on the roadmap”. However:

  • There is no time frame at present on possible deployment.
  • The work is dependent / linked to other work, requiring things are approached in order and care is taken to ensure that in making all the collective changes, nothing is broken.

SL Share

[16:50-18:55]

SL Share, the capability for sharing SL snapshots to Facebook, Flickr and Twitter via LL server-side support, is to be discontinued.

  • The Facebook upload capability was removed some time ago after Facebook made changes to their API that broke the ability for the viewer to share to their platform, and did not implement any fix.
  • More recently, the Flickr and Twitter uploads have suffered issues (the Flickr upload is currently broken in viewers using the Lab’s upload back-end).

The reason for discontinuing SL Share is due to Flickr and Twitter making frequent changes to their connecting APIs without any notice that require LL to update their back-end support, which is regarded as a “big distraction” from other server-side work.

TPVs are free to continue to offer their own viewer-side means of uploading to the likes of Flickr that do not require LL’s back-end support, if they so wish. Firestorm has already done this.

In Brief

  • Singularity is apparently “very close” to a formal release to bring it up-to-date with current viewers.
  • [7:22-15:15] There is a discussion on region issues that are specific to the London City regions. Whilst somewhat outside the normal remit for TPVD meetings, it might be worth listening to by region / estate owners who may have experienced recent restart issues.
  • Emojis are coming to the viewer, courtesy of a code contribution that’s heading to Linden Lab.
The emoji capability is being contributed by the Catznip viewer team
  • Next TPV Developer meeting: Friday, December 14th, 2019.

Frogmore: more Swedish memories in Second Life

Frogmore, November 2019 – click any image for full size

We first visited Frogmore in August 2019, when it was located on a Homestead region. It has now relocated to a Full region that include the 10K land capacity bonus, and we were invited back to take a further look at the expanded setting by Bengta’s SL partner, Atze Boucher.

In the original build, Frogmore offered a focused interpretation of a childhood in Öregrund, Sweden. with the new Full region installation, that focus is broadened somewhat, with Bengta and Atza noting, ” we share with you a touch of life in Sweden and the magic that is Scandinavia”.  This has resulted in a location that blends much of what will likely be familiar to those who visited the original Frogmore with much that is new, thus presenting a setting that carries with it a sense of returning to a familiar place in life, whilst also offer more opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Frogmore, November 2019

For those who have visited previously, that sense of familiarity is imbued on arrival: the cinder road is still there, forming the landing point and pointing the way between wooden buildings sitting on a narrow waterfront with the sea on one side and rugged steps of hills on the other. The ocean-facing wharves are still there as well, but a walk along the road will reveal that the buildings fronting them have been a little thinned out, before the road arrives not at a rocky headland, but at a large harbour market that may well be past its prime.

I say “past its prime”, because the main pier looks to be in need of repair, and the waters next to it don’t appear that welcoming to fishing boats (there’s even a poor piano caught in the detritus floating there), while the buildings on the headland look tired, with a couple now given over to entertainment, rather than serving market buyers with fish and produce. Even what might have been a large, solid warehouse looks to be in the process of being re-purposed as a art gallery.

Frogmore, November 2019

Elsewhere, other familiar sites await discovery. The rocky stream bubbling its way through one of the original setting’s two main islands, and which drew my attention during or first visit is still waiting to be found – although I don’t recall it being blocked off at both ends.

Other familiar elements include the need to scramble over rocks to get from place to place in some part of the region, which can give a sense of being on a hike when exploring, while the oyster bar still stills above that main cinder-topped road.

Frogmore, November 2019

The move to a Full region has also allowed for expansion, with several new areas appearing in the new design. There are coastal camping cabins, inland paths switch-backing through the landscape between rocky spines and hills, leaping narrow brooks with the aid of bridges and fallen tree trunks. An old cable-car system runs somewhat diagonally across the largest island, while the two smaller island to the north and east show signs of more occupation that I recall from our August visit.

All of this makes the “new” Frogmore – or as Atze termed it to me, “Frogmore 2.0” – well worth exploration, as there is so much that is new – including multiple new spaces to sit on your own, share with friends or experience a little intimacy with a lover. However, it does come with a caveat: perhaps a little too much has been packed into the region in terms of unique textures and volume of mesh, as a visit can really impact viewer performance if you have options such as shadows enabled or have a mid-to-high draw distance (e.g. 120m or more).

Frogmore, November 2019

I also found the issue of the region surround taking time to render to be apparent here (an issue I experienced and other commented on with the original Frogmore). In my case it took some 70-80 minutes for the surround to pop into view, hence why it is absent in the majority of images here – all of which were taken in that time period. I’ve no idea how common this issue might be with this build – but a lack of the surround doesn’t unduly spoil the region’s looks.

However, those points noted (both of which can be dealt with by either ignoring the surround, or by making some adjustments to the viewer), the new Frogmore is as photogenic as the original. Those who do take photos are invited to submit them to the Frogmore Flickr group.

Frogmore, November 2019

SLurl Details

2019 Content Creation User Group week #46 summary

Kinglet Sound, September 2019 – blog post

The following notes are taken from my audio recording of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, November 14th 2019 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, meeting SLurl, etc, are available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

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

  • Merging with the last set of viewer releases has caused issues, and these are currently being addressed.
  • Beyond the above issue, clearing the remaining EEP bugs is “a priority focus”.

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

  • Vir is working on providing a means for data collection across a range of different viewer-side hardware specifications.
  • His previous work on textures and texture handling / loading have revealed it is hard to quantify in terms of accounting for performance impact, as textures don’t result in the same kind of impact as mesh triangle complexity.
    • With mesh, there is a clear complexity correlation between the number of triangles and performance /  complexity hits.
    • The number of textures on a object don’t behave the same way, other then during initial loading or if they push against memory limits, so, there’s no gradual degradation in performance with texture that can be seen with mesh, making it harder to produce accurate calculations.

Avatar System

The avatar system has become considerably more flexible over the years, but also far more complexity to use. Given this, Vir put out a question on whether there is anything creators would like to see Linden Lab do in terms of managing the avatar behaviour and configurability.

For example, one aspect of avatar system management is HUDs, which can be impactful in a number of ways  – resources simulator side, texture use viewer side; general ease-of use. Discussion on this raised some suggestions ideas:

  • Presenting them through (if possible) a dedicated floater in the viewer that could be dragged around like any other floater, minimised, etc.
  • Possibly extending llDialog to prove better support for HUD-like actions via dialogues.
  • Providing an HTML-based means for HUD-style interactions.
  • Having a “favourites” inventory folder sub-set, floater and toolbar button, a-la Firestorm that users could use for their various HUDs and (hopefully) encourage them to only attach (via the toolbar button / floater) when required – thus assisting with reducing VRAM usage for users / eases resource loads when avatars move between simulators. This idea has been discussed at the Lab.

A further discussion on this involved avatar shapes and applying / managing parameters.

  • Currently the body shape is a “container” for all body parameters (head shape, body size, leg length, torso dimensions, etc).
  • This can make it hard when trying to carry out localised modifications to a part of a body (e.g. applying head parameters to a “preset” shape designed for a specific head brand).
  • There have been suggestions to help improve this, including:
    • Providing a means of exporting specific shape parameters for making new body shapes (see feature request BUG-216131).
    • Manipulating the shape via LSL (not seen as necessarily user-friendly).
    • Having some form of wearable that can be associated with specific body area parameters so that when used, would cause the currently worn body to adopt those parameters.
    • Provide a means to support some kind of “mask list” that just governs which bones they affect. This would allow for quite arbitrary sub-sets (as defined by the shape creator), but is seen as not that user-friendly, and potentially introducing added complexity into shape manipulation.
  • Some of these suggestions have a potential hit with increased UI complexity, but the idea of having explicit sub-set of shapes (e.g. one for the head, one form the upper body (or torso), etc.,) that have an obvious link to the sliders they would affect / be affected by, would seem to be the easiest for users to understand.
  • To address the head issue noted above, the most direct solution would be to separate the head shape from the body.

Other Items in Brief

  • Rider Linden is working on the texturing download and caching updates for the viewer, but these have run into merging problems with the current release viewer, so there is nothing available for public consumption on this work.
  • Several creators have noted issues with Bakes on Mesh and the left arm / leg, Universal wearables, tattoos and skins (see this forum post as an example, together with this feedback thread post). No precise solution has been offered (there has been a suggestion for LL to provide a means to convert existing skins to universals for left arm and left leg, but it’s not clear how well this would work in practice).

More hopping through Bellisseria

Everfaire Coffee Shop, Bellisseria

Back in May 2019, I produced a piece called On the Road in Bellisseria. At the time, it was intended to be the first in a series of “road tours” around the continent to various public places that form a part of the continent, and also a look at some of the public facilities – pubs, cafés, galleries, show homes, etc., that have been opened by Bellisseria residents.

For a variety of reasons, that idea didn’t go as planned, and given Bellisseria is a dynamic place, constantly growing in terms of physical size and population, offering a road tour isn’t easy. So instead, here’s a short list of places I’ve dropped into of late that might be of interest to those wanting to take a hop around the continent.

Many of the public places provided as a part of Bellisseria  – the Fairgrounds, for example,or Campwich Lodge, added with the arrival of the Trailers and Campers and the Bellisseria railway lines (see: Bellisseria: of Trailers, Campers and trains in Second Life) and original airstrip, together with the various bars, pool, beaches and undersea spots – are all reasonably well-known, so I’m again focusing on a handful of resident-provided spots.

Picards Wharf contains one of several undersea sites around Bellisseria, this one comprising the ruins of a sunken lighthouse in two parts, with accompanying undersea caverns (seen in the background)

These are perhaps a little harder to keep track of, simply because people have the freedom of choice with their Linden Home styles, that they can easily swap designs and purposes – so a house that might be a café for a time might later be switched back to being a cosy home, whilst a houseboat might switch from home to gallery and back again, depending on the owner’s desires. Nevertheless, the following were all current at the time of writing.

For art, two places in particular come into mind. There is Diamond Marchant’s Beckridge Gallery, and Ladmilla’s Gallery, which might be regarded as a “branch” of her much larger gallery, THE EDGE.

Ladmilla’s Gallery

Both galleries offer slightly different approaches to displaying art, with Beckridge offering a more “gallery” style environment at the time of my original visit (see: Celebrating Apollo 11 in Second Life and Sansar), where the focus is on the art, with minimal emphasis on furnishings. Ladmilla’s offers a more studio style of gallery, where her own work – including some of her images-with-poems, produced in collaboration with her SL partner, Eli Medier – is displayed in comfy settings with sofas and armchairs. Other galleries within the continent include The Little Gallery (RuffertasAlt), and Bellisseria Squirrel (Halo Rain).

Those seeking café or pub-style environments might be interested in Cain Wycliffe’s Bellis Blues Café. Taking full advantage of Chic Aeon’s add-on elements specifically for Linden Homes, Bellis Blues is presented as the continent’s only Blue-oriented café / club, and features regular events on Tuesdays (10:00 – noon SLT), Fridays (14:00-16:00 SLT) and Saturdays (20:00-22:00 SLT).

Bellis Blues Café

Staying with the café theme, those exploring the Trailer and Campers regions by train, truck or (most enjoyably) horseback might want to drop-in to Mitchel Torok’s Mitch’s Hideaway, a place that demonstrates just how versatile the trailer homes can be. An added attraction at the hideaway is the inclusion of a Teaglepet Animesh horse rezzer, allowing visitors to take a horseback ride on a choice of mounts – just remember to turn off your own AO!

Other cafés and pubs I’ve enjoyed dropping into are Soulgoodie’s Everfaire Coffee Shop and the Queen’s Head pub, run by North Crannock, one of the driving forces in the Bellisseria Citizen’s group, and which is modelled on an English country pub. A point to note when visiting resident created public places is that some may also include bicycle rezzers, giving visitors the opportunity to take a ride through the streets and along the paths of Bellisseria.

Mitch’s Hideaway

Further places of interest within Bellisseria include the The Drowned Mouse Arcade for video games, Jupiter Projects, promising “a series of limited engagement interactive environments” and the Pearl Dreams Business Compound, offering a “Surf Shack Café & Bakery, with Chopper Tours” and other elements. I can’t really vouch for any of these or how active they might, be as I’ve only paid them very brief visits courtesy of a landmark list provided by PrudenceAnton.

As with my previous piece on places to visit in Bellisseria, this article is hardly complete – and as noted, places may change purposes over time. However, whether you have property in Bellisseria and want to explore more or are simply curious about paying the continent a visit and looking around, hopefully what is listed here might help you. Those interested in events in Bellisseria might want to take a poke at the Bellisseria Citizen’s Group, which is free to join.

Drune: a further visit in Second Life

Drune: East of Eden, November 2019 – click any image for full size

For the third time in 2019, I dropped into Drune, this time on the recommendation of reader Robin Lobo, although it is a place that has been getting a lot of attention of late due to a photographic competition that is running through until November 27th, 2019.

Designed by Zee9, we visited the region at the start of 2019 and then during the summer (see: Time at 2019-XS in Second Life, January 2019 and Drune IV: an Aftermath in Second Life, August, 2019), although Zee9’s designs go back beyond either of these dates. Throughout all of their iterations, Zee9’s builds have focused on a sci-fi / cyberpunk feel that incorporates certain key motifs drawn  – as the About Land description notes  – from the likes of Blade Runner and The Fifth Element, Neuromancer, and Altered Carbon.

Drune: East of Eden, November 2019

This latest iteration of the design is called Drune: East of Eden. Whether or not the title is a reflection of Steinbeck and the underpinning themes of his novel I’ve no idea, but given the dystopian state of human civilisation seen particularly within Blade Runner, and the novel’s examination of humanity’s capacity for self-destruction, the link would seem to perhaps be apparent.

Focused on a single, neon-lit street, complete with Spinner-style police cars buzzing and hovering around, the build perhaps leans more towards Blade Runner than the past two builds offered – although equally, there is less of a feel of the multi-level nature in the setting than previous builds that also move it a little away from that film. However, there are numerous nods and touches to a range of influences beyond the films named in the region description (one of the more obvious being Sulaco Corporation – a name that would seem to draw on the Alien franchise).

Drune: East of Eden, November 2019

There are familiar elements from earlier builds to be found as well – notably the subway that serves as the landing point, some of the vehicles, the little hovering robots, the night club and the bar. These help to give a sense of continuity to the setting that eases those familiar with some of Drune’s past iterations (such as 2019-XS) into this one, such that the feeling is not so much that this is not so much a new build, but another part of that city.

For me, the enclosing region surround give this iteration of Drune a depth perhaps lacking in some previous versions – and it is clear that Zee9 has taken a huge amount of care to ensure the the edges of the region break up the surround such that the high-rise buildings of the latter feel like a genuine continuance of the setting, adding to that feeling of depth noted above. It is as if one could walk through one of the road tunnels, the canyons between those skyscrapers would indeed lead to some of those past Drune designs, sitting as further outliers of the city.

Drune: East of Eden, November 2019

Always evocative, wonderfully thematic and rich in colour, Drune always offers a setting worth visiting and appreciating – and for photographers, the photo contest mentioned above gives an added incentive for visiting. Details can be found on an ad board in the landing point subway.

Recommended – and thanks to Zee9 for the chat.

Drune: East of Eden, November 2019

SLurl Details