Storytelling in Sansar

Sansar: Through the Waterfall – Jasmine

As a new – and still developing / evolving platform – Sansar is currently perhaps more a place for experimentation for many, rather than a place to inhabit or use productively (which is not to say it cannot fulfil use cases, as I hope my article on the recent Voyages Live: Egypt tour shows). Because the platform can be seen in this way, I’m constantly looking out for experiences that push Sansar’s current capabilities just that little bit harder – and Linden Lab has been encouraging experience creators to do just this, initially through their Creator Challenge, which took place a few months back (see here for more), together with the Halloween-themed Sansar’s Scariest contest, which closed its doors to entrants in mid-October 2017.

Creator Jasmine has used both competitions as a means of experimenting with Sansar’s potential as a storytelling platform. For the Creator Challenge, she produced Through the Waterfall: Enter Another World, which actually took the prize for Best Narrative Experience. This is the not-entirely-happy story of what happens to two young girls in the aftermath of a tragic car accident.

Sansar: Through the Waterfall – Jasmine

The story starts atop a giant desk on which visitors are informed, Without dreams, we can never become more than that which we already are… , together with an invitation to jump down to the floor and find the first of a series of keys.  Each key, when walked upon, teleports the visitor to a chapter in the unfolding story. It’s a fairly linear piece,  requiring the visitor to “fill in” the blanks of the storyline, so to speak, but the crafting and use of media and music help move things forward through the six chapters. I’m not going to say more here so as not to spoil anyone’s visit.

Miner Difficulties is a further narrative-based experience, with the story developed by Jasmine, and scripting / choreography by Galen (the two of them working under the title of Through the Waterfall). The similarities between this story and that of Through the Waterfall: Enter Another World are fairly clear: both start in similar surroundings, both involve the visitor in an unfolding narrative (an introduction and three chapters for Miner Difficulties, rather than the intro and six chapters of Enter Another World). However, it is the differences in the way the story is managed with that sets Miner Difficulties apart from Jasmine’s earlier work and helps mark how Sansar’s capabilities are gradually unfolding and lending themselves to more sophisticated use.

Sansar: Miner Difficulties – Jasmine and Galen

Whereas Enter Another World relied upon the discovery of keys and narrative deductions on the part of the visitor to link the six chapters of the story, Miner Difficulties uses two “living” guides to steer visitors through the story and piece together events. These are a little bird and a little girl.

Again, I don’t want to spoil a visit, so I’m not going to say much on what to expect. Suffice it to say that the bird acts as a guide through the woods, leading visitors to the little the girl (and then continues onwards with you as you travel with her). The girl also acts as a guide  – but as well as leading you onwards, she also talks to you as she does so, giving a natural structure to the narrative. Both bird and girl are beautifully choreographed and give a great sense of depth to the experience.

Sansar: Miner Difficulties – Jasmine and Galen

To those used to the complexities and capabilities of Second Life, these experiences may seem a little simplistic. However, they do demonstrate the potential for Sansar to become a platform for storytelling – and with the growing capabilities for both VR and Desktop mode interactions, it will be interesting to see how narrative-based experiences develop.

In terms of Halloween / ghostly experiences, I found Miner Difficulties one of the more involved in Sansar, and deserving of its status as a featured experience.

Experience URLs

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Floating in Second Life

Floating

Floating is an accident, pure and simple. It was never intended to be a collaboration between Bryn Oh and Cica Ghost – but that is what it is. Which is not to say that it is anything unfortunate – far from it; it’s an installation that mixes fun with something of a slight social message.

As Bryn explains, the installation was originally intended to be her design, but built to display the 2D art of another person. But for some reason (shyness?), having secured a grant to use the region, the other artist did not follow through on their commitment and no 2D art was supplied – leaving Bryn holding the lease on a region and in need of an idea. Enter Cica Ghost. She and Bryn put their heads together and in a week, Floating had emerged, with the assistance of Desdemona Enfield and Serenity Mercier.

Floating

The core of the build is a city hugging a shoreline; at one end are high-rise apartments overlooking a marina with motor cruisers and boats. The people in the apartments are clearly wealthy or well-off; through the windows of one we can see a family sitting down for a sumptuous meal, a butler in attendance, in another, a family sits in coloured warmth. With the marina and the high-rise buildings, the evidence of wealth, it is hard not to be put in mind of somewhere like Monaco.

At the other end of the curving shoreline it is a different story. Here there are no glittering high-rises, only older buildings, grubbier in appearance, which in turn give way to humble, racked living pods. The beach here is also far from the pristine marina, with piles of detritus, while the absence of colour underlines the lack of affluence. Thus, a comment on the divide between those who have, and those who have less (and who serve?), is made.

Floating

However, this isn’t just a build with a message on society’s disparities; there is also a sense of fun yo be found. At the arrival point, visitors can take an umbrella and float around the build, while free-floating balloons also offer a means to float through the air. But be warned – care needs to be taken as there are blocks that periodically fall from the sky.

Also to be found at the landing point is a zap gun. This can be purchased for L$0, and allows people to hunt and shoot one another. Just make sure you join the experience in the region if you intend to place – otherwise, should you be shot by someone else, you’ll be teleported home, rather than just back to the landing point.

Floating

Floating is a curious, electric mix of art, message and fun (if visiting with others and the guns are being used). Instructions on obtaining the zap gun and on getting around can be found at the landing point.

SLurl Details

Floating (LEA 13, rated: Moderate)

Animesh project viewer arrives in Second Life

On Wednesday, October 18th, Linden Lab announced the release of their much-anticipated Animesh project viewer had been made available, marking the start of public testing for the Animesh project.

For those who have not been following my Content Creation User Group meeting updates, “Animesh” is an amalgam of “ANImated MESH”. The overall goal of the project is to provide a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, trees with animated branches, etc.

In short, an Animesh object:

  • Can be any rigged / skinned mesh which and contains the necessary animations and controlling scripts in its own inventory  (Contents tab of the Build floater) required for it to animate itself.
  • Can be a single mesh object or a linkset of objects.
  • Has been flagged as and Animesh object in the project viewer, and so has an avatar skeleton associated with it.
  • Uses three new LSL methods to run or stop animations, or check which animations are currently running:
Animesh allows you to take rigged mesh objects, add animations and controlling scripts to them, associate them with an avatar skeleton, and have them run in-world without the need for any supervising viewer / client

The Animesh project has been in development for the last several months, and has involved ongoing discussions and input from content creators at the Content Creation User Group meetings, which are held in-world at the Hippotropolis Camp Fire Circle most Thursdays at 13:00 SLT. As such, the arrival of the project viewer does not mark any kind of official release of the project. Rather, and as noted, it marks the commencement of public testing for what will hopefully become the first release of Animesh functionality.

Currently, testing can only take place on Aditi, the beta grid, where five regions are available with Animesh support enabled. These are: Animesh1, Animesh2, Animesh3, Animesh4, all rated Moderate, and Animesh Adult. Again, please note that Animesh functionality in the project viewer will not work on the Main grid at this time.

Animesh objects are created in-world, not uploaded as such. They must contain the animation(s) they are to run and a controlling script (l), and are enabled via Animated Mesh object in the Build Floater’s Features tab (centre). Note that if you select an unrigged / non-mesh object (or a No modify rigged object), the option will be greyed out and unavailable (right)

An Animesh User Guide is available to help people get started with Animesh, and a forum thread has been set-up for feedback and discussion, while specific bugs or feature request suggestions for the project should be reported via the Second Life JIRA.

Test content is also available to help people get started, if they don’t have suitable content of their own they wish to convert to Animesh objects. The test content can be found here.

In addition, those who test the viewer and Animesh are invited to attend the Content Creation User Group meetings and join discussion on Animesh (and other content related projects), and  / or are welcome to follow my Content Creation User Group meeting updates.

One of the aims in testing Animesh will be to see how many Animesh objects a region and the viewer can comfortably handle without impacting the performance of either

Eventually, Animesh will hopefully support fully fledged non-player character (NPC) creations which can, if required have things like an avatar shape associated with them, use a dedicated, avatar-like inventory, and utilise both the server-side locomotion graph for walking, sitting, etc., and the avatar baking service. However, these capabilities do not form part of the current Animesh project, but will be added as a future project, once other elements which can also help better support NPCs have been put in place (such as an update to the baking service, which forms another project within the Lab).

Related Links

SL project updates 42/1: server, viewer

Tavana Island; Inara Pey, October 2017, on FlickrTavana Islandblog post

Server Deployments for Week #42

As always, please refer to the server release thread for updates and the latest news.

  • On Tuesday, October 17th, the Main (SLS) received the server maintenance package,  17#17.10.06.509394, previously deployed to the Magnum RC channel, comprising “internal fixes”
  • On Wednesday, October 18th, the RC channels should be updated with a new server maintenance package, #17.10.13.509701, also comprising internal fixes.

Neither of these updates should have user-visible changes.

SL Viewer

The former Maintenance RC viewer, version 5.0.8.329115, was promoted to de facto release status on Friday October 13th., and a new Maintenance RC viewer, version 5.0.9.329464 was released. SL viewer pipeline remains unchanged from week #41:

  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Voice RC viewer, version 5.0.8.329552, dated September 1.
    • Wolfpack RC viewer,version  5.0.8.329128, dated September 22 – this viewer is functionally identical to the release viewer, but includes additional back-end logging “to help catch some squirrelly issues”.
    • Alex Ivy 64-bit viewer, version 5.1.0.508209, dated September 5.
  • Project viewers:
  • Obsolete platform viewer version 3.7.28.300847, dated May 8th, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Pathfinding Bug (?)

Pathfinding hasn’t been particularly successful since its introduction. However, with work progressing on animated mesh (Animesh – see my Content Creation User Group updates), there has been renewed interest in using Pathfinding alongside of Animesh. However, it has recently been noted that any call to llCreateCharacter on a Full region causes 8-12% performance loss (Homestead regions do not appear to be affected), regardless of whether the region is actively using Pathfinding or not, and / or whatever else is in the script – see BUG-41385.

This appears to be a recent issue, but it is not clear how widespread it might be, as the issue has thus far only been reported in one estate. However, when it does occur,  one character in a region seems to be enough to cause the hit, additional characters don’t cause any significant increase in the loss of performance.

Commenting on the issue at the Simulator User Group, Simon Linden said:

Pathfinding is a big chunk of complex code (that we didn’t write) so I’m sure there’s some significant change between having nothing to do and processing one character. I’ve spent a few days looking into this … Believe me, I’d like to fix it … I’ve tried and couldn’t fix it so far.