Sansar Product Meetings 2017: week #37

City Park by Lex4Art, the location for the Sansar product meet-ups, Friday, September 15th

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 15th. These meetings are held every Friday at 09:30 PTD and 16:00 PTD, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements. The September 15th meeting took place at City Park, by Lex4Art. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings.

Cara (morning session) and Carolyn (afternoon session) from the product team attended the meetings. However, Cara’s microphone pick-up was not particularly good; couple with background office noises, this made it hard to hear her at the morning session.

Release Feedback

It has been a week since the August / September release, and feedback is now coming in, with some issues being highlighted, including:

  • Terrain Editor: some users have found that when incorporating terrain plains into their builds, everything works OK in Edit mode, but on publishing assorted problems can occur, including not being able to access the published experience. Suggestions for checking the issue is to try re-publishing the experience without the new terrain element to ensure it is accessible / eliminating the problems, and try publishing a simple experience with edited terrain / recreate the existing scene to see if the issues repro. Experiences exhibiting this issue should not be deleted.
  • Undesired object movement / re-positioning:
    • Some users have found that objects which appear correctly positioned and aligned when editing a scene can appear misaligned / out-of-place (see here), although one person indicated they were seeing similar prior to the release.
    • Others have reported objects in both edit and published mode have relocated themselves following the release.
    • Some have found that while a published experience looks correct, if they go to Edit mode to edit the scene, the objects are all incorrectly placed. Apparently, the support response to this issue is to delete all affected items with new versions from inventory – although this is subject to verification.
  • Physics Changes: At least one user has noticed what might be physics changes since the update, with the pins in his bowling alley displaying a persistent wobble.
  • Scripting:
    • Script breakage:some users found their scripts were broken following the update, requiring they be replaced.
    • The LLCameraForward camera vector behaviour is no longer consistently tracking the movements in third-person view (although it is still working as expected in first-person).
    • Trigger Volumes have been reported as not working for one of the headset hand controllers (not clear if this is the Oculus Touch or the Vive hand controllers). Details on the issue weren’t clear at the meeting. This is now being looked at by the Lab.
  • Avatar VR Shuffle: when a user in VR mode enters first-person view, their avatar starts performing a strange little shuffling dance, which stops when exiting back into third-person. This might be related to a known issue when VR first-person view can result in the avatar moving around a little when it is supposed to be standing still.
  • Scene Objects Window: there is a bug which prevents users from scrolling all the way to the end of a long list of object containers when using the scene objects window in Edit mode, which can leave items and options unreachable. The Lab has noticed the same issue and are working on a fix.
  • Edit mode font size: while not specific to this release, there have been complaints that the default font in the Edit mode UI is too small for some people to comfortably read.
  • Streaming: only supports a single stream at a time without updating the scene and re-publishing the experience. For Sansar to work with music events featuring multiple artists / DJs, this will need an update to support multiple streams. While not on the roadmap for immediate delivery, the Lab is considering “avatar emitters”, which would allow sounds from specific artists or presenters at a talk, etc., to be heard throughout an experience.

It’s generally requested that all reproducible issues are reported on the issues forum, together with updates as people further test things.

People gather beneath the media screens at one end of the park

Sansar Roadmap and Work in-Hand / Being Planned

The public roadmap is approaching a point where it can be released. However, this will not be a blow-by-blow of everything that is coming and precise dates. Rather, it will provide a high-level overview of significant releases – avatar customisation, further terrain editing capabilities, clothing and fashion design capabilities, etc., together with indicators of when they may / should be appearing in releases. Some of the current work either in-hand or being planned includes:

  • Atlas improvements: the ability to search the client version of the Sansar Atlas (the web version can already be searched), hopefully making it easier to location / discover experiences of interest. This should be in the next Sansar release.
  • Height Maps: as noted with the August / September release, a planned update to the terrain system will be the ability for users to upload their own custom height maps (not clear if RAW files will also be possible), and custom textures with terrain.
  • Making text chat visible to users in VR mode: this is currently being worked on, a may appear “in a couple of months”.
  • Desktop interaction: the foundations are being laid to allow Desktop mode users have greater interaction with in-scene objects.
  • Avatar identification in Desktop mode: the ability for users in Desktop mode to more easily identify other avatars. No time line on availability as yet.
  • Social capabilities: further social capabilities are being planned, including group-like capabilities. However, details are not clear (again) on what form these will take or when they will be available.
  • Collaborative building: this is being actively worked on, however, it is dependent upon a number of other factors (e.g. the permissions system). So again, no time line on when it might appear as yet.
  • Better inventory organisation: this is also in the planning phase, is a part of the roadmap, but specifics have yet to be released on what it will be, nor is there a time line. This is already proving to be a major pinch-point for creators, as there is no means to organise via folders or rename inventory items or even search inventory, etc., and is thus impacting people’s ability / drive to create.

Requests

The meeting saw a couple of new requests made:

  • Texture Atlas support: a texture atlas allows for easy re-use of textures across objects / UV maps. This sort-of sits between texturing and modelling, and allows textures to be-reused across multiple objects / UVs without multiple draw calls to the system. This is one of an ongoing series of questions around textures in Sansar and future plans for textures / materials / reflections, etc. Jenn and Cara are going to look at getting one of the Sansar team directly involved in this side of the work to come to a meeting and answer questions.
  • More attachments / support for multiple attachments on a single point: currently, there is only one attachment point on Sansar avatars (the neck).  This is because multiple attachment points proved to be buggy when first deployed. While such things need to be constrained (there is already a complexity limit when uploading attachments), having more attachment points  / the ability to attach more than one item to an attachment point is seen as needed by some. Further work on the avatar as a whole is planned, and this might include improvements to attachment handling.

There is also the request for LL to provide a means for people to offer updates to their products. This is liable to be a topic for detailed discussion at the Sansar Store focus meeting, due to take place at the end of September 2017.

Continue reading “Sansar Product Meetings 2017: week #37”

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Sansar product meetings 2017: week #36 – Aug/Sept release

People gather at Astro Port for the first Friday September 8th 2017 Product meeting

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 8th. These meetings are held every Friday at 09:30 PTD and 16:00 PTD, and are open to all.

There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements. The September 9th meeting took place at Mold3D’s Astro Port. The official meeting notes are generally published the week following each pair of meetings.

The meetings are chaired by Jenn (aka Xiola Linden) from the Community Team, and feature various members of the Sansar teams. Cara, Carolyn and Jeremy joined the Friday, September 8th meeting.

August / September Release

The long-awaited August / September release arrived on Friday, September 8th, 2017. Highlights of the release are noted  below (please refer to the release notes for full details of this release, including known issues). Note that many of these features are still work in progress, rather than being final / polished versions.

Terrain Editor / Sculpting

Experience creators can now edit terrain objects in Sansar: create mountains and hills, create dips, craters and valleys or uneven terrain (“noise”). This is the first iteration of these tools, and features will be added over time.

Simply drag and drop a terrain plain (in one of four texture defaults) from the system objects panel, then use the sculpt tool and options to shape it. Individual plains can be placed together to create as big an area of terrain as required (within Sansar’s own limitations).

See Working with terrain in the Sansar Knowledge Base for more information.

The Terrain toolbar with the sculpt and paint master controls highlighted, and option buttons to their right
  • Terrain plains can be sculpted on in defined areas, from around 32 metres on a side up to 256 metres on a side.
  • The paint tool can be used to apply textures (from pre-set families of four) to the sculpted terrain, with automatic attempts made to blend textures with height / depth (e.g. so grass gradually gives way to rock). The brush size for painting can also be varied in size from (approximately) one metre in size upwards.
  • The textures / materials associated with the editor are currently limited to only working with one family of four textures / materials at a time, although creators can hot swap between them.
  • This is not voxel editing, and is currently restricted to height maps, so no tunnelling into terrain at present. The sculpting tool is somewhat similar in approach somewhat similar to the Second Life terraforming tool, presenting a view of the terrain and the selected tool overlaid on it at the appropriate size, although unlike SL a choice of tool shapes is offered (round or square).
A terrain plain show a raw sculpt of a hill (left), and with smoothing being applied (right). Credit: Jeremy Linden
Future Terrain Editing Capabilities

The ability to add use custom terrain textures and height maps is coming soon, together with support for mega textures. The latter will allow more textures to be blended together at a time, which are then  composited together when an experience is published.

Jason (aka Widely Linden) indicated that the roadmap for terrain editing in Sansar currently includes (exact implementation still TBD):

  • A hybrid form of terraforming, using height maps for efficiency when sculpting the terrain, then switching to a voxel element when creating tunnels / caves, etc., which is then “stitched” into the mesh height map.
  • The ability to “geo-paint” environments – use a painting technique to add boulder, rocks, vegetation, etc., onto a terrain map. This will likely start with pre-defined geo elements, before moving to allow users to define their own elements.

A suggestion from Maxwell Graf to assist in making custom height maps (once they can be imported), is to consider installing Unreal or Unity (both free) and then purchasing a terrain editing tool for the relevant engine, and using that to create terrains, then export the height maps for import into Sansar (once possible) It was also noted that Visual Studio 2017 comes with Unity support, and it is easy to add Unreal support.

.OBJ File Format, Animated & Multi-part Object Import

The Animated objects capability isn’t, at this point, fully animated mesh – there is no ability to import or use a skeleton for an object (a-la SL’s animated objects project), although this is coming.

Future Capabilities / Ideas

Also coming in a future release for animated / multi-part objects, are collision meshes. These will allow can be bound to rendered meshes for collision purposes. So a multi-part cable car could have collisions enabled on specific parts to allow avatars to ride it. This has already been done as a test with the gondolas in Colossus Rising.

The cable car gondolas in Colossus Rising demonstrate how collision volumes can be bound to a rendered mesh object to allow interaction (in this case riding a gondola) with an avatar. This ability will be part of a future update to the animated / multi-part objects capability forming part of the August / September Sansar release

Jason indicated that – further into the future, and via a scripted / API meachanism which the Sansar product team is considering – animated objects should allow for very dynamic things like trees which not only sway in a breeze, but which move in accordance with the (changing) wind direction / force (rather than just randomly moving) or stop swaying if there is no wind. The same scripts will also be able to trigger associated sounds of the wind in the branches when affected by a breeze.

New Stereoscopic Media & UV Animation Shaders

A series of new shaders in the materials editor:

  • Standard + Emissive + Stereographic
  • Media Surface + Stereographic
  • Standard + Emissive + UV Animation
  • Standard + Alpha Mask + UV Animation.

UV animation supports both scrolling UVs and flipbook UV, and brings the ability to animate things like water, animated lighting, etc, in Sansar. Currently, these have to be configured and applied prior to upload, but future updates will allow editing and refinement of the maps post-upload.

Trigger Volumes

Trigger volumes allow scripted events (e.g. teleporting) without the need for dynamic objects, allowing for more flexible interactions inside events.

Continue reading “Sansar product meetings 2017: week #36 – Aug/Sept release”

Sansar product meetings 2017: week #35

People gather for the Sansar Product Meeting, Friday, September 1st

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings held on Friday, September 1st. These meetings are held every Friday at 09:30 PTD and 16:00 PTD, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements. The September 1st meeting took place at Maxwell Graf’s Rune, which is one of five parts of his Rustica “grand experience”. The official meeting notes published the week following each pair of meetings.

The meetings are chaired by Jenn (aka Xiola Linden) from the Community Team, and feature various members of the Sansar teams.

August / September Release

The next release was pushed back from August 31st as a result of a couple of last-minute issues which required fixing. The release is now being targeted of Wednesday, September 6th.  This is in keeping with the Lab’s approach to making major (feature) updates at the end / start of a month, with smaller interim releases focused on bug fixes and patches being rolled out as required between these major releases.

Highlights of the upcoming release include:

  • Terrain Editor (first pass): ability to edit the current terrain options; the ability to upload custom textures to follow.
  • Scripting Updates and Improvements, including:

  • Ambient Occlusion (AO): allowing things like indirect lighting shadows. This should not require creators to re-visit and update the Global Illumination (GI) bakes for their experiences, as the AO will be a real-time effect.
  • Avatar updates, including:
    • Selling Avatar Attachments: creators will be able to upload and sell their own avatar props (attachments) through the Sansar Store – more on this below.
    • Having been removed from Sansar due to speed issues when seen in VR mode, the ability for avatars to run will be returning in the next release.
    • Further improvements to avatar customisation, e.g. adding nail colours.
  • Ability to upload multi-part objects: there will be some limitations placed on this, which will be specified in the release notes.
  • Object Animations: animated objects created in Maya, 3D Studio Max, or Blender can be imported them into Sansar.
  • Media updates, including:
    • Support for custom music and live streaming via Shoutcast, Icecast and similar services. OGG should be supported via web links, although AAC will not be supported with this release.
    • The ability to play back s£ movies within experiences.
  • Bug fixes.

Some of these features may yet be subject to final testing by the Lab, so please refer to the release notes once the update has been made for details and links to supporting documentation. The release notes will form an e-mail to Sansar users and be available in the Release Notes section of the knowledge base.

When the release is rolled out, it will mean down time for the platform, and this will be announced through the forums and on the log-in screen, etc.

Sansar Product Meeting, Friday, September 1st

Avatar Attachments

As noted above, creators will be able to make, upload and sell avatar attachments in Second Life through the Sansar Store with the next platform release. However, because the initial provision of attachment points on the avatar lead to some outsized (non-resellable) props being made, there will be a number of initial limitations placed on the props which can be uploaded and sold, including:

  • Uploaded props will not initially be allowed to exceed a 1m x 1m x 1m size.
    • Existing props which are larger than this can continue to be used, but creators will not be able to sell them.
  • Attachments will be limited in terms of total triangles they can contain.

Full details of the limits and upload requirements will be documented in the Avatar Attachments knowledge base article once the release is public. Some of the limitations may be relaxed over time.

Contest Announcements

Partially to mark creators being able to upload and sell avatar props through the Sansar Store with the next release, and because Halloween in approaching, Linden Lab has launched two Sansar contests. On offer are five prize packages featuring Oculus Rift + Touch bundles. In addition, the Halloween themed contest includes a US $10,000 grand prize. Details can be found on the official Sansar blog, and on my blog.

HUDs and Web Support in Sansar

Second Life users are all familiar with the concept of HUDs to enhance users’ abilities to interaction with other scripted objects (usually attached to an avatar) and / or interact with external web services. Specific scripting support for HUD objects (and the ability to attach them to the Sansar UI) isn’t at present being worked on by the Lab.

Some broader web support, is being developed. This includes the ability to display web pages and media on objects in an experience (again, in SL parlance, the equivalent of media on a prim). There will also be some form of web browser capability within the Sansar UI, but there is currently no time frame on when this is likely to appear or what it will look like.

Request have been made to provide Sansar with a similar scripted functionality to LLHTTPRequest to enable more complex interactions between Sansar and external web services. Provision of such a capability has not – as yet – been discussed  for Sansar.

Avatar Sitting

The ability for avatars to sit on objects within and experience is not the roadmap, but will not be part of the next release, and may yet be further down the road, possibly as much as six months hence – although this needs confirmation from the Lab.

Continue reading “Sansar product meetings 2017: week #35”

Sansar product meetings 2017: week #34

People gather for the morning product meet-up, Friday, August 24th

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meet-ups held on Friday, August 25th. These meetings are held every Friday at 09:30 PTD and 16:00 PTD, and are open to all. There is no set agenda (currently), and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. Venues change on a weekly basis, and are announced in the Meet-up Announcements;  the August 25th meetings took place at Voyage Live: Egypt. The official meeting notes published the week following each pair of meetings.

The meetings are chaired by Jenn (aka Xiola Linden) from the Community Team, and feature various members of the Sansar teams. The August 24th meetings, for example, saw Cara and Caroline from the Product Team in attendance, with Hydro Linden from the Modelling Team, and Brett from the Community Team.

Next Release

The tentative date for the next major Sansar release is Thursday, August 31st. This is in keeping with the Lab’s approach to making major (feature) updates at the end / start of a month, with smaller interim releases focused on bug fixes and patches being rolled out as required between these major releases. There is still some work to be done on the release, so the 31st is not a definite date. Highlights of the upcoming release include:

Terrain Editor

A first implementation of the Sansar Terrain Editor; the ability to upload custom textures to follow. Cara reports there are still some issues with this at present which need to be sorted before it is released.

Scripting Updates and Improvements

A range of scripting updates and improvements, including:

Ambient Occlusion (AO)

An initial implementation of AO to allow things like indirect lighting shadows to help objects and avatars look more “rooted” in a scene. This should not require creators to re-visit and update the Global Illumination (GI) bakes for their experiences, as the AO will be a real-time effect.

Other Notable Updates

  • Avatar Attachments: creators will be able to upload and sell their own avatar attachments through the Sansar Store.
  • Object Animations: animated objects created in Maya, StudioMax, or Blender can be imported them into Sansar.
  • Support for custom music and live streaming: e.g. via Shoutcast an similar services, for audio streaming in experiences.
  • 3D Video support: ability to watch 3D movies within experiences.
  • Bug fixes.

Once the release has been deployed, details of updates, changes, improvements and fixes will be documented in the Release Notes section of the knowledge base, and form an e-mail to users. Specific feature notes will also published through the forums.

Jenn and Cara Linden at the 09:30 PDT meeting, Friday, August 25th.

Beyond the Next Release

The following areas are priority work areas for future releases:

Collaborative Building / Design

While seen as a priority, it may take some time to appear, as it is also reliant on other aspects of the platform, such as the permissions system.

It’s also not clear what form it might take – will creators be able to work together to “block out” a scene collectively, using tools in the editor to construct basic models (walls, floors, door, etc), which can then be positioned, modified and used as a reference for the off-line building of the actual optimised, fully textured items for use in the scene, for example?

Social Aspects Improvements

These include:

  • Making it easier to find others in Sansar and communicate privately with non-friends (currently, you can only direct message someone you have friended)
  • Greater avatar-to-avatar interaction when in Desktop mode (e.g. the ability to identify other avatars, ability to directly mute (voice only) other avatars, etc).
  • Text chat improvements (e.g. clickable support for URLs rather than reliance on the “Go” button function to identify URLs; ability to copy / paste chat, etc.).

Text chat and messaging in particular lack some core functionality (scrolling back through open chat, for example, no time stamps on messages, muting only applies to voice, etc). The current inability to directly contact non-friends came about as a result of muting being limited to voice chat only, and will hopefully be reversed in time.

An attempt will be made to get someone from the UI Team and from the Product Team involved in the UI / chat tools to come to a meeting to discuss their work and priorities.

Other Items In Progress

  • Inventory management improvements.
  • User preferences – but no details on what these will be.

Sansar Roadmap

There is a Sansar roadmap for updates and improvements, etc. This is currently being refined, revised and prepared for public release. Once available, the hope is that it will form the basis for more focused discussions on Sansar’s development and for obtaining feedback from Sansar users.

Avatar Improvements

A means to refine the texturing of hair for avatars was discussed several weeks ago, but it’s not clear if this is on general release to creators, or something only available for the Sansar Character team to use in refining the current avatars. If it is generally available, a request as been made for documentation / examples.

There is a longer-term project to refine and improve the Sansar avatars. This includes separating clothing from the avatar bakes to make it easier to support clothing (e.g. clothing making, mixing and matching items, etc.). The time frame for this could be several months.

Continue reading “Sansar product meetings 2017: week #34”