Lab Chat #3: Bento and Second Life

Lab Chat #3: Troy, Oz and Ebbe
Lab Chat #3: Troy, Oz and Ebbe

This page is a part of a transcript of the Lab Chat presentation held on Friday, May 6th, and featuring Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg, CEO at Linden Lab), Oz Linden, the Director of Second Life Engineering, and Troy Linden, a Senior Producer of Second Life.

The session focused on three areas: Project Bento for Second Life, Second Life, and Project Sansar, featuring a series of questions selected from those asked via the Lab Chat forum thread, together with additional questions asked directly by the audience attending the event.

This page provides a transcript of questions and answers specifically related to Project Bento and Second Life. Questions are supplied in text, with answers presented in text and with an accompanying audio extract.

Please use the following links to jump directly to a topic of particular interest.

Quick Links

For questions and answers focused on Project Sansar, follow this link.

Project Bento Questions

[Note: you can also catch-up on Bento through my weekly updates.]

Making Poses and Animations with Bento

Once Project Bento is released, how will creators make poses and animations for the new bones (wings, fingers, facial expressions, etc)? In the past on the SL Wiki, was a downloadable figure rigged for Poser. There are also programs like QVimator. What tools will creators have for Bento to make content? – Devin Vaughn

Troy Linden (TL): I want to say, Project Bento, from the start, we wanted to make this really a community effort. We always love to pick the brains of our residents to find what kinds of things are important to them, etc. Then we go back to the Lab and start thinking about whether or not we can actually pull it off.

So, to answer the question, the different types of programme. When we originally set out, we reached out the community, and we said, “Hey, look. We’re thinking about putting this project together; we’d like to reach out to the creator community to see what kinds of things are available out there for the public. And the folks at Mayastar and Avastar, who actually create a plug-in for Blender and Maya, responded to our request to get people to participate. and we’ve actually been working with them a great deal since the beginning, and we’re happy to say that as far as the different types of tools, animation programmes, etc., you will be able to use the plug-ins to create animation content for Project Bento.

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Will there be any in-world tools for Bento pose and animation creation?  – Devin Vaughn.

Oz Linden (OL): At this point, Second Life doesn’t have any in-world animation creation tools, and we aren’t attempting to add them as part of this. Instead, as Troy said, we’ve tried to leverage the ecosystem of good, compatible tools that are already out there, and make sure that they can be updated to work with the new project and support it, and provide users [with] the excellent capabilities they’ve already got, so we can focus on building the things that are really specific to the inside of Second Life.

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Will animations for Bento have the ability to animate (or pose) separately? Example: A Bento facial smile that affects no other body part; a wing animation that only animates the wings; a finger pose that only poses the fingers. Also, will poses and animations for Bento have the option for full body animation?   – Devin Vaughn.

TL: Yeah, absolutely. I just want to clarify for a second that Second Life does already support isolating animations to certain parts, and Bento really is no different. What we’re introduced here are just more joints to animate.

Medhue Simoni demonstrates an alternative use for "wing" bone sets, which he uses to animate his elephant's ears
Medhue Simoni demonstrates an alternative use for “wing” bone sets, which he uses to animate his elephant’s ears

We’ve seen a lot of really cool things just from the short time we’ve been testing  this thing. Some of the crafty things that some of the creators have come up with have just literally blown us away. Even before Bento, we’ve that people have attempted to fix things like wings and such onto their avatars, but with Bento now, you can actually animate them, which really does bring it to life.

OL: And people are making use of them for all sorts of things that are less obvious than that. For example, we have one creator who’s been very active with us, who used the wing bones to animate the big floppy ears on an elephant avatar, and it made it just incredibly realistic. It was just amazing!

in relation to that, would it be possible to record face/hand performances on the server-side to store as reusable animations without the need to use a 3rd party recording tool. Being able to record a performance in-world (and in context) as key? – NVZN

OL: We’re not anticipating doing anything like that right now, no. Fascinating idea.

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Incorporating Bento Facial Capabilities into the System Avatar

Will any of the work on new bones (Project Bento) be incorporated into the default/system avatar? I am interested specifically in the facial bones being incorporated into the default/system head so that one can retain personalized facial appearance while having the enhanced expressions that Project Bento seems to provide – Kerena Zhangsun

OL: All avatars in Second Life have the same skeleton. So in fact, once Bento is released generally, everyone will have all of those bones. At this point in the project, we’re not anticipating that when we release it fully, we will have re-rigged the system avatar’s facial skin to be rigged to those facial expression bones.

So they’ll [the new Bento facial bones] will be very useful for replacement mesh heads that are rigged to them – not necessarily existing one that are not yet rigged to them. but we don’t plan on, initially at least,  doing the system avatar skin re-rigging; we would risk modifying the appearance of existing avatars, so we’re not going to take that on just yet. Whether or not we’ll experiment with it or not in the future is still a matter for speculation and study.

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Animated Mesh

Will there be, or are there any plans to introduce animated mesh into Second Life? From my limited technical knowledge I’m pretty sure this may well save bandwidth. A use example might be a pet that has animated limbs rather than multiple meshes that use alpha swap for faux movement. Surely a single mesh containing animation data would be lighter on bandwidth than streaming multiple objects? – Cube Republic

TL: I can’t speak on whether or not we’re planning on introducing animated mesh to SL per se, and the bandwidth savings. but I can tell you that with Bento, it does make it easier to do partial rigging, for example.So a mesh might only be rigged to a few of the avatar bones, and they can use those bones to make animated head attachments for example.

We’ve actually seen people, as Oz mentioned, in our user group meetings. that we host once a week, people show up with random stuff, and one time one of the residents showed up with a pet, I think it was a bat, flying around. What they did was, they attached that rig [the bat] to one of the [Bento] bones, [so] although it doesn’t appear to be attached, it appears to be a separate object. But under the hood it’s attached to one of those bones. and they actually have that pet bat flying around them, hovering around them. So it’s really cool. What we’ve done, and how the residents have managed to use those capabilities, continues to just blow us completely away. So we can’t wait to see what other people do with it.

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Scripting Bento Bones

On Project Bento: Will any attempts be made to have the new bones be scriptable in any way, for the use in user-created animation rigs like Anypose? – Marianne McCann

OL: I’m not familiar with that or how it works. But we’re not, at this point, anticipating adding any scripting capabilities  that’s specific to the new bones.

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Bento Meeting Times

Bento meetings take place at 13:00 SLT, Would it be possible to hold some of the meetings at an “Asia friendly” hour?  – Eku Zhong

TL: That’s been a challenge for us from the start. We deal with people from all around the world: Australia, UK, both the east and west coasts of the United States, and even Singapore and Hong Kong. That seemed to be the time that worked best for everybody; but I’m more than happy to try to accommodate if there are people who are interested; we can certainly try to adjust that, sure.

Maybe if anybody here who’s interested can try to make it to next Thursday’s meeting [May 12th, 2016], and raise that question, then I can take a count of all the new people who are going to join us and we can certainly  try to accommodate that .

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General Second Life Questions

Tools for Managing Inventory

With mesh sizes and outfits inventory counts are climbing. While some people have tiny inventories others of us keep, shop, collect. Can we have tools inside inventory to manage it? GREATLY appreciate the recent years inventory dependability– items being lost forever WAY down. But having tools to streamline but keep existing items would be welcomed. [Ideas: ways to remove duplicate textures and unmodded duplicate items] – Cam Mode

OL: At the moment, we’re still very much focused on continuing the improvements in inventory robustness that we’ve been making, and we very much appreciate that people have noticed and are seeing the difference. That’s been a big effort.

We’re continuing to dig very hard to try to fix existing problems; one of the things that’s going to be coming out over the next few weeks is some changes to the protocols between the viewer and the back-end inventory system. We’ll be removing support, over the next couple of months, for some of the older, more fragile mechanisms, and making sure that everything is beginning to transition to using the newer and more robust methods, so that we can continue to make the whole system more reliable.

Better inventory management interfaces and tools are a terrific idea, and that’s an excellent example, since it’s essentially a viewer-only problem, for third-party viewer contributors to contribute to us. We’ll be more than happy to review proposals for better inventory management tools and incorporate them into the main code-base.

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New Social Islands

The newer Welcome and Social Islands are really very nice, and I particularly enjoyed the combination of short videos and interactive components. Will we see similar edutainment-type experiences aimed at more advanced users? – BlueTrianon

The new Experience Keys based Social Islands
The new Experience Keys based Social Islands – a more directed way to help new users to get started

TL: I think the short answer is, yes. What we’ve tested so far with the new user experiences, including those created by the community, the tests are coming back very positive, and we’re seeing a lot of people are enjoying the new features. So yeah, we’re hearing that is something that is welcomed and is working for everybody, we’d absolutely love to include that in future versions and expand on that.

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Second Life Gift Cards

Why doesn’t Second Life have gift cards? I go to the stores and I see gift cards for just about every game or service imaginable. These gift cards could simply be for premium membership time, or better; un-cash-out-able account credit. The gift cards are more than just an alternate way to bring money into SL, but also a way to advertise the platform. – NeoBokrug Elytis

Ebbe Linden (EL): We actually haven’t given it a lot of thought.  I do see those cards in the checkout line at some of the grocery stores here. But I think it’s probably more interesting to think of ways to sort-of refer a friend, maybe, with an associated gift card to get them into the world.

It’s something we’re going to have to think about, but like I said, until we saw this question, it hasn’t really been something we’ve given enough thought to understand whether the investment would be worth pursuing or not at this time.  So, we’ll bat it around for a bit, but there are no current plans.

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Viewer Photography Tools

Are there any plans to provide more robust photography tools similar to Firestorm’s Phototools in the Linden Viewer? What are the plans, if any, for updating the available tools for SL photography and video capture in-world? – Myra Wildmist

OL: Well, we try not to talk about things we’re not very, very close to releasing, so I won’t speculate about any longer-term plans, but improvements to the photo interfaces are another great area for independent viewer developers to propose doing things, including, of course, the Firestorm team … We’re open to getting those contributions.

The photography floater has been enhanced as a direct result of contributions such as those from NiarnV Dean (centre) while the photography and environment capabilities within the viewer have been made more accessible by TPVs - such as with the inclusion of William Weaver's PhotoTools in Firestorm (l) and the Environment Tools floater in Alchemy (r)
The photography floater has been enhanced as a direct result of contributions such as those from NiarnV Dean (centre) while the photography and environment capabilities within the viewer have been made more accessible by TPVs – such as with the inclusion of William Weaver’s PhotoTools in Firestorm (l) and the Environment Tools floater in Alchemy (r) – click for full size, if required

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Sound File Length and Animation Files Size

Is there any reason that the maximum length for a sound file can not be increased?  It is currently set at 10 seconds maximum. Any one wanting to play a longer sound file has to jump through hoops with scripts to accomplish it. – Perrie Juran

OL: Actually, this is something we’ve recently been talking about.  We’re going to have to make some changes to how sound files are delivered to the viewer, which incidentally will make the download faster and more predictably [via the Lab’s CDN services], and once we’ve done that, then we can  make them without and adverse impact.

So, yes, we’re definitely looking at this. I can’t pin it down to exactly how big a difference we’ll make, but we’re going to do something.

We’re also going to allow larger animation files to accommodate Bento. We’ve got more bones to animate, so we want to give people a little more room to do that with. But again, that’s part of the same change to how things are delivered to the viewer before we make them any bigger, otherwise we’ll just be adding lag.

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Textureable Object Faces

Around March last year Ebbe indicated on Twitter that the textureable faces per object/prim was going to be increased from the present 8 to an as then undefined upper limit yet to be decided upon in an upcoming viewer release. What has happened to this and when can we expect it now, if at all? – Sy Beck

OL: It wasn’t really more faces per object [in-world], it was more faces per mesh object that was being uploaded. And it wasn’t ready as quickly as we hoped it would be, it wasn’t released until the end of September, rather than what we had been shooting for, which was the spring or early summer, but we did eventually get it out.

And the way it works is that it breaks the new object that you’re uploading into multiple objects at the time you upload it. So you can develop it in your mesh development tool as a large, complex object with more than eight faces, and it will be converted into a set of linked objects that each conform to the eight face limit.

That limit is related to the performance of the viewer, and so forth, and it makes a big difference, so increasing it intrinsically in-world would be a bigger more complicated problem.

Will there ever be a chance to increase it from eight textures per object?

OL: “Ever” is long time. We are firmly convinced Second Life has a lot of time left in its lifespan; I would hesitate to speculate about “ever”. It’s not on the short-term list.

It’s not in the pipeline then?

OL: No, not at the moment. We’re focusing on other things at the moment.

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Region Buy-down and Mainland Incentives

The tier buy-down option for full-primmed Estate regions levels the playing field with grandfathered regions — but also removes any price incentive for Mainland ownership. Are there prospects of corresponding offers or something else of value to help retain Mainland owners? – Qie Niangao

EL:  Well, I’m glad you’re happy. I mean I’ve been saying for quite a while that we’ve been aware that pricing of land has been a core issue, so we’re trying to be sensible about how we start to lower some of the cost, and as you’ve noticed, we’ve also taken some actions to pick-up some of the revenue elsewhere; on the exchange and on the redemption side of the equation to compensate a little bit for this. Because yes, i do believe that the burden of land owners is a bit too high, and we have other people in the world who are sort-of getting away with not being charged enough or taxed enough for how they use the product. So, we’re trying to shift cost from land to other places.

Also now with this experiment, it will take a while for us to see what will it do to retention rates, and how much more land will people buy or retain over time because of the lower rates. And based on seeing that data and that feedback, we can sort-of speculate on what we can do next.

So right now, we have no plans to do anything other than what we just did, and we need to let that run for a while, and see what the impact of that is. If it doesn’t change any other behaviour, and we’re just charging less, then it might be difficult for us to take additional steps. If we see a positive response in retention rates and land ownership rates, etc., they we’ll be looking forward to taking additional steps.

On Mainland … we’re not currently planning any additional fee changes anywhere at the moment. Like I just said, let what we’ve just done settle for a while. But there are some other plans to make some improvements to Mainland; so there are projects underway, and I don’t know exactly when, but to do some nice infrastructure improvements to the Mainland. Some additional cool new  content and improvements to areas of Mainland to … freshen the whole place up a bit.

That’s something that the team is planning for and will be working on, but no additional  plans on rates.

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Vehicles, Bandwidth and Throttling

I would like to ask about The Constant throttling of Simulator Bandwidth and throttled teleports and Issues such as reducing physics capabilities have made a large impact on larger vehicles, especially those of larger size and weight can not cross sim lines without having mis-teleports and  complete teleport failures.

What purpose does limiting physics for a small amount of users that use vehicles in protected sims serve? It has made the purpose of having the regions practically unusable. Physics changes
have been hard on creators that use its values, and when those values go down, you kill builders creations and limit future creations. Can we not get our bandwidth and physics back to the way it was one year ago, when it was the most stable it had ever been in the history of Second Life? – Hurana Ugajin

OL: This question started a very interesting conversation inside the Lab, because we haven’t actually made any changes to bandwidth and physics that we thought would have any impact on this. But in talking to some of our internal content developers, the Moles, they confirmed that yes, they believe this has gotten worse in the last year. So, we’re going to have to start something up to look at why that is, and see if there’s something we need to change to address it.

So, appreciate the question, but I don’t really have a very good answer yet. It is worth noting that, like anything else, very large vehicles do have some significant challenges associated with them. and as with anything else in Second Life, as you approach the boundaries of what the system can support, you’re going to hit the edge cases more often.

Region crossings have been the cause of increasing problems for large vehicles, which already suffer significant complexities in crossing between regions
Region crossings have been the cause of increasing problems for large vehicles, which already suffer significant complexities in crossing between regions

So very large vehicles, for a variety of reasons about how physics work, and because they tend to have more in them,  there’s more to teleport, those things do have an impact. I totally get the coolness of having giant Zeppelins and so forth, I’m very into it, but you have to understand they are putting a little bit extra load on the simulators.

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RLV  and the Official Viewer

I’m sure you know of RLV, and how it allows you to give extra scripted controls to run on the viewer. I was wondering if any of that functionality might be added to the Second Life viewer at some point? – Jasdac Stockholm.

OL: This is another one that gets talked about quite a lot within the Lab. In general, we now have the Experiences framework. a lot of the things that RLV  has traditionally been used for are interesting capabilities, but they had a relatively high potential for abuse. And what we think is, that with the advent of Experiences, we can begin to expand into some of those  slightly more abuse-prone capabilities in scripting while retaining the control and auditability that Experiences provide, because you can always work out what is responsible for something that’s happening to you through an Experience, and prevent it from happening easily.

So yeah, we’re definitely looking at adding scripting capabilities that are very similar functionally to parts of RLV. It’s worth nothing that because of the  restrictions that the developers of RLV were under, that is, they couldn’t manipulate the inside of the simulator and so forth, it’s very unlikely that any changes we actually made will be in any way backwards compatible with existing RLV items. But that doesn’t mean that in the future, we won’t be able to provide some very similar capabilities.

It’s not on the short-term road map, but it’s definitely something that comes up fairly often and is sure to get attention eventually.

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Second Life Experiences

Any hint at how much longer the experience system will be limited to premium members, and is there any improvements that will be coming to its search engine any time soon? I really want to explore more of them, but it feels impossible to properly filter through all the duds and tests – Digit Gears

TL: I do know that from time-to-time  we do get requests for additional LSL support. and we take those questions and we mull it over within the team, and it really just becomes a matter of priority and resources. We do get a lot of great requests, and so we log them in and from time-to-time, we meet and try to figure out what and if we can do it.

As far as making premium eligibility, I can’t really speak on that part. Maybe Ebbe, do you want to speak on that part a little bit?

[At this point there a s little back-and-forth between Ebbe and Troy, with Troy initially resuming the answer before his microphone input fails, so Ebbe continues.]

EL: We wanted to make sure that the people who actually had access to these tools were some people we actually understood who they were, and being a subscriber [Premium member] makes it sure we know who you are. Just making it available to an anonymous user would potentially be a griefing vector that we didn’t want to expose. S I don’t know that we want to move it into the public domain, if you will, and keep it with people who really know who they are.

There was a separate question there too?

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Search – Experiences, Marketplace and In-world

Are there any improvements coming to the [Experiences] search engine soon?

OL: That’s just a subset of the regular in-world search. Right now, our search efforts are focused on Marketplace, the new Elasticsearch engine, which we expect will probably become the default search engine on Marketplace quite soon. The testing of it has gone very, very, well, and we think it’s producing better results. So, one of the things we will be considering is the application of that Elasticsearch back-end technology to other sorts of search that we have elsewhere in Second Life. Couldn’t say what the  timing of that would be, but it’s definitely something we’d like to do, if for no other reason than we’d like to only have one search back-end.

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Marketplace Listing Issues

When can we expect some fixes and JIRAs to be addressed for the Marketplace, such as enhancements  overcharging  and broken edit features? –  Sweet Valentine

OL: The product listings enhancement problem? Yes. That’s been a vexing one to figure out, but we actually do believe we’ve got a handle on at least one of the major sources of that. Of course the only way we figure out if that’s the only one, is to fix it and then see if they’ve gone away completely; but we’re in the process of doing that. So everybody keep your fingers crossed, but we think we’re getting a grip on that one …. Our support people are going to be really, really happy when we’re done with that, because it’s a big headache for them, they have to do all the refunds by hand.

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Increasing the Support Maximum of Estate Managers

For large events in SL, the limit of 10 Estate Managers produces a bit of a log jam in work flow. Is that limit by necessity, or might an increase in the number of Estate Managers be possible? – Zander Greene

OL: It certainly might be. That’s actually been a recurring theme over the last couple of years: can we find limits that we can actually raise without hurting anybody? We’ve raised the number of groups, we’ve raised a whole bunch of things; but that’s not one I recall having come up before, so I’ve never asked the question where that number comes from, but I’ll certainly do that. If there isn’t something fundamental about it, and it doesn’t seem likely, then we ought to be able to make it somewhat bigger.

[A figure of 20-25 was suggested.]

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Reporting Group Spammers

There’s been and increasing number of instances of annoying bots joining groups to beg for Linden dollars. While groups block them, what’s the best way to handle those circumstances? – Khan Munro

OL: The way we always want any bad actor to be reported is and abuse report. So it’s essentially the same mechanism for anything. We are in the process of working on better controls for group chat management. I don’t have a time line for you, but it’s something we’re focusing on now.

Does it help if lots of people report this one problem, or is one enough?

EL: From what I hear from them [the Governance Team],  it just really clogs things up and slows things down. Hopefully a case, whether it’s reported once or fifty times, it should be that the case in and of itself should be fairly black-and-white as to whether it’s appropriate or inappropriate behaviour that we need to take action on or not. And flooding the system or reporting the same issue many, many times, really just slows it down, because it’s not the volume of complaints, it’s the nature of the complaint that matters, really.

So it’s probably best for a group owner to say in chat, “I’ve reported this, don’t worry about it, don’t everyone send in a ticket.”

EL: Yeah.

OL: It is definitely true – because I’ve heard it repeatedly from the team that does that  does that kind of things – that they get a lot of reports that are not sufficient specific. So if you don’t clearly identify who the problem is, if you don’t clearly identify what it was that they were doing … They get a lot of reports that they  can’t action on, because there just isn’t enough information in them to act.

So, think hard about if you were on the other end of the reporting pipeline, what would you need to know, and make sure that’s all there.

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Lab Staff Using SL

Google gives employees time to do other things. Does LL give employees time to use SL? – Kennylex Luckless

OL: Well, most of the take the time! I don’t know whether I give them the time or not, but they all spend it!

No, we do encourage people to be active users. It’s important to understanding perspectives – I should say perspectives – on how users see Second Life, as I think there are as many different ways to see Second Life as there are users.

TL: I would also add there’s this funny term that we all coin as “drinking from the fire hose” for all the new hires. We encourage them to come it, because there’s so much to learn and so much to take in. So part of the thing is we have a boot camp, where you get set-up with an avatar and some money, and you can go in there and you can play around and dress yourself up, and just go around and have fun and check out what Second Life is all about.

I think a lot of people, when that’s done and that’s over with, they get drawn back in. so that sort-of starts the off, and from there they do it on their own.

OL:  And in fact the last few times I’ve hired people, I’ve deliberately looked hard to try to find people who were already Second Life users. I mean, that’s a big plus, obviously.

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Vulcan Graphics Support for SL

Any thoughts on Vulkan graphics  for SL? – Kennylex Luckless

EL: Sansar is, but Second Life is not.

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Linden Realms Updates and Portal Park Changes

Can we have an update on Linden Realms and the grid hunt games available through the portal parks? – Uccello Poultry

PaleoQuest; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrPaleoQuest, one of the Experience Keys based Linden activities available through the Portal Parks and part of the content currently offered by the Lab

OL: There are some interesting new Linden developed content things on the way, but I think there are people who would be very unhappy if I gave you any details!

EL: Patch is typing something in our secret conversation window … So, there’s this thing…. [laughter] No …

OL: We need Patch’s good will, so we’re going to not do that!

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Introduction Project Sansar