Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why is MESH going to change our experience of Second Life? #SL [UPDATED]

A lot of people in SL have probably been wondering what all the fuss is about MESH so for my friends and anyone who is not a game design geek or 3D model maker i'll try to explain how i see it.

Introduction
Since the dawn of SL time we have been building with PRIMS. It's the simplest form of creativity in SL and is something everybody has a go at when they first arrive. I know this because im constantly clearing up plywood cubes randomly razzed around my island. 

Like a kid playing with Lego you soon learn to build elaborate complex objects that resemble something we can recognise and its not long before groups of Users come together and build entire towns. We start to take notice of detail creating fine jewellery consisting of over 1000 prims. Regardless of the Viewers struggle to download and render all this (and failing lighting and shading on my Mac at least) it's probably fare to say that SecondLife showcases some extremely highly detailed modelling, so Kudos to all those creative pationate users.

SL is less a 3D modelling Program but more a games development platform.
Some of the best most popular games have 3D modelling far less detailed than a lot of what we see in Second Life. For example World of War Craft the leading online world, if you really look you will see it is far less detailed. The reason is because the developers 'optimise' the characters, buildings and objects so they run smoothly and update reliably in real time. 

Even the top games like Portal2, Assassins Creed and Bioshock2 use 3D modelling thats optimised and simple compared to some of the ultra detailed stuff you can sometimes find in SL. These games use atmospheric lighting, shadows, textures and other visual tricks to enhance the detail of a 3D object. 

Really we have to marvel at Second Life's ability to download and render the mountain of detail us Users have created. The Viewer has to download then display the mass of objects that make up a 400 prim building, along with its textures, and then we simply walk off to another location where it has to repeat the process. Eventually the Viewer is trying to display way more than your average high end computer game.

Why new mesh support could transform Second Life. 
A single Prim has a preset amount of parts that create it, (polygons or vertices, sides) each time you ad a prim you ad more parts regardless of the size of that prim. Soon you will have detailed object made of hundreds of prims containing thousands of parts and this is part of the reason SL Viewer struggles to render causing LAG.

Building a mesh object means you have control over the amount of parts that make an object. So instead of building with prims that each have a set number of parts, you build with parts, there is no prim.

Do not try and bend the PRIM. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.....There is no PRIM

Below is an example that shows you an object made with Prims with each prim being made up of a set number of parts, and a Mesh version that shows how users can build the same shape but with far less parts. 

Two very similar looking objects, one Prim based the other Mesh.

Turning to Wireframe you can now see the parts that make up
each object. The more parts to an object the harder it is for
the viewer to show.

Here i have nicked some examples of World of Warcraft 3D models and their wireframe(Mesh) views that how many parts make them and how basic the 3D detail is. [UPDATE] Images taken from THIS website.

Some would say these characters are TOO optimised
A character Mesh like this could be the equivalent to as little as
2 or 3 standard SL prims

LL are working on a system that calculates how many prims
a mesh object is WORTH by how many parts make up the object.

This simple building may be the equivalent of LESS than one prim.
But i guess it would be rounded up to be a 1 prim object.
With the introduction of Mesh Linden Lab give top SL creatives the ability to control and optimise the parts that make up an object with the hope of a better crafted virtual world.


More Creative Control than EVER before!
Mesh is the next level in the Game of Second Life creativity. Many have learnt the basic of model making in SL and it's an exciting and fun step up into the world of professional 3D model making and game design. The introduction of mesh opens a door to many new possibilities not just for the Second Life Grid but for the loyal creative Users of SL to expand. With its users being given the tools to optimise the content all LL need to do is get that Viewer working correctly so it can display our content beautifully with atmosphereing lighting and shadow tricks.

Anyway i hope this has helped to explain the wonders of MESH to those who were wondering what all the fuss was about :) Of course those sticking to viewer1 will not see any of this :-), i'm not gonna wait for you guys.

Interested in making a mesh object and uploading to the Mesh Beta grid, visit my adventures in Mesh on the SL Forum HERE to see my early attempts along with others tips and video tutorials.

You can download the Mesh Beta Viewer HERE and go explore what others have already been building.

Also here is a sneak peak at a T-Shirt i made which bends with the avatar and has an animated front!


Monday, May 09, 2011

Dogstar The Storyteller - enhancing the traditional in #SL.

On Saturday The crazy little Fae Goblin called Dogstar came to Escapades island to tell three folk tales to who ever happened upon the event.

Situated in the picturesque castle ruins on the mountain side residents were treated to an immersive atmosphere with torches and the sounds of woodland birds surrounding them.

The stories were told live via the lands music stream and enhanced with hand drawn illustrated images depicting key moments in the tales. There was also a moment where a magic pot filled the castle area with porridge giving the audience a real sense of being part of the story telling experience.



Dogstar told three stories, 'The Magic porridge pot', 'The Hobyahs' and 'The Man, Boy and Donkey'. Below is an mp3 of an excerpt from the evening.


You can download the MP3 HERE

In my live action roleplay days i've seen some truly magical traditional folk telling by proper recognised bards here in the UK. In every instance the experience is very much enhanced by the setting and atmosphere in which you are listening to the tales.

Second life has the ability to immerse you in a similar way. Of course you cant smell the smoke or feel the warmth of the fire but it goes alot further than simply hearing the story on an ipod or reading a book.

I tried to find a balance between a real bardic storytelling experience and reading a storybook while adding something that you could only experience in Second Life.

Second Life glitches aside (viewer crashing, stream cutting out and occasional Lag) I think those who came to the event on some level became immersed in the experience with their friends and strangers and left with an shared moment of colour, images and sounds they will remember for a while.

Dogstar may return to the island in future, but im not sure when :)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

#SL Goony Beltaine Wickerman - 2011



Once again the SL Goonies and their friends gathered for the 6th year in #SL to watch the Wickerman burn. This was the first time on the New Upgraded island.

This year the Wickerman was built atop the mountain side. There were many new faces gathered from the past year, and many old faces stood side by side. But as always there were some who for what ever reason were not present this time round.
May, clad in cloth of gold, cometh this way;
The fluting of the blackbirds heralds the day.

The dust colored cuckoo cries farewell O Queen!
For winter has vanished, the thickets are green.
The wild bee is busy, the ant honey spills,
The wandering kind are abroad on the hills.
The harp of the forest sounds low, sounds sweet;
Soft bloom on the heights, haze of heat.
Happy the heart of man, eager each maid;
Lovely the forest, the wild plane, the green glade.
Truly winter is gone, come the time of delight,
The summer truce joyous, May, blossom-white.
In the heart of the meadows the lapwings are quiet;
A winding stream makes drowsy riot.
All creatures on earth, run, rejoice and be bold!
See the shaft of the sun makes the waters-flag gold.
Loud and clear summering wakes and trills his voice

Hail May of delicate colours 'tis belting rejoice!

Here is to yet another year in this mad virtual existence known as Second Life! We have the fun exploration of Mesh to look forward to, along with improved Community sharing features while escapades slowly gets stronger and stronger thanks to its great fans and residents.







#SL Goonies Airforce Glider Training with Gyro.

A week or so ago Tylor invited a group of Goonies to take part in a Goony Airforce training session over the hills of Aero Pines Park.

We spent at least an hour getting to grips with specially modified goony Gliders, flying high above the hills.

higher and higher we went towards the hot sun, and i suddenly became concerned as i remembered the old story of Iccarus.

No one got hurt though and all had a great time. Thanx Tylor for organising a kool relaxing event XD