Mesh Deformer and Fitted Mesh

Before I start this post, I’d just like to point out that this is old news. I’m not adding anything new here but the reason I am writing this is that many friends and acquaintances haven’t been aware of the current direction that mesh deformers are taking, so this article is a convenient place to direct people to. It seeks to be a fairly short and easily-digested article, which links to further reading.

Mesh has been around for a while now, and  I think most people have decided where they are with it. At one end of the spectrum we have people who pretty much won’t wear any rigged mesh unless it just happens to fit them “as is” and at the other end of the spectrum we have people willing to have a different version of their shape for almost every outfit they own. And I’m not exaggerating here; two of my closest friends fall into those two extremes.

It’s clear that the Standard Sizes are far from perfect. They were a reasonable workaround to the problem of Rigged Mesh being uneditable, but they are not a solution. Many people (myself included) have been extremely reluctant to alter their natural shape, feeling that the whole point of Second Life is to be who we want to be and that clothes should fit to us and not us to the clothes.

One of the first people to propose a solution was Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz) who proposed the Mesh Deformer project (also known as the Parametric Deformer), which was successfully Crowd Funded and which Karl put a lot of work into. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people know about this project and of those, a majority are wondering why it hasn’t made it into the Official Viewer yet.

However, it was by no means the only solution and Redpoly Inventor proposed rigging garments to the “collision bones” of the avatar skeleton, which is what evolved into “Liquid Mesh”. The shortcomings of this in its current state is that really there aren’t enough “collision bones” to do a proper job and because it is not officially supported by Linden Lab, it was an unofficial solution and hence prone to breakage in the future.

However, on 20-Nov-2013, Linden Lab posted an entry on their blog entitled Making Mesh Garments Fit Better outlining how they intend to officially adopt the “Liquid Mesh” approach and develop it further, adding additional custom bones in order to overcome the shortcomings of the current approach.

Where does this leave Karl’s Mesh Deformer? Well, parked up and thrown away essentially although one could argue that perhaps it spurred Linden Lab into action and Karl has said that he thinks that what LL is proposing is the technically simpler solution (although is correspondingly more complex for content creators). You can read more on an article that Inara Pey wrote, which includes an analysis of it all and also quotes Karl’s response to the news.  If you don’t follow her blog then I would really recommend it as it is always very well written and very in-depth.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Linden Lab progress this. It’s way overdue, and the sooner we get an official (and effective) solution to the issue of garment deformation the better.


Further reading

(Links are sorted newest to oldest)

External links

SL projects update week 50 (2): Fitted mesh, deformer, viewer code contributions
Inara Pey (12-Dec-2013)

Fitted mesh: “LL’s assessment here is mostly good” – Qarl
Inara Pey (24-Nov-2013)

Lab looks to make mesh garments fit better with the Fitted Mesh project viewer
Inara Pey (20-Nov-2013)

Making Mesh Garments Fit Better
The announcement by Linden Lab (20-Nov-2013)

Liquid Mesh: looking from all sides
An analysis of Liquid Mesh by Inara Pey (26-Aug-2013)

Further links are available at the end of each of Inara’s posts.

Other articles by me on mesh

Mesh convert
How few changes you need to make to your shape to be compatible with
a Standard Size (15-Nov-2013)

It’s starting to Mesh
A short update on how Mesh was working (or not) for me (07-Apr-2013)

Mesh deformer: interview with Qarl Fizz
A reblog of one of Inara’s posts, with further comment by me. (22-Jun-2012)

Oh what a Mesh!
My experiences of Mesh after it had been around for a good few months (16-Jun-2012)

Unencumbered by the trappings of real life
Immersionism vs Augmentism, and how Mesh affects it (22-Apr-2012)

Mesh
My first, somewhat naive post on the subject (27-Sep-2011)

Mesh convert

UPDATED:
Initially I based my shape changes on Standard Size ‘Small’, but after a couple of weeks I have realised that ‘Medium’ (with some modifications) is closer to my desired shape, as  ‘Small’ lost too many of my curves and made me look skinny. I’ve therefore updated this article accordingly.

After a long absence from Second Life, I’m kind of rediscovering it again.

One of the reasons for this is that I have finally bitten the bullet, so to speak, and created a copy of my shape and made it compatible with Standard Sizing. Although this seems like a massive climb-down from my previous stance on not wanting to change my shape, the thing that influenced my decision (quite apart from the desire to wear more modern clothing) is that there are surprisingly few parameters you need to change in order to have something that is broadly compatible with one of the Standard Sizes.

I chose to bring mine closer to the ‘Medium’ size, which meant adjusting the following parameters:

  • Body Fat: 11 (15)
  • Torso Muscle: 38 (38)
  • Breast Size: 58 (54)
  • Love Handles: 31 (11) [Note: I chose not change this]
  • Belly Size: 6 (2)
  • Leg Muscle: 56 (42) [Note: Again, I chose not to change this]
  • Butt Size: 44 (45)
  • Saddle Bags: 36 (41)

(Figures shown in brackets are what my normal size was)

The two things that looked awfully wrong with that were the Love Handles and Leg Muscle values, which I chose to leave unchanged. The former gives me the more curvy look I prefer, and I predict should not affect many clothes as the important thing is not to clip, although obviously some clothes will hide my narrower waist and make me look slightly shapeless. Some crop tops may require a “half-way house” version with more waist in order to look right.
With the Leg Muscles value, I figured that this would predominantly affect only boots and I could go for S or XS ones for that.

I have to say that I am really encouraged by the fact that I still look like “me” after the changes, and I’d encourage anyone else holding off from Rigged Mesh clothing to try similar (assuming your shape is modifiable). It has really opened up the doors to a whole new round of shopping in SL for me. And you know how much I love shopping!

I managed to make a comparison pic using an animated GIF. You can see the differences between my natural shape, the adjustment for Medium, and the Small from the original. Whilst I still prefer my natural shape, the Medium one is an acceptable compromise.

Comparison of shapes

Comparison of shapes (should be animated)

It’s starting to Mesh

All Dressed Up by Becca Ashbourne
All Dressed Up, a photo by Becca Ashbourne on Flickr.

Having previously said that I am not a great fan of Rigged Mesh, I’m slowly starting to discover things that I like, and that fit me (or fit near enough that a minor tweak is all that is needed). In this case it’s this lovely dress by Baiastice and hair by elikatira (I still want to say ETD, which dates me I guess!).

The dress is lovely, but not without limitations. For a start you can’t wear shoes with it, and I love shoes! The other is that occasionally when dancing, you can see that it’s invisible inside and that I have invisible legs. I guess that’s an intrinsic issue with Rigged Mesh.

 

 

Lack of engagement

Inara Pey recently blogged on the state of Second Life, and her comments on ‘Engagement’ and general malaise struck a real chord with me.

In the 5½ years I have been in SL, I’ve experienced the usual ebb and flow of interest that I think most long-timers do, but I’ve found myself in a particularly long ebb lately, to the extent that I felt I was mainly logging on in order to be with my SL hubby. He had been feeling much the same, and sadly a few weeks ago announced to me that a number of factors, including increased workload, RL, and this same lack of engagement, meant he did not know when he would next be logging into SL again. We’d been together well over a year, which is a long time in Second Life terms. We still email each other every day (he never fails to leave an email for me when he goes to bed so that it is waiting for me when I wake up), but I have no idea when I will see him again in SL.

Since then I have gone from logging in every day to rarely logging in, and when I do log in it’s been for a specific reason such as a music event (usually the wonderful Gina Gracemount or the amazing Tukso Okey) or to spend time with my friend Bunny. But most of the time, I find that other things are holding my interest more. My own RL has got a little busier and is filling my evenings more, such that I don’t have as much time available to spend on SL. But the fact is that if I was bursting to go on SL, like I once was, then I know I would find the time. So this really corroborates what Inara is saying.

Perhaps I should be trying to find new things in SL to experience, maybe increase my circle of friends, perhaps try to re-ignite my love of SL photography. But I just find myself without any real motivation to do so. My SL photography is particularly depressing, because I can take ages (hours, even) over a SL picture and then find myself lucky to get 200 views in a month, yet with my RL photography I can post a picture of me in a nice dress and get 200 views in a day. I’m not saying that in a self-aggrandising way, but to illustrate how soul-destroying that is for the SL photography. I have a very similar experience with blogging.

So where does this leave me, where does it leave my SL, my SL photography and also this blog? I don’t know. Certainly this is the first time since August 2012 where I’ve felt I have had anything I wanted to say and I don’t know when I next will either.

Second Life to become a game?

Well, perhaps not quite. But Linden Lab has made an announcement that Second Life will be expanding to Steam ‘in the next month or so’.

The announcement reads:
“As some sharp-eyed developers have speculated, we’re going to make Second Life available on Steam in the next month or so.

Many of us have friends who are avid Steam gamers, but if you’re not familiar, Steam is a very popular online game platform that offers a wide range of titles (and will soon also offer other software as well).

What does this news mean for Second Life? You’ll still be able to access Second Life just as you can today; there won’t be any change to that. But, the more than 40 million people who use Steam will also be able to get Second Life as easily as they can get games like Portal.

We’ll make an announcement on the blog when Second Life is actually available on Steam, but in the meantime, if you have friends who are Steam gamers, let ‘em know it’s coming!”

Source: community.secondlife.com/…

This is a very interesting announcement, given that Valve have recently announced that they will soon be allowing non-games applications to join Steam. This does give an ambiguity as to whether Linden Lab are continuing to move Second Life towards a games platform or whether this is simply a case of them taking advantage of Valve’s more relaxed policy on what applications can join Steam.

Certainly there is a strong case that Steam has a high density of the kind of people who have the computer hardware necessary to run Second Life at its most graphically-intense settings, so raising awareness of the Second Life platform on Steam may have benefits.

However, I see a less positive side to it too. As anyone who has read my previous articles will know, I have a strong sense of wanting to live my ‘second’ life unencumbered by the trappings of my first. And I view this (hopefully optional!) integration with Steam as being yet more example of the lines between SL and RL being blurred. Steam is a real life service, with your real identity (although ‘handles’ / nicknames are allowed). And it strengthens the concept that SL is just yet another service that you create a username and password for.

Having said that, as someone who has played Skyrim a lot (which is a Steam game), I didn’t feel that it was RL ‘me’ playing it – I created a character and advanced her though the game. So perhaps I am unduly concerned here. Perhaps all will work out ok. But I do still have this nagging feeling that entering SL via Steam will make people think it is just another game, or MMPORG and I feel that would miss the point of Second Life being a Virtual World and not a game. Or, certainly how it started out anyway. I’m not so sure what it is now or where it is going.

(All in my opinion, of course)

[With thanks to Inara Pey for her blog article that alerted me to this]

Update

Some interesting (and long) articles that give further insight into the ramifications of this move. Really worth reading if you have the time:

 

The impact of Marketplace on in-world stores

There’s been some chat in the blogosphere recently that the Marketplace is killing actual in-world stores; that reduced footfall means that satellite stores (or even main stores) are less commercially viable than they were, and that this will have knock-on effects for malls, clubs and RP sims as they struggle to fill the vendor booths whose income helps pay their tier. I can see the argument for this and it is pretty compelling.
However, the counter-argument is that malls are a bit of a blight anyway and that the Marketplace is just so much more convenient, quick and efficient. And, again, that has some validity too.

My own opinion is somewhere in between. Personally, I absolutely adore shopping in-world if the store is interesting, well laid out, and gives me a positive ‘experience’. By contrast, there are few things more soul-destroying than wandering round a huge faceless store that has all the visual interest of a level of Wolfenstein 3D and where you can’t find what you’re looking for.

Here’s a case in point…

Could this shop be any more boring and uninspiring? This kind of shop, where the Designer clearly does not give a flying fig about the store, is the kind of thing the Marketplace was made for. They just want to sell their stuff and no more. May as well put it up on Marketplace and save yourself the tier.

By contrast, other Designers clearly love to build as well as make clothes, and pour a great deal of love into the whole shopping experience.


My greatest concern with Marketplace is that it will cause all in-world shops to become unviable and we will lose the experience of shopping at beautiful sims like this. Likewise, wonderful themed and/or RP sims where it is a delight to explore will also start to struggle to pay their tier to the point where they can’t continue. And I think Second Life would be a much poorer place for it.

Links:

http://strawberrysingh.com/2012/05/16/the-marketplace-debate/
http://primperfectblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/is-the-marketplace-killing-the-mall/

beccapet:

It was absolutely awful yesterday. I had a bit of a shopping spree on Marketplace yesterday morning (UK time) and 33% of my items failed to be delivered. Then in the afternoon I crashed and couldn’t get back on for ages and it said that logins had been disabled and to check the grid status page – which hadn’t been updated in 2 days.
And then today I got hit by a rolling restart on two different sims, both of which gave 5 mins notice to get out. 5 mins! What kind of notice is that?

Also, SCHEDULED maintenance is maintenance you know about beforehand. So how about publicising it with a little more notice, Linden Lab?

Originally posted on Living in the Modem World:

Grid maintenance 8 through 10 May, commencing 18:00 SLT, for up to 8 hours. Disruption expected.

The following has been posted in on the SL Grid Status page:

[Posted 9:45am PDT, 8 May 2012] We will be performing scheduled maintenance today, Wednesday and Thursday of this week (May 8, May 9, May 10), beginning at 6:00pm PDT each day. Each maintenance is scheduled to last around 8 hours. Please save all builds and refrain from rezzing no copy objects, as some regions may be taken offline and remain offline for extended periods of time. Please follow this blog for any updated information. [emphasis mine]

So for today, Wednesday and Thursday, expect severe disruption to SL.

Whether or not this maintenance is related to recent service outages / issues, the most recent of which occurred some 24 hours ago, is unclear. However, the forewarning is appreciated.

While I…

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Differing definitions of ‘crowded’

I was at a concert for the wonderful Lisa Brune last night, and the sim was absolutely packed – my Firestorm ‘People’ list told me there were 66 people on the sim and it certainly felt like it – people were grey, the lag was insane like the air had turned to wallpaper paste, and people were crashing all over the place. In fact Lisa herself crashed and couldn’t get back in but valiantly carried on with the concert anyway. I myself gave up trying to get back in after the 3rd crash and was listening to the stream with an external media player.

Anyway, all this got me thinking about the perennial issue of what we think of as ‘crowded’ when we’re in Second Life. It seems to me that a concert in real life where the performer only had 66 attendees would be considered ‘intimate’, ‘tiny’ or ‘woefully under-attended’ depending on the size of venue and the expectations of the performer or their management. Yet in Second Life it’s considered a massively popular attendance.

Back in the early days of Second Life, much was made of the educational and media event possibilities, and many people dipped their toes in the water with such things as Virtual Embassies, learning centres, corporate presences and the now famous Suzanne Vega concert, but interest very quickly waned as it became abundantly clear that the Second Life platform just simply cannot cope with a decent attendance.

My understanding is that the fundamental limitation is that each full sim in Second Life is hosted on a single core of a multi-core processor (for Homestead sims it is 4 to a core) and it’s simply not possible to throw more processing power at a sim. The nearest that can be achieved is to use two or more adjacent sims playing the same stream so that people can get some sense of “being there”, but even then that’s not really ideal.

I am sure that this issue has had Linden Lab scratching their collective heads for years, and I would like to think that they have it on their roadmap to address it, but we’re in 2012 now. I joined SL in 2007 and we had the issue even then and we still have it now.

What Second Life needs is to somehow break free from these limitations and for the servers to be truly scalable. Once that is achieved, it could be monetarised with perhaps a graded tier for sim capability or a dynamic billing model not dissimilar to webserver bandwidth. I am sure that the owners of popular sims would be happy to pay for the ability to have a decent number of attendees to an event without the whole thing falling over in a horrible mess. At the moment there is simply no choice, no option; it’s a hard limit.

Second Life is a wonderful place to be, but this limitation is fundamental and if it isn’t addressed I can’t see how Second Life is ever going to progress beyond where it is today.


Footnote

After a little googling, it turns out the Suzanne Vega concert was in 2006 and in order to get 80 attendees people had to have not a single prim attachment on themselves, not even hair. So really not a lot has changed in 6 years.

The Art of Prim Reduction (and changing pictures with the click of your mouse)

Introduction

I’ve been trying to reduce my prim count at my home in SL, and one of the things I figured I could improve on is the pictures hanging on my wall. I’ve got 4 walls of pictures, and each has 3-5 pictures on it, each one on its own prim. So I could see some good savings there.

But how to reduce that number?

Well, a picture is just a texture on a prim. And a wall is also just a texture on a prim. So why not combine the two? Bake the pictures onto the texture of the wall itself.

However, unless you really are pinching every single prim, I think it is better to spend an extra prim per wall and create a transparent veneer onto which you bake your pictures. Think of it as a single picture frame prim that happens to contain multiple pictures. I will refer to this as a “veneer prim” or “veneer” for the rest of the article as it covers the wall just like a wood veneer. However, as I will shortly explain, it is actually preferable for it to be smaller than the wall itself but that doesn’t alter the fact that it is a veneer of sorts.

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