Body (and head) shaming in Second Life, and the definition of self.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Second_Life_logo.svg

Becca observes that, as in real life, Body Shaming is a thing in Second Life. She then goes on to talk about mesh heads vs system heads, and the fact that how we look in Second Life defines us even more than in real life. 

Last week I joined a Facebook Group called “Second Life Friends” and there was a discussion on facelights, so I decided to post a link to an old blog article I wrote back in 2012 that is as still as relevant now as it was then.

During the resulting Facebook thread, I got body shamed by a poster over the fact that I do not as yet use a mesh head, and who poured scorn on me and my look, as if how I look made my opinion irrelevant.

Then, yesterday, I updated my post “Unencumbered by the trappings of Real Life” about whether there should still be a clear separation between Second Life and real life, or should Second Life be merely an extension or augmentation of our online presence.

I posted it to the same group, and it started off a lively debate. The debate deviated somewhat into the whole thing of mesh heads again. On the whole it was a civil and interesting debate, and my replies to it gave rise to this article.

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Unencumbered by the trappings of Real Life (revisited)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Second_Life_logo.svgBecca asks: “Should there be a clear separation between Second Life and real life, or should Second Life be merely an extension or augmentation of our online presence?”

Back in 2012 I wrote an article called “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life“. Some things are still as true then as they are now, whilst other things are a little out of date, so I have decided to revisit it and update it.

Some of the people I meet in Second Life want to know all about my real life, about how I look or where I live, or how old I am, or any number of other things. And I tell them that, quite apart from privacy, I simply don’t see things like that as having any relevance to my Second Life. And, further, I don’t particularly want them to volunteer anything about themselves either. I’m simply not interested in their “skinvelope” (or, as I have heard others refer to it, their “meatsack” or “meat rider”, which I confess aren’t phrases I’m particularly enamoured with) and want to get to know the real person, unencumbered by the trappings of real life. Some of these people have got quite defensive about my attitude and asked how I can know the real person when I say I don’t want to know the real life person. Some have even called me crazy. Well, allow me to explain what I mean.

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Level of Detail

Just a very quick one.

I logged onto SL recently and noticed that sculpts and meshes weren’t rendering properly unless I zoomed in, and I remembered that there is a debug setting to fix that and it must have got reverted for me at some time.

The fix is as old as the hills, but I thought I would note it down here simply so I can easily find it again. If it helps someone else too then so much the better.

Go to Advanced -> Debug Settings (or use Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S)
(If the Advanced menu is not enabled then enable it with Ctrl+Alt+D)

You need to set both the RenderAvatarLODFactor and RenderVolumeLODFactor settings.

A value of at least 4 is recommended, whilst 6 is better.

RenderAvatarLODFactor

RenderVolumeLODFactor

Second Life, and the dangers of DRM and lock-in.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Second_Life_logo.svgA friend sent me an article today about news that every Ozimal digirabbit in Second Life will soon starve to death (or, rather, go into permanent hibernation) because a legal threat has shut down their food-server, since the virtual pets are designed so that they can only eat DRM-locked food.
[Source: boingboing.net]

This is very sad for breeders, of course, but it also raises some interesting questions in my mind about Second Life in general and also real life.

The concept isn’t just limited to Second Life, of course. There have been high profile cases of people having iTunes libraries worth many thousands of dollars and wanting to transfer or bequeath them upon death, and been unable to do so. Likewise people being banned from Steam and denied access to all their purchases. In fact any system where you buy digital products that are locked by DRM and reliant on a remote server are susceptible to being locked out from you for whatever reason. This raises the question as to whether you have actually purchased that item or merely have an open-ended license to use it that can be unilaterally revoked by the seller. This is one of the reasons I still buy physical CDs and DVDs, although I often make use of “buy the digital version and we’ll send you the physical disc as well” services offered by Amazon, Sky, and others. With Steam purchases I don’t bother with physical media any more as the games are DRM-locked and reliant on the Steam servers (and useless without them).

If Linden Lab were to shut down the Second Life servers, we would lose everything. Sure, we could migrate to various other virtual worlds based on OpenSim, but it would be without all our DRM-locked inventory and our Linden Dollars. I don’t know about you, but I have spent literally thousands of real life actual GBP pounds sterling buying L$ and have spent all of it, and many more tens of thousands of L$ that I have earned in-world, or been gifted, on the Second Life economy. All that would be lost, like tears in rain. Same goes if Linden Lab banned me for whatever reason, as it is notoriously difficult to get un-banned again. I very much doubt I would start again if that happened.

Linden Lab could shut down Second Life for any number of reasons. One is that they go bankrupt of course, but another is if Second Life were to become unprofitable for Linden Lab and not worth continuing.

Although Sansar isn’t intended to replace Second Life, perhaps Linden Lab will pour all their development effort into it at the expense of Second Life. Or, more feasibly, the content creators could decide to move away from Second Life to newer and more interesting pastures (whether that be Sansar, or something else). With no new content to buy, the Second Life economy would wither and die, and shopaholics everywhere would starve to death, just like the rabbits.

I’m definitely not the only girl with a massive investment in Second Life and who would be reluctant to throw it all away and start again, so hopefully Linden Lab will keep the Second Life servers running for many many years to come, and the wonderful people who make and sell content for Second Life will continue to do so too.

After all, who wants to see rabbits starve?

 

Clothing: The Resurgence of Texture

It’s been quite a long time since I blogged about the state of the clothing market. It was back in January 2014 in fact.

Back then I predicted that clothing would get ever more difficult to make and that more and more clothes would end up being made by fewer and fewer designers, and that we’d get a stagnation of the clothing market. However, when I wrote that, Fitted Mesh was in its infancy and it was unclear where it would go. And where it went was Mesh bodies. Of course this is probably not news to you as Mesh bodies have been ‘mainstream’ for over a year, apparently. I say ‘apparently’ as I haven’t been very active on SL for the past year so I am playing catch-up.

As you are probably aware, there are now a number of competing Fitted Mesh bodies available from designers like SLink, Maitreya, TMP (The Mesh Project), Belleza, and the like. A Fitted Mesh body is essentially a bodysuit that completely replaces your body (which is now being referred to as ‘Classic body’) by using an Alpha Mask to make your Classic body invisible from the neck down. Unlike with Rigged Mesh, the Fitted Mesh responds to the sliders for modifying your body (no more “standard sizes”), which in theory should mean that you still have full control over your shape and look. However, it is of much higher quality and much more realistic than the Classic body shape. In short, it is what Linden Lab should have done themselves with the Classic body.

Mesh clothing compatible with these bodies is available, and older Rigged Mesh clothing will still fit, albeit with some tweaking and the use of additional alpha masks to mask off parts of the Mesh body. How this is achieved varies by body, and some are more clunky than others. I’ll leave it up to you to research further.

For tattoos, skins, and indeed any other texture (which of course includes System Clothing textures), the designer has to  provide an “applier” that is compatible with the Mesh body. An applier is essentially a script that tells the Mesh body how to paint the texture onto it. You’re probably no stranger to appliers if you have used Phat Az, Lola’s Tango and other body modifications that pre-date Fitted Mesh.

Without an applier, the texture will be worn by the Classic body which of course is hidden when you are wearing a Mesh body.

There is an applier specific to each designer’s body, but there is also an ‘Omega’ applier system which is a universal (and free) system understood by many Mesh bodies. If your body is Omega compatible (many are, with the exception of a few such as TMP and SLink Physique) you can use Omega appliers on your body.

So, with all that background information out of the way, it is time to talk about the actual subject of this post. Which, ironically, will take far fewer words to achieve than the preamble.

I recently made friends with someone and she was showing me some of her outfits, and I noticed that some of her clothes were what only a few years ago would have been dismissed as rather out-dated pre-Mesh texture clothing. Only she had fairly recently bought them because they looked ok to her, but crucially had appliers for her Mesh body.

And this got me thinking about my old post where I said that texture-only clothing designers were being left behind. Suddenly this is no longer the case. All a texture-only designer needs to do now to bring their clothing to a whole new audience is to master the ability to provide appliers. From what I can see, this is fairly straightforward and is certainly way easier than making Rigged Mesh.

My personal feelings on texture-only clothing haven’t really changed – I still think it is immensely hard to make it look realistic and even harder to give the impression of 3D shapes with only a 2D texture – and this is never more the case than with things like buckles, clasps, and the like. These will always look better implemented in a 3D medium such as prims or sculpts (in the past) and Mesh (now), but as I have previously pointed out this is much, much harder to achieve. However, traditional 2D texture clothing applied to a Mesh body certainly looks better than when applied to a Classic body – there is less of that awful distortion and glitching that really ruin it, and it definitely gives it a new lease of life to the extent that you could feel happy to wear it.

So, in summary, I think that the clothing market may have opened up somewhat because right now there is a big demand for reasonably-priced texture-only clothing that can be applied to a Mesh body. And, furthermore, texture clothing simply looks better on a Mesh body than on a Classic body to the extent that it is acceptable to wear again.

Maybe there is a place for the small hobbyist designer making texture-only clothing after all. And that has to be a good thing, because the vitality of Second Life depends on user-generated content.

Edit: Just to clarify, the creator of texture clothing must produce an Applier for you. There is currently no way of simply applying existing texture clothing to your mesh body, so unless the creator of your old pre-mesh texture clothing makes an Applier available, you’re out of luck.


Further reading

WARNING: Many of the these links contain digital nudity and are NSFW.

http://strawberrysingh.com/2015/06/21/prim-perfect-introduction-to-mesh-bodies/

http://strawberrysingh.com/2014/12/16/maitreya-mesh-body/

http://juicybomb.com/2014/06/28/slink-physique/

http://alaskametro-sl.com/2014/12/i-heart-my-meshy-bits/

https://readmeri.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/the-mesh-body…

http://simplemusingsl.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/mesh-bodies…

Breakfast at Tiramisu

I finally had the muse on me to pop into Second Life to take some photos. Whilst I was there I bumped into my friend Abby, who I have known almost as long as I have been in SL. She is the owner of the Heroes club (which has been going for 6 years) and also the designer of Heroes Clobber. She’s sadly closing down Heroes and relocating Heroes Clobber, and has asked me to take some photos of the new place. So stay tuned for those!

Whilst in SL I visited the lovely Cheeky Tiramisu Café & Forest, where I took this photo:

“Breakfast at Tiramisu” on Flickr

Before & After

Before & After (click to enlarge)

The picture needed quite a bit of post-processing. For a start there was some nasty clipping of my arm against the dress. I noticed this when I took the picture, so to make correcting it easier I took two photos – one with the dress and one without, which allowed me to composite them post-production. What was less easy to solve was the clipping on my left shoulder (your right as you look at it) on the sleeve of the dress, so I had to clone another part of it and fill in. Another thing that needed attention was the colour of the right sleeve (your left as you look at it) which needed to be lightened and blended. There was also some clipping on the hair, which I also corrected. Finally, I got the glow settings wrong on the Depth of Field when I took the picture, and rather than going back and re-shooting, I corrected this post-production.

Compiling your own Viewer

Note: Although this article was first published in February 2014, I continually update it.

Last updated: 19-Jun-2017.


NOTE: This article assumes that you are a competent software developer who is comfortable with build environments and command windows. Most people will have no need to build their own version of Firestorm.


Back in September 2010 I wrote about the pain of compiling your own Viewer and of the efforts of my friends Mariana and Forestaurora to try to write tutorials on doing it. Fortunately, things have moved on enormously since then and now it is fairly easy to do a private build. A majority of the work is in setting up your build environment.

After encountering and solving a few “gotchas”, I have successfully built Firestorm v5.0.x under Windows 7 64-bit and also Ubuntu 16.04 LTS 64-bit and Ubuntu 17.04 64-bit.

I thought it was worth noting down the “gotchas” I encountered, which is what this article is about.  If it helps just one other person in short-cutting the issues I have had, then this article will have been worth writing.

So without further ado, here they are.

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I still use MystiTool!

If you’re not familiar with MystiTool, it is a HUD that is a veritable Swiss Army knife of useful things. It dates back to the earlier days of Second Life, where many things we now take for granted were absent or severely basic. For example, you needed an object or HUD called a Flight Assist (or Flight Feather, or Flight Ring, or any number of other names) if you wanted to fly above 200 metres. Rather than take up valuable attach points, back in the days before we had multiple attach points, having that in the MystiTool rather than as a separate object was beneficial. Since then, the flight limit has been raised several times and then in 2012 was removed altogether, making that feature of the MystiTool redundant.
Similarly, as Viewers (both Third Party and Official) have added functionality previously offered by the MystiTool, so those too have become obsolete (or, at least, less useful). Examples include the Radar, scanning a sim for avatars, chat notifications (such as an avatar entering chat range), TP to camera, Favourites, and TP History. Some are only included in Third Party Viewers like Firestorm, but some have even made it into the Official Viewer.

The feature erosion is not too dissimilar to the history of Microsoft Windows; in the early days, various tools, utilities and applications filled in the gaps in functionality missing from Windows itself, and gradually Microsoft incorporated the ideas and made many redundant. A case in point was Icon Hear It which added sounds to events in Windows 3.11, and was rendered instantly obsolete by Windows 95 which had that built in. But I digress.

But that doesn’t mean that MystiTool is now obsolete, as there are plenty of features that are still useful. Furthermore, with v2.0 of MystiTool, many of these features are now implemented as plugins which means you can choose to uninstall them, which reduces your script count and memory usage by allowing you to prune them out. You can therefore trim the MystiTool right down to only those non-obsolete features that you actually use.

Personally, I regularly use the Elevator & Sky Platform Rezzer, the Pose Stand Rezzer (especially the more fully featured deluxe pose stand, although the basic one is also useful), Object Chat ID (useful for finding the owner of a chatty object), Facial Emoter (I use it for photography), Collision Notification, Avatar Information and Channel Listener (useful to find who is talking to scripted objects, but also for debugging your own).

As the feature set continues to shrink, the argument for having a MystiTool gets weaker. It is no longer the must-have tool that it once was, but for many ‘oldies’ like me (currently 6 years & 3 months, or 2300 days) it is something that has been part of our SL for so long that it is something to which we have become immensely attached (no pun intended) and will probably hold onto until completely redundant, if not beyond.

 


Further reading

I Still Use My Mystitool by Cheyenne Palisades
Posted in January 2013. A similar article to this one, but slightly out of date now. More descriptive about some of the features than this article is.

Official MystiTool blog by Mystical Cookie
The official MystiTool blog

MystiTool on the SL Marketplace
A link to MystiTool on the Marketplace, which also summarises the full feature list.


 

Are you a MystiTool user? If so, please do comment below with what features you regularly use!

Stratification in the clothing market

Whilst shopping lately, I’m increasingly seeing what seems to be the same dresses being sold at various different shops. This is not reselling, but a case of designers buying in meshes from third parties.

This is not a new phenomenon, of course. In the past designers often bought full permission sculpts for use in their products, but it was less noticeable as using a sculpt here and a sculpt there is more finely grained; it still creates an overall unique product. In other words, two outfits using the same sculpts might look radically different, because you don’t notice the common sculpts so much, or the designers may be using them in different ways, with different placements, sizing, and the like. They may even be using different permutations of several sculpts from different creators. The overall look is therefore completely different, and the end result unique to that brand. By contrast, a mesh for a dress is entirely monolithic which gives rise to the situation where several clothing brands appear to be selling the same dress.

Ladder of Complexity

Ladder of Complexity

Clothing has gone through quite an evolution over the life of Second Life. From the original “slider clothing” (a.k.a. “system clothing”) with or without user-created textures, through to texture  + prim, texture + flexiprim, texture + sculpts, texture + unrigged mesh, and finally to rigged mesh. At each step in this evolution, the bar for entry to the next level has been raised. Also, from sculpts onwards, they require external software for creation which has its own (often steep) learning curve.

Often, a designer may find they have insufficient skill (and/or time, motivation, commitment or, indeed, ability) to move up to the next level, and can sometimes buy in the 3D models (ie. sculpts or mesh) and texture them into full products. The reason is that in some cases others may have the skill to create the 3D models but not the inclination to make them into products and have the hassle of selling to Residents. In some ways this is roughly analogous to Retailers and Wholesalers in Real Life.

As each level of the ladder gets harder and harder to reach, so the number of people reaching it falls, and so the probability of those people selling their creations to designers lower down the ladder rises (since there is an increasing demand). Or, to put it another way, there is a very small pool of people creating rigged meshes, and from that pool some are keeping them unique to their clothing brand, and others are selling them for other designers to use. And that is why we are seeing many brands selling the same clothes (or appearing to), since not only is their choice more limited but the very nature of rigged mesh means the clothing is more obviously the same (as I mentioned earlier on).

The net effect of the above is that we are seeing a stratification of the clothing market in Second Life, with the “top tier” of brands being created by very talented people who can create 3D models (ie. mesh clothing), rig it to become rigged mesh, skilfully texture it, and then sell it to ordinary people like you or I. The “second tier” are the designers who are unable to create their own rigged meshes and must buy them in, thus running the very real risk that some of their clothes will be extremely similar, if not identical, to those of other brands.

Further on down the ladder, the hobbyists of old who would dabble with prims in-world and with simple textures created with the aid of clothing templates, are increasingly finding that their efforts look unsatisfactory compared to the top designers. They are either having to make their clothing very cheap to compensate, and find themselves unable to afford the rent on their shops, or else are giving up, disheartened. Neither scenario can be good for the long-term health of Second Life.

Nor is this situation looking likely to improve. As mentioned in my previous blog entry, Linden Lab have decided to go down the path of using collision bones for their Fitted Mesh project. Whilst this is a technically simpler and, some may say, more elegant solution to mesh clothing deformation, it makes the task of rigging mesh even harder for content creators, thus making that top rung of the ladder even harder to reach.

I’m not sure where this state of affairs will take Second Life, but I do believe that warning alarms should be ringing somewhere. By making content harder and harder to create, so less and less is going to be created. Not only that, but people who may have found Engagement in Second Life through content creation might decide it is not worth it and instead drift away. However, having said that, I do acknowledge that we need to move forward and people are expecting ever more complex and realistic-looking technologies which, by their nature, are harder and more complex to create. But that doesn’t necessarily negate my point.

So, anyway, those are my thoughts on this. They’re only my opinion, so please feel free to comment below with yours.