Sunday, 29 November 2009

Opening the box

Well, the past two weeks have been all about the tech and finding out just what makes avatars tick...

Kyle G from the Reaction Grid started up with the idea of developing a meeting place for users/developers of all virtual worlds to gather, share ideas and technical know how with each other with a final aim of meeting up in the US in 2010. There's just under 90 members already and I thought i'd contribute some of findings i'd come across.

My initial aim was to try and cross over Avatars from SL/Opensim to Unity 3D and create a base system that developers could import into their worlds, I made up a few tutorials going through the process:

The really interesting point of this was that I was able to import the standard avatar along with bones and all animations into a Unity project but from within the project I was able to control avatar bones/animations using some simple scripts, this got me to thinking about how easy it would be to setup a system whereby the users could create their own custom animations in world and why haven't LL or anyone else done this yet?

For one the saving of user data in world seems to prevented for a reason, you can't write to Notecards etc but also it would remove another revenue stream. The more I played the more I could see where the SL designs came about, I was able to create my own textures in world by painting straight onto my avatar, why is this not available? another revenue stream I guess.

The possibility's that this could open up are going to be stunning and it's great to be able to de-construct this kind of work and see just how it's made, it's something I often do when looking at a new build in world, I like to work out the techniques for myself and learn in the process.

Considering the way all these areas are constructed so that to create objects everyone has to make a series of micro payments to upload texture/anims/sculpts etc it will be interesting to see what happens when Mesh imports become available on the SL grid and just whether the Lab is considering increasing the upload charges for this new advancement?

My ultimate aim for this is to create a more detailed mesh and bone system so facial expressions and hand/finger movements can be captured, I really want to create a new system of communication in VW's, perhaps a system with a very limited gui and the ability to control you av's actions via mouse expressions. With most of this stuff though it's just something I pick at when I have the time, I like to get an idea and try and implement it, just to learn how it's done. :)

Friday, 13 November 2009

A week exploring

Well it's been a hell of a week with loads of new stuff and worlds/tools so here goes!

1. New Netbook Viewer: Boy Lane has released a netbook optimised viewer based on the rainbow viewer that installs with all the graphics options etc all ready set to run better on atom netbooks, tried it on my eeepc 901 and it's impressive, averaging 10fps without all the fiddly tweeking: Grab it here

2. Unity 3D: Unity 2.6 is now available to download for FREE with a FREE indie license, a few of the more pro features have been removed but it's certainly a very impressive package for making virtual worlds/game/art demos or whatever else you can think of that can run great 3d graphics in a browser, it's all pretty much drag and drop and comes with built in blender support, just import drag and drop, very easy. PLayed with this for a day or so and rebuilt the epistems sim as a test, also tried out the character control schemes which were easy enough to implement.
Unity is available for MAC and PC and looks like it's going to cause some waves in the future with the number of indie developers picking this up, there's also a race on to use unity to create an opensim client with some great work done by Dahlia here.

3. Blue Mars: I was hesitant to re download the client again but someone handed me the install file on usb and after reading that there was a Hack/workaround for importing blender builds into Blue Mars I thought i'd give it a go (check the comments in the post here).
So I logged in and was greeted by....Bots, loads of them, blah. So after crafting myself some facial hair I went exploring to meet all the new users and one, not one person in all the "worlds" so it was a bit of a let down. At least the inclusion of some new worlds/sims has created some variety and there's some interesting fauna being introduced so i'll not be uninstalling just yet.

4. The MetaPlace: This was a BIG suprise! An isometric virtual world that runs in the browser and looks so twee I might be sick, but all users get their own little "world" once they login, it's more a small private patch of land to build on and invite people to. You earn money by building/meeting people and getting people onto your land which is all par for the course for these sorts of worlds but the best thing I found here was that it allows user generated content. You can create your own floor tiles, objects etc by using 2d images and then add them to your world to create whatever you want, it kind of looked fairly limited when I first logged in but it just keeps opening up, including scripting behavior for objects, hosting gigs/art shows etc.
Must admit this sucked me in and took up a little more of my time than I had to spare....i'm sure someone with good 2D skills could make something pretty spectacular.

5. Google wave - Got my invite! It's a very different way of working collaboratively and at the moment seems to be full of too many forum recreations which become unwieldy but the possibilities for project work and bouncing ideas around are exciting.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Ripping it up

Organics Animations
Originally uploaded by Snowy Hoobinoo
Completely stuck in a rut for the past month or so I found myself just logging on for the sake of it and wasting away hours doing.......nothing. Sometimes I walk away from an SL session after a couple of hours with no real idea of what i've achieved or done, i'm not the most talkative and my friends list is fairly short so no long winded conversations, no building, no great explorations across the grid, I guess i'm just sat in world procrastinating.
Anyway, it got to the point where I was ready to take a break for a while and walk away, but that evening while dropping of to sleep images came to me, caves/organics/life systems colliding, must be that point in quiet stillness where your brain begins putting together all the things you've learnt/seen throughout the day that give the best ideas.

So the next day I went back into the RG sim and ripped it up, deleted the lot and leveled the land, as a cathartic action it really did wipe the slate clean in my head and the building just flowed from there, land went up, sculpted were sorted and texturing was easy, no pre planning just bouncing ideas along as they revealed themselves. I really like visiting enclosed builds or eco systems where the closeness and conformity create a believable cohesiveness.

Shortly afterwards Vlad Bjornson set through a link to this vid:

The thought of animated plants and organics in virtual worlds has been on my mind for a while but after testing various anim systems etc the end result never matched the initial idea, too jerky and unrealistic, after watching the Yonder vid above it occurred to me to use my avatar as the base for the animation and the plant itself, creating smooth animations in the process. After knocking up some quick test anims using folded limbs and attaching some forms I knocked up this video, works pretty well and i've experimented a bit more since so should be showing those soon.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Epistems Experiment end of Week 1

The pay what you like experiment at my Epistems store has been running for a week now and here's the results:

I posted links to the event on twitter/flickr/koinup/sl forums/in world events and linked to a flickr pic with the slurl to the store.

I got 62 views on the Flickr pic and my in world land traffic went from the mid forties up to just over 200.

12 people bought items 40 items from the store over the week (normally valued at around 4000 lindens) and 2 of them payed towards the plants a total of 110 lindens, so I made 2.75 lindens on average per item.

It was just an experiment and so nothing to cry over but it was a little disheartening to see people come in and take every item they could get their hands on for free and then just leave, no thanks, not even a token payment, nothing.

It might also be worth noting that the two payments I did receive were when I was on the land myself or just above working.

Lessons learnt:

1. Get it right, first time. I'm the first to admit the whole thing was a bit of a rush job, I layed out the land as quick as I could just to get it up and running, a better flow and some more developed items could have helped.

2. The system needs changing. As visitors arrived they were handed a notecard explaining the offer and as we all know one of the first things people do when arriving somewhere is decline any offered items. Perhaps a script on each object so that someone would have to pay something before receiving the item could have helped.

3. Size matters. thinking back, my store is way too small for this type of experiment, would be interesting to see what would happen if some of the larger clothes stores did this for example.

4. Where am I going with this? I guess it's made me think about why i'm doing this in the first place, I make just enough to pay the rent each month and realize it's just a hobby, but is it fun? When it comes down to it I think I would still be just as happy to give my works away for free if I had rent free land to build on. Also all this selling and store building really detracts from what I love to do..CREATE.