A few lingering thoughts on Animesh

As some of you may be aware, Linden Lab has announced the release of the Animated Mesh Object project, which has been in development for around 18 months. Essentially, it allows any rigged object (Avatars, clothing, accessories, and beyond) to be animated smoothly without being worn.

It’s been interesting to sit in on all of the tweaks along the way and to create test content along the way, even though sometimes doing so made me want to apply head to desk in rapid succession (Such is the case with any extended project of this scale, really).

Now that the project’s out, I have to say I feel a sense of both relief and anxiety – both for built up projects which I can release and projects which are still being held back by technical difficulties, but above and beyond, what the future holds.

In some ways, Animesh means an easy way for folks to repurpose some of their rigged mesh purchases towards innovative NPCs and other interactive objects.

For avatars, at least, it’s possible to rez a copy on the ground, drop in some animations and script potential animated behaviour, allowing that avatar to roam freely. 

These same avatars can be repurposed (if additional animations are added to support this) to operate as standalone OR held/worn pets.

But there are a few restrictions and caveats:

  • Those expecting to simply take a high-poly mesh body, add complex rigged mesh clothing to it, along with footwear, jewellry and other accessories may be disappointed. A polygon limit of 100,000 triangles per linkset remains in place.
  • Even if a linkset comes in well below this polycount, unoptimized content has the potential to be of significant LI cost.
  • Some rendering problems persist – particularly when it comes to the rendering of shadows as they are cast from rigged content. Whereas this was less noticeable only on avatars, with Animesh, any animated object stands to unintentionally  cast a fairly blocky shadow. This is supposedly being worked on by Graham Linden, but to date I have not seen any positive change on this matter.
  • There is a per-avatar limit of one animesh linkset (two, if you are a Premium member)

Additionally, time will tell, but I have some concern over the last-minute addition of two linksets being made available. At this week’s Content Creation User Group meeting, Vir recognized it as appearing to be a last-minute addition, claiming any open discussion of the matter just hadn’t been possible. To me, the problem is not so much that the announcement appeared last-minute as the fact that there appeared to have been no real heavy load testing for such circumstances. 

Residents have always pushed the limits of what building and appearance tools have been given to them – I don’t see the emergence of Animesh as being any different. Add to that the fact that any worn object does not immediately present an easy to read and recognize performance cost metric and there is significant potential for abuse.

With that said, that there are caveats at all is a good thing – I would seriously be concerned if there had been no limitations – it would make my concern over multiple linksets all the more pressing if the max polycount were higher.

If anything, I do hope most of these limitations encourages folks to seek out content that is dedicated for use with Animesh, rather than simply depending on existing content to fit their needs. 

I am honestly pleased that  it’s now available to the public and I do think it offers to spark a lot of creativity for existing and newcomer artists. I *do* think it requires a wider skill set – it requires scripting and additional animation over and above modelling, texturing and rigging, if you are a clothing-maker… but perhaps this will be a push towards greater learning or collaboration for those who need it.

How do you feel about Animesh? Has Linden Lab made it clear what it is? What kind of things do you look forward to seeing now that it’s here? Are you going to try your hand at making some?

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