Windlight release on the horizon.

Just back from today’s Windlight office hours.

Not much to report except to say that it looks like Windlight will probably see Release Candidate soon. Runitai mentioned maybe one or two more FL releases before all the kinks are worked out.

It’s been pretty interesting looking back at the last few months of Windlight development.

There have definitely been a lot of snags along the way, with a wide range of opinions all round from the appropriateness of the lighting offered to the operability of the client on the wide range of computers that run SL. And there will always be folk who feel Windlight is too ‘x’ in some way, always stuck firm in the opinion that ‘Windlight sucks! Why are you not working to make SL more stable??’ etc etc etc. But from what I’ve seen these past few months of keeping an eye on WL office hours, LL, and in particular the Windlight Team has been really good about keeping up with problems that are plaguing their testers.

They’ve added parts of the client that have definitely made things better form a stability point of view – allowing for av imposters has definitely helped cut down on lag in heavily populated areas. They’ve also run a lot of feedback surveys and have listened to feedback given on the blog, over JIRA and at office hours.

Overall, for such a major addition to the SL client, things have been working out really well and I look forward to seeing it in general release in the near future.

That said, as a resident using somewhat old hardware, I have to express dismay that something that was readily accessible back in June/July during its first trial in First Look is barely accessible to older computers at this point. My Mac Powerbook 1.67GHz, 2GB RAM, ATI Radeon 9600XT machine runs Windlight… reasonably well with no atmospheric shaders applied, but that means no Windlight skies – just an adjusted sky and slightly improved lighting structure. I can run atmospheric shaders, but doing so slows down performance to less than 0.5FPS, rendering any sort of movement or interaction nigh impossible.

This is a limitation of my computer to some degree, and I’m sure significant components were added to the latest Windlight compared to the original trial – I guess the visual benefits of the new client leave me wanting more than what I can get with the machine i use. And that’s a good thing I guess. But saddening since I don’t have the resources to see that happen any time soon.

Anyhow, getting back to the office hours commentary, I think it’s a good thing that the WL team has been so open about making things work for residents. For a time transparency from LL was not a strong point, and it’s good to see that change, since so much of what SL *IS* involves the community. It is nice to see Lindens recognize and appreciate that.

On Windlight, skins and face lights. (A small rant)

A common complaint that has been voiced in the wake of Windlight returning to First Look viewers new you has been the following:

‘Windlight SUCKS! My face is all dark and shadowy! I have to wear this 8 prim face light to keep my face bright!’

This complaint shows up almost anywhere the words ‘Windlight’ and ‘skin’ are combined.

The folks behind Windlight made it known that the new lighting in Windlight is meant to reflect a more realistic rendering of SL and avatars inside it, but have made numerous adjustments and concessions to user feedback throughout the various iterations of the First Look .

Yet, the fact that this does come up so often shows there are definitely a lot of people who dislike how their faces are lit in SL. But does this necessarily mean this opinion is justified?

For starters, let’s have a look at this experiment I put together, which compares lighting between the normal and Windlight client.

On the left, I’m wearing one facial light set at intensity 1, radius 0.35m, falloff 0. It gives off a soft, indirect & short-distance light that is not too obvious but still allows the face and skin to be recognizable as what I consider to be ‘me’. Photographed in the normal viewer.

On the right, the same face light, but multiplied a number of times and photographed in Windlight.

Preference and milage may vary as far as just how lit an avatar ought to be, but I found my preference still lies in one light prim at the same settings. Lighting for 2-8 lit prims became excessive, at times bordering on radioactive! Had I been wearing a lighter skin, i’d be at risk for being mistaken for Michael Jackson!

More to the point, here’s why using multiple prims is ineffective and greedy: SL, whether normal or windlight, only ever renders 6 lights at a time in your camera view. Additional prims that are light sources will intermittently turn on and off based on their vacinity to other light sources. This is why the figure above comparing 6 & 8 face lights has similar lighting, but a slightly different light configuration.

Worse though is this: You know how people complain about their faces being underlit even *with* a face light? Well, if they’re hanging around other people who have 6-8 prim facelights, light might be rendered from these other prims, and not their own face light.

Consider this photo of my friend, who was standing 5m away from me and wearing one light source at the time. You wouldn’t know it! In playing around with multiple lights for this experiment, I’d inadvertently caused her face light to not work at all!

The other thing that should be mentioned at this point is that, even if you really prefer a brightly lit face, you only really ever *at most* need one prim as a face light, since you can adjust intensity, radius and falloff to much greater than the settings I listed here.

That’s about it. This has gotten to be a little longer than I intended, but over the weeks I’ve heard words like ‘crap’, ‘ruined’, and a lot more cursing directed at people who deliberately take time to listen to Residents at two Office Hour sessions a week, PLUS through the First Light discussion group and really make the effort to make the SL experience work better.

That said…

Far be it from me to poo poo people from using Blender and not actually provide help.

Many many people complain about Blender’s interface being too complicated etc etc. As a noob, i felt that too, yet ended up pushing through the initial learning curve and ended up finding Blender is actually really flexible. I’m still a noob! But I do find Blender very comfortable to work with and find it provides the most options towards creating things that I want.

Towards that end, I did a bit of searching for tutorial videos today and here is what I found:

Introducing the Blender 3D Environment by Glen Moyes is a clear and concise example of how you can make the Blender interface work for you (and not the other way around). In particular, the Blender Interface video is most useful to those who are starting out with the interface and are confused at how to make it work.

Lex Zhaoying’s tutorial teaches how to make a simple martini glass using a NURBs sphere and how to convert it to a sculptie texture you can then import in to SL. This is the tutorial that I held as a touchstone when I was first starting out because the process towards generating a sculptie texture was initially long and confusing. Nevertheless, it was necessary to understand the *how* of making them in order to properly edit them later.

Domino Marama’s Blender Scripts are explained here(SL Building Tips forum – requires verified payment info) and include utilities that allow the import of sculptie maps in to Blender for editing, as well as a utility that makes the mesh to UV texture process go MUCH faster.

The Second Life Building Tips Forum is also extremely useful to be a part of, but can only be accessed if you have verified your Av’s payment info. If your account is verified, make sure you’re logged in to get in on this wealth of information. There are a lot of tips and tricks provided that have helped me more than a few times when i’ve gotten in to ruts.

Additionally, as far as general process tips with Blender:

1) I always start with a NURBs object, whether sphere, torus (Blender calls them donuts), plane or cylinder. These are the four fundamental shapes SL will recognize. Starting out with these shapes when making sculpties will save you the headache of having to recreate them later in the long run.

2) Subdivide these shapes in order to add additional control points, but DO NOT add or extrude points from these shapes. SL requires a square texture to create your sculptie, and adding/extruding points outside of your object will prevent this! If you must add additional shapes outside of your first object, simply create another object and export that as a sculptie as well.

3) Many people stress the need for sculpties to be modelled in NURBs mode. This is not necessarily true. Modelling exclusively with NURBs is recommended because NURBs is the method SL uses to create its sculpties… BUT it needs to use a UV map that was created from a mesh anyway. NURBs can be rather clumsy to work with if you’re not familiar with them, and due to the manner in which they control an object’s mesh, it’s easier to make smooth, basic objects with them. IF however, you require greater detail, converting the object to a Mesh and manipulating points and vertices may provide you with greater flexibility. Personally, I start out with NURBs, block out the major shapes that I want, then convert to mesh and edit vertices individually until I get what I want. I then map the object to a UV Map using Domino’s ‘Render – Bake Second Life Sculpties’ tool to get Blender to generate a sculptie.

That’s what i can think of at the moment. At some point I’d like to make a short video describing this process that might help. That’s going to be dependent on what software I can find that will help me do this.

The Sculptie Hype.

It’s sorta funny that, as someone who makes much of her sales off sculpties, I don’t personally find the hype over sculpties to be all that big a deal. To be clear, I love sculpties – I think they are a great organic alternative to the prims we’ve come to know and love. But I *don’t* think they’re the be-all and end-all to content creation in Second Life.

Case in point? Gutterboots by Gutterblood Spoonhammer. Yes, he does use some sculpties in his boots, but by and large I’ve found the thing I like most about his work is that they are not solely dependent on them and as such stand on their own as *good products*, sculpty or not. They are solidly constructed and incredibly textured with every smidgen of detail paid attention to – from the laces to the soles, which would rarely see the light of day. I own 3-4 pairs of his boots and while each do use sculpties in some way, the sculpties are not integral to the design and could have easily been replaced with normal prims, but for the chance to give sculpties a try.

Many times I see content creators trying to get in to the sculptie-mania and becoming frustrated because the tools recommended for the job are difficult to use or learn, and feeling like they are somehow ‘behind’ because they haven’t spent ‘X’ amount of time to become masters of this new area that has been opened up. To be sure, in the last year, SL has undergone a lot of changes so that it might compete on an aesthetic level comparative to other MMO and VW platforms… but that doesn’t mean that products NOT created with sculpties are in any way inferior or less able to stand up on their own as products.

For that matter, my biggest gripe about sculptie use as it stands now is that they are often slow to load to their full quality (even at 32x32px), and as such, sculpted materials are often unloaded still after all normal textures in the area have loaded.

While this is not as big a problem for my own products given that it’s expected that they will load slower under existing conditions in SL, I find it particularly irksome to find that the majority of an attachable product – such as shoes or hair – is made with sculpties… and just *will not load* in areas that are highly populated. As a result, the wearer often looks like they’ve got odd tumors growing out of various areas on the body. In other instances, furniture and living spaces made with sculpties have issues too – I’ve experienced this with my own creations and have to say it’s something I disliked enough to disuade me from selling. (If your video card selectively screwed up sculptie textures to the point where your sculpted couches looked like pincushions, would YOU want to sit on them?)

With the increasing difficulty Residents are having in the battle against lag (whether from the client or the server side), this is increasingly abundant and in my opinion, unnecessary. After all – SL has seen what… 4 years? of fabulous content creation using normal prims? While *yes* sculpties provide a reasonable outlet for people who are willing to put in the time and effort to use them effectively, let us not forget that amazing work has come about through the use of normal prims already, and can continue to do so if the product being made is a good one.

In other words – yay! if sculpties help you make a good product you wouldn’t otherwise be able to make. Boo! if you’re getting in on sculpties because it’s a fad.  Use ’em well if you can but don’t use ’em if you don’t have to would be my suggestion.

Organica Main Store @ Bhima


Originally uploaded by spacylittlecowgirl

Visit us at Bhima, 135,22,36 and check out the fantastic trees available!

All full size trees are copy/mod/no transfer, and crafted with care from sculpties, regular prims, and custom textures to create a natural feel for your Second Life experience.

Be sure to check out the whole store for various marked down or freebie items, as well as the snowy areas for limited edition snowy trees for the winter season!

An Introduction

Welcome to the inaugural posting in this blog featuring Kitheres Industries and Organica Specialty Trees.

This blog was created with the intentions of seperating my SecondLife related posts off from my main site and will discuss releases from both companies as well as my own thoughts on news and such related to my involvement in the Metaverse.

To the uninitiated, Kitheres features my delving in to the scifi genre – I work on things like scifi-themed av customization. This has involved skins, eyes, outfits and accessories so far.

Organica reflects my delving in to creating naturalistic trees using sculpties. I started out in late October with a couple of Junipers and since then the business has expanded to a fairly large store area in Bhima.

Both businesses has done pretty well and I really look forward to the future and what prospects both will bring.