2 New Prefab builds!

Two new builds are now available at Organica – but before I get to that let me take care of a few housekeeping items.

Housekeeping

A limited number of prefab buildings have also been put back out on display. Following the initial store rebuild at ground level, some prefabs were moved to a rezzer, while others were not put back out on display for various reasons (mostly because the rezzer vendor does not handle multiple-part builds very  well. While not all previous builds are on display quite yet, those of you who are looking for modern style builds suitable for both skybox and ground use can view them once again in-store.

I’m still considering a setup that would allow all of the bigger builds to also be shown, but there are considerations to be made on my part with respect to visibility at ground level.

New Stuff

With that said, I’m pleased to announce this new two-story craftsman-style home! Features 2 bedrooms,  2 bath, kitchen & laundry area, front/living room, dining room and Includes extra room in the basement that would make for an excellent family room. Best viewed with advanced lighting model enabled. 58LI at packaged size, which is 15x20m. 3.5m ceilings. Mod, copy, no transfer.

Built to fit a common 512sqm alottment, this is a detailed house waiting for you to make it a home. Comes unfurnished, all room walls can be individually edited and will take any texture that is horizontally seamless by default.

2 New Prefab builds!

 

Additionally, this next release was originally built to house items at Home & Garden Expo, but I wasn’t prepared to offer it for sale at the time as it was undergoing some final refinements. Today I’m pleased to say it’s available!

This shop space stands 12m wide by 18m deep by 13m tall and includes a detailed facade & back roof area. It’s great for smaller shops seeking a look that’s got character. Also best viewed using the Advanced Lighting Model.2 New Prefab builds!

Come see both of these in-store (180 Hamilton here and Kensington here) or check them out on the Marketplace (180 Hamilton here and Kensington here)!

If you enjoy what I’m doing here or think someone else might also find it of use, please feel free to share this blog with them. If you’d like to keep up to date with posts, the RSS for this blog is here, I can also be found on Twitter and Plurk. The Discord server is here.

If you really like my stuff, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce regular content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Thanks for your support!

 

New Mesh Plants and Hedges!

New this week are a couple of great additions to your garden!

New Mesh Plants and Hedges!

Flowers aren’t always necessary to introduce colour to your garden – Begonias come in a wide range of looks and here are a handful of them to start with. Included are both the individual plants as well as a version of them potted in a wooden planter. Each has a unique set of materials, featuring detailed bump maps and hand-painted diffuse textures, so please do be sure to enjoy these with Advanced Lighting Model turned on in your viewer.

Available as singles or in a fatpack, mod, copy, no transfer, both on Marketplace as well as in-store.

Additionally, here’s a new set of hedge pieces made for carefully groomed gardens! Mingi Mingi are dense bushes from New Zealand that feature small leaves and small berries. Pieces range from 1-3 LI ea, materials optimized, and are mod, copy, no transfer. Available both on Marketplace as well as in-store.

New Mesh Plants and Hedges!

Additionally, both the calathea plants as well as the new Altadore bedroom set are now available on Marketplace as well!

 

Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar

To adequately modify weighting for the avatar, there are a few methods of particular relevance:

Automatic Weights

This is a shortcut – one which attempts to assign the mesh to the bones that are closest to that particular area on the mesh. Automatic weighting is achieved by right-clicking the mesh, THEN the armature in Object mode, then Parenting the former to the latter by selecting ‘Ctrl + P’. This brings up the ‘Armature Deform’ menu, from which  ‘Automatic Weights’ should be chosen.

It is important to note here that with human avatars, it’s usually possible to use it to predict which parts of the mesh should be associated with which bones. The same cannot necessarily be said for avatars that depend upon a modified skeleton (like this Corgi). Sometimes Bone Heat works, sometimes it doesn’t. In any case, there will always be some degree of tweaking required afterward, so tools such as ‘Automatic Weights’ should be considered a useful tool in most cases, but not a magic bullet. This is why the following two methods are also very important to learn.

Manual assignation:

To accomplish either of the following two methods, the mesh needs to be parented to the armature. This can either be done by choosing ‘With Empty Groups’ from the Armature Deform menu (which we got to by selecting the mesh, then the armature – both in object mode – then hitting hotkeys Control + P) OR selecting the mesh and adding an Armature modifier, taking care to point the ‘Object’ field in that modifier to the appropriate armature.

Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar

Once this is done, the mesh can be weighted using the first, second or both of the following methods:Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar

A) Assignment as an Edit Mode property – by selecting a single vertex or a whole group of them in Edit mode, you can affect their bone weighting by choosing the (above) indicated menu in the Edit properties tab, adjusting the associated weight and then hitting either ‘Apply’ or ‘Remove’. Vertices associated with a given bone can also be selected or deselected in this same menu.

Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar

B) Weight Painting – This is a weighting method which allows you to visualize the degree to which verts are weighted to a particular bone through the use of colour. It allows you to use a digital brush to add, subtract, draw, lighten, darken, blur or otherwise affect bone influence, which in this mode is represented by a gradient of colour, ranging from blue (no influence) to yellow(middling influence) to red (full influence).

There are pros and cons to using each of these methods and almost 100% of the time, I use the second method *after* having used the first, in order to make it look more natural.

The weighting process with the cute, fuzzy and not-at-all skinny corgi has been, inevitably, a bit different (and long-winded) compared to weighting the sleek & non-squishy Drider avatar covered not too long ago.

I’ve always found this to be the case – coming to a happy medium between influence from multiple bones in a soft mass is a very organic process that depends heavily upon an understanding of what you want to move, and where.  Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t work out right away. Understanding a lot of this comes with experience & experimentation.

Whereas you can (for the most part) assign heavy influence of a rigid mass to a single bone, rigging to ensure smooth movement along a curvy mass often requires more of a gradiated transition – sometimes extending well past the immediate location of the bone.

Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar

For example, you could weight mesh along a tail rigidly, but when it comes time to move it, the mesh will be overly faceted and easily visible from afar as being unnatural.

Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar
Adding geometry judiciously at this stage is a good way of adding a more natural look. This is also a great opportunity to smooth out weights along

It’s at this stage that I have added more geometry to critical areas, such as joints and the tail.

Maintaining a low poly-count to start with is very helpful in reducing additional work when it comes to correcting delicate bone weights, but it’s also in these cases where adding intervening geometry is appropriate, and this is why, despite having used a Subsurface division modifier to visualize, I have not applied such modifiers permanently to my mesh. Being able to easily select and divide up edge loops and rings manually allows me the greatest ability to create more natural shapes while maintaining clean edge-flow.

The weighting and animation processes are inevitably intertwined. In the next little while, I’ll not only be animating but correcting vertices with stray weights as well. I will often be animating, find that a certain movement affects the mesh in some negative way, and as a result find that I need to go back to editing weights to prevent any significant negative outcomes.

It’s also during this process that any final joint position tweaks should be made. As was mentioned in the previous post, it’s important to ensure any such position changes are carried out between *both* the Control bones (green) and the Deform bones (blue, purple, red). Failing to do so can cause some unpredictable results upon export.

Corgi Week 3: Weighting the Avatar
(which happened here some time ago while working on the Yeti)

So far, I’ve explained the concept of these weighting methods and discussed a few pitfalls, but I’d like to delve a little deeper next week with some video content, demonstrating the use of these Weighting tools in greater detail. If you’re looking to learn about weighting with Blender & Avastar and have any particular questions for me to work in to these videos, please leave a comment here or drop by my Discord server for a chat within the next couple of days! (Latest March 4, please!)


If you enjoy what I’m doing here or think someone else might also find it of use, please feel free to share this blog with them. If you’d like to keep up to date with posts, the RSS for this blog is here, I can also be found on Twitter and Plurk. The Discord server is here.

If you really like my stuff, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Thanks for your support!

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

This week I figured I’d get started on some Wilds of Organica-related items, since the last couple weeks have been pretty landscaping and decor-heavy.

Linden Lab have taken the past few weeks off, as far as Content Creation user group meetings – they will resume tomorrow (Feb 15, 2018) at 1PM SLT, on Animesh 1 region (on ADITI grid).

It’s hard to gauge how much longer the testing period will take. When we last met, it seemed like development was ongoing, but felt like we were moving a bit closer toward final performance and animesh limits testing. There has been some push in terms of increasing the triangle limit, however I’m still of the opinion that 50K is far more than enough.


With that said, I’ve begun development on a new WoO product this week that would likely see use as either an avatar, animesh, or both. We’ll see how development goes moving forward – I’m excited to see just how well it can be implemented, given the positive experience I’ve had popping in animations and some basic scripts for existing content thus far.

When I’ve chosen a real-world subject, typically I’ll look up some basic reference material to get the proportions down. In this case, it’s mostly been looking up corgis on Google Image search. It’s easy to get caught up researching cute critters and your search results are likely to be the same as mine, so suffice it to say that I use such references as a touchstone to develop an idea of what age and proportion I want my avatar to be.

My preference, from a stylistic point of view, is to avoid being photorealistic in my translation of a real dog to SL dog. I don’t really enjoy the uncanny-valley look that often comes from taking references completely from photograph to projected final texture, so usually these references become proportional and very general references later on when I paint my fur textures manually.

In this case, I was going for non-puppy, but still on the young side, just to get a nice balance between lovable huge ears and adorable elongated & lowered carriage. I’ve also elected to go the non-docked route, although a bobtail option might be in the cards at some point.

The early hours of my avatar making process usually start with something very simple – like a box with some very simple extruded faces, to block out limbs, head, etc. Once I feel i have the main proportions down, I will usually toss on a few modifiers to help me get a clear idea of what the final product will look like, even if i might not apply all of these modifiers by the end of the project.Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

 

By using a SubSurf modifier, I can non-destructively visualize how my geometry might look if i were to subdivide and smooth. I don’t typically ever apply this modifier permanently because it’s too easy to just apply it and call it a day, without addressing some of the geometry problems that it introduces.

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

In particular, SubSurf tends to cause geometry to form vertices which either branch off in three or five directions, which is not ideal from an edge-flow perspective.  Also, it’s typically a lot more efficient to add edge loops and rings in areas where necessary, as opposed to allowing a modifier to add them all over your model.

I tend to add some edge loops and rings to some degree at this stage, to get the basic silhouette established, but do tend to add more later on, during the rigging stage, for added flexibility and attention to specific bone weights. One might conceivably use the ‘simple’ subdivision method rather than Catmull-Clark, however that subdivision method will not apply any vertex to vertex smoothing calculation and, at least for this use case, does little to add to this workflow.

I will typically mix the SubSurf modifier along with a Mirror and EdgeSplit modifier.

The Mirror modifier allows me to model on one side-only and have those changes propagate symmetrically.

I usually add an EdgeSplit modifier to help visualize the edge-flow of my model – in this case to help define key features in the surface as well as to give some definition to the fur.

I usually turn off angle calculations for this modifier, opting instead to define my sharp edges manually by right-clicking a sequence of edges, hitting Control E, then selecting ‘Mark Sharp’. Basically I want to adjust the geometry based on shapes I want to add to it, rather than adjusting the geometry based on what I have so far.

This helps to give the mesh a more distinct silhouette and to give me a better idea of how the geometry will need to be broken down later from the standpoint of someone who needs to rig and animate. As with the SubSurf modifier, unless I actually need a very sharp edge in my final model, I usually don’t permanently apply this modifier permanently either, since the resulting edge-splits will cause duplicate vertices that are not always necessary.

Below, you can see the difference between my Mirrored model (with no other modifiers added, but faces rendered as smooth), my mirrored model with edge-split, and finally with SubSurface divisions.

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

Corgi Week 1: Working with modifiers in Blender to help visualize advanced geometry efficiently

Once I am happy with this edgeflow and overall shape, I will usually begin modifying the Avastar Extended Bento skeleton to fit the avatar.

We’ll cover this, along with rigging our corgi, next week.


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Fresh Cut Roses

Right in time for Valentines Day, these fresh-cut roses are now available in-store and on Marketplace and they are great for both buying for yourself or gifting to others!

Mod, copy, no transfer. To gift, left-click the vendor and choose the ‘gift’ option (or buy on Marketplace).


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

New Flowers this week at Organica!

This week, we turn to Spring! Sorta.

New Flowers this week at Organica!

It’s still pretty solidly winter here in Canada, so I figured we could use some flowers to brighten things up.

This week, you can pick up one or more gerbera varieties in store or on the Marketplace!

2LI at packaged size, these flowering plants feature vibrant colours and detailed materials – perfect for any outdoor garden! Pick ’em up now seperately or as a fatpack!


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Kitten Avatar Update + New Coat Announcement!

Today, I’m glad to announce that the Kitten avatars are undergoing a long-awaited update, which includes additional Bento functionality plus a brand new animation override. This updated avatar is now available in shop, along with one completely new line – the Bicolour coat pattern!

If you already have one (or more) of either the Tabby or Cheshire avatars and purchased it off the Marketplace, you can expect an automatic delivery for each within the next twenty-four hours. A limited number of recent in-store purchases will also receive this automatic update. If you do not receive your update by Jan 17 2018 (EDT), please see below before contacting me by IM:

If you purchased in-store prior to Christmas and do not recieve an update automatically, please come to the main shop and rez your update token (found in your original Kitten package). There may be a delay but you should still get your update that way. If it times out, please contact me (Aki Shichiroji) directly by IM.

Kitten Avatar Update + New Coat Announcement!

This new bicolour pattern is very much intended to reference the ‘tuxedo’ look that many bi-colour cats have. Five colours are available in this line and these new kittens will include Bento functionality, just like the updated originals!

Changes (2018/01/15):

– Facial and tail Bento support
– New Animation Overrider HUD featuring advanced facial animations specifically for this avatar
– Update system now also uses the blue circle exchanger system (Read the included notecard for full details).

Known issue: RFL Purple Cheshire has not been addressed in this update but will be within the week. Please stay tuned for further info.

Relevant inquiries:
Will the applier system used for several other recent releases also be used for the kitten avatar?
– While the possibility is not closed to this, the logistics are non-trivial. The Applier system will not be applied to the kitten avatars at this time.

Will dev-kits and/or clothing be made available for these avatars?
– Both are being taken in to consideration at this time and both are very likely. Again, the logistics of packaging and managing a growing number of coats for this avatar are something that I need to become accustomed to before I will have time to address either. Please IM me to let me know of your interest!

Will animesh support be provided with this avatar?
– It’s a bit early to comment, but animesh for this avatar is quite likely. In all likelihood, Animesh support will involve a customized kit that can be dropped in, but given that these details are rather abstract, the final execution may be somewhat different. There are also some non-mesh and non-rigged components which would need to be converted for use with Animesh should a conversion occur, so I would need to account for the additional time cost for this work.

Stay tuned to the Subscriber Kiosk or the in-world group notices for further news about this or other releases from Wilds of Organica! Join the Subscriber kiosk ( here ) or the in-world group ( here )!

Thank you for your ongoing support!


If you like what you see but don’t think it’s quite right for you, perhaps consider donating to my Patreon? Your continued support helps to produce weekly content (written, modelled, animated or otherwise) and helps to keep original content creation in Second Life!

Ahead of Animesh: Efficiency

There has been a lot of talk, recently, with regard to what is and isn’t possible within the platform when it comes to content creation and detail. We see this complaint come up commonly with all content, but more recently this has become more of a touchy issue with the coming of Animesh (animated mesh) objects, which are currently being tested on the Beta grid.

As things go, Animesh is currently limited to 20Ktris per linkset, which means that content creators have to be very cautious about the complexity of the models they intend to use.

The most immediate use case being presented are full scale animated NPCs based on existing mesh content (bodies, clothing, hair). Additional use cases include accessorizing of rezzable pets, customization of vehicles, and more.

However, the efficacy of Animesh in terms of accomplishing those goals is questionable.

As things stand, the current limitations (20KTris per linkset, minimum 200LI cost for animated mesh objects) are deliberately conservative so as to accurately assess graphic and server load under heavy use. These limitations are likely to change, but some of the suggestions as far as to what degree have been quite far-ranging. At recent user group meetings, we’ve seen suggestions anywhere from 100-500KTris per linkset so as to accommodate clothing, hair and body mesh.

This might not seem like a lot but for the moment let’s argue that the average fashionista might themselves average between 250-800Ktri range. Today in SL, this is only just manageable in a room with multiple such avatars because we can now elect to filter out performance-heavy individuals by using Avatar Complexity filters. (If you frequently allow your viewer not to do this, chances are you spend a fair amount on a new video card every couple of years. Not everyone can afford that!)

There is no immediate indication that we will have any similar functionality with Animesh. Apart from the polycount restriction and LI, there is also no immediate restriction on how many animesh can be drawn by your camera. As such, placing multiple such linksets in a given area may well create a negative experience for a large portion of the SL userbase, who may not have the most up to date equipment for enjoying Second Life.

It begs the question of content creators – Notwithstanding any easement of these restrictions, what can we as content creators do to create more efficient models for use as Animesh (or even for daily use on our own avatars)?

 

Design with efficiency in mind.

There are many workflows out there. Some of us are working with Blender, Maya, 3DSMax, SketchUp, ZBrush or even Marvelous Designer.

I am hesitant to point out any one workflow as being ‘bad’, but frankly some of these workflows are designed for higher-detail applications and not for immediate use in gaming.

Does this mean I think they shouldn’t be used?

Not at all, however it’s important for content creators to understand what kind of issues they are introducing to the viewer experience when they present un-optimized content to the consumer market, what the repercussions may be and how to mitigate them.

For example, Marvelous Designer allows designers to create garments based on traditional patterning and to see how those garments will fall on an avatar, but even with the recent addition of its quadrangulate functionality, it produces mesh with counter-intuitive edge flow. Additionally, the common practice with MD is to simply export a high-poly mesh to include fine details and call it a day, without regard to how that might impact the viewer in SL.

We have similar problems with ZBrush, which can handle millions of vertices at a time and which does have a means of retopology (making something less complex), but which still requires a lot of tweaking to create something with good enough edgeflow to work well in lower poly situations.

You can work from low-poly to high or high-poly to low based on your preference, but it should be noted that the average avatar doesn’t actually *need* Pixar-level graphic fidelity in their everyday SL experience.

Wyvern material comparison
Most people think this wyvern comes out to around 50KTri or more – in actuality, with the use of normal maps, it is far far less (at 14KTri), and the final product may even be less depending on final refinements.

Rather than importing garments to SL with every possible nook and cranny modelled in geometry, designers can (and should) make use of the tools afforded them by advanced materials! This can be done by baking down some of the details from their higher-poly models to diffuse maps but also by creating normal and specular maps that will take advantage of textures instead of geometry to create detail.

Ahead of Animesh: Efficiency
Normal maps can make a huge difference when it comes to conveying details! This blouse is under 4KTri,, animates cleanly and still has subtle seam and cloth fold information which some would otherwise model out in geometry.

With this sort of workflow in mind, a 20KTri blouse could easily be reduced to 4-5KTri with minimal detail loss.

Even more savings can be had if animesh are designed and modelled with these restrictions in mind, rather than cobbled together from multiple sources.

With a custom designed animesh human, for example, there is no need to include a full mesh body – only those parts which are visible need be included. Clothing, hair, accessories – all of these can be developed with efficiency in mind to fit the criteria for Animesh limits.

Level of Detail models are also helpful with reducing viewer load at a distance, given the fact that Animesh do not currently become imposters at a distance (even though they express sped up animations just as avatars do).

 

Balance

Of course, it’s helpful not to think of SL purely in terms of efficiency. We could all just wear stick-figures or rez them and call it a day… but if the visual element were removed what would be the point?

Instead, I’d love to see limitations on these resources to encourage both more efficiency as well as stylistic choices that deviate from the norm. There is a vast niche of style that continues to go untapped within the platform and I’d be really interested to see more interesting art styles rather than a constant push towards photo-realism, personally.

The Driders Are Here!

Just in time for Halloween, the Driders have made it to Wilds of Organica!

This avatar is a lower body, Bento-rigged attachment designed for use with both male and female shapes! Six coats are available and each package includes the avatar body mesh, an alpha layer, and animation overrider. The avatar is mod, copy, no trans, with some no-mod scripts for updates.

Full, most up-to-date documentation can be found here!

Please note! This avatar uses hind, wing, and tail bones! It may be incompatible with other Bento-enabled products – please try a demo first, as I cannot give refunds (other than for duplicate purchases).

Available in store or on the Marketplace!

 

New Azalea Bonsai at Organica

A new set of bonsai are now available at Organica!

 

These flowering trees will brighten up any household or garden. 8LI at packaged size, they have individually articulated flowers and foliage for great closeup detail, all the while maintaining efficient geometry to promote viewer performance. For best results, view with Advanced Lighting Model (Materials).

Eight varieties are available separately as well as a fatpack. Mod, copy, no transfer.

Each variety is available for purchase here at the Organica shop as well as here on Marketplace.