Friday, December 23, 2011

Rustica: Change Comes Swift at Years' end! Well done, Linden Lab

Rustica: Change Comes Swift at Years' end! Well done, Linden Lab

Change Comes Swift at Years' end! Well done, Linden Lab

As 2011 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting back on the many things which have happened to my virtual life in the past 12 months; The end of my experiments in BlueMars, the opening of my clothing store, the arrival of mesh in SL, new viewers, new marketplace, new friends made and old ones returning, as well as some old friends lost. It has, for all of us, been a pretty radical year. One particular event this month has made me more aware of how different things are, and can be, than they were before, and I wanted to share it with you.

For about the last six months, I have been searching for a community to connect with Rustica. As a single island region, it can get pretty quiet working by myself there for 60 hours a week, so I decided to search for a new home, intending to find the right fit aesthetically but also socially. The right people were a key factor in my quest. I had considered a variety of locations, preferring to join a medieval or fantasy RolePlay community because of the nature of my design work, with the limiting provision that Rustica would not become a RP region in order to remain open to my existing customer base, which spans across many genres and styles.

After much deliberation, I am happy to announce that I am joining with the Kingdom of Taure Ru and the Shadow Empire, which some of you may know also as Sylvhara. The sim should be moved over to our new home any moment now, which has me very happy. I am excited for the future and look forward to becoming part of the wonderful community of established RPers there.

My main reason for mentioning this is to make specific mention of just how amazing the Linden Lab Support Team has been during this process! I know this statement may have made some of you spew coffee across your computer, which I apologize for. It is important for me to mention their actions during this process. As much as I have lamented and lambasted them in the past for things they have done wrong during a variety of situations with me in the past, I feel it is equally important to mention how happy I am with the most recent transaction. While it is easy to complain about things when they go wrong, I feel I must in good conscience also give them praise and credit when, as most recently, they do something amazingly right.

Having placed a support ticket to move the sim, I was told that in order to move, I must get permission from several sims which were adjacent to my northern corners in the new spot. Unfortunately, the owner of those sims was no longer in SL, yet the sims had remained there for several months. With no possibility of getting permission from those sims, and no way to move to the new location without doing so, I was forced to close the ticket, which cause me to post my displeasure vociferously on my Plurk page. How could rigid adherence to a policy which was clearly not covering all the bases destroy my plans, after the weeks of meetings and planning! I was pretty livid at the failure, and having no further option, closed the ticket and abandoned the move. This, I commented, was typical of the support system and indicative of a lack of change, in contrast to what Rod Humble had stated as a primary goal this year.

I am here to redact that statement! I was wrong, and wish to explain why. Several days later, a support group manager re-opened the ticket, apologized for the problem, admitted that some mistakes had been made and rectified the situation by removing the two sims which were stuck in traffic and offering to move me to the new location. THIS, dear reader, is NOT the Linden Lab I have known for 5 years. This was something new. I almost fell out of my chair. As he stated, Mr. Humble has apparently empowered Support Group managers to go across channels and departments to fix problems like this when they arise, and I want to loudly applaud them for doing what amounts to a radical and much needed shift in policy control. It is indicative of some new shift in how things are handled by them, and it is very welcome. In the course of operating such a complex company, one which can have such a variety of problems, it is clearly necessary to have this level of authority in order to solve those problems of a more obtuse nature when they arise. If this is the new Linden Lab that Rod spoke of, then it, and he, gets my vote and will continue to get my tier. Kudos to them for doing what should be done in order to support the customers who work as hard to make SL the place it is. This is the best gift I could get this year, not just because my sim is moving, but because it means change - REAL change - is happening behind the doors there in San Fransisco. That, my friends, is awesome.

Kudos to Rod Humble for the finesse to follow through with your statements, and to Teeple Linden for making the system work. You win one internets.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mesh Jira SH-2374 downgraded to maybe someday

Well, this isnt very good news. Apparently, the Jira I posted about mesh clothing, has been downgraded from Sprint 28 release to "someday/maybe" status. No word or contact about why this was done, though from this we may conclude that the almost 650 of us that see this as a priority dont really have a say in the matter.

This is pretty disappointing for several reasons. As Nalates points out in her recent blog, there are several issues which are of a higher concern, like viewer crashes. No argument there, stability should be the top priority. What worries me is that this was done with no explanation, no comments, and we most likely wont be getting any if similar situations in the past are any indicator. Its just done. Having it go to someday/maybe status is the equivalent of the LL file 13, its like a trashcan. Sprint 28 would have been almost too soon to hope for, but this means its going to be an indefinite period of time, if ever, before we see any kind of a solution resembling a parametric deformer.

As illustrated in the image below, a wide variety of issues and problems could be solved with the introduction of some type of deformer.

These issues are new to SL. They are not new problems, however. In the virtual world Bluemars, this exact set of issues was presented and the fix they provided, a parametric deformer, solved those problems instantly and with perfect results. The effect it had in world was like night and day. Suddenly clothing worked, fit, worked well with other clothing from other stores and even worked well over other avatars. It eliminated the need for rigging or weight adjustments. In essence, it took mesh clothing and avatars from being largely unusable to largely adapted/adopted overnight. It worked in Bluemars, it worked for Eve Online, it worked for Guild Wars, Aeon, and a variety of other virtual platforms and MMOs out there. We are not asking them to invent something never achieved before. From the people I have spoken to in the game development community, both in SL and outside of it, this is a pretty standard practice.

Honestly, without this type of a system, mesh clothing and avatars are relegated to the status of experiments. They will not be widely adopted by the population, they will not be widely produced by creators. If the survey I listed in the previous post is any indicator, a large percentage of what people want to make with mesh is affected by these issues, but this does not seem to be important enough to implement the changes/fix. I personally will not be making mesh clothing without it, and I have spoken to a lot of people (both consumers and creators of mesh) who won't be using them or making them either unless these issues are addressed.

The bottom line is this: LL would be more than happy to ignore this issue, letting us all spend inordinate amounts of time trying to develop workarounds and fixes to address the many problems with rigged mesh attachments, none of which will really solve any of those problems. If we spend all the time and effort to do so, they will be more than happy to let us go about it that way, let us do all the extra work. It took six months of arguing and pleading with the devs over in bluemars to get them to introduce the mesh deformer there. Until they did, what happened there is exactly what is happening here: customers unhappy, designers frustrated with the extra work involved, the workarounds not really providing a solution. It is an identical scenario, and one of the main reasons I am so adamant about this. Ive been down this road, and there is only one exit that works, and it must be provided by the developers. Right now, the burden is on YOU and ME to come up with solutions.

If you are as unhappy as I am about this, then please comment on the jira about it. Blog about it. Post in the forums about it. Go to the mesh meetings and ask them about it. Write a Linden. Ask them why this is not a priority for them, or even on the list anymore!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mesh Creators Survey

Please take a moment to fill out this survey on what types of items you are, plan on or want to create using mesh. You can pick two.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This is a cautionary tale about addiction. It is meant as a warning to all who might consider trying, even just once, the deadly drug (also 3D building method) which is polygonal mesh modelling, known on the street as mesh. Currently 1 out of every 6 SL residents has tried mesh. Someone you know may be using mesh right now. Symptoms include irritability, unusual behavior, discussing technology with no one in particular and ranting about prim counts. Users of mesh will often appear partially invisible to those around them or have body parts sticking out through various clothing articles.

This is one story, but there are many mesh users and the numbers are growing at an alarming rate.

I first heard about mesh years ago, even before my second life began. At the time it seemed some far distant and misunderstood tool for reaching a new type of creative nervana only accessible to Hollywood movie studios and underground, basement-dwelling computer geeks. It just wasn't something you heard about very often or saw your friends doing. It wasn't very available, and it certainly wasn't fashionable. When I heard a CG artist talk about mesh it was as if someone started discussing calculus in a room full of 2nd graders; You might look at them, but you had no way to relate to anything they were saying. You just nodded.

I was introduced to mesh by a friend, as is often the case. Any type of computer graphics is an exposure to this insidious practice. Prims and sculptys are often considered gateway drugs to harder 3D use, as you reach farther and struggle harder to make things more real. At some point, 2 dimensions just aren't enough anymore, and you find yourself looking for a new high, some way to get to that place with your art that pixels just don't take you anymore. It was when a friend emailed me some images of work he was doing that I first saw 3D models. He was using a very early version of a program called maya. I was immediately attracted to it. I nodded dumbly as he went on to describe what he was doing in a language far above my understanding. Polygons, vertex's, Boolean equations, triangulation, materials...none of this mattered to me as much as the flawless imagery I was seeing. Looking back, I think it was at that moment that I first became addicted to it. It would be years before my own deadly experiments with mesh took their toll on my life and my work but that moment was were the desire began. Life was good, I was eager for the future. I had a nice place on the mainland, I was dressing sharp and met a really nice girl.

Over the years as a business owner/creator in Second Life, I spent much of my time online working inside that world but found myself more and more outside of it working on various items in applications designed to allow the creation of sculptys, a watered-down version of mesh which, though not as refined, was no less deadly. It removed me from my social circles, my friends and loved ones and my business contacts, as I attempted to push my creativity into the sculptured medium. I spent less time in world and struggled to find the pure high of virtual realism which sculpty allowed, my customers encouraging me to provide more and more. Soon, I was hardly in world at all anymore, spending most of my working hours inside some 3rd party micro-application designed to streamline the sculpting process, an easy way to get that special result that only they could provide. I had several sims, a huge castle made almost completely out of sculpted prims, the girl that I met now loved me. I had it all.

Eventually I ended up inside the digital boot camp that is 3D Studio Max, where a new plugin allowed me to take my sculptys to places only imagined. Ease of use was the carrot I pulled my cart after, quality design dangling in front of me as I struggled to learn the interface. Though I did not realize it, this was my first time using. So insidious is this mesh drug that I didn't even realize I was doing it. I kept telling myself each time it was 4am again that it was just doing sculptys, it's just part of the job. As a business owner, you do what you have to do, I reassured myself. I was working harder but my work was BETTER! Yes, it took a little longer sometimes and I wasn't outside much, but my customers were rewarding me with business and sales. How can that be wrong? Little did I know how wrong I was and what a twisted path this would lead me down. I didn't spend time DOING things in SL anymore. Shopping, going to clubs, hanging out with friends...these were things I just didn't seem to have time for. I even went over to bluemars to get high on mesh there for a little while. I noticed my skin was kind of dated, and my hair was usually a mess then.

Then, on August 24th the Lab announced they were going to release a super drug. Mesh. Soon, we were told, we would be able to use the hard stuff, get high the way the rest of the big world outside our happy walled garden did. With promises of unlimited detail, ease of use, lack of restrictions on how we could manipulate things we were lured into trying out the beta. Just log onto this special grid, its even free over here - no upload costs! That is how they get you. Just come try this and you can be different, somehow better than everyone else. You can have something other people don't have. Thats the hook. You go over there and you spend a few hours uploading (for free!) your own or trying a few mesh items (they give you some for FREE!) and staring at how different they are. Its pure 3d, refined and distributed to anyone who wants the next new thing, that super high that can put your creativity next to Pixar and the games you like to play outside of SL. That is the lure of it, and that is where the evil starts to wiggle into your inventory, one prim at a time.

You notice the incredible details. See how you can edit anything anyway you want to? The textures dazzle the eye. Its sparkly in a way no other building method ever was. You look around the beta grid and see amazing things people built, things that look like nothing else in SL. It's so NEW and DIFFERENT and OMG I MUST HAZ. I CAN HAZ! This is how it starts. The psychological foundation for the addiction is established before you even create your first polygon. By the time you download blender you are already feeling the effects of the drug. That first time you fire up maya and realize you dont have to use the sculpty exporter, and you can put any vertices anywhere you want, you are already high. You're fucking stoned on mesh, man, and the high is like nothing else. Each polygon, each DAE export is like a rush of adrenaline taking your creativity to places you never dreamed of. It feels amazing, like some digital absinthe fairy uploading magic to your sim. The work was just BETTER. That is when things started to get darker.

At first, it was just a few logins here and there, just experimenting. I went over to the Aditi grid and looked around. I met a few people, eager eccentrics like myself looking for a new high, dazzled by the lure of doing something familiar in a completely unfamiliar way. We would sit alone in a mesh sandbox sim for hours on end, each lost in a digital, polygon-induced euphoria. Wow, look at that! Hey, come check out this thing I just uploaded. It's a golden time. Virtual Nirvana. The clothing MOVES with you!

Soon, however, you find yourself spending more time doing mesh. The first aspects of the dark side of using mesh start to show up. You try to convince your friends how cool it is, that they should get the newest, latest viewer du jour and come get high with you. "You have to see this!" You start off on the long, winding path to understanding polygon mesh modelling. Everything is new and different, yes, but you realize it means you cant do anything with it yet. So, you start to spend hours inside your application of choice, trying to understand in attempt to keep the high going. When that stops working, you start logging into online tutorials. You tell yourself that this is so you can learn, but deep inside you know its really just so you can see what it would be like if it all worked the way you wanted it to. Just seeing someone else making mesh successfully can be almost as good as making it yourself, for a little while.

The desire, however, becomes a need. You realize that making a sculpty just doesnt feel as good anymore. You want that rush that comes from uploading your mesh and seeing how different it is. That desire keeps you offline, keeps you "up" for more and more hours a week. What started as simple experimentation gradually starts to take up all your online time. For some, this is a time when they seek content from other sources, frustrated at being unable to do it themselves. They start out at the common gathering spots for 3d content, like renderosity and turbo squid. They may even spend a little money to get some models to upload, feeding the desire for more mesh. Before long, however, this leads to less and less reputable sites.

Soon, you will be visiting places like the sketchup library, user-owned content repositories and obscure foreign-language blogs where you dont even know what they are saying, as long as they have a model you can download. Just a picture of a model and a download button will do. For some, this is a time when their addiction enters into a more serious, and dangerous, territory. Hacking into game content, bit torrents full of an easy score - anything to get a fix, regardless of the security issues. At this point I was pretty much high on mesh all the time, and I looked like shit.

You start to ignore the signs that things arent going so well, that maybe you should consider giving up ever using mesh again. Things that before would have prevented you from using again start to become insignificant. You don't log into the aditi grid anymore now that mesh is live on the main grid. It doesn't matter that you have to pay for uploads, as long as you can share your high with a few other people, showing them all the cool things mesh can do in an attempt to justify your own growing addiction to it. Before you started using mesh, building things was always done with an eye toward keeping prim usage to a minimum. Now, however, its all about the polygon, and the dangerously high levels of prim usage are thinly disguised with the innocuously deceptive abbreviation PE. PE doesn't sound as bad as prim equivalent or prim count. Its just PE, how bad can that be? It even sounds good for you, like gym class. At this stage in your mesh addiction you upload recklessly as you get your fix, spending large amounts of linden dollars, ignoring the fact that your full sim is running out of prims and that no customer in thier right mind would pay for a tree thats 75 prims and only 20 meters high. It's mesh! How can they not see how cool it is?

At this point, the effects of mesh use start to take a toll on your personal life. You are almost always frustrated and your appearance is drastically affected. You are pasty and disheveled in real life, sitting for days at a time in front of your computer in your undies, hair sticking out all over, cheetos dust covering your keyboard and shirt. You miss seeing your friends, but if you can just get that mesh right then people will love you still, and you'll be the popular one. You can stay cutting edge! The pile of empty mountain dew cans on your desk only reminds you to finish those oil drum models you wanted to make. Your friends in SL don't come around anymore, tired of hearing you ramble on about polys and extrusions and optimization, nodding at you like the 2nd grader you used to be, but aware of your downward spiral. Your SL girlfriend leaves you after growing tired of seeing only half of you, wondering what happened to the creative sculpty guy she used to know. You haven't had pixel sex since the time you insisted on wearing the mesh avatar with the rigged genitals that caused her to laugh so hard she tweeted it. She just doesn't "get you," you tell yourself. But you can see how awesome your mesh self is, as you sit alone on your platform like a zombie.

The reality is that you arent awesome anymore at this stage of your mesh use. You are an addict. Most people cant see you anymore. You start to hang out with other users that have the same glazed-over stare that you do, your new mesh being interesting for the moment it takes for them to find something cooler. Then they are off for another fix, and so are you. When you aren't showing off your latest mesh victory, you stumble through your SL in a polygon-induced stupor. Your avatar skin and clothing are 2 years out of date. Your AO looks like something you got at the freebie store on welcome island. Your shoes, when you remember to put them both on, often end up up your ass or worn on the wrong foot, but you don't really notice. Your once awesome hair is now half in your skull, having been edited while you were meshed out last weekend trying on some new avatar body parts. You don't even texture your work, just lining up the raw, white uploads instead. No one talks to you anymore, because you are a scary, mumbling, half invisible pile of alpha maps and textured blobs. You spout random gibberish that only another mesh addict would understand, ranting occasionally about the Lab not giving you more prims to work with. Eventually, you end up in some seedy hotel mainlining polygons.

These are the final stages. Your business is failing, sales and traffic dropping to record lows as you continue to search for that mesh high that always seems just out of reach. Hopefully, someone you love will step in. Hopefully, people you know will intervene, preventing the loss of yet another designer to the evil that is mesh abuse. Friends don't let friends use mesh. Do not let them, and don't try it yourself.

You may become just one of the many faces of mesh.

NOTE: This post is satirical, though there are elements of truth within it. Im high on mesh right now. lol

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Coming of Mesh (or mess-h, or meh-sh, depending on how you look at it)

It has been quite some time since I've blogged anything thats been happening with Rustica, so much so that it is hard to know where to begin! It has been a hard year in SL for so many people I know, for all of us it seems. In my last post I spoke about my experiments over in Bluemars, which has since gone completely off the radar in pursuit of developing an app for iOS mobile devices. Since November I have been back in SL, as many of you know, continuing to develop several large sets of furniture, several new houses and working on a variety of large events and expos as well as several appearances and articles with prim perfect.

My time in Bluemars, while not what I hoped or expected, was extremely beneficial as both a way to learn and prepare for the eventual release of mesh in SL, and as a wonderful form of "art therapy" for me, which was much needed at the time. Zen is your hands in the dirt, as the saying goes, and Bluemars was an excellent garden to experience new tools, new technology and return to designing just for the sake of design. It was an amazing experience, the cryengine helping me take my designs to very new places.

In returning from that therapy, I realized I needed to get back to the joy and simplicity of designing which brought me to SL in the first place. I also realized that after 4 years I wanted very much to take a break from doing furniture and houses. In February of this year I decided to do something which I had wanted to do since I started my first shop on the mainland; To design a mens and womens line of clothing and accessories. (In fact, I almost chose that market instead of furnishings!) In sorting out how I could go about this, I realized that it would be best to separate this new product line from Rustica completely, rather than incorporate it into the castle and existing products. Thus I created a completely new line, and a new retail location which will be far above the castle on the Rustica sim. The mens label is called bastard and the womens label is called bitch; you can find the blog for them here:

The Runway

Rest assured I have not stopped producing items for Rustica. Indeed, I have several large projects already in progress. This is simply a much needed change of pace, something to refresh my work and recharge my creativity. Designing houses is often a very lengthy process, and I wanted to try something that allows me to create at a faster rate and see results in a more timely manner. This will, hopefully, be good for all my work and reflect in any items I design. It has already had a profound effect on me. This new store, the new market, and the inclusion of a new type of tool (mesh) is a radical departure for me, and already has had an excellent impact on me personally as a creative individual.

Item vendor spotlights

As you can see from the pictures of the new store, it is a radical departure from the experience one has as a visitor to Rustica, almost to the point of being an opposite; The castle encourages you to explore, to wander the many rooms, floors and tunnels. The clothing store, however, is a graphic and minimalist environment designed to allow for a low-lag, quick-rezzing visit where you are presented with space and depth, almost no store at all. It uses light and shadow to define the space, rather than heavy architectural sculpts and textures. The focus is on easily accessing the items you want to find in a visually dynamic space.

The center/landing point

The introduction of mesh has had a profound impact on the types of items I want to present. Though I have been part of the mesh beta program since prior to my experiments in Bluemars, I have been primarily focused on learning how to use it for the last several months. I had intended to introduce a variety of mesh clothing items in the new store. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of mesh as a worn object for the initial release, I will only be producing a limited amount of mesh clothing. It is impossible, because of the lack of adjustment
capability, to provide a product which I feel confident in supplying to my customers; It requires you to adjust YOUR shape to IT, rather than it being able to conform to your existing shape. At a later date LL has mentioned the possibility of including some type of deformer system to allow for customization of purchased mesh clothing and avatars, but it will not be included in the initial release. If you are interested in this problem at all, please consider adding your vote to the JIRA which I created requesting a mesh deformer. It has much more information on this problem, and your vote can help!

Bitch is on one side...

...bastard is on the other.

I want to say thank you to the many friends and customers who continue to support us; Without you, I could not have come to this point and could not do what I do. This has been a very hard year with so many closings, so many leaving SL. Rustica, however, is still here, still growing and there is much to come in the coming months. I am very optimistic about the future of SL, my personal future in it, and the many interesting things which are coming to SL this year, including the possibility of a tablet-based connection! Onward and Upward!