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This is it, the final blog post for MUV, and what journey it has been. Over the past 5-6 weeks I have poured my heart into this little forest of mine, and I am pretty happy with the results. As my previous post examined the many obstacles that I have encountered along the way, I will attempt to give a more general overview of the building process and my thoughts along the way.

When I first started building my Island I was very enthusiastic about the whole thing. I knew that my goal was rather ambitious but I didn’t realise the amount of work that went into building something this large and complex. Luckily before this feeling of being overwhelmed began to kick in, Claire got me onto some fantastic free trees, that she found in an OAR file. After taking these my forest began to come alive. I was only utilising basic designer skills at this stage, and hadn’t jumped into the technical aspect at this stage.

After about two weeks of terraforming and placing trees and rocks, my other assignments began to take up more and more of my time. This was really frustrating for me because at this stage the building was actually rather enjoyable. However with just a week and a half to go, I returned with full force to tackle this massive project. The forest didn’t look anything like I had imagined at this crucial stage, and it was at this point that I felt the most underwater (metaphorically speaking).

However I persevered and I soon found that everything began to look like I had originally thought. Well, almost everything, I was/still am having massive trouble with getting my Fog Emitters to actually do what I wanted them to do. I found that they frequently turned off by themselves, and only dispersed the particles in a circle pattern. I had tried changing the particle patterns in the Fog Script but with strange results.

When I finally came to putting everything together I was quite pleased, but I have to say that my final build didn’t live up to that first concept in my head. Perhaps something like that can’t be captured in reality, but I suppose it could if a really good builder came along…(psssst Isa).

I can say that completing such a large undertaking has given me a totally new understanding of the amount of work that goes into building in Second Life/OpenSim. Everytime I see something as simple as the Dodgems Bumper Cars, it makes me stand back and admire the workmanship and time/effort that goes into building something like that. You could say that construction in a virtual world has a steeper learing curve than in real life, but apart from this it is limited only to your imagination. It is easy to see why this limitless environment appeals to so many people, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Thanks Isa and Arwenna for the awesome Semester!

As I am coming to the end of my building in my SimOnAStick Island it is time to discuss many (so many) issues that I have faced over the last few weeks as I attempt to recreate JR Tolkien’s elven forest Lothlorien.

One of  the first difficulties that I had to face was the fact that my ability to 3D Model was terrible. I found that making the most basic shape, using a variety of different modelling software, was very hard. I had to abandon my hopes of making my own trees, because it was simply to hard for a non-artistic person like me. Anyhow I was put onto some free trees that looked really great, so I nabbed them (with notation to their original owners of course), and added them to my forest.

Eventually I found a modelling program that was reasonably intuitive and I rapidly made a mushroom “sculptie” for my build. Importing this was a breeze, but making my own texture for it was painstakingly slow. I had imported at least 6 different textures until I was satisfied with my mushroom. As well as this I made a funky shape, a little by accident, which I decided to use as my lantern model. I soon merged a bunch of scripts and added my own touch to get them to make the lantern to glow at 10 second intervals. This was really effective with a green water texture, and I had soon scattered them over through my Forest.

The next major issue was created when I had decided to add Fog Generators to my Forest. This seemed really important to me (what is an forest without fog!) but trying to institute this by myself was very hard. I have spent far to long-playing with variables to try to get the fog to cover the ground of my forest in a consistent manner. I typically ended up with a whole bunch of white orbs in big circle pattern, which was really disheartening. At this stage I am toying with a control prim which will rez a whole bunch of transparent, phantom Prims which will distribute fog in a regular pattern.

One thing that I can say in hindsight, is that I would most definitely build everything in my Island first. Only once I had built everything that I would need to make the entire build, would I begin placing and arranging everything. This is because I had placed all of my trees and rocks etc, and then started building. This made the construction process a lot slower than what it needed to be as well as normal maneuvering around my build became increasingly frustrating. This was especially the case when trying to get glowing and light to work, as I had to set my graphics to Ultra to get the best effect…so slow.

Overall I found the building to very rewarding. Although dealing with all of the above road block,  I find that activities which give me a chance to express my creativity are very enjoyable. It is a satisfying feeling to overcome these obstacles and create something like this.

This is the Blog Post to demonstrate how I am targeting each of the specific requirements for Assessment 3. There are Blog requirements, basic Build requirements and my personal target of Visual Build Requirements. A while back I had made a simple table to give myself something to aim for without feeling overwhelmed. I have added this below to give you an idea of where I am at the moment.

As you will be able to see when you read the checklist, is that I have a lot to do to complete everything, and make everything look as good as I want it to, before Friday 4pm. Oh well no sleep till then…;)

Blog

Title Example Done
Initial Planning N/A  Yes
Design and development of activity N/A  Yes
How the various requirements are being fulfilled N/A  Now 🙂
Problems and issues – how they are resolved (or not) N/A  No
A Final blog post containing reflection on both the process and the final outcome N/A  No

Build

Title Example Done
A minimum of 50 and a maximum of 300 prims used in the construction N/A  Yes
At least three different primitive types (i.e. Sphere, Torus, etc.)
  1. Sphere cut in half and flattened used for planks in Treehouse
  2. Cylinder used for building aid and root prim for Treehouse
  3. Sculpted Mushroom
 2/3
At least four different forms of prim manipulation (i.e. Cut, Twist, etc.)
  1. Sphere cut in half and flattened used for planks in Treehouse
  2. Twisted Glowing lamp.
 1/2
The use of different textures and colours throughout the build with consideration given to using appropriate textures, texture repeats, offsets and rotations  Variation given to textures on Treehouse to make it look more natural.

Changed ground terrain to custom Moss texture from default dirt to suit theme.

 Yes….
At least two different texture manipulations (i.e. Glow, Shininess, etc.)
  1.  Twisted Glowing lamp.
  2. Unsure
0/2
The appropriate use of multiple textures on a prim  Unsure  No
The appropriate scale for purpose both in construction and texture use This was need for the proprotion of the Trees, Mushrooms, Treehouse, Rocks, Boats etc.  Yes

Visual

Title Example Done
The use of at least two sculpties
  1. Sculpted Mushroom
  2. Sculpted Rock
 0/2 Already made sculpties, but getting good textures for them is another thing….
The use of at least three textures with transparency
  1. Transparent Cylinder used for building aid and root prim for Treehouse
  2. Partially Transparent Leave Textures
  3. Unsure
 2/3
An appropriate particle system  I have purchased a basic Fog Script from the Second Life Marketplace. However I have had to edit the script a lot to make it work the way I want… anyway
 1/1
An instance of a prim with Light
  1.  Twisted Glowing lamp.
 I think this will work
At least two different texture manipulations (i.e. Glow, Shininess, etc.)
  1.  Unsure
  2. Unsure
 0/2
A scripted change in texture
  1. Ability to make the entire Treehouse Invisible.
 0/1
A scripted change in colour
  1.  Non-Sculptie Mushroom Ring Colour Change
 

Its been a long crazy past two weeks, and now I am down to only two courses! Finally I can sink my teeth into some serious building.

Over the past week I have continued to terraform my Island to incorporate more trees, as well as a waterfall. I have also spent some time trying create a basic treehouse using a innovative build design. However it should look good when its finishes in a few days.

Over the next week I have a few more ideas, but most involve trying to include some texture changing scripts. This will be needed for the waterfall, and the sparkles for the forest. Now all I need is some sort of fog effect and everything will come together great.

Anyway here is my basic treehouse prototype:

Example Treehouse in Action

Treehouse Prototype Build

It has been a reasonable time period between my Initial Plan and a lot has occuring during this time. The most frustrating of which was SimOnAStick no longer works on my Laptop. After countless hours spent trying to decipher the issue, which is centralised around MySql not running properly, I have given up.

However I have been very kindly set up a building space in Second Life by Isa Goodman, and so can construct my objects here. Meanwhile while I can construct objects in Second Life I have been hard at work terraforming and laying out my Lothlorien backdrop. I have some really amazing trees which have been borrowed from Jessica Random’s Oar found here. With these some other tidbits I have been getting a feel for how it is going to look.

Over the next few weeks I have plans to make/edit my own set of textures in order to give the trees that moss colour and give my whole Sim a subdued green theme which is essential to a Lothlorien Forest. Here are some very early snaps to keep you guys interested.

After serious contemplation I have decided to choose the Content Creation option for Assessment 3. My build will be visually complex, as this appeals to my sense of creativity.

At this stage my idea is to utilise SimonaStick, as it gives me complete control over terrain and prim amounts. It also allows me to work on the build while at home, without using my precious broadband via Second Life or OpenSim. I will eventually upload it to a Kitely world so that people can visit it.

My initial idea for the build would be to create an Island based off the Lord of The Ring’s Lothlórien Forest. This idea appeals to me in a creative sense, as well as giving me enough leeway to fulfil all of the requirements for the Visual Complex Content Creations. Hopefully the end product will look vaguely like the picture below, but I have it set in my mind eye what it is going to look like 😛

Lothlorien

The Community

To outline the community that I will discuss with below I have to give a short history lesson. Shadowbane is an MMORPG which was brought out in 2005 by Wolfpack Studios. It was made free-to-play around the time I started to play it in 2007. Shadowbane had many features that made it very enjoyable, including unlimited PVP (Player vs. Player Combat), extremely fast leveling, and player made cities. Although it did not have spectacular graphics or quests it had very cool and diverse player community.

If you hadn’t already noticed that fact that I have been talking in past tense, Shadowbane was shut down in 2009. This is was a much loved game with many features that other games couldn’t provide, mainly the massive PVP element and character creation. This was a real frustration for me because I didn’t know any other virtual world that I knew inside out, as well as being free like Shadowbane.

However in the same year that the original Shadowbane was taken down, a self made group of developers and designers began reconstructing Shadowbane. It was begun of the last official patch of the original Shadowbane in 2009. From this time the Shadowbane Emulator Project has come a long way and is now officially called “Play to Crush”. They have reached monthly public preview stage, and it is these that I have been participating in with all of my old hardcore Shadowbane buddies.

What do we do in the Play to Crush community?

The Play to Crush website consists of an extensive blog with many different forums attached to posts of the developers. This contains update information about the status of the Play to Crush Project as well a trivia and character discussions. A lot of people monitor the site and recount precious memories of the original Shadowbane, as well as create Guilds and Character Templates. I spend a lot time of lurking these forums but I never posted anything myself. This is just personality and I have never been a forum talking kind of person. For more information about to Play to Crush please visit their website HERE.

The most important and fun thing that we do in the Play to Crush Community is participate in the monthly public previews. This is chance to check out the progress of the Project itself as well as catch up with some of my oldest friends to PVP.

Play to Crush Events

April 2011 Public Preview

During the April Public Preview I spent a lot of time trying out different character builds. Because this is only a preview situation, then characters are auto-levelled to the highest level. This makes trying new characters a breeze, and is something that will help when the final version is released and I have a strong character. For information of the massive amount of class in Shadowbane go here. The first thing that I did was tryout a few of my old favourite characters, and then once I was happy with my Aelfborn Nightstalker (race & class) I began exploring the dynamic world of Shadowbane.

Because one of main feature of the April preview was to test the accuracy of mob placements, then I went searching for all of my favourite grinding and farming spots. I soon meet two other players that were also there and they made short work of my character (sigh). After this I joined a temporary guild for protection, and went exploring with a few strangers. This was a fairly uneventful preview, but I had learnt much in the way of character development.

March 2011 Public Preview

The next previous public preview that I participated in was the March 2011 Monthly Preview. This was the most fun of the previews I have been in because I was generally playing whilst the large American Population was on. Having lots of people in the Shadowbane world is so much more fun because there are so many more players to fight against. I think it was Friday night and me, my brother and a friend from America transported our avatars to a desert city region called Khar. This is a massive city region that is well known for its high level PVP. Because my character could go invisible I did so and ran around the massive embroiling conflict that was occurring at the gates of the city. Waiting for my moment I saw a low health Mage character try and run from the battle, and my friends and I made short work of him.

Representation of how many people there can be!

This was found here.

It turned out that the Mage had some powerful friends and we didn’t last much longer in the ensuing brawl. The rest of the preview continued in this fashion and was very enjoyable.

Unfortunately I don’t have any real screenshots because the servers are down and I didn’t have the foresight to get them from the previous previews. However keep your eyes peeled and I will post them up from the upcoming May Preview!

The “Big Six”

The “Big Six” refers to the Six Community Standards that have been put in place for Second Life. The “Big Six” is an attempt to categorise the main areas of Second Life Community breakdown. Linden Labs have created these six standards to set boundaries on player interaction in Second Life, and to give Linden the power to remove users when these boundaries are broken. The “Big Six” is a necessary development, as a virtual world containing as many users as Second Life will certainly contain users which will disrupt the peace.

The Six Community Standards of Second Life

Intolerance
Intolerance to other users by portraying messages that are degrading to their “race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation” is considered to extreme bad form, and essentially brings down the multicultural environment which is Second Life. The freedom to express one’s self should not be abused by putting down others.

Harassment
This constitutes the annoying/abusive actions that users can do to each other. They can include saying things which are inappropriate, as well as acting in threatening manner.

Assault
This is exactly how it sounds. When a user in Safe Area physically attacks another avatar this is considered Assault. This can be via guns, animations or scripted objects.

Disclosure
Disclosure is the exposure of private information with the owner’s permission. This mainly refers to players real-life information and conversation logs.

Adult Regions, Groups, and Listings
This refers to the exposure of Adult Content on the Second Life Mainland. Although this content can be displayed on private regions, any found on the mainland will be disallowed.

Disturbing the Peace
Disturbing the Peace is basically the purposeful disruption of other users. Rather than harassing a single user, disturbing the peace is more widespread, and is designed to ruin more than one users Second Life experience. It includes interrupting events and placing of large amounts of objects deliberately to slow down the server.
Everything above in quotes was found here. So go and find out more!

How to make sure that I am adhering to the Standards?

Most of the above standards require a lack of self control and a disruptive nature. It becomes easier to give in to the temptation of annoying other users, because Second Life isn’t real. This attitude is self defeating and isn’t mature in regards to other users. Everyone comes to a virtual world for different reasons, but one common reason is immersion. This can be easily shattered by an ignorant user, and so I remember this fact and keep my actions in Second Life as placid as possible.

Another good habit which I don’t do so much, is asking the owner of the land before I go ahead and do something. I typically take it for granted that I can build on Kowhai whenever, but I don’t check if there is another class on. This would go a long way towards maintaining the peace. Most of the other “Big Six” are not really relevant to me. I don’t know how to push or shoot people, and I’m not even slightly interested in Second Life Adult Content.

What if someone else is abusing the Standards?

While I am in Second Life I tend to take it for granted that everyone around me is mature and well mannered. If I encountered a user that was harassing my avatar, I would most probably just leave the area. However this is not always convenient, and therefore Second Life has an in game Report Abuse function. The strength of something like this is highly suspect, and will certainly result in immediate action.

However once an offender is caught, Linden Labs policy is to suspend accounts, and even terminate accounts with frequent offenders. This strategy is the only realistic one, but persistent abusers will almost certainly make new accounts. In such a large community base it becomes extremely difficult to manage every single Community Standard breach, but hopefully there will be progress in this area over the next few years.

IP or Intellectual Property refers to creations of the mind. Typically these can be ideas in many different forms, and can include writings, artistic designs, inventions and of course creations in virtual worlds. Effectively an owner/creator of IP always has the rights to their own ideas.

In the particular circumstance of managing Intellectual Property in the building and scripting that occurs in the virtual world of Second Life, object and script permissions are critical to ensuring that creator has rights to their IP. In a way that mimics (and in some ways improves) real life IP protection, object/script permissions can prevent other users from copying, transferring, modifying and moving your creation.

This control over your IP in Second Life allows to creators to tailor the permissions on their creation to their own specific needs with a click of a button. This level of protection will prevent most users from unlawfully taking IP of other people and using it for their personal advantage. Because of the nature of the beast it becomes easier to abduct virtual world IP for advanced users. First of all, because the IP is contained in a logical ‘game-like’ environment, then the moral guilt is dampened when IP theft is carried out. Also because the protection in also contained logically (code), then people with the knowledge can remove the protection from other peoples IP.

CopyBot

CopyBot is small program specifically designed to import and export objects in and out of Second Life. It was initially created as a ‘debugging’ tool by the libsecondlife development team. CopyBot originally was used to provide these very useful features while maintaining the object permissions:

• “No reliance on Linden Lab for data backup services.
• Importing content created on other grids such as the preview grid (currently Aditi, previously Siva).[5]
• Importing content created on a locally installed simulator (and thus not having to rely upon the availability of official simulators).
• Exporting one’s own intellectual property to other environments.”
This was found here.

However the CopyBot source code was released to the public, and it was reconstructed to enable it to be used to export objects and remove their owner permissions. These objects can then be imported and used without any restrictions, which is a blatant violation of the creators Intellectual Property rights. Understandably the use of CopyBot is considered illegitimate by Linden Labs in order to discourage IP theft. They have done this by limiting Third Party Viewers ability to export objects that are not theirs in entirety.

Other programs have/are being created with the functionality of the original CopyBot but with secure owner protection.

THE TRUTH!!!

How can Creators Protect their stuff?

Creators have been very limited in the amount of protection that could be applied to their virtual world creations. As the genre has expanded, and the amount of money these things are worth, then there has been some effort to protect creators from IP theft. Some of the strongest and most recognised methods of doing this are Licenses.

One of the commonly used Licenses are GNU Licenses, which enable the creator of online IP to both assure their copyright, and have the right to distribute it to other people. This would be considered an essential backup for any serious Second Life builders and scripter’s. It gives them legal power to protect their investment from other users.

If a user would like to share their creation in Second Life it would be recommended to invest in a Creative Commons License. This makes the object/script in question available to everyone, but secondary users MUST acknowledge the creator in the manner specified in the License.

The Licenses are an attempt to fill an ever increasing need, and they do provide some of the features necessary. However these are often ignored in the overwhelming cloud which is the Internet. It is my opinion stronger in-game measures need to be taken to prevent IP theft (relating directly to Second Life IP). More powerful object/script permissions that cannot be removed via CopyBot, and severe punishments for people that are caught breaking Copyright could be introduced.

Object Permissions in Second Life are a very important aspect of the very dynamic and powerful virtual economy that exists in Second Life. The permission are aimed to mimic real-life control that people over their creations, they protect the objects in question from modification, replication and other foul play otherwise not permissible from the object(s) creator(s). Due to the nature of the beast, protecting objects in a virtual is fraught with many difficulties.

To give the creator control over their creation and how it is handled by other users, Linden Labs make use of three different settings, through the use of check boxes. These are Modify, Copy, Move and Transfer. Each of these settings can be applied to a set of Categories, which separate the population of Second Life in relation to the object in a hierarchical fashion. These include “Anyone”, “Groups”, “Current Owner” and the “Next Owner”. This is useful in a variety of situations, as it allows the owner of the object to separate and manage permissions for a legit owner of one of their objects, as well as for everyone else. A group can be put in place of a single owner, and so all permissions set to owner will be true for every member of that group.

Enabling Modify on an object allows the superficial aspects of the object/creation to be altered. These include texture modification, object deletion, object rescaling and object name changes. As mentioned, allowing the ‘Next Owner’ of your object to Modify would allow them to alter it to their own needs. This would be desirable well some would want to sell something that like a “Car”, which would let the new owner change its colour to their own preference. Allowing everyone to be able to modify an object is not typically desirable, unless constructing a more complex object as a team or you are just a generous kind of person and are giving it a way for free (with Copy enabled).

Checking Copy on an Object simply makes it permissible for users (owners/anyone) to take and replicate. This can change when objects inside another object have different permissions. If an object container has Copy disabled, then the objects inside are still able to be Copy, as long as they have copy enabled. However if an object inside a Copy-Permissible Object is No-Copy, then the container object will be unable to be replicated.

Having Move enabled allows the object to be moved.

Transfer refers to the ability to give away/sell the item. “If an item is not transferable, the owner cannot sell, give away, release or embed in something they sell, give away, or release.” This was found here.

Object Permissions

To give an outline to the appropriate use of these permissions for the best effect here is a small list of examples

Using the “Car” example above, if a user wants to sell the car to another user, the new owner should be able to alter textures and size, and thus Modify should be enabled. However it is not desirable for the new owner to be able to copy the Car, or give it away/sell it. This would be take business away from yourself! So clearly Copy and Transfer are disabled.

Another example would include selling someone a cool texture so they can design a themed set of clothes. You want them to be able to Copy the texture, so they can apply it to each different piece of clothing. Having Transfer enabled in this situation is not desirable, as you are obvious selling the texture in the first place and this will practically ruin all potential future sales of this texture. Also this prevents the next owner from texturing an object and trying to sell the object with your texture applied. Enabling Modify would be useful for the next owner to alter the texture to their own needs.

Obviously is you had an object that you did not wish to sell, and would love to share with the entire Second Life Community then you would enable every setting. This allows every single user that comes into contact with your freebee to copy, sell and alter it.