Many of us have heard that Blender 2.5 is on the way. Blender 2.5 Alpha 0 is out and can be downloaded. It is Alpha software. Some features from the 2.4 series are not all working in 2.5. How the missing features are implemented is changing, so there is some delay. There seems to be lots of changes coming. One thing that has not changed is installation information which is still limited and what is out there pretty much assumes one is a geek. So, I’ll provide some help I think is less geeky.
If you are not yet a Blender user, you may want to wait for version 2.5 to come out of Beta to start your learning. You can read about the changes in Blender 2.5 Alpha 0. The user interface is changing and will likely mean you will be relearning Blender, if you start now. Learning it once is tough enough. If you plan to rely on tutorials on the net to learn Blender, stick with the 2.49 version for now.
If you are a Blender user the shortcut keys are customizable in 2.5, so while you may have to redo the key layout map you won’t have to relearn everything.
About BM & SL
Second Life and Blue Mars users need to understand that much of the technology in Blender does not transfer to SL or BM. Currently the Blender meshes can only be imported to SL as sculpty maps. For Blue Mars any mesh can be exported as Collada files. So, one is less restricted with Blue Mars’ meshes. The SL limitation should go away sometime this year.
Blue Mars can use Blender meshes via a Collada export. If you start looking you will find an old export plug-in that works only with older versions of Blender (2.4x). See the 2007 era site Collada 1.4.0 Plug-in for Blender. Also I wrote about how the import/export is done using that plug-in in: Blue Mars Developer’s Tools Review. Since I wrote that post in September 2009 not much seems to have changed. But, in May 2009 interest in a Collada export/import for Blender rekindled. You can see the various import formats for Blender here: Blender Import and Export. Also, the folks interested in the CryEngine, which Blue Mars uses, are doing more to make Blender useful in their community, CryMod. They are using ColladaCGF (Source Forge ColladaCGF link). The Blender plans are to include a Collada export in the main code branch, make it a standard part of Blender.
For competitive reasons Linden Lab will need to enable some form of mesh import for SL… something less restrictive than sculpties. Gwyneth Llewelyn is predicting mesh imports may arrive with the SL 2 viewer expected to arrive in March 2010.
RealXtend is adding mesh import to the Hypergrid/OpenSim Grid. While the meshes are not widely supported by SL compatible viewers yet, it adds more pressure for Linden Lab to add meshes.
So, learning Blender will give you a big hand up on making things for SL and the Hypergrid. But, until we have mesh imports we must live with sculpty imports. The premier high-end (free) tool for building sculpties is Blender with Domino Marama’s PrimStar plug-in: PrimStar.
Domino needs donations to keep development moving forward, help out as much as you can. (Domino Designs PrimStar – download is there too). Because of Domino’s health problems PrimStar is targeted at Blender 2.49a (2.49b or 249.2 – seems to support PrimStar also) and may not update anytime soon. Hopefully by the time Blender 2.5 leaves Alpha/Beta stages he will be better.
If you plan to build for Blue Mars only, you can stop reading. Check out the Blue Mars Developer’s Tools Review.
Installing Blender & PrimStar for Second Life
Installing Blender can be complex… not the initial install that is easy. When one starts adding plug-ins like PrimStar and various import/export plug-ins is when it gets complex. A key to keeping the install simpler is remembering which of the following 3 options (see image) you selected during the Blender install. This choice decides if everything is installed in the program folder or the User Data folders. You will likely have an easier time if you use the default and store data in the user folders. However, if you want to use multiple versions of Blender with different plug-ins, you probably need to use the second option “Use the installation directory.” So, depending on which option you select, the plug-in goes in the respective directory.
User: C:\Users\All Users\Blender Foundation\Blender\.blender\scripts\
Installation: C:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender\.blender\scripts\
Follow this link for the Blender download.
With Blender installed you are ready to install PrimStar. If you are not using a new install of Blender, you may not remember which install method you used, so you won’t know where to install the PrimStar scripts. If you did something odd with your install, the install program may not work. You can open Blender and ask it where it expects to find your plug-in scripts.
With Blender open, set one of the windows to TEXT. Use the icon at the lower left of each window to change it.
Click the two triangle button to the right of the little python and select Add New. Type in the text shown. Then press Alt-P. The script you just wrote will run. Now look in the console window (Blender’s second window that is normally behind the main window – look in your Task Bar) to see the path Blender is using for your scripts. This is where you need to MANUALLY install PrimStar.
Back to a new install now… When one installs Blender the default install does not setup where anything other than the Blender system folders are. This means that following the instructions for automatic install in the PrimStar readme.txt file will likely result in the error:
Error: no such file or Blender text — install.py.
This means Blender cannot find the install.py file found in the PrimStar 1.0.0 folder. So, one may think rather than typing in:
“c:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender\blender” -P install.py
As found in the read me file, one may need to type in something like:
“c:\Program Files\Blender Foundation\Blender\blender” -P J:\primstar_1.0.0\install.py
The red parts have to change to whatever directories you are using. But, you would be wrong if you think that… :/ The Python install program coughs up an error unless it is run from the folder containing it.
Execute the command in a command window opened in the folder containing PrimStar’s install.py. Vista/Win7 users can navigate to the folder and shift-right-click in an empty space in the right hand window of the explorer and select “Open Command Window here.” Now you can use the command from the read me file as shown above.
You should get a popup dialog that you have successfully installed PrimStar. If all else fails manually copy the folder primstar found inside PrimStart_1.0.0 to the User or Installation folder shown above.
Once the PrimStar install is done your Blender windows will have changed. You can right-click on the dividers between windows and select SPLIT and JOIN until you have the normal window setup or one you like. Then press Ctrl-U to save the setup.
With PrimStar installed you can make sculpties much easier. Once we can import meshes you won’t have to deal with sculpties as much. Sculpties have their place and uses.
To learn how to use PrimStar there are some excellent Blender/PrimStar tutorials at Machinimatrix
Domino has made a manual that explains the various settings and how to use PrimStar. You really should read the manual. PrimStar Manual
Note: At Machinimatrix you will find JASS 1.4, Just Another Sculpty Studio. JASS lives in its own folder that goes in the Blender Scripts folder discussed above. I find that once installed it overrides some of PrimStar. PrimStar alone provides a newer version. JASS provides some nice features.
One can install and remove JASS by moving the JASS folder in and out of the scripts folder. After you move the folder drag the top menu down, click on the bottom edge of it and drag down, and select the File Paths button. Then click the Re-evaluate button I have highlighted in the image.
Python is an ongoing nuisance. Blender uses it and PrimStar does too. You have to have the correct version of Python for your Blender version to use PrimStar.
I don’t need to program in Python, at least not often. So, I do the updates to Python as part of an install of something else that needs the newer version Python, like Blender 2.49b. Either Python 2-6-x or 3-1 is needed. For now 2-6-4 is the best choice. The install can break other programs. It’s rare that it does. But make sure you have a made a restore point prior to the install.
Get Python from Python.org. It is a separate and easy install. You don’t need to worry about other versions of Python you may have installed. In general they sort their selves out.
This gets you a Blender and PrimStar (and may be JASS) setup you can use to make meshes for Second Life and the Hypergrid.