Lots of things going on RL & SL. So, I keep getting behind on the general news. This should catch us up on some of the interesting things happening.
Cloudy Blurry Avatars
In today’s (7/2) Content & Mesh User Group Nyx Linden brought up the Shining Changes announced last Friday. I covered Shining in Second Life Changes Coming. Nyx’s announcement… or maybe it is better to call it an explanation… follows:
Baked textures and you! What our recent blog post means.
Avatar textures! Baked and stored on our [SL] computers! [We are] just getting started on it, but it means I can start talking about what I’ve been working on. Hopefully it will help with clouded, invisible, black, pink, and grey avatars. [This is] mostly done to improve the speed and reliability of resolving avatars.
The project is just getting started, it’s going to take a while.
Currently, every time you change outfits, you generate your baked textures locally and send them to our servers. There are [currently] some caching mechanisms to avoid redundant bakes, but they only go so far. It is saved from login to login, and there are some other mechanisms in place, it’s a rather complicated system actually.
[In the new system] you’d still do a local composite while editing clothing, but wouldn’t need to upload the result.
Long Roll Times
Last week (26) many people noticed the longer than usual roll out time. It was not imaginary. The roll outs did take considerably longer. Oskar Linden spoke about that in Thursday’s Beta Server group.
“This week’s main channel roll went fine. It did take long[er than usual]. But it went well.
The [longer] length [of time] was due to our new infrastructure and release process. We’re still tweaking it [and] it will shorten.”
Coyot Linden added, “Part of the length was converting from the old system to the new. That cost doesn’t have to be paid twice, so things will speed up from that.”
Oskar said, “Next week (now this week) on Tuesday we will have a rolling restart. The avatar texture baking project will most likely be promote, barring any showstopper issues. But since Tuesday is a vacation there will be no RC upgrade next week .”
Actually the holiday is Wednesday, RC roll out day. So Oskar’s mis-speak probably doesn’t change anything.
Oskar continued, “Magnum was the first we rolled Wednesday morning and mid roll we noticed SVC-8023 – Sim crossings by objects is broken. We missed it earlier because it was close to a known issue.
We knew that mesh objects didn’t like crossing to older regions. It’s Havok’s fault really. Havok is a (bleeped) when it comes to backwards compatibility. so objects in the new Havok can’t move to an older version.
We knew it was an issue with mesh, but moved forward with it anyway. We did not realize that it broke ALL region object crossings, not just physical ALL objects and that was a much larger issue. So, we had an emergency meeting and made the call to roll forward to the code that was on Blue Steel.
We can’t roll upgrades without having multiple versions [on the grid]. I wanted to ask you guys about that. We have an idea we are tossing around, brainstorming on regarding Havok upgrades.
The current RC process will always have old and new Havok versions side by side and this issue will persist and grow in the future. We have the idea of upgrading an entire continent as an RC instead of a random RC channel. Then there will be no side by side regions with different Havok versions. We can set up special test cases [in the future], but we know this [mismatched version thing] will always break [things]with future Havok upgrades.
By no means [is this]set in concrete yet. I couldn’t foresee any major issues. As mesh becomes more and more used for vehicles this known incompatibility with Havok will increase support load. We knew it would affect mesh, but mesh vehicles aren’t so popular grid wide yet.”
The problem with Havok is the Havok Physics Developer is tweaking how free form mesh is handed in each version. While new versions of Havok are generally backward compatible, the old versions are not forward compatible.
It is only in Second life that the forward compatibility ever becomes a problem. Most games never run into the issue because they don’t have 30,000 regions running side by side.
Also, prim vehicles were not expected to have a problem. The roll back was made because everything was having trouble crossing region boundaries. Since this is likely to continue and be a problem with each Havok update, the Lindens are looking for a way to minimize the problem. It’s not a big deal because Havok only updates once or twice a year.
The current Pathfinding Project uses a newer version of Havok. So, current problems appear to many to be a problem with Pathfinding. The actual problem is in an incompatibility in the underlying Havok versions.
SVC-8019 – roll restart normalisation time issues : cannot cross region borders for a while , very slow restart at roll restart , no fetching on server channel- version.
SVC-8030 – Phantom Prims Turning Solid. If I understood correctly, this problem is happening in the Beta Pathfinding regions. It affects hacked mixed volume-detect-linksets with phantom items which turn physical, The Land Impact cost can go up forcing odd return actions in prim-full regions. Plus unintended avatar collisions and other odd problems.
A fix has been added to the PF package going to the release channels. It was completed too late to make last week’s RC roll. This week (27) has a holiday and will not make this week either. So, it is off to next week (28).
The Pathfinding Navmesh editing tools will be appearing in the Beta Viewer… soon. I am guessing in a couple or 3 weeks.
Since the next roll of Pathfinding to the RC in the main grid is probably July 11, Falcon Linden is planning to add a feature that turns Linden owned unscripted prims into Navmesh static objects. He is also planning to add Havok 2012 to the LL Viewer.
Falcon was asked about when SSE2 would be required… answer was some time last year… shaders and CPU skinning requires it, as does Havok also. The viewer uses SSE2’s ability to copy memory. GLOD is also used by the viewer and dependent on SSE2. In the future the Lindens would like to improve client side prediction.
So, SSE2 is becoming more of a minimum requirement for Second Life. See the Wikipedia on SSE2 for information on what SSE is used for.
There are still issues in regard to importing textures/images with rigged mesh. While the problem is annoying the cost is the same whether images are imported with the mesh or separately. Textures that the importer cannot find or that fail to upload with the mesh are not charged.
I think Nyx Linden is looking at changing how the importer looks for the ‘attached’ textures when importing.
Gaia Clary says changes to Blender, available in 2.64, will set up the Collada export for easier use with Second Life.
Mesh Speed Bumps
Yuzuru Jewell is using mesh road sections to build a race track. One of the problems is bumps at the joints between road sections.
The fix is apparently rather complex. The Lindens are hoping the change to the newer Havok version and the addition of the Navmesh editor will make the problem easier to visualize and fix.
Alternative Mesh Deformer
Nyx Linden says the deformer process explained by Redpoly Inventor has some serious limitations. But, the Lindens are looking into it. So, we may not be as Catch-22 locked as I think.
Gaia Clary and some others are looking into how to use the information provided by Redpoly. Also, they are investigating the Second Life avatar for other features of which we may be unaware. Expect to see the results of that research in the Machinimatrix.org blog.
Gaia and a couple of others have been experimenting with Redpoly’s idea of using the collision bones for mesh deforming. They are all hitting some serious limits. So, as Red suggested the Lab will need to add bones and some definitions to get that process to work well. Nyx says there is no group in the Lab working on the project nor have they had much time to look at it. The Lab is basically tied up with Shining changes.
Gaia says the ability to weight paint in connection with the collision bones has been added to Avastar. An avatar by the name of 3dopifex, has been making a plug-in for use with Max to allow editing and painting in connection with the collision bones.
For those of us making mesh clothes and other rigged mesh this is an ongoing problem. One would think that a skirt upload would not need to include the arm bones. The Linden plan was to require only the bones needed.
SH-2047 – This item has been reopened in the hope that the fix gets merged into the viewer.
There are ways to change the basic SL skeleton. But, people are fuzzy on what does what when and what the hierarchy of control is.
- via the skeleton structure in Collada
- via the shape worn
- via an animation
Nyx explans it as, “The Collada file can deform the basic shape/position of the bones in the skeleton, which are then deformed by the shape worn, and are moved around by the animations played on that skeleton. That is my impression of the sequence, but that is not my normal area of code, so I do not guarantee that.”
The SL Avatar has 77 bones that can be animated and rigged. The question cam up as to how many bones can a rigged mesh object contain.
Nyx is unsure but assumes 77.
We have information now that the Lab does have other Second Life related projects and is moving ahead on a major hardware upgrade. Plus, the server software and the updating process are undergoing development. This is a huge effort to update the system and to fix age old problems.
While there are some new features coming, i.e., Pathfinding and Experience Tools, much of the Lab’s efforts seem to be in system or infrastructure upgrades.
Only bits and pieces of the information is coming out in the user group meetings. The Shining announcement opened the way for the Lindens to talk about some of the upgrades and feature changes in progress.
Still the Lindens are not talking about whole other areas. We here hints and rumors that leak from various sources about a materials system and other significant improvements to SL. Nyx is clear that no one is working on custom skeletons for animation in SL. So, Cloud Party has not yet had an influence there. But, I still have hope.
I do expect Cloud Party to improve. If it does and begins to grow, it will have more influence on the Lab. We can’t know how the Lab will see it. I think the different bloggers have shown that history has jaded us and we are not expecting so much from Cloud Party. Blue Mars was a learning experience for many SL developers that ran over to BM to take over the world. They seem more cautious with Cloud Party.
It looks like we are going to have more new things and better performance in SL this year.