Last week on the Metareality podcast there was some discussion about the Mesh Deformer. I was annoyed because of the lack of information Lexi Zelin of AngelRED Couture had. Since she is building Deformable Mesh Clothes, meaning clothes made for Karl’s Mesh Deformer, I am a bit pessimistic about ever getting Second Life™ users to understand what is happening. It seems if you are not reading Inara or my blog, you are basically clueless.
Lexi is talking about using the Deformer for months and not having a problem. OK… she is a designer, an artist… So, I can forgive her not thinking about what happens when we start something like a million people using Deformable Mesh verses her and her team and customers using it. I really don’t expect there to be problems. But, that is a BIG consideration for the Lab.
I know it is hard to think beyond ourselves when we are frustrated, but I think we could enjoy life more if we did.
The Mesh Deformer for all practical purposes is stalled. Even worse, there is little to nothing the Second Life™ users can do about it.
Today at the Open Source meeting with Oz a group showed up to talk about the deformer. It was a good discussion. But, we are starting to run into the problems of newer people being uninformed and unaware of the history of the Deformer.
It is just wonderful when someone pipes up and suggests: (imagine Foghorn Leghorn voice) we should define what it is supposed to do so we can figure out if it does it… Crap! THAT is frustrating.
The Official Story
We can debate how official this is or isn’t. But, the reason the project is stalled is:
- Resources – people are needed to consider the deformer (STORM-1716) and avatar (STORM-1800) and those people need to be good 3D model people with experience in avatars and models. In short not Oz Linden, a networking guy and open source advocate.
- Base Avatar – When I wrote my mesh tutorial one of the challenges I had was figuring out what the hell the base avatar was. In the viewer there is an avatar some say was taken/purchased from Poser. It was built into the viewer files. The source is lost somewhere in the hard drives of Linden Lab. Then there is the Ruth/Roth shapes, which are different than the ‘no-shape’ avatar. Then there is what we call the New Avatar Shape, which we get when we create a new shape in the viewer. How will a user know which shape was used by the designer? – Update: Judging from comments this is not clear enough. It seems the Lab is seriously concerned about how END Users of products will know which base shape was used in design.
- Avatar Weighting and Polygon Layout – JIRA STORM-1800 is about problems with the avatar mesh and weighting. It has an effect on the Deformer’s results and has become associated. Lots has been written about that, so I’m not going to repeat it. Check out the Mesh category or Deformer tag here if you want more information on that. Also see: Open-162/ARVD-49 – Avatar_lad.xml having non-symmetrical attachment offsets for several attachment slots.
For many there is a problem understanding why we need resources to test the Deformer. I mean… damn. It works.
It depends on what one means by works as to whether it works or not. If you are Karl Stiefvater, the programmer that wrote the Mesh Deformer code, it does exactly what it is supposed to do. If you are an artist or designer and know little if anything about computer programming and processing 3D models… then it is horribly broken.
There are problems with the avatar that some designers think the Mesh Deformer should compensate for. Karl made the point when he suggested we should just include a description in the item’s description like pants… and the Deformer would just make the pants work. People thought the comment was for real. Yeah, great. Let’s do that.
For those people the Deformer is broken or at best incomplete. So, until you can tell it to brush the avatar’s teeth and it does it, it is going no where… at least in their minds.
On the Linden Side
This isn’t intuitive to most people but I think it is easy to understand. The reason the Lindens are unwilling to go forward is simple. They are afraid of making a mistake. If they make a change, it is a change that has to work for the rest of time. So, they feel and urgent need to get it right.
Since Oz Linden is in charge, to some point, and is not a modeling guru, he is dependent on other experts in the company, or to be hired, to tell him the best answer. He is not going to allow a half baked idea to get through. And I don’t mean he thinks the Deformer is half baked. But, the overall avatar fix is INCOMPLETE.
To be Done
Resources, people, are needed to figure out what is the best solution for the avatar, not just the Deformer. Those people are not currently available for the Avatar Project.
One problem remaining is the base avatar. I suspect it is not so much which avatar shape designers are using, but how to tell users which shape was used. For designers, the minority of people in SL, it is not a problem knowing which was used. But, for customers it is likely going to be a big problem. If the Lab ignores that they will take a load of heat.
I say that because Alison Alena posted the tools she used to get the avatar into Blender, exporting the base avatar from the viewer files. See JIRA STORM-1800 for a copy. I took that avatar model and number of others and compared them. See: Second Life Avatar Models Compared. So, it is not a matter of the Lab knowing which model is being used, but how to tell the end user which model is being used.
What To Do?
For SL users there is nothing to be done to resolve this problem. It is in the Linden’s hands. Until Oz Linden can talk management into assigning people to the project… it is not going to move.
Oz says he is being a pest requesting ‘resources’ for the project. You can interpret that however you choose. We cannot know how much pressure he can bring to bear. Nor can we KNOW what kind of pest he can be to management. Nor how much risk he will incur by being a pest. So, we can assume he is doing all that can be done or not. Either way we don’t know and when we voice an opinion about that Oz is doing… or not… we should make it clear it is our opinion.
Users have already created the mood and the problems that go with it. We have demonstrated we are poorly informed. We have demonstrated we cry a lot and whine and yell at the Lindens. We have failed to provide the help they have requested: test clothes.
Lexi had no clue how to submit test clothes. Karl and Gianna have been through how to do that and while they may disagree with the process the Lab requires, the process is known. But they did not provide that information to Lexi.
I know… you don’t and I don’t do all that bad stuff and you’re reading my blog so obviously we are well informed. It is all those others.
This is a community mess that is never going to get corrected. The best we can do now is to stop asking for more avatar stuff. I am sure the community won’t. So, we will have to deal with what is. And for now that means waiting.
If You Must Do Something
I suggest you make it to one of Oz’s meetings and ask about the Deformer. Groups like today’s group, that was well behaved and civil, help.