Mesh Deformer Update 2013-9

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.

Open Source Meeting 2013-9

Open Source Meeting 2013-9

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. 

Frustration

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-49Avatar_lad.xml having non-symmetrical attachment offsets for several attachment slots.

Explanation

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.

10 thoughts on “Mesh Deformer Update 2013-9

  1. Well, it was probably well-behaved because Oz did not give us pitchforks and a target. :)

    A large part of the problem is a lack of information — it is like pulling teeth to find out what is needed and what the problems are. I am not a modeller but a coder. SL is what I do for fun.

    The lack of information produces an interesting situation. Usually I am the one gritting my teeth at something a nontechy wants that involves much more resources than they anticipated. Then I get the fun of explaining why I can not ‘just do it’.

  2. >For SL users there is nothing to be done to resolve this problem.

    Actually, there is. There are a number of TPV viewers who have incorporated Qarl’s code. Cool viewer is one, Kristens I think also patched it in. Somewhere, buried in that JIRA is a bunch of viewers (and on the list some TPV coders) who have bundled it in.

    In the same way that ‘most users of SL don’t use Linden’s Viewers’ there’s actually no reason to wait for…. LL to put it in their viewer. If you really want to use it, and use it *now* – you can upload deformable mesh, and say : Works with ‘X Y Z’ viewer.

    Now if we could convince Jessica to put it in Firebird or whatever that sequel to Phoenix is – more than 50% of the SL userbase would have it and LL’s viewer can catch up.

    M.

    • You are forgetting the Viewer Policy and the Shared Experience. At some point the Lab would likely take action and block or coerce the viewers out of SL.

      This is a feature that changes what people see that use the standard Linden Viewer. That simply is not going to be allowed.

      The viewers that have the feature are currently labeled experimental. None of the main releases from the TPV Dev’s has the Deformer, AFAIK. This is how they get around the Policy restriction. If the majority of the viewers become Mesh Deformer capable… that sort of makes those versions the main version and likely to draw action from the Lab.

      I like your idea. I just don’t believe it will work.

  3. They’re getting paranoid and perfectionist. No matter how hard they try, people will bitch about it when they don’t realize their intellect don’t match up for the job.

    So I don’t see what the problem is, just release it already!

    As for the shape, just keep it simple and plain… Use Ruth’s shape. Nothing more, if some fashion designer used non-Ruth shape, they’re a fool, asking for more trouble and complaint from their customers.

    • When making a decision that will affect SL for the rest of time, I can understand the concern to make the right decision. Some measure of perfectionism is a good thing at that point. As to being paranoid, for the Lab anticipating the negative blowback from the community is not paranoid. It is remembering past experience.

      I’m not sure I understand your second sentence… But, many designers and 3D modelers don’t know what they are doing. I don’t see that as a lack of intelligence as much as I class it ignorance.

      Encouraging them to release it now is what we do. But, expecting that encouragement alone to move things forward with any speed is not realistic. It may have some affect on the Lab’s priorities. But, it is not possible to know how much.

      Keep the shape simple? It isn’t about which shape we use. It is about how the end user knows which shape the designer used. Imposing a ‘standard’ base shape on designers has already been tried and rejected by designers. Taking freedom away is an often the proposed solution for any number of problems. In general it is ALWAYS the wrong solution and makes things worse.

      That you think the designers are fools for using the various base shapes… that suggests to me you don’t understand the problem. Just reading STORM-1716 would reveal the problems that push designers to use multiple base shapes.

  4. I really don’t understand all the fuss about the base shape… It’s Ruth (the default shape you get each time you create a new shape in your inventory)… If you want the male default shape, then just create a default shape (Ruth), wear it, edit your appearance, check the “Male” radio button and save the changes. Voilà !

    Also, the default shape is just one of the shapes you can use to *design* a deformer-ready clothing item, but with the latest deformer version you can in fact use any shape: LL’s deformer viewer and the Cool VL Viewer (experimental branch) use different ways (you need to point the model preview to the corresponding archetype.xml file for LL’s viewer, and you just need to wear the shape and choose the “Current shape” radio button for the Cool VL Viewer), but they work in the same way. If you wish, you can then bundle the reference shape you used together with deformer-ready clothing items you made with it.

    In any case, whatever shape the end user will be wearing, the deformer will automatically adjust the mesh of the clothing item to their shape (the reference shape parameters are part of the mesh metadata and the deformer code uses the delta between them and the ones of your current shape for its calculations).

    Of course, the closest is your shape to the reference shape and the better will be the fit (thus the interest to have more than just the default female (Ruth) and male shapes for references).

    As for LL’s stance on the deformer, they are simply unwilling to release it. Period. It should have been released a few months ago already, because it works just as good as it can given SL’s avatar mesh flaws.

    • It is not about which shape. It is about how the end user of the product will know which shape was used for design. BUT… I agree with you it doesn’t matter that much. We have mesh clothes makers handing out Demos of the items now. They still will and in my thinking that solves the problem. But, apparently not in the mind of the Lindens.

      Being able to use various shapes is going to help with the less human looking avatars. For most human clothes this debate is in my opinion about perfection and lack of understanding. On the Lab’s side there are a load of what if’s that the community has conditioned the Lab to consider. I appreciate that they do not want to start something and get locked into it by their rule to not break existing content when/if they realize there was a better way. Oz admits he lacks the expertise to make that decision. Until he can bring the expertise to bear on that decision process, which includes a number of avatars issues we have been bringing up, nothing is going to happen.

      That you think no matter what shape one wears or what clothing item the Deformer will handle it and do a good job is WAY different than my understanding. What I have seen is people trying to build non-human avatars and extreme size human like avatars that cause the deformer to break down. The current best solution is the various base shapes. But, there are better solutions. However, those solutions require a more significant change. If we are ever to get Avatar 2.0 and custom skeletons, this is probably the decision point for all that.

      I agree completely with your last paragraph, every point. But, the users have created an environment where that release is simply not politically acceptable. :(

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    • Any time soon is a very relative term. But, I tend to agree. May be we will see something done this year. I firmly believe we will see a decision this year.

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