Resources for Creative Work in Virtual Worlds

Virtual Worlds:

Second Life (SL):

SL is run by Linden Lab (San Francisco, USA) and is the largest and most populated of the online virtual worlds. It is age restricted to people at least 15 years of age and contains a lot of explicit content. (Areas are rated General, Mature, or Adult. Adult areas require age verification of the account holder, but explicit content may be seen in some Mature rated areas as well.). SL has an internal economy. Products and services can by bought and sold using Linden Dollars, which can be exchanged for real cash. SL has the most developed technologies, but the company is currently developing a “next generation” platform that should launch in the next year or two. Investments in current Second Life assets will largely not be transferable to the new edition (which will likely have a different name). It is assumed the SL in its current track will survive independently for at least some time after the new platform launches.

OpenSimulator (OpenSim):

OpenSim is the open source platform released early on by Linden Lab, creator of Second Life. It is currently available for most operating systems. It supports mesh, basic physics, and scripting using Linden Scripting Language (LSL) and/or C+. The platform can be run on an isolated computer (or even on a portable USB drive) or it can be connected to other independent simulators in worlds like OS Grid. The current version also supports Hypergrid transporting that allows users to jump from one OpenSim installation to another without losing their assets. (Assets are supported by the login sim.)  Several of the other virtual worlds are developed on the open source platform that SL is based on, so many of the skills and some assets are transferable.

Other virtual worlds based on OpenSim (each has its own code branch, pricing, restrictions, etc. See also: http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Grid_List):

OSGrid

In order of approximate size (Some may not be current):

Unity:

Unity is a game platform engine. Like OpenSim, there are several virtual worlds that use this platform, but the technology is different from OpenSim. Most content must be created using their proprietary developer tools or 3rd party modeling software. There are free and licensed developers tools.

Up and Coming

Second Life: The Next Generation. SL is over a decade old and it’s becoming progressively more difficult for Linden Lab to keep adding improvements and features to the old code base. They are currently developing a new virtual world whose name has not yet been decided, but is informally referred to as the “next generation” of SL. It is likely to be less open to third party viewers and other non-Lab enhancements, and it’s not clear at this time what assets or skill sets (if any) might be transferable to the new platform. Expect beta testing within the next year and launch within two years. It is expected (as of now) that the current SL platform will continue as long as there are sufficient users to support it.

High Fidelity. Currently in open alpha testing, HiFi is being developed by a team led by Philip Rosedale, founder and creator of Second Life. HiFi is focused on user interaction with naturalistic avatars including facial expressions captured from the user’s web cam.

Organizations/Publications

Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education. An important annual virtual conference of users of all platforms with an education focus.

Hypergrid Business. Tracks and comments on developments in Second Life and OpenSims.

Hyperica. Directory of Hypergrid-OpenSim worlds.

Second Life Groups:

ISTE. The International Society for Technology in Education is the trusted source for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation. This SL group has over six thousand members. There are sub-groups including ISTE-SigVE, the virtual environments sig, and the ISTE Mobile Learning Network.

Linden Endowment for the Arts. LEA provides full sims (valued at $295US/month) for six months to artists who submit accepted proposals. The LEA artists have produced some of the most innovative work in virtual worlds.

Virtual Ability. An active group that networks and assists users with disabilities of all kinds.

Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable. A weekly meeting for anyone in Second Life who wants to meet other educators, talk about education topics, etc. The group meets every Thursday @ 11:30am SLT in the VWER Amphitheater at Glasgow Caledonian University (SLURL).

Virtual Worlds Skill Sets/Tools

Learning

Building

  • Blender For making 3D Mesh objects. The most popular tool for making things in Second Life, primarily because it’s free.
  • 3DS Max A powerful professional tool from AutoDesk for making 3D mesh objects that is relatively user-friendly and is free for anyone in academia.

Scripting

Note that the script editor within the standard SL viewer has built in hover tips and debugging. There is almost no reason for anyone to need an external script editor.

Texturing

Avatar

  • Blender Free builders tool that can also be used to edit mesh clothing and other objects rigged to the avatar skeleton.
  • Maya Also from Autodesk, a professional tool especially for creating and animating characters.

SKILLSETS:

NOTE that you do NOT need to know all of these things to do creative work. Decide what you want to do, then learn the skills needed to do that. Many of these things you may never want or need to learn. Eventually you will have a set of competencies that will serve you for most anything you want to do.

Inworld:

  • Prim construction
  • Object texturing
  • Clothing adjustment
    • System
    • Prim
    • Adjustable mesh
    • Texturing
  • Scripting
  • Terraforming
  • Sim management
  • Group management
  • Communications (Text/Voice/Group)
  • Machinima

External:

  • Texture manipulation (Photoshop/Gimp)
  • Texture art (Photoshop/Illustrator/Gimp/Inkscape
  • Animation creation/manipulation (QAvimator/DAZ Studio/Poser)
  • Mesh creation/manipulation (Blender/3DS Max/DAZ/
  • Sculpt creation/manipulation (Blender/Tokoroten/Rokuro)
  • Numerous specialized tools for making certain types of content (clothing,
    vegetation, etc.
  • Machinima/Video editing

OBJECTS

Appearance of objects (MATERIALS)

  • Textures (2D graphic images
  • Color
  • Reflectivity (Shininess)
  • Bumpiness
  • Textures are 2D images. SL supports JPEG, Targa, BMP, and PNG uploads, but all images are compressed using a JPG2000 scheme that also alters the aspect ratio so that each dimension in pixels conforms to a power of 2 (e.g, 32,64, 128, 512, or 1024), with 1024 being the maximum in any dimension. It will reject any image with a dimension larger than 2048 pixels.

ANNOYING TECHNICAL STUFF ALMOST NOBODY REALLY UNDERSTANDS:

  • SL uses a Bidirectional Reflectance Distribution Function (BRDF) that defines how a surface reflects light. BRDFs can contain multiple parameters that allows a content creator to adjust a surface’s “look and feel”, such as specular exponent, reflection strength, diffuse color, and even transparency. In Second Life, we have the following basic controls:
    • Diffuse Color: Tints the diffuse color of the surface
    • Diffuse Texture: Sets the per-pixel diffuse color of the surface
    • Specular Color: Tints the specular reflectance (or light reflectance) of the surface
    • Specular Texture: Sets the per-pixel color of light reflected from a surface
    • Specular Exponent (“Glossiness”): Defines the surface-wide “Glossiness” of the surface
    • Environment Intensity: Defines the amount of the environment reflected on the entire surface
    • Normal Map: Defines different per-pixel details of a surface
  • Physics/Motion
    • Vehicles
      • Comprehensive set of specialized vehicle params
      • Vehicle types:
        • SLED Simple vehicle that bumps along the ground, and likes to move along its local x-axis
        • CAR Vehicle that bounces along the ground but needs the motors to be driven from external controls or timer events
        • BOAT Hovers over water with lots of friction and some angular deflection
        • AIRPLANE Uses linear deflection for lift, no hover, and banking to turn
        • BALLOON Hover and friction, but no deflection
    • Weapons (projectiles) llRezObject( string inventory, vector pos, vector vel, rotation rot, integer param);
    • FrameAnimation vs. TargetOmega

Scripting

  • Linden Scripting Language (LSL)
  • Object contents: Scripts, objects, notecards, etc.

Simple example: Give Object.

/////
default{

touch_start(integer touched)

{

llGiveInventory(llDetectedKey(), llGetInventoryName(INVENTORY_NOTECARD,0));

}//end touch_start

}//end script

/////

  • Code hints
  • Autodebugging
  • llSetPrimitiveParams()
  • Variables (global/local)
  • Functions
  • llRezObject
  • Particles
  • Interaction
  • Get[Pos, Rot, DetectedKey, properties, etc.]
  • Touch
  • Sensors
  • Collisions
  • HTTP
  • Databases
  • Sensors/controls

Photography/Lighting

  • Low-rez/High rez
  • Lighting
  • Windlight
  • Point lights
  • Projectors
  • Shadows

Machinima

  • Fraps

A sample text widget

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