Tuesday, August 13, 2013

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Wear At Your Own Risk: Liquid Mesh's Days In Second Life May be Numbered

LiquidMesh_014
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Last weekend, SL blogger Nalates Urriah shared a pretty important message with the fashionistas of SL on her blog: If you think Liquid Mesh is the solution to all our mesh fitting problems, think again.

Liquid Mesh/Redpoly Rigging is a technique employed by quite a few large brands in Second Life including Redgrave, and enjoyed by a vast number of residents who aren't satisfied with the Standard Sizing options that dominate mesh fashion and are sick of waiting for the Mesh Deformer to be implemented. It's an absolutely ingenious solution to the issue, but it's also a big risk for consumers. Here's why:

The Liquid Mesh technique involves rigging an item based on collision bones rather than the avatar's actual "skeleton", which allows it to fit closer to your avatar. However Liquid Mesh is officially unsupported, and given the work that's been put into the Deformer, it's unlikely that Liquid Mesh ever will be. What this means is that any  eventual changes to the SL avatar could utterly break thousands of pieces of virtual clothing and leave both designers and consumers out in the cold as a result.

As the Deformer project seems dead in the water for many impatient shoppers, Liquid Mesh has been gaining a lot of momentum, which, as Nalates points out, could lead to an explosive negative reaction from residents when  their Liquid Mesh wardrobes are rendered useless by an update to the SL avatar-- an update which sounds almost inevitable. [Edit: Granted that this is all second-hand information I'm probably reading too much into, inevitable is much too strong a word. But, if the plan is for things to carry on as they are now indefinitely, why respond to any concerns about about Liquid Mesh at all? Why acknowledge that widespread adoption could be problematic? I'm a bit skeptical that areas like the avatar and the deformer are as stagnant as they appear from the outside.]

It's a precarious situation for designers, consumers, and for that matter support staff on each side.

If you buy and wear Liquid Mesh products regularly (or know someone who does), educate yourself. Read up on what it really is and what the risks of investing in it are. I won't tell anyone not to buy a product they like or that works for them right now, but buyer beware: The next time you're picking up an item that relies on the Liquid Mesh method bear in mind that your days wearing it are probably numbered.

(Image courtesy of Nalates Urriah)

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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Wolf Baginski

I'd never seen the term "Liquid Mesh" until Nalates blogged, and I am seriously not sure how it even can do what it does.

But any change to the Avatar rigging has the potential to break existing rigged meshes. Would a new AV have identical UV mapping so that a decade of texture-based clothing still works? There's so much that depends on the current Avatar that I am not sure it makes sense for the Lindens to change things.

The only path I can see is of having the new AV in parallel with the old, and that would still be a huge design and support problem. The Poser world does have tools to shift skin textures from one figure's UV mapping to anothers, but you'd need to get the creators involved for a new AV to stand any chance. I can see the need for changes, but I think the Lindens missed that particular boat long since.

And, if you don't change the AV otherwise, why would you bother changing the collision bones.

The thing is, I can't see how this technique gets the results it does. It looks more like an undocumented feature of the viewer than anything to do with the AV design. And the Lindens have a habit of messing that up.

I don't see Liquid Mesh lasting, but I think Nalates is looking in the wrong place for a reason.

Eddi Haskell

I just purchased over 1,200 Linden of some excellent Redgrave mens clothing three hours ago -- and just read this article! Liquid mesh clothing is stunning - but once again I have atrocious timing!

Tom Harding

If you change (or even disable) the collision bones, the avatar would be useless. Liquid Mesh will work even the deformer would come one day as it is not affected by it. The only 2 ways for LL i see are creating a new avatar, which would leave all creations made up to this point useless or disable the upload of Liquid Mesh. Back to 2010 yay

Pussycat Catnap

It'll be like 'Emerald Drama' all over again. Remember custom attachment points?

Only this time around - some folks are going to find their products simply no longer work, period.

No one should expect to be able to keep things and toys that are based upon an unsanctioned hack. To the folks who lose product over this:

Tough cookies.

Hack the system, get burned.

To their customers:

Learn to shop better - if something looks too good to be true, stop buying Brooklyn Bridges and pay attention.

Harsh? NO. Because any heartache could be avoided by simply paying attention to what you're selling or buying.

We can't make the world foolproof for fools...
- It'll hurt the rest of us too much.

Tracy Redangel

@ Eddie:
Well at least take comfort that it takes LL quite a lot of time to make any changes, so it could be a while before they make any changes that would affect the avatar mesh. Enjoy your clothes, but I think it's fair to ask these creators if their product does break, will they guarantee replacement? Bax Coen has publicly guaranteed replacement for her new mesh boots that have the Collision Bone/Liquid/Stretchy mesh technology, so I would feel comfortable buying those (plus they look really great.
Unless creators are willing to stand by their products should they break, I wouldn't spend too much on them. I did buy a pair of Redgrave's liquid mesh jeans and they DO look and fit very nice. Redgrave is a very good brand that has been around for a while...so we'll see what happens. But Eddie, you should also check out Kal Rau, Fate Wear, and Lapointe & Bastchild, they also have some great looking mens clothes.

Ezra

Pussycat, Second Life is and has always been one giant hack.

What if Linden Lab decides animating breedables with function calls in LSL is a hack and breaks it with delays? Were you a fool for buying a breedable?

What if all megaprims were removed in the past, or even now? Were you a fool for buying a prefab that uses one?

What if flight feathers were considered a hack, and LSL functions changed to prevent them? Were you a fool to rent a skybox above flight range?

What if animation overrides were considered a hack, and Linden Lab prevented scripts from looping to cancel default animations? Were we all fools?

Second Life would be a very dull uninteresting place if we didn't hack around present problems and inabilities.

The right way to combat a hack is to properly provide features that render the hack moot. 64 meter object scale has largely taken megaprims out of use. Increased linkset distances makes rezzers less necessary. Increased flying height mitigates a lot of flight feather use. The newer animation override functions eliminates the hackiness of old AOs. Alpha maps eliminated the need for invisiprims, etc.

More serious and problematic hacks have existed and still remain like, like loop-temp-rezzing hundreds of prims to avoid prim costs. Particle crashing viewers, etc. How about Linden Lab continue to address those if Liquid Mesh isn't causing any serious problems like other hacks do?

If Linden Lab simply kills Liquid Mesh for no reason other than they don't like it, that'll be unprecedented and bucking the trend of at least offering some form of an alternative to meet the same goals.

If they break Liquid Mesh for a good reason, like new Avatars, obviously few will complain. But for consumers to be chastised for purchasing hacks, come on. Second Life is entirely built on hacks. It's incredibly difficult to never buy a hack.

2103

if we all took catnips advice and designers/creators didn't create workarounds like liquid mesh, we would still be wearing system clothes from 2003. Welcome to 2013!

Pussycat Catnap

@Ezra: While I don't agree with all of your examples, this is a good counter to my point.

Worth thinking over whether or not this case is different, or much like your examples.

Nonetheless at this point there now IS information that this one "hack" is on the 'hit-list' of LLs, so whether or not it was bad to use it before (and again you point out some rather good counters to my point), it might be unwise to use it now.

As to that information, I'm getting that from Nalates blog where she notes Lindens specifically stating it is not supported:

"Liquid Mesh is very very much not supported by the Lab. We hear this at the user group meetings. The Lindens are telling us repeatedly. In some ways the Lindens are getting a bit arrogant about the issue. Like if you didn’t pay attention, tough. We told you. That attitude will walk them into a wall."


This is where a debate could happen on 'what pushes SL in new directions and ability, and what "hacks" things in improper ways?'
- But that is a discussion I'm NOT qualified for... :)

Ezra

Nalates does seem especially alarmed about Liquid Mesh, but I wonder if "very very much not supported" would apply to other longstanding upload hacks if they were asked about? Like using TPVs' bulk uploader to upload .anim files, which unlike .bvhs allow things like per bone priorities with animations. If that hack was called "Liquid Animations" and shops branded their animations with it, would it be as a big deal as Liquid Mesh?

Personally, I don't think we should be too alarmed by Linden Lab saying they don't support a hack. It definitely means something that they say it, but again, they've tended not to break hacks in the past unless they've implemented something that makes the hack moot. In the case of Liquid Mesh obviously we'd need the Deformer.

Pussycat Catnap

Looked at your examples again and I actually did agree with all of those cases you note as cases where the envelope got pushed properly.

Total sidetrack on megaprims: I always understood these as moments when the limit had been turned off (on purpose or accident I don't know) where residents found it and made bigger prims in the boatloads until the limit was turned back on - and then we just started passing those around between each other.

Which would have been something different than how the multi-attach with a custom XML file thing worked.

multi-attach now in my limited understanding seems to be the only case I can think of where the resultion solution should have been seen as a hack, and pulled out (because people not on a supporting viewer couldn't see it), in favor of a proper one. BUT it was a good way to call attention to "hey give us a better way to do this!"


I had no idea that the very idea that an AO animation keeps working (your note on a script looping) is technically not supposed to work...

Frankly that's pretty scary that the underlying code is that... lacking?

I'd have to think if there's anything to salvage in my first post here... on the plus, it got a discussion going. But I way overstated the point which makes it a bit... discomforting... realizing I was likely making the wrong call in this case... :)

Wolf Baginski

There has been a change in the support for AOs, in the last few months: new LSL functions that explicitly allow default animations to be set to user-provided animations.

llSetAnimationOverride only started public testing in March. It's not a forced replacement for the old way of doing an AO.

Tonya Souther

LL's not going to kill Liquid Mesh. On the other hand, they will take absolutely no steps to avoid breaking it, either. Nobody knows what will happen in that area yet, with or without the deformer (and what state the deformer winds up in).

There was some discussion at the TPV meeting about disabling uploading mesh that is rigged to collision bones. It was inconclusive, but LL's definitely going to be looking at that.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Tinies, petites, and giant avatars, if I understand rightly, are possible in SL only because of a bug that lets animations stretch the apparent avatar skeleton. LL could fix the bug, but unless they strike the limits on avatars, SL would be a much poorer world for it. (Even if they did, contortionist animations allow some other interesting effects such as in-world replication of some magic tricks; it would be a shame to lose those.) I agree with Ezra; to get rid of beneficial hacks, make it possible to get their effects without hackery.

Satui

"Don't buy liquid mesh, because in 40 years it could be useless?" .. i find this article a bit stunning .. LL will NEVER update the av .. and if .. skins, clothing layer, hybrid av stuff ... basically everything will be kaput ...LL will NEVER update the av .. (they maybe make a new second one ... but will defo keep the old one)

Jaqua

I noticed that someone mentioned Poser in an earlier post, it seems like designers in SL can learn a lot from the Poser/Daz 3d community, as mesh is considered old hat to us by a decades use, the best way to deal with the issue is to construct a virtual garment either as separate character mesh like a living avatar, and create a HUD that has morph dials or sliders in it, and that way you guys can learn how to auto-conform the mesh to the mesh dimensions of any avatar in existence in SL and if it doesn't fit well once auto-conformed then use the HUD and click on the part of the garment that would have the same body parts as an avatar and simple scroll to fit

Iris Ophelia

@Jacqua I would hesitate before saying SLers could "learn a lot" from Poser and Daz creators, because there are a lot of SLers who are active in those communities already and have been for a while. The problem is that there are pretty harsh limitations on mesh code in Second Life, meaning it's far more restricted compared to how it is in Poser. As far as I know (someone please correct me if I'm wrong here) you can't exactly just make something that is like a second avatar with its own sliders, because currently the only way to alter the values of ANY piece of rigged mesh in SL is to alter the values of the body it's rigged to. Which would be your own avatar shape. That's why this is an issue in the first place. Second Life doesn't allow you to alter them independently at all. You can't even just outright resize a mesh item unless it's unrigged.

It's also probably worth mentioning that Second Life technically uses Poser 2 models IIRC, so faces and hands can't even be animated, only set into a half dozen or so available morph positions. Simply put Second Life is YEARS behind where Poser and DAZ are right now.

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