Cloud Party Content Creation with Blender

Cloud Party has drawn a lot of interest lately, and anybody who’s visited has rubbed elbows with plenty of people from the SL and OpenSim communities. No wonder, as these are people who already have a lot of experience with VW content creation and the associated tools. The Cloud Party team has made good on efforts to provide better documentation over at their forums. There are some nice video tutorials in the section of the forums for building, but unfortunately for me and other Blender users, they tend to be very focused on the use of Maya. As much as I wish I had US$3500 to shell out for what is, by all reports, a marvellous bit of software, that just isn’t gonna happen.

Happily, it’s not actually difficult at all to translate the concepts shown in the video tutorials to Blender, as anyone who’s ever worked with rigged mesh will immediately understand what’s going on and what they need to do. There are likely differences in export options and quirks in Blender’s Collada exporter that will need to be addressed, but these are not massive barriers to content creation with Blender.

Cloud Party has provided resource files for the male and female avatars and the associated armatures, but these are highly Maya centric, and will not load in Blender right now. Some experienced Blender users have stepped up to fill the gap, and you can find .blend files for these resources in the comments on this forum post from Jean and AshasekayiRa. I won’t provide direct links to the files here, as they may see changes and updates to better conform to the official Cloud Party avatars.

In other Cloud Party related news, this new virtual world has of course incited much blab in the blogosphere. You can find a round-up of quite a few blog posts on the topic at the Swedish Avatarium, and Gwynneth Llewelyn has written a nice thoughful piece on her blog.

UPDATE: Nebadon Izumi pointed out a great blog post on the Cloud Party Bugle that has a video tutorial with instructions on how to make a hat in Blender and get it into Cloud Party. It also includes links to .blend files for the male and female avatars.

 

Kokua 3.3.3.0 Beta-1c Available

Kokua Logo

Kokua!

Another Kokua beta is available! This is meant to address  a crash to the desktop issue that was occurring when attempting up do any mesh uploads, possibly caused by an attempt to introduce a more efficient use of threads. You can find a more technical explanation of this over on a post on the opensim-users mailing list.

As usual, you can provide feedback, bug reports, and feature requests on Kokua’s Redmine Bug Tracker. There’s also a thread on the OSGrid Forums where you can discuss Kokua with a developer.

You can download the latest beta from Nicky Perian’s Bitbucket, or you can use one of the links below.

Zen 3.3.4.2 Available

Zen ViewerZena Juran has released a new binary of the Zen Viewer. This happened two days ago, and I’m a little late to the party on announcing it here, but hey… better late than never, eh? Anyhow, you can find The Zen viewer at Zena Juran’s Bitcucket, or you can grab the installer via the link at the end of this post. Remember, the Zen Viewer is currently only available for Windows.

Changes in this release include:

  • Consolidated various libraries to a single location.
  • Updated the HACD library for mesh uploads.
  • Updates the OpenAL library for audio.
  • The Grid Manager has seen some changes and updates.

You can grab the Windows Installer here:

Zen 3.3.4.2 Installer

Kokua 3.3.3.0 Beta-1c Available

Kokua Logo

Kokua!

A new Kokua beta version is out! This one bumps the code up to a more recent merge with LL’s viewer code. Nicky Perian tells us that he’s been assured at TPV meetings that 3.3.3 contains a lot of fixes that prevent crashes. Remember, you can help test Kokua and report bugs or feature requests on Kokua’s Redmine Bug Tracker. You can find the downloads at NickyP’s BitBucket, or you can make use the the following links:

A Look At The Cloud Party Beta

Wagner James Au’s blog has a story up now about a new virtual world named Cloud Party. It’s currently in beta, and requires a Facebook account to get the most out of it. It seems the ex-Linden Cory Ondrejka is involved, and boy does it ever show when you give it a whirl. Anyone who’s ever rezzed a prim in SL or OpenSim will recognize the prims you’ll see littered all over the area where new users arrive.

If you want to try it out without having to sign up for Facebook, you can do so by directly visiting the Cloud Party website. You won’t be able to build unless you sign in with Facebook, but you’ll get a good look at it the other features.

Cloud Party’s CEO Sam Thompson was there while I visited, and offered a few bits of info to visitors about the platform. They would like to have authentication options other than Facebook, but their small team means that using Facebook is simplest right now.  Right now navigation isn’t too bad from what I saw, but it is a bit limited, and Mr. Thompson says that that’s on their short list of things to do. There are currently no plans to open source the platform, and while the platform is extensible via server-side javascript, support for external developers is not a priority. The terms of service also seem to take a very dim view of any efforts to reverse engineer the service. A marketplace is in the works, although the terms of service currently prohibits commercial use of the service. Mr. Thompson indicated that right now, Facebook credits are equal to Cloud Bucks. There’s currently a maximum of 25 avatars allowed per instance at the moment.  Sam said that the main reason for it was to keep framerates reasonable until they’ve had a chance to get level of detail properly engineered. No decisions have been made yet on how land will be charged for. Local chat can be heard by the entire island you’re visiting at the moment. You can’t sit, but Sam says animations are extensible, and I was able to interact with some objects, such as opening the gate on a castle.

My personal impression is that this is a bit SL Lite. That’s not a criticism… this is extremely accessible for your average user. The client appears to be completely HTML5 and WebGL driven, meaning that you need only use a browser to access it. (I used Chrome.) They had a pretty nice tutorial available to get you started and up to speed on the basics. There’s a “cell phone” in the upper right hand corner of the screen that gives you access to various options like your appearance, building, navigation, etc. Moving around is pretty point and click. Left click on the ground, and you go there. Right click on the ground far away, and a menu will pop-up that lets you teleport to that location. Chat is easy enough to use, and even let’s you emote with the “/me” command. When you look up into the sky you’ll see some floating spheres containing islands. These appear to be the equivalent of the regions we’re so used to. Click on one, and some info will appear, along with the option to visit that island. It will be interesting to see how well this metaphor works when there are thousands of islands available. I suspect only “featured” islands will retain such prominence at some point.

The name of the service, Cloud Party, kinda makes me want to groan… the cloud is a term that’s been abused so badly at this point that it is hard not to shake my head a tad. For some people the Facebook requirement is going to be a very big turnoff as well, temporary as it may be.

I also can’t help but note that the service appeared to crash during my visit. I was told via a red pop-up message that the connection to the service had been lost, and to wait until it was restarted. I dutifully did just that, and the world reloaded. Other visitors confirmed that the same thing had happened to them at the same time.

Should SL be worried? Probably. Even if the feature set isn’t as advanced, the immediacy of being able to click a link and use this world is a pretty big deal. I think this is likely to give LL a kick in the pants. The fact that it relies so heavily on things like HTML5 and WebGL also means that this is a real contender in the mobile  and tablet space. Not only do you not need to download a client in the first place, but any updates will be completely transparent and automatic. On the other hand this feels so much like SL in many ways. It’ll be interesting to see how Cloud party makes choices for its service that are more than superficial things like islands rather than regions, or reacts to content creators who want to take their prim creations with them to other places. I’ve already seen one user wonder aloud whether they would be able to take their SL stuff with them. It is also hard to determine what the maximum quality of the graphics will be yet, and how quickly browsers will enable bigger, better, and more. LL’s dedicated viewer has the advantage of being capable of a lot more in the eye-candy department right now, and could do even more if LL chose to make the effort. It can also handle colossal amounts of objects in a scene, as evidenced by Nebadon Izumi’s recent success to populate a region with a million objects.

Should OpenSimulator be worried? I’d say no, not as long as Cloud Party remains proprietary and tightly tied to large social networks. OpenSim offers cost, extensiblity , and  freedom advantages that you can’t get anywhere else. But being free of LL’s viewer wouldn’t be a bad thing, and so long as it offers the same abilities as a viewer, a web based client would be a pretty welcome addition to OpenSim’s toolbox. There have been some stabs at this in the past already, but I don’t think any of them used HTML5 and WebGL.

Work Started On Multiple Attachments Per Point

OpenSimulator

OpenSimulator

Justin Clark-Casey, one of the core OpenSimulator developers, has started work on getting multiple-attachments per attach point working!

As he says in his tweet, this work is taking place in a separate branch of the OpenSim code. This probably won’t be available in the master branch until Justin is sure it isn’t going to do anything particularly nasty.

Still, this is very welcome. I started spending a bit more time on SL lately when I realized that I hadn’t logged in there in many months and really had lost the “feel” for SL’s environment, physics, etc. Multiple attachments on a single attach point  is one of those things SL has had that OpenSim does not, and which turns out to be very, very handy. Those of us who’ve been ignoring SL don’t notice the lack, but once you make use of it you start to crave it.

Thank you very much for this, Justin!

Also we really, really need a better way to say multiple attachments per attach point. MAPAP? Multiple attachments per point? MAPP? I dunno. But I’ll tire quickly of typing out the whole phrase, for sure. 😉

Kokua Viewer 3.3.1 Beta-1a Available

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Kokua!

A new beta release of the Kokua viewer is now available. Due to an intransigant wiki, the downloads are currently available at Nicky Perian’s BitBucket.

Just as with the last release, you shouldn’t expect every whistle and bell in Kokua at this point. But you can help Kokua get to the point where adding your favorite features becomes easier by testing this release and providing feedback at the Kokua Bug Tracker.

Changes in this release include:

  • The 32 and 64-bit Linux tarballs now have libminizip.so included.
  • The 32-bit Linux build now has a more current libndofdev.
  • The 64-bit Linux tarball now has links to some specific libraries.
  • A fix from Firestorm for VWR-29014 resulting in bad avatar bakes with ATI cards.
  • Better large address aware support.
  • Mesh uploads are capped at 64 meters on SL. This has been raised to 256 meters on Opensim.
  • Mesh upload now has a shortcut (CTRL-ALT-U).
  • HTTP Inventory now defaults to off.
  • The Grid manager now assigns “localhost” to 127.0.0.1.

love that there’s now a shortcut for mesh uploads. But if there’s any conflicts with existing shortcuts on your operating system, do be sure to file a bug report.

HTTP Inventory fetching works fine on OpenSimulator 0.7.4,  which is the cutting edge release. But many production grids are using OpenSimulator 0.7.3, and you’ll want HTTP Inventory disabled on those grids or you’ll have odd inventory behavior. Justin Clark-Casey just added a corrected implementation of HTTP Inventory to 0.7.3-postfixes today, so hopefully those grids can upgrade and correct that issue.