Virtual World viewers: Part 6 – Linden Lab official viewer

In Part Six I’m looking at the official viewer for Second Life: Linden Lab’s V3 client. There are different versions available from Linden Lab for development viewer betas and others that focus on Inventory management or Market Place delivery functions. This review is for the main stable release: 3.2.8.248931.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Virtual World viewers: Part 5 – Firestorm

In Part Five I’m looking at a third-party viewer which has achieved prominence in Second Life. Firestorm is a V3 series client that comes from the same development team as the Phoenix viewer.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Using an Eloh Eliot Starlight skin – Basics 1

Eloh Eliot - Another Skin Resources for virtual worlds

This is the first part in a short series on how to use Eloh Eliot’s Starlight skin templates for virtual world avatars. Basics 1 covers downloading the template files and changing the skin tone.

Please read the below disclaimers first.

This is a Photoshop-based tutorial (CS3) produced on a Mac. There are similarities when using Gimp, so you can follow this tutorial as a general guide. I’m unable to offer detailed advice for Gimp as I haven’t used it.

This tutorial is just one method of making very basic changes to the skin templates. It doesn’t contain any advanced techniques on skin making (hand-painting, photo source, 3D baking etc.,).

All the Photoshop files used were designed and created by Eloh Eliot of Another Skin. These files are not my own work and I am not an experienced skin creator. I am unable to answer any detailed technical questions about how they were made. These files do come with a license agreement which I strongly recommend you read before you using them. MIT License

This might seem an obvious statement but for any readers who are not aware: the Starlight female avatar skins are depicted as anatomically correct. These tutorials are meant for a mature audience who are comfortable learning and working with anatomically correct template files.

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Virtual World viewers: Part 4 – Exodus

From Part 4 onwards I’m going to be looking at viewers that are based on V2 or V3 code. Linden Labs launched Viewer 2 in 2010, bringing a new look to the User Interface and new functions to Second Life.

This review will be looking at a third-party viewer based on V3 code: Exodus.

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Virtual World viewers: Part 3 – Phoenix

In this review I’m looking at the well-known third-party viewer Phoenix. Originally I’d intended to review an older version but decided to try the more recent 1.6.0.1600 release. This is the team’s development to offer mesh-viewing capabilities.

I started using an older Phoenix version in 2011 when I became interested in some of the features that the Imprudence viewer did not have. Using this mesh-enabled viewer is a new experience for me. So, let’s take a closer look.

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Virtual World viewers: Basic Information

As explained in Virtual World viewers: Part 1 I’m going be testing different viewers for basic, Mac-friendly, useability in Second Life.

Before starting the reviews it might be helpful to new users to explain some of the differences between viewer use.

For Second Life users: there is only one official viewer series – Linden Lab’s own. Every other viewer available has been developed outside of Linden Lab, which is why they are called Third-Party Viewers (often shortened to “TPVs”). For further reading this wiki page explains more: Second Life Downloads

Two key things to mention: if you do regularly switch between the official Linden Lab viewer and TPVs, or use a third-party viewer all the time, it is useful to know that Linden Lab accepts no responsibility for problems arising from installing anything but their own official viewer. If you have concerns about security or privacy issues the most usual advice is to not download and install a viewer on your computer.

There are no longer any official Viewer 1 releases available from Linden Lab. Support for Viewer 1 in Second Life will be withdrawn at some point, although a definite date for this has not been clearly stated (to my knowledge at the time of writing).

For OpenSim users: there is no single, official viewer. This is left entirely to the choice of the individual and what works best for them. In the case of larger grids they may suggest, when signing up, which viewer suits their particular environment.

TPVs, like many other subjects in virtual worlds, can cause heated debate and disagreement. I don’t intend to raise those arguments. I don’t generally find it helpful and these reviews are not in-depth enough to cover every possible discussion.

The review series starts off with Imprudence 1.3.2. This is based on a version of Viewer 1 code. The user interface is distinctly different to Viewer 2 and 3 and will be most familiar to people who started out in SL or OpenSim pre-2010. Viewer 1 remains popular with those who prefer the design and functions or are unable to run more recent viewers.

So, let’s take a closer look with Virtual World viewers: Part 2!

Virtual World viewers: Part 1 – Which one to use?

In browsing Second Life blogs the other day; I came across a reader poll about what viewer people use for Second Life. (You can find it at HarlowHeslop “Which viewer do you use?”)

Thanks to Harlow’s poll and readers’ comments – it got me thinking of how difficult it is to know, as a Mac user, whether a viewer suits my system or not. As a Second Life and OpenSim resident; I’ve changed my viewer of choice several times for different reasons, whether that was an unstable viewer or just to improve the experience.

Although documentation is usually offered in some form; researching the general user experience usually means looking for information scattered across various developer sites, forums and personal blogs. Or simply downloading it and hoping it works.

Before drama ensues; I’m not seeking to single out developers and testers for focusing on their particular platform of choice. That is understandable and reasonable.

To help with sharing information: I intend to review the current main viewers, and a few others, based on their Mac-friendliness for basic tasks.

This is not full bench testing. I’m not an alpha (or beta) tester or a programmer and I don’t have any ties to a particular viewer or development team. Which viewer to use is dependent on what you want to do in your virtual environment, which virtual world it is used for, what machine you are on and other personal preferences.

The reviews are intended to give an overview of what is available. What I will be looking for is how well Mac viewers work without extensive changes to settings and what works on the operating system and hardware I have. For the purposes of these tests they will be taking place in Second Life. Where possible, I will be using the latest stable release and not any experimental or beta viewers.

It would be great to offer a full review of all capabilities, but, that requires more time and knowledge than I can give. For those who are looking for specific advice on streaming media, building, advanced photography, scripting or other abilities I apologise in advance at not being able to include all details.

Completed Reviews

Viewer 1 series

Imprudence 1.3.2

Phoenix 1.6.0.1600

Viewer 3 series

Exodus 12.01.03.01

Firestorm 3.2.2.24336

Linden Lab 3.2.8.248931

Review criteria

Download and installation (including what documentation is available)

Navigation (user interface and avatar movement controls)

Graphics

Avatar Appearance editing

Transactions

Friends, chat, groups and maps

Snapshots

Testing set-up

2007 iMac with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB SDRAM Memory

ATI Radeon HD2600 Pro graphics card. Operating system is OS X 10.6.8. Online connection is wireless broadband.

N.B I recognise that the iMac being used is not a recent model. As it is only just four years old; I don’t consider this to be outrageously antique and it is my sole computer for recreational use.

In Part 2 I will be looking at two Viewer 1 versions; the still popular Phoenix viewer and the 2011 stable release of the Imprudence viewer.

Hello from Enlades

Time flies! It has been nine months since any new posts on Enlades, but, myself and Thom Lunasea do keep an eye on the blog. We’ve been very glad to see that people are still visiting (now over 10,000 views!). We hope that our articles and links have helped people in learning to make their own, virtual world, creations.

On that note; for 2012 we have talked about making a concerted effort to add new material to Enlades – as well as give it a theme refresh. Whilst our activities in Second Life and OpenSim have been much less (due to other commitments); there are still areas of content creation and virtual world experiences that we would like to write about.

Two ideas we’re currently planning are:

A look at virtual world viewers, with a particular overview of what is available for Mac users. With many new viewers coming to prominence, and others retiring, it is a difficult area to look into as no “one size fits all” solution is available. I’ll be looking at Linden Labs’ official viewer as well as ones some of the main (or up and coming) Third Party Viewers.

A long overdue topic is an introduction to using the free avatar skin templates made by Eloh Eliot. I’d intended to cover this two years ago but, unfortunately, it dropped off the schedule. Before that gets underway; I think that it’s necessary to state that the tutorials will be for beginners who want to learn the basics, rather than a set of instructions on how to become a commercial skin designer, and will be focusing on simple customisation.

So, we’ll be back again and we hope that all our readers have had a good start to 2012!

See you next time.

Moving back – An update

Hello! It’s been quite some time since the last update; things have been busy and, unfortunately, a lot of plans that we both had for more content posts have fallen by the wayside.

Also added to that, in the last couple of weeks, Thom and I have made a return to Second Life. This was a surprise decision. Although I continued to visit at odd times over the last seven months – it was mostly to check up on resources that had been developed by Second Life residents. I rarely remained logged-in for long and was happy to log-out when a task was completed.

So why the return and what does it mean for the Enlades blog?

To tackle the first part of that; I missed the company of some friends and some of the resources that Second Life has and OpenSim doesn’t. This is not meant as a criticism of OpenSim, more that I see the virtual environments differently depending on what my view of work and fun is at any given time. SL still has elements I enjoy and it felt great to be back there, chatting with people I had not seen in a long time and rummaging through an inventory which held delights to rediscover. (Anyone who views my Flickr page knows this includes making comics with a giant character called Gmok the Wise, made by Albert Beerbaum of Herbalys)

The Enlades that Thom and I have worked in, and on, remains in place. We intend to keep it and develop it further. Perhaps in time a balance will become apparent between the two.

For the blog? Well, at the moment it is hard to be certain whether more content posts will be forthcoming in the near future. Writing for the blog is something that we enjoy doing, learning and sharing that knowledge, but it is also an activity that requires commitment in time and effort to do properly.

For now, we both intend to come back at some point. We hope that what is already here will prove useful to anyone searching for these subjects, for whatever virtual world that you are resident in.

Thanks for reading.

Making Avatar Clothing – Part 2

Following on from Part 1; this post shares some guides on making avatar clothing and tattoos. Tattoos are more of a skin-related subject but I’ve fitted it in here because they use alpha channels.

Clothing and Tattoos with alphas

There are many applications for transparency information in virtual worlds. This isn’t an in-depth look at all possible uses but I’ve included the terms that are generally used.

The alphas

Alpha channel(s) – An alpha channel is used in Photoshop and Gimp when you want to use levels of transparency in your file. For clothes; this can be used to make a semi-transparent shirt or to select a specific area, e.g. to create a lace effect as part of a design. To read more on how they work you can visit this SL knowledge base page: Alpha channels and transparency. A video tutorial on how to create alpha channels is at Robin Wood’s site: Easy Alphas.

Alpha masking – This is one of the features that launched in Linden Labs’ Viewer 2.0 in 2010. Alpha masking means that it is possible for an avatar to wear a transparent texture.

A good example of this would be shoes. Prior to alpha masking many styles of sculpted prim, high-heeled shoes and boots needed what is called an invisiprim – a regular or sculpted prim that has had a transparent texture applied to it. When worn as an attachment this blanks out the foot or leg area that could show through the shoe prims and spoil the effect.

The invisiprim method is no longer necessary if a transparency texture is worn by an avatar. Another SL knowledge base page explains here: Alpha masking.

The layers

Tattoos – The original method for wearing body decoration and tattoos means creating your design, uploading it and then making it into system clothing layers. This has a drawback if you are wearing other clothing on the same layer as the one that the tattoo is worn on. It isn’t possible to wear both at the same time. In SL many designers provide their tattoos on every clothing layer possible to avoid these layer conflicts.

Using this method also lacks the facility to apply a design to the avatar head area. It is possible to tint tattoos through the Appearance window, if they have a modify permission, so it allows changing the colour to suit yourself.

Wearable tattoos – Another feature introduced with the launch of Viewer 2.0. This gives the use of a texture layer over the avatar skin. The process of creating and uploading files is the same as the original method. Making the tattoo wearable in the Appearance window is closer to making a skin. Tattoos or other body art designs, such as make-ups and eyelashes, can be worn on the avatar head.

It also means you can wear body art designs without taking up another system clothing layer (like shirt or pants). When Viewer 2.0 was launched I understand that it wasn’t possible to use colour tinting on this layer in-world. I’ve read that this is now a feature in the latest versions. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to check that myself.

There are some disadvantages to wearable tattoos and alpha masks which has to do with viewers.

It is possible to use alpha masking and wearable tattoos in OpenSim with a viewer that has these features included. I use Imprudence 1.3.0. and have created tattoos on the wearable tattoo layer (the ability to tint tattoos is not included in that version). However for people on Linden Labs’ viewer release 1.23.5, or a third-party viewer that haven’t been updated, you won’t be able to see alpha masks or wearable tattoos.

There are some bugs and problems that can occur when using them. I won’t try to document them here but suggest searching the jira pages for Second Life, Mantis for OpenSim or the relevant viewer developers’ website if you encounter any problems.

So far I haven’t seen any tutorials/guides that deal specifically with making wearable tattoos. I intend to make my own resource on this subject in the future.

Clothing and tattoo tutorials

Natalia Zelmanov’s post on Semi-transparent clothing is a good place to start and is suitable for Photoshop and Gimp users.

Nicola Escher has written Creating a tattoo which uses Photoshop. This post is for making tattoos as system clothing layers. It covers some of the same information as Robin Wood’s Easy Alphas but is a step-by-step tutorial for a simple tattoo.

You may be wondering why there are not more links to other video tutorials. This is down to my preference for written tutorials. Generally speaking, I find it easier to follow a tutorial if I am reading rather than watching it, pausing and switching windows. There are many Second Life user videos posted on YouTube that deal with clothing, tattoos and other content creation. As I haven’t watched all of the available videos I’m unable to give any particular recommendations.

I’ll be writing more about clothing in future posts but I hope that you’ll find the information useful for your own creations.