Users join forces to fix mesh

Second Life has recently rolled out support for mesh objects. One key benefit is realistic clothing and accessories. However, Second Life’s implementation of mesh does not automatically adjust to the size of avatar bodies — and OpenSim, which is still heavily dependent on Second Life-compatible viewers — is limited in the same way.

To learn more about why this is a problem, read Mesh: A Cry for Help, Answered! by Saffia Widdershins, Maxwell Graf, and Aisling Sinclair.

A mesh deformer would automatically shrink a mesh object around an avatar's body -- similar to shrink wrapping. (Image courtesy Maxwell Graf.)

Second Life users, led by digital artist Maxwell Graf, called on Second Life to fix the problem by adding a “mesh deformer” — a feature that would automatically resize mesh clothing. Second Life users can see the request here — and more than 800 supporting comments — on Second Life’s “Jira” bug-tracking page. But this wasn’t enough to spur Second Life to action.

“Apparently, the Jira I posted about mesh clothing, has been downgraded… to ‘someday maybe’ status,” wrote Graf on his blog.

So he and other mesh users have decided to fix the problem themselves, in the first example of publicly funded development in Second Life.

Previously, many volunteers have contributed work to improve Second Life viewers, and some developers have worked on a commission basis to design custom viewers or custom features for OpenSim grids.

And, in August, a single company — Daden Ltd. — paid a “small bounty” to add support for automated, non-player characters, to OpenSim.

But this is the first case of a group of users coming together, costing out a project, finding a developer, and publicly raising money.

In particular, it will cost $5,400 to build the mesh deformer, and the work will be carried out by Karl Stiefvater (formerly Qarl Linden), a developer who’s previously worked for Linden Lab. Stiefvater is the guy responsible for sculpted prims and mesh in the first place, and is uniquely qualified to work on this project.

The project, which was only announced a few hours ago, has already reached more than 13 percent of its goal. (Follow the status of the project or donate to it here.)

Once completed, the mesh deformer code can be used in any third-party Second Life viewer to benefit users of Second Life and OpenSim grids.

“It is our hope that the developers of Second Life will adopt this code to include it into the official client releases as well,” said Graf in the project description.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Notwithme

    You are such a big marketing bitch. As long as a development of Second Life will have a benefit for OpenSim, you make this a big story. Apart from that, you badmouth Second Life whenever you can. I hope that not all readers are as dumb as you think they are.

  • I’m not a big fan of mesh but I do like that users are taking initiative and I hope when it is done they never give this code to the Linden viewer. 😛 Sell it for a healthy return to its investors maybe, but never give. 🙂

    • Scott —

      I’m used to seeing this kind of thing in open source platforms — especially when a small group of users wants to add a specialized feature that’s not a high priority for the coders.

      But seeing this in a commercial platform surprises me — especially given the popularity of this request. Over 800 votes on the Jira since July. That’s a lot. The request to fix group chat has 1980 votes, but it’s been up (and unresolved) since 2007. 

      And it’s not a niche feature, like high-end lighting settings for machinimators (which I have nothing against and personally enjoy, especially when taking snapshots).

      But having good-looking mesh clothing affects everyone — even people who don’t wear mesh themselves probably won’t want to look at body parts sticking out all over the place.  (Or start seeing avatars all looking the same.) 

      Once the code is developed, it could be distributed under a dual-licensing system — free to third party viewers, but if Second Life wants it, they’ll have to pay for it. IndieGoGo does capture contact information for the donors, so I guess they can be paid back. 

      Or they could do what one funder suggested — take the money they would have spent on a premium membership and put it towards the mesh project.

      Meanwhile, if this works, I wonder what it will be used for next? Fixing group chat? 

  • @coyled — http://twitter.com/#!/coyled/status/121629376226922497 — Just pointed out that IndieGoGo, the funding platform Graf chose, doesn’t have a refund option.

    (The main alternative platform for this, http://fundry.com, refunds money if target goals aren’t reached — or if the feature isn’t judged to be successfully implemented by the funders.)

    • Anonymous

      http://kickstarter.com also refunds donations if the goal isn’t met.  I hope this effort succeeds and gives SL/OpenSim-related devs an option for raising money in the future.  Too many promising projects slow or fold because those involved can’t sustain their efforts on a few L$ tip jar donations.  Not every dev wants to be paid for their work, but those who do hopefully consider this as an option.

      If others try this sort of fundraising in the future I hope they’ll use one of the all-or-nothing funding services instead of IndieGoGo.  It might lead to less “let’s see if other people donate first before I donate” thinking.

  • macievelli

    Hey, Max here. Thanks so much for spreading the word on this project!

    Re. the funding goal, the stipulations of the website dont allow for refunds of any donations, so that is unfortunately out of our hands. However, should the goal not be reached within the given timeframe, we will open this project again and continue to do so until it is met, though I dont really see that being likely at this point. It would be nice to be able to charge LL for use if they decide to implement this, but I just hope at this point that they do use it – that is a primary goal here. We really would like to avoid having them develop a totally separate solution that utilizes the havok engine APIs, for example, which would really widen the rift between third party viewers and LL much the same way as the mesh uploads have already. Hopefully, this will bring all parties closer together or onto the same track, not divide us further.

    I completely understand that LL has to focus on stability and give that priority. They should, and privately funding the deformer system will hopefully allow them to continue. Its like, we will make this, you guys just keep on and make the client stable. We got this.

    Yay for crowd-sourcing.