I recall having arrived around 2015 in the first true opensim grid I called home, that Canadian grid. I had been in Virtual Highway before that but it was a closed grid. Same with Avination, they ran opensim software but the grids were closed.
At the time the mentors of the grid were helpful in showing where to find great content, Lani mall, Selea Core and Linda Kellie’s creations were the suggestions.
Lani mall was one of the first malls with free content from various creators all located in one convenient location. Another mall comes to mind which is Wright’s Plaza, both in Osgrid. I remember venturing to Lani mall one day spotting items created by Vbinnia Radek. Free and full permissions. Many were scripted and took time to create. Thank you, Vbinnia.
I began collecting and cherishing Vbinnia products, looking forward to anything new she offered. What attracted me to her products was not only the coolness factor but also it was her giving spirit. The desire to help opensim flourish by offering her creations free helped so many. The same spirit as Linda Kellie and Selea Core.
When Vbinnia came in the early days of opensim, creating was a much bigger challenge because of the lack of resources. Now there must be over a hundred websites online that offer free content, it wasn’t like that then. We had to create all that we needed.
In my opinion, these are the true opensim creators. Creators who came and made beautiful items with very limited resources. That is the magic of opensim. Magic that cannot ever be lost, or it will be another Second Life with the creators who have vanished.
Creators and creations are key, it takes a creator to bring life to opensim with their creations. Simply copying and taking items would not be possible if there were not a creator who first created the item. We lost this concept somewhere along the way. Some felt this content was outdated and they desired the flash of SL, I have been accused of that and told to go back to SL.
I didn’t come to opensim wanting to bring flash, I offered my Diamond Burst set that I had created for a Christmas party at the Canadian grid, and the women asked me then to open a store there. For me it is about the creating that is why now I offer free.
Vbinnia, like Linda Kellie were the first opensim creators to defy Linden Lab TOS by bringing creations to opensim. People who did that then were frowned upon by Second Life, but we considered them heroines. They didn’t copybot, they were bringing their own creations or full perm items they purchased. That is the difference.
MM - I think I began collecting your items around 2015 in opensim. When did you arrive?
VR - I arrived in Opensim around 2011 after starting in Second life in 2008 when it was still a bit like a lawless frontier, and I have to say, a much more interesting and lively place to be until it dissolved into a soup of nothingness after all the crass decisions by Linden labs, and very vocal minority shouty loudly groups that held themselves to be morally superior than thou, with "everyone is a thief or child molester" attitude.
I noticed they even tried the same trick in Opensim but it appeared to die the death it deserved after a short time. Most people that survive and stay in Opensim seem to have more sense. Spotting the SL exiles is quite easy, the ones that think it's just another SL, and treat it as such, don't tend to last too long :)
MM - You create many wonderful items to make our opensim life better. I recently found a great steampunk submarine; do you create both the mesh and scripts to make it run?
VR - I only create the mesh or prim builds if they are from my earlier days.
Sadly, I can only tinker with scripts, I lack the knowledge and experience to create them. I really need someone to work with who can write scripts from scratch for tasks and know to configure them, particularly vehicle scripts as they are black hole in Opensim. It's become clear over the years that less than a hand full of people know how they actually work or are prepare to get their hand dirty with them; I mean down at the physics engine level, not what settings to alter to produce a particular effect, I can do that to a limited extent myself with an awful lot (and I mean LOT) of time consuming trial and error. There are no easily accessible guides and lot of SL Wiki information is only marginally useful as they use a different physics engine. On top of that I fall when it comes to weaving in all the other things that vehicles need from sails to cockpits to engine effects to suspension to doors the list goes on. I have other things to get on with that I DO know how to do! I don't want to spend countless hours getting headache when I could be improving what I can do already, so lot of my projects stall at this point and end up as just inanimate objects. It's all frustrating and depressing at the same time.
MM - I notice you have rigged many characters and give freely, thank you. You recently helped me understand rigging, please tell me where did you learn?
VR - That's not straightforward. For anyone that doesn't know I Use Blender for mesh modelling, rigging and animation. I never started out thinking I could do anything animation related, I just wanted to pull a few vertices about and do a few simple things that are not possible with prims. I was also motivated to learn Blender as an act of self-preservation. Blender skills are transferable if I ever decide to move to another virtual world or gaming system. SL is just SL and way behind anything recent, and Opensim follows the same pattern. Too many things are set in stone.
Anyone that has ever opened Blender for the first time knows that jaw clenching wave of fear that sweeps over you followed by a quick shut down and look for something else to do the job. However there 'IS' nothing that can do the job as well as Blender; at no cost other than the time invested in learning to use it. Once I had decided the only way was to get stuck in with an open mind, forget conventional ways of doing things and take lots of baby steps, its preconceived complexity turned out to be thing a beauty. It's a tool these days I can't do without.
The animation came much later. I wanted to just create a better sit pose initially. The way most people go is with Avastar in conjunction with Blender, so I did too. Only problem was, like a lot of things it does too much. When all I want to do is something simple, often the developer’s way of doing things does not coincide with my idea of simplicity and ease of use. The various settings to control the rig are scattered all over the interface, which I found odd and troubling, as there are remarkable similarities between that and Blenders built-in rig which works perfectly and is easy to configure. To cut a long story short, after a lot of digging and research and again ignoring the preconceived ideas and conventions of how things are supposed to work in Opensim, and SL for that matter, I came to some conclusions.
1) I had to forget virtual worlds and look at making animations in Blender and learn how game avatars are created and rigged. Relieved of the burden of struggling with Opensim, suddenly things became a lot easier, to the extent that I managed to make a rigged and skinned character after half a day from one tutorial, which I will give a link to later, and created my first animated walk the next day in about the same time.
2) The only difference now was, what makes that different to things we use in Opensim? That was a yet another rabbit hole full of worms. Any respect I had for SL had now sunk to submerged. Opensim's avatar system is a clone of SL's, so there the faults lie. It uses multiple skeletons (I'm simplifying for brevity) to do different tasks, each seems to have been borrowed from different animation systems, which makes it a Gordian knot of what is REALLY needed and what is not. It also restricts what can ultimately be done with it.
3) Conclusion: the man difference is just the bone naming convention and what formats the viewer up-loader will accept. So, any skeleton can be used, only one is needed, if the end result has the required minimum number of bones (delete unwanted ones), and the naming is correct. The way the bones relate to each other is governed by the BVH format, it has nothing to do with Avastar or Opensim. it's one of the original open animation standards it's just a simple XML file. you can open it in any text editor.
Avastar has a script to do this but it doesn't work with non-SL skeleton naming and it can't convert it. It's easier but a bit of chore initially to just do it manually. It's also much easier to make a skeleton from scratch to fit any avatar you happen to want rigging; it takes about 10 to 15 minutes once you get the hang of it.
The only problem now was how to get this through the viewer into Opensim. Turns out it's just the orientation of the skeleton on upload. Uploaded the animation, as is, as a BVH file and it will end in some weird distorted pose. All it takes is to lay the avatar flat on its back in Blender and set that as the default orientation. Select everything and CTRL-A then [set rotation and scale] usually cures that problem.
All the rest was just watching any tutorial on animation, low poly mesh characters, rigging, particularly related to gaming. I also examined a lot of game ripped characters to find out how they worked and were put together, this is the fun part and the best learning experience, seeing how things should be done at an industry standard level and what is possible.
I can't cover everything that's needed, there is not enough space, and I understand it's not for everyone, Avastar is a viable option but I struggled with it (became increasingly annoyed may be better description), what I have described is how I personally got to my present state of knowledge, which is still far from what I would like it to be.
MM - What has been your most challenging character to rig?
VR - Chuckles! None of them really. How to do it was the most challenging thing to learn. I found early on that making my own skeletons and rigging them was simple, they could be fitted into any avatar mesh, then weight the mesh to it. For the most part weighting (a more descriptive phrase often used is skinning) is automated in Blender. Only hard part is usually with a bad mesh and the arms set at a downward angle, I forget which software produces this layout? Then parts of the arms closest to the torso tend to get weighted together like webbed toes :) This can be time consuming to sort out. The root cause is usually the mesh ripped or ported from other software so it's not as tidy as it should be to start with.
My ultimate aim is creating the avatar mesh as well, then half these problems will not exist. Right now, that's a step above my pay grade (Joking! I do this for fun)
MM - Can you please share with us links of tutorials you find helpful?
VR - That could be a long list but here's a few that I think are relevant to Opensim, although somewhat obliquely.
Blender for mesh modelling and animation and whole lot more, will run on almost anything.
Note: The Left v Right mouse button select debate still rages on. I still use right button select but you can choose from the boot up screen or set it to which ever you prefer in preferences.
Don't watch anything that aims at high poly count photorealistic results, it's totally irrelevant to Opensim and a will be bit of a blind alley. That doesn't mean ignore high quality results.
Find you way around Blender:
Blender Support Tutorials
Bit fast to follow but lot of useful stuff
Once you can model something you need to get it into Opensim, Tutorials on this are hard to find and don't cover pitfalls peculiar to Opensim, or how to handle textures. I really need to make one to cover it all, but as usual time is precious, so I can only do so when I have it.
It’s export Blender mesh models as .dae (set user preferences to Opensim static). Viewer import with all defaults except physics which should be set to lowest, unless you have a good reason not to, and set 'include textures' if bitmapped images are used. If your model seems to collapse when you move a short distance away set the importer LOD Medium-Level to 'Use Level Above' and try again.
How I learned the basics of rigs and animation.
Can't stress enough how good this whole tutorial is! even has a downloadable figure to use with the rig you create. Never forgotten the joy of seeing my little figure walk around for the first time.
MM - You explained rigging to me and all the bone names and such, when bento arrived did these bones change?
VR - No, bone names are still the same it just has extra bones. Not had a chance to use them for anything yet. Would have been more useful to have control over mesh deformation, if they could have included it, we could have blinked. I 'am' interested in the fingers and mouth. As they have the potential for adding more expression
MM - Is Osgrid your home grid? Please share with us links to your grid, where we can come see your work. What locations would we be likely to find it?
VR - Yes, Osgrid is my grid of choice for many reasons. Mainly the ethics of it fit my own.
or if you are logged into Osgrid already, just type 'steam' in the map search.
I actually run my region from my own server on a dedicated PC at home in the UK; that soon to insignificant rock (except to the delusional idiots in the madhouse running it) stuck off the coast of Europe. Sorry! rant over.
MM - You are a great lover of Steampunk like I am. All the cool gears, goggles and clothing is the reason why I love it so much. What do you love most about steampunk?
VR - I think it's a part fusion of a love of science fiction, I was reading and watching it growing up in the UK in the 50's before it was even called science fiction. I was born just after the war in 46, during the period when Britain still thought it had an Empire and surrounded with remnants of the industrial revolution. Hell! we still used steam trains and burned coal for everything, killing large swaths of population in the process. So, I suppose it all merged together. Also, I can't help but look at old photographs taken during late 1800's or turn of the century and think people had a sort of style that is a lot more pleasing on the eye than modern fashion, albeit very uncomfortable for women. It's also good for tongue-in-cheek looks at old ideas of Empire. If you want a really good laugh, try reading, The God Emperor of Didcot by Toby Frost,
Each book in the series got even funnier, I still need to catch up on a few more.
Blender has a super default plug-in (just needs actuating in preferences) for making gear wheels. Every Steampunk item as a gear wheel... somewhere! So, no excuses now.
MM - The events we have such as Opensim Fest by Leighton Marjoram enrich our opensim community. When you create for these events can you please explain what goes into the planning of your displays?
VR - Blind panic! Grab random items and throw them into a heap together. LOL
Some I am wary about showing especially my rigged avatars, as I can't vouch for the provenance of the original mesh figures. They are obtained through legitimate sites but some are obviously from well-known games, they may be legitimate mods or copies, or an impression of an original, I have no way of knowing. I originally grabbed them to practice on and learn from and have no intention of selling them. But I know for certain that some of my work has found its way into SL. Now who is stealing? I feel like sticking a finger up.
So inevitably I end up on the horns of a dilemma. When I first came to Opensim, decent interesting (particularly male) avatars were thin on the ground, arguably they still are. Which was another reason I started down this road. Female bodies predominate and even though mesh is pretty good these days, originality is not, with far too many looking like clones of each other. In a world where we can be anything, why does everyone want to have the same body shape and impossible model like features? I've always wanted a female demon body like the ones I saw back in SL and the beautiful Mermaids, all made with before mesh was available. so why don't we see those about in Opensim? One day, when I can model well... One day...
With my own builds I can show anything, but tend to build very slowly, every step is accompanied by much learning and rebuilding in Blender just to get it better. End result is I never have a lot to show and a lot of half stalled projects with the script problems as I mentioned before. So, I just show what I can
MM - Who do you credit as your guide and mentor in opensim?
VR - I never had one, Though I have come across people that I admire. Shin Ingen is one. without Shin's work with flight and bike scripts in Opensim and the fact that he made them available, I could never have got half the things I have to fly or work. It's taken a long time to work out How he did things but I learned a lot, not all I would like to, but better than nothing.
Perhaps the biggest influence of all was not from Opensim but back in SL. Arcadia Asylum and all the other aliases, was one of the very few truly original creators in SL. Liden labs should have paid her to create stuff she was so good. I've taken her builds apart from the early prim days through all the various sculpted prim stuff and I can't believe she wasn't somehow based in the graphics industry. I still can't work out how some of the sculpted
prim models were made or in what? But through it all was a sense of fun and jokes with some very efficient texturing techniques and originality. To top it all she gave everything away for free. That alone enabled me to start building up my own stuff in SL, something I never forgot; that's why I try to do the same in my own small way in Opensim.
Patrol Class Airship
Another was Carrah Rossini and all her gorgeous Steampunk flying machines. I bought the Steampunk Flying Submarine and used it as a skybox home, then went on to acquire a Dream Liner a Cloud Hugger and a Nessie; I notice they are still on sale today.
When I left SL, I was aggrieved that several of things I purchased over the years when I was there the TOS would not allow me to take with me, in fact anything at all! Imagine buying a shiny new TV but getting to the door and the salesman steps in your path to say sorry you can only watch it in the store. Fisticuffs or swift smack with furled brass handled parasol would follow.
But where there is a will there is a way, after a struggle I managed to get at least the shells of some of them out before a loophole was closed, in the hope that one day I may be able able to use them as patterns to recreate something like them.
MM - If there was one thing you could change about the dynamics of opensim, what would that be?
VR - Tough one that. Unfortunately, Opensim is too closely tied to SL in the way it functions. I understand the reasons, but unfortunately that will ultimately cause its slow decline. The Viewer and the server are interdependent, and most if not, all viewer development is aimed at and for SL, anything else said about this are platitudes. So, we have chicken and egg situation. No one will develop a new viewer just for Opensim because they may as well make it for SL, and if they can be bothered, disable a few features to make it work with Opensim.
Opensim can't change the server dramatically or it will break all the content the viewer supports, and the viewers are developed for SL. so a pointless exercise.
The reality is, to make Opensim truly stand on its own feet, some parts of the server need ripping out and starting again with a viewer to match, both need huge amounts of money to achieve and with it most content would break overnight. That's the price of progress. I fear most users are not willing to make that sacrifice.
I had a similar situation with Blender when it changed from 2.7 series to 2.8, they literally gutted the code and started from a clean base the result is an industry standard viewer with support from some big hitters these days; remarkable for an open source project! It took a year to even get some basic functionality back again with a large team of paid developers. The game engine went for good unfortunately.
Now you know why I keep a weather eye open for any platform that will be similar to Opensim in what it allows but is up to date. If I ever find it, I will probably move.
MM - When you create your scripted models do they work consistently for all grids or do the Opensim version matter?
VR - No, it would be nice if they did. I can only guarantee they will work with the bullet physics engine. if you run your own server it's just a case of enabling the option. Unless things have changed it was the default.
If you rent a region it entirely up to the grid owner what they run. it could be ods, ubode, or bullet or outdated versions of any of them. I don't have the time or energy to make things work with everything. I struggle enough as it is.
MM - When grids update their Opensim version do you have to update all your scripts for those grids or do they continue to work ok? How do you keep items current?
VR - Any server updates do not affect existing scripts only how the server interprets them if there are any changes to physics engine, which is rare. Some scripts may stop, but with Bullet I have never had that happen.. Yet?
MM - What is your favorite physics engine? Bullet or Ubit Open Dynamic Engine?
VR - Personally Bullet, because it's actively maintained and independent of Opensim. ODS is no longer maintained, Ubode as far as I know is just ODE made to work properly and a lot of SL compatibility issues sorted out. I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.
MM - What is the best advice you can give for anyone venturing to Opensim for the very first time?
VR - Just don't expect it to be like SL, and be prepared to put up with a few annoyances. Try to understand what Opensim is about and why some grids are closed and why some are open.
Get to know how to use Hyper-grid to jump between grids; it's a feature Unique to Opensim.
Get used to looking online for Opensim (meaning all the grids out there) related stuff, nothing is centralized here. Try kitely Market if you need to buy stuff,
Also try MeWe groups if you want to follow social event notices or just chat to folks.
good one to start with
MeWe Virtual Group
If you need anything, look for yourself before asking anyone and everyone, folks are usually very helpful and knowledgeable but might not react well to persistent questions that can be looked up on the grid website or googled for.
As you can see Vbinnia is quite gifted and an asset to opensim, a treasure. Thank you, Vbinnia Radek.
Mari entered OpenSim in 2015 as a resident of a grid in Canada, called to manage their magazine as an Editor, thereby meeting her future partner Reyn Softly.
Fred Beckhusen's DreamGrid