Category Archives: Second Life Issues

Everything you need to know About Alpha Layers in Second Life – Part 1

This is a long post, grab yourself a cup of whatever you like to drink, and settle in for a read! πŸ™‚

The storied history of hiding the avatar in Second Life

Many moons ago, back in the olden days, we used to trudge uphill in the snow baref… wait, no, wrong story!

Back in the day when we only had the default SL avatar body, we worked around the fact that we couldn’t hide the avatar body with a variety of methods. First, we would just build bigger than the avatar body, and adjusted sliders and shoe bases to accomodate. The first real method of hiding the actual body that I remember was the Invisiprim, which used a little script that rendered the prim invisible, and any part of the avatar body it was worn on, also invisible.

Sydney With Invisiprims

Slink Sydney Overknee Boots with invisiprims

Invisiprims

The invisiprim could be a series of primitive shapes, cubes, cylinders etc, or a custom shape made in a 3d program which used a little R,G,B (red, green, blue) texture we called “sculpty”, or Sculpted Texture, to form the shape in 3d space when applied to a prim inworld. You can still find many sculpties, and invisiprims, in older shoe designs for example. They appear like big invisible blobs around your object when you select the item in edit mode. Some time ago, invisiprims were rendered obsolete, and they no longer work.

The nature of invisiprims was to obscure anything behind them that had an alpha channel, which is a property of a texture that makes it transparent or semi transparent.

Alpha Layers

Linden Lab introduced the Alpha Layer around 2012, which freed creators and consumers up from invisiprims in a big, substantial way. Now we could just wear a layer, instead of making big blobby prims to hide our avatar feet for shoes, or even our entire avatars for new bodies, animal avatars, tech avatars etc!

Alpha layers entirely replaced invisiprims with a much simpler to create and use system that could hide parts or all of the default avatar body with ease and didn’t cause transparent textures behind the avatar to disappear. They were especially useful once we had the ability to wear more than one.

Alpha texture example

An example of an alpha texture in Second Life. The checkerboard part is transparent

Creators got busy making alpha layers for their mesh clothing. Alpha layers could be painted onto a template in a painter program like Photoshop, and made to fit exactly with the clothing, so that no part of the avatar clipped outside, and the body was visible only where it was meant to be. It was a great solution. Rarely would you find a mesh outfit without a complementary alpha layer.

A year or 2 after the implementation of alpha layers, Linden Lab gave us the ability to create and wear fully functional mesh items that animated along with our avatar skeletons, and responded along with our appearance sliders! Game changer right? Yes and no. With this update, came complete mesh replacements for the SL avatar body, since we could finally change shapes with the avatar appearance sliders, however, the ability to just wear an alpha layer and have your body disappear was gone, along with the ability to just wear a skin, tattoo, makeup, etc.

So we creators had to come up with a solution. That solution was HUD controlled, scripted alpha cuts.

Early Slink Alpha HUD

An early HUD for the Slink Physique Mesh body. It has undergone a number of changes since this version

HUD Controlled Alpha Cuts

HUD controlled alpha cuts gave us the ability to turn on and off parts of our new, pretty mesh bodies, but with some significant drawbacks:

  • Each alpha cut area must be designated in the 3d program by the creator of the body, and must by design, follow the geometry of the body.
  • To be at all functional, the body must be cut into many many zones or “faces”.
  • SL creators are hard limited by the platform to 8 “faces” per single mesh.
  • 8 is obviously not enough zones to properly cater to all the varieties of clothing available in SL, so we had to break the bodies up into many, many pieces, each with 8 individual zones.
  • At final count, the Slink bodies were in 27 pieces, with 8 faces each, multiplied by 4, since we also wanted to provide layer options for tattoos, underwear and clothing.
  • Each layer had to respond to the HUD the same way so when you turned off part of your arm, the corresponding part of your tattoo would also turn off, and not come on again until you enabled it again on your HUD
  • To make any sense to the person scripting the body, the faces must never change in order. Otherwise when you think you are turning off your arm, you may be turning off your leg! This can lead to hours of pointless bug hunting. Ask me how I know πŸ™‚
  • 27 pieces, 8 faces each, multiplied by 4, needing to respond to the same HUD commands, quickly, without glitches if you turned on and off your layers separately is a mammoth, complicated and time consuming scripting task, not to mention managing the pieces to ensure no gaps, seams, texture mismatches or errors in face assignment in the 3d program.
  • We had to provide a solution to 3rd party creators so they could script their clothing to automatically turn off bits and pieces of your body when you wore it. More scripting!
  • The scripting of the alpha zones alone constituted more than half of the required scripting for the entire body.
  • Each mesh piece, face and script contributes to your overall avatar rendering cost, (another article) which is an important number for keeping SL manageable for everyone. Lower is better.

By the time all was said and done, the layers of mesh, body pieces, faces, textures and scripts added up to a substantial avatar rendering cost JUST for the body alone. And then you start adding clothing and hairstyles, shoes and jewellery and.. well you see where this is going.

Final Alpha Layout

The most recent Slink alpha HUD with so so many cuts!

AND even all of that still wasn’t enough. Every week I would receive requests for more alpha cuts. Cuts down the front and back of the legs. Cuts down the sides of the legs. More cuts for different shirt necklines. Cuts for open front jackets, low back dresses. Jeans with lacing up the sides, teeny weeny bikinis. I could seriously see a future where I did nothing else but manage alpha cuts for the rest of my SL life.

And then came …Bakes on Mesh…

 

 

Join me in the next article where I talk about Bakes on Mesh and how we now handle hiding our avatar bits!

β™₯ Siddean

 

Slink Redux Body complexity questions

Avatar complexity is a hot topic in SL circles at the moment, with Bakes on Mesh giving us the opportunity to drastically reduce our complexity by removing scripts, applier textures and onion layers from our mesh body bits! Here at Slink, the rendering cost of our bodies is an important issue, as the lower we can make it, the more our customers can do with their avatars without worrying about pushing their complexity way up simply by wearing our body bits. Higher complexity avatars make SL more challenging for everyone.

To that end, we work very hard to optimise, reduce and rethink when we have the opportunity to, and Bakes on Mesh gave us that chance. This is why we didn’t simply add a Bakes on Mesh flag to our existing body parts, and instead spent a very long time making sure this version was as streamlined and efficient as possible, without compromising on the actual look, functionality and usability of the system. It is also why we won’t be adding alpha cuts back into the Redux system and instead ask wearers to use alpha layers.

I would like to present the avatar complexity cost as calculated by the Second Life Official viewer for all of the Slink Redux body updates. I also put on one of our new heads for good measure!

BASIC SYSTEM AVATAR

System

1: The system body. I am wearing a couple of HUDs but no body attachments. Base complexity is 2000

SLINK REDUX ORIGINAL BODY

Orig

2: The Slink Redux ORIGINAL Physique body. This body alone adds 2608 complexity to the base 2000.

SLINK REDUX ORIGINAL BUNDLE

Orig Bundle

3: The Slink Redux ORIGINAL Physique BUNDLE. This bundle includes 5 sets of feet and hands, plus animations, and adds 4270 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY

HG

4: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS Physique body. This body alone adds 2862 complexity to the base 2000.

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BUNDLE

HG Bundle

5: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS Physique BUNDLE. This bundle includes 5 sets of feet and hands, plus animations, and adds 4398 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY PLUS HANDS

HG Body hands

6: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS body plus left and right dynamic hands attachments. This adds more mesh geometry, more faces and more scripts. This set adds 5732 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY PLUS HANDS & FEET

hg body hands and feet

7: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS body plus left and right dynamic hands attachments and the deluxe feet attachment. This adds even more mesh geometry, more faces and yet more scripts. This set adds 7702 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY PLUS HANDS, FEET AND HEAD

head HG hands feet

7: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS body plus left and right dynamic hands attachments and the deluxe feet attachment PLUS one of the new Slink Visage heads – Amelia. This full set adds 10351 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BUNDLE PLUS HEAD

Head HG Bundle

8: The ideal Slink body and head setup. Slink Redux HOURGLASS bundle, Slink Redux Amelia head. This full setup adds 7047 to the base 2000 complexity.

Final thoughts

The maximum complexity from a complete Slink body system including separate body, hands and feet, body and head is just over 12k.

Adding more layers to Redux does not affect complexity, which is the whole point of Bakes on Mesh. The new layer texture is baked into the layers underneath it, and then sent to the mesh body part so that the SL client can see it as one single texture.Β  Slink Redux (without materials) will always be rendering 3 1024 textures as head, torso and legs, as opposed to potentially upwards of 20 textures if all 4 layers are on and displaying 1024 textures on the previous version – the Physique Classic. With Redux, you can wear up to 60 or more layers without increasing your complexity by even a single digit.

If you have questions about this please feel free to message me inworld @ Siddean Munro, and I will be happy to answer them!

 

And Siddean is offline :(

Hey all, I have very limited internet for the next few days while I wait for some technicians to rip up my front yard and replace some 100 year old lead wiring with some nice fast…. I dunno what they will use. Β Copper? Β Maybe. Β Anyway, until then I am tethering on a very limited iPhone modem 3g setup thingamigy. Β So, that means very, very limited time inworld, and I won’t be as fast responding to customer requests in the meantime.

Hopefully I will be back up and running as soon as possible (and not Thursday of next week πŸ™ )

Please be patient with me, it’s beyond my control and I am doing the best I can with what I have.

xoxox
Sidd

Resolved – BeeBee boots delivery issues!

It seems that SL was having happy fun non-delivery times last night, after I released the BeeBee Boots, and of course, after I went to bed at 2am. Β A few people didn’t receive the Tan boots, either from the box, or in the fatpack, which is weird, because I definitely put them in there! Β Anyway.. I am resending all those who didn’t receive that item and hopefully you who bought the tan boots will be able to enjoy them as soon as possible!

All BeeBee boxes are now up to date, and working as expected at SLink πŸ™‚

BeeBee Boots Ad

Infuriating bug!!! I need help please.

I have finally encountered that frustrating bug that plagues SL users with Nvidia cards.Β  I have a Geforce 7600 GT, and I recently upgraded my ram, harddrive and OS to Vista 64 bit.Β  Now, I know my husband loaded the latest nvidia drivers, but now I have this problem.Β  To a designer, this is death!!

My shoe/sock textures are visible all up the legs of the avvie, I can’t see the pants I am wearing, and o, just as an aside, my ocean floor is pitch black.Β  Grrrr.

nvidia-bug.png

Help me please!Β  The future of SLink is at stake…

grilled_steak.jpg

Oh yes, I have rolled back to the Nvidia drive 175.16 but it doesn’t work.Β  Disabling Palletised textures and rebaking as per this Jira fixes it temporarily but I have to do this with every item I wear now.

Reminder! Vote on Jira VWR-9530

jira-update.jpg

Just a quick note to vote on this Jira issue if you want to get the jagged edge at the bottom of the shirt and undershirt layers fixed!Β  Vote here

Please vote!!! Gap between shirt and pants layers JIRA issue.

There is a gap between the shirt and pants layer on system clothing and I finally got tired of it.Β  I have searched the jira and couldn’t find an open issue for this so I posted a new one!Β  Please go vote, cos I’d love for it to be fixed!!

JIRA issue here

unmatching-clothing.png