Do I need to say more? I mean, I am going to say more. Holy WOW this set is sexy! Definitely the most slinky thing I have ever released at Slink, which is saying something. Leila comes in 8 beautiful metal options and for when you want to get close to someone special, there is a Naughty option right on the HUD! You can rez your HUD nearby to give someone else access to the Naughty bits.
The colours are available for separate purchase, or you can pick up the pack for 2.5x the single price! Well worth it 🙂
In the previous article, I talked about some of the history of creating in Second Life and the challenges we faced as creators and as customers in hiding the avatar body to prevent clipping of our skin through the clothing. Or even just hiding the body to wear a cute dragon avatar! In this article I will talk about the current state of things. Starting with…
Bakes on Mesh
In March or so of 2018, Linden Lab made the announcement that they would be implementing this new feature called “Bakes on Mesh“. Bakes on Mesh would take whatever textures were baked into the hidden, base SL avatar, and display it to whatever worn mesh items had the “Bake” flag applied to them.
A peek into our working folders
When Bakes on Mesh was announced, we at the Slink workshop had already started, and were several months into, our “More Alpha Cuts” project. Our scripts were groaning under the weight of what we had already, and adding the many requested new alpha cuts was a very daunting task, but nevertheless, we had started to break up our body and HUD into more pieces and faces, and explore what was required for the new setup.
Of course, being early adopters, and always keen to keep up with new technology, we jumped on Bakes on Mesh as soon as the project viewer became available. I read everything I could find about it. I explored all of the available options in the new viewer. I experimented, and became actively involved in development, since I was one of a few creators I knew about at the time who were using the project viewer and developing for it. I logged a number of bugs through the SL Jira. I even found a nasty little bug that caused LL to take the project viewer offline while they fixed it!
I blogged about Bakes on Mesh in April of 2018, because I felt that this was something that we couldn’t just throw out there. It needed time for SL residents to adopt and accept so I wanted to start that process as early as I could. And I knew it would really be a game changer, so I wanted to do my part in preparing SL residents for the adjustment.
An early BOM test wearing my beloved Tuli skin on my mesh head!
Bakes on Mesh has been a creative boon on a number of fronts. I strongly believe that when Linden Lab gave us the ability to upload and wear mesh items, Bakes on Mesh should perhaps have happened at the same time. It would have pushed the mesh implementation project back a few months, but it would have answered a lot of questions that never needed to be asked.
Anyhoo I digress. I settled into that project viewer like it was my new home and used it exclusively for the almost year and a half or so that it took for the Bakes on Mesh project to go from initial announcement to release.
SL has had the ability to change the way textures with alpha channels display on prim faces for some years now, and we had written into Slink’s code to always set the skin layer to mode “none”, as alpha channels on skin textures can cause some strange lighting glitches to happen. So one day I was messing about with my BOM prototype body, with the skin layer set to the alpha mode “none” as always, when it occurred to me that if a skin layer could bake to the avatar, and a shirt layer could bake to the avatar, maybe an alpha layer could bake to the avatar.
An example of how alpha masking with a mask cutoff looks while editing.
We no longer used alpha layers to hide our bodies for Bakes on Mesh enabled bodies, as that is done by BOM magic 🙂 So I put on a random alpha layer that I had floating about in my inventory and… nothing happened, other than disappointment. But then I thought “wait a minute, what if I set the alpha mode to Alpha Masking instead of None” (one of the other options available in the alpha mode mode menu) To my absolute delight, my body disappeared exactly where the alpha layer said it should, with a nice sharp edge, and no lighting glitches!
I experimented some more and worked out that changing the “Mask Cutoff” value could also make the edge of the alpha’ed section move, provided the texture was blurry! I made a new alpha layer that was a big old blurry semi transparent gradient from waist to ankles and found that I could change the alpha’ed section from *most of the legs* right up to *none of the legs* with one single alpha layer, just by changing that mask cutoff value!
This was my big aha moment. I excitedly showed it to my scripter (my very patient husband Caine), archived everything we had been working on up to that point, and started a new project called “No Alpha Cuts”
How one alpha layer can change depending on the Mask Cutoff Value
As it turns out, Bakes on Mesh has almost completely eliminated the need for HUD controlled alpha zones. There is an important exception which I will go into in a moment.
Alpha Mask/Alpha Layers
With Bakes on Mesh, we are back to using our brilliant, reliable, low avatar rendering cost, easy to create, inexpensive avatar alpha layers. All you do is wear them and your mesh body will disappear wherever the texture says it should, the same way your SL avatar body would prior to mesh implementation, prior to alpha zone HUDs and all that extra complexity.
An important change that has come along with Bakes on Mesh is the ability to wear up to 60 system layers of whatever kind you want. We are no longer limited to 5 tattoo layers, 5 alpha layers etc. We can wear any number of any kind of layer that we like. This means that if you have an alpha layer for your jeans, one for your shoes, one for your gloves, one for your shirt, one for your scalp, one for your hands, you can wear all of them at once, and they will combine in rendering on your avatar into one big, beautiful alpha layer!
Editing an alpha layer
Creating Alpha Layers
Alpha layers are also very easy to create. Everyone in SL has the tools to create a basic alpha layer, just like everyone has the tools to create a basic shirt or a basic pair of pants. All you do is right click on any folder in your inventory, select “New Clothes”, mouse on down to “New Alpha Mask” and click it! Give it a name and voila, a new alpha layer is born! You can now wear it, edit it and add your own texture to it.
I have created a couple of tutorials on how to create a texture suitable to be used as an alpha layer in Photoshop and G.I.M.P.
I will add to these tutorials with a step by step in blog format in the future.
*important caveat with GIMP alpha creation – If your erase brush is drawing with colour instead of making the pixels transparent – select “Layer – Transparency — Add Alpha Channel and it should work properly.*
Now onto that important exception that I mentioned earlier. Before mesh bodies were even a thing we could imagine, we had the SL avatar. The SL avatar has a UV template that is… less than ideal. It has a great face and head layout, good torso and legs, terrible arms, hands and feet. For some reason, known only to the original creators of the SL avatar, the arms and feet are 2 islands in one, laid upon each other so that whatever is on one is automatically baked into the other. This was something we at Slink wanted to address with the Slink Physique body system, pre Bakes on Mesh, so we wrote the missing asymmetry into our bodies and 3rd party applier scripts. With Slink Physique, you could create a tattoo applier that would send different textures to the left and right arms and/or feet, and they would display properly. You could also make your arms and feet invisible, left and right, independent of the other side.
With Bakes on Mesh, unfortunately we would have to take a step backwards by going back to that forced symmetry from the SL avatar, so we thought very long and hard about what to do to keep the asymmetry that our customers have enjoyed and came up with our Asymmetry Harness.
Join me in the next installment where I go into the last remaining bastion of HUD controlled alpha cuts for the Slink Physique and Redux body systems 🙂
This is a long post, grab yourself a cup of whatever you like to drink, and settle in for a read! 🙂
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.
Slink Sydney Overknee Boots with 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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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!
Slink has 2 new releases at our SL17b booth this go around, perfect for summer drinks in the shade with friends! All responsible social butterflies do it online these days, and this cute, slightly sexy little outfit is a perfect fit.
Miranda is a new head to the Slink Visage range. She is sweet and youthful with a narrow chin and prominent dimples! Miranda is compatible with Slink Physique Original and Hourglass bodies. She is a Slink Redux (Bakes on Mesh) head and will work with system skins and makeup tattoo layers! Fully working demo is available for Miranda at the Slink Skinfair Booth!
Homme is a male presenting chest Augment for the Slink Physique Original and Hourglass bodies. Homme comes in 2 versions – one that can use male skin placement, and one that can use female skin placement. Female skins that have cleavage dehancers or no breast shading will work best for the Fem Variant.
Simply wear your Slink Female body of choice, and then wear the most appropriate Homme attachment, and your chest will transform! Available in Redux (Bakes on Mesh) so it works with system skins and clothing. Available now at Skin Fair 2020
(PLEASE NOTE – Due to the UV changes – some textures may warp with this augment)
As I’ve received the question a few times now, let me clear something up: We are not taking the Classic body parts away! Neither Original, nor Hourglass, nor Male, nor any of the separate hands and feet.
In the notecard I mention a date after which I had planned to take it out of the vendor (at which point the version in your inventory would continue to work and anyone who bought the body could still get a Classic body upon request). I’ve decided to change this. In the next update, I’ll remove the date from the notecard and the Classic body will remain packed in with the Redux body far into the future.
I’m writing this blog now as the update is still a little while away and I didn’t want this to be unclear for folks.
To clarify the original date a little; when I wrote the notecard with Caine, we figured a year from release would be a long enough timeline for people to happily switch to BoM. It was never our intent to force people to do so, and again, the Classic version was to be still available upon request!
To restate this again – Classic isn’t going anywhere and will remain packed in with the Redux body for anyone who prefers to use Classic.
Classic will also continue to work for as long as you have it. We are not and CAN not remove it or make it stop working in any way.
If you have any questions about the Redux body, have a look at the FAQ as I’ve collated many common questions there. If there’s anything else, don’t hesitate to reach out in-world to Slink Resident!
These pumps come in 3 heights – Flat, Kitten and Mid – and are able to be worn with the Slink Physique Original and Hourglass body BUNDLES, the Slink female Deluxe feet, and the Slink Female separate feet. If you wear them with the BUNDLE or DELUXE, the height will change when you switch your feet height via the Physique Utilities HUD.
The HUD that comes with Zoey contains 20 colours, able to be applied to 4 separate channels – the main shoe, the straps, the laces and the beads, as well as 3 sole colour options – Beige, Red and Black. You can customise these to every single outfit! She has a beautiful range of complementary colours and even a couple of metallic options! Simply select the colour you want from the buttons on the left, and then click on the shoe parts on the right to apply the selected colour.
We have a couple of new releases in Slink this week! Read on, fellow Slinkies 🙂
First up – I received a few requests from men for Male Dynamic compatible versions of the exxxxxxxxtra long nails that I released for women a week earlier, so here they are!
Designed for Slink Dynamic Male Hands – each set comes with 3 lengths controlled by a handy little HUD. Turn off the nails on your hands before wearing these 🙂
And now – the single most requested item in my to-do list is finally here! BUTT PHYSICS!
I have just today placed on the wall at Slink 2 new augments for the Physique Female body system – the Hourglass Natural Bottom augment and the Original Natural Bottom augment. Naturally these are compatible with the bodies specified in their names and only compatible with Slink bodies. There is also a physics layer included to give you that sexy jiggle – modifiable so you can adjust the settings to your own liking. Redux (bakes on Mesh) only.
(NOTE – May not be compatible with mesh clothing that covers the bottom. In that case, just remove the augment!)
Among all the Bakes on Mesh hype, we have realised that over the last few years one single important thing has been forgotten when SL’s talented creators have been making new mesh clothing – alpha layers. Alpha layers are now foundational to how we wear clothing in SL, as they were a mere 5 years ago, and for some, they always have been. Alpha layers allow us to arbitrarily hide parts of our Bakes on Mesh enabled bodies (Disclaimer – the body MUST be set-up correctly in order for alpha layers to work).
In Slink’s case, this is the recently updated Redux system. Anything Redux will automatically accept alpha layers, and provided they have a blur applied to them before exporting, you can use the cool alpha mask sliders to move the edges. Alpha layers are much simpler and more versatile to use than alpha cut zone HUD’s ever were. They are fast, they require no extra scripting in the body, and require nobody to setup an auto-alpha script before they sell their items. They are not prone to glitching and won’t accidentally turn off or on parts of your body when you don’t want them to! And – almost ANYONE can make one with a few clicks and a few $L. Of course, an alpha made specifically for the clothing by the creator is ideal, but not required when we can learn how to make them ourselves! 🙂
To this end, I have made 2 tutorials for making alpha textures for use in Second Life. The first is for Photoshop, which is my image editing program of choice and I know exactly what I am doing in there.
The second is for G.I.M.P. which stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program and I have exactly 30 minutes experience in at the time of publishing this video! It is however very interesting and much improved from the last time I looked at it several years ago and I think I will try and learn it in a bit more depth. G.I.M.P has one big, big advantage over Photoshop. It is open source – which for most means absolutely free and always will be absolutely free. Definitely worth checking out if you want to get into creating! Download G.I.M.P. HERE.
I apologise for the audio quality – it’s not as good as I’d like. Clearly I need to hook up my proper mic for the next one 😀
4 new styles of addon nails in the Slink store today! Get your extra, extra, EXXXXTRA long nails on! They come in Square, Ballerina, Oval and Stiletto and each set has 3 lengths from long to super extra how-does-one-use-the-bathroom long!
Compatible with Slink Dynamic Redux and Classic Female hands (both separate hands and bundles). Disable your built in nails via the Physique Utilities HUD or the Hands and Feet Utilities HUD before wearing these nails.