Work In Progress: Bonehead modelling in Blender

So in order to learn Blender properly I’ve been doing some bonehead tutorials so I can wrap my head around 2.63 in its default settings as it was intended. At first I had the user interface set to the Maya emulation but thought better of that since I didn’t want to have to “retranslate” Blender tutorials in the future that were using the default Blender setup. I will say this, if you have a Wacom tablet like I do, it is worth learning how to set up for Blender when you’re in sculpt mode. You basically change one thing, and that is the input in user prefs. You want to select “emulate 3 button mouse.” That’s it! I love my tablet so that’s nice to see how seamlessly it integrates.

So sculpting in Blender reminds me of sculpting in Zbrush. The major difference is how I am approaching it. I don’t usually box model but in Blender, because of the tutorials and assignments, I’m discovering I like to start box modelling the basic shapes before refining in the higher subdivisions. Starting this way, for some reason, is helping me to create better uniformed geometry…and after a couple of days of ramming the tutorials over and over, I can finally create with my music blasting in my ears. It’s starting to feel very natural and a digital extension of my mind again. Like playing piano by ear again instead of reading the music…which is how I play the piano in RL. LOL

So, just to share where I am in my progress towards the Sanctuary project, I am sharing my bonehead screencaps of the test character. This isn’t anything I’ll be releasing. It’s just an assignment I’m finishing to concentrate on shape without worrying about joining, etc etc. It may not look like it, but this character is created entirely out of spheres and cylinders created from boxes. The first day was spent creating all of the basic shapes over and over and over and fucking over tens of thousands of times…from a box. What a pain eh? But I’m glad I spent a day exploding my brain because it will just make me a more solid modeler. 

Cannot wait to get to get to UVs and texturing, I still consider myself a texture artist at heart over a modeler or animator.

One thing I’m thinking about doing once I finish all of these test projects, is releasing the finished creature in the pictures below free to anyone that wants to try rigging or texturing on the UVs. I’ll release it as a full blender file as well as the objs. Just take them and run. I just ask, if you remember, to tell me or show me what you did. No big deal if you don’t. Just curious to see what anyone comes up with. I’ll try to release it when I’m sure it mirrors the skeleton of the SL avatar. So there will be a few things I have to fiddle with. I may rig it because one of the future assignments I’ve got lined up is to rig…we’ll see.

Anyways….this is where I am. Next is a tree that will teach me quite a few of the modifiers. After the tree, I think I’m on to a test vehicle, then the requisite human skull. Everyone does a skull I think when they start out. Just want everyone to know I haven’t forgotten about the project, I’m just leaning more towards building the entire thing in mesh from the start and I’m taking my time teaching myself the right habits from the start. : )


New Camera Test Vids

For Christmas last year I got myself a little pressie. I’ve been transitioning a little more to digital cameras from my film cameras because I always have my phone on me, and it’s instant gratification when I snap photos. From that I took a small foray into video with the features of my new Canon Powershot A1200 HD. This is the test video. It’s really nice sometimes to get away from 3D art and I’m really looking forward to doing more on my days off. I did this in Dec and have been meaning to share here. Enjoy!

This second one isn’t typically my style because it’s frantic but I was testing the miniature mode of the video camera. If you’re ever in Vegas, the locals tend to hang out more in the Fremont East district. This was mainly shot around the Emergency Arts Building. Coffeehouse, art galleries…etc etc. The title comes from the exhibit at the time revolving around a rapper, his poster art and his lyrics. I don’t listen to rap but his lyrics were stark and bold and grand with the frenetic vibe of Fremont…and yes….that is a shockingly large anal plug on the bicycle seat(towards the end.)

Game Dev Tutorials on Narrative and a wonderful indie game

Narrative in gaming design

Lately I’ve been fiddling between Aditi, the test grid, working on my mesh…and spreading notes and torn napkins with scribbles all across my bed as I work on story narrative. Prior to Second Life, I used to write fiction. I haven’t written stories for almost a decade. Reading and writing became  lamentable, seldom enjoyed hobbies. “Och, I used to read a book a day and now all I have time for are magazines.” or “Och, I used to write but I’m always so tired at the end of the day now.”

I’ve recently told myself, I will never again enjoy these hobbies if I don’t make room and time for them. I was taking the easy way out by providing excuses. So I’ve begun writing again. I wanted a small narrative to accompany the Sanctuary experience. Nothing involved, just an easy little side project that can tie in to the visuals in my head. I always love it when developers enrich their projects with well written story. It comes naturally when one designs because even though many people don’t have story alongside an SL experience, you can be sure all designers have story in their head. It comes down to being able to pull that story out and so many people are shy when it comes to sharing their stories because they don’t consider themselves writers.

I found a well written tutorial series written in 6 parts that directly addresses narrative in gaming design. Well worth a read. If you want to read more on what constitutes good adventure in a game, have a look here.

Indie Game: Dear Esther

I have fallen in love with this game, AND have  burning ENVY! This dev team, has accomplished what I want to accomplish and by using very similar environments to what I had in my head when I created the Empress and Inis Caiseal sims. I am held back with the limitations of SL’s engine but once path finding, and magnum is released I want to push the sims to their best in a major upgrade soon….and in my head I see facets that are similar to landscape in Dear Esther. I just wander through that landscape dreaming and planning. The tools available to me come close. I have ideas for scripting the effect of windy meadow flowers…direction of waves through channels, elements being whipped around by wind. With Alchemy’s help we have started designing immersive soundscapes to further story along and deepen the atmosphere. When I saw those elements in Dear Esther I had a neural meltdown. Oh this game is like a candy store to me because it shows what is possible and that people support projects that don’t revolve around FPS themes. It’s a thinking man’s game. Major props to Robert Briscoe for creating this project. It’s very inspirational. 

One of the biggest differences between Dear Esther and The Sanctuary is inclusion of magic, celtic mythology and puzzle interactivity. One would also be spending more time underground than above, or if above, existing behind the glamour illusions in the mundane world. Being story driven is also important to me. That is what I love most about Dear Esther, the narrative. It’s high literature meets Myst and Riven. Instead of an ebook being read to you, you immerse yourself into the book and discover the chapters and pages by walking through the landscape. If you don’t explore the entire landscape, you don’t discover the entire story. Some people say there is no replayability, but you get other passages read to you each time. It’s different aspects of the story each time you play. You won’t have the same passage in the same location each time. A lot of people use the game simply to get away and relax after work, or for any time they want to chill out.

If the game itself is not replayable, it’s certainly worth going into the game simply to listen to the violin and piano soundtrack as you walk around an island in the Hebrides, rugged islands west of Scotland. The soundtrack, and the game, were originally created as a mod for Half Life 2 in 2008.

The original 2008 soundtrack is free and available here. The 2012 version is for sale and available here. I highly recommend buying the redone version as well as downloading the free 2008 version.


The Chinese Room is working on another game which is story driven, like Dear Esther. They’re also doing a jump off from Amnesia. Same world, different story line and characters.

Also….if you enjoy experimental indie games, and enjoyed the concept of Dear Esther, you may like this and this.


Frustrating issues with fetching, SL inventory, asset server issues, not seeing notecards, scripts…rezzing failures…Oi

It’s been 2 full show stopping days of rez failures. Very frustrating not being able to build and further this project along. Fortunately I can try to avoid SL for a bit longer in my 3D proggies, but at some point I’m going to NEED to be able to rez from inventory.

Alch and I both have tickets submitted, and we’re watching the JIRA, but jaysus….this is really getting old…


I wonder where this is…

Alch and I had decided to bring the floating peace lanterns to the sim, in a modified version of the Home and Garden Expo mountain build that we had there….But as I began building it, I couldn’t help but put in a small detour to the entrance of  The Sanctuary. The doors you see on Empress leading into the standing stones, may soon be unlocked…

I think tomorrow I’ll look into sketching the main character of the Sanctuary, a softly snoring goblin shopkeeper, so I can begin building him. He’ll be the first gift to the group, once done, as a thank you for the support.

I’m also looking for storytellers, though not for the near future. The first story tied into the build and books will be written by myself and Alchemy so that we can give future dev teams and/or single creators concrete guidelines that we will need met in order to implement collaborative adventures. I’m thinking 6 months  is a manageable chunk of time to host each adventure. I’ll post details as soon as it’s worked out this summer.


Mesh or Sculpties? How badly do you want it NOW?

I really have no issue building this from mesh as an experiment…but I can bring my .obj files to SL easily, in my sleep, as sculpties. It will take me longer as mesh because of all the playing/fiddling around I have to do. It’s hard for me to answer which is better for now. So I thought I would ask everyone else! : P I could skin this one of several ways.

1) I could simply continue experimenting with mesh optimising. It will take longer for anyone to see results right now.

2) I could begin building the sanctuary tomorrow, and all the props immediately, as sculpties. You could play in the finished build, in the not too far future…and I could integrate mesh slowly over time.

3) I could build the sanctuary as sculpty….get it inworld so people could play in the build, and I could sell a finished build for people that want to own it. But…build all of the props of the experience as Mesh. This would take a little more time of course, getting a fully working experience out there, but you could own the build, sooner.


Making SL Mesh Cat and Petite avatars welcome in the Sanctuary

Hope everyone living in the US, has a lovely memorial day weekend!

I’ve already started tentatively reaching out, to one person about catering to one sort of small avie btw, the inworld mesh cat avatars due to cats having prominence in the look and feel of the bookshop. That lead to my mulling over the possibility of including other small avie types, like the Petites.

I will be the first to admit, I can live in a bubble because I’m reclusive and rarely leave my sims. But I am enraptured by fantastical avs. I tend to stick with my main avie whom is rather tall. BUT….I think I will be incorporating areas of this build specifically for mesh tiny avies like the mesh cats, and the petites…..and all of the other wonderful teeny tiny avies available to us in SL.

1) The fantastical nature of pixies, elves and other petite AVs fit in perfectly with the mood of The Sanctuary.

2) I would be able to add high detail with low Li to the shop and create layers of interactivity.

My original plans included a mousehole, that led to living areas accessible by smaller avs only, but now I am thinking about expanding that into the main shop, by having parallel areas of design. The smaller areas often hidden from view of larger avies. A lounge area behind a book on the bookshelves of the store, accessible by rope, or tiny plank bridge made of pencils tied together.

At the same time I don’t want to  alienate the larger avie visitors but do want to encourage people to take the time to explore and think outside the box of their own avie shape. So full exploration would require size  changes ala alice in wonderland.

I apologise for not posting pictures! Today has been a lot of boring testing with mesh boxes and shading…learning how to optimise the physics shapes and linksets and the dozens of other things that affect land impact. Boring boring boring stuffs. But summer is a good time to work on this project, no?

If you belong to the inworld mailing list, I promise to send out weekly updates on what is going on, friday afternoons. I am also looking at Plurking but am not sure yet. Lots of loose ends to tie up, outside of the actual world creation. I would rather work on making tight connections to people interested in this project so I can talk about it easily, then build the world, and not have an audience with the explorers at all. Blogs, mailing lists, plurk, facebook, twitter, marketplace….it’s a whirlwind of ways to connect and a bit of a headache for a recluse but I’m doing my best!

I need to find ways to make those connections without being drained. Because when I’m drained, it damages my creativity for building, eventually….and who wants that. One thing I’m glad I did was set up the blog at the very least. It’s an absolute joy posting because of the ease of use…and I know myself well enough to know I will only keep it up, if it’s easy. I’m a one man show on this project and I only have 2 eyes and 2 hands.


Mesh 101 and a short ramble about the direction the Sanctuary is going to go…

Mesh 101

It doesn’t matter that I’ve been building in Mesh for years, outside of SL. I am still at bonehead 101 level because optimising mesh to be used by SL efficiently is the big lesson to be learnt. There are a lot of little tips and tricks. So…in that respect, I am a newbie. If you’ve always wondered about building mesh for SL and been afraid to start, there is a wonderful series of friendly mesh 101 tutorials on youtube by Ashasekayi , whom teaches Mesh classes inworld as well.

One of the reasons I am starting The Sanctuary of Lost Books(TSoLB) experimental project now, is because it’s my summer project to get used to optimising my meshes. That way I can be back into building without thinking. Usually when I build, I channel and the building just happens because I am so comfortable with the tools. It’s like playing piano without having to look at your hands. Right now, I am not…when optimising mesh for SL anyways. So this is a way for me to slowly build props in mesh for TSoLB and develop my own tricks to smaller land impacts.

Short Ramble

I’ve been waking up early in the morning. Not really because I’ve set alarms, or I hear the birds singing…or even because I’m a morning person. It will be a cold day in hell before anyone will ever, with all honesty, consider me a morning person. Even my favourite meal is breakfast for supper…No….waking up early is simply because my head won’t shut up. Some little thing wakes me up, and then my brain just fires up for the day and I’m already swatting at these annoying ideas for what to build next. I LOVE that I am inspired but JAYSUS can’t I have just a little peace and quiet.

I’m not sure how much to share with everyone here. I want there to be a lot of surprises once the build is public. I will say this, I really like messing with people’s heads. I love riddles. I’m thinking about areas that are only accessible once your avatar size is small enough to enter those areas, a mousehole that leads to exploratory areas, and possibly a killer cat.

I also think having a magical bookstore at the bottom center of a maelstrom sounds nifty. Haven’t you ever wondered what was at the bottom of one of those? Maelstrom…tornado…eye of the storm type of thing. I don’t know…a book is exciting when it may be the last thing you’ll ever read no? Mwaahahaha.

Killing takes patience and finesse.


Treasures from the RL Studio

I’m always telling Alchemy that I have to surround myself with treasures. This applys to SL, when I create a soundtrack to whatever new phase of building I am fiddling with. Or this blog for instance. There were steps I took to surround myself first with visuals that inspire me, before I could really start building. Well this oddity applies to RL.

In RL I make dioramas and still lifes and I have to be surrounded by them, so for example, behind me in my RL office, I have things I’ve collected over the years. You don’t realise, or at least I didn’t realise, there were themes to my collections until I put them all together.

How do you set up -your- studio in RL? Do you have things you must do or surround yourself with before you create?

A little Labyrinth, a little Harry Potter, and a swirl of Danny Elfman…

Music is how I channel myself when I’m building. The Sanctuary, in my head has an edge of innocence. But I didn’t want something Disney. It’s more an emotion of something lighter than the darkness of my normal build style. It tempers it, balances it. In the past I’ve built to exorcise the things in my head. Well, there is still a dark asthetic to what I pull out of me but the core of who I am is much healthier than I used to be and so the music I wanted had to have that edge of coming back to hope, or magic. Because I’ve found the beauty and magic in life, as sick and giddy as that sounds. I just want to represent it on my own terms.

So it was really important choosing music that had that sense of mystery and darkness without being depressing. When I talk about finding something from my childhood, the things that often pop into my head are movies that made impressions on me, from my past. I tried to channel a little Labyrinth, a little Harry Potter, and a swirl of Danny Elfman.

I’ve created a playlist on Jamendo that helps brings some eyes to these wonderful artists that make their downloads absolutely free for personal use.

I hope you enjoy the playlist. This playlist is also playing on the site of the future Sanctuary of Lost Books inworld, and you’re welcome to poke around and listen though there is not much there yet.