Sunday, October 30, 2005

Second Life 1.7 In-world Map

The in-world map in Second Life has been updated in 1.7. It now shows the sims shaded and textured as if viewed from a satellite, and the default view also shows the objects in the sims. Apparently the new map actually uses the next version of the Second Life renderer, so this is not a stylized map display but an actual 3D render from a fixed camera orientation.

Screenshot, click to enlarge.

I've been looking forward to the new map because it will help me create a textured view for myself. The main challenge in generating sim textures is actually collecting data: what textures are used at what altitudes, what textures go into a single sim material (texture set), and which sims use which materials. The process of doing this inside Second Life is slow and tedious, much more so than popping into a new sim and surveying the topography. The new map will make the process much quicker, and I'm looking forward to collecting some definitive data on the sim materials.

Another improvement in 1.7 is the ability to find out a sim's rating through the scripting API. I plan on sweeping the whole grid collecting ratings to make sure my sim data is correct. I'm not sure why Linden Lab doesn't make more sim data available. I can think of a number of attributes that would be useful, such as a short description, owner, and access. I personally would explore islands a lot more if I could have some clue what they were about before I visited. As it is you don't know if you're teleporting to a busy mall, an empty desert, or a BDSM dungeon.

I've started working on a new library for working with grid data, this time in Java. This is because I need to brush up my Java before taking some exemption exams in January. So I've decided to use this as an opportunity to start a new version of the code library. I've been working out the new design in UML and I think there will be some real improvements.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Grid Chart Landmarks Work

I've been working on the landmark system for Grid Chart, including ratings. To me the idea of ratings is to help people know what to expect. Also if you have explicit ratings it makes features like filters or searches more practical. I figure two kinds of content people are often interested in knowing about are sex and violence, whether they want to find it or avoid it, so I think those should be standard ratings in some form or other. Also I don't think a ratings system should try to convey everything. A shared landmark should include a description and people should use common sense.

One thing I realized is that there's a distinction between what's allowed at a place versus how extreme it might get. You might have an art gallery that shows anything, only a small amount of it sexual, but there might be no limit on how extreme it gets. On the other hand you might have a gallery focused only on erotica, but it doesn't show anything more hardcore than what you'd find in a magazine like Maxim. If you simply rate the first gallery X and the second one PG-13 (using movie ratings just for example), I think you're missing something pretty important.

At first I thought about two categories of ratings, one for the intensity and another one for how appropriate or likely the content is. But now I'm considering not having a rating for "intensity" at all. Just something like "None - Some - A Lot - Essential". So in the example above the first gallery would have a sex rating of "Some" and the second gallery would have a sex rating of "Essential", and people would have to depend on the description for a better idea of the content.

Below are the properties I currently have for landmarks. I haven't ruled out a tag system for the future but the initial goal is something simple, predictable and easy to share. My plan is for Grid Chart users to share landmarks peer-to-peer and to subscribe to lists of landmarks. As much as possible I want Grid Chart to be able to display and work with common types of landmarks (clubs, homes, mature vs not mature) in a predictable manner.

Category (Home, Retail, Game, Club, Art, Casino, Venue, Park, Attraction, Religion, etc)
Description (short, 512 characters)
Access (Private, Open, Fee)
Place Owner
Landmark Creator
Date Landmark Created
Sex Content
Violence Content

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Grid Chart Web Page and Demo

I've udpdated the Grid Chart page of my web site with more current info and screenshots. Instead of repeating it here I'll just post a link:

Grid Chart Page at

With some trepidation I've included a link there to a demo version of Grid Chart. I would call it an early beta with some missing features. It requires .NET 1.1.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Grid Renders and the SLCC Sims

I've found the Faux Terrain map style I described below to work pretty well. In fact, it's become my default view as I use Grid Chart. I decided to apply this style as textures to a 3DSMax model of the Second Life grid and see how it came out. Below are a few rendered results.

The first image is a closeup of the racing sims customized for the first annual Second Life Community Convention to be held October 8-9 in New York. It's hard to tell in this image, but those little mountains spell out SLCC. The second and third images show the whole mainland. The third image is 1024x768 because I wanted to use it as a desktop for a bit.

Click to enlarge.