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Designing for Second Life - Where to Start?


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I've been in Second Life for over ten years. Social interaction is what first drew me to the platform. Soon after joining, I discovered the joys of in-world building using prims. I eventually transitioned to sculpted prims. Then Mesh came along. I was intrigued, but Blender was and is the only application I have access to because it's cheap....free in fact.

Blender always seemed to have a steep learning curve, which is why I resisted ever using it. However, about six months ago, I purchased a couple of Blender courses from Udemy and am feeling much more confident in the program.

But now I'm facing a dilemma. There's still a vast amount I need to learn about Blender to create things like avatars, hair, and accessories for avatars, buildings and accessories, and other types of objects. Right now, I'm not so interested in avatar-related design. I'm more into architecture and inanimate objects. So, I believe that's where my direction lies within Blender.

I know I have a lot more to learn to create those kinds of things for SL but am feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of available Blender information. I want to continue learning. I know that concepts learned while creating an avatar might be useful in the creation of buildings, and vice-versa. But I want to maximize my education and have it proceed according to the types of objects I'm interested in creating. 

I'm posting this in hopes that others might have once felt the same and/or can share their experience with learning Blender for creating objects within Second Life. And, how to maximize that education.

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I gave up on blender after hitting the steep learning curve you mentioned. Maybe I should try again someday! Sounds like a fun project. Maybe find a blender, how to, video and trying to follow along. I got a bunch of other projects lined up though. Next I'm trying to get better at wind light.

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I think it would be best to focus on one area of interest at first. Buildings and such are a great place to start. Hair and clothing takes some more advanced skills to do well. I would suggest that besides learning how to model in blender, you also learn more about modelling for SL at the same time. What I mean by that is learn how to do your own LODs and physics models from the start. It takes some experience to get good at so that's why it's best to get into it right away. It's a very important and often overlooked aspect of making good items for SL. And most of all, have fun doing it!

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4 hours ago, Gordon Nadezda said:

I know I have a lot more to learn to create those kinds of things for SL but am feeling overwhelmed by the vast amount of available Blender information. I want to continue learning.

Sounds like you're right on course. :)

The Mesh creation section has some stellar people who are both very knowledgeable and very helpful. The archives are full of their wisdom as well. Use both - ask questions, look up topics in search and read the threads. Making mesh for SL isn't quite like making mesh for anywhere else and they'll help you get your head around the differences. Seriously, the teaching skill and patience of people like Aquila Kytori, arton Rotaru and Drongle McMahon is amazing. When you see them answering, read closely.

Do you have a source for tutorials that you click with besides the paid ones? It took me a month of wandering around youtube before I found the teacher whose approach worked best for me (BornCG), but it was well worth the effort. Or maybe the paid ones are comprehensive enough?

I heartily concur with the idea of making static objects to start with. There's just less to have to worry about and that is a very good thing. Architecture has a few complications of its own - many threads on that, especially regarding doors you can't walk through and floors which give an error when you try to rez on them. It's where a lot of people start though and it's not as complicated as rigged ball gowns :o

Smaller projects also mean more warm fuzzies and dopamine when it's finished. VERY useful in offsetting the frustrations. Plus you get to live with the things you've made sooner, which means you get to realise the mistakes you've made sooner, which means you can start learning how to improve on them sooner. :) There's an awful lot of compromise in making mesh for SL, so don't expect it to be perfect and keep working towards getting a bit closer.

Good luck and welcome to the mad house :SwingingFriends:

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2 minutes ago, Bitsy Buccaneer said:

Oh, and beta grid and local textures, so you don't have to pay to upload all your experiments. Just to make sure you know about both of those.

FS can also preview animations you upload

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2 minutes ago, Fionalein said:

FS can also preview animations you upload

Only .bvh animations though, not .anim ones.

I strongly recommend .anim format for animations, it runs much smoother. I've found the same smooth animations to have somewhat of a micro stutter in between frames when uploaded in .bvh. The latter is fine for poses, for smooth animations not so much, so beta grid it is unfortunately.

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One key thing, Second Life, from a technical perspective, is an OpenGL videogame. In terms of models and textures, learn what works and what doesn't in videogames, and why. A big part of why SL has so much lag and performance issues comes down to people creating content that just does not work well in realtime 3D rendering. There's so much misinformation about this in the SL forums and content creation community that it might almost be better to just look to videogame development and modding communities for tips on optimization and creating content that won't kill performance.

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16 hours ago, Bitsy Buccaneer said:

Do you have a source for tutorials that you click with besides the paid ones?

I have looked at other, free tutorials and that's likely the source of my frustration. Right now, I'm watching a tutorial on how to create a modern house in Blender, but I'm getting the sense that the finished product is likely not going to work on a platform like Second Life. I'm also been reading the SL forums on mesh creation. In general, most of the tutorials and a good deal of information from the forums are good for learning Blender-related concepts, but not so much for what will work in SL. Regardless, it's all very exciting.

 

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Hi. Note my tag if you will. I thought prims were yuk when I first started SL and I still do :$ Therefore I moved to mesh about 2010 by using free hexagon. I also looked at blender and I do have it installed. (It isn't what I use for my RL mesh though). All I can say is that the help files and video tutorials for Blender are pretty awesome and if you want to do 3d at a sensible cost, read Zero expense, Blender is definitely the way to go. Don't pay for lessons or tutorials, search for them instead and aim for mesh for real life and try to make money out of that. Its a hard road but give it 5 years and cross your fingers.

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54 minutes ago, Maryanne Solo said:

Hi. Note my tag if you will. I thought prims were yuk when I first started SL and I still do :$ Therefore I moved to mesh about 2010 by using free hexagon. I also looked at blender and I do have it installed. (It isn't what I use for my RL mesh though). All I can say is that the help files and video tutorials for Blender are pretty awesome and if you want to do 3d at a sensible cost, read Zero expense, Blender is definitely the way to go. Don't pay for lessons or tutorials, search for them instead and aim for mesh for real life and try to make money out of that. Its a hard road but give it 5 years and cross your fingers.

What I find hard to understand is, which tutorials are more for SL and which are more for other venues. It would be incredible if someday, someone could make a cohesive list of the order of tutorials someone should go through, perhaps a list for clothing meshers and one for furniture/decor/other rezzable items meshers. I'm quite interested to learn blender to make meshes (I only use it along with Avastar for animations) yet when I google tutorials I quickly find myself thoroughly overwhelmed. It's like standing in front of a huge candy shelf. It's all great but super hard to figure out the best candy and in which order to eat it to prevent tummy aches xD

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30 minutes ago, Syn Anatine said:

What I find hard to understand is, which tutorials are more for SL and which are more for other venues.

That's the real dilemma I face - which tutorials will actually contribute to a nice and efficient SL object - but didn't articulate clearly in my original post.

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4 hours ago, Gordon Nadezda said:

I have looked at other, free tutorials and that's likely the source of my frustration. Right now, I'm watching a tutorial on how to create a modern house in Blender, but I'm getting the sense that the finished product is likely not going to work on a platform like Second Life. I'm also been reading the SL forums on mesh creation. In general, most of the tutorials and a good deal of information from the forums are good for learning Blender-related concepts, but not so much for what will work in SL. Regardless, it's all very exciting.

OK, that's important clarity to where you are. Thanks for adding this :)  (Tagging in @Syn Anatine too)

When I was getting my head around Blender, it was both helpful to search out tutorials for a particular types of project and also unhelpful. Helpful in that I had little idea what I needed to know and they'd usually say a few things which gave me a smidgin of a clue but also unhelpful in that there was usually a ton of stuff which ended up being poor practice for SL. So mostly I just kept trying until I learned enough to start searching for tutorials on individual aspects of using Blender (the smidgins of clues) rather than "make a cushion". That worked better for me.

I never found tutorials I clicked with which were specific for Blender & SL. For that, it's been entirely the forum archives and asking questions. There was a while when I thought I was going to have to name my first child Drongle :SwingingFriends:

So my work flow for learning had a lot of forum reading, question asking, head banging, break taking, and looking through BornCG's youtube page to see which tutorial was going to help me figure out how to actually do what had been suggested in the forum & archives, and more question asking if I couldn't.

edit - one way to approach this might be to start a thread in the mesh creation section and post the tutorial you're using. Then others could suggest what needs to be done differently or adapted for SL.

Making all sorts of stuff which was never going to work in SL had its uses though because it was practice using Blender. Then I'd throw it out and start over with a different approach. It made for slow going but it put extra skills and experience in my fingers, some of which has actually proven useful later. :)

It was a year of hell. It was worth it.

To sum up my take on this: Youtube and/or written/illustrated tutorials for Blender techniques, forums for the pecularities of SL, lots of trial, lots of error and more and more success.

Edited by Bitsy Buccaneer
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1 hour ago, Bitsy Buccaneer said:

To sum up my take on this: Youtube and/or written/illustrated tutorials for Blender techniques, forums for the pecularities of SL, lots of trial, lots of error and more and more success.

What you wrote makes me feel better. I don't feel so overwhelmed. I have a clearer purpose now. So, thanks!

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22 hours ago, Bitsy Buccaneer said:

Oh, and beta grid and local textures, so you don't have to pay to upload all your experiments. Just to make sure you know about both of those.

Though I've been around SL for quite a while, I just started to build, texture and learn Blender lately, too. Thank you, THANK YOU for mentioning local textures. I had no idea I could even do this (I feel dumb for not knowing). I've been using the Beta grid to stave off costs, but uploading textures to it to test them over and over. This makes everything a lot easier!! 

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14 hours ago, Aywren Sojourner said:

Though I've been around SL for quite a while, I just started to build, texture and learn Blender lately, too. Thank you, THANK YOU for mentioning local textures. I had no idea I could even do this (I feel dumb for not knowing). I've been using the Beta grid to stave off costs, but uploading textures to it to test them over and over. This makes everything a lot easier!! 

Don't feel dumb. LL doesn't it make it clear what it is so it's up to us to tell each other. :)

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Another protip about local textures -- if you edit the file that you're using as local texture, the changes will be reflected inworld as soon as you save. 

Local textures also have real UUIDs, so you can use your local texture in an applier for things that are otherwise no-mod like many of the mesh bodies.

Edited by Wulfie Reanimator
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The reason why you're facing a learning curve is because Blender is garbage and because free tutorials are also garbage made by people who don't know what they are doing. Trying to learn from half of a tutorial made by someone who don't know what they are doing is why so many people complain about the learning curve. With that said, I am going to assume that you have zero 3D modeling experience, That's not a bad thing, but we need to be honest with ourselves. So let's compare building a couch with building a tee shirt.

Poly modeling something that looks like a couch isn't that hard. You just need to deal with getting something in the right shape, and then texturing it. That's where UVW mapping comes in. If you're lucky or the couch is simple enough, you might not even need to do a lot of mapping. And since your couch doesn't do anything but get looked at, the bar is set pretty low.

Making a tee shirt is a dozen times more complicated. The basic poly modeling to get something that is shaped like a shirt is easy, but you need a lot more detail work to make it look like a shirt. You need to understand how fabric moves so that you can make the write wrinkles and folds. You also need to optimize your model, as it's likely going to have a high poly count due to the higher level of detail you need. After that, you then need to rig it, which requires a strong knowledge of character animation. You may also need a better understanding of UVW mapping so that you can actually make the shirt appear as a shirt. You also need to optimize your model differently and have a good knowledge of edge flow, as the geometry of the mesh can affect your rigged movement. You then need to scale and rig your clothing for each and every size and avatar you see for, often including "fitted" bone animation so that the mesh can actually move and adjust with an avatar.

Now, which one of those sounds harder to do? Trying to tackle clothing, avatars, or anything else in that top tier is putting your cart so far before the horse that you will need an airplane to help the horse catch up. You are far better off starting with smaller objects that don't require such a high level of skill.

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Where to start? Have a goal first. E.g., like having the explicit intention to make a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster. Go from there, reading tutorials and instructional videos.

P.S. Blender is pretty awesome. Less so if you are experienced with other 3D design software, but pretty awesome when you start from fresh. Learn to work the interface first, like switching from different view points to camming around and selecting vertices, lines and surfaces. A number pad on your keyboard is a must. So is a mouse (no trackpad, it's horrible---buy a cheap mouse).

I've been using Adobe Illustrator since version '88 (yes, that's 30 years ago, on a Mac Plus) and ever since Blender, I wish Adobe had the same handling of vertices, selections and undos.

Edited by Arduenn Schwartzman
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