Immersive 3D Environments

a central point for students enrolled in A&M624

Evaluation Exercise – #1

Last week Aaron asked you to explore the SLENZ Project Foundation Studies build in more detail, particularly looking for the different kinds of interaction that were part of the build.  This week I am going to ask you to revisit that build with an eye to evaluating the build in its entirety.  All your work on this should appear as a posting in your blog.

A critical  evaluation of something is a purposeful, reflective summary of what the thing is,  how and why it was created, who it is for, how is it used and what appear to be its strengths and weaknesses.  Of course it isn’t possible for you to know everything about a ‘build’ just by looking at it – you need to explore it, test out the functionality of it, investigate the various elements of it, such as the textures, the use of different kinds of prims, the scripting, investigate who uses it and why and provide your observations on the aesthetics and design of the build.  For your final assessment I will be expecting to see at least three such critical evaluations – done properly this could be the first of those three.

You are free to do your evaluation in whatever manner seems best to you but if you would like guidelines then I suggest that you follow the process below.

1. Write a detailed description of the build including first impressions of it, the approach to it, the overall design and ‘look and feel’ of the place.  Don’t forget to provide information on where in SL the build is and provide a SLurl.  I would also expect to see at least two photos of it.  This description should also include details of the different parts of the build – e.g. The Stairway, The Forecourt, The Interview Rooms, The Shop etc…

2. Write a description of the community that uses the build.  You may need to search on the internet for information about this – the SLENZ blog is a good place to start (look under interesting Links on this page).  Imagine what it would be like to be a student in a class that used this build – how do you think it would feel?  This video may help in your understanding.

3. Write a short description of each of the following aspects of the build:

  • the shape and type of prims used (look at the complexity of shape, the size, total number of prims, use of transparent prims etc.)
  • the textures
  • interaction and scripting

4. Write up your observations of the build – how does it feel to be walking around it? do you find it aesthetically pleasing?  What aspects of the design work for you and which don’t?  Does it feel like a ‘real’ place or is it total fantasy? (Is it important to have private changing rooms for example? why do you think they were built?)

I realise that if you do this evaluation properly, paying attention to as many of the elements as you can, then you will not be able to finish this in one session.  However, I want you to publish what you have done at the end of the class – you can always go back and edit the post later.  I would like to see the evaluation completed before next week’s class.


August 31, 2010 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Clare is back

Hello everyone – my apologies for my absence over the last couple of weeks and my thanks to Aaron and Lisa for enabling the class to keep going pretty much as planned.  It was with great anticipation that I went to look at your blogs this afternoon to discover what you had been up to and I have to say I was mightly disappointed.  There are still 5 people who have not posted their blog url in their google doc and of those of you who have more than half of you have not entered anything relevant  into your blog at all.  This is not good enough and if this situation isn’t addressed soon then your final assessment is going to suffer as a result.

Consequently there will be a change of plan to this week’s class.  I had planned to talk to you about different virtual worlds but with an eye to your assessment I feel it is necessary to concentrate on starting to get some useful postings written up.  Just before class I will be posting here what I want you to do in the first session of the class (3-4.45).  As planned Aaron will be running his session from 5-7 on the use of particles and this will be repeated on Thursday.

Looking forward to seeing you all again 🙂

August 30, 2010 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Follow up to the Script Exercise

To those who fully engaged in the “think about the script design” exercise last Tuesday thank you for taking on the task and making the effort to post your thoughts on the events and functions that would have been required for the interactions.

To those who did take on the exercise but neglected to post their thoughts I would suggest that you may learn more from the classes by fully engaging in the exercises.  Analysing what you see and experience is a large part of your assessed work in this class and the more practice you get at it the better you will become at setting out your findings.

To those who spent the time seeing how high they could fly or fooling around during the discussion session, I can only wonder why you come to the class at all.  If you have no interest in learning I would request that you at least respect the desires of those that do have that interest, and engage in your “play” somewhere else.  Unfortunately for the engaged students, it will be this group that more than likely does not bother to read this post.


August 26, 2010 Posted by | General, Scripting | 2 Comments

Week 6 – Scripting

Heading towards week 6 and an introduction to scripting (or programming) in Second Life.  As you may have noticed on our tours, for all the building skills you may acquire a static build, with no way to interact with it, quickly becomes boring.  It does not engage with nor immerse the user in the environment and no matter the quality of the build, a user will quickly loose interest if there is nothing to engage them.  This power of engagement comes about through scripting; through designing user interactions that enhance the build, inform the user and keep them engaged with the subject matter.

To gain some understanding of the functions of scripting, the first two hours this Tuesday will be put aside for you all to re-engage with a build you have already been through; the SLENZ Project Foundation Studies build.  This build was designed, built and scripted by myself so I have an intimate knowledge of the interactions involved and how they were crafted.  This will not be a simple look over the build but is an assigned task where you will be required to investigate a number of interactions and to write up, as comments to this blog post, your thoughts on what events or functions might be required in the script to complete the experienced interaction.  Scripting is a set of events that are triggered in some manner; either by the user interacting with the scripted object in some way, or being sensed by that object, or as a result of some other parameter being met.  As an introduction to the complexity of what may occur as a simple interaction, first read this blog posting that I have written up on the Welcome Sign that a user is greeted with upon entering the confines of the Foundation build.  It should give you some insight into what must be taken into account when designing a script and help broaden the scope of your thinking when completing the tasks set out below.

The task this week is to find at least three of the following interactive objects in the SLENZ Foundation build, consider all of the functions that each object performs and what events need to take place for those functions to be triggered.  The interactive objects are as follows:

  1. The Stairway of Learning
  2. The Private Pose Stands
  3. The Hyperdome Console
  4. The Interview Room Teleporters
  5. The Student Notecard Dropboxes

You may discuss ideas amongst yourselves as a group and/or pose questions to myself about possible scenarios in the scripting, but each student is expected to write up, as a comment to this blog, their ideas on what is involved in terms of the functions and events required for the scripting of at least three of the interactive objects.  This is an exercise in thinking not only creatively, but logically, a must for the programmer.  And do consider that programming is not something that just gets done; it must be designed first.  This is about looking at the design of a script, investigating what is required and thinking all that through in a logical manner, step by step.  This must occur before a script even begins to be written.

For the last hours of Tuesday and the Thursday’s session we will be looking at some of the basic scripts available and you will be given an introduction to creating your own scripts.  Look forward to seeing you then.


August 23, 2010 Posted by | Scripting | 16 Comments

Using the Texture Boards on Kowhai

So that you all have a good range of textures available for your building projects I have placed a number of Texture Boards on the group parcel on Kowhai.  These textures have been gathered and put together into the boards by myself and a good friend of mine and made available as full permission textures for your use.  A Texture Board is a tool freely available in Second Life to help you organise and view your textures and is much more user friendly than trying to find a specific texture in your Inventory.  How to use the Texture Boards is set out below.  Note: If you click on the images on this page that show the whole Texture Board a larger version of the image will show on a new page.  Click on the Back button on your browser to return to this page.

When first rezzed a Texture board displays as shown below.

A Rezzed Texture Board

The Board contains the texture preview section to its left, a larger screen to the right to display the selected texture, and the catagories, tiling and previous and next buttons at the bottom right.  To select a specific category, in this case Metals, Glitter etc, click on the button.  It will highlight as shown below.

Button Display

The Board will then display thumbnail previews of textures in that specific category as shown below.

Category Thumbnails Displayed

The button display also contains a Previous and Next button.  Clicking on these will cycle back and forwards through the thumbnails of a particular category.

Previous and Next Buttons

To display a larger view of any particular texture click on its thumbnail image.  It will show as highlighted with the texture name overlaid, and a larger version of the texture will display on the selection board to the right.

Thumbnail Selected

Some textures are tileable, i.e. when the texture has more than one repeat on a prim face the texture repeats without obvious breaks, as all edges of the textures are designed to flow perfectly into their opposing edges.  Note that some textures will be designed to only tile vertically or horizontally depending on what their end use is.  For example a texture for a wall may only tile horizontally as the texture may have been created to have a specific top and bottom and only tile well along the wall.  To view how well a texture tiles click on the Tile button and the texture will display as shown below, with the full texture in the centre of the selection screen so that all edges will display their tiling quality.  To turn off tiling click on the Tile button again.

Viewing the Texture Tiled - This One is Considered Tileable

A Non-Tileable Texture

To obtain a displayed texture hold your cursor over the larger image.  The cursor will display as a hand as shown below.

Hand Cursor Displayed

Click on the large texture and the following dialog box will display.  Click on Keep to take the texture into your Inventory.  The texture will now be available in your Inventory for use in your building projects.

Texture Dialog Box

August 19, 2010 Posted by | Building and Texturing | Leave a comment

Week 5 – What we’ve done so far?

Congratulations those who made it, still virtually standing, to the beginning of Week 5.  Having spent all the in-lab hours with you in Week 4 and looking back also at the previous week, I’d like to give you all some feedback.

Firstly, as some of you may have noticed, we are a week ahead of the timetable for my sessions having, to a degree, combined Building Introduction – creating in a 3D environment and Primitives – the building blocks of 3D into the first lesson and then completed Textures – bringing primitives to life in Week 4.  From my observations most of you now having a good grasp on rezzing prims, manipulating the position, size and rotation of them and the ability to link them as an object and save and retrieve them from your Inventory.  You have also learnt how to colour and apply textures to a prim and to individual faces, how to manipulate the textures in terms of repeats, offsets and rotation, and apply various effects such as transparency, shininess and bump.  Pretty good really for two teaching sessions so kudos to you all.

There are some skills still to be acquired, and one in particular that will not only help you in terms of building, but generally in terms of observing and participating in this environment; the use of your camera.  The camera is your view into Second Life and your ability to move it around, focus and zoom into objects is vitally important, making your experience much less frustrating at times and faciltating your ability to build in a major way if mastered.  On your inworld parcel this week I have positioned a video screen that has this YouTube video showing you how to manipulate your camera using the keyboard and mouse rather the camera tools provided inworld.  I strongly urge you all to watch the video and then spend time in Second Life practicing using your camera in this way.  No longer will you have to walk to the other side of a prim to see it; in fact with enough practice you can even send your camera to the other side of a sim rather than walking there.  Get that skilled at camera use and you will find that Second Life becomes quite a different experience.

As camera use comes with practice, so will your skills as a builder.  Though you can all rez and texture prims there is still a big step from wanting to build something to actually completing the task inworld.  Building is about visualising the prim shapes that you need to combine together to form your desired end result and then manipulating and texturing those prims to achieve it.  So this week we will continue looking at prim types and the different settings available for each and I will set you the task of creating something of your own, working alongside you to guide you through the process and explaining as needed different possibilities to achieve your end result.  A mass of textures will be provided so don’t concern yourself with that.  It is more the working out of the prim structure for your build that I want you to begin to master.  And please remember that only practice will get you the skills you will need for your final project build.  The land parcel we use as a class space is there for you 24/7 and I am often inworld so available to help you out if you need it.  Practice, practice, practice is the key here.

For the tour this week we will be looking at sims developed for education, not necessarily put together by just educators but those who are passionate about subjects that interest them and who wish to share that passion with others.  The group of sims we will visit have the collective name SciLands and include over 50 individual sims dedicated to things such as space travel, health and nanotechnology to name a few.

International Spaceflight Museum

International Spaceflight Museum - Click to Enlarge

August 17, 2010 Posted by | Building and Texturing, General | Leave a comment

Week 4 – Textures 101

Due to illness Clare/Arwenna will not be leading the tour this week.  Instead I will be taking you all on a tour of a few of, what I consider to be, superior builds within Second Life.  Here you will see the possibility of user-generated content taken to its ultimate in some beautifully constructed structures, terrain and outdoor environments.  The first sim we will be visiting is Omega Point, a combination of cyberpunk and fantasy with a hint of Gothic thrown in.  Rich textures adorn amazing sky structures, teleports enabling you to travel swiftly between buildings.  A myriad of bridges crisscross the build leading you to different rooms, each portraying a different aspect of the creators dream.  A place to truely see how great texturing and scale really lend authenticity to even the most fantastical of builds.

Omega Point

Omega Point - Click to Enlarge

The second build we will visit is Taure Ru, a roleplaying medieval/fantasy sim.  This is part of a group of sims that have active roleplay in the normal gaming tradition, Taure Ru being the centre of the Shadowlands.  An image of part of this build is displayed in a previous post.  Here you can experience what great terrain modelling can lend to a build, with subterranean caverns hiding all sorts of gems, underground rooms and a temple beautifully crafted to add authenticity to the roleplay.  Though from above the sim looks mainly crafted as a mysterious landscape, hidden doors and passages lead you underground to some of the real wonders of this build.  Again the attention to detail, the beautiful textures, and the interaction of the environment with the user make this a sim well worth taking note of.

If we do manage to get through both these builds in the allotted time, and I am not sure we will get past these they have so many factors to look at, take in and explore, then there will be a couple more on the notecard of Landmarks that will be supplied at the beginning of the tour.

In the last half of the day I will be taking the Tuesday group through basic texturing, explaining some of the ins and outs of the Build window/Texture tab options, letting you experiment a lot with what you see there, and finally guiding you through the texturing of your own sparkle lamp.  I’m looking forward to the day and I hope you are too.  Be prepared to get your socks blown off by these builds *smiles.

As a small aside note in response to Vincent’s query, and after talking to Clare, it is still a little early to be considering your project groups.  A few more sessions before that needs to happen.


August 9, 2010 Posted by | Building and Texturing | Leave a comment

Building 101

First building week over, and though I know for some of you it was too big a jump off the deep end, do keep the faith *smiles.  Remember that your projects can be done in groups if you decide to.  Building will only ever come with practice, practice, practice and some will be good at it, some won’t.  Yet good modellers don’t necessarily make good texturers or scripters, or good planners and designers, or good presenters.  Each of you will have strengths and weakness.

If you do choose a collaborative project use the opportunity also to look at how that works, the dynamics of working virtually.  Try to create yourselves as a “real” virtual team and experience working this way.  Obviously don’t ignore each other in the classroom, but do attempt to immerse yourselves and have the virtual experience.

Remember to friend me when inworld so you can see me online.  Then you will know I am there if you are in, and have a question to ask.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I would like to be able to show those who are interested some of what I consider to be amazing builds, so you can really experience the creativeness of some of the people who inhabit this world.  An example is shown below.  This will not be in class time, but in your own time, which for me will mean lunch time if thats the only time you can, the late evening (say after 9pm) which would be my preference, or the weekend.  I do not mind doing a tour for a small number, say a minumum of five, if that is all who want to go.  Comment here if you are interested.  If enough want to then we can arrange them.

Medieval Roleplay Sim

Medieval Roleplay Sim

And people… lets see you blogging *smiles.  I do look at them frequently and respond to your posts.  Do remember to look yourselves for comments as many I have left you are yet to be moderated by you and made public.  Attempting to set your blog so that you are notified when comments have been made and are awaiting moderation will help you keep up to date with them.


August 5, 2010 Posted by | Building and Texturing | 2 Comments

Art and Music in Second Life

There are many aspects of art represented in Second Life, including

  • public galleries
  • collaborative spaces and groups
  • exhibitions
  • poetry and creative writing groups
  • private galleries
  • sculpture parks
  • machinima/film making
  • dance

Many established artists and art institutions are looking for new ways of exploiting this new medium and looking for new ways of being creative.  Much of the art and many of the art installations are ephemeral – sometimes deliberately, sometimes not!   Fortunately much of the work is preserved as machinima and a simple search on Youtube will find you lots of examples to enjoy.

One of the most acclaimed is by Robbie Dingo (aka Rob Wright)  who created a machinima of his building of a 3D version of a well known traditional art work.  He blogs about it here and you can also watch the video in high resolution from his blog or find a much lower quality version of it here. He also uses SL as a film-making medium for more traditional storytelling – Better Life is one.

Check out the Second Life Destinations Guide for heaps more interesting places.

Second Life is also widely used as a venue for live music performances.   Full orchestras have played there, as well as well- known musicians like U2 and Suzanne Vega.
There are a large number of live music venues and it is proving to be an interesting outlet for indie musicians who may never have performed in ‘real’ life or who have only started performing in a real space after first appearing in Second Life.  Frogg and Jaycatt are a duo from Eugene, Oregon, who had not played together before but are now well-established and respected musicians in SL.  See them again, and in both realities.  A number of artists have played with mixing realities and the results are fascinating!
There are also a number of internet radio stations specifically designed for Second Life, some  spoofs 🙂 and some collaborative  music videos made entirely in Second Life by geographical remote collaborators (and here).
You can use the Events tab of the Search function in Second Life to find live music performances – try and catch one that interests you.  You can also find some interesting music places in the Destination Guide again – here.
Good luck in your exploration of these new spaces.  I would like you each to write about one that you have visited on your blog.  You should provide a SLurl to the place, a brief description of why you visited it, what you found there and your impressions of it.  It would also be useful to observe who it would prove interesting to, what kind of community group, if any, has been built around the site, and whether you would visit again or not – giving reasons of course 🙂  If you can add a photo or two that would be excellent!  You might also like to give the SLurls of any other interesting places you find and don’t forget that you can add your favourite ones to your picks on your profile.

August 3, 2010 Posted by | General | Leave a comment

Week 3 Arrangements and Reminders

First of all, please take note of Aaron’s previous posting about your blogs.  As he says, your blogs will become an important part of your work this semester and as I explained in our first class, they will be an essential part of your final assessment.  It might be a very good idea to go back and have a read of the instructions for the assessment which are in the Course Outline on NMIT Online.

There are still 8 people who have not shared their blog address with me and so I am not able to add them to our list here.  Please make sure that you put the address in your google document.  If you are having problems setting up your blog then please let me know.  While we are on the topic, there are still two people who haven’t shared a google doc with me too – you know who you are 🙂 Get on to it please!

Arrangements for this week are as follows:

Tuesday 3-5 in A217, Clare will be taking this session on Art and Music in Second Life.  I will spend a short while talking about them and then we will go on some visits! I will expect you to write up the details of one of the places we visit on your blog and will suggest some structure and questions you might like to consider in your post.

Tuesday 5-6 in Second Life, Aaron will be taking the first introductory building class (which will be repeated on Thursday).  Those of you attending this session need to be in Second Life, on the SA+M land that you have set to home, at 5 ready to go.  Aaron has a lot to cover and will not be waiting for stragglers!  If you have headphones or earbuds please bring them (or use them) as Aaron will be using voice for this class as well as providing basic instructions in text.  Clare will be in the lab initially to make sure everyone is ok.

Thursday 4-6 in Second Life, Aaron will be repeating the first hour of the building class from Tuesday and also providing his assistance to you as you try out some of the techniques he has been teaching.  Once again please be ready for the use of voice (you don’t need to speak, but you need to hear him if at all possible) and be ready to go at 4.  Clare will be in the lab initially to make sure everyone is ok.

Please note that the sessions with Aaron are not optional, they are a required part of the course.  While building in SL is only part of the final assessment, wWithout the skills that Aaron will teach you, you will not be able to successfully complete the course.

August 2, 2010 Posted by | General | Leave a comment