Project to Improve Graphics Rendering in Second Life

Via Linden Lab


One of the challenges that virtual world creators face is the trade-off between rich visual detail and geometric complexity. Ideally, by adding more and smaller faces to an object, a designer can model different surface textures and create realistic variations in the interplay of light and shadow. However, adding faces also quickly increases the size of the model and its rendering cost. Normal and Specular Maps are ways to address this by allowing for the appearance of a complex surface without actually modeling fine scale geometry.

A Normal Map is an image where the color codes indicate how the renderer should reflect light from each pixel on a surface by modifying the direction that the pixel “faces” (imagine that each pixel could be turned on tiny pivots). This means that pixels on a simple surface can be rendered so that they appear to have much more detail than the actual geometry and at much lower rendering cost. Light and shadow are rendered as though the surface had depth and physical texture, simulating roughness, bumps, and even edges and additional faces.

Similarly, a Specular Map allows each pixel to have its own degree of reflectivity, so that some parts of a single face reflect sharply, while adjacent pixels can be dull.


The open source developers of the Exodus Viewer are contributing Viewer support for Normal and Specular Maps, as well as some additional controls for how light reflects from faces. Linden Lab is developing the server side support so that this powerful tool will be available in Second Life.


Design and development are under way. Watch this blog and the Snowstorm Viewers page for information on when test Viewers with these new capabilities become available.


For additional information, or to learn more about how you can participate in the open source program, please contact

ABC Island to Close in Second Life

It’s not surprising but sad all the same: the wonderful community-driven project that is ABC Island in Second Life, is to close on the 22nd of September.

The island has been a staple of the Australian Second Life scene since March 2007, and it’s undergone a number of iterations since then (check out a lot of them here).

Given the relatively small number of Australian visitors the sim gets compared to its heyday, it’s not a shock that the ABC are redirecting the funds. That doesn’t make it any easier for the small and dedicated bunch of volunteer admins of the sim.

We’ll have more details on farewell arrangements / spontaneous wakes etc as we find out ourselves.

The Secret World: A Review

FunCom’s new MMORPG The Secret World is a universe full of magic, deception, and darkness. You play as a member of one of three secret societies – the Illuminati, the Templars, or the Dragon. Regardless of which society you choose, you’re probably still the bad guy, sent all over the world to guard your secrets and fight rival factions. A lot of the time, you won’t even know why you go where you do – you’re not the boss.

But it’s not a different world to the one we live in. Not really. Instead, it’s an underground version of the modern world. Granted, the real world is probably not infested with monsters, but in The Secret World, parts of it are. Those parts have been cut off from the rest of the world, their infections and invasions covered up by governments. You roam these areas, supporting your society and trying to help people along the way.

Because the game is based in reality, The Secret World is low fantasy. There’s a little bit of magic, but most of the weapons are guns, swords and hammers. Buildings and environments are modern, and there are no elves or orcs to be seen. It’s a refreshing change, and something entirely new in the MMO space.

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Machinima Expo 2012: submissions open

Pooky Amsterdam has tapped me about this, and I’m happy to slip-in this post for her.


This year marks the 5th annual Machinima Expo, a three day virtual machinima festival which bridges Second Life and the real world. The Expo will be held over the weekend of the 17th-18th November 2012, and submissions are now open for those wishing to participate.


There is no maximum running time for entries to the event, but a couple of rules must be adhered to:


Entries must comprise at least 50% machinima


Entrants must not have previously submitted the film to the Expo.


Note that films do not have to be filmed in Second Life (or any other virtual world – although entries created in any virtual world are obviously welcome), just so long as they are at least 50% machinima.


The closing date for submissions is September 30th 2012, and you can find the entry form on the Expo website.
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Choosing the virtual reality experience that’s right for you

I think ‘several decades’ is probably pessimistic by a decade or so in my opinion…


We’re still several decades away from developing completely immersive computer simulations, but it’s not too early to dream about the ways we’ll be able to use them. Today we’re exploring the tremendous potential with new gadgets like Glass, Google’s computer glasses. But that’s just the beginning.

So, in preparation, given all the different options soon to be available, what kind of virtual reality experience will you choose?
Will it be a partial soft simulation? Or perhaps you would prefer an active communal experience? Confused? No worries, we’ll go over all your options. And in the end, you may even find that you’ll want to mix and match.

Indeed, when considering the all the different possibilities that could come about through the advent of advanced simulation technologies, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that there will be a wide number of interactive possibilities. Thankfully, a number of futurists have made an attempt to predict what we can expect — and how we may wish to spend our time in environments far removed from our own.

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The End of the Second Life Community Convention

Sydney Fashion Week in Second Life

C’est la vie, Countdown, Solidea, Boudoir, Kunglers, Vero Modero and more designers all in one week? Wow! Seems to me that Second Life’s Sydney Fashion Week will surely rock!

Thanks to IMA Owner and CEO, Ananya Mai, for giving me a preview of the stage where the action is to happen. I reaaally loved how the ramp, inspired by the Sydney Opera House, looks like; and to describe it in a word, I choose GENIUS! 🙂

SFW is a welcome development to fashion lovers from the Asia-Pacific region; as most of the great fashion shows and activities are usually scheduled based on the US timezone. I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to see what the designers will come up with.

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3Di to launch free Unity-based world – Hypergrid Business

Japen’s 3Di, Inc., best known for their browser-based OpenSim viewers, will be testing a new, free, public, Unity-based virtual world this weekend, called 3Di Cloud.

According to 3Di senior manager Norman Lin, individuals and groups will be able to embed a window into their private virtual world right onto their websites, like they can now embed YouTube videos. This part isn’t new — ReactionGrid’s Jibe is also a Unity-based world that runs in the browser and can be embedded in a webpage, and so can the OpenSim viewer plugin from SpotON3D.

What’s different here is that the 3Di Cloud product has a free version.

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Thoughts on the serious games scene in Singapore

The third annual Serious Games Conference was held last in week in Singapore and it was a real pleasure to speak at the event. The event was well attended by a variety of speakers and industry representatives from across the globe and local Singapore developers.

Designers, developers and domain experts shared their experience, current developments and where they believe serious games are heading. Presentations were made by representatives from companies such as Crytek (South Korea), Digitalmill (US), Eduwealth (Singapore), Littleloud Studios (UK), MOH Holdings (Singapore), National Institute Education (Singapore), Playware Studios (Singapore), Ranj Serious Games (Netherlands), Rockmoon Pte Ltd (Singapore), Serious Games International (UK) and yours truly from Hummingbird Interactive.

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The University of Western Australia in Second Life: Audience Participation Events: UWA Centenary 3D Art & MachinimUWA V

Running through the end of July are Audience Participation Events for the UWA Centenary 3D Art Challenge, with 90 artworks from around the globe and MachinimUWA V: Seek Wisdom, with a sublime collection of 51 short animated film.

Both of these events are set up such that the viewers or the audience experiencing the artworks or the film, can submit a top10 list in the order they think will be the ultimate juried order. The 3 viewers or audience members who come closest in both art & machinima events can win for themselves up to L$10,000. To take part, click the link for the 3D Art or for the Machinima and everything is explained!

All this will culminate at 6am SLT Sunday 5th August where the Grand Finale announcement will be held for both events.

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