THOSE SLENZ BUILDS
Getting immersive realism on the SL ground
The “real” thing … the drapes and Isa Goodman
AN essential ingredient of getting the SLENZ Project off the ground has been to ensure the builds have enough realism to ensure a “suspension of disbelief” occurs, according to the project’s lead developer, Aaron Griffiths (SL: Isa Goodman).
This, Griffiths (pictured) told the SLENZ team recently, was to allow users to become fully immersed in the experience without feeling it didn’t look/feel real. “This is a difficult task when faced with the rigidity that building using Second Life’s 3D primitives have inherent in them, given the hard lines that these building blocks present,” he said.
It had been circumvented in the past, he added, through an intense use of multiple primitives to form every bend or curve of an object but this not only loaded a scene with primitives (more download requirements) but also added to the workload in creating and aligning textures to each of the primitives to create a complete object.
Although noting that the creation of organic shapes was now possible in Second Life using sculpties (sculpted prims created with texture maps), Griffths said, the creation of the number required to achieve the desired results within the hours defined by the SLENZ Project budget “just wasn’t a possibility.”
Therefore, he said, he had been excited to discover within Second Life Rusalka Writer’s large sculptie sets with what he feels is the desired level of realism to make the build “that much more than a 2D drawing” one can move through.
“So now, in the birthing room for example, we have rumpled eiderdowns and flowing drapes as opposed to the not so real faked 3D using shadowed textures on rectangles,” he said.
The Rusalka Writer sculptie sets at her shop in Bahoozamoth, Griffths, a director of F/Xual Education Services, said, were full permissions and inexpensive compared to most of the sculpties sets he had seen in-world.
Griffiths said that besides the realism/immersion issue he also had been concerned for sometime about the lack of interaction with the build in Stage 1 of the SLENZ midwifery build.
“Yes one can open doors and walk around, draw or open curtains (now beautifully flowing *smiles*) etc., but really in terms of interactivity this stage of the build is currently limited to clicking on objects and
receiving information either in the form of notecards, dialogs or links out to the web,” Griffiths said. “The realism mentioned above will definitely create a more immersive experience and given that this (build) has been designed as an ideal birthing unit ( i.e. one that generally cannot be experienced in the real world) there will be a learning aspect in terms of sensing the atmosphere that such a unit could bring to the birthing
“But interactive… well not quite,” he said adding that he had been struck by the fact that when he had recently met some of the midwives in-world for a walk-through without exception, when they had entered the birthing room, they had attempted to enter the birthing pool.
The “real” thing … all the midwives wanted to try the birthing pool.
“Well you would wouldn’t you?” he asked, and added, “… yet this aspect of engaging with the build had not been really considered for this stage despite his and other’s interest in the capability of MUVEs to present the aspect of play in a learning experience.
Building on that observation, he said he had talked to the midwives about the possibilities and it had been suggested that, as well as clicking on each of the items displayed to present different birthing techniques (e.g. the birthing pool, the leaning mantle, the rope etc) and linking out to information on the web relating to the theory involved, “we create pose animations for each of the objects that would optionally allow the users to “assume the position.
“Not only would this be instructive in a sense but would insert an element of fun that I feel is distinctly lacking in this stage,” he said, asking for the team’s thoughts on the idea.
Looking forward to Stage 2 of the midwifery build where the SLENZ Project intends to simulate a normal childbirth scenario there had also been a boon in discovering the Rusalka Writer sculptie sets, he said.
“Again in terms of suspending disbelief it is important in my view that we create as realistic a ‘baby’ as is possible,” Griffiths said.
The creation of a prim-based, scripted robot, or an avatar-based bot, logged in specifically for the birth, had been discussed but both had their drawbacks: the prim bot ,though easily manipulated through scripting ,would be hard to make look real, while the avatar would have to be logged in (complete with floating name and title) and manipulated, with the problem of animation permissions to be overcome.
“What a joy then to find amongst the sculptie sets a full set of body part shapes that with good texturing may solve our problems in this respect,” he said.
“All-in-all a good week for the developer with a much better sense that the midwifery unit will immerse, engage and have the end result that we all are heading towards,” Griffiths concluded.