The Mesh Deformer: Setting the record straight

One of the hottest discussion topics in Second Life during the past two years is the mesh deformer, which Karl Stiefvater, a.k.a. Qarl Fizz (formerly Qarl Linden) proposed on SL’s JIRA as STORM-1716. Ever since then, the fact that it has not yet been implemented has been an axe that practically everybody has been grinding, touting it as “proof” that Linden Lab is somehow conspiring to displease its user base by not merging a technology funded by “the community” with the main viewer, a technology that is considered to be the silver bullet, the panacea that will magically solve all the problems of LL’s implementation of mesh clothing – such as the need for the introduction of the standard sizing system and the fact that it “dictates” human shapes that actually look human.

Now, I’ll have to tell you that there are still no news on the mesh deformer. Work has not commenced on it yet, but Oz Linden confirmed that, when he goes to LL’s HQ in San Francisco, he’s going to try as hard as he can to get a team together to work on the deformer. That’s all the news I have on the matter. Now, much is being said about the mesh deformer and those involved and, as is the case with a lot of SL-related topics, there’s a tonne of misinformation – intentional or not. I’m going to try and set the record straight as best as I can.The recent ballyhoo about the deformer was initiated by a recent comment Qarl posted on STORM-1716, which I paste below:

Qarl's comment to Oz Linden on the STORM-1716 JIRA

Qarl’s comment to Oz Linden on the STORM-1716 JIRA

Qarl was basically trying – in the way he thought best  – to get things moving on this particular feature and he addressed Oz Linden, as he’s the one to speak to when it comes to viewer development. However, this comment was quickly picked up by various people and it formed the basis of yet another round of drama, dahling. Yes, you guessed it. More whining about how the evil Linden Lab does this and that and doesn’t do this and that and the other. It also turned out that much of the commentary I’ve seen was fuelled by prejudice and personal dislike rather than a willingness to discuss the matter honestly. Factual accuracy was not part of the recent discourse’s equation. As a matter of fact, much of what was said again was as whacked-out as the hysterical scaremongering that goes on in much of the “Free World”, where we were all raised on the bullshit horseshoe theory (which is cunningly promoted by “mainstream” media to make Europe’s nouveau fascist movements – like the neonazis of Greece’s Golden Dawn – look like a valid political choice); we’re still force-fed this crap, actually.

So, the mesh deformer is so shrouded in conspiracy theories and misinformation/disinformation that it’s become hard to tell fact from fiction and personal prejudice. In fact, some people openly declare that it’s their choice to not take facts into account, but go with what their egos and prejudices towards certain people or groups of people tell them. This is a pity, because they really should know better. But anyway, I’m going to try once again to put things right.

 A little background

As I had written before, the mesh deformer is a proposed viewer capability that Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz, formerly Qarl Linden) put forth in STORM-1716 on 11/24/2011. The functionality of the deformer, as described in the JIRA, is as follows:

[W]hen wearing mesh clothing in second life – modifying the body shape of the avatar causes the clothing to no longer fit. making the avatar fatter causes it to protrude beyond clothing; making it thinner causes the clothing to hang in space away from the avatar.

And the solution is, again as Qarl put it in the JIRA, to “deform clothing meshes to match changes in avatar shape.”

According to Qarl’s proposition, the mesh deformer will do the following things (I’m keeping his spelling and syntax as-is):

Q: will this deformer work on any avatar mesh (dragon, robot, etc) or only the default male and female avatars provided by SL.

A: only the default SL avatars will be supported.

Q: will the deformed mesh clothing match all the sliders controlled in the avatar editor?

A: yes.

Q: will users have control over layering of multiple mesh clothing items?

A: no. this project is to address ONLY the issues caused by changing the avatar’s shape.

Q: will users have control over offset or thickness for mesh clothing?

A: users will not have this control. clothing designers will be able to control this when modeling the clothing on the template avatar.

Q: will manual adjustments be possible? required? or will deformation be fully automatic?

A: the user will make no manual adjustments. the deformer will be fully automatic.

Q: when does the deformation take place?

A: when the user puts on a new piece of clothing – and when the user modifies any of their avatar shape parameters.

Q: is the deformation computed on the client or the server?

A: it is computed on the client.

Q: what dependencies might this have on the server side?

A: a new boolean variable will need to be added to the mesh asset. the variable indicates whether this mesh should be deformed or not.

Q: will mesh clothing deform dynamically to match avatar physics wearables?

A: deforming with avatar physics was not part of the original specification of the project – and may possibly entail a large amount of development work to do efficiently. however, LL has shown keen interest in having the deformer work with physics – so we are examining the costs.

Q: what about automatic skin weights?

A: that work can be done independently of this work – so i think it’s best to create a separate (mini) project for it.

Q: what happens to already existing rigged mesh wearables?

A: the default behavior for meshes which were created before the deformer will be to NOT apply the deformer. (this is for backwards compatibility – so that any meshes created prior to this work are not broken.)

Q: how will this deformer work with skirts?

A: the deformer will not treat skirts any differently than other clothing types.

Of course, what Qarl wrote in the “Before you comment” box was duly ignored by everyone who commented, so this JIRA entry was eventually reduced to being nothing but a pile of noise: from all sorts of wishes and demands for what else the deformer should do to proposing a new base avatar (an idea that really would be useful for SL, as the current avatar mesh is a total mess, as has been pointed out by many people, including the Firestorm team’s Tonya Souther).

Now, let’s handle the claims one by one.

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