Deformed and meshed conspiracy theories

Much like real life, Second Life has its own gamut of conspiracy theories. From the “Feted Inner Core” and the implications that Linden Lab is given to “techno-communism”, to the various “LL is the Enemy” theories that litter the forums, the feeds and basically every place where any sort of discourse on SL-related matters (besides pixelated hanky-panky, worthless gossip among worthless individuals with no life and the ubiquitous scaremongering about copybot) takes place are practically full of them.

According to the “LL is the Enemy” conspiracy theories, LL is some sort of Orwellian fascist (i.e. the merger of state and corporate power, as Benito Mussolini had succinctly put it – and he should know) regime that keeps its residents in a quagmire of misery, saddling them with a deliberately mediocre product, having them pay through the nose for sub-par services, breaking content left, right and centre, allying with all sorts of griefers – the list could go on forever.

In recent times, one of the most popular (at least among the content creators and the trashionistasfashionistas) conspiracy theories has been the one surrounding something called the “mesh deformer”. But just what is the “mesh deformer”?

The mesh deformer, as documented and presented in the JIRA (STORM-1716) on 11/24/2011 by Qarl Fizz, is a proposed capability for the Second Life viewers (official and third-party), which will practically put an end to the need for us to modify our avatars so that they will conform to the “standard sizing” put forth by a number of fashion designers and (more or less) adopted by a number of other fashion designers.

As Qarl Fizz put it in the JIRA, the problem is as such:

[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 was written in the “Before you comment” box was duly ignored by most commenters and now, thanks to the fact that appallingly large numbers of SL residents consider the grapevine to be the most reliable and concise source of information, there seems to be a popular impression (or delusion) that the mesh deformer will also come with new avatar bases to replace the existing ones, additional avatar shapes (animal, vehicle, whatever) and, of course, a 24K gold-plated kitchen sink. All this simply because several commenters (in often off-topic comments) asked for these features. There’s also a very widely-held belief that the mesh deformer is “ready” and that LL are either “lazy asses who won’t bother to introduce it” or some sort of evil characters that have the technology ready and conspire to never introduce it, because they (a) love playing with users’ nerves, (b) don’t give a damn about Second Life and its community, (c) want Second Life to wither and die.

Of course, it is simply not logical to claim that a company wants its core product to fail, but I digress… The grapevine, with its sensationalism, is always a very attractive source of “information” for far too many people and the fact that SL still doesn’t have a mesh deformer for rigged mesh clothing (which would be a tremendous gift for fashion designers) doesn’t help.

So, having read the mesh deformer JIRA (STORM-1716) and all the hullaballoo in various groups and forums, I decided to raise the issue on last Monday’s (10 June 2013) content creation/mesh import user group meeting. My question was:

What’s the current status of the mesh deformer? What features have been requested by content creators? Of these features, which are the most important and which could be omitted or postponed?

Oz Linden was on hand and his reply was:

The deformer is waiting for LL resources to evaluate how well it works and what its performance impact is. I have not been able to get the required people on it yet. I’m optimistic that will happen, but can’t offer any timeline. Sorry… I know that’s not a great answer, but consider that it could be worse.”

I dwelt on the matter a bit:

Oz, what features have been requested for the deformer to have? I know I might sound like a broken record here, but there have been discussions – on a level of discourse I don’t really care about, to be honest – where LL is portrayed as simply not bothering with the deformer or even plotting against it.

And Oz’s response was (emphasis mine):

“Mona – don’t believe 90% of what you hear. The target functionality is, I think, clearly described in the Description of the JIRA issue. Note that I did not say, ‘and the comments.’ That having been said, I personally have some doubts as to the total workflow – the confidence that the avatar bases being used are actually consistent. But I’m not really the right person to answer that question, just someone asking it. Note for example that if we accepted any of the changes offered in STORM-1800 [The vertex weights of the default character mesh could be better.], we’d be changing some aspects of that base.

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