Over at EvolverPro the guys are having a special offer that lets you download a model for free. Usually the fully rigged model (that you can use in things like unity) is $39.
I took the opportunity of both putting some trousers one of my avatars and downloading the rig whilst wearing my Feeding Edge Tshirt.
So I now have 2 fully rigged and poseable Avatars that I can use in 3d packages and in my Unity3d Demos.
To quote Tim Blagden from Evolver “one free character to anyone who enters the coupon code pro817 and clicks add between now and August 17th. Help yourself to a character and spread the word.”
I have now had this conversation several times with people about the potential future that a mix of open source and open minded development may bring to the virtual world industry. Much of what is happening seems to be driven by some of the direction Second Life has taken or is taking, though not so much to follow it into corporate lockdown but to breakout and provide the flexibility and creativity that is needed for the next generation of virtual worlds.
In the early days of 2006 many of us said it would be great to be able to run a Second Life server, our own one under out control. That has taken a while to start to emerge, but it has emerged as an expensive product aimed at corporate IT departments. Luckily the opensource community had rallied and created the excellent Opensim. This ticks all the boxes of being able to be run locally, be run in the cloud, be provided as a service. So we have an extensible virtual world server ready to be built upon.
The other component missing was a more controllable and rich interface. Yes there is the Second Life Snowglobe open source client but the need to certify and lockdown variants to align with the product needs for Second Life means that lots of the flexibility is lost. Likewise the initial open source Linden based client was under a GPL licence which caused all sorts of development to not happen at the time it really could have done with it.
This is where Unity3d steps in I believe. It was Rob Smart who first started to show me this way back. Unity3d is a great front end, very flexible in how you build games and content for it.
This was a movie form back in September 2008, using a message from Second Life to several unity clients to create a cube. This is loose integration, telling one place something has happened and letting the other place get on with it.
Unity3d has a plugin architecture too. It runs in a browser or deploys to application platforms like mac and windows. The visuals can be made very good very quickly too. Unity3d needs a server of some sort to operate as a multiuser platform (though it does do some peer 2 peer) hence applications like Smartfox are ideal for producing Unity multiplayer and MMO style games.
However Opensim has all the other layers of things needed to maintain a virtual world. It has assets databases, chat, positional awareness, server side scripting (as does Second Life that is was originally based on of course).
So we have an extensible and easy to get hold of Unity3D client engine, and extensible and easy to get hold of Server/Persistence VW engine in Opensim. There may well be challenges in making the two understand one another but with the flexibility both sides of the equation that makes them very solvable. This is a high level view, Rob has some more detail here on the challenges. Add in some interoperation definition with Vastpark to help bind the two and make some mappings.
Throw into the mix an open minded avatar wizard such as Evolver. There we can build avatars that we know definitely can be dropped into Unity3d.
So…..I create an Evolver avatar, dropped as a resource bundle into a web deployed Unity3d client that tells the opensim server where I am in the coordinate system, and which bundle I am using. Other people with a Unity3d client see the rich detailed avatar and the shiny Unity3d environment. However we do not have to stick to that one client. Other people using a Second Life style client see the Second Life style rendering of the world?
This is already happening in some respects, the Iphone application Touch Life lets you logon to the public Second Life. In a sort of bugblatter beast of traal moment everyone can see you, but you cant see them. You navigate your avatar around the map, have full chat, inventory and economy access, but a very different view of the world to everyone else. (Of course Unity3d runs well on an Iphone too, so imagine that as an extension to Touch Life?)
Once there is an acceptance that there can be more that one view of the data, one where people without the full equipment can still see what is going on and participate things get a lot easier to consider. Whilst a gaming assumption tends to be we all need the same view at the same speed in order to be able to have balanced gameplay (lag gets you killed) in collaborative spaces, education, meetings and art galleries this is less of an issue.
As the parts of the jigsaw come together over the next year the ability to have the same experience will re-emerge.
I am not sure how I feel about this, but as I have been investigating how to turn my Evolver avatar into a Unity3d string puppet and then drop that on the iphone as part of an education in pipeline and development I have ended up with quick demo that works on the web. In this demo you are able to click the spheres that that are above the avatar, each toggles between 3 modes on each click. Initially the state of each is off. When clicked once or twice the spheres then respond to the arrow keys or wasz game keys. The two active states merely change which direction in/out up/down the spheres will move which let you swing the avatar around. The middle sphere is connected to the spine, the rest to arms and legs.
I am experimenting with types of connection and the various weightings on the joints but I thought I would leave this lying around on the web.
So feel free to throw me around 🙂 Its a bit bonfire night themed, reminded me of penny for the guy as a kid.
It has been a busy week for travel and meetings this week. However in the gaps between pieces of work I have been exploring what I can do quickly and simply with the Iphone 3GS. I had been looking at the various 3d toolkits, doing model import by hand.
In the end it struck me as obvious to use unity3d iphone as this just takes away the underlying hassle.
Using unity3d it was very easy to bring things in such as my Evolver 3d model into an app and make it draggable and rotatable using touch. This took approximately 10 minutes to do. I spent more time wondering about the various particle effect parameters than anything else.
Obviously you can do a whole lot more, but it is a massive leap in productivity. It does not require any other strange contortions or going via windows in order to get a good 3d model in.
There are a few quirks in the tool chain but things like the Unity Remote application that lets you see whats going on via your Mac and streaming media from the iphone are great. (Hint if you cant get unity remote to compile and deploy just grab a version from the iphone store (lost a few minutes thinking about that!)
I know the hardcore techs will be saying you can build all this from the various bits, cocos, SIO2 etc but I have had to do that one to many times and I want to explore the ideas for applications rather than the guts of the platform.
Just having this in my hands and using it has created rather a long list of “I wonder if…” apps to create. Including using the touch interface to control some Opensim objects.
I have continued to explore and be impressed by the avatar model creation site evolver.com
Having created an avatar and looked at the various ways of transporting that content to places I also tried the link to the unity3d powered Friends Hangout. I had tried this a little while ago, and it has changed drastically. There are now multiple game rooms and types to experiment with, and yes it does really import your evolver avatar into unity3d and the engine for you. Something that I can see growing as more platforms open up.
For those of your who have basic 3d packages but not the human clip art that you need it is worth trying the Evolver test transport. They have a basic avatar (to do a try before you buy on your own) that lets you create a sample with a certain resolution, number of bones and file format which you can then import. I am still experimenting with the ideal format for me using Cheetah and Unity3d but it looks very promising. The bones work, the mesh is bound, the textures are there. It costs $39 to export your own creation but that seems well worth the price I have to say.
I just have to decide if I want the more freaky avatar I created or not?
This is the Friends Hangout embed. It uses the Unity3d, but now that on Mac Snow Leopard Safari Unity is currently broken, works fine in Firefox though if you want to try it.
I have been experimenting with many avatar creation sites recently for some projects. I have two experiments I usually try, one is the predator themed version. This usually tests the creative flexibility of a system, with a mask or mandibles messing up most systems.
The other is some green (preferably spikey) haired version thats a caricature in some way of me.
Most recently I looked at Evolver.com a great looking avatar creation service that is designed as a web based wizard for rich 3d content which is then exportable in a variety of formats, from animations to yes, 3d prints of the avatar.
It is also interesting that there is a much more complex and richer export to 3d applications with rigged bones etc for Maya and alike. This seems a good addition though I suspect that many of the users of the high end packages are already skilled in design or have suitable models to work with. I have to try and see if it fits into my “not quite a graphic designer but with aspirations” tool chain and it would be great to grab the custom me and pop it into Unity3d.
This is a sample video the site makes for you with animation of the character too.