Create SL Objects in Blender — If You Dare

Blender plug-in for creating Second Life objectsSecond Life objects created in Blender plug-in

A cooperative effort by several Second Life residents has, after many months of work, produced an offline app that allows SL residents to build SL-friendly objects outside the world, then import them via the scripting system. [Thanks for the tip, Prok!] Led by resident Jeffrey Gomez, the project, described (if briefly) in this forum thread, seems to take the form of a plug-in for the Blender open-source 3D modeling software. Jeffrey has created a UI for the tool, known as Prim.Blender (after the primitives that are SL’s basic building blocks) that mimics Second Life’s Build tool, and produces objects that are described by the same parameters SL uses. Resident Thraxis Epsilon completed the circuit by writing a script that allows those objects to be imported into Second Life.

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I haven’t tried this out yet, but Jeffrey Gomez has long enjoyed a reputation in SL as a master builder. The ability to build objects outside of SL is something that many residents have wanted for a long time. The fact is, Second Life is often a place that’s hardly conducive to building: lag is an issue, and the inability to secure any privacy can make building large or complex objects a frustrating experience.

Prim.Blender will probably be a great boon for SL builders. But already the unique nature of SL society and the legal mess that surrounds IP issues have had a chilling effect on innovation: One feature notably missing from the tool is the ability to convert existing 3D models into parameters that SL could understand and manipulate, thus allowing an object built in a different modeling tool to be imported into Second Life. Jeffrey states in the forum thread that he does not intend to build such a capability: “First, it’s hard — and likely CPU-intensive on the maths. Second, it would allow people to take stuff from say, OGLE, and make it right back into prims. Which isn’t a good thing for permissions.” In other words, it would allow people to grab interesting objects from SL — even if they are designed not to be copied — export them via the OpenGL Extractor, re-create them in the Blender plug-in and then import them to SL again.

Jeffrey, of course, is under no obligation to create anything; all the work he’s done has been for free, a generous donation to the SL community. But it’s interesting that he deems it better to hamstring technological development than to create a tool that could be used to step on IP rights. Many SL residents are extremely sensitive about other people copying their creations. Much revenue is lost in SL by people whose products have been knocked off. That said, there has yet to be a lawsuit on the subject. SL residents so far have refused to take an active hand in protecting their own rights, other than by clamoring for Linden Lab to protect them on their behalf. Now, that passivity is actively stifling technological change. After all, Louis Vuitton — which loses far, far more income each year from the knock-off handbags that are sold on Canal Street here in New York than anyone loses due to knock-offs in Second Life — Vuitton is not clamoring for someone to do away with industrial sewing machines or other technology that would allow a thief to copy their products.

Those questions aside, though, you have to hand it to Jeffrey and Thraxis. Prim.Blender is a tool that should heighten productivity for many SL builders. The dream of SL as a place of cooperative content-creation has never really come true; such activity goes on, but it is almost certainly the small minority of such activity. SL is not really suited to it. It’ll be interesting to see what Jeffrey’s Blender plug-in adds to the world.

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  • Comments (5)
  1. Nice update and good timing. I’d mentioned this project a couple of days ago to someone.

  2. Really interesting – I was speaking to someone about this earlier today, actually. Clearly if you could export and re-import objects, it would compromise the SL economy.

  3. Nifty! Thanks for the plug.

    To clarify: There are really two reasons I don’t take on a more direct role in the import and export process than I have.

    First, I have rather overt plans to move on with my life, hopefully by building on the ideas Second Life, Active Worlds, et al have laid out. I promised to complete this offline builder tool a year and change ago. In that sense, I did. On to bigger and better things.

    Second, my last brush with the permissions system (with the mirror) ended up with me completely being blasted by the community for something I tried pretty hard to not have happen.

    The fact is, and I’m going to make this perfectly clear: Second Life is a razor-thin line of security. People have been known to hack assets with a simple debugger. Further, the permissions system simply does not provide well for the protection of intellectual property, leading to a general snafu of who-owns-what-when-why-and-how?

    It’s annoying because, to make proper (and useful) tools, the degree of granularity to protect others’ work simply does not exist. It’s a single, homogenous system. Until others can host their own assets and take matters into their own hands on their distribution, I won’t touch this matter with a ten foot pole.

    Because frankly, I’d rather not get sued.

  4. Also, clarification number two, on this comment:

    “One feature notably missing from the tool is the ability to convert existing 3D models into parameters that SL could understand and manipulate, thus allowing an object built in a different modeling tool to be imported into Second Life.”

    Actually, that’s been done a while now as per this thread:
    http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=32283

    Which converts Wavefront OBJ format meshes into prims, where one face roughly equals one or more prims.

    What I think you’re looking for is the fact I will not write something that, say, converts a NURBs box into a SL box directly. This would be hard since it’s like trying to force canteloupe into a soup can — meshes are far more freeform than prims. And I would rather not invest the manpower on that.

  5. Hi Jeffrey –
    Thanks for that info. Agree that SL provides almost nothing in the way of technological proof against copyright and IP protection. Also agree that the community has a hair trigger in this matter and doesn’t always see the legal versus technological issues involved. I probably wouldn’t want to get sued either, especially in the current environment, where the tool-maker is more often taking the blame for how the tools are used. I guess this is actually a case of the broader political conservatism at work in the US vis-a-vis technology issues at the moment. Which is a shame.

    I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.
    Cheers,
    Mark

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