Dienstag, 26. August 2014

Portrait: Ferd Frederix

Spending time in Virtual Worlds and start building and scripting, sooner or later one will come upon the name of the guru of this worlds. He is an old hand in the worlds of pixels and programming in scripting languages. His latest development is the realization of the Blender "YO ! Frankie" game in the Open Sim World. The "Hyperzette" met him on his Region on OSGrid three weeks ago and we could ask him a few questions. And here is the interview with Ferd Frederix aka Fred Beckhusen.

Hi Ferd, if someone is looking for scripts for virtual worlds either Second Life or Open Sim in the internet, pretty soon one reads your name and clicks on the most informative page "Phaze Demesnes" with a tremendous number of scripts for free download and free use. Would you tell the readers when you began to capture the virtual worlds ?

Ah, the "good old days'. I started in Second Life in 2006 when it first received all the press hype. I was impressed by the creativity, the artists, and the photography.
I had a small plot of land in SL that grew to 17,0002 meters to support my prim appetite, but I didn't attempt scripting as it was too much like what I did at work, which is 3-D mechanical work and programming and designing microcomputer circuits.
My first LSL script experience was when I linked the light switch into the house. I took it apart and rewrote it to make my house become visible again. After a couple of years, I got tired of prims, sold my parcel and deleted my avatar.
I came back a few weeks later as Ferd Frederix and walked around. Then I bumped into my muse, inspiration and SL partner Debbie Edwards. Debbie is known as "Nyira Machabelli" in OpenSim and "Wavinggirlsav Voom" in Second Life.
Debbie and I joined OSGrid back in 2009 but didn't do much to it. We had a sim in Metropolis for a while for R&D - mainly because of the nice people there.
Anyway, the next thing we knew, we had spent a year together in "Hanja". We both became SL Mentors and went off to the "Help Islands". Back in 2007 and 2008 there were several thousand Second Life Mentors who helped with the dozens of Help Islands, Infohubs, and Community Gateways. I started scripting to help nooblets get help from SL Mentors.
Debbie and I discuss debugging the Meta Map project at the SLVEC sim. Colored lines indicate noobie queues at the "Help Islands" and Linden-owned Infohubs, which were all sensored to report traffic to an online database. About 15,000 people a day came through the system.

One day Debbie and I figured out that the people that were just standing around were doing so because they did not understand English.
Debbie kept asking why couldn't Second Life have a way for everyone to speak the others persons language - right at the very start. Anyone could then help anybody!
So we worked up a plan: make and give out 100,000 free translators in one year as proof that it was scalable and could be built into the viewer. After 1,500 hours of scripting and after I got permission from the "Google Brands Permission Department", we had a easy to use and totally free "Google Translator' system.
We got the sim "Phaze Demesnes" as a home base, I hired employees to help people have a positive first SL experience, and we built a lot of infrastructure to make absolutely certain that the Lindens would see that a built-in translator could be a positive thing.
We sent monthly "notecard reports" to every Linden that might listen, and made the Phaze website to track every statistic possible. I remember asking John Lester, aka "Pathfinder Linden" for names of people that might help at Friday night Mentor party. Eventually we talked "Blondin Linden" into adding a dispenser to the 32 Help Islands. We also got him to change the "Exit" sign to "Enter" so people would not think they were quitting when they clicked it to get into the actual world.

We eventually figured out out that 60% of all SL'ers were not native-English speakers. And we hit every goal - Debbie and I stayed up until 3AM (Second Life midnight) a year later for a countdown, and we had around 110,000 users if my memory is correct. The plan worked perfectly.
Philip Rosedale, aka "Philip Linden", the founder of Second Life, came to Phaze Demesnes. He had a nice conversation with a group of enthusiastic German role-players. He immediately approved (and paid for!) an outside developer to put it into the viewer.
So almost every viewer now has a Bing/Google translator with no need for a laggy, scripted translator.
As a nice side effect, we both ended up with a lot of Linden bears! Except for Philips.  
Philip, are you listening? You still owe both of us a bear.

"Phaze Demesnes" is a Blog and Website where one can find scripts made by you, but also a huge collection made by others. Can everybody submit scripts to this Website ? What are the requirements to do so ? Will they be tested ? And how can one submit ?

Anyone can send me a script to fred@mitsi.com and I'll link it in. I don't allow direct access to the database any more due to the potential for abuse. I always check them in LSLEditor for syntax errors, and add metadata and links to the documentation to make them searchable and understandable. Authors always get credit.
There are no ads, no evil trackers, and everything I do is free.
It started as a simple archive so that useful stuff would not get lost, and it grew from there. There are 1604 unique scripts for 1035 projects, and about half of them are my work.
I was going to do a 'script of the day' post at one time, then I realized it would take me almost 4 years just to do one post on each of them. It all goes into a "Subversion" version control system, and there is a SQL database involved. I will post it all to GitHub or Google Code some day, so it should be available for a very long time.
There is about a 500 megabytes in the script collection.

But "Phaze Demesnes" is not only Scripts but much more. Would you tell in short what else readers can find there?

Free tools for making your own world , with mirrors of Linda Kellies work, some models - mesh hair, free avatars and a lot of clothing and other templates. There is also a very large library of open sourced seamless textures with normal maps, and a library of open source sculpt, OARs, IARS, and 3-D models .
All together, about 80 gigabytes, not counting the database.

Beside the WebSite "Phaze Demesnes" you are to be found with regions in Virtual Worlds. Can you tell the names of the regions and the grids you are in ?

"Phaze Demesnes" (pronounced di-MANE/ or /dih-MEEN/,meaning a Lady and a Lord's region)
is an estate in Second Life.
Debbie and I built it around ideas from the book series "Split Infinity", a seven-novel series by Piers Anthony.
It is a fantasy-and-freebie land where dragons, fairies and ghosts roam. It has an integrated Perl-LSL game where you fight the demons, free the mermaid, and save the world by using magic. It is a place to have fun and to hand out all the freebies I've made.

"Virunga Mountain" is a virtual Africa. We use Non Player Characters (NPCs) to act out a game in Dian Fossey's timeline.
You can get there via hypergrid to  

"Frankie" is a port of the open source http://yofrankie.org/ Blender game to Opensim. It is a fun, cartoon world made entirely in mesh, where you collect acorns, avoid getting rammed and avoid other hazards, and figure out simple puzzles. You can get there via hypergrid to www.outworldz.com:9000:Frankie

One of the regions I visited the last days was "Virunga Mountains". With this region you developed an African landscape as an Hommage to Dian Fossey and her work and live. Dian Fossey studied the life of the Mountain Gorillas in the real Virunga Mountain Area and fighted for the survival of this species. My question is what inspired you to create such a region ?

Dian Fossey single-handedly saved the (still) greatly endangered mountain gorillas of Africa from extinction. There were only a few hundred of our closest relatives left in her time, and thanks to her efforts and many others (for which she was murdered) there are 880 now, in only 36 distinct social groups and 16 solitary males. Dian was dramatized in the movie "Gorillas in the Mist" in 1988. In our simulation, she is still alive in an alternative universe - Opensim.
"Nyira Machabelli", - aka Debbie Edwards - came up with almost all of it. She has done a tremendous amount of research and work on this project. The village, the Lodge, the ape herds and animations, the layout and concept are all hers. I do the digging and scripting and since I am an old male primate, I get to do most of the scratching. We've been working about two years on it. There is not much contemporary African anything around the freebie malls, so it has taken a long time to model it. Almost everything had to be scratch-built.

"Virunga Mountains" is the most lively region I have ever seen in a virtual world. Most lively in the sense of animated animals and animal and human NPC's which enliven the scenery in almost every corner of the VarRegion. How many of those populate only the African scenery ? And what kind of requirements one has to take in account ?

I've lost count. Maybe 20 different NPC animals in the mountains. There is also Rue, Geri, Rhonda, and Roger, the family that lives in the village of Ruhengeri in Rwanda and runs the lodge. Debbie is just finishing up "Rhonda" and then the 'first family' will be more or less complete.
All together, there are about 4 gigabytes of source material specific to this one varregion. The sim runs on my home computer, a small, 2.5 Ghz Intel I7-920 CPU on a small flash SSD disk-drive. It takes up about 1-2% CPU when idle, and I measured about 10% use of the CPU with Firestorm running on the same system. That was with 3 avatars in the sim and with 43 NPC's present. It takes up about 1.5 Gigs of RAM.
We still have crashes that we are trying to track down and log in the Mantis bug tracking system and there are rendering problems depending upon who-knows-what. But running large numbers of NPCs is not as hard as it might seem. NPC's scale linearly, which is much different from an avatar. Avatars scale up exponentially and lag you much quicker. I use a lot of sensors and collision objects to bring in only the characters that are nearby. If you walk across the plains, at one point you will see large numbers of zebras rain out of the sky. I liked that so much I haven't changed it.
NPC's are relatively easy to make and train. There are lot of them around - at nice places like Nara's Nook, and they make great chatbots , too. I rebuilt a script engine originally from Wizardry and Steamworks and made an easy to use NPC animator. I use it everywhere.

Well I asked for the amount of NPC's only for the African region, well knowing that there are some more in a totally different environment one can find on "Virunga Mountain". I talk about the "Yo! Game". Even on the risk of a longer answer, would you please tell us why and how the Blender game "Yo Frankie" ported to OpenSim ?

YoFrankie! was the first Blender Institute "game engine" project. Everything in it was very nicely made by some real pro's at Blender and mesh. It was made in 2007 but is sadly out of date.
The assets are all Creative Commons-BY attribution licensed, so I spent the last few months making an Opensim version just for fun.
There are 3 of 8 levels converted.
It has specular and normal maps so it looks even better when advanced lighting is enabled. One of the things YoFrankie! has made me realize is that Opensim is very different from Second Life and the Blender Game engine. It is a lot easier to script in OpensIm than in Blender. And I love the way you can dramatically change the way the world looks by using large mesh pieces as land. It makes the land much nicer, as you can use 'normal maps', which add 'bumpiness'; without adding polygons, and 'specular maps', which add reflections of the sun and moon projectors, and you can use much better textures than the default 512 X 512 'stretchy-looking' land.

There are lot of nice rocks, some lovely low-poly trees and other useful bits for Opensim builders. You can get all the data from my port to Opensim on my web site. Just be sure you credit the www.yofrankie.org people if you redistribute them.

Are all the scripts you are using free to download and to use in the virtual worlds ? Where can one get those ? And what to keep in mind when using those scripts with SL or with OpenSim Simulators ?

Just go to
All the scripts and assets I have online (over 80 gigabytes in all ) are open source.
Each author's license is included in the file or the file name. All my scripts are free and open source but the scripts by themselves are to be non-commercial.
Please don't sell them, but you can give them away so long as it is for free. You can use any of my scripts in an object and sell the object.

What do we have to expect next from Ferd Frederix ?

'Virunga' will soon be an adventure game.  You fly in - inside a vintage DC-3 airplane - drive a Land Rover with Roger, and stay in the Virunga Lodge. If you collect the right things, meet the right NPC's, and get the right tools, Dian the NPC will take you to the gorillas for an opportunity to shoot a gorilla - with a camera, of course. Debbie has made a very nice set of custom animations and poses for the gang for photo taking that only work if you play the game. Here is a shot of Debbie working on the Virunga Lodge dining room while I work on the rat NPC for the "YoFrankie!" game.

And more rideable, realistic mesh animals are coming soon - like the tiger, the elephant, and an ostrich. These already work in SL and will soon be in OpenSim.

Thank you Ferd for this interview

This interview was made before the meltdown of the OSGrid. Because of that Ferd moved his regions to his own reactivated Grid OUTWORLDZ. Both regions are now to be reached under the following jump addresses in the world map search:

Interviewpartner: Ferd Frederix (Fred Beckhusen)
For the "Hyperzette": zaphod Enoch

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