Weekly Development Notes #23 – Customer Support and Fixing Usability Issues

Covering the week of June 8th – 12th, 2020.

Hey everyone, this is Ryan here with our 23rd development update for the FLIP Fluids addon for Blender! I’ll keep this update short since it’s been quite a busy week and there’s a lot that I’d to get done before Friday. Last week’s development almost entirely involved handing customer support. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the workload during last week, but it looks like we’ll be getting back to a normal workload by next week!

Keeping track of customer support requests

We have been receiving an unusually high amount of customer support requests during the past week. Here is a heatmap graphic showing daily support volume between January 6th and June 12th of this year:

Starting in January I have been keeping track of daily support request volume. Light green/yellow to dark green represent time spent on customer support during the work day, ranging from less than an hour on light days to four+ hours on heavy days. Blank days represent the weekend, or holidays and sick days.

The majority of the support requests over the past week were from new users of the FLIP Fluids addon fromt he past two months. Gaining feedback from new users is excellent for us in determining what can be improved to make the addon more friendly to beginners.

Möbius Strip Experiment

In this experiment, a Surface Force Field is aligned to the normals of a Möbius Strip, a non-manifold one-sided surface:

It looks like the Gfycat link is not currently working. At the moment, the animation can be viewed on our Twitter account here.

Development Notes

Many of the small developments over the last week are based on feedback and to prevent potential issues. Preventing issues from arising is very important to us because this allows for more time input into code development.

  • Blender Devtalk: Faster scene initializingArc4g posted a good question on the Blender Devtalk forum, which is why scene render initialization takes so long for whitewater particles? I have added a simple scene to the thread that can reproduce the issue using a simple script without the use of the FLIP Fluids addon. Hopefully we’ll get an answer or some insight to why this is happening.
  • Fixed FLIP Fluids stats display bug – Fixed a bug that could cause the FLIP Fluids stats panel to display the data from the previous simulation if viewed after resetting the cache.
  • Force Field Antigravity Implementation – It can be helpful to set a region within a force field to have lower, higher, or zero strength gravity. Last week I had a chance to add an implementation for all force field modes to allow for this using an gravity strength setting. Still a little bit of work to finish this feature.
  • Added a file to display info if the addon has been installed incorrectly – A common issue when installing the addon using the source code is that the source code .zip file is not actually an addon installation file. Instead of displaying nothing when installing the addon incorrectly, a ‘fake’ addon file has been added to display info about how to properly install the addon or how to get the addon.
  • Updated FLIP Fluids project page readme file – A source of confusion was that there are some differences between the features displayed on our GitHub project page and our Blender Market product page. The project page readme has been updated to redirect to the Blender Market page for the up-to-date list of features.
  • Added a reminder the Beginner Friendly Mode is active – The beginner friendly mode hides all but the most important settings of the addon. A source of confusion is that a user could forget the Beginner Friendly Mode is active and they will be wondering why settings are missing. I have added a text reminder in the Blender Physics Panel that this mode is active and how to disable this mode.
  • New documentation topic: Tips for Creating Ship Simulations – Added a topic for a very common question that we have been receiving: can the FLIP Fluids addon be used to create ship simulations. This topic provides tips and info on this topic.
  • Added missing operator for whitewater selection in FLIP Fluids toolshelf panel – The toolshelf panel contains come quick selection operators for selecting the whitewater mesh objects. The Dust object type was missing from this panel.

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