Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why is MESH going to change our experience of Second Life? #SL [UPDATED]

A lot of people in SL have probably been wondering what all the fuss is about MESH so for my friends and anyone who is not a game design geek or 3D model maker i'll try to explain how i see it.

Since the dawn of SL time we have been building with PRIMS. It's the simplest form of creativity in SL and is something everybody has a go at when they first arrive. I know this because im constantly clearing up plywood cubes randomly razzed around my island. 

Like a kid playing with Lego you soon learn to build elaborate complex objects that resemble something we can recognise and its not long before groups of Users come together and build entire towns. We start to take notice of detail creating fine jewellery consisting of over 1000 prims. Regardless of the Viewers struggle to download and render all this (and failing lighting and shading on my Mac at least) it's probably fare to say that SecondLife showcases some extremely highly detailed modelling, so Kudos to all those creative pationate users.

SL is less a 3D modelling Program but more a games development platform.
Some of the best most popular games have 3D modelling far less detailed than a lot of what we see in Second Life. For example World of War Craft the leading online world, if you really look you will see it is far less detailed. The reason is because the developers 'optimise' the characters, buildings and objects so they run smoothly and update reliably in real time. 

Even the top games like Portal2, Assassins Creed and Bioshock2 use 3D modelling thats optimised and simple compared to some of the ultra detailed stuff you can sometimes find in SL. These games use atmospheric lighting, shadows, textures and other visual tricks to enhance the detail of a 3D object. 

Really we have to marvel at Second Life's ability to download and render the mountain of detail us Users have created. The Viewer has to download then display the mass of objects that make up a 400 prim building, along with its textures, and then we simply walk off to another location where it has to repeat the process. Eventually the Viewer is trying to display way more than your average high end computer game.

Why new mesh support could transform Second Life. 
A single Prim has a preset amount of parts that create it, (polygons or vertices, sides) each time you ad a prim you ad more parts regardless of the size of that prim. Soon you will have detailed object made of hundreds of prims containing thousands of parts and this is part of the reason SL Viewer struggles to render causing LAG.

Building a mesh object means you have control over the amount of parts that make an object. So instead of building with prims that each have a set number of parts, you build with parts, there is no prim.

Do not try and bend the PRIM. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.....There is no PRIM

Below is an example that shows you an object made with Prims with each prim being made up of a set number of parts, and a Mesh version that shows how users can build the same shape but with far less parts. 

Two very similar looking objects, one Prim based the other Mesh.

Turning to Wireframe you can now see the parts that make up
each object. The more parts to an object the harder it is for
the viewer to show.

Here i have nicked some examples of World of Warcraft 3D models and their wireframe(Mesh) views that how many parts make them and how basic the 3D detail is. [UPDATE] Images taken from THIS website.

Some would say these characters are TOO optimised
A character Mesh like this could be the equivalent to as little as
2 or 3 standard SL prims

LL are working on a system that calculates how many prims
a mesh object is WORTH by how many parts make up the object.

This simple building may be the equivalent of LESS than one prim.
But i guess it would be rounded up to be a 1 prim object.
With the introduction of Mesh Linden Lab give top SL creatives the ability to control and optimise the parts that make up an object with the hope of a better crafted virtual world.

More Creative Control than EVER before!
Mesh is the next level in the Game of Second Life creativity. Many have learnt the basic of model making in SL and it's an exciting and fun step up into the world of professional 3D model making and game design. The introduction of mesh opens a door to many new possibilities not just for the Second Life Grid but for the loyal creative Users of SL to expand. With its users being given the tools to optimise the content all LL need to do is get that Viewer working correctly so it can display our content beautifully with atmosphereing lighting and shadow tricks.

Anyway i hope this has helped to explain the wonders of MESH to those who were wondering what all the fuss was about :) Of course those sticking to viewer1 will not see any of this :-), i'm not gonna wait for you guys.

Interested in making a mesh object and uploading to the Mesh Beta grid, visit my adventures in Mesh on the SL Forum HERE to see my early attempts along with others tips and video tutorials.

You can download the Mesh Beta Viewer HERE and go explore what others have already been building.

Also here is a sneak peak at a T-Shirt i made which bends with the avatar and has an animated front!


Gwyneth Llewelyn said...

Simply amazing! It's great to see experts like you "showing off" how absolutely fantastic SL could be as soon as meshes become official!

Loki Eliot said...

aww thank you LOL, but really im no expert, i have no background in 3D modelling or games design, my background is building in Second Life and thats whats really exciting. Those who have learnt to build in SL now have a great way to step up another level.