Thursday, June 6, 2013

Misconceptions about users

We are all users of something. Most readers of this blog are for example users of Second Life, SL for short. SL offers also to be creative. one can be creator of content and consumer of content at the same time.
The tools to create content are a given. There is for example the inworld build- and script tool. And one can also import things into SL, that have been made with Gimp or Photoshop, or with Blender, or music streams made with software for that.
However, the platform that provides all that content, once created or imported, is SL. it is the Meta-Platform, from which creations go in and out, are exchanged and enjoyed. And the creator tools could be refined, improved, made better. yes. Everything can be optimized more, as one collects experience over time.
There is a faction in SL, that wants to make the user experience better. From users, for users. In this post today, i focus on "from content creators for content creators and users". There are some blogs dealing with such topics. And although i am fan of reading them, i am not agreeable with all what is written there. So i have read here recently things like "change all your textures to 256x256 and it loads faster, also replace all sculpted content with mesh content".
And the author of that writing is right, yes, it makes your user experience faster. Absolutely. However there are two major obstacles:

Mesh trees look crap. At least as it is now, June 7. It is much like mesh hair. That looks crap often too. And as long as that is so, people won't use mesh trees. And many still refuse to use mesh hair. There is no technical reason. It just looks bad.
(Sidenote: If you are a mesh content creator: i do not mean to hurt you. But look at these two items, as example, and make them in mesh. Like these. And yes, added flexiprims "non mesh" are perfectly fine. the sculpt-creations do that too. )

Yes. If you look at the tree, your frame rate drops, a lot. And yes, if the tree would be mesh, the framerate would not drop so much. 
And here is the trick: how many of my dears readers understood this last sentence? and can explain it? 

This is the second obstacle:
If you are one of those readers who can't explain it: do not worry. Because: most can't. and most do not need to. You want to enjoy SL. And whether the SL viewers render sculpts faster than meshes or meshes faster than sculpts? Why should you care?

Who should care?
those who make:
- video cards
- graphic software
- viewers

Asking the user, who often spends their RL hard earned cash in items here, to "not do this and that" is like demanding from every car driver in RL to now switch to electro cars because of the environment. It is starting from the wrong point. And often not even understood. 
To be clear:
As a car driver, i want to get from A to B. I am not interested in how my car works.
A SL user wants their stuff that they bought to look pretty. They are not interested in polygons and framerates.


  1. I posted a brief reply to the comment you left, but wanted to post something over here, too.

    Regarding mesh, some of it does look awful but there's a growing amount of great looking mesh content. Studio Skye makes some fantastic trees I've been using. Wasabi Pills is my favourite shop for mesh hair. I do think some of the un-rigged mesh hair could benefit from judicious rigging to add a "flexi" look to it that moves a bit more naturally than even flexiprims. Maybe we'll see that in time.

    And that will eventually take care of the second point. It's possible to make much better mesh content than attempting to do the same thing with sculpts and regular prims. Because of this, more and more users will flock to mesh just as they flocked to sculpts. We're already seeing it.

    I don't agree that pointing out how and why mesh content will let you experience higher framerates is the same as "demanding" people switch to mesh. It's providing information for people to use or ignore as they see fit.

    It's much the same as pointing out how you can get far more value out of your land if you use a smaller avatar and build to reasonable sizes. Not everyone will do this, but it's good to share information on the benefits to let people make an educated decision.

    See what I mean? :)

  2. you wrote in your blog somewhere, that this is so because sculptes are harder to render than meshes. And here i say as user: do i care? If sculpties are harder to rezz, make them rezz easier.
    While I understand that it will take time to create equally good content in mesh, from the looks, than what we have i n sculpts now, i also refuse to throw away my inventory just because its sculpts and therefore more difficult to rezz. In the first place, I am a user, and i did not tell LL or anyone else for that matter, to introduce sculpts prior to mesh. But they did, and now it is in the responsibility of them, to make sculpts rezz equally fast than meshes do.

    1. I can sympathize but they cannot make sculpts equally efficient to mesh. I'll see if I can explain.

      Basically, sculpts *are* mesh, each pixel in a sculpt map is a vertex point and it's place in space is determined by the colour. SL reads this sculpt map data and uses it to create a mesh model we see in-world. Every sculpted prim is a 2048 triangle mesh model, the number of triangles does not change no matter what you do to the sculpt. Whether it's a simple cube or a more complicated/organic shape, it is always 2048 triangles.

      What's more, due to the way sculpts work, a creator is entirely unable to make the most efficient use of those triangles, meaning they have to add additional sculpts, each at an additional 2048 triangle increase, to do complicated content.

      You cannot make a mesh model that is many times more triangles than another render just as easily. The number of triangles is what determines how much computer power it takes to render.

      If there were a way to make sculpts render as efficiently it would mean changing the way people make sculpts, basically making them mesh. Of course, this would only affect new content made with the changes, existing sculpted content would be unaffected so you'd be in exactly the same position.

      The thing to understand is that no one is saying you should entirely abandon sculpts or delete all the sculpted content you've spent money on all this time. It's going to be years before the amount and variety of mesh content matches the half a decade plus of sculpted content that's amassed.

      What I say on my blog is that you experience higher framerates using mesh (aside from the texture issue I also wrote about, but that's a whole other headache) and that *going forward* people will want to purchase mesh content over sculpted content to take advantage of that.

      Remember, when sculpts were introduced there were the same complaints from people about not wanting to throw away their old prim based content. I also distinctly recall people complaining that hair made from sculpted prims did not look as good as flexi prim hair. These things work themselves out over time. :)



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