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khonsuu

SL's graphics engine is not aging well?

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I'm looking to start a discussion about how Second Life's graphics engine is not aging very well compared to the rest of the 3D industry.    If this issue has already been talked about a lot in another thread, please point me to those threads. Thanks.


Feel free to correct any factual errors here.

 

  1. Second Life's graphic engine essentially came into fruition in 2005-06, and was written in the openGL API.
  2. SL's graphics have been improved in regards to water and very realistic tinting of the sun in the sky at various times of day.
  3.  I would not conclude that SL's graphics have improved "enormously",  the current engine is still written in openGL, for instance.  Additionally, the texture panel when editing objects in-world has not changed since 2007.
  4. Meanwhile the game industry has introduced entirely new consoles (PS3)  and gone through various new APIs for DirectX, which is now up to version 11.1
  5. SL does not support  HDR  (high dynamic range color)
  6. SL does not have bump mapping or parallax mapping.  There is limited control over specularity.
  7. Meanwhile, the game industry has taken onto things called 'pixel shaders' which allow all sorts of surface effects such as realistic skin and paper, and car paint surfaces, suede, etc.

 

Ideally I would like to see a discussion investigating why all these various things have not been implemented.   I would like to get a clear list of excuses.   Before anyone answers, I  am assuming that I will see things such as the following:

"That part of the code cannot be re-written because it is too tightly integrated with the blah-blah, and therefore would require a complete re-write of the doo-dah.  We don't want to completely re-write the doo-dah."


"Linden Labs is committed to opensource, so this ties our hands in regards to the rendering engine and texture editing."  


"The Second Life world is stored in gigantic databases, and altering those texture entries in the store, in a significant manner, would be a major overhaul of the entire way SL works." 

 

"The person that wrote that part of the code has since departed Linden Labs, and we can't make heads or tails of it, so we leave it alone." 

 

"We are not interested in cutting edge graphics because our ultimate goal is to integrate SL into a browser, into Android phones, and into tablet computers." 

 

So that's an overview of the kinds of answers I am expecting.   And before anyone replies, I would submit my personal opinion on this situation:   I think Second Life's graphics engine was basically/essentially written in 2005, and has been altered with improvements since then. In other words, the original engine is simply not aging well as time passes.  And this is not to point fingers of blame -- this is a natural thing to happen to software as it ages.

 

 

 

 

 

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1. - 3.) Second Life's rendering engine has been re-written many times over the years and now has several parallel versions that users can select from - use of no shaders, basic shaders, Windlight ("atmospheric shaders") and deferred rendering ("Lighting and Shadows") which realistically is a completely different engine. OpenGL is a current, maintained protocol and the SL rendering engine has been re-written to use revised OpenGL calls. Right now I'm currently getting higher framerates on higher settings than I was a few months ago with the same hardware.

4.) OpenGL is up to 4.2. La-di-da: numbers. The theoretical graphic performance of OpenGL and DirectX are about the same.

5.) Given that SL is meant to be used exclusively on video monitors, a low-dynamic range technology, please explain to me what about HDR would be less useless than teats on a boar hog for SL.

6. - 7.) http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Tools-and-Technology/Materials-Project-Viewer-Now-Available/ba-p/1962691

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Theresa Tennyson wrote:

5.) Given that SL is meant to be used exclusively on video monitors, a low-dynamic range technology, please explain to me what about HDR would be less useless than teats on a boar hog for SL.

Theresa,

All HDR is meant to be used with output devices having limited color palettes, like displays (256:1 for 8:8:8 RGB) and printers (typically 50:1 or less for prints). HDR refers to capturing the much higher dynamic range of the original scene. The human eye is good for a dynamic range of somewhere around 10,000:1, as are some digital cameras (like my DSLRs, with 16384:1 or 14-bit dynamic range). The dynamic range of a typical landscape on a sunny day is around 100,000:1.

HDR refers to methods of representing a very large input dynamic range (the actual scene) within the confines of a more limited output dynamic range (screen or paper). For sensors with limited dynamic range, this is done by taking multiple exposures with different exposure values. Think of taking three shots of a daytime landscape in rapid succession, one with a short shutter time to capture the bright sky, one with a moderate shutter time to capture the sunlit detail on the ground and a third with a long shutter time to capture detail in the shade., Those three images are then combined into one which is then logarithmically compressed (gamma) into the 8:8:8 RGB of JPEG. For cameras with high dynamic range sensors, it may not be necessary to take multiple exposures. You'd simply apply the appropriate gamma correction to squish the original 42-bit image (14:14:14 RGB) into JPEG.

As the apparent brightness of any texture pixel in SL is a product (the multiplication) of its value and the incident light, it is possible to create more than 256 levels of brightness in a scene. In a perfect viewing system, there would be enough dynamic range in the output device to represent all the resulting pixel intensity values. Absent that, HDR could be effected by gamma correcting all pixel intensity calculations BEFORE they are written to the frame buffer. Typical gamma correction happens after that fact, mapping a 256:1 frame buffer dynamic range onto a similar or smaller output device dynamic range (usually one with unpleasant non-linearities). Another way to think of this is that, to maintain full arithmetic fidelity, a system that multiplies two eight bit numbers (pixel value x light value) must maintain 16 bit results right to the bitter end (gamma compression into the output device color space). SL doesn't.

So, HDR could be used in SL much as it's used in RL. Video games started using HDR years ago. It taxes the GPU, which must perform either floating point or 16+ bit integer math on all pixels, rather than 8 bit. The results, however, are often worth it. We are all, unfortunately, accustomed to facelights, glowy things and odd windlight settings blowing out the highlights and/or losing the shadows in a scene. With HDR, this would be less problematic.

And finally, given that this is SL, you just know someone could find a use for teats on a boar hog.

;-)

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1) OpenGL is the _only_ real choice for cross-platform support. 'course, if you're saying "F* everyone" then DirectX is a good choice, though in performance not really different from OpenGL.

2) You forgot the entire deferred rendering, spotlights, gloss/bump revamp and a dozen more things.

3) Every asset in SL has to be streamed to the client. Add specular/displacement/etc maps and you download a lot more. What OpenGL has to do with anything there is a mystery to me.

4) Hard to believe, but consoles (other than XBox) don't use DirectX. DirectX is much hyped, but it's not the be-all, end-all of graphics APIs. Additionally, DirectX is Windows (and XBox) only, SL is also available for Mac and Linux (officially) and various smartphones (unofficially).

5) HDR sounds nice, but to be honest I've never noticed any improvement in realism with games that had/have it.

6) Materials support is coming. Brace for the irate screams of upset users on old 1880s steam engines.

7) Pixel shaders exist in SL: Water has it.  But again, if you add that too, loading things in SL will get even slower.

SL's graphics, unlike game graphics, can't be improved all that terribly much without pissing people off. People screamed when Windlight came out, they screamed when sculpts came out, they've screamed when Lighting&Shadows came out. LL is making constant improvements like materials support - with the tradeoff that it'll require beefier computers to run SL, which in turn will piss off people "Wah I ran SL on my 1880 steam engine just fine, now it won't! You suck, roll it back".

Take bump mapping for example. SL had that for a while, in a simple form. How many creators use it? Not many.

Take projected lights as another example. How many of those do you see in SL? Aside from my own builds I've not seen any yet.

Then there's the amateur aspect of SL. The vast majority of creators in SL, even some of the popular ones, are utterly clueless when it comes to creating what is essentially game content. Overly huge textures are abundant in SL. Much of the bad looks and lousy rendering can squarely be blamed on clueless creators. On the other hand, SLs diversity is exactly because creating is so easy even for utterly clueless people.

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Theresa Tennyson wrote:

OpenGL is a current, maintained protocol and the SL rendering engine has been re-written to use revised OpenGL calls. Right now I'm currently getting higher framerates on higher settings than I was a few months ago with the same hardware.

 

Wow! I haven't checked in a while, and yeah the latest offering from linden seems much improved.   I usually use Firestorm, but just did quick back to back tests in a couple of  busy sims. With the new linden viewer, and with defered rendering enabled, I was getting 30-35 fps while with the same settings I was getting only around  18-22 with FS.  I'll stick with FireStorm, but I'll be glad when they update and include some fo the improved linden code.

 

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Jenni Darkwatch wrote:

Take projected lights as another example. How many of those do you see in SL? Aside from my own builds I've not seen any yet.

 

I'd love ot use it in my builds but to my knowledge,there is no script support for it per the wiki.  It shows it as pending and refers to a JIRA new feature request.  According to the Jira it was requested in November but is unassigned still.  So the only way you can use it now is to have lights turned on all the time, which is not acceptable to me as having the light on during the day adds glare.

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Yes and no. There is support for on/off by just scripting the old light... I used this code segment in a flickering fluorescent light prim (with electric sparks in the original code):

default{    state_entry(){        state LightsOn;    }}state LightsOn{    state_entry(){        llSetLinkPrimitiveParamsFast(LINK_THIS,[PRIM_POINT_LIGHT,TRUE,<1.0,1.0,1.0>,1.0,1.0,1]);        llSetTimerEvent(llFrand(1));    }    timer(){        state LightsOff;    }}state LightsOff{    state_entry(){        llSetLinkPrimitiveParamsFast(LINK_THIS,[PRIM_POINT_LIGHT,FALSE,<1.0,1.0,1.0>,1.0,1.0,1]);        llSetTimerEvent(llFrand(1));    }    timer(){        state LightsOn;    }}

 You can vary all the parameters to for example simulate a candle flicker or tinting changes. The things we do not seem to have a function for is FOV, Focus, Ambiance and the actual projected texture.

Edit: Crap should have mentioned, this is in a cone prim with projected light. I'll send it to you in-world if you like.

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Thanks.  I just wish they'd get the scripting support out fo rthem.  The light script I wrote has different light levels and I'd love to adjust them futher using those three new projector features for even more realism.

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khonsuu wrote:

 I  am assuming that I will see things such as the following:

"We are not interested in cutting edge graphics because our ultimate goal is to integrate SL into a browser, into Android phones, and into tablet computers." 

Second Life doesn't even get good performance on high end gaming computers, it's going to be a long time before SL can be integrated into tablets.

A large part of why that's so unlikely also has to do why SL looks so poor compared to modern games. It's not actually the rendering engine, it's the content and the tools used to make that content.

Content in SL is horribly unoptimized, it might look worse than an early 2000's FPS game, but it actually renders far more polygons and textures at any given moment than modern games.

LL tried to curb polygon use with prim limits, then later with "land impact", which restrict you to so many resources. However, the prim system was poor because not all prims are created equal. A sculpted prim or a torus has way more polygons than a prim box. 

Even with Land Impact trying to be more balanced, LL left texture use out of the equation entirely. Want to know why so many people experience tonnes of lag with mesh content? It's not the mesh, it's the textures on that mesh model. Lots of people are applying half a dozen 1024x1024 textures where a single 512x512 would have worked just fine.

It requires a lot of horsepower to compensate for that lack of optimization. Of course, the more powerful computers get, the more people try and push SL.

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Some graphics engine age really well, while others don't.   I would say that the graphics engine in Oblivion has aged remarkably well, especially given all the mods that were later made for it.  The very first Crysis release had a "cry-engine" that has stood up well to time.  Crytek has released two more engines since then, but the first was not too shabby even by contemporary standards.

 

An example of a game that hasn't aged well with its graphics would be World of Warcraft. And the other would be Second Life.  For instance, the texture tab that comes with building (shown below), has not changed in many years.  

http://i.imgur.com/H1ltAo6.png

 

 

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Wow, I just joined for fun, I've heard of this MMO years ago, now I've finally decided to try it. I'm a PC gamer, have pretty descent'/serious gaming machine by todays standads, well, not really crazy, but I can play GTA5 just about maxed out @1080p, and with certain mods, the game can look so damn well I'd dare ot call it even close to photo-realistic. But THIS????? OH MY GOD! I've seen the documentary on it, on Netflix, a very very sad documnentary indeed, and the sihty graphics made it ever so depressing, just added to the whole sad experience, and now, I've installed it, MAXED OUT EVVVVERYTHING except antialising, is at x8, which is still damn high enough to make any round surfaces look almost perfectly smooth, yet this game!!!! I CANNOT BELIEVE ANYONE would play this TOTAL GARBAGE of a "game"! I mean, for an MMO for which developers don't have to do SIHT for, as the community itself is nerdy enough to create most of the content, in fact, the content IS mostly community developed, yet these FAAKZ, sorry but as am gamer and a business owner, I'm PISSED, these lazy jakoffz have not updated the engine pretty much since it'se release, which was it seems half a century ago! I'm shocked for all these reasons:

1. That ANYONE would still play something so darn UGLY, for SO LONG!

2. That after ALL this time, the game has gotten NO optimizations, I mean this thing glitches all over the place, no matter how powerful your sistem is, it's LAGGY AS FK!

3. The controls are THE worst of any FPS/adventure game I've ever seen and somehow are ALSO laggy and slow

4. The peripheral support and setup is almost non existent

5. The interface seems to be from the 90's

6. There is no quality tutorial or any kind of explanation

7. How OFFENDED I feel with these super ugly graphics, that with all the settings and bells and whistles such as ambient oclusion, the game appears to have NONE of it, it really makes me so damn offended.

This was and still is an absolute shock and dissapointment, that I find all this energy for this true heart-felt rant, as a gamer, as an enthusiast, as a consumer. 

Absolutely BOOOO!!!!!!

DIS-CUSTED!

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Wow, I just joined for fun, I've heard of this MMO years ago, now I've finally decided to try it. I'm a PC gamer, have pretty descent'/serious gaming machine by todays standads, well, not really crazy, but I can play GTA5 just about maxed out @1080p, and with certain mods, the game can look so damn well I'd dare ot call it even close to photo-realistic. But THIS????? OH MY GOD! I've seen the documentary on it, on Netflix, a very very sad documnentary indeed, and the sihty graphics made it ever so depressing, just added to the whole sad experience, and now, I've installed it, MAXED OUT EVVVVERYTHING except antialising, is at x8, which is still damn high enough to make any round surfaces look almost perfectly smooth, yet this game!!!! I CANNOT BELIEVE ANYONE would play this TOTAL GARBAGE of a "game"! I mean, for an MMO for which developers don't have to do SIHT for, as the community itself is nerdy enough to create most of the content, in fact, the content IS mostly community developed, yet these FAAKZ, sorry but as am gamer and a business owner, I'm PISSED, these lazy jakoffz have not updated the engine pretty much since it'se release, which was it seems half a century ago! I'm shocked for all these reasons:

1. That ANYONE would still play something so darn UGLY, for SO LONG!

2. That after ALL this time, the game has gotten NO optimizations, I mean this thing glitches all over the place, no matter how powerful your sistem is, it's LAGGY AS FK!

3. The controls are THE worst of any FPS/adventure game I've ever seen and somehow are ALSO laggy and slow

4. The peripheral support and setup is almost non existent

5. The interface seems to be from the 90's

6. There is no quality tutorial or any kind of explanation

7. How OFFENDED I feel with these super ugly graphics, that with all the settings and bells and whistles such as ambient oclusion, the game appears to have NONE of it, it really makes me so damn offended.

This was and still is an absolute shock and dissapointment, that I find all this energy for this true heart-felt rant, as a gamer, as an enthusiast, as a consumer. 

Absolutely BOOOO!!!!!!

DIS-GUSTED!

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DivFil wrote:

 

This was and still is an absolute shock and dissapointment, that I find all this energy for this true heart-felt rant, as a gamer, as an enthusiast, as a consumer. 


And you managed to post it even twice. :matte-motes-smile:

Welcome to Second Life. Don't give up so easily. Maybe you get the spirit and the magic of Second Life if you hang on a little longer? (Btw. I do play GTA V, Watch Dogs, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Mafia 3, Project Cars etc. as well)

If not, at least it doesn't cost a dime to try it out.

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