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Does anyone agree the lighting/material system looks better in Sansar? Is it possible to apply it to Second Life?


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I think it would make Second Life look much better if they had shading/lighting like Sansar. The shadows and lighting in that game look more realistic. Also the materials in Sansar seem to look nicer for some reason. For example the specularity on objects looks nicer. I know they probably won't do this but my question is, is it technically possible to give SL the same looking lighting?

 

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Short answer: No.

Longer answer: The two render engines are fundamentally different. Sansar uses a PBR engine, completely different from the ground up. There is no "upgrade path" from SL's current material rendering engine to a PBR engine other than wholesale replacement -  It would require a complete rewrite of the entire render pathway. Unfortunately, no object textured for the current system would look anything other than horribly broken if LL were to rework the render engine in this way. Since this means it would break every single textured object currently on the grid. LL will never do this.

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Maybe because SL only uses albedo, normal and specular maps, and Sansar uses albedo, normal, specular, displacement, roughness, glossiness, ambient occlusion, emission, opacity, subsurface scattering, and rumpipumpo maps?

Edited by Arduenn Schwartzman
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18 hours ago, French Couturier said:

I think it would make Second Life look much better if they had shading/lighting like Sansar. The shadows and lighting in that game look more realistic. Also the materials in Sansar seem to look nicer for some reason. For example the specularity on objects looks nicer. I know they probably won't do this but my question is, is it technically possible to give SL the same looking lighting?

To be honest I wasn't that impressed by the lighting and shading in Sansar but I still se your point.

Sansar used PBR, Physical Based Rendering, a fairly recent concept and very different from the traditional texturing concept SL has. To oversimplify, rather than focus on what color things have, PBR focuses on the factors that give them their colors. Here's a fairly good introduction to PBR.

It would be possible to implement PBR in SL of course but it would practically mean rebuilding the entire render software from scratch, it would also almost certainly cause serious backwards compatibility issues and unless content creators were willing and able to improve their technical skills to provide far more render efficient content than what we have today, we would see a serious performance drop.

In other words, this would be the biggest, most complicated and most risky SL update ever.

Now, since you were impressed by Sansar, here are some examples of what PBR really is capable of. Three examples, three different engines, all with names starting with a U. Let's start with Unigine:

Unreal Engine 4:

and Unity:

Yes, the way those ivy leaves move is creepy and not at all realistic but that's scripting and has nothing to do with rendering.

It's not fair to compare these with SL of course - SL has quite a bit lower hardware requirements after all - but this is the standard Sansar needed to live up to but never did.

And to really rub it in, here is Unigine's 2013 benchmark, released a year before LL even started working on Sansar. It's not that render heavy either, I've been to lots of places in Sl that were much harder on my gpu than this.

 

Edited by ChinRey
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Yes. You can download "The Valley" and "Superposition" from the UE4 benchmark site. Those are interactive scenes; you can move around. "Superposition" takes a modern gamer PC, but "The Valley" will run on most machines able to run SL decently. I've recommended "The Valley" to people who suspect their computer has problems. If The Valley will run, the hardware is OK; if it won't run, repairs are needed.

Now, UE4 can do that because it preprocessing and optimization on the creator's meshes and textures before they get packaged as game assets. That's done by the UE4 desktop application. That's where LOD meshes are created, textures and normals are combined and baked, and game-quality assets are built. At a game company, the good artists create high-quality models without worrying too much about triangle counts, and lesser artists run the tools that crunch the meshes and textures down to usable sizes without losing too much quality. More of that is automated each year, by tools like Simplygon and AutoLOD. Full automation for that isn't quite here yet, but it's coming. Today, it's semi-automated - somebody has to supervise and adjust the parameters.

SL has only the mesh uploader, which doesn't do much, and what it does do, it doesn't do very well. SL is missing a step of the production pipeline, which is why so much bad content gets through. You can do all this by hand in Blender or Maya, as Chin Rey does, and get great results, but it's more work than with power tools. Some official Linden Lab "asset preparation" tools for Blender, plus fixes to the well-known and reported uploader problems, would help. You should be able to create in Blender or Maya, run the asset preparation tools, do mesh reduction and baking, and see what the asset will look like in world. The output should be one COLLADA file with all the meshes and textures. Upload and have an asset that looks the same in world, with only scripting to be added.

As for using PBR, Second Life has a diffuse texture, a specular texture, and and a normal texture. This is a subset of Principled BSDF, the default shader in Blender. Principled BSDF has the layers of SL, plus about 15 more optional layers. Few items use all those layers;  the subsurface layers are used mostly for skin, the clearcoat layers are used mostly for auto bodies, and the sheen layers are used mostly for cloth. Second Life assets can be represented in Principled BSDF. Principled BDSF has become the de-facto standard for high quality content. It's used by Disney, Pixar, and Unreal Engine, and that's what you're seeing in "Superposition", above.

All this currently takes a PC with a modern graphics card to run well. But just rendering the diffuse and specular layers will produce the same results as current SL, so older computers can see newer assets with some loss of quality.

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9 hours ago, Arduenn Schwartzman said:

Maybe because SL only uses albedo, normal and specular maps, and Sansar uses albedo, normal, specular, displacement, roughness, glossiness, ambient occlusion, emission, opacity, subsurface scattering, and rumpipumpo maps?

That's not the answer.

I uploaded hundreds of items built in SL and used the same maps (just diffuse and sometimes normal).  I "negated" the default roughness and glossiness maps as they do VERY odd things to Cycles baked textures as well a other methods.   

 

My stuff looks WAY better in Sansar than in SL with exactly the same baked textures.   While there ARE plenty of shaders that can be used, most people don't use the ALL in one model.  

 

I also made items for Sansar and imported to SL and again, they looked better in Sansar  with just two maps (diffuse and normal).   

 

 

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1 hour ago, animats said:

I've recommended "The Valley" to people who suspect their computer has problems. If The Valley will run, the hardware is OK; if it won't run, repairs are needed.

That's what those Unigine Benchmarks are for actually. They're part of the Phoronix Test Suite.

I'm not sure if Unigine really should be considere a game engine as such btw. There are games built on it but its main target is "serious games", miitary, scientific, flight simulators etc. and their main customer seems to be the Russian military forces.

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Replying to my own post because I looked at the picture that accidentally ended up on my desktop a week ago and it gave me some second thoughts.

11 hours ago, ChinRey said:

It's not fair to compare these with SL of course - SL has quite a bit lower hardware requirements after all...

 

I still stand by that but look at this:

2133340269_OPQHolly01Lush_001.png.204089f1a63e4ebde301eaadd9408816.png

This is from SoaS rather than SL but that makes no difference, it's the same viewer and the same rendering software.

I'm not going to say this matches the realism of the "three U engines" or even Sansar but in my eyes at least (I'm hardly unbiased here of course) it looks far more real than the stereotypical SL scene. it certainly has a much wider and deeper tone palette than we usually see here. Yet it's not a complex build at all. It probably has fewer tris than a single ear of a Catwa head and fewer texture pixels than Apple Fall would have used for a cardboard box. It is ultra graphics and it's my own custom made windlight but with a buid as simple as this, even fairly modest computers can handle ultra and the windlight isn't that unusual.

It's perfectly possible to make scenes like this and much more in Second Life yet it's hardly ever done.

I think the reason the modern Second Life looks like it does isn't because it has to. It looks like it does because it looks like it does. The exaggerated pnecil drawing style shadings and the toned down, shallow color palette have become a trope and people go for it not because they have to but because it's what they associate with SL and what they feel comfortable with.

That of course brings up another aspect of this topic: do we really want richer shading and lighting options? The typical SL'er tend to be very conservative. No matter how much they complain, they don't really want changes. They want the comfort of the good old familiar look and feel. "Upgrading" to modern shaders and materials may well backfire badly because it could alieante so much of the establiched user base who would struggle to adapt and adjust their perception of SL to this new look.

Edited by ChinRey
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On 3/15/2020 at 6:52 PM, French Couturier said:

Aww man that's what I suspected. I am disappointed, Sansar looks so much nicer, now when I play Second Life it looks primitive in comparison.

Plus, part of what lets Sansar get away with it is by having the worlds be prebuilt. Which would mean, no more freely building in a sim with friends and such. One plus side though is someone could give a map a makeover without it effecting the current version. But yeah, all the fancy lighting and rendering and the whole environment itself is baked into those worlds with a minimal amount of moving physical parts, compared to SL where everything you see could be moved at any second.

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2 hours ago, Digit Gears said:

Plus, part of what lets Sansar get away with it is by having the worlds be prebuilt. Which would mean, no more freely building in a sim with friends and such. One plus side though is someone could give a map a makeover without it effecting the current version. But yeah, all the fancy lighting and rendering and the whole environment itself is baked into those worlds with a minimal amount of moving physical parts, compared to SL where everything you see could be moved at any second.

Very true. Sansars "worlds" were baked as the last step and are only changed by editing and rebaking.   VERY different. 

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On 3/15/2020 at 3:44 PM, French Couturier said:

I think it would make Second Life look much better if they had shading/lighting like Sansar. The shadows and lighting in that game look more realistic. Also the materials in Sansar seem to look nicer for some reason. For example the specularity on objects looks nicer. I know they probably won't do this but my question is, is it technically possible to give SL the same looking lighting?

 

Yes.

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1 hour ago, Qie Niangao said:

Do we even know who owns the Sansar IP at this point?

I guess this would be an awkward time to make any announcements, huh?

At this time we do not know the owners -- or at least the general public does not know. 

 

Likely the whole point is moot. 

 

Edited by Chic Aeon
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  • 5 months later...

I LOVE the lighting in Sansar and have a lot of fun with it. I like the whole platform better than SL. I can't believe they just dumped it. Pics of cafe in Sansar are below. Notice the Apple Fall pumpkins and boxwood planters! Pretty much the only thing available from him in Sansar, sadly. 

 

 

 

Autumn Cafe in Sansar.jpg

Autumn Cafe in Sansar 3.jpg

Autumn Cafe in Sansar 2.jpg

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Now I could be wrong here, but my understanding is that PBR would be a separate shader program than Phong. It should, in theory, be possible to have a object flag to switch between "Phong" and "PBR" shader programs.

However, while Phong uses 3 textures(Diffuse, Normal, and Specular), PBR can use 8 or more textures depending on implementation(Diffuse, Normal, Specular, Roughness, Displacement, Ambient Occlusion, Metalness, Emission, Translucency, Subsurface). With people already being inefficient with textures(EG: 1024x1024 D/N/S maps on ear rings, sometimes split into multiple faces such as one for a diamond and another for the metal), I personally would oppose to PBR, unless there was some serious checking, forced mipmapping or penalty for using high resolution textures on small objects, or other restrictions.

Additionally, a new format would need to be in place because I don't think streaming 3x the amount of textures would be fun on some people's network connections. Perhaps some sort of packed "material" set that would contain all the textures(with redundant channels removed) + their parameters for each channel type.

Edited by Chaser Zaks
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Few materials need all those layers. Subsurface reflection is mostly for skin. Two layers are mostly for automobile paint jobs. The viewer doesn't have to load the highest resolution for textures, either; for SL, textures are both progressive and rescalable. (The viewer's decision making on this isn't that great, though.) That's unlikely to choke the viewer on modern computers.

Edited by animats
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It has been a long time since I popped into Sansar, but I didn't like the visuals. That could be because of my computer, etc. I visited a few regions but one especially was a good example of what I didn't like about it. It was a winter region with lots of snow. It looked over-the-top plastic. I mean literally like some kind of plastic. It was well done, the shadow, etc. and yet it was off putting for me. 

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