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Majorino Topaz

Is LL ever going to invest in updating the graphics of their game?

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Sorry if this isn't quite the right forum, but it seemed to fit the best. There is no forum for general talk or suggestions it seems.

 

It's been out for eight years.

There has been so many graphics advancements in textures of textures, lighting, and the avatars have a lot of issues that could benefit from being addressed.

With as wildly successful as the game has been, you'd think they would have the resources to devote to this, right?

Or maybe the simple lack of competition on the horizon has made them complacent in terms of upgrading the engine?

 

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Yes and no.

Yes, they will continue to improve the technology.

Improved light and shadow effects are on the way. Mesh import is currently in open beta and will probably arrive on the main grid before the year is out. Over the past 8 years we've also gotten other graphics improvements such as windlight, specular shaders (glow), flexi prims and sculpted prims. So SL hasn't been entirely stagnant.

No, LL will probably never grasp the graphics side of things as thoroughly as they ought to. Starter avatars will remain poorly scaled  and proportioned. We probably won't get better control of shaders (ie: glow or shiney maps wearable by avatars), the windlight defaults will remain poor as will the camera defaults and the upcoming Depth of Field defaults.

 We'll likely never get the ability to rig and animate non-avatar objects beyond the crude prim animations we have now.

 

Yes, we'll probably get estate level windlight controls, but no we will probably never gain scriptable control of things like windlight, camera settings, etcetera beyond what's available to users utilizing RLV enabled viewers.

 

 So...SL is likely to remain an odd mix of increasingly decent technology combined with limited tools and poor defaults.

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Whenever I read a whine like this I imagine how frustrated and cross the LL employees who constantly upgrade are. The fact there is no substantial competition to Second Life probably gives some indication of how complicated creating all of this is.

However, you are entitled to your whine.

I'm quite happy with things the way they are, and how they have improved over the last few years. I have complaints, sure, but having had a peep "backstage" I'm less inclined to grumble.

Are you a member of Second Life Beta group? If not, perhaps you should be. Any ideas and suggestions for improvements are always welcomed. For more information see the link in this post http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Second-Life-Server/Deploys-for-the-week-of-2011-05-16/td-p/877183

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I would estimate that 70% of the people active in Second Life don't have the computer, graphics or network to take advantage of the next generation in graphics advancement.

Furthermore, with the majority of people now investing their technology money in tablets which don't have the horsepower for those same next gen graphics, why spead the money to upgrade the engine when users are actually downgrading their endpoints.

JMHO

--Cinn

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I suppose someone should mention that over 95% of the graphics you see in SL are user created.  Read that to mean amateur created.  Sure there are some professional level creators in SL.........but compared to the vast majority they are about as rare as hen's teeth.  What you are seeing as graphics needing updated is users who really don't know enough about graphics creation needing to improve their skills (myself included).  The tools are there, we just need to learn how to use them properly.  Uploading huge textures with the thought that "more is better" or 32 bit depth because it's "more, therefore better" is probably the leading cause for poor graphics performance in SL..........and that is not LL's fault.

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Marigold Devin wrote:

I have complaints, sure, but having had a peep "backstage" I'm less inclined to grumble.

What kind of a peep backstage did you get? 

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People historically don't upgrade their PCs for games unless they have a reason to.  When SL came out it brought most computers to it's knees, yet still managed to thrive.

The advanced stuff can be disabled, not impacting the performance of those on older PCs.

 

 

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Disabling the advanced stuff cuts deeply into that graphics performance you want LL to upgrade.  If LL produced the graphics you see in SL your argument would have merit.  The tools are their for better than what we all see in SL............the people using those tools are the ones who need "upgrading" (if anything at all).

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Randall Ahren wrote:


Marigold Devin wrote:

I have complaints, sure, but having had a peep "backstage" I'm less inclined to grumble.

What kind of a peep backstage did you get? 

Well, one of the Lindens waved a magic wand at me, and I was made very very small so I could crawl into one of the servers and see what the other little Lindens do in there. :matte-motes-tongue:

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Whenever I read a brown-nosing post like yours, I feel obliged to point out to you certain facts that long term residents - ya know the same people who pay the Lindens nice wages? -  have complained about for years.   Complained as paying customers are entitled to, despite the fact that of course LL does not listen whatsoever to the people who pay their mortgage.

These are namely:-

1) the poor performance of the grid due to lack of investement of more than ample profits.

2) the poor performance of the grid due to lack of investement of more than ample profits....and

3) the poor performance of the grid due to lack of investement of more than ample profits.  

 

Then we have Ms Paperdoll - another long term brown-noser - as she vainly tries to pull the old chestnut ....' hey, paying customer, it's you who are at fault, not our old, and too few servers.  You need to buy the very top end machines. Every year. You need to learn to do better graphics (despite the fact you are here to play the game and not run it or be paid for doing so. How can you paying, long suffering customers be so selfish!' :o

The answer to the original post is sadly, no.  LL won't, if they can possibly get aawy with it.  You are also spot on in realising the newer forums are designed to reduce any critique to a mimimum if not zero.

However, as the Alphaville Herald so succinctly put it in an amusing, barbed article about new residents abandoning SL swiftly due to grey, unrezzed and poor help at welcome/join areas, LL may yet rue it's lack of appreciation for it's long term customer base, as now competition to SL IS very close.

Time for Rod Linden to take a break from the golf course and roll his sleeves up, anyone? 

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Cinnamon Lohner wrote:

Furthermore, with the majority of people now investing their technology money in tablets which don't have the horsepower for those same next gen graphics, why spead the money to upgrade the engine when users are actually downgrading their endpoints.

By 2013 smartphones will have a CPU & GPU faster then the PS3 so that won't be much of an argument pretty soon.

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Kasya Sciavo wrote:

Whenever I read a brown-nosing post like yours, I feel obliged to point out to you certain facts that long term residents -
ya know the same people who pay the Lindens nice wages?
-  have complained about for years.   Complained as paying customers are entitled to, despite the fact that of course LL does not listen whatsoever to the people who pay their mortgage.

These are namely:-

1) the poor performance of the grid due to lack of investement of more than ample profits.

2) the poor performance of the grid due to lack of investement of more than ample profits....and

3) the poor performance of the grid due to lack of investement of more than ample profits.  

 

Then we have Ms Paperdoll - another long term brown-noser - as she vainly tries to pull the old chestnut ....'
hey, paying customer, it's you who are at fault, not our old, and too few servers.  You need to buy the very top end machines. Every year. You need to learn to do better graphics (despite the fact you are here to play the game and not run it or be paid for doing so. How can you paying, long suffering customers be so selfish!
'
:o

The answer to the original post is sadly, no.  LL won't, if they can possibly get aawy with it.  You are also spot on in realising the newer forums are designed to reduce any critique to a mimimum if not zero.

However, as the Alphaville Herald so succinctly put it in an amusing, barbed article about new residents abandoning SL swiftly due to grey, unrezzed and poor help at welcome/join areas, LL may yet rue it's lack of appreciation for it's long term customer base, as now competition to SL IS very close.

Time for Rod Linden to take a break from the golf course and roll his sleeves up, anyone? 

And here we have yet another person who has trouble distinguishing between client and server performance. Hint: all that eye candy doesn't make the sims go any slower.

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Someone doesn't understand how SL is designed.  We all came here for many different reasons.  But the main reason most people stay (and it's a "niche" that stays) is that LL provided a platform that allows the users (customers) to create the world we all enjoy.........Linden Lab, once the base grid was designed gave the rest to us to build.  The don't make those textures we see, the buildings we enter and live in, the clubs we party in, to sims we roleplay in, the games we play..........we, the users (customers) do all that.  That's the uniqueness of the whole SL thing.  That's why there's so little competition........it ain't easy to do.

 

When someone screams that LL needs to upgrade their graphics it demonstrates how little they know about the "game" that they are "playing".  The tools are there, LL has added more over the nearly 6 years I've been around..........and they have more in the wings to bring to us (mesh is the next big deal on the horizon).  It's up to the users (customers) to learn to use those tools to "upgrade" the graphics in SL...........that's what SL is all about (users creating their personal virtual world).  You don't like the graphics then dig out your favorite search engine and get to learning how to make better graphics.........LL isn't going to do it for you. 

 

If you want "fantastic" graphics you'll have to rely on experts to make those graphics for you.......there ain't many here compared to sheer number of graphics creators in SL.  It's what makes SL SL instead of Blue Mars (and we all know how that went).  Call me a "brown noser" if you like.......I just tend to look at facts and learn how things work.  Yeah, LL pisses me off a lot too.............but so do residents.  :)

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 The tools are there to a degree, but some of them are incomplete (windlight, camera controls) some are broken (appearance editor, basic build tools) and some are just implemented poorly (shiny, glow).

 Also, the defaults LL provides for SL set the bar for SL's visual presentation. Yes, it's possible to create visual experiences far beyond what we often see in SL, however most people will never see that. Most aspiring content creators have the bar set by what they see when they first arrive, and what they see in their travels.

The rest of us have our hands tied trying to compensate for broken defaults. When I build a public sim, rather than creating the most efficient, detailed and immersive environment I can I am constrained by necessity to make wasteful and limiting compensations for issues such as the average avatar standing 7-8' tall, with a camera set much higher. Any idea how much we have to scale up a build to compensate for those issues and what that means in terms of content quality and quantity? Most people have no idea.

 Though there's plenty of talented people creating amazing windlight sky settings we never recieved the "windlight as inventory" feature promised before windlight was added. The day cycle editor is completely broken, allowing only a single day cycle to be saved. The default windlight settings are atrociously bad, yet that is what the vast majority of SL users see.

 Speaking as s design professional myself, there's really a lot LL could do to encourage and cultivate better looking creations among all skill levels of SL users and a better looking SL in general. Just by improving the default settings and tools, without driving up hardware requirements one bit. It seems to me that this is where LL would be best focusing their efforts to improve SL's graphics, although I do look forward to features like mesh import.

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Penny Patton wrote:

and some are just implemented poorly (shiny, glow).

What's wrong with glow and shiny (in the deferred renderer). I suppose you could complain about the glow "slider" being out of wack, I think it's logarithmic when it should be linear or cubic. Other then that I'd say it's rendered fine.

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Textures are the residents' responsibility.  Linden Lab doesn't make content for SL, we do.  That said, people who know how to make nice textures make nice things. (^_^)

Mind you... It's still possible to run a 3D world with good graphics if you own a computer capable of rendering a realtime 3D world with good graphics.  (^_^)

http://snapz.me/s/498682 << For example. =^-^=

Second Life is a road and our computers are the cars.  The road is not perfect, but, if you drive a Porche on it you can surely do over 120mph on the straights.  You can't blame the road for your inability to go 120mph while you're driving a Civic with 200k miles on the odometers. (^_^)

Game?  What game? =^-^=

Here's the thing.  Just about everything you see, if not totally everything, is user generated content.  Bland users = bland content.  SL is not a game made by game developers by default.  Linden Lab did not "create a game" for people to play.  That's totally devoid of the point and completely neglects the value of ~USER GENERATED CONTENT~.  (>_<)

Here.. An example >> http://snapz.me/s/498451 << See that bell?  No game-maker made that bell.  Linden Lab didn't make that bell.  That bell was not pre-fabricated from an existing library model of a bell. ~I~ made the bloody bell.  And, that's why I'm in SL, to make things and share them in real time with the people I've met.  Heck, I may work together with them to make things. (^_^)

If you want to play a game with fancy graphics, play a game with fancy graphics.  I'll stay here in SL working on making my market look super hot. (^_^)

http://snapz.me/s/499007 << Nice place, no? (^_^)

 

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I'll argue that glow works fine in that it's capable of saturating the screen at its maximum setting.  I wondn't want it crippled from that as it makes for a good light "source" effect.  (^_^)

The real problem too many users just utilize the maximum setting. (._.)

But, boy... That goes back to my ~user generated content~ spiel, don't it? =^-^=

 

 

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Kinda strayed from the topic.  Windlight is clientside.......if someone was their preferences set with a certain windlight setting, they won't see all that "hard work" you might have put into some mood lighting.  I often have my light set to mid day or 3 pm (those are just my preference..............I don't see those foggy meadows with the soft, blue morning sunlight.  Avatar scale and camera height have nothing to do with graphics.  Sure they present a problem for builders...........but since the scale is pretty much universal (everything is big) it's merely an adjustment to the builder's thought process.  A good builder will make it look right regardless of how wrong the scale is.  If you are trying for an accurate scale model of some RL build then I guess it's a problem since an accurate ceiling height of 8 foot is going to be way too low for an avatar in SL............but a good builder will adjust (believe me, I've seen some fantastic replicas of RL builds in SL).  I like shiney..........but I hate glow.  Both those features are so very much misused, I wished LL would take them away from us.  I'm not a fan of sculpties either.  But, you know what?  I live with it.......it's SL.

 

What I won't scream about is demanding LL "upgrade" the graphics in SL when the graphics are created by us.  Once mesh comes, SL will have all the same tools any professionally built game has..........wanna bet SL's graphics are still lower in quality?  Same tools available (Photoshop, Maya, Blender, GIMP, Poser, DAZ3D, etc)...........different creators (almost entirely amateur).  There is a reason for the graphics being what they are in SL...........and I wouldn't change it for the world.

 

 

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There are some things that LL could do to make SL look better, that would benefit all users and wouldn't require massive investments in new technology. Case in point; our low poly count avatars that haven't been updated since release. It wouldn't even require a total revamp, just upping the number or polygons in strategic areas like the pelvis, shoulders and legs would make the avs look much more smooth and lifelike. I'm so tired of that horrible "smearing" in the crotch of anything worn due to the woefully low amount of polys in that area of the avatar, as well as the cartoonish looking upper body muscaluture of the male avatar.

Yes, the vast majority of the world is user created, but that doesn't let LL off the hook for providing updated building blocks and tools so that we as users can make things look better.

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I, too, would love an updated avatar mesh.  But, think of all the existing SL clothing that would suddenly need replacing.  Can you imagine the uproar from the residents?  It would be that classic "LL broke a perfectly good avatar mesh!!"  It matters not that it's really a cheesy mesh (and always was), that's what people will say.  I think LL is banking on mesh solving that problem for them when mesh creators start making full avatars rigged to the base avatar..........and that would be fine too.  The rest of SL is user created, why not the avatars too.

 

 

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Marigold Devin wrote:

The fact there is no substantial competition to Second Life probably gives some indication of how complicated creating all of this is.


IMVU: 90 Million signups. 6 million unique users sign in every month. They probably don't see SL as substantial competition.

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>What's wrong with glow and shiny (in the deferred renderer). I suppose you could complain about the glow "slider" being out of wack, I think it's logarithmic when it should be linear or cubic. Other then that I'd say it's rendered fine.

Well, we can't apply either as a user created map, which limits us to prim faces. (Meaning, you cannot apply glow or shiny to an avatar mesh or defined areas on a prim face, for instance.) Shiny is also skewed to too much of an extreme. You can't apply a small amount of "shiny" to an object. It goes straight from "chrome" to "chromed chrome".

> Windlight is clientside.......if someone was their preferences set with a certain windlight setting, they won't see all that "hard work" you might have put into some mood lighting.  I often have my light set to mid day or 3 pm (those are just my preference..............I don't see those foggy meadows with the soft, blue morning sunlight. 

I respectfully disagree. Yes, windlight is client side, but if better windlight settings were available, or we had estate level windlight/inventory windlight (both of which were promised before windlight was released) fewer people would have reason to run around with their settings always at noon-3pm. The default settings, which are all the vast majority of SL users ever see, are atrociously bad. They are the settings SL's graphics are judged by non-users and new-users, which means they are an obstacle to both drawing in new SL users and retaining them.

>Avatar scale and camera height have nothing to do with graphics

This statement is simply incorrect. Avatar scale and camera height have EVERYTHING to do with graphics. Avatar size and camera placement dictate scale. Land area in SL is finite and costly. Larger scale builds take up more space, meaning you have less area overall to work with. Build a 10x10 hours and a 20x20m house that are, visually, identical. The 20x20m house takes up four times as much area and also requires far more prims than it's smaller twin. The smaller house can be more fully furnished, as there's more prims allotted for that. It also leaves enough room that you can either get away with owning a smaller parcel of land, or have yourself a sizeable yard to landscape with some of those leftover prims.

Since scale is dictated by your avatar size, the person with the smaller house gets 4x as much land at no additional cost. Expand that to a sim size build, one sim basically becomes four.

Why doesn't everyone do this? Besides requiring smaller avatars to be feasible, it also requires users alter their camera settings. The default placement for the SL camera precludes the possibility of smaller scale builds. It requires both heigher ceilings, and wider rooms.

>Once mesh comes, SL will have all the same tools any professionally built game has

This statement is factually incorrect. SL has a much smaller tool set. See my comments about shiny and glow, then add to that a whole host of other effect maps. Bump maps, shadow maps, etcetera. Not to mention the ability to rig and animate non-player objects, something SL has been in dire need of for its entire life.

>our low poly count avatars that haven't been updated since release.

Actually, it's not even that our avatars are low-poly. Our avatars are actually fairly high-poly. The problem is the models themselves are poorly made. Pinched and bunched up vertices, too muich detail in some areas, not enough in others. Not to mention, you can only deform a mesh so much before it looks warped and distorted. Most avatar shapes go well beyond that.

>But, think of all the existing SL clothing that would suddenly need replacing.

False argument. Nothing would "need" to be replaced. Suddenly or otherwise. Not if LL did it the smart way and introduced new avatar meshes while keeping the old. Let people choose which mesh they want to use. Over time, more and more people would switch to the new. Old content always gets phased out in favour of the new. There's nothing wrong with that.

> I think LL is banking on mesh solving that problem for them when mesh creators start making full avatars rigged to the base avatar..........and that would be fine too.  The rest of SL is user created, why not the avatars too.

This is a terrible idea. Without a universal mesh there is no clothing industry. User made mesh avatars preclude the possibility of clothing anyone can wear. You'd only be able to wear clothing supported by (which usually means created by) the same person who made your avatar mesh.

You wouldn't be able to buy custom skins, you'd have to buy an all new av mesh, only in the shapes provided by the creator. It would be extremely limiting and completely fracture the market for user created clothing.

>The fact there is no substantial competition to Second Life probably gives some indication of how complicated creating all of this is.

It's no indication at all. Besides the fact that competition does exist, the reason there's so little competition for SL is primarily due to the reluctance of any company to support user generated content. The very idea is horrendous to most companies. Do they really want to be known as a company that supports pervert sex, rotating-multiplying cubes with flashing nazi swastikas that blurt out the theme to Sanford and Sun, and flying genital attacks? This is what they think of when they think sandbox worlds like SL.

 

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Cinnamon Lohner wrote:

I would estimate that 70% of the people active in Second Life don't have the computer, graphics or network to take advantage of the next generation in graphics advancement.

Second Life is nowhere near the current generation of 3D graphics. It's not even anywhere near the last generation of 3D MMOs. And ironically, contemporary 3D games and MMOs run just fine on older PCs, unlike SL with its vastly inferior graphics.

To give you an idea, here is a screenshot of Gothic 3, which was created by a small German developer team (Piranha Bytes) in 2006. Its predecessor Gothic 2, released in 2002, already had a similar graphics quality:

gothic3.jpg

This game ran just fine on an old single core pentium 4 PC with a GeForce 6600 GT. I dare you to try and run SL on such a machine. It won't be pretty. And even with a modern quad core gaming PC, you won't see graphics like these in SL.

SL's user generated content is really no excuse. These games use technologies such as the SpeedTree engine to efficiently render extremely realistic trees and plants, but LL is too cheap to license anything like this and instead rely on homebrewn, open source based makeshift solutions. That's why we can't have nice things.

But Gothic 3 is an offline game. Let's look at one of the recent MMOs. Here are some screenshots of Age of Conan, released in 2008 after being in development since 2003:

aoc1.jpg

Can you imagine how it feels to see something like this with 30+ fps on an old dual core PC with a GeForce 8800 video card, complete with shadows and state-of-the-art 3D effects... and then come back to SL and experience something that looks like Everquest back in 2001, only with 15 fps? To upgrade your video card to a GeForce 275 GTX and still don't get anything beyond 20 fps, which slow down to a 2 fps crawl as soon as you enable shadows? Contemporary 3D games run very well on older PCs, it's just SL that requires top of the line hardware (and still looks like #&§*).

aoc2.jpg

Here is another AoC screenshot. Note that the 3D models don't really look much better than the user-generated SL content. What really makes this world come alive are contemporary shader effects such as bloom, which has been supported by video cards for a decade or longer. Yet we still don't have bloom in SL, unless you count glow. Or the realistic depth of field, which is not just a horrible, eye-hurting blur like the DoF effect in some SL viewers.

aoc3.jpg

This is another example for bloom. Even the best user generated content can't make SL look decent if we don't have these simple shader effects that make all the difference between a lifeless cartoon world and a vibrant, realistic virtual scenery.

Another eyesore in SL are the horrible low polygon avatar models. This is what a proper high polygon character looks like, in a massively multiplayer online world that is capable of rendering dozens of them at once, without having to resort to avatar impostors that look like 2D sprites in an ancient 8 bit game:

aoc6.jpg

 This looks almost like a Poser character. Note that this character has actual hands, and not just a bundle of hexagonal rods. And yet I bet that it has less polygons than a resident-made prim jacket in Second Life. Or a user-made sculpted tree for that matter, which turns into an ugly blob when viewed from a distance with the standard LOD settings. It's a shame that we have to make do with these makeshift solutions in SL since the system trees are butt ugly and we don't have industry-standard 3D engines such as SpeedTree at our disposal.

Some more impressions of AoC:

aoc5.jpg

aoc3.jpg

aoc7.jpg

Here's to hoping that SL will one day feature shaders, effects, and avatar models that come close to several years old MMOs like AoC, and run as performant on my brand new PC as these games did on my old machines that are no longer fast enough for SL.  

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"Once mesh comes, SL will have all the same tools any professionally built game has..........wanna bet SL's graphics are still lower in quality? Same tools available (Photoshop, Maya, Blender, GIMP, Poser, DAZ3D, etc)" Not even close to the same tools available. Yeah, most pro shops use those tools to a large extent, but they also use totally custom apps, both standalone and built within, and on top of, those packages. Tools that the general populace won't get a chance to ever see, much less use, for sl content. I know people in here like to think they've figured out the universe of gaming because they've learned a few generic tools, but no.. you're not even close. Mesh isn't the holy grail, like some might think. It brings along a host of issues of it's own. Some things will look good, some not so much. For the added flexibility that mesh lends on creation, it takes away on modification. The only word you need to know is.. modular. Other than that, yeah, what Penny said. Spot on, on all points.

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