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Second Life new graphics and physics engine


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Hello there. Well, since I've been around Second Life for so many time, and I've been exploring so many videogames, as a game lover myself. I noticed how farSL graphics and physics engine are falling behind of what are today's standards technologies.

Do you imagine how unlimited possibilities we would have with a more advanced gaming structure? For those who loves visiting places, interacting with others or  simply role play and have fun playing mini games around the SL. SL right now is great the way it is now, but the possibilities could be expanded as much as the SL scripting language would allow. Take a look at this. I would like to recall this virtual world which is exclusive from Sony PlayStation 3. I don't think it would be a problem to name it since it's a platform virtual world and it's not in the same item since SL is for PC.


 It's a modern graphics based virtual world for those owners of Playstation 3 in real life time. This means it has to download everything to the console, like SL does. 

Real time content, modern architecture, real time based mini-games, etc.

Would you imagine SL following the same aspect, with modern physics and graphics. This would be just great and would open the doors to even a more expanded public, since SL has many more to offer than just interaction. For example, I'm a role-player, and although I have a great experience, i feel myself a little limited. I'm a Harry Potter fan player and I would love to play quidditch in a way that only modern videogame would allow me. Think about that. 

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Eh... Second Life ~HAS~ new graphics and physics engines.  Have you turned on shadows in a well built sim yet? (o.O)

And physics?  You do know that every physics function in SL is server side and has to span the internet before things take effect.  I should show you my 256 bullet per shot gun and operational though explosive crankshaf and piston project. =^-^=

Content, games, and archetecture are our responsibility.  SL is not created by some collection of hired artists.  The lab provides the canvas and we, as customers, do the rest. (^_^)

Also, you're not referring to Playstation Home, are you?  Does anyone us PS home for anything other than cussing at each other in voice chat while lifeless avatars stare into space in a fistfull or regions which all have to be pre-downloaded?  Uh... Yeah... that sucks.  I would never want SL to turn into that mess.  (o.O)

If you want SL to be pretty.  Start creating.  But, you better be good.  Here's the competition. =^-^=




All screenshots were taken in SL using Linden Lab's Second Life 3.2.8 (248931) Feb  9 2012 09:04:17 (Second Life Release). (^_^)y


SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Art%20Screamer/174/28/21

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Mmm are you sure about what i mean with graphics engine? Turning everything maxed out isn't a new engine. It's just the same one maxed out. For example, a new engine would be Crytek, look for it, you'll see clearly differeces with the one SL has. And don't get me wrong, I really like SL. But this is the same since 2002 sadly. 


And not only PS Home, there's another virtual world for PC out there which I don't wanna recall but just for the record it uses Crytek engine for graphics. I believe SL is ready for a change right now and catch up with the day. Greetings ;)

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Before somebody tell it to you in a more rude way: SL is not a game... and you obviously know very little about SL. Let me break it down for you.

Games that you can buy on DVD or online are dead things. Their end is already written somewhere in their files and even if you can wander endelessly in the environment, import new vehicles, tune the characters ad nauseam, the game will not evolve. What you get is a finished product from a game studio. The software can be optimized to the very last bit for this specific game and that is why you can have better graphics than in SL and a physics engine to go with them.

PS3Home is just like that: A finished product from Sony with nice graphics and a very limited physics engine which kicks in in some limited cases. The choice of avatars is limited, the environment is limited, anything new is decided by Sony and all you can do IIRC is to import some pictures to put in frames in some limited places.

SL is nothing like that. Linden Lab provides nothing but a bare ground on which the users build. All the content is user generated. Until a recent date, everything was built with prims. The concept is light for the network but not that much for our computers. Still, it set SL apart from games and PS3Home since the users cannot play with this virtual Lego elsewhere but in SL. And, of course, since not many users have a team of designers at their disposal everytime they rez a prim, the result may vary from unbearable to fabulous. But in the end, it does not matter if the buildings are ugly or beautiful, the users decide, not a company. We, the users, make the world.

Things are slowly evolving since LL gave us the possibility to import "real" meshes like the ones used in 3D games and in PS3Home.  But meshes are still in their infancy, nowhere near what is ultimately possible. We, the users, will make SL evolve toward graphics comparable to what can be find in games... slowly and even more slowly since there much less people which can do meshes than people which can cope with prims in-world.

As for the physics engine, Havok is quite capable and what is available to us is evolving too. The possibilities of "gamification" of SL are coming, step by step. And what is not available yet can be scripted --to some extend.

All this does not change the fact that SL is what we, the users, make it. And that "we" includes you. You are not happy with graphics, show us your building skills, improve the world, your world. You miss some mini-games, script them! If you cannot do it yourself, ask or hire somebody to do it. Make the economy work! That helps SL too.

SL is not a game, nor PS3Home and will never be because each pixel is user-generated and not the result of the collaboration of a team of designers and programmers who try their best to make sure that this pixel arrives as fast as possible onto your screen.

Besides, SL is really big. Several magnitudes bigger than the very limited PS3Home and definitively not comparable to a tiny game, tiny in size. The "marvelous" CryTek or Unreal engine would just collapse under the weight of SL. They are designed for finite games  but SL is infinite, constantly changing, evolving.

Roll up your sleeves and try to max out the current engine... while it is pulling the rug under your feet at the same time.


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SL has had lighting and shadows for a while now and can look rather pretty.

Some of the graphical features you are refering to when asking for a new graphics engine are probably somewhere on a Linden plan or 'to do' list. It's just that humans will be walking on Mars before it's implemented. :matte-motes-silly:

Somehow i doubt that changing the engine would do much good, SLs content would grind it to a halt just the same.

SL is a creative outlet, social gettogether showcase thingamajingy with probably 50% users that do not have the hardware to run any modern game title at medium settings. The user base is small'ish and hasn't grown in ages, so chances are that you would have finished your own broomsticksoccer game in any real game engine before you'll see one that looks 'Crytek' and performs well inside SL.

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Crytek is a resource hog which depends on the devs to polish up every detail just so people can get a half decent FPS.  It's not new either.  Just bloated enough to trigger peoples' "wow shiny!" response.  The VW I remember to use Crytek was Blue Mars.  Note, I say "was".  It was a dismal failure because, not unlike PS Home, regions had to be fully downloaded before interacting with them.  Add the dismal FPS and near total lack of usability for anyone other than the developers and, well, you see where that went. =^-^=

And, 2002?  Really?  Please produce a screenshot of a scene in SL from 2002 which resembles what I just posted. (o.O)

I'm not 'turning everything maxed out'.  I'm using a client which had a shader update in 2008, a developing shadow rendering ability since 2009, the ability to project a web page WITH FLASH on a 3D manipulated face inworld in 2010, and a means of allowing users to import proprietary mesh objects in 2011. (^_^)

That's a far cry from "turnig everything maxed out"... Which, sadly, is the only thing Crytek can do.  Given they dumped every possible shader/tracer/mapper/morpher tool into it without any consideration for GPU, RAM, and CPU limitations.  Almost makes one wonder why the CryEngine is used to benchmark a gaming computer... Or not... Because it bludgeons the bloody hardware to death with its bloat. (=_=)

In the end, SL is doing something no game has ever done.  Actually, it's doing a lot of things.  Given the ability to deliver and render real-time environments which can be created by users on-the-fly and managed with a physics engine that operates server-side so that every viewer experiences the same effect... Really, name a game which does that. (o.O)

One thing I often say: Anyone who comes to SL expecting a game is bound to be disappointed.  Oh well.  Want a game? Go play one. That's what games are for. (^_^)y



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 Why do you think SL shouldn't have a better physics and graphics engine? That would allow the developers to create amazing contents. I'm not telling you about a DVD or studio made games. Besides, turning shadows in SL is way bad implemented. And in essence, it's still the same graphics, the same one, with more shaders on.


What's bad with having to download a mini game (in a constant world) and when the mini-game download or whatever it's done (role play, accept please that a great majority of users in SL doesn't come here to live a second life, but to role play, such as me)  load another instance within the sim.


For that Ii'm not telling you to convert SL in PS Home. And you guys who prefers to live a life in here shouldn't be mad for that change after all, it would be all the same, with the only change that if you want a more gamer experience you just show make a little download. For roleplayer it could be great. Check a look for this, I recall PS home once again. Watch as (after pre-made download) the user launches a mini game within the world.



What's the problem with having the same technologie? greetings ;)

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If LL were starting now with Second Life they would undoubtedly make some changes to the basic game engine, but really it does pretty well for an engine that has to work with changing objects produced in non-optimal ways, largely by people who know little about optimisation. 

The idea of pre-downloading regions is something that others have raised before, also I think better caching would help - LL are looking at a few things now, so maybe these are among them.

Second Life already uses the state-of-the-art Havok physics engine, used by many modern games, and will soon be using Havok AI for pathfinding as part of the implementation of NPCs and other goodies that are based around the ideas in Linden Realms.  Second Life's graphics may not match the best MMOs but can still be tuned to be pretty impressive, and are way ahead of most other social and creative games and at least match those in games produced using Unity.

Hopefully these changes will help towards improving quidditch and other games in Second Life.


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If you max everything out (Most modern "Store Bought" PC can NOT handle SL on max settings BTW) and fine tune the settings in your graphics card's settings as well  (16x AA/AF... etc) , SL does not look that bad.  I would LOVE a new graphics engine but I am not holding my breath.  My main issue with SL graphics is Avatar bodies, which look ok standing up in a pose but awful when in most other "natural" positions.  Sit cross legged on the ground and your legs are boxy, pelvis is all out of whack, etc.

Mesh in theory will fix some of these issues but as of now, you have to buy a new mesh for each outfit and have no customization options.  I did some research about mesh and while there is a chance I am wrong, it doesn't look like you will ever be able to buy a mesh body and then skin it, add accessories, clothes, etc.  The way it seems to work is you buy an avatar mesh thats entirely preconfigured.  I think this is how mesh works in all applications which is why in its current state, prim based graphics are still fairly impressive for what that can do "on the fly".

The other issue is "Show body in mouselook" which could be the coolest feature if they just expanded on it a little more.  I really want to see a setting where it limits the camera angle to those of the naturel movement position of the human head and fix the issue of looking down "into" your own shape.  Animations should also effect your view in mouselook.  Ideally, moving in mouselook should look natural, like your camera view is attached to your head which moves with your body and not its current fixed position.

LL can solve a lot of the body issues with simply making the wireframe they use for avatars more complex.  In reality they need to be about double the complexity over what they are currently.  I really hope they do this soon because as stated above its going to be a while before mesh avatars become mainstream.  Second if they could come up with a realistic mouselook view that used the physics engine correctly, things would be much better.  As stated above a lot of the visual beauty of SL is 90% based on the artist that makes the reign.  With prim count allowances where they currently set and the cost of land, most of the bland graphics are due to affordability, not graphics limitation.

On this point, I think LL needs to give a little more back to the community.  The price of hard drive storage space has dropped considerably.  Server CPU processing power is far more then it used to be and the cost has also dropped.  With this in mind, land prices are way too expensive!  IMO 512sq land should be eliminated and the minimum land size should be 1024 for the same price as 512 currently runs.  Prim count should match or exceed the area of the land, so for a 1024sq plot you should get 1024 prims.  If, and thats IF they did this, I could also see eliminating people from using 1 prim boxing scripts to improve server speed. 


Lastly, mainland needs a "take out the trash" day.   A complete reset and remake of the world.  Call me a snot all you want, if you look at SL from SL space, you can see how visually trashy the world looks.  I wish they were more strict with residential vs commercial land and had public regions with "housing authority" style government.  There should be a section of mainland with requirements when building.  Private servers can police land they rent so that one tool doesn't go screw it up for everyone else.  Everyone here knows what I am talking about; the guy who goes putting up a purple house with pink shutters and flashing lit billboard ads exactly at the height of your skybox instead of ANY other area section of space/height they own. 

Also, LL really needs to crack down on people who buy property on the mainland and then rent it out.  I am sick of having neighbors who buy a plot of land then rent it out to 20 people by making 15 prim skyboxes 20 tall in a row.  You should NOT be allowed to sublet on the mainland.

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While it's true that SL can look good if you max out all the graphics settings, there is a valid point here.

Modern games like Battlefield 3 or Crysis or Aion can look just as good (or better) with a fraction of the resources.

A good gaming PC might run Battlefield 3 on max graphics settings and SL on max graphics and they'll look comparable. The difference? About 120 frames per second.

That part of the complaint is valid.

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3d games and SL like virtual worlds are on a convergent path
3d games have started incorporating SL like features and SL has started incorporating Games like features.

More and more Game Companies now allow players to "mod" their games.
Take for example the latest hit - Skyrim
It is a gorgeous, addictive, immersive game.
The graphics are stunning.
Sometime, like I do in SL, I just walk around in the game, examining and admiring the world.
That kind of graphics with that kind of frame rate is currently impossible in SL.
It is not a multi player game but has a great AI and the NPCs and AI makes it very immersive.

Now Skyrim provides something called a "CreationKit".
A PC game owner can download this for free.
It is a powerful, versatile IDE for making mods for Skyrim
It provides for path finding, navmesh, scripting language, story manager etc
It allows the gamer to build their own world, using any of the thousands of professionally created assets which comes with the game.
Structures, items, avatars, animations, voice overs, NPCs with built in AI
Amateurs can easily build there own 3d games/worlds

On the other hand SL has started adding Game like features.
Mesh is already here.
Path finding, navmesh , NPC characters are in pipeline.
Then there was the recent LittleText People acquisition - some kind of story manager?

Now SL has something that most other mod kits, game kits, 3d systems do not have.
It has this great in world creation capability.
In most other system, there is a build system and then there is the run system - a design time and a runtime system.
You build your world then you load it somewhere to see how it would run/appear.
In some system it is easy to switch between the two, in others it is cumbersome.
SL does not distinguish between the two.
Your design time is your run time environment.
Because you are building inworld you always know what your build will look like.
It is as if its not you but your avatar who is doing the build !!
And that is powerful.
Many people have tried to make 3d creation system which are intuitive and easy to use.
The SketchUp group( now owned by Google) had the goal of making 3d accessible to everybody,
Unity3d was started to democratize 3d game making.
Both have done a great job but none of them come close to SL as far as ease of use is concerned.

Where else can you just point to the ground, rezz a primitive, torture it, slap a texture, apply material, apply colors, turn physics on, add particle effect, add scripts
A pre built terrain and sky
Then of course you have networking built in - chat, multimedia, voice - multi player system becomes no brainer
Then add inventory system, asset ownership , commerce, virtual exchangeable currency, a great professional looking market place.(Both Sketchup and unity have their marketplace but they pale in comparison to that of SL)

Amazing stuff, enough to make a Game designer drool.

But few things need to be fixed

- speed sucks
After playing a game like Sykrim (with it 40-50 fps) SL feels like walking through molasses.
With official viewer 5-10 fps, with a TPV like Cool VL viewer or Firestorm maybe 15-25 fps and this on Linden created place like Linden homes or Linden quest game

- land price and prim limits
like somebody pointed out it is high time the land price went down and prim limit went up
128 prim !! come on!
Get on the cloud like kitely.com.
On kitely for few dollars a month you get a whole region for yourself with 100,000 prim limit !!
Imagine what you can do with that kind of prim limits

- default animations
the default animations make my avatar look like a retard !!
when was the last time the default animation was changed? 10 years back?

- terrain texturing system
creating simple paths in SL is a pain
would be nice if we could just "paint" paths on the terrain like in other system

I am sure others have their own pet peeves :) 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I really do not understand the people who pooh-pooh the idea of a new graphics engine in SL. We have all put a lot of effort into our avatars and/or builds and we would therefore all benefit tremendously from an engine upgrade in SL.

The current engine offers some nice functionality but is it is hopelessly outdated at its core. LL has kept up as best they can by adding new things like shadows and meshes but the very result shows how old and cranky the old beast now is. For exemple, on my computer, if I turn on shadows, I lose shininess almost completely! Other people are exeperiencing other glitches but it is always the same story. Each time something new is added, something else breaks down. That is what happens when you keep on tweaking an old piece of software that is way past its prime.

One of the biggest problem with the current engine is that it is based on OpenGL instead of DirectX. Way back in the early 2000s it seemed like a good choice (more portable, they said). But now, OpenGL is almost no longer used for games anymore and, as a result, the quality of support offered for it by graphics card makers has decreased dramatically. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to run SL at a decent frame rate on an ATI card. The OpenGL driver offered by ATI is so crappy that the FPS goes down to 10 or less as soon as there is any complexity in the scene, even on a 200$ card. So far, NVidia is still offering decent OpennGL support for their cards but how long will it last?

There are also many signs showing that the very concepts on which any graphics engine is based (shaders, materials mapping, etc ...) are completely obsolete in the case of the SL engine. No amount of tweaking will change that. Many new concepts have been introduced and hardwired into 3D chips in the past 10 years. There is just no way SL is going to be able to leverage them efficiently if LL sticks to the old engine.

So I am asking you Lindens: when is that major engine overhaul coming ?

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  • 5 months later...
  • 5 months later...

I think one of the issues a lot of people fail to realize is the technology behind second life is really one of a kind..... While you can get games today to look better have you actually seen any game with real time enviroments that looks better? You are referring to playstation's Home in your original posting which was nothing at all like second life. They supplied you with some pre made stuff and you could decorate your own little area but other than that it was just a big social chat platform. I think you misunderstand how exactly Home worked as well. It downloaded things to the console upon initial entering of an area but you didn't have any sort of real time building at all not like second life. You can't script, ad particles etc. Really you just have a limited option of clothing some furniture and your trophys you could use.

Second life realistically doesn't overtly need a new graphics engine. The engine they have no can continue to be expanded things plugged into it and it can get visually better and better. Look at what good mesh buildings have done. What needs to happen is terrain textures get better looking, a better looking sky texture wise and people to actually make better looking builds. We also need an updated avatar mesh with a toggle back to the older one on top of it being possible so you don't break all current content. We need custom joints and the like on rigger mesh and further mapping techniques and further animations.

The engine itself needs massive optimizations to be done to it too. There is no reason that SL shouldn't of progressed as far as graphics performance goes over the years.... The server side baking needs to be done, new object caching, getting the mesh deformer done, textures could be acessed in cache better too. Need to transfer pretty much anything still relying on UDP to HTTP unless UDP is absolutely necessary. Expand LSL further and maybe add in support for other languages and fix some of the massive resource pulling that happens with rezzing prims or a new avatar entering a region. 

Those need to be done first before even thinking about a "new graphics engine"

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I think one of the other problems Abner is that its not a simple task. What happens if all our current builds, current avies etc can't be ported over and worked nicely? Fixing the core functionality of the current engine and optimizing it would go a lot further.

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Also Abner to add into this SL is cross platform... Basing it on directX would leave everyone but windows users high and dry. OpenGL is actually just as capable as directX its just not used as often because Microsoft pushes directX hardcore. OpenGL support has always been good on Nvidia cards and isn't going to drop any time soon as they actually want their cards performing well in Linux or OSX or any other OS that makes use of them. Direct X is abysmal outside of windows... Only way you are going to run it is Crossover or something like Cider for Mac and Wine or Cedega for Linux.... It's a no go if you want any sort of cross platform play unless they are going to go out and support a dual graphics API which would end up convuluting things even further. Don't you agree? 

If they make a new engine completely or use an existing one they are going to need to either A - base it off openGL again or B - base it off a dual API setup or they leave the slew of mac and linux users (there are quite a few of both) in the dust. Saying OpenGL is a problem is a misomner really its a windfall and has been for a long time if people actually make use of it. While directX is good you are limited in platform and overall that ends up being bad for SL. One of the other problems is there is no garuntee of plugging in any current content to a completely new system. People like to wax on like this is a simple undertaking but you'd need to make sure of sooooooooooooooo many different things with the way things are now that it's almost problematic to do so. 

Also can we please stop comparing SL to anything else in existance in the gaming world... There has been literally nothing out there that has even been marketedly close to SL so you cannot compare it to battlefield 3 or something they are completely different in structure and doing SL with really high end graphics would actually end up a bit problematic due to all the streaming data sent back and forth especially for those with high data caps or slower broadband speeds

Also the reason AMD video cards have some problems really is primarily due to AMD not supporting openGL extensions like Vertex Buffer Objects and other optimizations.

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Lina Pussycat wrote:

... SL is cross platform... 

Indeed. And not only would it be stupid to choose an engine that didn't run on the target platforms, it would be a wasted opportunity not to choose an engine that expedites portability to important new targets (iOS and Android, at least).

(Incidentally, anybody clinging to the idea that desktops will live forever, well, search for Mary Meeker's 2012 "State of the Internet" presentation and you'll see why business just doesn't care about desktops any more, and why the glacial pace of Windows 8 adoption should be no surprise.)

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Qie Niangao wrote:

Lina Pussycat wrote:

... SL is cross platform... 

Indeed. And not only would it be stupid to choose an engine that didn't run on the target platforms, it would be a wasted opportunity not to choose an engine that
 portability to important new targets (iOS and Android, at least).

(Incidentally, anybody clinging to the idea that desktops will live forever, well, search for Mary Meeker's 2012 "State of the Internet" presentation and you'll see why business just doesn't care about desktops any more, and why the glacial pace of Windows 8 adoption should be no surprise.)

The "Glacial Pace' of Windows 8 Adoption is a surprise to no-one. It provides *nothing* of note over Windows 7. So why waste one's money on it? That has nothing to do with desktops in general.

Only a fool wouldn't care about desktops anymore. They are and always will be the workhorse for actually getting things done. Nobody can seriously do real work on a phone or tablet. Real work or Real Play. :)

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Right! At the latest, when we all have bought, 3 tablets, 5 Cell Phones, and 2 devices inbetween, they tell us that this isn't the real thing, and we have to buy this super computer desktop, with this awesome giant OLED 3D super duper display and such.  :matte-motes-sunglasses-3:

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Qie Niangao wrote

... business just doesn't care about desktops any more ...

In academia (where I work) the desktop (Mac or PC) is the workhorse. I can't run my statistics on a tablet. I can't analyze complex research scenarios and protocols on a phone or tablet. I can't comfortably type a peer-reviewed paper or journal article on a phone or tablet (functional word is "comfortably"). Sure I can buy add-on's that turn the tablet into an under-powered laptop ... but that ends up being more expensive than a decent laptop. What can I do on a phone or tablet? I can surf the web, check email, check my appointment schedule, play Angry Birds, listen to music, and watch movies. All of that is handy, but not REAL work.

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