Mesh quality using up a single prim? Nah!

When I read Inara Pey’s article covering Ample Clarity‘s PrimPossible shop, I was a bit skeptic: top-of-the-line furniture design in Second Life® with just a single prim? No way!

As meshes have been introduced, residents have noticed that they are almost worthless for furnishing small parcels — except for some well-designed furniture, the result will end “eating up” way more of your Land Impact allocation (or, for you on older or non-LL viewers, “prim limits”). The algorithm for calculating Land Impact for meshes is not expected to change in the near future, so we’re stuck with older, non-meshed designs for our low-prim furniture.

Then suddenly I got notice of the exact opposite strategy. By using high-end 3D modeling software and an unsurpassable talent, Ample Clarity managed to squeeze a lot of interesting, traditionally very-high-prim designs (like pianos!) into… a single prim. Yes, you have to visit his shop to believe. There is no way you can evaluate the strange feeling of looking at incredibly detailed, beautiful furniture and right-clicking on it to check how many prims it takes and seeing that it only consumes… one prim.

The furniture is also fully functional, too. It includes scripting to change the finely detailed texturing to several colour sets. It includes sitting poses with several male/female combinations. And the beds have — of course — adult animations as well. One prim doesn’t mean “crippled” or “limited” functionality: you’re getting pretty much the same level of interaction and detail as you’d expect from high-end furniture designers. Ample really wants to compete with them, using the same amount of functionality. I was lucky to find Ample Clarity at his shop — perhaps I wasn’t lucky; perhaps he’s always there and helping his prospective customers; if so, that’s wonderful customer support! — and he even promised that he’d consider to include one of my most desired features on sit-target animations: the ability not to trigger any animation when sitting down, a crucial feature missing from most furniture. Why? Because I have an AO and have selected my own, personalised animations for the way I like to sit down 🙂 I don’t want furniture to tell me how to sit down, lol. Ample Clarity realised that he has the same issue with AOs and furniture, and promised to look into it on updated versions of his furniture scripts.

Of course, there is not yet an infinite amount of variety and choice. And at least on very low-end computers like mine, visiting a shop where perhaps 100-200 highly detailed sculpties are on display will create a lot of client-side lag. So, no, don’t buy his own shop and deploy everything in your home 🙂 On the other hand, getting one or two items, and, as a result, getting rid of 10, 20, 50 or more prims at home, will decrease lag a bit — and will give you lots of more prims in your parcel to work with.

This is the answer to a crippled mesh functionality — the same quality of a high-end mesh taking just a single prim. As it should be. Linden Lab should have noticed that people are not going to buy more land just to get high-quality meshes. Not at this time. Instead, they’re looking for alternatives to make the best of their existing prim allotment — and it’s things like PrimPossible that allow us to use our land more efficiently.

Another trick is to change the camera settings. Penny Patton proposes a different way of experiencing Second Life by suggesting that you change the camera settings. This really makes a huge impact. On relatively “normal” buildings, builders have not only to account for oversized avatars, but for a camera that is hovering some 6 metres over your head. We’re so used to it that we find it “normal” — and it means that buildings will have a ceiling at around 10 metres or so to “look” like a ceiling. As a consequence, everything in SL is huge, oversized — and eats a lot more prims and requires more land, of course.

Penny Patton’s camera settings bring a little more “reality” to your viewing experience. At the beginning you’ll find it a bit weird, of course. Then, after a few minutes, you’ll get so used to it — specially if you live around communities with small (or should I say, “correctly dimensioned”?) houses and streets, like I do. I have to say that yesterday, while walking on a narrow road around a mountain, I suddenly got this strange feeling: “Wow, this looks just like a scene in Half-Life 2!” No, it wasn’t that SL suddenly became lag-free (it was even a rather laggy area on an openspace sim). After a few moments I realised why I had this experience: the camera in SL with those settings now looks much closer to what videogames use. There is a deeper sense of engagement with your avatar, too — it’s not just something pretty that walks around “down there”.

So, high-quality, one-prim furniture, inside of cramped house, and new camera settings to fully enjoy the experience. That’s quality of life! 🙂

Thanks for Inara Pey for being constantly on the watch for innovative things in Second Life. Many thanks to Ample Clarity for the nice in-world chat about the incredible work done on PrimPossible’s furniture.

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About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I’m just a virtual girl in a virtual world…

  • Just for clarity (no pun intended…ok… a small pun…) Ample’s work is in sculpties rather than mesh :). He’s a great guy to chat to, and has a really positive attitude towards SL – which given the amount of doom and gloom one seems to encounter at every turn, is quite refreshing.

    I’ll looking to the time when someone pushes the limits on mesh in the way Claudia222 Jewell is with he art. I have the most stunning 1-LI/prim sculpture from her that is amazing in its detail and complexity and demonstrates what might be done with mesh given the patience. We may not get down to a 1-prim suite, but even 3 or 4 prims on mesh would still knock spots off of “traditional” prim / sculpt furniture that is the norm right now.

    Will it happen? I’m not sure – but it’s too early to tell given the relative newness of mesh import. One thing I will say is that those home designers moving to mesh are already starting to show that a mesh house (or partial mesh house) needn’t be massively expensive in terms of Lan Impact; I’ve been looking at fully furnshed designs that use mesh in the builds that undercut similat builds by the same designer that are built using prims and sculpts. 245 for a large house with a distinctive design, fully furnished (lounge, office, bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, with pictures on walls, etc.), and with a pool & poolside furnishings and landscaping of the “grounds” – lawns, trees, plants – is not bad.

    I’ve been using Penny’s camera offsets since I first tripped over them while reading Ciaran Laval’s blog out her post on SLU; they do make remarkable difference to your in-world view and as you say, allow for decent scaling of builds…for those that use them. My most recent personal builds have been built around the offets, and have actually enabled me to spread the work on them when friends visit my home – they invariably have the camera on the “wrong side” of the roof, so the “Wow!” factor when they give the offsets a “try” is fun to watch. I’ve yet to see anyone who has given them a “try” swap back.

    A side effect of using them is that my Avatar’s height has come down from well over 7ft to a more “reasonable” 6ft 6in. I would go shorter, but the bias against “short” avatars does tend to make me leery of getting down the a “real” height. 

    Both the offsets and the PrimPossible furniture pay dividends in Lindon Homes, as I’ve recently found out. The latter is an obvious win, given the 117 land impact / prim count, but the former means it is possible to do some extensive customisation inside Linden Homes without finding your camera is sitting awkwardly at all.

    Glad you like both Ample’s and Penny’s work :).

  • Of course, 1 prim highly detailed stuff like pianos are very impressive. Also, Inara Pey has clarified Ample’s work is in sculpties rather than mesh – and sculpties are like mesh pre-optimized to be only 1 prim consuming. The difficulty, there, is to deal with “level of details” (LOD) deformations… Nonetheless, I’d actually like to comment on something else on the post: “As meshes have been introduced, residents have noticed that they are almost worthless for furnishing small parcels — except for some well-designed furniture, the result will end “eating up” way more of your Land Impact allocation […]”

    Maybe, people arrived to that conclusion at first, because it is “easy” to create a highly consuming mesh object – by easy I mean easier than to save “prims”. Nonetheless, if you are patient enough (I am not), it is possible to create mesh objects which are highly “prim saving”: just delete all “non essential” vertices from your model (depending on the model and how detailed it has to be, it may be a painful task), make your own maps for lower LOD’s (4 maps for each object, in total?), simplfy physics as much as you can, etc. It can be really time-consuming. Well, I’m not an expert, so maybe there are automatic ways of doing it, or experienced people do it very easily, but I do find it time consuming. That is the problem, not the final “prim cost”. I mean, for most items, one cannot sell them for a fortune in SL, they have to be cheap to be competitive. Is it worth the time we spend making them? It will depend so much on the item. But I have found some interesting mesh items, such as a highly detailed jukebox which is only 8-prim equivalent (i’m in love with it), a 3-prim kettle with wall plug (haven’t seen it in world, though, only on marketplace), a 6-prim working wall clock (well, it would probably cost the same in prim terms with normal prims and could maybe cost 4 prims with sculpts, but i’m not sure; anyway, it’s not that costly as to be “worthless to furnish small parcels”) and even a 1-prim mesh wall clock (I’m not sure it works)… and I’ve seen a 2-prim equivalent mesh couch announced on marketplace (I don’t know how it reacts to LOD changes, but it doesn’t seem so difficult to imagine well optimized maps for its LOD variations).

    Well, my point is: mesh doesn’t have to be so very prim consuming (or, in other words, have a high land impact), but probably it takes time to create them in a way that saves prims.

  • Ah! For a moment I was baffled about the comments… I suppose I forgot to explain that Ample’s “single prim” works are actually “single sculpty” items. Grr. That comes from writing things in a hurry! The word “sculpty” only appears once in the article and it is not even obvious that I’m talking about the same thing.

    Thanks all for pointing out the glaring, obvious omission in the article!

    *kicks herself for good measure*

    @openid-116071:disqus I’m also aware that there was a bit of generalisation on the article. Given enough time, patience, and the appropriate tools, I believe it’s possible to get “standard” meshes to give a very low Land Impact. But it will be very hard to get the kind of furniture items that Ample designs — like the Grand Pianos — with the same amount of triangles imported as a mesh which just has a Land Impact of a single prim: Linden Lab’s algorithm simply doesn’t allow it. Now, I’m aware that clever people will obviously try to do their best to defeat LL’s algorithm, see where its weaknesses are, and exploit it in order to get the largest amount of triangles in a mesh with the minimum Land Impact, and, in some cases, I believe that they will succeed in getting very complex meshes with very low Land Impact. But it will be impossible to beat sculpties with their 64×64 triangle meshes in a single prim!

  • There are ways of saving prims galore these days, larger native prims for example and if you then switch to convex hull, you can save even more in linksets for walls and floors, it doesn’t work so well for curved objects, they are likely to increase land impact if you change their pyhsics shape.

    Mesh calculations are a more true reflection of resources than the old prim count was, however Linden Lab know it would cause chaos and have people reaching for their pitchforks if they were to apply the new calculation to existing prims and sculpts, so they are counted the same way as they always have been.

  • I totally agree 🙂 And LL has made it quite clear that the way Land Impact is measured reflects resource consumption far better than just considering that every single prim just consumes a certain amount of fixed resources. Nevertheless, it shows how technology and policy are at odds with each other, and ultimately, it also shows that sometimes, for the sake of customer satisfaction, more “rational” methods of making calculations might better be abandoned 🙂

    Of course LL could change the rules, apply Land Impact to pretty much every prim, and just raise the available Land Impact amount for all regions — e.g. say 50k or so. After all, we know that SL sort of works well with all those tortured prims 😉