Prim-to-Mesh done just right

The year was, oh, perhaps 2009 or so. In the middle of all the excitement about virtual worlds in general and Second Life® in particular, professional 3D designers were raising eyebrows at a new opportunity to sell their content.

A virtual world with a million regular users who were engaged in consuming digital content, specifically, 3D models? And doing so regularly? Half a billion US$ of yearly transactions? Strong DRM in place (what we residents call “the permission system”)? All that just to prettify avatars and put them on poses on top of some virtual furniture? Well, it seemed too good to be true. And there was, indeed, a catch: you had to use Linden Lab’s own application to create content — which was designed having amateur content creators in mind, not professionals.

Professionals, well, used meshes — and had done so for over a decade. They populate marketplace sites like Renderosity, DAZ3D, BlendSwap, and who knows what else; doing business selling COLLADA files (or at least Wavefront OBJs… or Blender files… or whatever was popular at the time as a file format). They used Maya, 3DS Max, Blender — professional content creation tools. They had graphic pipelines fine-tuned for their own work — design once, deploy everywhere. Well, everywhere except Second Life, because SL had no way to use their creations: you had to do everything from scratch.

A few naturally went that way, and prospered. But the rest of the professional 3D content creation world stayed away. And, ironically, as the media started to lose interest in SL, Linden Lab spread rumours that mesh import would be available as an option in the near future.

Mesh development took a long time, and had lots of pitfalls. By the time it was ready and stable, it made a timid appearance (24 hours after Linden Lab announced its general availability, it was also developed for OpenSimulator). The battle around the dozens (hundreds?) of third-party viewers meant that Linden Lab’s own viewer, which was initially the only one able to correctly import and view meshes, was used by a minority of users. Established content creators frowned about the slow adoption of mesh-capable viewers. A few, of course, started releasing meshed content — specially in the clothing and apparel market segment. And soon, professional content developers would start dabbling a bit with SL again. There was some traction; there was a long period until mesh caught some momentum; soon, however, all major third-party viewers started to correctly display mesh, and, by 2013, it was clear that mesh was here to stay, that avatar personalisation took a next step into the new generation, and long after the media completely forgot SL (even today, the scattered articles about SL are illustrated with… pictures from 2007!), the mesh economy exploded. Literally. Top designers who are mesh content creators are, once again, making thousands of US dollars per week. The SL economy grows and grows in spite of landmass shrinkage (we have probably to thank the SL Marketplace for that), an overall reduction of simultaneous logged in users, and a drop in the active users. Still, the market blooms.

Mesh content has huge advantages, one of which is the possibility to dramatically reduce polygon count on a scene (compared to equivalent techniques using tortured prims), and, because of that, its adoption has become universal and strongly encouraged by Linden Lab and some core OpenSimulator developers on their own grids. But there is a huge disadvantage, too: amateurs are left out of the game.

Designing 3D content with a professional tool is not for the faint of heart. In a recent discussion with a teacher of digital art at high school level, he told me that his students have little difficulty with video and 2D graphic production — powertools like Adobe Premiere, AfterEffects or Photoshop are relatively easily grasped, understood, and successfully employed even for relatively complex projects. Put the same students in front of 3DS or Blender and they utterly fail. Remember, these are the future generations of graphic designers, and in this 21st century, most of them will have to master 3D art in some form. But they’re completely overwhelmed with the complexity of 3D tools.

Why? It’s not only the interfaces, which are horrendously complex, thus forcing a huge learning curve. But I’d identify two major drawbacks. The first is the requirement to learn how it all works, from a theoretical point of view, and since 3D models have come mostly from architecture, the movie industry (for CGI), and gaming design, everything is insanely complex. In fact, “simplification” algorithms — reducing the amount of polygons — is part of research on the hard-core fields of mathematics; just grab a copy of MeshLab to see what I mean: the menu entries have citations of peer-reviewed articles about each algorithm, instead of the usual “help” bubbles or similar UI elements. Read those papers, and yes, it’s rocket science. Well, honestly, I find rocket science a bit easier to understand; you just need to learn a bit about Newton physics. 3D algorithms, however, require a vast amount of knowledge on an incredible range of subjects, none of them easy. And while it’s true you don’t need to demonstrate math theorems to be able to create sculpties with Blender, it needs a full understanding about how to project a 3D solid upon another — and how to do it using a tool like Blender.

Definitely not what an amateur with high school maths is able to understand.

To make matters worse, these days, being a 3D artist is not merely having some talent and technique to model 3D objects. It also requires programming — understanding how to construct a graphics pipeline that generates your model and renders it appropriately; and I won’t even go into complexities like “rigging” (even though professional tools are able to abstract the concept and turn it into something slightly easier to grasp). Putting it into words: creating a simple T-shirt using the LL templates for clothes takes a couple of hours to understand, and even amateurs are able to create something fun with them using GIMP or Photoshop. Doing the same with a meshed shirt requires months of learning a complex tool, years of experience with that tool, and several hours until you just “get it right”.

We come to the second issue next: graphic pipelines. If you’re doing 2D art using GIMP or Photoshop, the “pipeline” is easy: you just use a few layers, add a few plugins on Photoshop (like, say, FilterForge), and play around with filters. The result is a finished image.

3D art is nothing like that. You might start with Complex Tool A to create a sketch of your object (say, Sketchup). Then move to Complex Tool B to “sculpt” the object, or align it properly, or add further elements to it that neither tool A nor tool B is able to do. Then you use Complex Tool C to clean the mesh up. Then you project the mesh to an UV map using Complex Tool D, and, finally, try to assemble a single file with the mesh and the textures with Complex Tool E, and hopefully you can then upload to Second Life as a COLLADA file. With luck, it will even look vaguely the same as what you had originally in mind. Top-of-the-line 3D modelling tools try to do all of that in a single application: no wonder they are so complex! And, of course, at each step of the way, the files used to transfer content are ever so slightly different so you will need to compensate. Sometimes the only option is to open a text editor and do that manually; or, better, write your own programme to do the work for you. Or, well, write that algorithm inside one of the top professional 3D tools, which are also programming environments specifically for 3D content creation.

No, clearly, this is not something an amateur wants to go through.

By contrast, Second Life’s interface, while clumsy, is simple. Drop a few primitives around, glue them together, and you have something closely resembling what you have in mind. You just need one single tool: the SL viewer. Best of all, you can share content easily, get help from friends, collaborate with them to create more complex content. The disadvantages are twofold: you’re stuck with prims, which waste a lot of polygons (thus “eating up” precious simulator resources and forcing people to buy more land…); and you cannot use your content elsewhere (except perhaps on OpenSimulator).

Now all of this is rather stupid. Even though we assemble content in SL using prims, they’re really just meshes. Prim torture is just a way to tweak the mesh, adding more polygons, by using parameters. Once an object is linked together, a full mesh for that object is internally generated and sent to the simulator’s physics engine for collision processing. But you have no access to that mesh — it only exists in the deep structures of the simulator. Ironically, it’s also the viewer that will use that mesh to draw frames of the scene on your screen. So, beneath the UI, it’s all meshes — but you have no way of getting access to them.

The SL viewer could be the ultimate 3D content creation tool for amateurs. And even professionals might be able to use it to create prototypes and export them to a professional tool for further processing in the pipeline. So, besides giving access to a fully-fledged virtual world, the SL viewer could also compete with the vast array of 3D content creation tools, but having a slight advantage over them: it was designed for amateurs, hiding the complexities of 3D content creation by providing a (relatively) easy interface, which, however, was able to produce the amazing content we have been seeing for the past decade.

Well, someone just did that.

The clever guys from the Singularity Viewer team have just released a version that exports any prim-based object (and yes, that includes sculpties too!) as a Wavefront OBJ or DAE (COLLADA) file. Ironically, they don’t seem to appreciate the breakthrough this means; the article announcing this option thinks that Media-on-a-Prim is more important, and delegates the amazing ability to export anything as a COLLADA file as just a “minor” feature. Wow! Well, I have nothing against MOAP, and I have written countless articles about how important that is, but… exporting SL content as COLLADA files is a vastly major breakthrough with a huge impact!

Now talented amateurs can get back into the game of content production. They had been depressed with the coming era of all-mesh content — but some of them have over half a decade of experience in using prim-based content, knowing all the tricks to create good, compelling objects. Sadly for them, learning one of the top professional 3D content tools to apply their skills and talents was way beyond them. But thanks to the Singularity Viewer team, they can now just get all those objects they have lovingly created over the years and export them as COLLADA files — and re-import them again.

I’ve read a few forum discussions about that. Of course, professional content creators, who are currently reaping the rewards of their ability to use Maya, 3DS or Blender, frown upon the quality of the Singularity-exported COLLADA files. Almost all of them have united their opinions by saying that the results are very disappointing — resulting objects have a huge Land Impact, and, as such, they’re not usable. And, to a degree, they’re right: a sculpty, for instance, is a mesh with thousands of polygons. But a sculpty theoretically just has a Land Impact of 1. Re-import it as a COLLADA file, and it’s impossible that those “thousands of polygons” have the same Land Impact — it’s simply not possible. Similarly, very complex prim-based objects with lots of prim torture will create meshes with an insane amount of polygons — but, because they are “just prims”, they have low Land Impact. The resulting mesh, however, will still continue to have that insane amount of polygons, and, as such, it will not be able to “compete” with the same object using prims.

Well, LL has not kept secret their plan to slowly “force” tortured prims and sculpties to have a raised Land Impact — to reflect the amount of polygons they have. When they do that, meshes will become even more interesting — since, unlike prim-based objects, you can use applications to reduce the polygon count while still keeping the object with high rendering quality. When that happens, amateurs using prims will simply export all their content with Singularity and re-import it as meshes, and benefit from lower Land Impact. Until that happens, however, Singularity-exported meshes might or might not be “better” than prim-based content. But, at the very least, it means you can finally use your content outside SL. At last!

Here is my own simple example. I’m an awful builder, but years ago, I needed a simple spade to take a picture, and having not found a reasonable freebie, I just glued four prims together and created one. Today, I exported it as a mesh and re-imported the mesh again (this means the textures get lost, but it’s easy to apply them again — it works just like applying textures to the original). Here is the result:

two spades_001Now, which one is the original, and which one is the copy? Hard to tell. Clicking on them gives a clue: the meshed spade has actually half the Land Impact (hooray!).

I’ve also noticed that the exported COLLADA file is rather ingenious. When re-importing, not only the object’s size is exactly the same as the prim-based content, but even the orientation is precisely the same! I was actually pleasantly surprised with that, but I shouldn’t have been: after all, Singularity’s COLLADA has been produced from a scene rendered by a viewer who understands exactly what the object is supposed to look like.

So, which is which? Zooming out produces the following result:

two spades_002Because the defaults of the Mesh import dialogue box suggest a very aggressive LOD, you can clearly see that the spade on the right seems now to have a “thinner” handle — it’s already losing polygons, even at this short distance. Zoom in, however, and it’s not possible to distinguish the two objects: they look precisely the same.

Lost that amazing sculptie texture that you had preciously kept, and now there is no way to retrieve the original? Worry not; Singularity has no problem in converting sculpties into meshes, and you can even group them together with prims very easily, and get back the original mesh that was used for the sculpty. Fun, isn’t it? However, the drawback is that sculpties have some 1024 polygons or so; I tried to export a 10-sculpty object to a mesh, and came up with a huge mess… I mean, huge mesh with tens of thousands of polygons 🙂

Professionals, of course, would be able to use the resulting mesh and filter it through their graphics pipeline and reduce the polygon count while still making the object look great. Since I’m poor, I can only afford MeshLab to do that (because, well, it’s free 🙂 ), and it’s rather hard to “get it right”. But my point here is that Singularity’s solution works. Rather well, in fact.

So even if you dislike Singularity (I’m definitely not a fan; it has atrocious performance on my outdated hardware, and I miss all the nice features from the other viewers), at least you can use it now to export all your prim content to meshes, work with it, and reimport. Even if you gave up on Second Life (boo on you) and wish to use your creations elsewhere (I’m not going to name names!), you have now the perfect solution for that — a simple, quick way to prototype 3D content in Second Life, and simply use Singularity to keep your meshes around for whatever next-generation rendering engine is coming around the corner.

And, of course, it means that talented amateurs are once again brought back into the fold of the SL economy and not left to rot with their “outdated” prim-based content. Everybody can become a mesh creator now.

When will this amazing feature be available on the official Second Life Viewer? You guessed it — never. But LL will be losing a market there — the market for easy-to-use 3D content creation tools.

CC BY 4.0 Prim-to-Mesh done just right by Gwyneth Llewelyn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I'm just a virtual girl in a virtual world...

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  • Some notes: Work is under way to get textures fully exported using this functionality as well. Latif Khalifa, commenting on Pathfinder’s article (which features a video of the COLLADA export function in Singularity), has improved the exporter by adding textures, which is currently available only on the Radegast viewer but might be ported to Singularity soon.

    I have tried to understand the whole code that does the export to validate the claims that “the resulting object will always have more Land Impact, since this exporter works prim-by-prim, creating one new object per prim”. Hm. Curious. The code for Radegast actually seems to work like that (definitely it does look at textures prim-by-prim), but it also invokes the mesh-creation algorithm out of the linked prims. This is something that has been implemented in the simulator for a long, long time (and very likely in the viewer too): linked prims are actually “seen” by the simulator as a mesh — in the case of the simulator, because it has to get in touch with the physics engine to do the physics for the entire object. In the case of the viewer, I assume that certain culling/obstruction operations are easier to do if the linked object is seen by the renderer as a single mesh — and it’s this mesh that gets exported.

    But, alas, I’m not 100% sure about that. Also, the Land Impact formula is often very tricky to understand and sometimes it takes a trial-and-error approach to figure out if one is saving precious Land Impact units or not (namely, we all know how meshes affect Land Impact differently when they are resized). What would obviously make sense is to grab the internal representation of the mesh as it comes out of the meshmerizing code (the one that internally turns the linked prims into a single mesh) and export that mesh as a COLLADA file. I’ll keep the question open for Latif’s team: is that what your code does or not? (If not, why does it instantiate a meshmerized object when apparently it is not used anywhere on commit db8f5521d7c50dc8f3d452ad41b2d184e3564bf9?)

  • Pam Broviak

    I agree with you that this is an amazing development. As someone who has been trying to climb the steep learning curve for making 3D content in programs like Blender – particularly the textures side of it, I had hoped LL would see the opportunity to develop their program as an easy way to make mesh for use anywhere. And it surprised me they never seemed to see the potentially huge benefit in doing this. Their marketplace could become another content store like Turbosquid. Except unlike sites like Turbosquid which only provide a store front, SL also can offer a space that serves as a type of virtual manufacturing plant site, training grounds, and meeting spaces for the people who are making things to sell in their market.

  • lkalif

    The viewer internally actually sees every prim face as a separate mesh. This in order to allow for things like texture animations on prim faces, different colors, etc. So a simple mesh cube is seen as 6 separate mesh planes. In the 3D modelling world you will hear about “sub-meshes”, that’s basically what prim faces are.

    Now Singularity and Radegast will export each prim face as a submesh with an associated “material”, ie. texture map and texture. This allows for SL importer to restore them back precisely as they were before they were exported where each face is separately texturable. And then each prim is exported a an object that contains these submeshes. I could combine the whole linkset to be one object, except that SL has a limitation of maximum 8 submeshes (faces) for a single mesh “prim”. If you were to re-import such a recombined mesh you’d lose the ability to texture faces individually.

  • Ah, thanks for the thorough explanation, Latif! I’m not a professional programmer, and I’m severely handicapped when reading (mostly undocumented) complex code with which I’m not familiar. I wrongly assumed you were using a mesh for the whole linked object, and that’s why I was pleasantly surprised when seeing how all “faces” retained the ability to be individually textured! That was truly awesome.

    The idea to use a non-texturable (but more efficient – i.e. low-polygon) mesh comes from a few discussions on the OpenSim side of the issue. Allegedly, the same approach could have been used on the simulator side, grabbing the mesh that gets passed to the physics engine (and, very likely,losing all textures in the process!). So this might generate “better” meshes, at the cost of losing the ability to texturize the faces/sub-meshes individually.

    Wow, now I start to understand why LL’s rendering engine is so inefficient compared to others! Or, rather, now I appreciate how the engine, in spite of this drawback, is still able to render a substantial amount of FPS with a scene full of tortured prims…

  • Oh YES, @Pam 🙂 Imagine TurboSquid where you can immediately see your own content on action, combine it with other people’s content, have visitors viewing it in fully immersive 3D, and chat/talk with them – all in real-time, no need for rendering anything. It just works. Aye, that’s SL.

    At this junction, if I were Rod, I wouldn’t leave any stone unturned 🙂

  • Voodoo Radek

    Greetings!

    I have few tips i have learn over the time that may work for those interested in optimize their freshly exported prims in the quicker and easiest way i know of.

    In order to reduce a bit the poly count without having to mess with the complexity of a mesh editor, there is an automatic process (modifier) called “decimate” that is present on blender and hexagon 2, both free software. While Hexagon may be a bit outdated, that precise modifier works like a charm. I would say the algorithm is better than blender’s.. at least i got better result on it last time i compared both. It also export and import sculpts.

    In order to improve LI, i have found that optimized physics and LoDs are vital… Make custom LoDs will help improve that weird “deformation” that can be seen on your shovel most times.. sadly i have not found an automatic process to get better LoDs than the SL importer… sometimes, just sometimes, decimate modifier do better low poly LoDs. You wont get good results with really low poly LoDs.

    If you usually have the “Object” slider on your graphic preferences is set above medium (that controls how far the next Level of Detail will pop up), you may want completely remove or drastically simplify the lower LoD. Every triangle add LI on the lower LoD. This generally improves LI a lot on medium size buildings, and A LOT on big buildings. For objects that are not going to be visible outside your home you won’t need lower/s LoDs.

    As for the physics, if you don’t need complex ones, just upload a custom one with a single triangle… or with one triangle per material if you using more than one material (faces on SL). Bear in mind that you cannot create a fresh mesh shape and apply it as physics to the mesh you are going to upload to SL, because the importer will give an error. If i am not wrong, you need to use triangles from your creation, as i said at least one triangle for each material. If you need to bump with the object set it phantom or “none” physics, and link invisible prims. If you need prims with holes use “prim” physics shape, if you don’t use “convex hull” shape. A low poly physic shape will improve LI a lot aswell.

    I want to remark this is not just about get cheap LI. Optimized geometry, LoDs and physics are essential for a low laggy experience.

  • garvie Garvie

    but, but it really is disappointing. i tried a couple of different things, like you hoping this would be a way in for amateurs. i did both colladas and objs in a variety of simple shapes, but i was especially excited to see the .obj option thinking that could be exported to sculptris and then allow builders to easily add fancy designs or surface treatments and details. it was a no go.

    i did manage to sort of get some prims exported as objs into Sculptris sometimes, but usually only after a tuneup in Blender that would be more difficult i think for the total beginner than just learning enough Blender to make a simple object would be. I do plan to try again with cylinders and some other shape combinations. BUT there was the further issue that even when i did manage to import a simple prim based object into Sculptris after some cleaning up in Blender, it was terrible to sculpt on. Prims are full of extra stuff to allow for hollows and things so as mesh they are terrible, literally full of doubled vertices and extra geometry.

    anyway, i haven’t entirely given in yet. like you, i hope this means that mesh creation is more readily available to the average SL builder and i plan to keep looking for accessible ways for them to use the Singularity export function to do it. but so far i have to say that it takes more than a collada extension used for reupload to make prims into mesh. and maybe i’m wrong but i think the reason mesh is selling as well as it is in some markets has very little to do with the file extension and everything to do with how it looks and performs.

    HUGE kudos to Singulairty for adding the function, for allowing either an .obj or a collada, but prims have a way to go if they are going to compete with arbitrary mesh.

  • caliandrispendragon

    You know I really hate it when Disqus asks you to log in after you have typed a really really long comment and it completely obliterates said comment with the act of signing in. I completely agree with you that Linden Lab seems to be clueless about what really draws people into SL and keeps them there. Ordinary residents have felt left out and sidelined with the introduction of mesh and no local tools for producing them. Most people who come to SL for entertainment and relaxation love the build tools for prims, but don’t want to have to get to grips with Blender. It isn’t fun and it isn’t relaxing.

    If only Linden Lab woke up to the fact that they have an opportunity here to produce tools for their ordinary user to make meshes, which would be easy to use and fun to create with. They don’t seem to get it AT ALL. I so agree with you that they should be scrambling to improve upon the progress already made by Singularity.

    While talking about reducing the learning curve and making the UI simpler, LL have done nothing but raise the bar higher and higher, to the point where they have started to come between the residents and the very thing which attracted them to SL in the first place. If they don’t move on this soon, I can see OpenSim moving to pathfinding proper NPCs, adopting all the things which people wanted from that technology and SL failed to deliver. If they also develop easy ways to make prims to mesh and export and import them, I can see OpenSim starting to compete for business with SL. The community and economy are one thing. But when you don’t have the money for tier (or to buy expensive mesh creations) the opensource community may have n attraction which Linden Lab is losing because they can’t understand what people love about SL.

  • Pingback: On object export and Third-Party Viewers | Mona Eberhardt()

  • Hannah

    “So even if you dislike Singularity (I’m definitely not a fan; it has atrocious performance on my outdated hardware, and I miss all the nice features from the other viewers”
    I’d love if you shared what you meant by “other viewers”.

    I have a 2011 imac with 4gb of ram, and it’s straining to run Singularity. As far as I know, the problem (for me) is the addition of MOAP and the “server-side baking” code; which means that firestorm (and every other SSA-capable viewer) won’t be any better.

  • Well, to be honest, for a better and fairer review of third-party viewers, I tend to rely on Inara Pey’s viewer round-up page, which she keeps updated with the latest and greatest features on all viewers.

    Myself, I can only express very subjective opinions based on a late 2006 iMac and early 2007 MacBook 🙂 which are both quite slow, but often the “slowness” differs from TPV to TPV. Singularity, as said, is a mess. The Cool VL Viewer is rather great, and it includes import/export features, which are crucial for my work on OpenSim grids — but unfortunately, the latest versions have been plagued with a copy & paste bug which means editing notecards and scripts becomes a nightmare. Firestorm does not have any of those errors, but the more time passes, the less features Firestorm seems to have (really!) — these days, the major difference (for me) is that it handles chat with a smaller footprint than LL’s CHUI, and it includes a built-in AO which I constantly use on OpenSim. Besides those viewers, I don’t use anything else.

    It’s really a pity that code development on the viewers has adopted the “multiple-fork” approach. Instead, we ought to have a common base, handled by LL, and a modular approach based on plug-ins to add or remove features at wish — TPV developers would focus only on the features they like, and do them well (meaning: better than LL), and forget about the rest. After all, TPVs (except for Radegast and the few attempts at mobile viewers) all share 99% of the LL code, even after 6 years of open-sourcing the viewer…

  • Demonkid

    The export feature is great. I used it to turn a sculpty object into a mesh object just because i cant stand sculpts anymore. While the exported mesh is not as efficient or detailed as it could had i created the object again from scratch in blender, it was good enough. I got the added bonus of controlling the objects Level Of Detail (LOD) on re-import. So its good if you have old sculpty stuff and want to keep it but take advantage of the mesh features.

    I use it for creating reference objects. I can create a simple version of a house of area in location in Second life, then export for use in Blender as a scale reference to work by.

    The feature does shrink the huge gap between amateur prim builders and the amateur model makers but they still need to learn about LOD and Physics and how it effects your object during import.

  • Wolf Baginski

    The one downside of any legitimate export system is that they are really picky about permissions. The object has to be entirely from one AV, which can catch you out if you have an Alt, perhaps an account used for storing uploaded textures safely away from your social fun activities.

    Personally, I think Linden Labs are going too far with their current TOS. Since you wrote the post, at least two Mesh-object retailing sites have stated that their licences do not cover use in Second Life. You can, it seems, create something in SL, choose not to sell it or transfer it to anyone through SL, and yet you have given LL the right to sell it without constraint. So the idea of SL as an easy creation tool for 3D objects looks, to this bear, to be a bit of a dead end.

    If you want to make something with Prims, and all that stuff, a local OpenSim instance is looking to be the way to go.

  • You’re right, and it’s not something new. Some years ago, my own company was hired to ‘pack’ all the content in a sim from a customer, to be kept as a backup, as the customer didn’t wish to pay the high fees charged by LL. This was a challenge. Although all content, to the last tiny texture, had been designed by us and thus had absolutely no copyright issues — we’re stiflers for making sure we don’t include a single pixel which was not created by us! — we still had multiple creators, of course, as individual team members worked on the build. How could we make sure that we could copy everything? Since LL doesn’t provide a backup service, this required clever engineering and two years to figure out a way to get our legitimate content out of SL and store it safely (of course, it ended up on our internal development grid running OpenSim).

    On a community I’m a member of, which has been around since 2004, we have other related issues. One of the members actually died a few years ago! Now how can we replace/change/tweak her content? It’s impossible, since obviously nobody has access to her account, and, unless we hire some mediums or other parapsychological ‘experts’ to get in touch with the soul of the dear departed one, there is no way we can get online and backup that content 🙂

    Unless, of course, we violate the ToS. 🙁

    As for the ToS issues, there are good news: LL may be partially reverting the licensing. Nevertheless, your advice is good and solid: as a content creator, it’s far, far better to develop everything first inside a standalone OpenSim grid, back it up as often as you wish, upload meshes, textures, animations, and other assets it a trillion times for L$0, and make sure it looks perfect. Once it’s perfect, upload it once to SL and sell it there. But in the mean time, even if LL does something weird with your content, you have a safe copy on your own OpenSim grid, ready to be copied/uploaded/whatever without ‘fear’ that LL will somehow make it disappear.

    Perhaps I was a bit imprecise in my article. I mostly meant that the SL viewer could become an easy creation tool for 3D objects. But, as you point out so clearly, it makes far more sense to do the actual building on OpenSim instead of SL. In fact, doing everything with prims and then exporting it as a mesh makes far more economical sense in OpenSim (because, well, the mesh will never look right on the first try… and each import costs money!), until you have a finished result, which can finally be uploaded to SL…

    If LL wants to promote their own method instead, they really need to make a lot of changes: from utterly changing the ToS, embracing COLLADA export/import to allowing ‘temporary’ assets without charging anything (which will be a mess because of the griefing potential), and so forth.

    It’s so not going to happen.

    But the viewer, well, that’s another story!

    BTW, Niran’s “Black Dragon” viewer is also incorporating COLLADA export of prims. And I’m sure many other TPVs will also do the same.

  • Quite so 🙂 I think that for a professional, this tool is useful for doing a ‘rough sketch’, or to export existing content they have already created with prims, and do the final object by tweaking the mesh. But at least you’re not starting from scratch — you’ll have the right dimensions, orientation, etc.

    For amateurs like me, it means being able to quickly assemble a few prims, using an UI that is far more familiar than the one of Blender, Maya, etc., and coming to results rather quickly. In some cases, the resulting mesh might be better than the prim linkset. In others, everything might fail and become much worse. But it’s a start. It’s far better to have a bad tool which is familiar to use and sometimes produces acceptable results than an excellent application which is beyond my ability to understand 🙂 In fact, this was the idea of the (original) SketchUp — the ability to easily and quickly create meshed 3D content using an interface that was quick to grasp, even if the resulting meshes are not good (SketchUp has since abandoned that ‘simplicity’ philosophy).

  • Demonkid

    It would be very handy for amateur 3D Printing. When it comes to 3D printing, the number of polys or efficiency in build does not really matter. From what i know the 3D printing software recalculates what its priming anyways, so you could find this export from SL tool a fantastic opportunity for easy 3D print modelling.

  • Siana Gearz

    Guys, i’m shocked. You lot never came forward about this, and we can’t know otherwise. We don’t get a word about how Singularity runs on OS X, on any particular computer models; this is the very first time i’m hearing about performance issues. However, our performance is certainly comparable to the rest on Windows and Linux – generally faster, occasionally slower, but never dramatically slower. Our OS X user counts don’t look much different than in the wider population, so we never had any reason to assume anything was wrong. Obviously we have a major variety of PCs of different configuration on team, and we get a good amount of feedback from users, but no OS X devices and no feedback. Are we supposed to know these things telepathically?

  • Jantje Beton

    This is a great option for the new Secondlife world. It is said there will be no sculpties, now we can at least take the full perm sculpties we have with us as mesh.

  • Oh yes indeed 🙂

    Note, however, that if you don’t have the original mesh texture (and if it isn’t yours — full perms is not enough, you need to be the creature), you cannot export it.

    Good news: many other TPVs also implement “Save to Collada”. Firestorm, for instance, has fully implemented it 🙂

  • Heather LynnEberhart

    I am new to this prim to mesh building, and was wondering, when you create/generate a 8block cluster in to one mesh prim object, is there a way to make the faces on each block, not just one texture for the whole thing? im not a math expert hahaha or know much about this yet so any help or suggestions would be appreciated 🙂 ty