– SL graphics update and Steam –
August 19, 2012 3 Comments
I have updated the CCD
Now that this is out of the way.
You all have probably already heard this but, LL is planing to buff up SL’s graphics and make a move on Steam.
Now this is all great news, especially the part about going to Steam, but the reasoning behind the graphics buff as well as some other detail, and the way they have presented it to the general public, is worth a facepalm or two. So let the rant begin!
First lets start off with the announcement LL made about their plans to improve the graphics. http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Tools-and-Technology/New-Open-Source-Project-to-Improve-Graphics-Rendering/ba-p/1637559 Right off the bat, they start off with some incomprehensible giberish about the chalanges we creators face. Than they go on explaining what normal maps are and how they work by saying stuff like “imagine that each pixel could be turned on tiny pivots”, like, what the actual fuck?
As always, it sounds as if it came out of some random smart sounding sentences generator, a bunch of big words put together without any sense, like all their other blog posts about things of a significant importance to everyone on SL, like the display names or mesh announcements they made in the past, that caused lots of panic and confusion within the community. Why cant they just explain things in a normal simple way, do they even know what they are talking about themselfs?
Let me try explaining what normal maps are, a normal map is a special RGB color image that is generated from a higher detail model and than put on a lower detail model, to give it the high detail illusion, without increasing its polygon count. It reacts to lighting the same way that the higher detail model would react, making all that fake detail look real.
Okay now it might sound confusing from here on but im going to try to explain how it works. And the way it works actually pretty similar to how a sculpt map works on SL, you can read about it here. The RGB of each pixel on the normal map, represents the XYZ of the particular surface point of the high detail model, that it was generated from, granted they both have the same UV map. The lighting engine ignores the actual geometry its supposed to be lighting and instead lights the surface based on the XYZ values from the normal map, as a result, bumps get highlighted and shadows fall in grooves.
Now the video itself is kind of confusing too, they call it materials for some reason. Either the person who did the video has no idea what materials are, or im afraid, LLs gonna pull another one of theirs “lets take an existing technical term and apply it to something completely different, without any regard to anything, because we don’t really know what it means, so we will make up our own meaning” Just like they did with sculpting, mesh, faces, and now we have materials, another confussle.
What they are showing in the video is called mapping, and mapping is a material property, not a material in itself. What “materials” really means, materials are groups of polygons with an asigned texture and surface properties such as shinyness and color(on sl, materials are called faces, you can change the color, texture and shinyness of every face on a prim. Prims can have up to 9 faces, mesh has a limit of 8 for some reason) Normal map is something that you put on the selected material to give that material detail.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, lets look into the reasoning behind this move. Assuming this blog post isn’t full of shit http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2012/08/second-life-steam-gamer-platform.html witch it is because it starts of talking about improved rendering performance and than it ignores the part it said about improving performance and talks about how normal mapping will be increasing the 3D graphics card requirements. Normal mapping inst anything new to SL or your graphics card, and is used on water for example, if looking at water doesnt lag you back to december, i dont think looking at an avatar with a normal map on it, will do it either.
Okay so assuming LL is trying to appeal to hardcore gamers with graphics, i can understand where this is coming from, we all know how butt ugly SL looks and it scares off any new use, who has any other game experience, to compare with SL, and it’s really admirable that LL is concerned about how the game looks.
What the sad reality is that, even if you increase the graphics any higher than it already is, it wont do much good because majority of SL will still look like a god awful pile of prim turds, and a turd with fancy lighting and shadows is still a turd. 80% of SL looks like some 2004 freebie library primshit land, better graphics will not magicaly make all of this go away.
Click to see bigger image
And i can count on my one hand fingers, creators that will make full use of this new feature in their creations.
People often say that SL has bad graphics, but people don’t really understand what graphics are exactly. Graphics can be divided into 2 main parts, the art direction\the visual style of it(textures, atmosphere, theme, colors, design, overall quality of craft), and the technical part of it (lighting, shading, rendering engine, polygon processing power, fancy texture filtering and resolutions). SL has plenty of graphics already if you look at the technical part of it. It is a monster at how many polygons it can render on screen with real time shadows and ambient occlution without lag, no other game can match up to SL in that aspect, but SL’s problem isn’t in it’s resources, its in how it utilizes those resources, its not in it’s illumination and rendering, its in what exactly does it illuminate and render, and that is the content. Sadly, people only tend to focus on the technical part of what makes a game have good graphics, Duke Nukem Forever technically has good graphics, but it still looks so god awful you wanna puke, because of its severe lacking in the visual direction department.
Here’s some games that did not have not have normal mapping or any fancy shading and rendering capabilities, instead they had a solid uniform visual directions. To me they look far more visually appealing than the latest soulless shiny grey and brown normal map crap.
SL doesn’t need its graphics made better than it already is, as much as it needs a content and sim visual appeal rating system, and a rating based filtering option, that is on by default to all the new users, they will find and disable that filter in their viewer settings and will see the true face of sl when they are ready for it.
As for the usual stubborn oldfags refusing to let go of v1 viewers or whining about not being able to play SL on their ghetto computers after the graphics upgrade, relax, as i already said, normal maps isn’t anything new neither to SL or your graphics card, if you can run SL at all, you wont need to buy a new computer. In the worst case, if you are already running SL on the lowest graphics setting, this shouldn’t even be relevant to you because the lowest setting doesn’t include normal maps in it.
Finally, about the move to steam itself, this is probably the most exciting part to me and probably one of the most significant things that will happen to SL since mesh. What this means is that SL will have a huge increase in users, there are over 40million users on Steam that love jumping on the bandwagon of latest game trends. Just like Killing Floor and APB and DAYZ before it, SL will be that hot new game that everyone wants to try. But it will be a short lived boom, just like it was with all the other hot new shit that everyone and their mom just has to play(because everyone else on their steam friends list is playing it), before they get bored with it and move on. Steam trend fags change games like socks and have no commitments to them. Eventually all these players will move on to whatever other hot new game is out and move with the trend, not all will stay on SL for good, because after all, there’s nothing really that a hardcore game would do on a game like SL. Most real gamers would find little interest in SL because of its broken, customizable controls, that make any kind of gameplay a horrible experience. Combat on SL is a joke due to lag, bad scripting, unresponsive delayed controls, severe SLS limitations, overall flawed stiff, nature of SL. As well as amateur content creators with pants on their heads, that pay no attention to small but important detail that paint the big picture, like the timing of animations, synchronization, sound effects, any kind of appealing HUD and health bar graphics. SL could never stand up to any real games in terms of gameplay. This is the main reason why I as a gamer, am not interested in combat sims and other gameplay related stuff on SL. If i wanted to play a combat game, id play a real one that is done property, because i have better games to play.
To me SL is an interactive 3D chat program and a way to spend time with my other steam buddies, in betwen our gaming sessions, visually sharing our impressions of the latest game we played or a movie we saw or the music we like and all the other things you can do on SL apart gaming, because theres more to sl than that and i hope other gamers from steam will see this potential too and will actually stay on SL.