#SL CCIIUG Week 37

These meetings are getting smaller. There were about 8 to 10 people and this one had 2 griefer idiots at this one. Blocking took care of clowns that eventually wondered off.  I’m pretty sure User Interface design is not a popular subject in SL.

Blender 2.63 Normal Map Controls

Oz Linden was at the meeting asking about control layouts for the Materials System. The problem is how to handle those controls. Oz explained and asked:

For the Normal and Specular maps, our goal has been to allow the texture and each of the two maps to have their own set of positioning controls; offset, rotation, repeat, mapping mode… if you want to line them up, you can, if you don’t, you don’t have to.

Suppose that those controls were tabbed such that you could look at one of the three images with its controls, then flip tabs to see the next one, etc…

The alternative may be to make a huge build floater, but for smaller screens that can get bad fast.

Inara Pey asked, You’re talking sub-tabs within the texture tab, Oz?

Oz answered, something like that, Inara, or possibly a separate floater that has its own tabs… not sure. The essential question is whether or not those parameters need to be seen together, I think.

[…] I’m trying to get a sense of what the relationships are between the controls needed for Materials right now.

Siana Gearz brought up the idea of using the open space in the Features tab for Normal and Specular Maps.

If you look at the Textures tab in the Build Panel you see most of the controls that will be needed for Normal and Specular maps. There are a few that would not be needed; full bright, glow, transparency, and similar ones. Then there are additional controls that may need to be added. For instance in Blender 2.63 the Specular settings for a material use color, intensity, gradient, hardness, and shader selection. You can see the effect of those controls by opening Blender and adding a material to a sphere.

If you move from the Materials panel in Blender to the Texture panel/properties panel you find the controls are much more extensive. But, the Normal Map controls only consist of 3 additional settings.

Specular Map Controls in Blender 2.63

I doubt that SL’s controls for N&S will be as extensive as they are in Blender. Also, I am not convinced Blender’s order of controls are the best plan for SL. But, you can get a sense of how things work for N&S in Blender. From that consider what your work flow might be like and how you would want your controls for these features laid out.

It is not efficient to try and design a user interface without knowing what controls are needed. That point did come up in the meeting. Oz admits a full list of N&S aspects has not been published. But, the currently available N&S data spec is available.

One of SL’s unique aspect will be the ability to independently align (rotate, position, and scale) N&S maps. The idea is this would allow a smaller texture (diffuse) image to be used and tiled with larger N&S maps. So, for instance a cloth texture could be made with a small texture image (showing a weave pattern) and less repeating wrinkle patterns achieved with a large Normal map. At least we will have the possibility to reduce texture image load by having independent maps available to us.

Some game engines allow a ‘per vertex’ they of control for N&S. We are not going to see that in the release of Materials.

Imposed Control

There is also a philosophical aspect to the N&S controls. Some feel if the Lab does not limit controls, then users will abuse them and fail to optimize things they build. So, the idea is that the Lab should impose control.

Freedom is always a better choice, IMO. But, freedom with no consequence or responsibility is seldom workable when one person is free to do whatever and others pay for those decisions. In this case creative types will be building things and the rest of us will supplying the CPU cycles to render things and the Lab will be supplying the server cycles and storage. Somewhere those costs have to be a connected the creative types so the render and server costs are kept efficient.

There are the reasons we see the new Land Impact cost system. Now the Lab is in the process of seeing what the costs are. If the render and server costs are small, there is nothing to worry about. If we are just adding 2 more texture uploads the upload fee may take care of the costs. But, if the costs are high, for instance the render times needed jumps significantly, then some type of Land Impact cost for N&S Maps may be imposed, which leaves you free to do what you want, but you have to pay for what you do.

It will be some time before we know what direction the Materials System will go, in regard to costs.


In the last couple of weeks I haven’t seen lots of information coming from or going into the CCIIUG meetings. This week’s meeting was short but information rich, a nice change.

The primary subject was the Materials System. Content and Mesh questions are more common in the Nyx’s Monday meeting. The real information of value on Materials comes from Geenz Spad, as he is the Exodus Team member working on the viewer side of materials. Oz provides some of the information coming from the Linden side on servers. So, wherever they are, answers are available… when they are willing to talk.

In other articles I mention the problems with the viewer. Lot s of stuff is changing. The render pipeline is being changed to allow inclusion of the Materials System. Other features are changing too, avatar rendering is one. It is looking more and more like SL is getting an extensive rebuild this year. The viewer is certainly getting a bunch of changes.

I suppose Geenz and Oz were hoping to get more feedback from the CCIIUG meeting. But, residents tend to ignore what the third party developers and the Lab’s staff are doing until it shakes their personal tree. I suspect Inara’s and my readers are the largest group of people interested in what is happening in SL’s development and change pipeline. So, it is not surprising that only a small number of people help with testing and planning. In fact I doubt many outside our reader base realize the Tuesdays CCIIUG meeting is one of the few places where residents can contribute to the planning.

If you get chance, mention the CCIIUG meeting and drop in on it.

4 thoughts on “#SL CCIIUG Week 37

  1. I would think you’d want to have a check box that locks the rotation/translation of S&N maps to the diffuse, but if you uncheck that box, then tabs that were previously greyed out and unavailable open up and you can adjust the S&N maps independently.

    • I agree something like that is important. However, getting all those controls in a place where one can see them grey out or come live will be a challenge.

      If separate tabs within the Texture panel are added (like diffuse, normal, specular) I would like to see the diffuse/texture setting copy to the N&S until the are changed. I would also like to see a button to copy the texture setting to N&S or restore N&S to match the diffuse/texture setting.

  2. I know this blog post is about UI design, so mea culpa on my comment. 🙂

    When it comes the the materials, one thing I’m keenly curious about is how much control we’ll have over them with scripts. Whether current texture functions will be adapted to be applicable to normal and specular maps, or if we’ll get new functions. This isn’t something I’ve seen discussed much yet (or at all?) outside some forum comments from one or two residents.

    I’m especially interested in animating them. Think liquids, lava, or effects for scifi/fantasy environments or avatars.

    • You are right. I have not heard discussion of how the scripting will be handled. I am assuming the Normal and Specular maps will be controlled by script as textures (diffuse) are. But, asking at CCIIUG would be a good thing.

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