Materials System Update 2013-6

Last we were hearing is that being able to change Normal and Specular Maps via script was not going to be possible. We have some clarification on that.

When the Materials System is first released it will not be possible to change the Normal and Specular Maps via script. The reason is that feature is just not going to be added in phase-one of the rollout. There is no other technical or mystical reason than the work to add the ability is just not being done. It is a time availability thing.

Changing the normal map requires the server to update everyone that can see the object being updated. All those that do not have the new map will have to download it. So, there is a load placed on servers and viewers for each map change. The same is currently true of texture changes, which are scriptable now. So, if people request the ability to change Normal and Specular Maps via script, it may be added at some point. Don’t bother requesting it now, unless you have a really good user case. I suspect the Lindens are waiting to see if scripting for the maps is really needed.

I am not sure we need different parameters for the maps or that scripting those changes is all that handy a thing. Since the maps follow texture’s parameters they will to some extent be programmable.

We also have been told that when we animate a texture, the Normal and Specular Maps will animate too. In general the settings for the texture (diffuse map) will apply to the Normal and Specular Maps.

We still do not know if we will be able to control the amount of displacement, depth effect, of normal maps. If we do not get that ability in the first pass, I suspect it will get added at some point.

4 thoughts on “Materials System Update 2013-6

  1. What I was going to get into at the recent Mesh Import user group, was that there’s no such thing as “depth” to normal maps.

    A normal map can be thought of as a set of angles that define the directions the surface is pointing at. Because of this, there is no depth; there’s just surface angles. “Displacement” is an entirely different effect, one that likely won’t be added for a very long while due to the performance implications of such an effect. Virtual Displacement Mapping, or Parallax Mapping, has been around for years, and while it does work relatively well on high end machines, it can incur a hefty performance penalty on older machines that support deferred rendering.

    • Thanks for explaining. I think there is some confusion in how we are each using words.

      Your image of the metal surface with the corrosion blisters gives an illusion of depth. Most of the tools I use with normal maps have a control for how much depth is faked. I can made the blisters fatter or thinner. I am curious if we will have such a control for normal maps in SL?

      • You won’t. You won’t find many tools in game engines or similar that have setups like that; that’s typically done by the content creation application its self.

        • Mmm I think like Nalates. We are kinda mixing things I think. Nalates isnt talking about POM or something similar. Is just how the normal maps looks. So far all game engines (or most of them with normal maps support) have this as well as all 3D packages. UDK or CryE are good examples of this. But going beyond this, SL already have an option that increase the amount of depth perception on surfaces using normal maps (bump maps on render deffered). TPV like Firestorm or Niran’s Viewer have it. I dont know which kind of setting uses, probably increases the depth amount directly on the shader itself. This really doesnt gives more depth to normal maps, only gives more contrast on the lighting received making the dark areas darker and the light areas lighter. Also changes ALL maps of course. But at least the possiblity is “there”.

          I also think that this isnt so necessary on first instance (if different normal maps will work as should in first instance) but is always a great option.

          As for the scripts limitation, is something that everyone expected. At some point we will be able to change those textures using scripts for sure. But what I dont like is that we will not be able to animate or use different settings for normal and specular maps. The amount of possibilities are endless if we can animate normal maps for example to simulate fake water or changes on avatars or simply to be able to use different UV settings for optimization purposes.

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