Loki Eliot has a post up about his experience with mesh: Materials Post Mortem. It is a good article. You can visit the region named Escapades to see what things Loki has built.
Loki is pointing out some of the problems when trying to build for ALM-Enabled people and ALM-Disabled people. (ALM = Advanced Lighting Model) I think it becomes clear builders are having to decide if they will build for ALM-D or ALM-E. Building for both degrades both.
Loki gets into what is being done with mesh clothes. Is the promotional image made using ALM or not? And how do you know? The difference is striking, as Loki’s image shows.
Even clothes makers have to decide if they will build for ALM-E or ALM-D. But, I have yet to see any mention of whether the clothes require ALM or not in promotional material. We saw warnings when mesh clothes came out that a mesh capable viewer was required. But, not everyone provided even those warnings.
The difference between the appearance with ALM-E verses ALM-D is not as drastic as a skirt turning into a sphere, which was the case with mesh. The difference will be more puzzling to new Second Life™ users. They will see great detail and lighting effects in the promo. When they put the clothes on and look at them with ALM-D… that’s going to be a bummer. They will have little clue that anything is wrong or how easy it is to resolve the problem.
As Loki points out 40 Land Impact (LI) clothes can be made with similar or more detail and have only 2 LI. So, I expect more ALM-E clothes in the future. High poly models provide good detail, but they kill SL performance. I expect better modelers will be taking that into consideration. As Loki points out LI indicates how hard the viewer has to work to render high LI clothes. Such clothes may not count toward a region’s LI cost, but the viewer still has to render them.
Loki overstates the situation when he says everyone needs to upgrade their hardware. But, it is a significant portion of the SL user base that should probably upgrade.
But, let’s be clear. It is not so much SSA or ALM that is requiring users to consider better hardware. It is how the viewers are being built. The SSA feature doesn’t require new hardware. But, the viewers getting that code do require SSE2 or better, a CPU feature added in 2001 with the Pentium 4.
ALM requires a better video card to maintain performance. ALM is Linden Lab’s way of describing Deferred Shading or Deferred Render, in general use the three terms are the same thing. But, ALM is how one gets the improved appearance people want at the least computer labor cost. This technique came into wide use between 2001 and 2005. So, most video cards currently in use can handle it. It is just a matter of how well they can handle it.
The costs for upgrading video cards is low. A GTX260-nVidia card is on eBay for US$20, as I write this. The last 4 of those cards to sell, on average, went for $52.
Loki feels ALM is changing the shared experience. Whether one agrees or not is a matter of what one thinks the ‘shared experience’ is.
In thinking about what the shared experience (SE) is consider: the Phoenix (?) viewer attachment points was something that broke the shared experience. If I used the special attachment points and wore attachments and you used a viewer that did not support them, you saw something very different than I did and there was no setting you could change to fix that.
If you choose to turn on 3D shutter glasses in SL, you see things differently than I do. If you decide to set the environment to night, you see things differently than I do. But, neither of those are considered to break the SE. ALM is the same. You see things differently than I do, but that is your choice. It is a change to your viewer, not the world or what is in the world.
The Mesh Deformer is the same type of SE break that attachment points were. So, the Deformer is only available in ‘experimental’ viewers, not viewers at large. Both the attachments and Deformer enabled mesh are changes to the world.
Building for ALM-E is a change in the world. But, making something glow is a change in the world too. Both can be changed based on how we set our viewers. We can turn off ALM, Glow, particles, and more.
So, while I don’t see building for ALM-E as breaking the shared experience, it does add another complication for builders. But, it also increases our freedom to design new things. It certainly is going to change how SL looks. It is people not updating their hardware for over a decade that is breaking the shared experience. That is their choice.
The moment I ticked the box for Lighting and Shadows (or ALM as it is called now), I knew I would never go back. It makes SL 10 times prettier. I started building ALM-E (nice FLA there BTW) and some of the effects one can create are just incredible. Of course, it is a drag on the performance but that is a price I am willing to pay.
As for others, thats the tricky part. I do think it is possible to build in a way that works for both ALM-E and ALM-D. ALM-E people will get more beauty out of it but D-folks can still enjoy it as well. It is not easy but it can be done.
shared experience… waazzat?
anyone on advanced lighting or lighting and shadows as it was called for the last couple years already saw things other people didn’t, like misshapen feet poking through shoes, blindingly bright face and body lights, and everything else as Marcus said 10 times prettier.
But there are countless other ways for us to not be sharing the same experience, windlight settings are obvious, but there’s also having music on or off, sounds disabled or not, particles on or off, some never use voice, some always do. on top of those preference oriented things, your ‘thereness’ in any experience is always partially dependent on how many IMs you have going, stuff that’s happening on the other side of the other side of the screen and so on.
If anything, I think the material age will encourage more of us to use similar windlight settings in some areas and to turn ALM on and thereby actually increase the chances of shared experiences. Though perhaps, the first step on this adventure is realizing we haven’t been able to rely on shared experience for awhile.