I started this series with these articles:
- Second Life: Educational Community Update 2015 March
- Second Life: Next Generation Platform Update-II 2015.
- Second Life: Next Generation Platform Update-III 2015
This fourth article in the series is what I gleaned about content creation tools from the speech about the coming Next Generation Platform (NGP).
Ebbe Altberg, Linden CEO, has talked to us before about the expected incompatibilities between Second Life (SL) content and NGP content. There is no deliberate intent to create incompatibilities for the sake of incompatibility.
The focus in NGP is to have the best possible contents without it being restrained by what came before it. In other words legacy compatibility is not going to be allowed to hold back NGP. So, while we may find more compatibilities than we expect, we may not. Linden Lab just does not know how compatible things will be. Compatibility is not the goal.
In Second Life we can create content either with prims from inside the viewer or with 3-D modeling tools from outside the viewer. From listening to Ebbe I get a sense that within NGP creation is going to be more of a layout process. Will will be ‘placing’ things created via modeling tools outside NGP. Creation of things from outside NGP will be via 3-D modeling tools as it is for SL now.
Ebbe says they plan to support as many 3-D modeling tools as they can. He has by name mentioned; Blender, 3-D Max, Maya, and SketchUp.
I suspect the Lab will be looking for a file format that is highly compatible with as many of the 3-D tools as possible. That suggests the it may very well not be the Collada file format. But, what is the best file format? And will it be just one file format?
You may not know that the Collada file is not actively developed. Last I checked it was pretty much stalled. While it was ideal for SL, I suspect the Lindens will want something being more actively supported.
In the real world manufacturing of tangible goods, CAD systems are used. The older file format IGES was well capable of representing complex three-dimensional objects and various manufacturing data. Newer software is using a file format known as STEP. But, real world manufacturing needs differ from game production needs. So, these would probably not be great choices for NGP.
There are other file formats designed for better optimization for use in games. And there are various file formats that are specifically designed and optimized for specific tasks in game development. I doubt the lab is going to be able to find one file format that provides everything NGP developers will need. So I think we will probably see several formats supported. Probably similar to what Blender, 3-D Max, Maya, and other modeling programs provide.
The NGP import process will digest those and turn them into some internal NGP format. Ebbe said that’s what they’re going to do and that they’re in the process of deciding whether they’ll even keep the original file. My guess would be they won’t. But, there might be value in having the file for sue in the marketplace, but that speculation is pretty far down the road.
Ebbe has shown that NGP is going to provide much better support for high-end modeling tools than SL does. This is something that Cloud Party and Blue Mars tried to do. Those latter two were not fantastically successful. Blue Mars was highly restrictive in regard to the content they allowed into their world. I think that ‘restriction’ greatly contributed to Blue Mars’ lack of popularity.
If Ebbe pulls it off, NGP will be able to attract more professionals. I think it is a matter of providing support with as little restriction as possible.
I expect really good support for Blender, 3-D Max and Maya. There are some questions in my mind about SketchUp. SketchUp creates a very inefficient model for gaming. I suppose the import feature could correct that. I’m just not optimistic for how well an importer could improve poorly made SketchUp models. And with the need for NGP to be highly efficient and provide high performance the SketchUp support may be a bit weak.