Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wholly Mesh [UPDATE]

According to the note card I got from Landscapes Unlimited (SLurl) today, their sim is now 100% mesh, top to bottom.
"As of today the mesh environment on my sim is open to the public. Please come over with your friends and enjoy the scenery, the tranquil spots, a boatride, a swim in the ocean or a picknick under the majestic old oak trees. Beware: you need a MESH VIEWER to see the environment!"
With the obvious exception of the the base land (the system ground) itself and the water, everything appears to be mesh prims. Unsure, though, I wrote to creator Margaret Heliosense about certain items and I'll update this post with her reply. Until then, compare the pictures below:

Facing south, everything you see but me, the sky, and the patch of beach just at the water line is mesh.

The same shot with Simple and Water derendered (Advanced > Rendering Types) to remove all but alpha-textured prims.
That, of course, would derender traditional and scuplty prims, as well, but if you take for granted that all the prims in the first picture are mesh, then their absence in the second illustrates the extensive primscape.

Further exploration showed that some floaty toobs with poses appear to be standard prims and sculpts even upon close inspection. The linked pairs of buoys I found were mesh (check the yellow outlines in the pic — the lines on the cone curve are a dead giveaway that this object is mesh) that weighed in as seven prims of mesh but could have been made in as few as five prims if made the old-fashion way, though that may have defeated the purpose of having an all-mesh sim. Remember that object size, physics settings, and spread over an area (how far apart the combined "bits" appear to be) affect the land impact (read more here) which is the same as prim count. The green/white buoy by itself, for example, has a land impact of three "prims" despite being one, unlinkable object, while the red/white buoy "weighs in" at four. Most builders with a knowledge of prim tortures could make the latter with two old-style prims at most and just one if the exact proportions weren't important. Also, there were several decorative items such as furniture and ground covers that weren't mesh, such as some wonderful stuff from Margaret Heliosense, who was kind enough to answer some questions I had.

What really struck me, though, is the homogeneity of the textures on the elevated land, as seen below:

Compared to the far more natural texture and form of the otherwise similar landscape from this screen cap from the viewer log-in screen last year, one's first impression of mesh may be tainted:

Don't be quick to assume, however. as you've seen in the many items of mesh clothes, the variety of mesh avatars, and other mesh items in-world, it is possible to create much more complex result. Generally, though, I think that mesh is smoother over all, with less of ability to create a firm, hard edge. Mesh seems softer, to put in in one word, and the application of such uniform texturing enhances that impression.

The ground under the trees is a custom land sculpt that hides
 a mass of system ground sand at the Isle of Lesbos.
I made a custom land sculpt so my brother could have a sandy
beach at his place in an all green sim, Nangrim.
But stepping away from my builder's nerdieness, the overall effect at Landscapes Unlimited is still amazing. When mesh was first announced I immediately thought about how it might be used to form land without the limitations of our current ground system. Applying textures to a region's system ground at this time is hit-or-miss at best, especially as re-renders after a fresh log-in or region restart can shift textures dramatically. And shaping the land is more art and alchemy than repeatable science. With sculpties and mesh, achieving the precise desired effect is much easier. Going beyond simple textured prims to level land (remember Help Island?), I have a nice tool that lets me model parts (or all) of an existing landscape to change its texture — and to some degree, it's shape — regardless of what they system ground becomes.

I applaud the folks at Landscapes Unlimited for all their hard work and I look forward to what they can do as the state of the art progresses. By the time the Isle of Lesbos is ready to remodel again I hope that I can use large mesh builds to make the landscape truly spectacular.


Details and more pix are on the Landscapes Unlimited blog. For my pix I used the Region Default settings for Windlight which seem to be very different from what appears in the creator's blog pix.

[UPDATE] Feb 17, 2012
I heard from Sominel Edelman, the creator, today and here are some comments:

"The goal of what I did was to learn, and perhaps to inspire other people [and to test if] mesh can be an alternative to sculpted prims for landscaping." He noted that part of the test was to see if structures that can't be made with the system ground, like caves and tunnels, could be made and how easily.

As to the smoothness of the mesh objects compared to sculpts or to the system ground, "With the size of objects I use for the ground (64x64x64m), every 12 vertices count for approximately 1 prim [compared to 1024 for a sculpted prim. That makes it extremely expensive to create smooth landforms." Increasing the vertices would certainly create a more natural effect, but at a high cost. Sominell suggested that I look at Desert Mountain Landscape_001-mesh on the SL Marketplace (pictured at left). "This has 230 prim for just a 50x50m object. A complete sim surface needs 25 objects of that size..." That would be 5750 prims total, a substantial portion of a 15,000 prim region.

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