When creating in Second Life i always try to balance what i want to achieve with the limitations i set myself on the Second Life platform. Because there are not limitations, you could create something that rivals stuff on a PS4, but that would only nuke performance on the Second Life Platform. The ability to set limitations for your creations is hard to do if you are unaware of how stuff works under the SL hood, and sometimes i see creators building in ways that they think is prim saving but in fact could be making performance worst.
A few years ago Linden Lab started being more aggressive on the Level Of Detail settings. RenderVolumeLOD debug setting decides how far away from an object you should be before it starts to lower detail of an object. It’s default setting is a measly 1.2. There are two naughty things some creators do with RenderVolumeLOD. The first is that some have their RenderVolumeLOD set to 4.0 or above and build optimised creations at this setting not realising that any new person coming into Second Life will not see their creations as intended. The second is some creators purposely create stuff with REALLY low LOD import settings to save land impact then expect people to up their RenderVolumeLOD debug settings to see their creations properly. This sacrifice of performance for land impact gain is a creators biggest sin.
Some people like Sculpts but i personally hate them with a passion. They lie about their massive resource eating, they look ugly, take for ever to load and spend most of their time as giant blobs. To me their is NO excuse for any more sculpts to be made EVER. If you have the skills to make a sculpt, then you have the skills to make a mesh instead. Ok so there are ‘some’ instances where sculpts rule, such as region surrounding landscapes but most cases creators use them because they register as a single prim. They do in fact use a lot more resources than 1 prim, it’s just not telling you that because its on the old inaccurate prim calculation system. Its another case of sacrificing performance for land impact gain.
Mesh of a Gazzilion polygons
One of the reasons Materials Mapping was so welcomed was because creators had got to a stage where they were packing more detail onto a mesh than ever before. Every wrinkle on a piece of clothing, every marble relief on a wall carefully crafted by 1000’s of polygons. The gaming industry has known for decades the trick of using material mapping to give fake 3D details to mesh models and so it was very exciting to finally get the feature in Second Life. Unfortunately many users do not see the benefits because their computers don’t switch advanced lighting on. What is worst is that some creators flat out ignore the reasoning behind material mapping and still import huge detailed mesh at terrifying poly counts. I bought a demo shirt earlier this year and while i admired the great detail of the wrinkles in the clothe i was shocked to find it was over 200 land impact and pushed my Avatar Render Cost (ARC) so far into the red that i felt like a collapsing star. In fact thats how i would describe wearing extreme poly mesh. Walk around with a regions worth of land impact attached to your avatar then you are practically a Black Hole sucking the resources from fellow SL residents causing everything to slow down and in some cases cause people to crash on lower spec systems. Its a case of sacrificing performance for detail.
If there is one thing I’m guilty of its packing to much into a region. A full region has 15,000 land impact allowance and this has not changed in for ever. The problem here is that for the high cost of setting up then renting the server you’d be forgiven for wanting to cram as much in as possible. It’s not like you can just whip up another region at a cost of approximately USD$5500 for the first year just to spread the content when your first region performance starts to degrade (cost based on UK resident). So i find myself filling up my one region with items that do a lot of scripted physical things and this can bring performance down especially if the objects are constantly chattering, and by that i mean sending packets of info about position, colour, what they detect etc. Its a case of sacrificing performance for getting your monies worth.
It can appear there is no limitations to what we can create in Second Life, but lag and low frame rates show there are limitations and creators need to know and understand the limitations in order to create content suitable for the platform. (i must also add that I’m not an expert so if you do know more than me about whats going on under the SL hood feel free to correct me in the comments :-P).