Jun 1, 2011

Poit Mesh Narf!

#Secondlife | I believe I’m getting the hang of this idea for blogging by the seat of my pants. Sure, it’s a little more raw than my usual meticulously over polished approach, but it’s possible that these sorts of posts are conveying what’s really going on in my mind without too much of a PR filter.


This post is a little different than most because I normally start out with a witty title and write around that idea. This time, however I’m doing it in reverse. Writing the content and then thinking up an appropriate title for it after the fact, based on whatever it was that I wrote.


Today’s prominent thought is that of the announcement by Linden Lab that Mesh will likely arrive in July. Despite the actual timing details, I cannot help but feel entirely underwhelmed by the announcement. To me, it’s starting to feel like virtual worlds companies are leveraging common features as though they are revolutionary, giving them the sort of hype and attention usually reserved for something truly innovative and new.





Tada! We’ve incorporated totally obvious things, eight years later!



Of course, Mesh will revolutionize SecondLife in some manner, but it’s the same analogy as forcing Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel with Crayola Watercolors simply because you can’t be bothered to let him use professional quality materials. Mesh, for all it’s worth, is a staple of 3D virtual environments and has been since the 1990s. It’s just another name for uploading and using 3D models in a virtual environment, and prior to the Linden Lab effort with Mesh, this is pretty much how every single virtual environment in history accomplished user generated content where they allowed the users to generate the worlds.


I’m thinking back to ActiveWorlds where this was implemented since 1996.


Linden Lab is the exception to the status quo in that from the beginning, for some really odd fluke of reasoning (Shiny Pants!), nobody thought it was important enough to consider allowing (much like actually putting particle controls in the build menu). Of course Prims can be quite powerful to an extent, and allow for “rapid prototyping” in a virtual environment. The whole idea of Constructive Solid Geometry (which the Prims approach closely resembles) is not foreign or even a bad idea.


But ignoring the basic need for importing 3D models into the system for use at the same time as most (if not all) virtual environments considered this standard protocol seems silly. I suppose the idea that a single object as a model versus many in prims would somehow dilute the business model and circumvent the cost per prim revenue that Linden Lab has enjoyed all along.


Not that the whole idea with Mesh is new either, concerning SecondLife, because (like most things concerning SL it seems) this is an idea implemented years ago by offshoots like RealXtend, and only recently getting the Linden Lab seal of approval. Kind of like Body Physics, or any number of things that the community seemed to work out ahead of time. For complete information about RealXTend I’d highly suggest following and having a talk with @AdamFrisby on Twitter.


Back to the whole per-prim business model though for a moment. I’m sure that actual 3D Models will come with a weighed prim cost based on the model complexity, in order to offset the per-prim business model already in place and keep it intact. I really don’t understand why something like Mesh should be hindered in order to sustain the legacy interests. In ActiveWorlds I know that there is a cell limit where you can only place a certain number of objects per area, and a model only counts as a single object, regardless of the complexity. In SecondLife terms, that would translate to the equivalent of 1 model equals 1 prim; I know, it’s shocking, right?


But that doesn’t seem to be the case with SecondLife in that a 3D Model uploaded to the system for use undergoes some calculation of rendering cost and the prim-cost is extrapolated from that so your single model then becomes the cost of many prims. See, to me, intentionally inflating the item count to make one model equal twenty seems… Hell, I don’t even have a word for that. Maybe ass-backwards or defeating the damned point of using a 3D model to begin with.


Then, of course, we’re dealing with preserving the legacy business model, which is charging per prim, so it stands to reason that the introduction of 3D Models into SecondLife would somehow be nerfed (NARF!) as a consequence. So we’re back to this whole rendering cost idea, which implies that some sort of rendering of these models and content must be happening on the server side and Linden Lab sees the need to offset that cost.


I’m getting this uneasy feeling that future implementations of anything in SecondLife will be at the mercy of outdated business decisions made years prior, and end up like a Ferrari with a speed cap set to 60MPH. In the same train of thought, though, I’m getting that feeling concerning just about every virtual environment I’ve encountered.


I don’t think I could reasonably work at a place like Linden Lab or any other virtual environment company, simply because I value my intelligence and sanity. Any point where you hear me say “Hey, Linden Lab! Hire Me!” is actually an inside joke between myself and a few close friends in the industry. Because let’s face it, Aeonix Linden would be about as effective as any other person working at Linden Lab to make appropriate change, which is to say, not really. I’d be just taking orders like any other peon in the ranks and under the gun to grind out the same old song and dance in accordance with the PR department.


I might be in a bit of a cynical mood lately, but a lot of this stuff seems like nonsense to me. The biggest news item for development from Linden Lab is in implementing a feature that is commonplace in every other system since the dawn of virtual environments, and treating it like everyone should be floored in amazement and awe at the coming of this thing called Mesh.


Of course, it will revolutionize SecondLife. But if you deliberately withhold any common thing for years and suddenly offer it, it’ll seem like the biggest thing since sliced bread. We could apply this to say… food. If you didn’t have any for a really long time, even when it’s common elsewhere, and suddenly you’re offered food, that sandwich becomes the greatest thing you’ve ever tasted.


I’ll call this the starvation theory.


If you starve your customers of common things long enough, they’ll be grateful for just about any scraps you decide to throw in their direction later on. Inversely, they’ll be just as equally pissed off when you take away a Gourmet Meal and hand them a Happy Meal (Viewer 2). The same mentality applies to consciously deciding to remove integral keystones to the foundation of what makes SecondLife what it is and calling it a “basic” view. Stuff like… an inventory, landmarks, voice chat, and the ability to spend money; this latter one perplexed me to no end because I always thought it was in the best interest for Linden Lab to take people’s money.


Treating the use of 3D models in a virtual environment like the next innovation… I really never thought I’d see the day that happened. For me, I’m grateful that Linden Lab decided to show a little initiative and get with the program, but I won’t be playing into the hype of it. It’s a feature and ability that is as common as water, and the fact that Linden Lab decided to voluntarily leave people in the desert for years doesn’t change the fact.


It just makes Linden Lab about eight years late to the party.


Better late than never, I suppose.


Post a Comment