To Mesh or Not to Mesh?

It's a jigsaw puzzle, right?
Isn’t mesh great?!! ;-P

After another weekend filled with dance shows and people complaining about floating heads, I thought I would take a few minutes and share some thoughts and suggestions.

SL is a very technical, tricky, and many times just downright frustrating place. We keep coming back because we love the magic and wonder of it.

The advent of mesh was/is seen by most as a huge improvement to SL.  You can get more detailed items for less LI (usually) than you can with good ‘ol prims.  Your clothing moves with your avatar in a more natural way (usually).  And it makes everything prettier (usually).

But that darn ‘usually’ sometimes sneaks out for a quick smoke break and screws up our viewing royally when it’s gone.  😛

These days when you go to a dance show, you probably see more mesh items than not – mesh bodies, heads, hands, feet, clothes, props, etc. Which is fantastic – until you can’t see them.

I have a pretty good computer rig and a great internet connection.  And I still sometimes have problems with mesh.  Just this weekend, I had 8 avatars, all dressed in the same outfit.  I saw all 8 avatars (not mesh), but 3 were missing jackets (mesh).  Why?  Beats me.

I wasn’t somewhere super crowded or very laggy.  All 8 avatars were wearing identical costumes, as I said. So clearly the textures for the costumes were loading/loaded, because I saw 5 of them completely.  What happened to the other 3? No idea.

I’m sure there’s a technical explanation as to why this occurs.  However, it wasn’t a huge deal to me – I knew they were dressed identically, so I just shrugged and went on.

When you are attending a dance performance, however, and all of the dancers are wearing mesh bodies and appear only as dancing heads, it can be all sorts of frustrating.

Some dancers don’t care whether the audience has issues and will continue to wear their mesh bodies.  Some will shrug it off, saying that people should upgrade their computers.  Some will think, well, I can see it, so if they can’t, it must be their issue.  Nothing wrong with that – SL is a place for you to do whatever you want, so if they don’t care, they don’t care.

Some dancers, however, will be heartbroken that the dance they spent hours creating is effectively ruined for some audience members because they appear as floating heads.  Other dancers fall somewhere in the middle.

Whatever your stance on wearing mesh bodies to dance, you have options.

Option 1 is to not wear a mesh body.  The system avatars have gotten a bad rap, and I admit, I prefer a mesh body.  However, if my choice is to see a dancing head or a system body, 100% of the time, I will choose a system body. The purpose of a dance is to express something using your body.  If I can’t see your body, I’m not getting anything out of your dance.

Option 2 is to wear a mesh body.  I confess, I have worn a mesh body to dance on many occasions.  However, sometimes things just don’t work out the way I want, and I will use my system avatar for some dances.  (Appliers aren’t always available for some costumes, and sometimes using those appliers with a mesh body can be a hassle because of the inherent alpha conflicts when using multiple layers.)

As a dancer, you should already be doing things to avoid lag – lowering your draw distance, de-scripting everything you can, including set pieces and costume pieces, turning off/de-rendering unnecessary things like sky, terrain, etc. if you can.  Don’t neglect to do these things with your mesh body.

I don’t know about all mesh bodies, but mine is copiable.  So I will make a copy (or sometimes copies) for a dance, set my appliers as I need them, and then delete all the scripts out of them.

If you are a venue owner, you should consider putting a policy in place regarding mesh bodies.  Are you going to allow them or not?  If you allow them, you should consider capping your show attendance.  The more avatars on a sim, the more lag – especially when many/most of the audience may be wearing mesh bodies themselves.  Help your dancers put on the best show they can by helping to limit the lag.

WTHI’ve heard a lot of complaints recently about people seeing floating heads.  It’s a real turn-off for the audience and unhappy customers are usually the most vocal.

Mesh is fantastic, I love it, but learn to use it wisely when you dance. 😀

Second Life Render Cost and Limits

Kay has a REALLY good post about render weight. Image Source:  avataric.wordpress.com
Image Source: avataric.wordpress.com

This post was inspired by someone asking in a group how/if alphas, shine, and glow contributed to lag.

I had recently been researching some other topics and had come across a page in the wiki about mesh/rendering weight costs.

In fact, I had been doing some testing on my avatar with render weight, because I seem to be wearing more and more mesh lately.

With a mesh body, mesh head, mesh hands and feet, mesh hair, mesh clothes, mesh shoes, mesh jewelry – it’s endless.

Though I have a decent computer, I try to be mindful of others who might not.

When I attend dance shows or crowded events, I try to be as low-cost (render weight-wise) as I can.

I’ve even started adding the render cost of items to my LOTD posts.

It’s interesting to see how much items ‘cost’ – some I would think were heavy turned out not to be, and vice versa.

Render Weight Basics
800 ARC
I seem to have misplaced my hair. 😦

Your basic avatar (wearing eyes, skin, shape, and hairbase – all required items) should be 1000 ARC.

I got mine to 800 (there’s a note on the Wiki about some baked textures having a -200 score, but I’m not entirely clear on what that means or how it works).

However, I was surprised to see how much some ‘additions’ to items can affect their render weight.

There is a base cost for an item, but then you have to add in ‘multipliers’ based on certain features.

If you make an item ‘shiny,’ for example, it will multiply the render weight of the item by 1.6.

Glow is 1.5 and flexi is x5!

This Can’t Be True, Can It?

The question about these render weight factors was asked in a rather large clothing template group, and I was surprised by some of the responses after the render weight wiki page was shared.

Someone said, ‘Don’t pay too much attention to those.  They’re just ‘guidelines,’ not rules.”

Really?

Another person commented that the page couldn’t be right, because it listed alphas as x4, and “alphas make things invisible, so there’s no work for the computer to do.”

If you want to check your avatar render weight, go to Advanced > Performance Tools > Show Render Weight for Avatars (if you use FS).

I try to stay in the green (around 20,000) if I am going someplace laggy.

I’ve found that most jewelry has a pretty high render weight, so I tend not to wear jewelry a lot anymore, except for photos.

(Don’t forget to remove all those pesky scripts from things like hair/jewelry/shoes – those can add to lag as well.)

Kay over at Avataric has some really good posts about render weights, including the one featuring the picture above.

Should You Care?

Why should you care about render weights?

You don’t have to, of course.

But if you spend time dressing up your avatar and want others to see you in all your glory, you may want to, especially since LL is working on new tools that will let people set a baseline for which avatars will render and which will appear as ‘jelly babies,’ as Nalates Urriah termed them.

So if your avatar has a 100K+ render weight, and I have my preferences set to less than that, I will only see you as a colored blob.

Probably NOT the look most of us are going for. 😛

Limits
avatarattachpoints
Image Source: virtualneko.com

There have also been a few changes regarding limits in SL that you may or may not have heard about.

Originally, you could only wear one item for each layer (shirt, pants, etc.).

Then the option to ‘add’ items was added, allowing you to wear up to 5 items on each layer, with a total limit of 60 layers.

Additionally, you could attach a number of items to your avatar, but could only attach so many to any one attachment point.

Currently, according to the wiki, you can now wear 60 layers total, but the 5 item limit per layer has been removed.

You can also wear up to 38 avatar attachments (including HUDs), but you can now wear all 38 on one attachment point (if you wish).

I’m not sure why you would need to wear 60 layers of anything or put 38 attachments all on one point, but there you go. 🙂

(Note – you must always wear a shape, skin, eyes, and hairbase; however, only one of each is allowed.)

Takeaways

As I said, I am trying to be more conscious of my render cost.

One of my ‘to-do’ items is to go back through my inventory and get rid of really high render cost items that I don’t really need/use.

Or at least box them up. 😀

(Sadly, some 40-50K+ shoes may be getting binned.  But then I have an excuse to go shoe shopping, right?!)

As I acquire new items (and/or use them in LOTD posts), I am trying to keep track of which designers have low render weight items.

I’ve even seen a few designers putting the render cost on their vendor ads, which I love.

That way I can know the render cost BEFORE I purchase the item rather than after.

And now that I’m wearing sooo much mesh, it’s nice to know that I no longer have to worry about where everything attaches.

I’ve run into issues with that before, since so many mesh items are/were made to attach to the right hand.

Making outfits could get complicated. 🙂

I didn’t like mesh much at first, but it has grown on me.

Indeed, it’s getting harder to find non-mesh items these days.

Be an informed consumer, but as always – caveat emptor!

Time Is My Enemy

Image Source:  reallifeinbroomfield.blogspot.com
Image Source: reallifeinbroomfield.blogspot.com

Lately, time seems to get away from me a lot.

I’ll have a list of things I want to do, and I run out of time to get them all done.

I can always do some of them later, of course, but sometimes, after my self-imposed deadline has passed, it doesn’t seem worth the extra effort.

Am I just trying to get too much done in too short a time?

Am I putting too many things on my to-do list?

But goals are good, right?

Am I wasting time on things that don’t matter?

Should I be focusing my efforts elsewhere?

Have I lost my drive, my enthusiasm?

Time’s a-wasting.

Limits – Don’t You Hate Them?

Image Source: www.bestsayingsquotes.com
Image Source: http://www.bestsayingsquotes.com

I’d like to live forever, but that won’t happen.

I’d love it if there were no speed limits, but that won’t happen either.

Life has limits.

And so does SL.

Specifically, group limits.

Remember when you could only have 25 group slots?

Remember how overjoyed we were when that got raised to 42?

(Why 42?  Why not 45? Or is 42 some tongue-in-cheek reference to Douglas Adams?)

Now, even 42 is not enough.

I am constantly at the limit, and have to make some very hard decisions about what groups I am in.

At this point, most of the groups I am in are groups I have paid to join, so I am loathe to leave them.

I, of course, have some working groups that I have to stay in, as does most everyone in SL.

But there are always some slots left over that are discretionary.

If a store/venue offers a subscribo, I will choose that over the group to stay informed.

That is my general choice for stores and such (though some days it feels like it’s raining subscribo notices!).

But some groups are worth joining, despite using a precious group slot.

So I got to wondering – besides working groups, what groups do you belong to that are ‘must-have’?

Is it your gacha trading group?

Your building group?

Your super-secret circle of friends group?

A store that you absolutely love?

Annnnnnnnddddd . . . GO!

Learning Curve

Blender UI
Blender UI – you can master this in a couple hours, right?
Image Source: http://www.rivalcastmedia.com

As I was scrolling through my various feeds today, I came across a post by Nalates Urriah.

In it, she is discussing SL and ‘SL2.0’ and what will be different.

What does SL need to retain people and attract new ones?

How can the SL experience be made better/faster/easier?

This is a conversation I’ve had with various people many times.

I’m not a techy person – most of what I know I’ve learned because I had to.

How to reduce lag, how to set up my computer for best performance during shows, etc.

I’ve had to learn how to build in order to make sets.

But with the advent of mesh, I think the whole landscape of SL has changed.

Literally and figuratively.

What isn’t made of mesh in SL these days?

Clothing?

Mesh.  When was the last time you went to a shopping event in SL and saw anything for sale that wasn’t mesh?

Furniture?

Mesh.  Because you can get amazingly detailed and realistic items with mesh, AND they are low LI.  Everyone is subject to the LI limit so – mesh.

Landscape items – trees, flowers, gardens, gazebos, fences, walls?

Mesh.  Again, the LI limit is a factor, so – mesh.

Houses?

Mesh.

Avatars?

Mesh.  Mesh bodies are everywhere – TMP, Belleza, Maitreya, Eve, Lena, WowMeh, etc.

Mesh heads, mesh hands, mesh feet.

Mesh, mesh, mesh, mesh, mesh.

When I first joined SL, the biggest attraction was that you could join and start experimenting.

It didn’t take that long to learn how to build and texture using prims.  (Building ‘well’ is a whole other topic.)

Then making clothes – learn a bit of Photoshop and/or GIMP and you could make yourself some ok/decent clothes.

These days, nothing seems as simple.

Sure, you can buy a mesh clothing template, make a texture, and make some mesh clothing.

But then you need to make appliers, because who doesn’t have a mesh bod, mesh boobs, a mesh butt?

Ok, so furniture.

That should be simpler, right?

Except you have to know a 3D modeling program to build one (there are mesh templates for furniture, as well).

But then you need to know about polygons, vertices, LOD – how can you get the best performance for the least impact?

(I have no idea – since I don’t know how to use any 3D modeling programs.)

A statement that Nalates made in her post really made me pause.

She said, ” I and others do not want to go to college to learn how to play on the playground.”

I totally get that it is possible to learn a program like Blender.

I’ve invested many hours in learning Photoshop.

But Blender and other programs like it are never going to be something you can learn/pick up quickly.

Does that by extension mean that SL (and probably ‘SL2.0’) are never going to be something you can pick up quickly as well?

I think so.

Given that one of the biggest complaints about SL is the learning curve, what impact will that have on attracting new users?

If you had to spend 2 hours learning the UI for Halo or Modern Warfare or Battlefield or Call of Duty or even MarioKart, would you play?

I realize that is an over-simplification, but I think the point is valid.

One of the biggest draws of SL, for me (and many others), was that the possibilities seemed endless and open.

These days, there is a definite limit.