Mesh, maths and the mainstream

Nalates Urriah carries interesting news from Charlar Linden by way of the Mesh User Group, in that:

  • Some 55% of SL users are running Viewers capable of rendering mesh
  • Some 18% of regions on the main grid now have mesh objects rezzed in them.

Nalates speculates the data may have been gathered before Phoenix gained its mesh capability. If this is right, then it would put those using mesh-capable viewers in the majority for somewhat longer than has been thought to be the case (given mesh capability has been growing across both V3 and V1 based viewers since September).

However, it is the second figure that attracted my attention. On the one hand, it suggests mesh is gaining traction, but on the other, it hasn’t been the hit Linden Lab may have been anticipating.

It is certainly true that overall take-up has been slow in terms of mesh objects becoming more and more apparent on the grid (although telling them apart from anything else without detailed inspection is admittedly becoming harder and harder with the rise of mesh-capable Viewers).

One of the reasons for this is likely to be the fact that, like it or not, there are technical issues surrounding mesh as currently implemented. Some of these are doubtless down to the complexities of having to shoehorn mesh rendering and support into SL’s existing architecture without actually breaking bits of it completely. However, the fact that there are issues has tended to lead to proclamations that mesh is “impractical” on a broad range of uses where this is actually far from the case.

Mesh palm: 9 prims

One example of this is with trees and plants. Back when mesh was still in Beta, a content creator posted an article about being unable to create a tree in mesh without the PE (Land Impact as it is now) being in the 500-600 prim range. This was seized upon by some  – and is still cited today – as “proof” that mesh doesn’t work. The fact that there are examples of trees with a PE/LI down in single figures is simply brushed aside; I’ve actually had a post where I pointed this out dismissed as “politically motivated”!

Similarly, people insist that houses cannot be made in mesh without incurring massive Land Impact values. This again isn’t strictly accurate. Sure, there are houses that incorporate mesh  that hit a Land Impact of 350-400 – but then, there are also prim builds of equitable size, and intended for the same parcel size, that also hit the same LI values.

And, like it or not, mesh can compete with builds of more modest prim footprints. Take the example below; it has an overall land Impact of 91 fully furnished. The house structure itself, textured beautifully, has a LI of just 29.

Partial mesh house by Novocaine Islay, as seen through a mesh-capable Viewer (l) and non-mesh Viewer (r) to demonstrate it is mesh. total Land Impact: 91 prims with furnishings

Elsewhere, mesh clearly does bring with it benefits that are obvious to grasp. Furniture is one such area, where prim counts can easily equal or better than prim or prim/sculptie equivalents and give a greater level of detail, even allowing for the complexities of including scripts and animations – as the two examples below pulled from the Marketplace demonstrate.

Tiki Tattoo Rotan sofa (l): seats 5; 59 animations 7 prims with shadow effect; Rustica Gothic chair (r) 11 animations, shadow effect, 2 prims

However, the flipside of this is that, in fairness, there are areas where mesh is an unsuitable option, simply because it does incur higher “prim counts”, or can have unforeseen consequences. Ergo, its use is going to remain limited.

Take the aforementioned tree; it may well be possible to develop a beautifully detailed palm tree for just 9 prims. It’s quite a modest count – but it’s still a poor proposition when you can get three sculpted palms trees with shadows for just two prims; and people really aren’t going to be bothered about the underlying resource cost of the latter, because it’s not something that can be readily seen.

It is also somewhat impossible to stretch and resize mesh objects without ending up with some alarming results on the Land Impact scale. Again, this tends to rule out mesh for applications where resizing is required – such as the supply of in-world building component sets.

So yes, there is a case to answer for mesh at times being “impractical”. But this has perhaps been over-emphasised in some respects, and may well be a contributing factor – albeit a small one – for the slow take-up of mesh.

However, there is a much more direct reason as to why mesh would appear to be struggling to gain a more secure foothold in SL. It is this: creating mesh can be a nagging discomfort in the region of one’s posterior.

It’s Not Easy Being Mesh

For many well-versed in in-world content creation, the making mesh objects feels like something approaching alchemy. There are new tools to learn – Blender, Wings 3D, Maya or whatever you opt to go for. People who are perfectly conversant with gluing prims together can find these pretty mind-boggling to understand (as I know from experience).

Then there is the whole process of optimising a creation for in-world use and getting it uploaded. A creator-friend of mine who is working with mesh described this as akin to a visit to the dentist: it has to be done, but it’s generally far from pleasurable.

So for many, the creation of mesh objects isn’t the same as creating with prims; the fun element is removed, and the whole thing just becomes hard work to the point where it may well be felt that it simply isn’t worth the hassle.

It also can’t be denied that the tool set is lacking, and this doesn’t help. Most of us are by now familiar with the concept of a parametric deformer, which should help with the matter of mesh clothing. However, such a tool could have had far wider implications for mesh had one been implemented as a part of the overall mesh roll-out – such as overcoming resizing issues, as Drongle McMahon points out in the mesh section of the technology forum. 

Obviously, as I mentioned above, some of the issues around mesh creation are most likely imposed upon us by SL’s existing architecture. As such, it’s actually unfair to blame LL where this is the case. However, it’s probably equally fair to say that other issues, such as failing to include deformer tools, are down to management decisions which have potentially damaged the take-up of mesh and for which LL must shoulder the blame.

Perhaps the Real Question is, “What is meant by 18%?”

However, I actually have a more fundamental issue with the 18% figure. It’s simply so nebulous, it’s meaningless.

Great, so “18% of all regions have mesh objects rezzed in them”. But, um, what exactly does this mean? How is it qualified? Were I, for example, to be the first person to rez a single mesh object – say an armchair – in my home, would that tip my home sim into the “18% of all regions”? If so, then the value of this figure is drastically diluted.

Also, how does clothing and avatars meshes and avatar accessories (hair, attachments, etc) factor into this? These would appear to be by far and away the most popular mesh items available on the SL Marketplace, yet Charlar’s figure would suggest they are  excluded from any calculations, as they aren’t technically “rezzed on” a region, but rather “worn” by the avatar in question. So it is possible that in practical terms, mesh take-up may actually be greater than appears to be the case.

Thus, on these figures alone, it’s hard to define mesh as a “success” – or even, allowing for the questions around the 18% figure – “mainstream” – and please note I’m deliberately ignoring the comment on mesh sales Nalates also lists. This is again a generic statement; that “sales have doubled” is meaningless without some figures behind it.

However, it would equally be wrong to dismiss mesh as a “failure” on the basis of these figures, simply because they are so very nebulous and vague – at least where percentages of regions and doubling of sales are concerned.

All that really can be determined is that mesh continues to exist in something of a limbo, together with a speculation that it is possibly doing less well than LL had been hoping. Certainly, it’ll be interesting to see how the figures look and another two or three months’ time – and how they are presented.

19 thoughts on “Mesh, maths and the mainstream

  1. So it seems the majority of people are fine with leaving mesh to the people who want to take really snazzy pictures or want to sell snazzy furniture (which would explain the low numbers). It’s not taking off ’cause it’s not really accessible and not really ‘completed’ yet, and even content creators have to take some time to make the things (plus they end up typically charging more for said things).

    It’s not a terribly big shock, I think I was expecting the 18% to be closer to 25%, but oh well.


    1. I think the 18% figure is misleading for the reasons stated; it’s simply too nebulous, and doesn’t appear to take into consideration mesh clothing, etc. Despite the lack of a paramteric deformer, clothing sales do seem to be growing, and I’ve been noticing it more and more in my travels.

      Like you, I was expecting things to be closer to 25% – but also was hoping that were figures mentioned / released, they’d have some form to them. As it stands, we really have to take Charlar’s comments as “unofficial”.

      I’d venture to suggest the content is accessible – and need not be expensive, although it is true creators are understandably charging a premium for the extra work they have to put in.

      The house pictured in this article is L$350 – which is very much in-line with all of Novocaine’s prices, and makes it a good buy. Vehicles also seem to be priced comparably to non-mesh equivalents – but this is very much a niche market.

      There are examples at the other end of the spectrum, however; I’ve seen a couple of mesh houses at L$16K. But then, I’ve alos seen prim houses in the L$12-14K range, and the mesh houses (having gone and seen them in-world) were massively surperior in terms of look and finish – so it’s really down to what people are willing to pay. Hopefully, should mesh gain greater traction, market forces will come into play.

      We’ll just have to see.


      1. If popular brands take on mesh (like some gun company’s have – I live in CoLA where guns and swords are rampant and oft talked about) and keep the pricing competitive (a premium is expected, but selling say an AK-47 @ 1kL and then a Mesh one at 1.8kL or something, it’s not a feasible premium), it’ll stand a better chance.


        1. I think it’s a case where cost is a large part of the demand, but it’s a vicious circle if content creators won’t supply unless buyers demand, and buyers may not necessarily be demanding if there’s no supply (or at least not a whole lot out there for people to go off of)- That sort of circle >_< which sucks.


    2. You don’t need mesh to appreciate Mesh. Get a Mesh enabled viewer, link two cube prims, change the physics shape to convex hull, observe the beauty of Mesh,

      This can all be done inworld.


  2. I think the real impact of mesh will come in worn items (something LL claims not to have anticipated). Once the deformer is finished and fully functional we will begin to see clothes. I for one look forward to jackets that actually fit! Weapons are another area, guns are typically not rezed on the ground, they are worn.
    Houses, plants, etc. will continue to be best done with sculpties and normal prims. Fortunately there will always be exceptions. Experience shows that people’s creativity will wrestle the maximum benefit from mesh as the technique matures.


    1. Well, clothing is out there, and people are giving it a go, deformer or not, in fairness. Certainly a high percentage of items on the Marketplace are clothing / footwear. And it’s fair to say that some clothing designers have gone to enormous lengths to provide alpha layers to combat the size / fit issues.

      That said, there is little doubt the deformer will bring more power to both creators and consumers – particularly the latter, where many might not even be aware of issues (and who many have simply opted not to dip in to mesh), but who will be intrigued by the addition of the code to their Viewer (assuming it gets into their Viewer of choice), as well as appealing to those of us more aware of issues and who have avoided dipping into mesh clothing so far. For me – and if it gets that far – the ability for the deformer to allow someone to wear multiple mesh clothing items, each correctly layered over the last, will definitely revolutionise clothing in SL – but we’ve a way to go before that happens, if it does happen, including seeing how people do respond to the single-layer deformer currently under development.

      Not sure that houses will continue to be “best” done is prims and sculpties. I would rather say that the housing market is as open to the use of mesh as, say, weapons or clothing. As such and as mesh matures, there’s no reason why content creators shouldn’t try their hands at using it rather than viewing prims, etc., as their “best” option. As the example in this piece shows – it can be done, and needn’t cost the earth in terms of cost (L$399) or Land Impact.


  3. For me at least i have been reluctant to have mesh builds on my private region simply because most of my long time SL friends are stubbornly sticking to Phoenix viewers v1 code base meaning what ever i build they can not see. If other mesh creators have been in SL as long as i have, then i can see they would have the same issue. I have been quite happily creating Mesh clothing and they have been selling really well on marketplace regardless of the deformer drama, if it fits then wear it i guess.
    However i have set the deadline for new year for my friends to get on a mesh compatible viewer, as i really do plan to start replacing big parts of my island with mesh.
    It was hard to learn blender at first but now i find it almost as easy a work flow as building in world with prims. The freedom to model a shape and texture is a lot of fun!
    A year ago i never thought i would be a proper 3D modeller, SL has motivated me to learn it and in SL i can enjoy sharing my creations.


    1. *thumbs up*

      I knopw the problem. I have just bought land and wanted to do parts of my buildings there when I realized I better do not. Its not catastrophic when someone sees your weapon only as block or egg, but if you have floors with physics and they am only available to those who am not clinging to old times?


    2. Phoenix is now mesh-capable, so that issues should be removed in time for your deadline :).

      Your comments on Blender are encouraging, as I’ve been banging my head on the desk trying to understand it; I’m neither a designer by nature nor overly technical in mind, so part of my issue, I’m sure is looking at the complexity of the app and a part of me going “Eep!” and then wanting to run for the hills… Nevertheless I’ll have another go in the New Year. I’m not particularly great on the texturing front as well, so that tends to be a bit of a handicap! :).

      Look forward to seeing the results of your work!


  4. Yes, phoenix mesh release did even worse to mesh, all i know, even me, reverted to pre mesh one, and most will not even bore to try a diff one, even if Cool viewer works fine or even Singularity, and of course none of these users will try a v2/v3 one, cause they don’t want to waist, even if for only a few minuts, on learning something, when they can use the one that they know so well and works pretty good (and nobody can deny that pre mesh phoenix is still the best reliable and with more useful in world features).


  5. I have used Blender for years, At first making proper collada mesh was great, It was easier to do than Sculpts, specially the textures.

    However making something with mesh and keeping Land impact down is very difficult
    I ended up remodelling and remodelling things to see what differences made to the finished item
    and to be honest making furniture is just as difficult with mesh as it is with Sculpts.

    The process of uploading mesh is so complicated, what you tick or dont tick can make a HUGE difference, and it seems to me nobody knows how it works fully… i certainly dont :/

    The sad part is, after months of making Mesh furniture and clothes, ive gone back to making things with Sculpts again.
    Sculpts are cheaper to upload, easier to understand regarding the land impact they have, AND everyone can see them.


    1. Regarding the upload process – hence my semi-quoting a friend who works with mesh referring to it as akin to a visit to the dentist :).

      I’m going to say something controversial here on sculpts: they may be easy to understand in Land Impact terms, but their overall cost at boths ends of the equation (server and client) is far more complicated. But the fact remains that its is Land Impact we’ll always look at first and foremost, and while sculpts always have been heavy in terms of resource use, the fact that their “true cost” has always been hidden tends to make any argument to the contrary somewhat irrelevant – as I think LL discovered themselves when they raised this point earlier in the year.

      Hence we will go on using them inpreference to mesh where they offer savings both in terms of LI and time spent creating something. If I’m honest, I’m still using sculpted trees on my own land, simply because I *can* get more “bang for my buck” in terms of Land Impact – and I’m not particularly fussed about the load time or anything else. And so long as there are people out there willing to put the effort into creating some stunning items in a “single prim” where scupts are concerned, this is liable to continue in many cases.


      1. i agree with you on that
        Actual resources aside, Rez time is a big advantage with mesh, Sculpts rezzing does take longer.
        Who knows what the future holds, creators a lot better than me will keep trying until they perfect mesh. Maybe we wont see mesh fulfil its potential for another year or so, and maybe LL will change the way mesh is uploaded too.


        1. Rezzing time is down to the resources sculpts are using :). I agree on the take-up; it’ll be a while yet. Whether LL is willing to put effort into the front-end of mesh in terms of the uploader is questionable. The focus seems to be on performance and stability now, and there’s little effort that seems to be going into the further development work outside of anything the actual Viewer team may be looking at (e.g. Qarl’s deformer, once that code is ushed). But, as you say, time will tell, and things may yet be more fluid in the future.


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