2022 CCUG meeting week #22 summary: reflection probes update

Deer River Spring, April 2022 – blog post

The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, June 2nd 2022 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and their dates and times can be obtained from the SL Public Calendar.

This is a summary of the key topics discussed in the meeting and is not intended to be a full transcript.

Official Viewers Update

  • A new Maintenance RC viewer – Maintenance N, code-named Nomayo – version – was issued on June 1st. The viewer should offer improvements on media playback of web content, etc.

The rest of the official viewers remain as:

  • Release viewer: version – formerly the Performance Improvements viewer, dated May 25th – NEW.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Makgeolli Maintenance RC viewer (Maintenance M) viewer, version, May 12.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version, May 10.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version, dated January 5, issued after January 10.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.

Reflection Probes

Additional information available within my week #20 CCUG meeting summary.

  • A reflection probe will be a sphere or cube (mesh, prim or sculpt) set within a scene with specific properties allowing it to create a cube map of all objects within its bounding box. Anything within that bounding box with a “reflective” (shiny) surface (with the possible exception of worn attachments) will then offer “reflections” based on that cube map.
  • Cube maps for probes are a purely viewer-side artefact, and are updated approx. once every 30 seconds at 60 fps, although this will “get smarter” in the future and be based on actual probe location (e.g. in or out of the current field of view, etc.).
  • So, think of probes as mapping where reflections should be coming from in a scene, not as a tool for deciding which object should be reflecting things.
  • The viewer will hopefully be able to handle up to 256 probes at any one time (the number of probes in a region can be unlimited), each with a (current) maximum effective draw distance of 64 m.
  • Probes will:
    • Be detected by the viewer on load, much like lights already are (reflection probes use a lot of the code originally developed for light state management), with revisions to prevent issues associated with lighting such as flickering.
    • Have an influence volume, an ambience setting (which overrides the environment ambience) and a “near clip” parameter to help control what is rendered into the cube map (e.g. so items close to the centre of the probe and which might otherwise dominate any generated reflections, are not rendered into the cube map).
    • Require “PBR enabled”, and when this is set, legacy objects using glossiness and / or environment shine will render the reflection generated by a cube map respectively in accordance with the degree of glossiness / the sky environment, as well as any objects using the upcoming PBR materials.
      • There are a lot of nuances with the above bullet point such that legacy content won’t simply “work” with reflection probes, some degree of adjustment on object glossiness / shine might be required.
    • Work independently of LOD.
  • Probes will not be designed for use as attachments.

In Brief

  • Custom pivot point work: currently awaiting simulator updates & will require viewer-side changes; the focus is slowly moving towards trying to move the latter part of the work forward “in the not too distant future”.
  • It was noted that the mesh optimiser (as in the current release viewer) still has issues that need to be addressed,
    • One such issue is when the LOD generator is implicitly asked to simplify a model, and it cannot hit a target without destroying UV seams, it will destroy the UV seams (whereas GLOD will delete triangles, leaving holes in models). This appears to be happening on models with a lot of UV islands, resulting in texels becoming visible when they should never be drawn.
    • LL acknowledges that neither the optimiser issue nor the GLOD issue are ideal.
    • Issues with the mesh uploader are requested via Jira with objects included, if possible.
  • In response to a question, LL currently have no plans to alter the LI calculations for Animesh, however, with the performance improvements (and given part of the LI “penalty” was to compensate for the performance hit of animating Animesh characters), there is a suggestion it should perhaps be re-visited, particularly given most at the meeting with an opinion felt the 15LI penalty was a “blocker” to developing Animesh content.
  • The above points led to a general discussion on LODs, decimation, Land Impact based on size, the ARCTan project (still something LL would “like to get back to”), the impacts of draw calls over poly counts, etc., but with no actionable points raised.
  • There is a fork in the texture rendering pipeline underdevelopment that should, once available, ensure that only the required texture resolution is loaded when it is required (e.g. so the tiny buttons and the little broach and the earring etc., on an avatar won’t all be displayed at 1024×1024 all the time, but the system will only ever download at use a 128×128 version of the textures used).
  • Work is also in progress to ensure the official viewer uses all available video memory. This will eventually see the VRAM slider in Preferences → Graphics vanish.
    • Note that this is available video memory – not necessarily the total on your system; obviously, running SL and multiple browser tabs and other windows will impact how much memory the viewer can actually access, leading to the potential of textures being uploaded.

Next Meeting

  • Thursday June 16th, 2022.

Pausing at the Lost Gardens of Pompeii in Second Life

The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, June 2022 – click any image for full size

It’s been a while since I last wrote about one of Vita Camino’s region designs, so when Shawn Shakespeare sent me a landmark to The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, I immediately added it to my list of places to visit, and finally got the opportunity to do so at the start of June.

Occupying a Full private region leveraging the additional Land Capacity bonus, the setting – as you might guess from the name – is Romanesque is nature. According to its About Land description, it is also a work in progress; so there may be a chance things might change between my writing this and you getting to visit for yourself. There are also some rental villas tucked away on the south and east side of the region, but these are well to one side (and below!) the public areas, minimising the risk of trespass.

The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, June 2022

No landing point was enforced at the time of my visit, so I’ve arbitrarily set a SLurl in this post which will land you on the west side of the region, amidst a busy little waterfront setting. This is not a place of commerce per se, but where local fishermen bring their catch to shore each day and dry and smoke them to provide the village behind with food and, possibly, to trade with the odd passing merchant – at least going by the barrels of wine (or oil)!

The village itself appears to be rather prosperous; the houses solidly built, with room for trading on the lower level and living space above complete with balconies. Their general condition and the well-kept roads might be down to the largesse of the local patrician, whose expansive dwelling occupies the backbone of the region, a rocky table of a hill that steps its way up from the surrounding coast in a series of terraces.

The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, June 2022

It is this part of the estate in which visitors will likely spend most of their time, offering as it does multiple places to sit and appreciate the setting – and to do so in typical Romanesque comfort, complete with fruits and wine set out under tile-roofed pavilions or trellis-topped gazebos. Broad, carefully laid steps offer routes upwards through the terraces – some of which have been created or given shape by the skill of stonemasons rather than by nature – with paths also enticing willing feet onwards.

Water abounds throughout the gardens, with falls tumbling from a rock face to a crystalline pool below, and multiple ponds and fountains to be found throughout. In addition, there are two large bathing pools, each occupying its own terrace but joined by a single stairway which also provides access to the villa’s bath house.

The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, June 2022

Similarly, great care has been taken to both preserve and to plant trees to provide shade and further ornamentation, while statues of deities and (doubtless) ancestors or great leaders keep watch over all that is happening in and around the gardens. And to further ensure blessings be upon the estate and the village below, two temples await worhsippers and offerings (one of which is admittedly just a façade).

The crowning glory for the setting, however, is on the broad flat top of the hill. Here sits a square terrace centred upon an ornamental pond. With pavilions, gazebos, loungers and chairs, fruit and wine, all shaded by the broad growth of mature trees and with columns standing to attention around the periphery, it at first looks “typically” Romanesque. But look again, and certain things might become apparent, initially appearing anachronistic given the overall theme for the setting.

The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, June 2022

Take, for example the fountained pond; it is home to both koi and to red-crowned crane from Asia, whilst paper lanterns of Chinese styling and stone lamps that carry a hint of Japan might also be spotted. Of course, indirect trade between Rome and China (via India) was known to have taken place; so it is possible crane and fish came via that route; however, when taken within the setting as a whole, lamps, lanterns, fish and crane present a unique west-east fusion within the terrace that just works.

Elsewhere in the setting are other unusual elements that give The Lost Gardens of Pompeii a little twists – such as the opportunity to sit and partake of fruit and wine within a portion of the lost city of Atlantis (and no, it’s not under the waters surrounding the setting – it is more unique than that, but you can find it for yourself!). Meanwhile, those looking for textures for their landscaping can also visit Vita’s store, located beyond the northern end of the waterfront village and tucked neatly into a building matching the rest of the décor.

The Lost Gardens of Pompeii, June 2022

Light period role-play is apparently allowed – presumably free style and down to those who visit, rather than anything formalised – and period costume is encouraged but not required. Finished with a natural soundscape and, needless to say, highly photogenic, The Lost Gardens of Pompeii is well worth visiting and exploring.

SLurl Details