Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thoughts On Mesh and Rebuilding

With mesh imports now becoming a reality in SL, I've been seeing blogs wherein the writers boast about revamping their regions with all new mesh builds, including buildings, vehicles, and the like.  It's their regions and they can do what they want with them, but I have to admit I'm a little puzzled as to why so many people are being so quick to replace as much as they can with the mesh imports.

The fact is that a huge chunk of SL users will not be able to even see mesh imports (properly) because not all viewers support mesh.  Sure, some third party viewers, like Firestorm, are cloning Viewer 2 in hopes of being able to adopt mesh, and I think someone told me that Kirsten's Viewer is mesh-compatible.  But most people still seem to be using Viewer 1-based viewers, including Phoenix, Singularity, and Rainbow, which cannot yet support mesh (although the Singularity team is working on bringing mesh import-and-viewing capability into its viewer).

Then, of course, there is the prohibitive cost of importing mesh objects.  See, sculpt maps cost only ten Linden Bucks to import, seeing as how they're actually texture-images you import like any other image.  Mesh objects, on the other hand, are apparently priced according to the level of complexity, and they are said to come with a prim-cost.  So the more complex and the larger the size of a mesh build, the more expensive it is to import it.  Given this, why is it expected that anyone but people with surplus disposable income (a group the size of which gets smaller and smaller by the day) will even be able to afford a lot of mesh imports?  While I don't begrudge the right of people who can afford to toss away money like that, it does puzzle me that anyone thinks that something so cost-prohibitive will catch on quickly, if at all.  If anything, with the real-world economy causing people to tighten their belts, I don't expect nearly as rapid a switch to mesh from sculpted and reguler-prim builds as is being claimed in some circles.

I've made no secret about my opinion toward Viewer 2 and its clones, and the elitist attitudes of its proponents.  But there is a practical aspect to this whole craze over mesh that some people may not care to recognize.  Most of the grid can't and probably never will be able to see mesh imports, unless people switch to a viewer like Singularity once they are able to add mesh to theirs.  So a lot of mesh-importers will probably begin to lose visitors to their regions once they start having to deal with people coming to their sims, seeing a bunch of blocks, spheres, and ovals instead of the supposedly super-awesomely-detailed mesh imports they ran right out and spent money bringing in; then the cost issue will begin to slow the growth of mesh importing.  If region owners and moderators don't handle these two tricky issues correctly, they'll only turn people off and end up hurting their own traffic rankings, and in SL, losing traffic means losing a lot in donations and vendor sales.

Now, will mesh eventually become the standard of SL?  Probably.  I just don't see it catching on quite as fast as its proponents want to think.  One thing Linden Labs can do to avoid that is to lower the cost, both in Linden Bucks and prim count, of mesh imports.  Yes, it took a lot of time and labor to integrate it into the grid.  But charge too much too soon for your nifty new toy, and don't expect a lot of sales.  The second thing Linden Labs can do is to go back to the drawing board and bring back the Viewer 1 user interface for its current system, or something as close to it as possible.  If nothing else, at least give users a choice instead of turning them off with the current cruddy viewer that seems designed only to frustrate people.  Other grids, such as InWorldz, are catching up to SL in terms of stability, and they use viewers that are user-friendly and easy to learn.  By lowering the cost of mesh imports and producing a better viewer than what is currently being pushed on us, I am confident Linden labs can avoid shooting itself in the proverbial foot.

Just my opinion, for what it's worth.

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