Graphics in Second Life Viewers just keep getting better and better. The trouble is, as things improve and we get new technologies, it’s inevitable that older technology is going to work less well or even break.
Several older technologies are currently showing issues – such as system skirts casting an incorrect shadow, likewise invisiprims not working properly any more on the highest graphics settings.
The one that affects me the most, though, are people wearing insanely bright facelights.
Gogo posted on this subject on her JuicyBomb blog just over two years ago and the problem is still prevalent, if not even worse. Her article is still very much relevant and worth reading and I encourage you to have a look at it.
I was at a concert for the excellent Lisa Brune only the day before yesterday where everything was completely whited out and washed out because of the incredibly bright facelights that some attendees were wearing.
I can’t believe that if they could see how awful it looks that they would continue to wear them, so I can only conclude that they can’t see it and I can.
I suspect that they are not using most of the newer graphics bells and whistles such as local light sources, shadow rendering, atmospheric shaders, ambient occlusion, etc. (all of which are turned on with the Ultra graphics preset), and which I am. It isn’t hugely surprising, I guess, as you need some pretty serious computer hardware to have these turned on at all times. If it wasn’t for the fact that my job and my hobbies both justify a very high-end computer then perhaps I would be in the same situation.
However, this problem is only going to get worse as computer hardware capable of running in Ultra mode starts to filter down into cheaper price points.
There are some things you can do to improve matters for yourself though, should you be affected by this.
One is to simply derender the person. It’s drastic, but it works. However its a real hassle especially with people coming and going at a busy music venue. Also, derender isn’t supported by all Viewers and is most notably absent from the Official Viewer.
Another is to turn off all attached lights. It’s an option that is hidden away in either the Advanced menu or Develop menu, depending on your Viewer. Look for a sub-menu called Rendering and an option called something like “Attached Lights” or “Render Attached Lights” and disable it (eg. click the option so that it no longer has an X or a tick next to it).
The downside of this is that all attached light sources get disabled – including torches, muzzle flash from weapons, or any item of apparel that gives off a glow.
The whole issue on whether facelights are a good thing or not is still hotly debated, and you can find some links on the subject below if you are interested in reading further. But what isn’t debated, I hope, is that we have a situation where the abuse of these things are negatively impacting the Second Life experience of others. That’s not to say that facelights are inherently evil – I can see a justification for subtle ones. The trouble is that some of them are far from subtle and can cause real problems for others.
I’m not sure what the solution on this is. Perhaps as more and more people get access to the kind of hardware that allows them to run their graphics in Ultra, the people wearing these portable searchlights will begin to see what they look like to others and stop using them. Perhaps, rather than getting worse the problem will start to go away. Let’s hope so!
It’s been pointed out that I haven’t really defined what I mean by ‘Ultra’ graphics settings. If you go into Preferences (Ctrl-P) and select graphics, there are a number of preset graphics quality settings of which ‘Ultra’ is the highest.
The individual technologies I mention can be enabled or disabled by selecting the Advanced settings.