balancing details and prims – only you decide that


when subQuark first started in OpenSim i was curious but was still in full-on Second Life mode and that meant i had little time (or ener-gy) to act on my curiosity of OpenSim and that promised land of 45,000 prims per sim . . .

forward 5 months later and the iliveisl estate was sold and all i had was a crappy Linden home and the Linden gestapo had deleted my Poutine Life sign – gee, have a sense of humour already! =p

as part of subQuark’s evil and nefarious plan, he knew i would want to build and the allure of this mythical 45,000 prims just sounded too good to be true – but being gullible and naive, i went for it

it really isn’t that interesting a story, we talked about having me build this stuff and the idea of doing science education in virtual worlds is something we had kicked around since 2006 but Second Life was just too costly


the mythical 45,000 prims is just that – a myth, sort of. it’s just a number you put in an ini file. Linden Lab has used 15,000 for the last 10 years and OpenSim’s default is 45k. you can put a zillion in there if you wanted to but that doesn’t mean anything (and why hasn’t LL ever increased that number? RAM has gotten faster as have CPUs). in the end, and really the only thing that matters, it’s the hardware that determines what you can have as does your tolerance for lag (more prims = more lag = more hardware)

once i learned that prims still extolled the same cost as they did in Second Life, i set out to build pretty much the same way i had in Second Life – prim wise and more conceptual than accurate. i do splurge on things like my 1905 espresso maker and in some details for other builds. i figure that some things are fine to be left as low detail but some intricate things warrant additional prims. for some reason, purely my own warped paradigms, things like water cooler spigots should have a semblance of real mechanical design (weird the way the mind rationalizes things – or maybe i should stay on the medication) =p

noFire_020editmy same obsessive approach of some things needing details came last Sunday while making of a fire extinguisher

in looking at what details one might expect to see in Enclave Harbour and what can be used over and over again, i am starting to add “things”. the aforementioned water cooler is one such example and will be placed in a dozen or so locations (evidently, we believe in adequate hydration in Enclave Harbour) =D

along this line, a fire extinguisher seemed to fit this criteria – they are all over the place in real life, so much so that you often don’t even notice them. adding these things is a balance of 1) what is enough to “suspend disbelief”, 2) what i want to include, and 3) what is necessary to make different points in science. i think of my builds in Enclave Harbour as 3D textbook illustrations

for example, the water cycle won’t typically have leaves on the ground, birds in the sky, or mud puddles but it has the big elements you would expect like clouds in the sky (for condensation), mountains for runoff, and a lake for evaporation. those are the minimums and they don’t include a lot of detail. some educators think the details distract but, personally, i like details that help place me in the picture – things that i can relate to on a personal scale. i know of one teacher that really goes nuts (tongue in cheek) and adds a tree, dog, and a person into his drawings of the water cycle for 8th grade Earth Science (points to subQuark). a tree transpires and releases water as part of photosynthesis and dogs and people respire, releasing water as they exhale. a person exhales 250 ml (one cup) to 1 litre of water per day! adding those elements helped me remember the water cycle and make it relevant to me, even today

those types of details help make a connection with people (students, believe it or not, are actually people). so what does this have to do with fire extinguishers?

one of the things that will be discussed in Enclave Harbour is something called adiabatic change. we all know what it is, even if we don’t know the name of it. it’s the phenomenon that when a gas is compressed it heats up (like blowing up a bike tire will make the pump hot) and when a gas expands it cools down (a hair spray can, or a refrigerant expanding in an air conditioner or refrigerator)

teaching this by itself is boring but doing it in relation to jet engines and then showing everyday examples makes it a bit more relevant to the learner – so a simple fire extinguisher adds not only some detail to a building but also a way to reinforce how science is all around us (since fire extinguishers are often around us). because it will be used in this way, i add a few extra prims in the handle – a pivot, a locking pin, a piston, and a gauge. the gauge does not have a separate needle but the gauge’s texture does and people (students) will “get it”

that’s one way to balance detail and prims and you have similar criteria in the work that you do and only you can decide what is the right balance for your intended use of your creations or your world =)


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written by Ener Hax

June 8th, 2011 at 7:52 am

posted in OpenSim,virtual worlds

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5 comments to 'balancing details and prims – only you decide that'

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  1. Ener, one day you’ll be using more sculpted ‘details’ (or maybe mesh) instead of those 8-prim faucets!

    Whether or not sculpties always save Sim resources is debatable, I suppose. And of course most peeps need to set “RenderVolumeLODFactor” to 4 or more in Debug settings to make sculpties “pop” more quickly at a distance.

    I am NO expert (I’ve only made 2 sculpties from scratch), but you might wanna check out some of these:

    The simplest tool is ROKURO (free, for simple sculpties), or ROKURO Pro. The author has other sculpt tools as well:

    I’ve even seen a demo of an in-world program (Prim Oven) that makes sculpties directly from (some) prim objects, but it takes a few steps. Perhaps LL or some OpenSim guru will someday add a SIMPLE all-in-one in-world tool for converting/making sculpties or meshes (I know that is what I am waiting for).

    Sculpties with Blender:

    Sculpty Maker:


    Z-Brush Sculpties:

    I’m sure some of you master builder have a fave tool for making sculpties, as well as tips on when it makes sense to use a sculpty instead of a multi-prim object. I know past blogs here have touched on some of this (sim limits, efficiency, details) already!

    But I like Ener’s “human” reasoning. Forget all the technical stuff. Just use the level of detail that makes sense for your purpose and/or the end user. Or simply what looks “right” to you, without using unnecessary resources. I, for example, don’t need all the fancy shadows/sunlight beams/reflections that some peeps add to their SL shops or homes. It is sometimes overdone, in my opinion.

    And of course use phantom objects when possible to save some CPU cycles (no physics calculations!).

    I also recommend examining your creations whilst in Low graphics mode (to make sure they don’t suck at that level), as not all avatars will be using Mid/High/Ultra graphics!

  2. never! prims forever! older tech does not equal inferior

    case in point – the written word =)

    Ener Hax

    8 Jun 11 at 8:29 pm

  3. I don’t set the RenderVolumeLODFactor as that helps what you see, but not anyone else. So, you could go to a lot of trouble to make some really detailed sculptie shoes, adjust the LOD factor so they look good for you, but everyone else thinks you’re walking around with lumpy potato shaped feet or something :)

    I use Blender with Domino Marama’s (Domino Designs) Primstar scripts.


    The Primstar scripts support 3 multires levels with 3 being the highest resolution. Then I build sculpties using the lower two levels to make sure the shape stays as close as I can get it to what I want. You end up not being able to use the full resolution of the sculptie, which is a real downer, but you can make them retain their shape pretty well.

    Micheil Merlin

    9 Jun 11 at 10:06 pm

  4. Micheil Merlin

    9 Jun 11 at 10:10 pm

  5. yum, lumpy potato feet! could make poutine out of those shoes! =D

    Ener Hax

    11 Jun 11 at 8:01 am

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