The server-side materials code reached the main grid in week 5, with a deployment to the BlueSteel Release Candidate channel. As stated in my project report marking the deployment, the code will not be usable until there are suitable viewers on the grid which can utilise it, and they have yet to be released.
As it stands, viewer-side work is progressing, and it is likely that a project viewer will be made available in the near future, although time frames are still a little hard to determine. Commenting on possible viewer availability on Wednesday January 30th, Geenz Spad, lead developer for the viewer, stated, “At this point, it’s hard to say; the majority of the rendering bits are finished at this point. The UI’s there, but needs a bit of polish; so all in all I’d say a public testing version should be out really soon.”
During the conversation, Geenz provided further preview pictures to those in attendance, some of which are reproduced here.
In week 4 I was able to provide a quick look at the changes to the Build floater’s Texture tab which are directly relevant to materials processing. Since then, the developer leading this work, Tonya Souther, has progressed the tab to a point where it is close to finished. In particular, pickers have been added to the normal and specular map options, and the diffuse (texture) option now has a drop-down for the alpha mode selection, also as discussed in a previous project report.
Viewing Materials: How Things Will Look
Materials processing will require viewers to be running in deferred mode (i.e. with lighting and shadows enabled, although not necessary with shadows activated – see my notes here). While it is not possible for materials to be implemented in such a way that it can run in a non-deferred mode, materials should not have any major negative impact on how second life looks to those who are unable to run their viewer in deferred mode. In fact, SL should continue to look to them much as it does today, hopefully as show in the image below.
In the meantime, Linden Lab are continuing to try to gather data on the number of users running their viewers in differed mode and – perhaps equally as important – the number of users who could be running with deferred active (again, if not with shadows active), particularly given the continuing improvements being made to the rendering system.
So materials processing is progressing and drawing close to an initial release. There is a lot going on within Second Life as a whole at the moment in terms of projects coming into the viewer, with both avatar baking/server-side baking (SSB) and the Communications Hub User Interface (CHUI) also on the horizon as well. As such, the Lab still need to establish priorities on the various projects and plan releases accordingly. Similarly, TPV’s need to consider the impact of these various projects on their work and determine their own priorities for integrating the projects into their viewers. Given the complexity some will face in implementing CHUI, it would appear likely that the materials capabilities might reach some TPVs ahead of that work, even if CHUI and materials are released in relatively close order.
As always, updates will be provided as news emerges.