Materials

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Materials

Examples of different specular options.

What are Materials?

Materials is the collective name for some new graphical features added to Second Life shortly after Mesh became an option. They are not unique to Second Life, and are in fact industry standard features that Second Life lacked for a long time. Their introduction allows for much richer content in Second Life with a greater degree of graphical realism. Materials refers to Normal Maps and Specular Maps primarily. These are special textures that you can add onto normal textures (such as brick or wood) that give the viewer special instructions about how to treat the texture with regards to lighting.

Normal Maps

Normal Maps are also known as Bumpmapping. Normal Maps tell the viewer how to properly add highlights and shadows to an otherwise two-dimensional texture to make it appear to be 3D. For example, with a brick texture, the normal map would instruct the viewer to treat the grouting between the bricks as being lower than the actual bricks, so the bricks appear to stand out from the grouting and are treating as if they are actually raised by the lighting engine, casting shadows and having highlights along their lit edges.

Specular Maps

Specular Maps are also known as Shiny. The old style Shiny that we used to have in Second Life (and still have the option of using) you can think of as just three preset Specular Maps that we could choose from (low, medium and high shiny) and we were stuck with those three options. Now, instead of using those presets, we can add our own Specular Maps and control how glossy an object is as a separate feature from how reflective it is. Specular Maps also let us define what areas of a texture are shiny, and which ones are not. For example, you could have a texture that is a winter snowy ground cover, and use a Specular Map so that your viewer knows to only make the parts of the texture that are ice be shiny, and the parts that are just snow to be matte. Specular Maps also give us the ability to make transparent objects shiny/reflective now, such as glass windows.

Materials have been around for a long time, what took so long?

When Linden Lab first added Materials support to Second Life, they neglected to add Script support for them. For a long time, you could only set Normal and Specular maps manually through the Second Life viewer interface. It's only recently that they remedied this oversight and added the ability for an LSL script to change these settings, and so it was impossible to support these features through addon themes until recently.

How does this effect me?

All addon themes will continue to work with the new Materials engine, even if the addon does not use Materials. However, an addon that uses Materials will not load on an older table.

In some cases, you may find that a theme you were previously using on an older table will no longer load, and this is because that theme has been updated with Material support. You can continue to use the theme by updating your table to the most recent version. Updates are free and easy, and should only taken 5 minutes at most. Below is a list of games that may require updates to use Materials. The version next to each game represents the minimum version necessary to use a Materials theme. If your table is a lower number than the version listed, you should update. If you are unsure how to update your game, click on the game in the table below for game-specific instructions.

If you have a K.R. Engineering game which does not appear on this table, then it is either incapable of using addon themes, or it was made after the Materials update was finished, and so supported Materials from the start. Listed below are only games which need to be updated in order to use Materials.

Game Minimum Version for Materials
Greedy Greedy v2.6
Canoga v1.3
White Horse v1.2
Pentadee v1.3
On-A-Roll v2.0
Simopolis/SLopoly v1.6
Snakes and Ladders v1.4
Corsair v1.2
Triumph v1.3
Aught v1.2
Shalosh v1.3
Hearts v1.3
Spades v1.4
Triad v1.2

What happens if I don't update?

If you continue to use a game that does not support materials then you may find that addon themes that you purchased before will no longer work for you. Attempting to load an addon theme that supports Materials on a table that does not, even if you had previously used it on your table, will fail. The table will output the message IMPORTANT: Your table needs to be updated to support new features in this addon! You will not be able to load this addon until this table is updated.

This will not prevent you from playing the game in any way. If you have a theme loaded and it gets updated to Materials, it will remain loaded and fully functional on your table until you try to reload it, at which point it will attempt to download the new information from the server and fail.

I don't like Materials, do I have to use it?

You MUST update to use a Materials theme, even if you don't want to use Materials. However, if you really, really don't want to use the new specular maps, you can switch back to using the old style Shiny by selecting the Materials Off option in your theme menu (Press the Color button on your table, and choose Modify from the popup menu) after you update. This is table specific, and stays across themes. That means if you turn Materials off for one theme, it will still be off when you load different themes. You must select the Materials On button to turn it back on.

I don't see anything different, what is wrong?

Your viewer may have these graphics options disabled. Look for the "Advanced Lighting Model" in your viewer Preferences, under the Graphics tab. Turn this option on to see a much prettier Second Life.

If you have an incredibly old and/or incredibly cheap (slow) computer, these options may be greyed out as the viewer doesn't believe your computer can support modern 3D graphics. In this is the case, then you are simply not able to see the changes and probably will not notice any difference. You may wish to use the Materials Off option in your game's theme menu in order to revert to the old style Shiny.