That Materials Thing

This is part of a very lovely and exceptionally huge new release from Trompe Loeil for FaMESHed.  The Valiano set includes lounger, table, fire pits and boxes -- and large fountains as well as light strings. There are plenty of colors to choose from too.

And while I could just leave you with this very pretty picture, I have indeed been musing.

Materials have been around for awhile now. The last items I built in SL were materials enabled ( a choice of with or without) and that was six months ago. So this is not a new addition to our world. Still, until today I was not using a materials enabled viewer. There were plenty of reasons for this. I hate the official viewer and Firestorm had been having some issues. And then there was simply laziness.

I can run the viewer with materials easily; that isn't a problem for me. So "why" had I -- a fairly futuristic thinking gal at most times -- be shying away? A good question and one I asked myself.

Some designers have been adding materials since the beginning. They have done so in a way that if you didn't have materials turned on you didn't miss a thing. All well and good and lots of applause from me there. I honestly didn't miss too much all these months.

This release came with a note saying to please turn on your materials. And being a nice gal I took the time to download the current FS viewer and upgrade. Interestingly enough there is a new viewer update coming out in a week or so. That's OK. I actually enjoy using one that has been 'well tested' *wink*. Happily everything went well and the new backup system worked swimmingly.

Lots of goodness - materials or not!
So now I am all set with a materials viewer. Am I thrilled?

Hard to say really. The problem for me -- and one I noted six months ago when building -- is that there is little control over what others see. Much like webpages, the viewing is based on clientside choices. In some Windlight settings, materials can look spectacular. In some, garish and in some there is almost no change. I can't say I am happier with materials.

What I would LIKE  is to have shadows without materials -- if I choose. That doesn't seem to be an option. Once you turn on shadows you are automatically in Advanced Lighting Mode. You can have Advanced Lighting (multiple light sources as well as materials and maybe some other things I don't know about) WITHOUT shadows, but not the other way around. I, personally, would like that choice.

While a lot of the top designers have happily figured out ways to give everyone what they need (things looks great without materials as well as with) others -- especially new folks on the forums -- seemed to have missed the point that even though materials have been around for a long while, there are still TONS of folks not using them. They talk about making all the details for their mesh object using a normal map. That's great if everyone could see the normal map; (some platforms work that way but not SL). But if you leave out the ambient shadows and fine texturing, the folks with materials not enabled see a VERY different item than the designers intended.

Eventually, like mesh, materials will become something that everyone sees. That doesn't solve the variance in WHAT we see, but that does make it a standard.

And for anyone interested, here is my very first post on materials from July of 2013.