PBR Officially Part of Second Life: Here's Starting Tips for Creators Interested in Playing With Physically Based Rendering in the Virtual World


Beholding a PBR in the Rumpus Room sandbox region

At long last, physically based rendering (i.e. PBR, i.e. reflective surfaces and such) are officially part of Second Life, integrated into the latest update to the official viewer. To see the PBR effect in all its glory first-hand, click here to teleport to the Rumpus sandbox regions.

"I think we will look back on this as another milestone in SL history, as impactful as the introduction of sculpties, or mesh, or material texturing," Max Graf, longtime 3D content creator, tells me. Often gruff or outright cranky about Second Life as a platform, Graf is pretty bullish with this update, with some qualifiers: "It is a really good start, though I am most excited about revisions and updates to this process going forward, especially how it will affect environments and terrains. PBR is a massive step forward for SL."
 
As that suggests, there's been some reported issues with PBR for Mac users (see below). But for now, Max has some starting tips/links for creators who want to play with PBR:
 
"It does not work on terrain yet, and at first a lot of things are going to look odd, like water, which is a hot mess right now. Eventually terrain will include smart materials but not yet. It will most likely be a different texturing method in world (as opposed to the current hi and low corner limits) as well as GLTF. Reflection probes are critical to PRB really working as it should.
 
"Blender has smart material /PBR capabilities, but if you do not already have that, Material Maker, s a free, open source app that does a very good job doing what Substance does, without a sub, because fuck Adobe. Adobe does have one tool I would suggest, however, and it is free." (OK, so don't fully fuck Adobe.)
 
Here's a before/after tutorial from Max on adjusting water for full PBR effect:

Before PBR
Before PBR

"The look of water can be changed within a reflection probe: to make it not so blue, but a different method is to create a new water by copying one from your library into a new folder (I called mine 'my environments') and adjusting the settings there." (More on probes here.) "This is the result [bottom pic]: You can see by adjusting the fresnel sliders it made the sky reflection lessen."

"Dkronfeld", who has a great Mac for running Second Life, does warn that other Mac users may have problems with the current build of PBR, and should lower their view distance:

"It slaughters performance, at least on Macs. I have to reduce my draw distance from 256 to 128 to make it usable. I'm trying this on an M3 Max based MacBook Pro and the problem that I'm getting is that if I'm moving around a lot (especially turning), the movement becomes very, very choppy, which does not happen with non-PBR viewers. The frame rate remains high though. Things are more or less okay if I lower my draw distance to 128 (from 256)."

Much more soon. And if you have PBR tips and tutorials, please post in Comments below!

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