Friday, 2 March 2007

Why are Cars so Crap in SL?

I was chatting with a new chum in SL last night when the subject of cars came up, not surprising really as he is something of a virtual petrolhead. After a bit of chat on this decidedly laddish topic, I finally realised something: Cars in Second Life are almost universally crap.

No... I take that back... not "almost" - "Cars in Second Life are universally crap."

Why is that?

I've seen - and indeed own - a splendid array of virtual motor bikes, many of which are fun to ride. It is true that there are 3-legged donkeys in there, but most range from OK to positively enjoyable.

I also have some spiffing flying machines of various types. Again, a few lead balloons, but most are dashed fine kites, capable of all manner of Bigglestastic aerial wonders.

But cars? It seems to be a taboo subject. I've Googled without success on this. It is a subject to be uttered only in the most hushed tones, behind closed doors, with the curtains shut and the TV hissing white noise. "Psst...It's true isn't it? Cars in Second Life really are crap."

Oh, don't get me wrong. They can be cleverly made, beautifully styled and even fun to customise. But drive? You're having in a laugh, mate. According to my vMechanic the heart of the problem is quite simple: "Well, it's yer prims, y'see? Not easy making a thoroughbred with only 31 prims, now, is it? eh?"

Why 31? Well, it's a SL Physics thing. Although Cubey Terra reckons to have cracked it with, for example, a 240+ prim WW1 biplane. But there must be more to this than simply the prim limit for vehicles, mustn't there? There seems to be something irredeemably clunky about cars in SL - and it looks to be something to do with SL physics and/or limitations in LSL.

Even the best, like the Mazda Hakaze, drives like a tiddled pig, while the worst (no names, no packdrill) are basically undriveable. If you have a degree in SL Physics, or just happen to know the answer because you are dead clever, and know stuff - then please share your wisdom.

UPDATE: Cory Edo... yes, that Cory Edo... has provided some interesting thoughts in the comments section. Thanks Cory.


Cory Edo said...

One relatively recent problem with vehicle physics is the bug introduced in 1.7 where movement is rendered clientside with very noticeable stuttering gaps. As opposed to regular lag, where everything stutters, this is just the vehicle's motion.

Unfortunately previous to this bug's introduction, vehicles still have an inherent problem due to the age of the physics engine (Havok 1) coupled with the bandwidth-intensive nature of SL in general. Sim crossings in particular are extremely difficult to work around as you're jumping from one server to another, although Francis Chung's Dominus has some crafty coding to try and minimize the problem.

m.lambertz said...

well ... cars are .. not like cars in SL, but the fantasy of a user is stronger ;-)

When I was a kid I loved to play Pac Man - and I saw more in it then just pixels.

And there's hope: the new Havok will allegedly be implemented, and I heard rumours about the unity3d-Render Engine.

Last not least: Try the new C-Class - if the Sim is not overcrowded it's actually closer to a video game.

Because: even though the physics are wacky, you can find ways to enhance the experience.

Mark (from anyMOTION) :-)

Anonymous said...

It's hard work to build a realy good car. I like the C-Class from Mercedes-Benz as well. It looks amazing and the configurator is very cool.