Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fractals on SecondLife

SecondLife is really great for Euclidean Geometry.  Using either the native tools or mesh, I can create all the classic shapes and use the time-honored formulas with ease, and it looks beautiful.

Euclidean Geometry breaks down though when you're trying to make a more natural shape though, like trees or rocks.  In SecondLife we can make a pretty good tree bole with sculpties, but when it comes to the canopy, all we can do is fake it to some degree using over-lapping alpha textures.

A simple Fractal Tree
made from a formula
To make a tree, you need, not euclidean geometry, but fractal geometry.  With fractals, trees become fast easy and fun.

The problem is that, with the way Second Life currently renders things, whether it counts faces or prims, fractals eat up your prim-limits in just one or two iterations.  I could make you a pretty good fractal tree, but it'd be the only thing you could have on the whole sim with no prims left-over for a small bench under it to sit.

My problem here is that computers actually find it very easy to render fractals.  When Mandelbrot did his original work with fractals in the mid-seventies, he was using computers considerably less powerful than what's in your digital watch today.

I really do believe fractals could become part of the SecondLife experience fairly easily, without eating up your computer's resources.  From the server-side, you're actually talking about storing and transferring less data, and less complex data than what SecondLife currently uses for sculpties.

I realize I don't get a vote on these things, but if I did, I would vote that Linden Labs consider taking on fractals as their next big project after collada mesh.  It could have a tremendous impact on the look and feel of SecondLife and give it a considerable jump on the competition.

How Fractals make trees from math
More Fractal Trees

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