Friday, October 21, 2016

Renovating Winthrop Hall

by FreeWee Ling (cross posted on

When JayJay first opened up UWA in SL, it was primarily intended to be a virtual replica of the actual campus in Perth. Having spent a few months there I can tell you they did a remarkably good job. Many of the campus buildings were reproduced using (then) Google's 3D modeling software called Sketchup. These models were then incorporated into Google Earth as part of an international virtual campus program by Google, for which UWA's team won a top prize.

One of their team then developed an interface tool called SketchLife that could import Sketchup models into Second Life linksets, complete with texturing.

This was at a time when the maximum prim size was 10 meters and before sculpted prims (much less mesh) were commonly used. So most of the builds were created as facades without any consideration for interior space or prim efficiency. So, for example, the iconic Winthrop Hall clocked in at over 1500 prims. Other builds were similarly primmy.

Last month when it looked as though we would be imminently losing three of our four sims, I scrambled to free space on the remaining sim (the one with Winthrop Hall), which was already very close to maximum capacity. I was able to get edit permissions on some of the major builds, though most of the original builders (who are also the owners of the objects) are no longer active in SL.

So I set about restructuring a couple of the buildings to increase efficiency. Most urgent, of course, was Winthop Hall itself. Since all the builds were made of normal prims, it was a fairly simple matter to link as many as I could in sections and simply convert them to convex hull, thereby cutting in half the land impact. For example, there are 72 columns in upper and lower colonnades on each side of the building. Each column has a base and a 2-part capital, so a total of 576 prims just for columns. Add 40 prims for the arched headers and you have 616. Just by linking and converting them to convex hull I reduced the land impact to 308.

In addition to using many parts just because they were using standard prims with a size limit, much of the building was simply pieced together, adding prims wherever needed to fill in the facade. The main roof of Winthrop was about 24 prims stitched together. By taking a couple of those prims and stretching them I could reduce the count to 4, converting to convex made a land impact of 2. (I could have reduced it to 3 prims but since I d0 not own them and do not have copies of the original textures, I had to add a couple that had the correct end textures.)

I was able to save about 500 land impact from the original Winthrop Hall build without actually changing much. I did a similar job on the adjoining Hackett Hall that saved another 200 or so.

There are other objects that can't really be altered, like the bust statues of Socrates and Diotima made by the great prim sculptor Chuckmatrix Clip. Each curl of Diotima's hair is a torus prim and that statue alone is 158 prims. With all the twisted and cut toruses I'm not sure there would be much savings by converting to convex hull, and in any case I don't have edit perms on these objects.

A few years ago I undertook to recreate the interior of Winthrop. This is the main auditorium for the campus. used for concerts, lectures, exams, etc. I was originally interested in just making a replica of the pipe organ, but on JayJay's suggestion I went ahead with the whole thing. JayJay took a lot of high resolution pictures for me to use as textures. Unfortunately the exterior build (as with all the original Sketchup models) was built to standard 1 to 1 real life to Second Life meters using actual floor plans and elevations. As most people know, the average avatar in SL stands about 2m tall or more, and the camera angle is from above and behind the virtual body. So real life scale tends to look way too small. Also, at the time I was not able to edit the Winthrop exterior and there were a lot of prims and projections into the interior that interfered with the space. So instead I simply built my replica on a platform in the sky at larger than life scale. Touching the outside door in the Winthrop foyer would instantly transport you into the sky space.

With my rebuild of Winthrop Hall, I was able to clean up a lot of the interior space (including simply deleting a few dozen superfluous prims) and I inserted a reduced scale copy of my skybox into the space. It does feel smaller, but is probably closer to actual scale than my original. I made the windows line up better with the exterior and a few other changes, but one issue is that the beautiful entrance foyer was added by another builder from whom I was not able to get edit perms. That space does not precisely line up with the main hall, so I had to adjust my interior to line up with his doors. This means the floor is lower than it should be, making the undercroft area unusable. In all I'm fairly pleased to have the exterior and interior integrated, though I'm still tweaking some details.

Looking into Winthrop Hall directly from the foyer for the first time. I made the decorative iron railings in normal prims, patterned after real life. They're 56 prims, so I should probably convert them to sculpts or mesh.
It's not clear whether any of our sims will survive past July. We currently have about 1200 prims more than we did before on the main sim and with a few select deletions of other objects it should not be difficult to free up another thousand or more. It will help if we should happen to be able to maintain at least this one sim.


  1. A little late, but just a point of note regarding torii and other "tortured" prims (ings, tubes - even hollow spheres or cubes).

    These should not be converted to Convex Hull, as doing so risks increasing their LI by moving them to the "mesh" accounting system. What's more, the more complex the cuts / torturing in the prim, the bigger the increase. Convex Hull conversion should only really be attempted on basic prims, as you've done.

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