XAY TOMSEN | 14 July 2016
Welcome to part 3 of Setting up a business in virtual worlds. In the previous module, we discussed understanding your marketplace. In Part 3, we look at Textures and how they can make or break your business success.
Killer Textures - Choosing the right textures for your virtual world business
When I go out shopping in virtual worlds, my pet hate is the awfully high latency - how it takes forever for the scene and building and product boxes to load. Visitors instantly think, "Damn, this sim is laggy". Lag - the blame all for everything.
The reality though, is that 99% of the time, the cause is textures. Textures and excessive use of sculpties (which are just more textures really).
Yes, it's very cool to create a pretty shop with intricately carved whatevers and high resolution images on every box. It looks wonderful. Well, it looks wonderful after several minutes standing around waiting for the place to appear. And who does that?
Personally, I give a shop ten seconds. If it still looks crap after that, I'm outa there. Worse still, a subliminal thought is placed in my head that says "If their shop was rubbish, their product is rubbish too." I never go back.
Merchants need to treat their shops like websites, which in essence is what they are. When you visit a website and the page takes forever to load, most people get impatient and click the back button to find another place.
Take this website for example. There are few unnecessary textures for your browser to download and repeated patterns to save your bandwidth resources. I don't want visitors to wait or they'll click the back button - I want them to be instantly engaged. The same thing applies to your virtual store.
Sure, shops need a lot of images. As a clothing designer, no one knows that better than me. But just like a website, every image has to download onto your customer's computer. This is the make or break point. It is the manner in which you save your images and how big you make them that will determine whether your prospective new customer stays or leaves.
Here are four suggestions to help you achieve a high rate of initial customer engagement, and hence higher sales:
PRODUCT BOXES: Most product boxes are 1-1.5 metres square. A 512 x 512 image saved as a .jpg at 80-85% resolution will download fastest and still look good. In some cases, depending on the image, a .png can be quite economical too. Never use .bmp files for multi-coloured images as they are notoriously huge - unless it is just simple unpatterned text on a plain background. Once you've saved your product box file on your computer, open the containing folder and check its size.
- Under 50kb, brilliant - you're a legend!
- Nudging 100kb ... hmm, maybe try again. Can you get away with a 256 x 256 image?
- Over 100kb ... times 100 boxes ... well, that's a 10 megabyte download. Don't expect shoppers to hang about.
LARGE SIGNS: Larger signs, say for the outside of your shop, are usually no bigger than 10 x 5 metres. A 1024 x 512 image again saved as .jpg or .png will look fantastic, and about a tenth the file size of a .bmp file. With a .jpg file this size, save it at around 95% resolution. It's a one-off statement and should look amazing to passersby.
YOUR BUILDING: Shop designs should have a similar focus on saving download time. It is dead easy to make an ENTIRE building using just five or six low resolution textures and old-fashioned non-sculpted prims. Use one texture for the walls, one for the windows, one for your ceiling, one for your floors, and one for the uprights or exposed beams, and your shop will rez in no time. Using the same texture repeatedly and standard prim shapes saves zillions of kilobytes because the shapes are preloaded and the images only have to download once onto your customer's viewer.
COMPATIBILITY: Another great thing about .png and .jpg files is that they are fully web compatible, so if you decide to post them on a website, marketplace, or blog at some future point, your graphics are already made.
Xay Tomsen a.k.a. Andrew Thompson