Last week's post on Linden Lab's challenge with "sub-optimal" 3D user-generated content in Sansar brought up this interesting point from reader Ezra:
Cloud Party had this issue sorted, and Lindens like Philip and Kelly came around to experience it. If Linden Lab was smart, they'd use it.
The system was basically:
1. Have a real material system where normal maps were first class and always on for everyone (as opposed to SL where anyone can, and a lot of people do turn off Basic Shader), and then creators wouldn't be compelled to use vertices for small details.
2. Give the default and any custom avatar skeletons a resource budget, analog to regions in Second Life having a resource budget in the form of Land Impact.
With Cloud Party, creators of skeletons could create "attachment points" and budget out how many triangles could occupy the point.
Combined with similar budgeting for the island/sim itself, and control of how many avatars could be in the island/sim, there was a hard cap on how many triangles would ever be in the scene, not unlike a single player game.
A proper material and rendering system along with resource capping at avatar and sim level is all that's necessary.
Cloud Party was purchased by Yahoo! last year, which brings up another interesting possibility: