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>  I was confident that I could do most of my 3D/OpenGL stuff in Lua, but
>  while it's fine for a few  objects to demo some shaders, for a
>  full-featured virtual world renderer Lua becomes the bottleneck.

I don't think this is terribly surprising.  My view of this situation
is to expose a range of levels of abstraction to Lua.  When starting
something, it's nice to work with lower-level details to get the flow
of things down and then move up as the structure is hammered out.
Over time, you can see what makes sense of group into userdata or
C/C++ function calls to speed things up and expose higher-level
concepts to Lua.  In the end for a deployed real-time app, I would
expect most of the Lua code to be at the "scene graph" level, which I
put in quotes because I don't mean a scene graph per se, but a
generalized entity at the level of making connections while
computationally intensive details are handled under the hood.