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ProgrammingNerd

what's the difference between a simplification mesh and a progressive mesh

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Hard to say since people use terms like that to describe a whole bunch of different approaches.

But if I had to guess I'd say a simplification mesh would be a simpler version of a mesh computed offline, you might have a model with 2 or 3 different detail levels, then you'd switch based on distance or another factor, much like a mipmap.

Progressive meshes are simplified real-time, usually by keeping the vertex buffer and editing the index buffer to display more or less triangles as needed.

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Simplification meshes can only reduce the number of polygons in an object - they can't increase it. Progressive meshes can do both. Make sure you plan accordingly, because with simplification meshes, you can't go back.

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