Prim Lag — Myth or Reality

I’m gradually getting over the latest virus — last week it was the stomach, this week the sinuses. While I’m doing that, I’ll catch up with an issue that was generating bytes of excitement a week or so back.

That’s a spate of recent requests by some models and designers for avatars attending fashion shows to strip themselves of “unneeded” AOs and attachments, so as to lessen the load on the server handling the event. The concept here is that, with all those attachments needing to be monitored and tracked by the sim server, it puts added strain on the technology. Higher strain, more lag, and jittery models trooping down the runway. Brace Coral published points that, while gently stated, amounted to a manifesto in her LiveJournal a few weeks ago (thanks, Hamlet Au!).

However, longtime Resident Gwyneth Llewelyn offers a polite rebuttal to this in her own blog. The upshot of her argument is that the technology has advanced beyond where attachments and prim hair have much effect on the quality of the “environment.” Read the article carefully, and the comments that follow. Though there are some dissenters in those comments, I think Gwyn’s contention has some merit. The Almighty knows that, any road you go, the first factor influencing lag will be the population density in a given sim. As example, take two places at the extremes of the prim battle, but with heavy populations for given programs: Frank’s Place on a good night, or Science Friday on Friday afternoons, when Ira Flatow (Ira Flatley in-world) runs an edition of the popular NPR program.

Any time of the day is busy for Frank’s, but the night is particularly laggy, because they average around 65-70 Residents attending, dancing together or just standing about and grooving to the great Rat Pack jazz. The lag goes even higher on nights when the house DJs are spinning music live. Moving across the floor is interesting, especially in the big ball skirts and hair favored by most women at clubs like this. (The same goes for clubs such as Cloud Nine, Casablanca Lounge, etc.)

Alternatively, Science Friday attracts some 40-60 people every Friday afternoon to lurch around and look for chairs, so they can participate at a remove in the discussion. As a rule, most people attending aren’t wearing vast amounts of junk, aside maybe from blingtards and the occasional dragon or other large avatar. Yet the region is as slow as one of the formal clubs.

Is lag with us to stay? Yes, for at least as long as current processor technology can’t keep up with the demand on it to track individual avatars. But I don’t think we have to strip down to our virtual skivvies to do anything popular yet. And things can be done on the client side to help it along: set your draw distance to no higher than 96 for duration; upgrade your hardware if you can afford it, various other items. Give these some thought; and, in the meantime, grin and bear it (grin).

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