Firestorm Update, Jelly Dolls, and Graphics Settings

Yesterday Firestorm released a long-awaited update.  I downloaded and installed it immediately.  I love Firestorm, and I am always sad when I am forced to use the LL official viewer.  (Yes, I know there are some who love the official viewer, and that’s great.  Use whatever makes you happy.  Me, I’m sticking with Firestorm.)

First, let me just say that I am so appreciative of the Firestorm team and all the volunteer work they do to keep tech-illiterate peeps like me swimming in all the gorgeousness of SL.  If you are in the Firestorm support group, a thank you might be appreciated.  In fact, one sec while I go do that myself. 🙂

Ok, that’s done.  Now, the two biggest things with this latest update are the Jelly Dolls and the Quick Graphics preferences.  I have been awaiting both with great anticipation.

Jelly Dolls

I’ve talked in many posts before about ARC/Render Weight.  This is now called ‘Avatar Complexity.’ (How this number is calculated I don’t know exactly.)  You can now set your ‘Maximum Complexity’ how you wish, in order to avoid being lagged out at busy events, for example.  If you use Firestorm, it’s in the Quick Prefs window:

Max Complexity

In the pic above, you can see the Max Complexity Slider under the Max Bandwith slider.  You can set it to 0 (which will make pretty much everyone Jelly Dolls) or move it all the way up (which will make everyone render fully).

I went to a busy club last night just to test out how it worked and how people appeared.  With a setting of around 30,000, most people in the club were Jelly Dolls.  Interestingly, if they were Jelly Dolls, their animations appeared to be slow-motion (everyone was dancing at this club).  I moved up the slider to around 70K and more people rendered.  However, there were a few avatars (including the hostess at the venue) who did not render fully until I set the complexity to above 250K.

You can also see your own complexity.  Under the Advanced menu > Performance Tools > Show Avatar Complexity.  In the pic above, you can see that my complexity is 165,374.  Not great, but I was wearing a mesh head for some photos, which makes my complexity larger than usual.  The ‘rank listing’ has something to do with how distant from you others are, so your rank is always 1 (I think).  The green 229m^2 – not a clue what that means.

Also, when you tp somewhere, you may get a message telling you that people around you may not render you fully because of your avatar complexity.  I’m already seeing people who are annoyed about the complexity issue.  A lot of people are afraid it will harken back to the days when ARC/RW was used as a tool to berate and belittle noobs and others who were ‘causing’ lag.

While this is probably going to happen, I am happy about the new information and settings offered.  I have been paying attention to my own ARC/RW/ACI for some time now.  For example, I no longer wear any jewelry when I go to dance shows.  After doing some testing on my own, jewelry was often the culprit of my high complexity.  I don’t routinely run around in a mesh head that I know may cause others to lag.  And I have experience myself crashing when someone with an extremely high complexity renders.  This way, I can control not only my own complexity, but how the complexity of others affects (or doesn’t) my own SL experience.

I’m also hoping that clothing/jewelry designers will become more aware (as residents do) of how complexity affects things and design items with lower complexity – as most home decor/landscape designers are already doing.  Clothing/jewelry designers have not had to pay attention to it, because worn items don’t affect land impact/prim count the way that rezzed items do.  However, since a large portion of residents are in SL to be SEEN, not rendered as a colored body, supply and demand may change that.

For those of you who are dancers, there is a way to make certain people (like others in your troupe) ALWAYS render for you.  Simply click on their name or avatar and there should be a menu option to ‘always render’ so that they will show for you, regardless of your maximum complexity settings.  This should also work when you go to a dance show and want to make sure the performers render.  I believe I read that these settings will persist between log-ins for Firestorm, though not for the official viewer.

So for Firestorm users, you should be able to do this once and then have no worries when performing or going to a show. 😀

Quick Graphic Preferences

The other big item in the update is something I have been waiting for – the Quick Graphics Setting option.  When I perform in a dance show, I turn down my draw distance, change certain items to not render, turn off shadows, and a myriad of other things.  When I take photos, I bump up many settings so that I can take a very high-resolution picture.  When I go to a crowded shopping event, I turn many settings down low, so that I don’t lag out or crash before I’m done shopping.  Now I can create a quick graphics setting by doing all these things only once, and then loading that setting quickly whenever I need to.

quick graphics

See the little TV/monitor in the upper right corner?  If you click on it, it will open a window where you can choose one of your quick graphics settings or open the graphics window to create one.

I set up two different options last night – one for everything on ultra/high for taking pictures and one with settings lowered for crowded events.  So now, with just one click, I can be ready to go.

The graphics setting window looks like this:

Graphic Preferences Window

At the bottom, there are now buttons for saving, loading, and deleting your presets.  If you are using a preset, it will tell you which one you are using (or not) at the top of the window.

I can’t wait to try out these new options!

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I see jelly people… Walking around just like regular people | Serendipidy Haven’s Blog

Image/dessertgirl.blogspot.com
Image/dessertgirl.blogspot.com

An interesting perspective on the new Jelly Babies/Jelly Dolls/whatever that are now in the LL “Quick Graphics” release viewer.  I have been looking forward to these hitting Firestorm, particularly the quick graphics settings.

However, the post brings up some points I hadn’t considered.  I do think that many creators need to do more to ‘optimize’ their content. Jewelry and hair items have been some of the mostly highly complex items in my inventory. I’ve stopped wearing jewelry when I go to crowded places and I’ve stopped frequenting several stores because the cost (lag-wise) of the jewelry just isn’t worth it to me.

That said, I completely agree that many creators in SL are hobbyists or people who learn to create because they are in SL.  So making that steep learning curve even higher is not a great thing.  There are tons of people who have stopped creating since the advent of mesh, because the mentality of many seems to be that mesh=better.

I would, however, love to be able to control whether a 1 million RW (or ARC or ACI or whatever) avi makes me crash when they appear on my screen.  (And for the record, yes, I have seen an avatar with a RW that high – mesh body, mesh head (animated), mesh clothes, and God knows what else.) I did try tweaking my settings in FS as Pussycat Catnap detailed, but it resulted in me not seeing certain avatars at all, which was frustrating as we were working together at the time.  I tried tweaking the settings again, but ended up going back to the defaults, because I couldn’t figure what wasn’t working (some of the invisible-to-me avatars were below my complexity threshold, so I couldn’t make sense of it).

I know that many dancers are curious to see how these settings will affect the viewing of performances once they become more widely used (ie – available in TPV’s). It will be interesting to see how it works in practice!

Read more here:

Those of you who shy away from the official Linden Viewer and do not follow the current techie trends in SL may well be completely unaware of the jelly folk that will have started appearing with t…

Source: I see jelly people… Walking around just like regular people | Serendipidy Haven’s Blog

How to NOT buy bad stuff in SL | Pussycat Catnap’s thoughts

Pussycat Catnap always shares interesting technical information.

Being non-techie myself, I appreciate having things explained.  I’ve never actually taken the time to view myself in wire-frame, but I may have to try it.

So many things end up being no-mod, though, I’m not sure there’s much the end consumer can do about it, unless/until there are better tools for determining ARC/RW/Avatar Complexity/whatever we’re calling it this week.

I also found her advice on LOD settings interesting, since I have received countless notecards from creators (included with their items), telling me to up my LOD to 4 or even higher.

I usually have my LOD set to 4, so I will have to experiment with setting it a bit lower, especially given the additional information from the Firestorm team included at the end of the post.

Source: How to NOT buy bad stuff in SL | Pussycat Catnap’s thoughts

How Much Mesh Is Too Much?

How MuchSince mesh appeared on the grid, I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about it.

There are things I will never understand, because I don’t make mesh.

I’ve tried Blender, and it just makes me crazy.

Maybe someday I’ll learn it, but not anytime soon.

In the meantime, I’m happy to be a mesh consumer.

I like mesh.

It has pros and cons, like anything else.

Mesh clothing looks more realistic, because it sits ‘on/around’ a body, rather than looking painted on.

It looks more realistic (sometimes), when moving, sitting, etc.

It’s prettier (purely subjective opinion, of course).

However, mesh isn’t always ‘better’ than the alternative.

Mesh isn’t always the greatest option for building, because LI calculations are so complicated.

It isn’t the greatest for dancing, because sometimes it doesn’t rez properly, and, depending on the clothing, stretches and moves weirdly as the avatar moves.

I love mesh bodies and heads.

They look so pretty in pictures, and save me all kinds of time in post-processing photos to get rid of ugly jagged edges that system avatars always have.

I pretty much wear mesh clothing, shoes, and hair exclusively.

I have a mesh body and several mesh heads.

However, I try to be an aware and considerate SL resident.

So when I go to a dance show, for example, I get my scripts as low as possible.

Since discovering that render weight of things I wear can have an impact on others at a show, I have stopped wearing jewelry and other high-RW items to shows.

I generally, even with my mesh body and head on, can get my RW down to around 20,000.

Not spectacularly low, but decent.

I was at an event recently, and I had left ‘show RW for avatars’ checked without realizing it.

It wasn’t a crowded event, only about 25 or so people, but the RWs I saw were surprising.

Honestly, I expected the RWs to be 100K or above for most people.

The first surprise was that over half of those present, though dressed nicely and wearing mesh, had RWs between 40K-120K.

Again, not great, but not as high as I had expected.

The second surprise was that one of the people present, who was wearing a mesh body, head, hair, and clothing, had a RW of 378K.

378K!!

That’s a LOT.

I didn’t see any jewelry, which is usually high-RW, so I was surprised to see a RW that high.

The real shocker of the event, though, was the avatar whose RW was 978K.

Yup.

978K.

Almost 1 million RW – for 1 single avatar.

Wow.

Now imagine if everyone was decked out like that and they were all in one place.

How much mesh is too much?

Second Life Render Cost and Limits

Kay has a REALLY good post about render weight. Image Source:  avataric.wordpress.com
Image Source: avataric.wordpress.com

This post was inspired by someone asking in a group how/if alphas, shine, and glow contributed to lag.

I had recently been researching some other topics and had come across a page in the wiki about mesh/rendering weight costs.

In fact, I had been doing some testing on my avatar with render weight, because I seem to be wearing more and more mesh lately.

With a mesh body, mesh head, mesh hands and feet, mesh hair, mesh clothes, mesh shoes, mesh jewelry – it’s endless.

Though I have a decent computer, I try to be mindful of others who might not.

When I attend dance shows or crowded events, I try to be as low-cost (render weight-wise) as I can.

I’ve even started adding the render cost of items to my LOTD posts.

It’s interesting to see how much items ‘cost’ – some I would think were heavy turned out not to be, and vice versa.

Render Weight Basics
800 ARC
I seem to have misplaced my hair. 😦

Your basic avatar (wearing eyes, skin, shape, and hairbase – all required items) should be 1000 ARC.

I got mine to 800 (there’s a note on the Wiki about some baked textures having a -200 score, but I’m not entirely clear on what that means or how it works).

However, I was surprised to see how much some ‘additions’ to items can affect their render weight.

There is a base cost for an item, but then you have to add in ‘multipliers’ based on certain features.

If you make an item ‘shiny,’ for example, it will multiply the render weight of the item by 1.6.

Glow is 1.5 and flexi is x5!

This Can’t Be True, Can It?

The question about these render weight factors was asked in a rather large clothing template group, and I was surprised by some of the responses after the render weight wiki page was shared.

Someone said, ‘Don’t pay too much attention to those.  They’re just ‘guidelines,’ not rules.”

Really?

Another person commented that the page couldn’t be right, because it listed alphas as x4, and “alphas make things invisible, so there’s no work for the computer to do.”

If you want to check your avatar render weight, go to Advanced > Performance Tools > Show Render Weight for Avatars (if you use FS).

I try to stay in the green (around 20,000) if I am going someplace laggy.

I’ve found that most jewelry has a pretty high render weight, so I tend not to wear jewelry a lot anymore, except for photos.

(Don’t forget to remove all those pesky scripts from things like hair/jewelry/shoes – those can add to lag as well.)

Kay over at Avataric has some really good posts about render weights, including the one featuring the picture above.

Should You Care?

Why should you care about render weights?

You don’t have to, of course.

But if you spend time dressing up your avatar and want others to see you in all your glory, you may want to, especially since LL is working on new tools that will let people set a baseline for which avatars will render and which will appear as ‘jelly babies,’ as Nalates Urriah termed them.

So if your avatar has a 100K+ render weight, and I have my preferences set to less than that, I will only see you as a colored blob.

Probably NOT the look most of us are going for. 😛

Limits
avatarattachpoints
Image Source: virtualneko.com

There have also been a few changes regarding limits in SL that you may or may not have heard about.

Originally, you could only wear one item for each layer (shirt, pants, etc.).

Then the option to ‘add’ items was added, allowing you to wear up to 5 items on each layer, with a total limit of 60 layers.

Additionally, you could attach a number of items to your avatar, but could only attach so many to any one attachment point.

Currently, according to the wiki, you can now wear 60 layers total, but the 5 item limit per layer has been removed.

You can also wear up to 38 avatar attachments (including HUDs), but you can now wear all 38 on one attachment point (if you wish).

I’m not sure why you would need to wear 60 layers of anything or put 38 attachments all on one point, but there you go. 🙂

(Note – you must always wear a shape, skin, eyes, and hairbase; however, only one of each is allowed.)

Takeaways

As I said, I am trying to be more conscious of my render cost.

One of my ‘to-do’ items is to go back through my inventory and get rid of really high render cost items that I don’t really need/use.

Or at least box them up. 😀

(Sadly, some 40-50K+ shoes may be getting binned.  But then I have an excuse to go shoe shopping, right?!)

As I acquire new items (and/or use them in LOTD posts), I am trying to keep track of which designers have low render weight items.

I’ve even seen a few designers putting the render cost on their vendor ads, which I love.

That way I can know the render cost BEFORE I purchase the item rather than after.

And now that I’m wearing sooo much mesh, it’s nice to know that I no longer have to worry about where everything attaches.

I’ve run into issues with that before, since so many mesh items are/were made to attach to the right hand.

Making outfits could get complicated. 🙂

I didn’t like mesh much at first, but it has grown on me.

Indeed, it’s getting harder to find non-mesh items these days.

Be an informed consumer, but as always – caveat emptor!

Avatars, Lag, and ARC

This is an old pic, but the principle is still the same.  Image Source: nwn.blogs.com
This is an old pic, but the principle is still the same.
Image Source: nwn.blogs.com

One of the things you learn quickly and come to hate passionately in SL is lag.

As a performer, lag is inescapable.

You’re backstage, caching dances, and then WHAM!

Suddenly your computer freezes, your screen goes black, and you begin to pray that you won’t crash.

By some miracle, you don’t crash, but moving is now like slogging through molasses.

Dancers have traded tips and tricks for years on ways to reduce lag at performances – things like:

  • turn down your draw distance
  • lower your particles
  • turn off render for stuff like trees, terrain, sky, etc, that aren’t needed indoors
  • watch your scripts – remove unnecessary ones

Venues have tried to help by asking audiences to do various things –

  • sit down as soon as they arrive
  • no facelights
  • remove AO’s
  • watch their scripts

Many venues have even installed script counters to help police the worst offenders.

But we still have lag.

So I was curious when I saw a post from Penny Patton about draw weight (ARC, Avatar Render Cost – whatever you want to call it).

In her post, Penny talks about how she was able to reduce her ARC from 200K+ down to around 50K.

Now, Penny is much more technical than I am, and I wouldn’t even attempt some of the things she does to decrease her ARC.

I wouldn’t even know HOW to do some of them.

I, like many of us in SL, am at the mercy of the content creators, whom I expect to know much more about things like textures, specular maps, polygons, and LOD than I ever will.

So after reading Penny’s post, and coming across another post on the same issue by Nalates Urriah, I decided to do a bit of testing on my own.

The post by Nalates refers back to another post (which I did not read), and states that on an ’empirical basis Kay found that jewelry is a major culprit in high ARC.’

I was curious to see what the ARC of various items in my own inventory would be.

I logged in and turned on the ARC.

You can do this yourself under the Advanced Menu > Performance Tools > Show Render Weight for Avatars. (And that is about the extent of my technical knowledge when it comes to SL!)

You will now see a number above your head – this is your ‘ARC.’

I found an outfit in my inventory and put it on.

After removing each item separately to find its ARC, here is how my outfit broke down:

  • Mesh Hair:  1450 ARC
  • Mesh Dress:  2744 ARC
  • Mesh Feet:  1736 ARC
  • Mesh Hands: 1200 ARC each (2400 ARC total)
  • Mesh Shoes:  10560 ARC
  • Earrings: 4345 ARC each (8690 ARC total)
  • Necklace: 14482 ARC

I was not wearing any other items, other than my eyeballs, skin, and shape (I have no idea how to find the ARC of these things, since SL does not allow you to NOT wear a skin or shape).

So, I just subtracted all the items listed above from my ARC total.

Eyeballs, skin, and shape apparently account for 6308 ARC.

I was pleasantly surprised at the relatively low ARC for my mesh hair, dress, and feet.

The hands seem a little high, but I was fairly shocked by the ARC of the jewelry I had on.

It was not big, flashy pieces, just a simple necklace and earrings.

Since the other posts mentioned that jewelry was a huge culprit, I wanted to do some more investigating.

I found a jewelry set that I really love from a fairly well-known jewelry maker in SL.

I added a piece at a time to find out the ARC for each piece.

Now, let me add that this is not necessarily a scientific experiment, because sometimes the ARC would change slightly if I took the piece off and put it on again.

I don’t know if that’s because the texture is already cached?

Again, technical is NOT my forte. 😀

Anyhoo, I put on the bracelet from this jewelry set.

The ARC of the bracelet was 13603.

Almost as much as the necklace I was wearing earlier.

Then I added the left earring from this set, assuming that both earrings would be the same ARC.

Now, for some reason, I didn’t get a stable ARC from the earrings.

I got a large initial ARC, then when I removed and re-attached the earrings, the ARC seemed to fluctuate.

After several add/removes, I got the same ARC several times in a row, so I am using that one.

The earrings had an ARC of 14375 each, so 28750 ARC total for both.

So now I am at 42353 ARC for the jewelry alone, which is almost equal to the starting ARC of my entire avatar + wardrobe at the beginning of this exercise.

Then I added the necklace of the set.

The necklace had an ARC of 24235.

So for 4 pieces of jewelry (bracelet, earrings, and necklace), the ARC of the set had a grand total of 66588.

66588.

Just for the jewelry!!

Ouch.

With the jewelry added, I currently have the number 173388 floating above my head.

Which doesn’t make any sense, because if I add up the items separately, my total should be 91786.

So it appears that ARC fluctuates (I’m sure for technical reasons I don’t understand).

However, even at 91786, that would mean that 2/3 of my ARC is jewelry alone!

That is ridiculous.

I decided to try jewelry from a different maker.

I had two bracelets.

Each bracelet had an ARC of 15539, so a total of 31078 just for the two bracelets.

Wow.

That means the two bracelets alone have a higher ARC than the rest of my entire avatar/items.

Jewelry does seem to be a huge culprit when it comes to high ARC’s.

I’m not sure what the ‘optimum’ ARC for an avatar is – I suppose it depends on your computer system.

However, I will be more conscious of my ARC when going to shows.

Wearing jewelry is nice, but not absolutely necessary, especially if I am unknowingly contributing to lag.

I have a fairly nice computer setup, so wearing all this jewelry hasn’t really affected me, as ARC (from what I’ve read and (hopefully) understood), is a factor in client-side lag, NOT server-side lag.

But I am there to see the performers, and if my beautiful jewelry is lagging them out (because perhaps their computer system is a tad older than mine), then I am ruining the show.

Do a little experimenting yourself next time before you go to a show.

Perhaps you can help avoid the lag monster as well by being more aware of not only your scripts, but your ARC.  😀

If you’re curious about how ARC is calculated, see here.  I didn’t understand all of it, but light-emitting prims have a high count.

So leave your facelights at home!!!!