SecondLife / SL Modeling Tips/Tricks

The Lag Effect

We have all experienced it at some time or another; the infamous lag that affects individuals and sims alike. As many causes as there are for lag, there are as many solutions. There are three distinct types of lag in Second Life® (SL); server, connection/network and client/computer. Though many are willing to put the blame for their lag issues on one type, it can be a combination that contributes to the lag effect.
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Server lag deals with the servers that support the virtual world itself. Though rare, a server failure can result in systematic failures of the grid’s sims. Routine server maintenance attributes to most of the server lag issues individuals’ experience. If there is an actual server issue, reporting it through the Help Desk is the best possible solution.
Scripts affect both server and client lag and is most evident at social gatherings or events in SL. While many are script conscious and keep their entire script count under 50, there are those that walk around with 300+ scripts on a normal day without thinking about the effect is has on a sim. If each person on a sim wore 300+ scripts, then it would be near impossible to move. The best solution is to duplicate and set aside original copies of what you want to wear and delete the scripts from the version you are wearing after it is modified to exactly how you wish to wear it. That way if the modified version is ruined, you can start over again on a duplicated original. Script gates that send home those who go over an allotted script amount can enforce those to reconsider wearing heavy scripted items. If every store in SL did this, there would be more awareness on the issue.
Animation Overriders (AOs) can also affect server and client lag but is easily alleviated by reducing the amount of animations in an AO. This reduces the memory load needed for a sim to run the AO itself and thus makes playing the animations faster.
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Network lags are tricky to deal with since it involves the internet service provider that the customer is subscribed to. Things such as major weather conditions, routine maintenance or complete failure in the network outside of the home are out of anyone’s hands but the service provider themselves. If the network issue is from the type of router being used, then the solution may be as simple as a hard reset to the router or upgrading the router itself to handle the heavier load. Having a wireless connection can also attribute to the network lag since the connection may a slight delay or spotty connection. A hardline connection is the best solution if it is determined that the wireless route is the cause of network lag.
The type of service speed subscribed and wiring that is used to transmit the data to the internet greatly affects your speed. Traditional cable wiring utilizes copper, which can corrupt over time. Cables that are exposed to the elements via telephone poles are also more prone to damage than those in the ground. And while new and considered the fastest commercial cabling available, fiber optics are still not common in many countries and rural areas and are very costly to install in older housing areas.
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Client or computer lag is the most common type of lag anyone can experience. From a high graphic setting to an older graphics card, there are various combinations that can affect how bad the lag is for Second Life. First, take a look at the minimum system requirements needed to run SL. If the computer does not meet them, then there will always be issues. Second, take a look at the graphics settings that are activated and lower any of those that are causing a heavier strain and lower the draw distance. This is what vastly improves most systems’ performances immediately. If you are the star of the show, you do not necessarily need to see yourself or everyone else at their best as long as they see you at your best.

Textures mainly affect client lag since it is up to the computer to pull the information from the specific server that the texture is saved on. This is the main reason why many events have adopted the full body alpha to hide all textures on a naked avatar body. Multi-faced textures utilize every inch of one texture file so as to alleviate the loading speed. Unfortunately there are those who are not used to the process and will have multiple texture files with many blank spots on each texture that could have been utilized or use a large texture file for a small object. Designers can alleviate texture loading by ensuring that they use as much of one texture file as possible than many multiple files for one product.
Mesh has made lag even more prevalent due to the high amount of details put into the designs. The default avatar may look a little rough around the edges but it loads faster compared to a mesh avatar due to the low amount of faces built into the avatar’s construction. (See left. Image by Euridice Qork.)
This also applies to mesh clothing and buildings that have become as increasing detailed as they are popular. Designers have luckily been able to find ingenious ways on creating detailed mesh decorations with barely any prim impact on the land and loading time by reducing the amount of faces. Less faces also equate to less upload fees and a happier customer basis when it takes a mere second to load the product in detail.
For more information on how to improve performance in Second Life, visit their Knowledge Base on the subject.
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