Second Life’s Jelly-Dolls


I think it has been a while since I have blogged about any sort of technical aspect of Second Life.

Earlier this year I upgraded my computer so it now operates from an SSD rather than a traditional slow and clunky hard drive. Now when I log in to Second Life my cache file is dealt with swiftly by my viewer (Firestorm). I’m also fortunate enough to have an adequate graphics card and sufficient RAM.

The latest big change comes by the way of the “Jelly Doll” feature.

I was looking forward to this viewer upgrade because I thought it might improve my one technical aspect that limits my experience; my slow broadband speed.

Since mesh avatars have become more and more popular, and are perhaps now the norm, I’ve noticed longer and longer waiting times while my viewer downloads the mass of data it is faced with when I visit a popular region of the virtual world. Some sims use a lot of mesh objects too. It seems that the level of detail put into mesh avatars and there accessories, and mesh objects as a whole is vastly greater than was used with the old-fashioned means depiction. This is great for those that want to create high-detail worlds and for those that want to make their avatars look their best close up (such as for in-world photographers), but this has a big impact on users such as myself who don’t have the luxury of a particularly fast broadband speed.

One way of combating this seem to be to lower the viewer’s drawing distance; if the drawing distance is set low before arriving at a region then only graphical data for objects and avatars within that distance will be downloaded. A caveat of this seems to be that if drawing distance is higher upon arrival and then lowered then some graphical data will already have been requested and thus to then lower the draw distance will have less effect. This is my impression anyway.

I was hoping that the Jelly Doll feature would permit me extra freedom to specify who/which avatars my viewer had to download graphic data for. However, since upgrading my viewer in order to investigate I have ascertained that this isn’t the case.

The ‘Jelly Doll’ upgrade presents a ‘Complexity’ option slider in the graphics settings. My finding is that by lowering the slider to only show avatars of that low complexity has no effect on what graphic data is downloaded; all avatar image data is downloaded regardless and the complexity slider only affects what is displayed – this is only of benefit to those with a graphics card/chip of low performance.

I discovered this by visiting regions with my complexity slider set low (causing everyone to appear as ‘Jelly Dolls’, I then wait for my network usage to drop (using Window’s Task Manager) to inform me when all data had been downloaded (in some cases a region can take half an hour to rezz). Once complete I put the complexity slider up and immediately everyone turns from Jelly Dolls into fully-formed avatars, indicating all data had already been download and not downloaded after the slider had been adjusted.

It is disappointing that the Complexity/Jelly Doll feature doesn’t work how I had hoped. I would like the option to either not render anyone or only those with a low complexity, or perhaps give priority to people on my friend list, at least until a region I am trying to explore has rendered fully (perhaps there is some other way I can achieve this with options that are already available?) My computer is capable at rendering everyone in high detail, it’s just my internet speed, which I have no control over, which is my limiting factor.

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