Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eye on the Blog: Project Shinning

If there's one thing virtually all Second Life residents dislike, it's the lag. The time needed for land and objects to rezz when you teleport to a place or move from one place to another. Frequently when Linden Lab unveils a new feature, the response from some residents is "stop with the bells and whistles and do something about performance!"

Last Friday, it seemed the Lab was finally listening to them. On the Linden blog, "Project Shinning" was announced.

This year, Linden Lab is making the single largest capital investment in new server hardware upgrades in the history of the company. This new hardware will give residents better performance and more reliability. Additionally, we are converting from three co-locations to two co-locations. This will significantly reduce our inter-co-location latency and further enhance simulator performance.

The Shining project is the name given to a recent Lab effort to identify and measure delays and other problems with streaming avatars and objects and to propose and implement solutions. During the Shining project, several small improvements have been identified and deployed. The next small improvement from Shining to be deployed will be pre-rendering the starter Avatars to improve the new resident experience.

Project Shinning according to the Lab has three parts. The HTTP Library section involves improving speed and reliability with a new code library. The "Open Caching and Interest Lists" involves taking the current system of caching objects between sims and the viewer and redesigning it to take better advantage of information it already has.

The biggest changes are with the third part, labeled "Project Sunshine." Avatar textures have been processed on each one's viewer and the data sent to the sim for other viewers to read. The process can sometimes be slow, and is the reason some avatars can appear gray for a long time, or briefly appear naked while changing clothes. Project Sunshine plans to change this with new servers to process textures apart from the sim's own servers to do the texture rendering instead of the viewers to improve efficiency and speed.

As a resident, I certainly would welcome such improvements. At social events that attract dozens of people, even after ten minutes not everything has always rezzed. Seeing an avatar briefly naked while changing, while perhaps amusing to me if it's a girl, can feel a bit embarrassing to the person behind the avatar. Girls moving to a place in private to change aren't doing it out of realism. Other residents have complained often and loudly about lag. This news from the Lab certainly gives the impression finally they're listening and doing something about it.

Tateru Nino concluded Linden Lab was serious about solving the problem, "These projects are big-deal items that must have taken considerable planning and pre-production before the Lab would even consider announcing them." She expected the project to be introduced over the next six months. Inara Pey wasn't sure, "no definitive time frames for the improvements have been announcements … there's a lot to be done and matters are complex enough that LL will want to proceed with minimal disruption to the grid and to users.

Hamlet Au greeted the news of Project Shinning with skepticism. He noted two announcements from 2010 and 2011 about improvements to help with lag, and commented while they helped with some residents, others have seen no improvements. Hamlet wrote his own viewer performance was getting worse, "I remain hopeful. At the same time, a part of me feels like Linden Lab's war on lag is sort of like my government's ill-begotten 'war on drugs' -- a battle ... which never seems winnable, and never seems to address the underlying problems."

People responding to them had a mixture of answers, some happy to hear the news, "It's about time." Others were cautiously optimistic. And some weren't expecting anything. Tateru Nino answered one reader whom expressed surprise the Lindens were still working on Second Life, "From where I’m sitting ... the Lab’s done more work on SL in the last 12 months than in any year previously. The problem is that it has become much harder to tell what it is working on, because it isn’t communicating."

Hopefully Project Shinning will mean a shinning improvement for our experiences in Second Life.

Sources: Linden Blog, Dwell on It, Modem World, New World Notes

Bixyl Shuftan


  1. At the Steelhead town hall meeting last night, this topic got a lot of lively discussion. Many are pleased at the thought of LL doing something to improve lag for current users. Some thought it would benefit people on lower-end computers that have slowly been losing ground on the ability to "see" innovative content like mesh.

    I have an older laptop that I used to use exclusively to connect to Second Life that I might be able to use again - currently, it can run it, but it's very slow and I have to turn all the pretty shading and shadows off.

    I personally think that LL is also angling to market a tablet-ready version of SL, or an addictive narrative game that might get people interested in the concept of creating content for the game by trying the 'full' Second Life experience.

  2. I'll fall into the optimistic caution group and believe it when I see it. --- Xym