Avatar Render Cost 2015-07

Penny Patton writes about reducing her avatar’s render cost. (See: Draw Weight.) Kay Jiersen picked up on the article and wrote an article too. (See: Render weight best practices for Second Life.) Some time ago I wrote: Second Life Performance: Render Muting, which is about the same subject.

Penny Paton's Example of Dense High ARC Mesh

Penny Patton’s Example of Dense High ARC Mesh

Penny is pointing out there is a bit we can do to change our render cost with only a minimal change in appearance. Kay suspects few people are even aware of the Avatar Render Cost (ARC) feature in the viewer and have no clue they need to do anything. I agree with Kay. But, she goes on to recommend changes to Second Life, which is where I disagree.

Kay made field trips to various places in Second Life where she recorded the ARC values of avatars in the regions. Kay points out that only 81 of 190 (42.6%) avatars would render using a setting of 80,000 for Render Muting. That means 109 or 57.3% of the avatars would not render .

The horrible frame rates (FPS) I am getting have me looking at a new computer and a better video card. But, I actually have little hope that will help FPS in regions populated with 30+ avatars.

On an empirical basis Kay found that jewelry is a major culprit in high ARC. 

Penny and Kay are looking for ways to get people to reduce their ARC. Penny’s is a do it yourself, a personal responsibility approach, which I like. Kay points to my Second Life and LoD article as a partial solution, but she thinks having the viewer flash the amount ARC increases when we attach an item is too late a notice to help much. She wants to know the ARC before she buys. Good point. But, I have problems with Kay’s thinking of how to fix things.

I think flashing ARC increase when attaching something is about the only practical solution for philosophical reasons. It puts ARC in everyone’s face. But, only when we are changing appearance. By having the viewer flash the value we (the users) don’t have to try and educate everyone is SL about ARC. The viewer is doing the heavy lifting of putting the news in EVERYONE’s face, which is really hard for we users to do. I think human curiosity will do the rest.

But, Kay has a very good point we cannot deny. With clothes and avatar bodies we demand demos. So, my idea meets Kays desire in those cases. But, when did you ever see a demo of a jewelry item? I never have. And as Kay points out with actual data she researched to back her up, jewelry looks like the single greatest problem in Second Life ARC. So, since we only see the ARC for jewelry items we have already purchased, it suggests since jewelry is the worst offender with the least pre-purchase information about ARC; information about ARC and when we get it is key to reducing ARC.

There Should be a Law

Kay jumps to the common solution: make a law. Well, she says requirement, but that is about the same thing. Her idea is to: Require render weight information on new Marketplace listings. Seems neat and clean. It isn’t. The actual pain and cost is hidden. The loss of freedom is just ignored. To me it seems fascism is becoming the popular solution for many problems. The messy but highly effective free market solutions are ignored or unknown to people. Sad.

The costs of a ‘requirement’ are varied. One cost is always enforcement. Let’s take a look at that.

If we talk the Lab into changing the Market Place to have a field in the item’s information for ARC and make that a required field, the Lab can pretty much let it run on automatic. (Read that is do nothing once built into the web site.) I suspect this is the way the Lab would implement such a requirement. But, what happens when the merchant is dishonest? We already have a battle with copyboters being in the Market Place (MP) and scams. Enforcement of rules in SL basically sucks.

When a merchant is less than honest we are in the same or worse place with a required ARC value in the ads than we would be without it. In general, I think it would be better to have ARC showing in the Market Place. But, I also think requiring it would lead to more and more intense drama. I think that would place more load on SL Support as people complain. We would also see flames in the forum about how the Lab is allowing abuse… you get the idea. We have enough drama now.

If we are left free and there is no ‘requirement’ people will handle the issue. Leaving the Lab out as a middle man people will complain directly to the merchant and leave scathing reviews in the Market Place. Fashion blogs will label the good and bad.

Swearing to never buy another item from a merchant, and TELLING them, has power, especially when one lives up to their threat. Customers wanting money back is a special kind of merchant’s hell. My belief is this free market solution is the simplest and most effective route for moving designers toward better designs and better Market Place advertising.

My thinking is leaving people free provides a chaotic and messy solution. For a time things can seem worse and may actually be worse. But, the problems almost always resolve and society evolves. The problem passes and our freedom remains. Living free is neither comfortable or safe. But, there is no better creative-freedom solution.


One of Kay’s points is: Strongly suggest that render weight be provided for in-world sales and existing Marketplace listings.

Where do we make the suggestion? Who makes the suggestion? How do merchants and designers find out about the suggestion? What happens when a merchant ignores the suggestion?

Give me a demo! I’ll decide. Demos don’t lie.

I get demos and press Ctrl-Alt-T to see how dense the mesh is. If I could get jewelry demos I would do something similar. I weight scripts and look at ARC now. But, I’m exceptionally well educated SL user… I’m not saying I know everything. Just that I know WAY more than most users. Don’t tell what to do. Give me objective information I can use to make decisions.


Kay also suggests: Put together educational campaign for residents about render weight.

Think about this. The current Progressive mindset that seems to pervade everything is to propose many things and never worry about cost, social efficiency, nor to look at historic results of similar ideas. How effective or not are other educational programs in SL? Nor is there consideration for the current learning curve for Second Life. Are we to require people go to college for SL before they sign up? We have a huge learning curve now. For many it is overwhelming. Adding more is counterproductive.

My thinking is that if the ARC value or ARC increase value is flashed on screen when we add an attachment, possibly with a link to a wiki page explaining ARC (we have such a page now), people’s natural curiosity will drive them to learn more. There is nothing more that needs to be put together and we can have it in place with almost no additional effort… beyond the viewer change.


Kay suggests the viewer flash a warning when an avatar wears a heavy render item. For it to be a warning, someone has to decide what limit is appropriate to trigger a warning. How do we decide what is appropriate for the diverse range of hardware users have? What about personal preferences for speed verses visual quality?

Do we penalize those with high-end computers by setting the warning low for those with old computers? Ignore those with light-weight computers for the sake of high-end users? These are the problems we start to run  into when we try to decide what is appropriate or fair and make it fit EVERYONE.

When each person is free to decide for their selves, then everyone can be happy. Render muting provides that.

It has been suggested that a notice be shown in the viewer when we enter a region that tells us how many people in the region can see us. I think that is a great idea. I forget where I first heard it, but likely in one of Oz Linden’s meetings. The viewer/Lab is not forcing anything on us or requiring anything, just exposing us to information. So, I can be aware that my 200k ARC avatar can only be seen by 30% of the people in the region. Obviously that would be undesirable if I’m out trying to hook up.

People will decide for their selves what their hardware will render and we can each decide if we want to tone down our ARC. We don’t have to be dependent on the Lab to decide what is best for us. I can have it my way. You can have it your way. Freedom.

Default Render Muting

Another of Kay’s suggestions concerns me: Implement “render muting” based on GPU class that automatically degrades appearance of high weight avatars.

To me there is so much wrong with this idea. First it affects me without affecting the offender.

It suggests a default setting for Render Muting. I see several problems with this one that are similar to the issues I have above with Warning limits. Who decides what the limit is?

Some of the current settings we have now are:

  • RenderAutoMuteByteLimit – default off – 0. Maximum bytes of attachments before an avatar is rendered as a simple impostor (0 for no limit).
  • RenderAutoMuteFunctions – default off – 0. Developing feature to render some avatars using simple impostors or colored silhouettes. (Set to 7 for all functionality)
  • RenderAutoMuteRenderWeightLimit – default off – 0. Maximum render weight before an avatar is rendered as a simple impostor (0 to not use this limit).
  • RenderAutoMuteSurfaceAreaLimit – default off – 0. Maximum surface area of attachments before an avatar is rendered as a simple impostor (0 to not use this limit).
  • RenderAvatarComplexityLimit – default off – -1. Max visual complexity of avatars in a scene.
  • RenderAvatarLODFactor – default on – 0.5. Controls level of detail of avatars (multiplier for current screen area when calculated level of detail)
  • RenderAvatarMaxVisible – default on – 12. Maximum number of avatars to display at any one time [before using imposters].
  • RenderAvatarPhysicsLODFactor – default no change – 1.0 or 100%. Controls level of detail of avatar physics (such as breast physics).
  • RenderAvatarVP – default on – TRUE. Use vertex programs to perform hardware skinning of avatar.
  • RenderComplexityColorMax – default on – unknown?. Max visual complexity of avatars in a scene.
  • RenderComplexityColorMid – default on – unknown?. Max visual complexity of avatars in a scene.
  • RenderComplexityColorMin – default on – unknown?. Max visual complexity of avatars in a scene.

These give us personal control of what we want to see. Notice many of these are OFF by default. I think the main problem with enabling Render Muting by default is explaining to new users why they see some avatars as colored silhouettes. Again we add to the learning curve and confusion. I think this is the reason the Lab has them off by default.

But, we need some way to alert new users to the problems of high ARC and that these setting exist. By alerting them I believe it increases pressure on designers.


Many are seeing the problems of high ARC. Most have seen the root of the problem, the mesh attachments we are making for avatars. It isn’t ‘mesh’ that is the problem. It is the amateurish use of mesh that is the problem.

From here solutions offered divide people into those that fall into the ‘pass a law’ and those that fall into the freedom concepts. Which camp are you in?

Freedom is hard to win and easy to give away. We see how our RL culture is affecting us in Second Life decisions.

7 thoughts on “Avatar Render Cost 2015-07

  1. You’ve misrepresented a number of my points, so I encourage people to read my post and decide for themselves (in fact, the warning that you say I proposed is actually your JIRA) . Thank you, though. I think its important to talk about this, even if it involves someone insinuating that I am both fascist and progressive.

    • You have totally misrepresented my JIRA feature request in your comment, Kay. BUG-7928 – https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/BUG-7928 – I suggest people do read it to see which of us is being accurate. The word ‘warning’ is not used in my JIRA. Nor do I use the word in the LOD article as a recommendation. In yours, you did.

      If you prefer your ideas not to be considered fascist and progressive, then don’t promote solutions that fall into those categories. It was the solutions people present that I called fascist. If you feel that applies to your personality… infer as you will. But, my implication was toward ideas.

  2. It’s not my business, but i certainly see some legit reasons to be annoyed. I do not defend that ideas should be respected not matter, on the contrary, they evolve and improve when they are attacked meaningfully. I does not bother me that someone attacks my ideas meaningfully, what bothers me is when someone attack to my person. In that sense i consider the term facism have been rather missused on this post, and some others about this same topic. I would say this term implies some connotations in a way that when you thown it against an argument, it can easily be seen as a personal (ideological) attack to the person that made the argument, it sounds like an accusation to me. I am not saying that this term should be tabu, but i certainly try to handle it carefully.

    • You can use your personal definition for words or the dictionary’s. To communicate with others using your personal definition complicates things and leads to miss understandings. Sticking with dictionary definitions a fascist idea is about controlling people.

      Both liberal and conservative people often put forth fascist-like ideas. It has become common place. Few people even seem to realize what they are doing. Kay didn’t defend her ‘require’ idea to control people in the name of reducing a problem. She only complained her idea was labeled and took it personally inferring that because I labeled her idea she too was labeled.

      People can take things anyway they want. In our culture the PC imply that if they take it one way then that must be how the author meant it. From there they do what they can to IMPOSE their thinking on others. The whole idea of being PC and treading carefully so as not to offend is something I see as a tactic to control speech. It is an easy way to end debate and move off topic.

      Notice neither of you has challenged or defended the point that adding requirements is a fascist idea. And notice, I did


      say a fascist’s idea as Kay seemed to infer.

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