Second Life Servers: 1,000 Avatars?

No roll for the main channel of Second Life™ this Tuesday.

Second Life’s three RC channels all got the same package, a maintenance release. This one has a change in how large groups are handled. I think meaning the member list downloading. There are also more changes to the server log reporting process.

He didnt seek victory though it followed him

He didn’t seek victory though it followed him by Sunny George, on Flickr

At the Server-Scripting meeting Simon Linden talked about adding a setting to allow them to change the number of avatars a region will allow in before locking access. But, I doubt that change made it into this package.

The idea being worked on is how to get more people in a region and not over load the server or viewer. This new server/region setting allows easy changes to max population for the purpose of testing. That might hint at what the additional changes to logging are about. 

As to getting more people in a region… One of the ideas is to let users decide how many avatars their viewer will render, have the viewer advise the server, and then the server will only send update information for that many avatars. Reducing that load would allow the server to handle more avatars.

This is early on thinking. But, since the Lindens are talking about it, we can be pretty certain a project for this has been put in place and they are moving forward. But, since they are  only talking a little about it, it may still get canceled for any number of reasons.

I am not sure what fun having a thousand avatars in a region would be if I can only see 50 of them… If you are a band, singer, whatever performing for 1,000 people and you can only see 50 or 100, is that going to motivate you?

We already have a number of tricks we use to reduce the load on our viewers. All MMO’s have this problem of keeping all the players up to date. The information load increases exponentially as more people have to be kept updated. One of the Intel engineers (Robert Adams for one – 2014) worked with the OpenSim system to solve that problem. There were experiments with thousands of avatars in a region.

In 2010 technology had been developed and released to allow a thousand avatars into an OpenSim region. The Intel Science Technology Center (ISTC) was featured by Hypergrid Business for releasing the code into the public domain. Four years on and we still do not see thousand-avatar regions in Second Life or OpenSim.

The Intel effort appears to have been looking toward what they needed to do with chip design to support virtual worlds. I haven’t dug into the code they were releasing. But, I get the impression you needed an Intel chip to run it. That could explain its slow acceptance into the gaming world. But, avoiding the chip oriented tech may not be justified.

Intel was telling their investors in late 2014 that they were 3½ years ahead of their competition in developing 3-dimentional circuitry for their chips. The big thing with 3D tech in chips is it allows smaller processors that use less power and run faster.

We are at the point that the amount of time it takes an electron to move across a quarter inch (8mm) is a limit to processor speed. Electrons or more precisely the electromagnetic wave travels at near light speed, about 300,000 kilometers (186,400 miles) per second. In a vacuum the wave does travel at the speed of light. It moves a bit slower in silicon. And still a quarter inch is too far for our needs. So,  instead of speeding out circuits like a city they chop the city into squares and stacking them into a cube shape like a high rise.

The story of Intel and AMD is interesting and a lesson in free market and government control. See: Intel And AMD: The Juggernaut Vs. The Squid – Nov 2014.

Intel now controls 98.3%, in 3Q14, of the server market share, 92.9% of notebooks, and 82.7% of desktops. AMD no longer competes as it once did in the high end performance gaming market. Dell’s Alienware units are now all Intel based. AMD is not out of the game or games. But, Intel controls.

This leaves one to wonder why the virtual world tech developed by Intel is not in use. I think the more likely explanation for not adopting a tech tied to a chip is the growth of ARM Processors, the ones in phones, cars, refrigerators, etc. Samsung has become a player in the CPU market.

We know the Lab is looking to build its Next Generation Platform, Project SANSAR, to handle large numbers of avatars. I think we can expect a viewer… or may be more accurately a plug-in type app that runs on most any CPU. The servers will likely run on Intel. But, somehow we will see large avatar crowds and less lag.

2 thoughts on “Second Life Servers: 1,000 Avatars?

  1. If you are a band, singer, whatever performing for 1,000 people and you can only see 50 or 100, is that going to motivate you?
    If the Lindens implement a priority system (e.g. controlled by group membership) to ensure that the performers’ avatars remain visible to everyone in the audience at all times, then yes, it would be a huge improvement and very motivating to bands. I remember in the old days when Chouchou still performed in SL, they had to use all kinds of tricks to get around sim capacity limits (e.g. moving the stage to an adjacent region) but in the end many people still got locked out and could watch the show only via live video stream. It’s not that important for a band to see the entire audience, as long as the entire audience can see the band!

    • I can see where something would have to done so all the audience could see the band. I hadn’t thought of that.

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