Sunday 25 September 2011

Second Life Lag: Let's Do The Time Warp!

Since the start of the year many sims in Second Life, mine included, have suffered what has been dubbed, Time warp lag. Typically, it comes on like a storm which lasts for five minutes or more. During that time movement is impossible and even chat freezes. It is not the normal kind of lag like running on the spot, slow movement and delayed chat. This is total freeze up and it clears just as suddenly as if nothing had happened. It can happen at any time of day but it's happening more often and is a daily occurrence. Not all sims are affected yet but I noticed that more are reporting the problem where, a few weeks before, they had not experienced this problem at all.

There is a JIRA report on the issue here, and another here but, typical of Linden Labs, unless enough people view the JIRA, vote and comment on it, it gets low priority. So, while this problem affected less sims a few months ago, the numbers have been increasing. What makes this particularly difficult is that support tends to buck pass and simply quote the JIRA issue and Linden Labs is working on it.

Well, be that as it may, it's no consolation to the sim owners trying to get on with their business when the buck gets passed and nothing is resolved and, what's more, the problems are not just limited to lag spikes. In the pursuit of Mesh and the development of Viewer x2/x3 Second Life has been virtually in a state of beta for the past year with weekly server updates causing no end of problems for paying customers from failed scripts to loss of content from the sims. It is hard enough to run a role play game as I do in Second Life and meet the expense (Second Life is expensive!) and then, on top of that, coupe with the problems being forced on us for the sake of the kind of progress Linden Labs believe we or, should I say, they need.

Imagine your a pirate sailing along happily blowing other ships out of the water and suddenly, without warning you boat is stuck like you hit a sand bank. The only reason you know you didn't run aground is because your avatar is frozen too and you can't even post a few words in chat. You are frozen and the mini map may even turn red. If you are lucky you wont actually crash and maybe 5 minutes later you find all is well again and the ship moves off like nothing had happened. Imagine similar happening in a variety of situations. Well, this is what it is like for many in Second Life presently and it didn't just start yesterday. It's becoming a long standing problem along with plenty others for the sake of so-called progress.

Using Open Sim or Aurora we accept it is alpha software and many problems can arise but Second Life is 8 years old and, given the high cost, customers might be forgiven for expecting the foundation of the software to be stable enough to withstand further development. Clearly it is not and rolling out new code every week is taking it's toll. Moreover, it is trying the patience of customers to breaking point which I am sure is contributing to the decline of Second Life.

The Linden Grid has lost over 500 sims in the past year including some well loved old timers. I personally closed two sims several months ago and scaled back because of the lag and other issues I felt are damaging my role play game, loosing me business from my content sales and loosing me players too. I now run just two sims because I want to keep my game afloat or I would close them too. The money saved I now invest in two servers to run both Open sim and a separate Aurora grid for evaluation purposes with a view to moving the game to the open Metaverse eventually or, at least, running it in parallel with Second Life. But I have to say, while the physics in Open Sim is still not on par with Second Life, I do have control over my grids and can be sure they are well resourced for what I pay, and, fact is, I pay a lot less for a lot more.

Linden Labs just don't get it. In my experience few people are excited about Mesh, or Display names, or Viewer x2/x3 but perhaps some techy geeks are and, no doubt, some content sellers looking to make money out of it are. I think there is more excitement about bouncing boobs and wobbly butts in fact but, seriously, the vast majority in my view would settle for less if it means an unimpaired user experience. More is less when it don't work properly and spoils what is tried and tested. And that is a simple fact because less is more if the user is content. Second Life growth has been static for several years and I rather suspect people are voting with their feet and going elsewhere which is not good news for those of us who struggle on.

I, in common with many others in Second Life, run a role play game because that is what I enjoy doing. I engage in scripting, building and content creation but making money is not what I am there for. If I can offset costs then great. It helps a lot. I am able to contribute to the Second Life community at partly my own expense but when I find I am meeting more of my $1000 a month budget due to circumstances beyond my control then I have to question it. I cut back, as I said, several months ago to reduce my SL budget to $600 a month so already LL has lost $400 and, of course, it means less money being spent on content too. I am sure I am not alone in this because I know a lot of people in Second Life including other sim owners and we share pretty much the same experiences and similar views about Linden Labs. Just another fine example of Linden Lab's blind dictatorship can be read here on Soror Nishi's blog.

Linden Labs are profitable at the moment. They made in the order of 100 million dollars profit last year. For my money they could have set up a separate grid "Second Life II" to roll out viewer x2/x3 and Mesh, etc, in their own time. "Second Life I" could have been left on viewer 1x and kept a whole lot of people much happier. People would have then had the choice to move to SL2 when they felt comfortable with it. In time SL1 would close if SL2 gained the bulk of the residents. We all know the horror stories of going on vacation only to find the hotel is still under construction, well, this is how it feels in Second Life these days - a grid still under construction!