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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Script for Destruction

Scripts are invisible, and most of us don’t pay any attention to them or give them much thought. But scripts are the magic behind much of Second Life. They are the programs that make your shoes change color, your jewelry sparkle, and water flow. They make doors open at a touch (or lock strangers out). They make vendors work, and give us furniture that changes our pose with a mouse click. They make sounds play, and animals and vehicles move. And they are abused to the point where Linden Lab is about to holler “Hold on, there!”

Have you ever wondered why it’s always so laggy in the Damselfly Hair region? It’s because Damselfly uses re-sizing scripts in their hair. Each prim contains a script, and there can be 200+ prims in a hairstyle. You can (and should!) delete these scripts when you’ve finished editing your hair to fit, but many people don’t. And so the store is filled with avatars, most of whom are wearing previously purchased Damselfly hair, and many of whom still have the scripts active. As a result, the sim lags like crazy.

I’m not singling out Shylah Honey, the creator of Damselfly, for criticism. She makes wonderful products, and they are within the rules of SL. I’m just using her as an example. Because we can use scripts without limit, we do. Clever builders add more and more scripts to make their items more functional, and thus more attractive to buyers. I own a bed that has SEVEN separate engines (a prim that serves primarily as a container of scripts), each specialized for a particular function and each containing a ton of scripts, textures, animations, and rezzable objects. That bed not only has a bewildering array of nested pose menus, it’s practically an entire bedroom suite in a box!

Scripts themselves can be efficient, or otherwise. (Don’t ask me for details, I’m not a programmer and I think anyone who can write LSL is a witch doctor).

For some time now, there have been rumbles from LL about imposing script limits. One day, just as there is a limit to how many prims you can rez on a parcel of land, there will be limits on how many scripts can be run there. That day is getting closer. You can now get little gadgets that tell you how many scripts you (and anyone else nearby) are wearing, and how much memory they are using. These counters are gradually raising our awareness of our script usage.

Builders should start taking note of their script usage, and making sure their products are not only fun to use, but efficient. Maybe the worst offense is making the scripts non-delete-able. I have a favorite necklace that has over 200 re-size scripts in it that can’t be taken out. Don’t DO that! Consumers should start demanding that creators publish a script count in their advertising, or at least patronizing those makers who keep their script usage to a reasonable level.

So…do you REALLY need shoes with color changing parts, sixteen toenail polishes, adjustable bling, and four menu-selectable styles? (Well, yes, dammit…they let me get rid of about forty pairs of other shoes in my inventory. Sue me.)

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