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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ramshackle Contraption

You know those "Rube Goldberg" machines?  Complex, rickety assemblies of unlikely items arranged so that, if things work just right, some useful function is performed?  Lately, I've come to think of Second Life as something of a Rube Goldberg contraption.

SL has always had its problems.  When I first joined, we expected the grid to be partially or completely down for most of Tuesday, and it was normal to have serious lag, purchase, or teleporting problems on the weekends.  People got "Ruthed", or would suddenly bend over and stick their head up their own posterior.  When teleporting, one's hair and shoes could be blown off and attached to one's posterior, too (which may have been why so many of our avatars spent time looking there.)

Then things got better.  SL incorporated a new and better physics engine.  The server code was cleaned up, streamlined and made more robust.  The clunky, much-patched Viewer code was replaced by Viewer 2 (yeah, yeah...I hated the V2 interface too.  But the underlying code was an improvement.)

But LL was not content to rest on their laurels.  They started adding new features.  Display Names.  Mesh.  Point lights and shadows.  Direct Delivery in the Marketplace.  A new Search.  New web based Profiles.  Multiple items on attachment points.  Multiple clothing items in a single clothing layer.  Tattoo layers.  Alpha layers.  Avatar physics.  Inventory "links".  And there are many more new features which SL is able to support, that are in development...like the self-attaching HUD of Linden Realms, path following, and non-player characters.

I'd be the last person to complain about new features.  Some of them are things we've asked for and needed for a long time, others are things we didn't know we needed until they arrived.  No...new features are great, they're lovely...but...

Just over the last month or so, SL seems to be falling apart at the seams.  I see the same complaints in the SL Answers Forum, over and over:  Failure of avatars to rez, delivery failures by the Marketplace, inability to teleport, Voice services breaking, driver incompatibilities, rezzing problems in Linden Homes, and lag, lag, laaag.  Yesterday, my home region of Masocado was off line at least twice.  The second time, it stayed down until I called Live Chat.  (And credit where it is due here -- Missy Linden, the sunny person I spoke with in Live Chat, responded quickly and decisively, and my region was back on line when she said it would be.  Thank you, Missy!)

Can it be that LL's concentration on improving the user experience with new features has had the result that the basic features we must have, stability and performance, are suffering?  It certainly seems so.

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