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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Messing with the Economy, Messing with the World

Over the last couple of weeks, Linden Lab has been whipsawing us.  The most visible way has been their recent change to the Terms of Service.  First, they said that third party Linden Dollar exchanges were "not authorized", and you used them at your own risk.

Then they said they were "not allowed", and backed that up by requiring all third party exchanges to remove any ATM machines in world and banning a number of avatars used to conduct the business of the third party exchanges.  They didn't even give the exchanges the 30 days to comply with changes that's in their own TOS, and most of the exchanges had to stop doing business in $L practically overnight.

Now, they've announced that SOME third party exchanges will be allowed to do business as "authorized $L resellers".  These resellers will be able to buy $L from the Lindex, and sell them to others.  However, they will not be allowed to buy $L from anyone else...that is, you won't be able to sell your $L on one of these authorized exchanges to "cash out".  You'll have to do that through the Lindex and Linden Lab.

For a great deal more on all of the above shenanigans, see the link provided in my last FLASH post to Gwyneth Llewellyn's blog.  Plus, you'll find lots of discussion about it on the official SL forums, on the independent forum sites like SL Universe, and on many other virtual world blogs all over the web.

I won't carry on a long and detailed rant about that here; others are doing a far better job than I can.  I will merely say two things.  First:  It is always a bad idea to tinker with an economy.  Any economy, even a simplified one in a virtual world, is a complex and delicately balanced system.  Making even small changes to it can have huge and unintended consequences.  And second:  Linden Lab is not known for their insight and delicacy.  Even Congress is better, when it comes to economic tinkering.

But the economy of Second Life is not all that LL has been messing about with lately.  As many of you know, new server and viewer code has been put in place to implement a major change in how our avatars are rendered.  These changes are known as "server side baking", or SSB for short.  Right now, your own PC and graphics card do most of the work in determining what your avatar looks like.  However, as the avatar has become more complex, this has resulted in an increasing number of "bake fail" issues.  We are always having to "rebake" ourselves, or fiddle with our internet connections, to keep from showing up as clouds of fog. 

Server side baking is, we all hope and pray, the answer to most of these problems.  However, even if everything goes right, you are going to have to have a new viewer that will work with the SSB code, or you are not going to be able to see avatars correctly.  And of course, LL does not have a history of getting everything right the first time.

SSB has not yet been turned on, though.  But even so, I think that SOMEthing that happened with the latest server code rollouts this past Tuesday has affected graphics...at least, there has suddenly been a big change in how I see the world since then.  The change is both good (mostly) and bad (a little).

The good part is that my frame rates have suddenly gone WAY up.  Where I was seeing 30-35 fps, I am now seeing 120-140 fps.  For me, that's unheard-of performance in Second Life.  For the first time, I have enough of a performance margin that I can enable Shadows, and even then, I'm getting 22-35 fps.  That's amazing!

On the bad side, I'm still seeing the "interest list" bug.  This is where you do not see objects, or parts of objects, until you right click where they are supposed to be.  A more comprehensive workaround is to enable the Develop menu, then toggle wireframe mode on and off (CTRL+SHIFT+R) to make the missing prims reappear.  This bug has been around a long time, but only happened rarely.  Recently, it's begun affecting almost everyone, at least part of the time.

And my clothing layers have gotten much slower to rez, too.  Sometimes, they won't rez at all, and I will have to re-log after changing clothes in order to see the changes.

I would say it's a sinister conspiracy to sell me more Mesh clothing, except that now it's going to be harder for the sellers of Mesh clothing to cash out all the $L I'll be paying them...

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