Skell’s Pet SL Peeves: Another day, another fancy fair

I have only one rule when it comes to fairs in Second Life: wait until the last two days and then  go. The exception to this rule is Menswear Fashion Week (at which point, yeah; I’m the avatar camped on the doorstep in his sleeping bag the week before the sim opens). For everything else the lag is simply not worth the rush to get in, constantly attempting to teleport (“sorry, the region is full”) and rubberbanding like Kate Bush once you finally get in.

So, as per my rule, I waited until the very last day of Shoetopia, and I teleported in. Ten avatars on-sim, so I figured the lag would be minimal…

*step-BOING*

You know… I’m all for beauty in SL, but when it comes to huge events that you know  will be lagfests? BUILD SIMPLE. The idea behind Shoetopia’s build (a confection of sugar-spun white pavilions raised through the clouds into the heavens) was a really good one, but there were two major issues:

  1. Far, far, far too much fussiness. Filigree this and twirlygig that. Very pretty, I’ll grant you, but completely unnecessary. It took ages to rez, so I was surrounded by white Cubist art for at least ten minutes before I could see where I was supposed to walk.
  2. Far, far, far too much walking. I’ve never seen a layout like that one for a fair, and I hope I never see it again. If you didn’t visit, imagine a circle around the entire sim, with a vertical line bisecting it. Landing point in the centre, of course, and you walk down one of the ‘spokes’ of the line to reach the booths. The big-name designers are in those spokes. The smaller ones…

No, wait. I’ll show you.

As I said, it’s a nice idea:

Until you spend ten minutes simply waiting for all the frills to rez:

And then you start walking. Oh boy, do you start walking. Has anyone made a pedometer in SL yet? ’cause I think I reached my 10,000 steps for fitness today…

That’s both sims; let’s home in on just one of ’em:

Twenty stalls around the edges there, and to reach them all you have to walk the perimeter of an entire sim. Yes, that picture is one whole sim. I managed to get all the way around one (luckily for me, I guess, the vast majority of those stalls had no men’s shoes, and no women’s shoes that I wanted – most of the mesh stuff for women was rigged, and that’s of no use even to freaky boys like me) but I just gave up about 20m around the second one.

A little closer, because you need a good look at all the goddamn walking!

That’s a quarter of a sim. For five tiny little stalls.

What’s that you say? “Stop whining, Dagger. FLY, YOU FOOL!”

Yeah, I did. And then I bumped into the invisible walls that were meant to stop those with shitty balance from falling off the edges (and in the meantime said invisible walls added even more to the lag).

Look, it was a worthy cause, and because of that I’m probably coming over as uncharitably bitchy. But I know I’m not the only person who struggled with this build, both in its size and lagginess. By the end of my walking I was fed-up and bored. There were only TWO other people in the sim by the time I gave up and went home, and still I was rubberbanding (and my connection was, for once, fine).

In all, I spent one and a half hours trawling around a single sim – visiting just 20 stalls, waiting for them to rez, and camming to the bigger stalls in the centre, picked up five demos (all-but-one of which I trashed on realising they were rigged mesh only; which wasn’t noted on the ads), one set of nail appliers, and one pair of unisex boots.

I’ve seen this far too often at fairs. The 2009 Hair Fair was candy-themed and sculpt-heavy, and this was all I saw of each booth, even at the end of the fair’s run:

How does one walk through a door when the door is a giant grey breast? *headscratch* Note the blobs in the background, too. There weren’t just two or three small sculpts used; there were lots of different ones, each one having to be loaded and then the texture on it had to be loaded, too. Same thing is happening now, at all-mesh places with a high emphasis on detail: way too many vertices for the viewer to render that leave visitors with nothing to do but stand in an out-of-the-way place for 15 minutes and do something else IRL while everything loads.

Now, I expect fancy stuff from Fantasy Fair, because that’s a different beast. It’s not loads of identical stalls covering one or two sims; rather each area is a full themed location. And yes, Fantasy Fair is laggy, too, but it’s intended to be as much of an experience as it is a shopping fest. The likes of shoe/hair/skin/etc fair are mainly shopping fests that happen to be in a single themed location.

I know that many busy events try various tricks to help ease visitors’ experience, from burying tiny boxes covered in the sim’s textures at the landing point, to sending out free texture pre-loading HUDs (which truly is a great idea; thank you Arcade Gatcha!). But, with mixed mesh and sculpt builds (the only standard prims I saw at Shoetopia were the ads themselves) there’s a huge rendering load placed on the viewer, and that’s when lag kicks in.

The best fair I ever attended was also the simplest: Jewellery Fair, and I think it was back in 2009. The layout was intuitive – no running from one side of the path to the other in case you missed out one stall, one simple path took you all the way around and through the single sim with close to a hundred stalls fitted in neatly and compactly – and the buildings were simple prim construction. Nothing fancy, no sculpts, and there was (of course) no mesh back then. The focus was entirely  on the items for sale, not on the sim builder’s talents (and I think that’s where these big fairs are beginning to go wrong; each one has to look  more amazing than the ones before it). The entire sim rezzed quickly and was practically lag-free, even in the early days when it was packed full of people. I worked my way around the whole sim and dozens of stalls in about an hour, made loads of purchases, and – most importantly – I didn’t give up in frustration, as I did at Shoetopia.

Please, fair-builders: your ideas are fabulous, but when you’ve got committed shoppers like me quitting your build in boredom and frustration? That ain’t good. I know you want it to look amazing, but – Fantasy Fair excepted – most people aren’t there for the build; they’re there for what’s being sold, and many of them can only log in for an hour or two. Make it easy for them to buy stuff to help your good causes by creating a simple build that’s low-lag and easy to get around, without lots of walking and waiting.

How many times have you bitched with your friends about a large event being too fussy and heavy to load, and an absolute lagfest? How many of those same events have you slogged through? Now… how many times have you enthused with your friends about a great, lag-free big event? I’d lay money on the former happening a lot and the latter happening, well not at all. And yet, here I am, four years after the fact, still enthusing about that Jewellery Fair. Word of mouth matters a lot in SL, be it among friends or in the blogosphere. We all expect lag in the opening weeks – it’s a fact of SLife that we’re used to and will put up with if we simply have  to get there early – but if people are struggling late in the day with fewer than 10 avatars on-sim, that word of mouth will begin to turn into, “OMG, X-Fair is such  a lagfest. I couldn’t get around it, so I gave up.”

Gave up = stopped buying = your worthy causes miss out on potential funds.

Keep it simple (because you’re not  stupid). It can still look great without all the twiddly bits ;-)

Skell’s pet SL peeves, part 2

Some time ago, Berry Singh did a Monday Meme about Your SL Pet Peeves. This was my entry (linking you to the Flickr pic, as that was where the discussion was, and we’ll call that part 1 of the series). However, that’s not all of my pet SL peeves, by any stretch of the imagination, and since I’m desperately trying to avoid getting a Twitter account for Skell (don’t give me the opportunity to sound-off quick and easy like that; a blog post takes more thought!) I decided to put a new category on the blog. So here it is.

01: Dear blogger, part 1 – I know you always wear those eyes, but WHERE ARE THEY FROM?

This one drives me batshit insane, and it’s one reason why I mention everything that I’m wearing in my credits. Invariably, when I check out a blog post and really love one thing in it… that one thing is the one thing the blogger didn’t mention. So, you’re featuring the shirt, pants, hat and shoes? Great! But don’t you also have skin/ hair/eyes/ jewellery/stretched ears/tattoos/makeup/what-the-fuck-else on? If you really do wear all the same basic stuff all the time, then how about a page or link to a post wherein you detail all of that stuff, huh?

02: Dear blogger, part 2 – Pleasepleaseplease include creator’s names

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tilted my head, squinted, scratched my chin, puzzled, and finally given up when a blogger’s credits for the amazing X that they’ve mentioned run thus:

X  by {{ FG }}

What the fuck is FG? Fat Gits? Fluffy Grommets? How in hell am I supposed to know that’s actually the Finagled Grabbit store if all I have is a cryptic clue?! Giving me a SLurl is good, but stores move around a lot in SL. I’ve seen blog posts and gone almost immediately to the location given in the post, only to find out the store moved on weeks ago and the blogger was using an old LM. For god’s sake, include the full creator’s name in your credits, so I can check their profile picks for their current store location!

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I did this myself once, but only once. I put a post on Flickr that included a skin from BND. Someone asked me in the comments what BND stood for, as they’d searched and couldn’t find anything. I went into the item properties, found the creator’s store info, and realised it was actually Bird Next Door. That taught me a valuable lesson, and I’ve always tried to include as much info as I can since then.

03: Dear designer, part 1 – I can’t see what I’m demoing past your enormous DEMO box

Oh god, this happens rarely, but when it does, it’s an instant put-off and a lost sale for you, dear designer. I’ve demo’d items with lots of alphas that had an alpha-textured DEMO box surrounding them, with the result that the alpha-sorting glitch left me unable to see the item without fiddling with Hide Selected in the Advanced menu to remove the box.

I’ve demo’d hair and headgear with DEMO pasted right in front of my face (do you even realise that customers need to see how the hair/hat/etc looks with their face?!). Likewise, I’ve demo’d hair and headgear with a ‘cute’ facial attachment (enormous twirly moustache) or other annoyingly-distracting attachment (giant salon hairdryer) that leaves me unable to see what the item actually looks like with my face as it normally looks.

People, I ditch those demos so fucking fast, you wouldn’t believe it. Sale LOST.

04: Dear designer, part 2 – Don’t make me look like an idiot, please

There’s one designer whose demos drive me fucking crazy, and it’s the reason why I never open or try on demo packs in the store these days. I always teleport home now. When you ‘wear to unpack’ the demos, your avatar is instantly animated and a whole scene rezzes around you. You’re sitting in a barber’s chair and wearing a giant bib, with a mirror in front of you, and you’re left thinking… what the fuck just happened?

Also, animated unpackers can mess with AOs and poses:

A bag or box that you hold? Fair enough. A lot of people do want to unpack and try on there-and-then, and wearable unpackers are great for those that don’t want to TP home. But some designers go a tad over-the-top. Yes, it’s brilliant and I can appreciate the cleverness and the work that went into it, but when you make me look like an absolute prat in the middle of a crowded store? Nope.

05: Dear avatar – Move. Away. From. The. Landing. Point

Yes, I’ve been guilty of it myself on occasion, but that’s usually because the location is so laggy that I can’t move for a few seconds after I arrive. I have Firestorm set so that I’m always flying after a teleport, for the simple reason that I got so sick of flailing like a landed fish on top of some loiterer’s head. At least if you’re already flying you can hit the Page Up button and fly gracefully into the air instead of that awful, embarrassing “HAAAALP!” animation the Lindens so kindly gave us when we’re completely stuck.

But I’ve seen avatars standing at the landing point for tens of minutes. Sure, they may be camshopping, but for heaven’s sake, move a few steps away from the landing point so other avatars don’t end up in a flapping heap on your head!

06: Dear roleplayer – I’m wearing a meter; please read it

This happened last night, so it makes its way into today’s post. It was frustrating, and ruined a good roleplay session for me. I probably have non-roleplayers reading this, so it needs a bit more detail, to explain how meters and combat work.

In Venexia, a fight was looming between two vampires and three (human) Paesani: myself, Daros, and Bianco – the leader of the Pae. Both Daros and Bianco have Default Combat Mode set on their meters, but I’m Non-Combatant. Non-com means I don’t use scripted weapons; rather I roleplay my attack or defence, and then use dice rolls to determine the outcome. I’m non-com mainly because I absolutely detest the usual button-mashing fighting style. If you’ve ever seen a standard metered fight between melee weapons, it’s a blur; both players swinging wildly all over the place. Sorry, but that holds no appeal to me whatsoever (also, I find it so disorienting and confusing that it ruins the RP for me; you have to enter mouselook and use WASD or the arrow keys on your keyboard to just run around, flailing the weapon and hope you land enough hits to take down the meter of your opponent), and the rules of the sim require that combatants respect non-com’s wishes for RP and dice fighting.

An aside: Many roleplayers look down upon non-combatant status and the roleplayers that use it. The main reason for this? Those roleplayers spend hours working on their fighting skills so that they almost never lose. When facing a non-com, though, the outcome of each part of the fight is left to the pure chance of a dice throw. In other words: they stand a much stronger chance of losing. And if there’s one thing the people who spend hours working on their fighting skills don’t like, it’s losing. As a result, non-coms usually find that other roleplayers avoid them, because so much SL RP is about bolstering egos, and if there’s no possibility of doing so (by winning) then they won’t even bother approaching a non-com, regardless of the fact that the non-com might be able to give them the best roleplay experience they’ve had in months. It is  perfectly possible to roleplay without every single RP session devolving into a fight, just so you can up your ‘won’ stats on the meter, dude…

Bitter? Me? No, just slightly hacked off at how many people I’ve met in RP sims over the years who think exactly that way :-/

The SGS meter used in Venexia shows your combat status fully on the second line. Last night, in the lead-up to the fight, for about twenty minutes we were all in a very small area at the docks. Plenty of time passed in roleplay leading up to weapons being unleashed. In that time I’d checked everyone’s meter. Three of them were on minimal ‘hidden’ status (which hides the important aspect of your actual identity, plus your physical stats, but doesn’t hide your combat status), two – including me – were on full meters. One vamp was roleplaying her attack, but the other? Out came both blades, blue particles filling the room, and he was off and swinging wildly.

First, he chased Daros and Bianco, who ran out of the room, so he came at me. I was in the middle of typing my next pose in response to the female vampire who was roleplaying an attempt to stab me, but I stopped and watched as Mr Flaily-Swords swung at me for about three minutes. I walked a few steps to one side, assuming I was blocking the door and he wanted to get out and go after Daros and Bianco, but nope; he kept slashing away at me. You see, when you’re Non-Com, metered weapons can’t harm you. Your stats don’t go down, you can’t be killed, BUT you still see the blood splats that denote a hit. I think he was confused as to why I wasn’t on the floor, but I just sat back in my RL chair, watching in a mixture of confusion and disbelief, until he stopped.

Daros was telling me to RUN, so I did. I legged it out of the room and onto the ship that’s the Paesani safe haven. Still feeling somewhat bewildered that a great roleplay had – for me – been absolutely shattered, I felt pretty down about it all. The male vampire had not only stopped my roleplay dead; he’d also killed the text-based roleplay I’d got going with the female vampire (and, subsequently, her roleplay, too). All for the sake of not paying attention to meters and deciding he was going to take us down NOW. (Again, with the ego-bolstering thing.)

I deleted the half-typed pose I had still waiting in the chat window, and went to bed.

Roleplayers, take just a few seconds to glance over the meters of those you’re interacting with. You could avoid wrecking a scene for them, okay?

Update
I’m closing comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks on this post, as – for some reason – it’s currently attracting some 30-40 spam comments per day. My Askimet filter is catching them, but it’s a fucking pain to keep emptying the damn thing every day.