Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Character ARCs

A conversation in Oxbridge group chat yesterday led me to turn on the Draw Weight feature for the first time in some months, and I was pleasantly surprised to see this had been fixed, at least in the dev version of V3 I have now.

Draw Weight, formerly Avatar Rendering Cost or ARC for short, is a measure of the visual complexity of your avi, or, roughly speaking, how much computational power it takes to put you on the screen.  Turn on "Show Draw Weight for Avatars", and a number appears over everyone's head, or where their head would be if they had one.  These days, that number starts at 1000, for an avi with no prim attachments or other complicating factors*, and that number is shown in a nice safe green... as the number increases, the green grows tinged with yellow, then shades to orange, and finally turns warning red to indicate that you really are getting a little complicated.

In addition to being a fine tool for self-appointed guardians of SL who will follow red-tinged numbers around accusing their possessors of wilfully creating lag, the Draw Weight metric does have some actual, legitimate uses, if you seriously want or need to keep your complexity down (example: if you are trying to do a low-lag look for hunting, which at the moment I am.)  It's worth pointing out that the ARC metric has sort of grown out of outmoded assumptions, and many of the "lag-inducing" factors it measures don't matter any more on modern equipment, or even on my equipment.  Still, it is useful to be able to see those numbers....

... or, at least, it was until V3 rolled out, because the numbering system changed (in V2, the base was 100, not 1000, and other numbers rolled up proportionately), but the colour coding didn't.  So, even people wandering around in baseline avatars got a tinge of yellow to their names, and if you actually added some nice shoes and some prim hair - you know, basic necessities of life - you would go into the red zone pretty much immediately.  As an example, all the humanoid starter avatars - the basic "newbie" looks - were red-numbered in this system.

Until recently.  Now, the colour coding has swung back to being useful; my stock "hunting" look clocks in as weak yellow-green, as do a number of the starter avatars.  1000-point avis show up solid green again, and only the really complicated furry fashionistas have bright red scores.  So, this metric is back to being almost useful, and you can play with your appearance, noting the effect of a pair of old invisiprim-based shoes (around 6,000) or new mesh boots (one pair clocks in at about 5,500), or a pretty brooch from Sparkle of Sound (165,000).

An additional feature, which is so stupid I heartily approve of it, is that the numbers also now come preceded by a message telling you whether the person you're looking at is "gray" or "textured", i.e. whether their textures have loaded yet.  Because, clearly, you wouldn't be able to tell that just by looking at them, would you?  Oh wait...  (The idea of making a blank grey skin, with matching clothes, eyes and hair, just to mess with people's heads by being grey all over and still showing as "textured"... well, that is a fun one, isn't it?)

*You could, in fact, reduce your ARC by some complicating factors, such as wearing alpha layers that made some body parts invisible - if they can't be seen, the softwared doesn't have to work to render them, so - at least in the older system - your ARC was accordingly reduced.  During an incident which I tend to refer to as the Plague of the Headless Noobs, you would see a number of people wandering around Oxbridge with no heads, and consequently an ARC of 60.  I have no idea why this happened, but it was amusing while it lasted.


  1. I think there IS a "grey avatar" you can get, just to mess with your friends' minds.

    1. Darn it, why do I never think of these things first? :)