Somehow I snagged an invite to this weekend's ultra-exclusive Linden "Concierge Party". The party is open to residents with monthly tier in excess of USD$125, and their guests. That's me, the guest. Someday I may require land of that size, but right now my store's portion of my parcel's capacity is only 700 prims and I simply can't justify anything bigger.
Anyhow, back to the party. The theme of the party was "Ides of March", based on legendary Caesarian events. While I am sure someone will blog about the wacky events and amazing Toga-style activities, I want to talk about the amazing way Linden Labs handled the event.
Back at my shop awaiting the opening of the party sims, I wondered how this was going to work. You see, the Second Life Group for the party held over 7,000 members. I mentally calculated how many sims would be required to hold this colossal event. Hmm, 7,000 attendees over 24 hours, with a maximum of 40 avatars per sim before they topple over due to extreme load. Dozens, at least.
They had five.
Yep, only five sims required to handle 7,000 potential visitors! How did they do it? My first clue was the avatar count in these sims. As you can clearly see in the image above, there were actually 81 avatars in Colosseum. A few times I've seen forty, but never 81! I was there. I saw them. I didn't count them, there were far too many. And get this - I was fairly easily able to move around and converse. At one point I was getting almost 30 FPS in a sim containing 68 avatars, although there were times my frame rate dipped down to the single digits.
Here's my observations of how Linden Labs might have pulled this off:
- Limited number of visible textures. While the buildings were attractive, appropriate and useful, a careful inspection showed they made generous use of few textures. Good design!
- No floors. I noticed this immediately upon arriving: most things were simply set directly on the ground. First impressions were similar to seeing those awful "Yard Sales". There were hardly any prim-based walking areas, just dusty ground.
- Limited number of buildings and prims. The sims seemed empty, at least when I first arrived before they filled up with people. A check of the prim count in Temple showed 1235 objects of 15,000, 13,765 available. No wonder frame rates were fast: there was very little to draw!
- Havoc 4. The party sims were running the new Havoc4 physics engine, purported to be much more efficient. It certainly seemed to be. Even when things got a bit laggy, I was still able to move about without suddenly lurching forward, crashing into innocents and accidentally knocking them into a pit of doom.
- Top class server? I can't prove this, but I wouldn't be surprised if Linden Lab used servers with a bit of extra juice. Why not, if you are expecting 7,000 for dinner?
Good building tips indeed, if your objective is to pack 'em in like sardines. Meanwhile, I'm wondering whether this experience tells us something about future sim performance. Perhaps someday I'll have 68 avatars strolling through my store! For now, I'll be happy with six.