SL project updates 41/2: server, HTTP, Group Chat

Pigeon Island, Neverending; Inara Pey, June 2014, on FlickrPigeon Island, Neverending (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Server Beta meeting held on Thursday October 9th, 2014. The transcript is available here, and the support agenda notes here.

Server Deployments Week 41 – Recap

  • Server deployment thread
  • The Main (SLS) channel and the Snack RC received the same server maintenance package as had been deployed to the three primary RCs in week 40,which fixes a bug related to viewing parcel details in gaming regions
  • There was no deployment to any of the primary RC channels (LeTigre, BlueSteel and Magnum).

CDN and the Snack RC

There are now some 270 regions on the Snack RC and which use the CDN for texture and mesh data fetching. The majority of these are mainland regions, although there is still no public list of all of them. Those who would like their region added to Snack are asked to contact the Lab at cdn-test@lindenlab.com.

If you’re using a TPV that can display region details in a dialogue box following a region crossing, you can use it to identify regions using the CDN, or you can check the About Land floater for the region you’re in. In both cases look for “Second Life RC Snack” in the region’s descriptive text. If you see it, the region is using the CDN.

Group Chat

Simon Linden’s work to both reduce the volume of additional group chat information messages (people joining leaving group chat sessions, updates to the group members list as people log-in or out of SL), and the frequency with which they are sent appears to have satisfied the Lab that they will produce some measure of improvement. There has already been a deployment of the updates to some of the back-end chat servers, and according to Maestro Linden, it is anticipated they should be on all of the chat servers some time in the next week. There may be more to add to this following the TPV Developer meeting.

HTTP Pipelining

Monty Linden: HTTP guru
Monty Linden: HTTP guru

The new HTTP pipelining viewer (referred to by the Lab’s QA team as the “weaponized” viewer, it is apparently so slick), is due to hit RC status. “Project Drano”, as Monty Linden, who has been spearheading the HTTP work over the last 2+ years, jokingly calls it, offers both improvements of its own and should further assist in data downloads via the CDN. Commenting on the viewer, Monty said:

The next viewer adds HTTP pipelining support to mesh and texture fetches. This allows multiple asset requests to be issued without waiting for intervening responses from the server, and it goes very far towards making client-to-server ping time irrelevant in throughput metrics. It’s a huge step on its own making our services perform as well as they can. Combined with CDN it’s even better. I won’t mention specific numbers but a region can show up in a very few seconds … Right now, we plan on skipping the project viewer stage. We’re going out the door [as an RC] once it passes QA (maestro heading that up).

Mesh fetching via the CDN should see an improvement because the viewer-side throttle of 100 meshes/second has been removed (this won’t affect non-CDN regions, as the throttle is also applied server-side on those).

As well as the core HTTP work, Monty has also done some work on inventory fetching within this viewer, particularly the code which is used to initially populate the inventory floater. This has been converted to use HTTP, and reduces the number of connections it uses. Again, no precise figures were given, but it should lead to improvements in inventory loading in situations where inventory data has been removed from cache (see the Firestorm wiki for information on removing inventory data files from cache). In one test with no inventory data, Monty saw a 100K inventory load around 10 times faster with the new viewer.

Whirly Fizzle (based in the UK) carried out inventory load tests for an 105K inventory between what was at the time the SL release viewer and a pre-release version of the HTTP pipelining viewer, both starting from a clear cache, and achieved some impressive results:

  • Second Life 3.7.16 (294015) Sep 10 2014 11:08:26 (Second Life Release)
    • Session 1: 16 mins 28 secs
    • Session 2: 17 mins 53 secs
    • Session 3: 17 mins 18 secs
    • Session 4: 17 mins 51 secs
  • Second Life 3.7.17 (294571) Sep 26 2014 12:32:36 (HTTP pipelining viewer)
    • Session 1: 2 mins 29 secs
    • Session 2: 2 mins 17 secs
    • Session 3: 2 mins 11 secs
    • Session 4: 2 mins 27 secs

I tend to have a very organised inventory, old / no longer used items are boxed, and anything not used in 6 months is similarly boxed (see: zdrop). Thus I only have an “active” inventory of around 10K (9,140 items at the moment), out of a total of around 70-100K. However, even with a “small” inventory like that, and working with a cleared cache, my results were impressive. The latest project version of the HTTP pipelining viewer (3.7.18.295146) averaged 9-10 seconds for inventory to download compared with an average of 2 minutes 50 seconds to 3 minutes for the current release viewer (3.7.17.294959).

Again, overall mileage on inventory downloads will vary, hence why Monty is hesitant to mention figures. However, it is thought that those with excessively “flat” inventories should see particular benefit (although they’d also be better off nesting their inventory into groups of folders).

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Patterns: Lab seeks interested parties (adiós, little dorito man!)

LL logoLinden Lab has announced it is discontinuing development of Patterns, its sandbox game for the PC and Mac. In a press release issued on Thursday October 9th, the Lab state:

Recently, Linden Lab announced that we are working on an ambitious project to create the next-generation virtual world, while we continue to improve Second Life and grow Blocksworld. As we focus on these priorities, we have ceased development for Patterns, and we will be no longer offering the game for sale.

We at Linden Lab are extremely grateful for the adventurous early players who explored the Patterns genesis release. Those who purchased the Patterns genesis release will still be able to play their copies of the game, but features relying on server connections, such as world-sharing, will not be functional.

Patterns had early promise, and while Linden Lab focuses our efforts on our other offerings, we are still evaluating the future of the Patterns technology. Interested parties are welcome to contact us with proposals.

Patterns: development discontinued
Patterns: development discontinued

Following the announcement, the Patterns website was taken down, and all links to it referred back to the Lab’s corporate website. However, the game itself remains accessible, as per the announcement, although the loss of server-side elements means that the Cosmos for world-sharing is no longer functional, limiting users to the worlds they created and save locally or to the default worlds supplied with the game. Also, as a result of the move, keys for the game will not longer be purchasable, although existing keys will remain redeemable for those who have them.

Patterns was another of the games which the Lab started developing (initially using a company called Free Range Software) under Rod Humble’s tenure. Despite never reaching a formal release status, the game had undergone continuous development right through until earlier this year (I covered a lot of the updates and additions to the game through this blog), with the last update introduing a new UI. It also established a quite loyal following of users both through Steam and, later Desura.

In tha last major update (May 2014) Patterns gained a revised UI
In its last major update (May 2014) Patterns gained a revised UI

As a game, Patterns was hard to judge; the sandbox capabilities were interesting, and these came to be a focus, with more and better tools being added, together with the likes of materials capabilities and so on. Over time, creatures were also introduced, and a multi-player capability was added which allowed up for four players to work together (or compete). However, outside of the sandbox element and creating new worlds, and the competitive “you build it up, I’ll knock it down” aspect, it was actually hard to see where Patterns would potentially gain a large enough following to make it viable.

The most interesting point of note with the announcement, however, is that the Lab appear to have taken on-board the Versu situation, and rather than simply closing the door, have indicated they’d be willing to hear from third parties who might be interested in taking Patterns on – albeit with the caveat that the company is still evaluating the technology used in Patterns at this time.

Regular readers here will recall that while the Lab initially closed the door on Versu and indicated that they weren’t interested in seeing its development move elsewhere, they did eventually reach an agreement with Emily Short, Richard Evans and Graham Nelsen which allowed them to take Versu forward under its own banner.

That further changes to the Lab’s product portfolio may be forthcoming was perhaps hinted at in the Designing Worlds interview. In discussing his thoughts on whether or not the Lab was what he was expecting, Ebbe Altberg commented (around the 3-4 minute mark), “some of the other products in Linden Lab’s portfolio were maybe a little bit surprising to me, but we’re getting that cleaned-up” [emphasis mine]. Hearing him use the present tense – given that Versu dio and Creatorverse went at the start of 2014 – seemed to suggest to me that one or more of the Lab’s other products might be under the microscope as far as continued support might be concerned.

Whether or not Free Range Software have retained any involvement in Patterns, and if so,  whether they (or indeed anyone else) would be willing to take it on, is unknown. For the moment, however, it would seem that the little Dorito Man is heading off into the sunset.

Will Dorito Man head into the sunset, or will he yet live on somewhere else?
Will Dorito Man head into the sunset, or will he yet live on somewhere else?