SL projects update week 26 (2): server, pathfinding bug, viewer updates

Server Deployments – Week 26

As always, please refer to the week’s forum deployment thread for news, updates and feedback.

Second Life Server (Main) Channel

On Tuesday 25th June, the SLS Main channel received the server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channel in week 25. This fixes a number of crash modes, addresses an issue with neighbouring region visibility, and adds the new pathfinding property CHARACTER_STAY_WITHIN_PARCEL to llCreateCharacter() and llUpdateCharacter() – see my week 19 report for details – and the object return functions I reported on in week 23.

While not intended to fix issues of diagonally adjacent regions not being visible to one another (SVC-8130), there are reports that at least some of the regions which have suffered from this issue for a considerable time can be seen from one another once more – although Maestro Linden isn’t entirely convinced the underlying cause of the problem has been corrected.

Release Candidate (RC) Channels

On Wednesday 26th June, all three RC channels (Magnum, BlueSteel and LeTigre) received a new server maintenance package, comprising:

  • A fix for ‘llApplyImpulse now works only in the root prim’ (SVC-8227)
  • Crash mode fixes
  • New LSL function: string llXorBase64(string str1, string str2)
    • Returns a string that is a Base64 XOR of Base64-formatted input strings, str1 and str2.
    • Fixes a ‘bad’ behaviour when the 2nd string contains nulls (“A” in base64) – SCR-35
    • Aside from those cases, this function behaves identically to llXorBase64StringsCorrect()
    •  added to avoid changing the behaviour of existing scripts which may rely on llXorBase64StringsCorrect()’s current output
  • Added max_materials_per_transaction flag to /simulator/features cap
    • This number returns the maximum number of materials that can be sent to the “RenderMaterials” capability in a single request.

MAX_MATERIALS_PER_TRANSACTION

Speaking at the Server Beta meeting on Thursday 27th June, Maestro Linden described the max_materials_per_transaction flag thus:

It limits how many materials the viewer can request details for or set (POST, PUT methods) in a single message. By default, the limit is 50. The reason for the limit is that we don’t want the simulator to hang if a malicious viewer requests the details of 2 billion materials at once.

So, the capability for materials is called RenderMaterials [and] it has 3 HTTP access methods:

  • GET: get the full list of details of all materials in the region
  • POST: get the materials details for a list of material_ids (the server will only parse the first max_materials_per_transaction in the post data)
  • PUT: set the materials properties of up to max_materials_per_transaction object faces

GET is used when you first connect to a region and want to get the materials of everything [in the region, not just within draw distance]; POST is used if, for example, a new object is rezzed with a new materials type, and the viewer needs to resolve what the normal map is, etc; and PUT is used for object editing.

[So] if the viewer needs to edit 80 faces at once, for example, it will know that the server limit is 50, and POST in 2 messages (one for the first 50, the other for the other 30).  [The] ‘max_materials_per_transaction’ flag in the features cap will be a way for the viewer to know if the server limit changes from 50 per message. I’m not aware of any plans to change that limit in the near future, though.

Deployments for Week 27

There will be no server-side deployments in Week 27 (commencing Monday July 1st), as US Independence Day is on Thursday July 4th. The next scheduled deployments will be in week 28, commencing Monday July 8th.

Pathfinding Bug

Elijah Linden has discovered a bug within the pathfinding code, wherein certain regions have continuous navmesh rebaking, which causes some annoying UI effects, hurts simulator performance somewhat and causes memory spikes. Regions can be affected even if pathfinding is turned off.

Voidpointer Linden assumes human form (stock)
Voidpointer Linden assumes human form (stock)

The bug arose as a result of the recent CHARACTER_STAY_WITHIN_PARCEL property added to the pathfinding capabilities. Commenting on the bug at the Server Beta meeting on Thursday 27th June, Voidpointer Linden, who implemented the new CHARACTER_STAY_WITHIN_PARCEL property, said:

As part of the STAY_WITHIN_PARCEL changes, I needed to change the way the navmesh is constructed. This involved making sure that every region did a rebake once. Unfortunately, the criteria that I used to test whether a region needed rebaking had a flaw – it can’t see parcel edges underwater [possibly because the navmesh doesn’t include areas below sea level]. So if a region has more than 1 parcel and has no parcel edges above water, then it thinks it needs to rebake. So it does.

And does so repeatedly, as Elijah Linden reported in BUG-2975 (Regions continue to requests rebake after rebakes have been performed).

There is a fix for the issue, but it currently requires testing, and may not appear for a while. In the meantime, there is one assured workaround: if your region is suffering from the issue and has a parcel which is completely submerged, subdivide / raise one part of a boundary for that parcel (and which is not also a region boundary) above water so it can be found by the navmesh rebake process.

This bug is unlikely to be resolved before week 28 due to there being no deployments scheduled for week 27, as mentioned above.

SL Viewer

The SL release viewer updated to version 3.6.1.278007 on June 27th, containing the fixes from the 3.6.1.277611 beta release. This contains some updates related to the viewer being available via Amazon, and fixes for occlusion culling being less effective than it should be, legacy Shiny being too strong in ALM with materials,light function sampling is incorrect in advanced lighting model and a viewer compilation error.

The beta viewer updated to 3.6.1.277824 on June 26th, with the release notes listing the same updates as 3.6.1.277611 and 3.6.1.278007 – so these appear to be work-in-progress fixes.

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SL projects update 19 (3): server, pathfinding, materials & more

Server Deployments – Week 19

The week 19 server deployments went ahead as scheduled and as outlined in an earlier part of this report, to wit:

SLS (Main) Channel

On Tuesday May 7th, the Main channel received the maintenance package which has been running on Magnum. This project brings some new minor features to LSL, and fixes some crash modes and well as additional LSL HTTP support, as well as the previously rolled-back new AO capabilities.

In addition, this package included an additional update which was not documented in the release notes until after the deployment had been made: “Fixed a bug: ‘Orientation data for landing point is disregarded during teleport’.

This fix means that when teleporting to a place which has a defined landing point, you will arrive facing the direct determined by that landing point, rather than arbitrarily facing east. To complement this fix, there is an upcoming viewer update which will show the heading of a parcel’s landing point on the map – but no details on when that update is liable to appear.

Pointing out the fix at the Server Beta meeting, Maestro Linden added, “There’s an exception for cases in which if you have a beacon set, where you’ll face the beacon position instead. I think this is a bug.”

This lead to a discussion on the exception, in which the wider consensus appeared to be that having an avatar facing the beacon (when set) on arrival might be the preferable to automatically having the avatar facing the direction imposed by the landing point. However, this would mean people using a beacon would arrive at the landing point facing a direction other than the land owner intended, prompting Voidpointer Linden to comment, “Yeah, seems like we would only want to have you face the beacon when going to a landing point if it’s in the same region, maybe?”

It’s currently unclear as to whether the feedback from the meeting will mean this exception is allowed to continue, or whether there will be further tweaking with the landing point code in the future,

Release Candidate Channels

On Wednesday May 8th, all three Release Candidate channels (BlueSteel, LeTigre and Magnum) received server-side support for experience permissions which was running on BlueSteel in week 18. The update, as usual, will also include the changes which are going to the Main channel on May 7th, which included the new AO capabilities – release notes (BlueSteel).

SL Viewer Updates

Beta Viewer

The beta viewer as we currently know it received what might by its final update prior to the new viewer release processing coming into effect. Version 3.5.2.275565 was released on May 9th, and the release notes provide details on changes.

Materials Processing Project Viewer

A new version of the Materials Processing viewer – 3.5.2.275470 – was released on May 8th, based on the 3.5.2 viewer code. The release also appears to include a fix for MATBUG-38 (“Material with normal map but no specular map is always specular with no adjustment possible”), and which I’d described in week 18.

MATBUG-38. appears to have been fixed in Material Processing project viewer 3.5.2
MATBUG-38. appears to have been fixed in Material Processing project viewer 3.5.2.275470, May 8th 2013.

The release may also include a fix for MATBUG-16 (Changing one material, or setting causes another material texture to be lost), which I’d previously noted in week 16.

Whether this latter issue is fixed is hard to judge, as it was somewhat intermittent to start with. and there have been reports that it was already less noticeable with the previous release of the viewer. However, at the time of writing, the bugs remain marked as Unresolved / Incomplete in the public JIRA (but could have been updated in LL’s internal JIRA).

I can say that I’ve so far been unable to reproduce either bug using the new release, having carried out a number of individual tests.

Continue reading “SL projects update 19 (3): server, pathfinding, materials & more”

SL project news: week 1, 2013: forthcoming RC releases, viewer, and new work

RC Deployments for Week 2

The Lab is still getting back up to speed following the Christmas / New Year break, so expect further information to be forthcoming on Main and RC releases for week 2, 2013 via the Server topic of the Technology Forum.

However, as it stands, there are two projects which it is hoped will reach RC channel release in the week commencing Monday 7th January, 2013. These are Caleb Linden’s threaded region crossing code and Andre Linden’s interest list code.

As I’ve previously reported, the threaded region crossing code was subjected to a pile-on test on Aditi towards the end of 2012. The results were, on the whole, a little disappointing for those taking part – although expectations may have been set a little high. While there were some improvements noted – particularly when travelling between regions on foot and with a heavy script load – overall, there were sill issues with crossing between regions in vehicles (particularly ground vehicles).

Airbourne antics: vehicles still exhibited region crossing issues duing the threaded region pile-on test in December 2012
Airbourne antics: vehicles still exhibited region crossing issues duing the threaded region pile-on test in December 2012

Issues arising from the pile-on test are still being looked at, and Caleb repeated his request that anyone noting specific issues should raise a JIRA directed for his attention. For those wishing to try out the code, the GC Test regions are still available on Aditi.

The Interest List code is still subject to receiving an OK from the Lab’s QA team. There will doubtless be an update on this – and on the planned RC releases in general – at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 8th January, 2013.

SL Viewer News

Not a lot to report on here at present. The Beta viewer reached the 3.4.4 code base Just before Christmas 2012, (3.4.4.268497, December 20, 2012). There may be a rendering issue which may require addressing and might lead to a slight delay in releases; apparently, not all tests are giving the same results, so LL are still investigating the matter. Work is continuing to update the GPU tables for the viewer; further cards have been added to the table, and several blanket entries have been removed (such as all unrecognised nVidia cards being detected as nVidia Ion GPUs).

As reported over Christmas, CHUI rolled through a number of rapid releases in its development version, and the main project version rolling to 3.4.3.268587 on December 22nd. Both the development and project versions of the viewer are on the 3.4.3 codebase, and the most recent development release was made on January 4th (3.4.3.268703). Both versions are available from the Alternative Viewers download page.

While the core of the Mac version of the viewer is built using OSX 10.7 (with Xcode 4.3.3), work is progressing in moving the viewer to OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion, which is expected to happen “very soon” according to Oz Linden, although no date is available as to when.

New Pathfinding Capability

VoidPointer Linden is working on a new flag for pathfinding characters. STAY_WITHIN_PARCEL is designed so that when set, pathfinding characters will only set goal points during wander, evade, pursuit, etc that are within the parcel they get created in. If the parcel is a non-regular shape, it is still possible a character will cross between it and neighbouring parcels (unless the navmesh is cut through the use of an exclusion volume), but goal points will only be set within the originating parcel. The code is still in development, and so the constraints on where a character can wander when it comes to irregular parcel shapes, but VoidPointer is not making any promises on this.

He's completely batty! - Voidpoint Linde at the Server Beta UG meeting, Jan 3rd, 2013
He’s completely batty! – Voidpointer Linden’s avatar at the Server Beta UG meeting, Jan 3rd, 2013

There is no stated delivery time for this new feature, other than it is currently being worked on.

Server Object Rezzing Code

Baker Linden has been looking to improve how objects with large file sizes are handled by the simulator software when being rezzed. He describes the work thus, “What I’ve been working on is hopefully significantly decreasing lag spikes when rezzing large, complex objects. Large does not necessarily imply size, but size of the files being read. When an object is rezzing, we have to parse the object / mesh files and create our in-world objects with that data.”

Until now, reading and parsing of any files related to objects which require rezzing has been on the main thread. When several such objects requiring rezzing at the same time, the simulator stalls. Baker has been moving the reading / parsing operation to a background thread in the expectation that rezzing multiple “large” (again, in terms of file size, not the size of the object itself) objects will not choke the simulator.

The key point about this work is that it is specifically aimed at preventing the simulator processes from choking and a region stalling when there are a number of large object files being read / parsed, not at actually “speeding up” the physical rezzing process. As such, it is unlikely that objects will appear any faster in people’s in-world view as a result of this work. However, what it does mean is that the simulator code will be better able to handle rezzing multiple “large file” objects without the attendant region lagging which can occur as a result of the simulator being unable to process messages from viewers and other simulators, etc.

Information Sources

  • Opensource Developer meeting, Wednesday 2nd January, 2013
  • Beta Server meeting, Thursday 3rd January, 2013.

Related Links

SL project news week 47: server issues, HTTP texture fetch and pathfinding

Server Deployments

Week 47 marks Thanksgiving in the USA so as reported last time, there have been no server-side deployments for the Release Candidate or main channels, and no rolling restarts. This is liable to continue into week 48 (week commencing Monday 26th November), as there is unlikely to be any deployment to the main channel. There will, however, be deployments to the RC channels, details TBA.

HTTP Updates – Texture Fetching

After indicating that there would be no viewer releases during week 47 in the run-up to Thanksgiving, the Lab rolled out the first of the 3.4.3 beta releases  – 3.4.3267135 – on November 20th. The major change to this is the inclusion of the first phase of Monty Linden’s new HTTP-based texture fetch capability, designed to significantly improve texture rezzing within the viewer. As the release notes state:

A new scheme for performing HTTP operations is introduced with this release. It is intended to reduce crashes and stalls while performing HTTP operations and generally enable performance and reliability improvements in the future. In this release, it is being used by the viewer’s texture retrieval code. Our expectation is that it will provide consistent and predictable downloading of textures. As well as the usual problem reporting, we’re also interested in confirmation of improvements where this release improves your experience.

The HTTP texture fetching code is now available in the latest SL beta viewer (3.4.3.367135)

The code for these improvements has already started appearing in some TPVs, and will doubtless be available across all flavours of the viewer in the near future.

Observable improvements in rezzing times have been reported by those who have used the project viewer releases of this code, so it should yield benefits for those using the beta. Monty Linden, who is handling this project is apparently now working on further improvements to the server-side of the equation, which should see additional improvements in the future.

Also pushed out during the week was a new version of the development viewer – 3.4.3.267201.

It is currently not clear when the renewed roll-out od beta and development viewers will result in updates appearing with the production version of the viewer, I believe that this may be additionally delayed while other requirements are put in place related to the Steam link-up (the code for the Steam link-up already having been merged into the beta viewer).

Volumetric Pathfinding

Also during the Tuesday Simulator meeting on November 20th, the question of volumetric pathfinding came up, and how pathfinding might be extended into the air, to allow birds, etc., and under Linden water. There are a range of issues with doing this – perhaps the biggest being the actual demand. There is also the matter of keeping birds and the like from crashing into buildings and skyborne objects, or in keeping fish in the water.

During the meeting, Baker Linden passed a question on the subject to Falcon Linden and indicated that Falcon felt, “It’d be about 3 months of work to get volumetric pathfinding — and that still wouldn’t handle dynamic avoidance (which is the hard part). Theoretically, it’s not that hard — it’s having to rework some Havok systems to work with intermediate data.”

This doesn’t mean that the work is about to be undertaken in any way whatsoever – just that were LL to consider it, getting the basics going for volumetric pathfinding going would take around three months. However, even then, unless the issue of dynamic hazard avoidance, it is unlikely this is something we’ll be seeing in SL for a while yet.

Server-side Object Rezzing Performance

Baker Linden indicated that he has started looking at server-side object rezzing. This work isn’t connected to Andrew Linden’s Interest list work, which is related to which assets the simulator should be loading ready for rezzing, but is rather focused on reducing the server-side lag which is induced when an object physically rezzes in a region. As Baker explained during the meeting, “If you get a really complex object, with many large meshes, or large LLSD files, it takes a while to rez into the world. I’m trying to reduce that.”

There are no timescales associated with the work, although it is expected that it will include avatar attachments as well as in-world objects have less of a performance / fps hit on the region when rezzing complex items, particularly in Baker can get the parsing of large object files to work asynchronously, which currently does not occur. Whether this will translate to visible viewer-side improvements is debatable.

SL Issues

Homestead Performance / Memory Issues

There have been growing reports of region performance issues occurring across the grid. These primarily appear to be impacting Homestead regions – although it can be encountered on full regions as well.

Essentially the problem manifests itself (for most users) when they find they are unable to rez objects in-world and / or as attachments, while raw prims created in-world may rez, but are reported as turning phantom on creation. The issue appears to be large and abnormal memory usage by the region’s physics system, although the precise causes as to why it is occurring are currently unknown.

Physics memory use can be monitored via the Statistics floater (CTRL-SHIFT-1)

Regions are allocated a fixed amount of memory that can use. In the case of a full simulator, this is about 1GB, while Homesteads are allocated around 250MB. Generally, physics memory usage for a region – even a busy one – is around 40-80MB. However, on affected Homestead regions, the physics memory use is reaching or exceeding 200MB.

When the physics memory for a simulator gets abnormally high (close to or on 90% of the allowed maximum) internal region safeguards kick-in and prevent object rezzing in an attempt to limit further calls of the region’s memory and keep it alive. This is the behaviour people are witnessing in their regions. The safeguards themselves are designed to help prevent regions from becoming unstable during griefing attacks. However, the problems people are experiencing appear to be entirely unrelated to any form of griefing, and are thus causing a certain amount of head-scratching at Linden Lab.

Reed Linden, in responding to a support request from Motor Loon, provides clear guidelines on what to do if you have a Homestead and experience these issues. It is thought that the most likely culprit for the problem is an unidentified memory leak, but this has yet to be confirmed. Reeds comments regarding particle systems are fascinating. Particles tend to be more viewer-intensive than server, and as many commented at the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday 20th November, it would take something bizarre to be going on for particles to be impacting region performance; however, at least one region affected by the issue appears to have a large number of particle emitters in operation.

A further interesting twist came at the meeting itself, when a pathfinding snake and a number of pathfinding characters were rezzed, and the region suffered a severe performance hit (sharp FPS drop experienced by all attendees, sharp increase in both physics memory use and time taken to ping the region) which appeared to be linked with the snake (which was set to follow its creator around) re-calculating its path to both follow its creator and avoid other avatars / objects. However, when the snake was re-rezzed a short time later, no similar issue was noticed, with the region using around 116MB physics memory, with no other outward performance issues.

I the meantime, and as the Linden dev team continue to investigate the issue, if you experience this kind of problem, please ensure you raise a support ticket, supplying as much information as possible, including region name / simulator version (from HELP > ABOUT (either Second Life or the name of your viewer), the time the problem occurred, how it manifested and, if possible, information from the Statistics bar: memory used, FPS and physics performance details, etc.

SL projects update week 42 / 1

Server Updates

The main channel deployment took place as planned on Tuesday 16th October. As previously indicated, this was the code deployed to the BlueSteel RC channel in week 41 (essentially an improved database query that should help with the back-end system load).

Of the Release Candidate channels, these are due to be updated on Wednesday 17th October as follows:

  • Magnum – will not receive an update, but will continue to run with the code deployed in week 41, probably in the same configuration
  • BlueSteel – will get code that’s almost the same as the main channel, with some OS-level configuration changes that shouldn’t be visible to anyone
  • LeTigre – will be getting a minor update to the Havok library which is mostly about getting our servers to build under Visual Studio 2010 on Windows and autobuild on Linux.

The LeTigre update will use “slightly newer” versions of the Havok libraries, so concerns were raised at the Server  / Sim meeting on Tuesday 16th October as to whether this may lead to a resumption of the problem with mesh vehicles being unable to travel between regions running different versions of Havok.Andrew Linden confirmed this might well be the case for mesh vehicles moving between LeTigre regions and other regions following the deployment.

To help reduce issues with situations like this arise, it was suggested that areas such as the Blake Sea regions are either removed from the RC channels, or placed on the same channel. While this would not solve the problem grid-wide, it would reduce the impact somewhat for people using mesh vehicles in these regions. A query was put to the LL deployment team on this by Andrew Linden, and they  agreed to try to make the Blake Sea regions more homogenous by ensuring they are all on the same channel.

SL Viewer

A further stability test build for the beta viewer was made on Friday October 12th, and reached the download page on Tuesday 16th (3.4.1.265898release notes) after being cleared by QA. This should be the last stability test release and should see the OK for code merges to resume. Merges and release priorities are still being looked at, and speaking at the Open Dev meeting on Monday 15th October, Oz indicated that there are “a few open source contributions in the pipeline that are in the mix”, as well as the anticipated LL merges such as the Steam code, Monty Linden’s HTTP library updates, Baker Linden’s Group Services project code, Apple OSX Mountain Lion support (including gatekeeper compatibility), etc.

Kelly Linden reports fixing SVC-7870 (Edit Linked Parts isn’t returning creator/owner), but given the current backlog, it may be a while before this makes it through to a beta  / release viewer.

Avatar Baking

The aim of this work (Project Sunshine) is to improve issues around avatar baking and to eliminate bake fail issues. It will primarily focus on moving the emphasis for the baking process from the viewer to a new Texture Compositing server. The viewer will retain some elements involved in avatar baking – the actual baking of the avatar shape (i.e. shape values and IDs) will still take place on the viewer side, for example.

As of Monday 15th October, no major news. Commenting at the Content Creation / Mesh Import meeting, Nyx Linden said, “Still plugging along at it :). It’s a complex project with many moving pieces, we’ll let you know when there are updates, and I will definitely be asking for beta testers here when we’re ready for feedback”.

Interest Lists and Object Caching

The focus of this project is to optimise the data being sent to the viewer, information already cached on the viewer and the manner in which that data is used in order to ensure it is used more efficiently so that things rez both faster and in a more orderly manner than is currently the case.

Interest lists and object rezzing: ironing-out the bugs, wherever they are

Andrew Linden continues to iron-out the bugs in the interests lists project, including one in the main viewer codebase wherein after crossing a region boundary the connection to the region you were just in will get reset after about 60 seconds. This is impacting the interest lists work and requires resolving, so Andrew is currently focused on trying to sort it out. A problem has also been reported with objects rezzing in the test regions on Aditi (e.g. Ahern) when moving through them in a vehicle, and will be looked into.

Pathfinding

A question was raised at the Content Creation / Mesh Import meeting on the 15th October as to why a 1-prim pathfinding character  has a land impact of 15. The reason for this is due to the increase physics load on the character. As previously covered, while this may seem harsh, it actually means that characters with a much higher prim count will also have a land impact of 15 (for example, a 30-prim character will still only have a land impact of 15), unless other factors (such as streaming cost) come into effect.

There are a couple of other issues with pathfinding characters which are being (or are about to be) looking at:

  • A bug whereby copies of single-prim characters only have a land impact of one (not 15). This problem is being addressed under PATHBUG-194.
  • A problem wherebypathfinding characters suddenly appear to “fly away” when adjusting your camera position, almost as if they are suffering from lag, and then reappearing there they should actually be (I gather this tends to happen when looking at a pathfinding character, which is following a set path then turning the camera away and then back again). Andrew Linden believes the problem is related to interest list updates, and will be looking into it.

Mesh

The patch to enhance the mesh uploader when dealing with rigged mesh items was discussed at the Content Creation Mesh Import group meeting on October 15th, with Nyx expressing interest in the idea, and agreeing with a suggestion that the patch needs to be formally submitted to LL’s bit bucket repo applied to a cloned version of the development viewer, supported by a JIRA outlining the patch and with a link to the repro.

Mesh uploda enhancement: suggested that it is submitted as a patch to LL

SH-3055 is a bug relating to mesh uploads which has been around for a while, but which appears to be affecting more people of late. With it, mesh uploads fail without any error message or warning on clicking CALCULATE or UPLOAD on the mesh upload floater. The issue is hard to track down (or even reproduce) as it doesn’t occur with any consistency. Either the upload works, or it simply sits as if waiting for something – whether it is waiting for data to be returned by the server, or whether it is receiving information and failing to action upon it.

Darien Caldwell and Nicky Dasmijn have been working with a debug viewer in an attempt to pin the problem down, but so far without success. One school of thought they are pursuing is that it is a problem with the viewer’s cURL wrapper (which is also thought to have been responsible for the recent crash issues being experienced in the beta viewer). The thinking behind this is that the problem appeared to come about with the introduction of a multi-threaded cURL in v3.2.5 of the viewer – with 3.2.4 having exhibited no major issues with uploading.Nyx Linden has stated he’ll take the problem to the team work on cURL to see if they can identify anything.

Materials Processing

No further updates. When talking to Geenz Spad and Oz Linden on Tuesday 16th October, Geenz could only say, “There’s not much to really report on materials for the time being unfortunately, but when there is something I’ll be more than happy to tell everyone.” Oz then added, “We’ll do more than tell you – we’ll give you something to play with :-)”.

Network Pile-on Test Update

Commenting on the thread for the pile-on test, Oskar Linden said: “All of the tests passed and the code will be going to RC next week. Thank you all for your help!”

With thanks to Baz deSantis for information on the Sim / server Group meeting.

Lorca Linden provides data on pathfinding and simulator performance

It is fair to say that pathfinding has become one of the most controversial subjects in Second Life. While it has been the subject of a range of issues and problems, noticeably with vehicles, both before and after being deployed to the main grid, it has also become the most pointed-to bug-a-boo when people either are seeing, or believe they are seeing, simulator issues and problems.

Because of the levels of concern raised over pathfinding and its potential impact on simulator performance, Linden Lab has been carrying out comparative studies of simulator statistics recorded both before and after the pathfinding deployment. Speaking after the showing of a Designing Worlds special on pathfinding on Monday October 8th, Lorca Linden, the Pathfinding Producer at Linden Lab, gave the following high-level results of these comparisons:

Private Island simulator average sim fps:

  • Before pathfinding (Saturday, June 23, 2012): 44.43
  • After pathfiinding:
    • Dynamic pathfinding NOT enabled: 44.41
    • Dynamic pathfinding enabled, NO pathfinding objects: 44.29
    • Dynamic pathfinding enabled, at least 1 pathfinding object: 44.25
    • Dynamic pathfinding enabled, at least 10 pathfinding objects: 44.70

Mainland simulator average sim fps:

  • Before pathfinding (Saturday, June 23, 2012): 44.66
  • Dynamic pathfinding NOT enabled: 44.46
  • Dynamic pathfinding enabled, NO pathfinding objects: 44.44
  • Dynamic pathfinding enabled, at least 10 pathfinding objects: 44.79

These figures should not to be taken to mean there are no issues with pathfinding in terms of raised JIRAs relating to vehicles, etc.  However, as high-level as they are, and allowing for the size of the sample taken, they potentially show that pathfinding is not having as heavy an impact on simulators as many fear is the case. Commenting on them, Lorca said, “So in short, while there are certainly cases in which it’s possible for PF to have some performance impact, the data is showing that in the great majority of cases PF is not causing performance harm, since the grid-wide averages are within 1% pre and post PF.”

Also discussing the issue of perceived simulator performance during the Designing Worlds show itself, Falcon Linden acknowledged that part of concerns about simulator performance have been due to the way in which the Lab presented the potential for possible impact. “We didn’t communicate early on about the optimal performance of pathfinding,” he said. “We really wanted to take a conservative approach, so our communications, I think, were almost negative, in a way, where we were telling people what the worst case was, like we were making it seem that was what we expected to happen, but it wasn’t; and so people read from that that things could get bad.”

Lorca Linden (centre left) is joined by Maestro and Falcon Linden and Sandry Logan on a  Designing Worlds pathfinding special shown at the Designing Worlds studio on Monday October 8th (image courtesy of Designing Worlds / Wildstar Beaumont)

Also in the Designing Worlds programme, Lorca and Falcon, together with Maestro Linden, discuss Linden Lab’s thinking on pathfinding, why the Lab felt it to be a valuable resource to have in SL, and explain some of the additional features within it, such as the ability for pathfinding characters to navigate to a specific point in a region – or a point several regions away;  and a function which can be used both with pathfinding and independently of it (for example, it could be used within a HUD which can guide avatars to a specific store within a mall).

Overall, the programme helps to provide further insight into how pathfinding works and how it can be used, with a very practical demonstration by Sandry Logan of the Virtual Kennel Club. As such, for anyone who is curious / worried / may have a use for pathfinding, it is a recommended watch. Catch it on Designing Worlds at Tweet TV.

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