Avatar Draw Cost

This isn’t really about fashion, altho maybe it should be. If you’ve ever been in a group of more than about 10 people, you know that things get a little squirrely and after about 30 or 40 folks, things grind rapidly to a halt. There are reasons for that and while most people blame stuff like bling scripts (undoubtedly true), my rather informal observation is that a more important factor is a rather obscure metric known as “avatar draw cost.”

ARC is a measure of how much of a load any given avatar puts on the SL viewer to render it. You can see that measure under the Advanced menu > Rendering > Info Displays > Avatar Draw Cost (Cntl-Alt-Shift-D to turn on Advanced, if it’s not already). When that function is checked, numbers appear above avatar heads to let you know how much effort it takes for that particular avatar to get shown on the screen. The higher the number, the more load that person puts on the viewer. Lower is better. Good numbers are in green, borderline numbers in yellow, and heavy numbers are in red.

Here’s the thing that makes this relate to fashion.

I understand the desire to look good, but when your avi has a draw cost in excess of 5000, you’re using 10x the resources of a person with only 500. What that basically means is that everybody’s viewer (yours included) is having to work as hard as if it were 10 “normal” people instead of just you. Put five or six folks like this in a view and your viewer thinks this is a big crowd. I’m standing in a shop right now — already laggy because of the numbers of textures in my view — and of the dozen or so avi’s here, more than half have numbers in the red (above 1500) and a couple are over 5000 — one of whom is (Away). The rest are in the yellow. I’m the lowest at 315.

What does that mean?

For all intents and purposes, my viewer is having to load the equivalent of .. I’m making a rough count here .. of about 60 “normal” avatars. I’ve been standing there for 15 minutes and all the vendors haven’t loaded. For that matter most of these people standing here are still gray as well. I am able to move about fairly easily, but it seems counter productive to me to build a good looking avi that people can’t see because it never gets a chance to load.

Things to think about.

Draw cost seems to be most effected by flexi, then by complexity of prim attachments. A single prim doesn’t add a lot. A 100-strand flexi tail does. Hair seems to be the worst offender — because almost everybody has it. Some jewelry, especially those items with over 200 tiny prims, appears to add a lot as well, especially when you get close to the individual wearing it.

When I’m putting together a look, I pick the item that gives the most effect and then build around it with the goal of keeping my share of your viewer cost down. My goal is “under 400” and usually I can make it.

Hair: no flexi. I know that flexi generally looks better, but many short hairs and most women’s updos have only a few strands of flexi giving a softer look without contributing thousands to ARC.

Jewelry: simple is better. The highly detailed, scupltural items can add 300-500 points each. That adds up fast.

Clothing: More and more designers are putting in prim/sculpty attachments to their clothing. Sculpty collars, prim cuffs, belts, etc. Most of these don’t add too much, but when you add in a gown with 100 flexi panels in it — or even a jacket with a half dozen flexi bits in the tails — the cost mounts very fast.

When you’re going out shopping, or to an event where you can logically expect a lot of people, pick an item or two that make a big statement and then fill around it with less costly ones. Got a great hair? Terrific! Choose to wear it with a simple diamond stud earring, a tasteful outfit, and some low-draw shoes. Don’t add the 400 prim neck chain with 60 bling scripts, the flashing Oyster watch, and a flexi-tailed tux.

So as we head into the new year and start thinking about resolutions, maybe think about how to make your avi a little less “fat” by paying attention to avatar draw cost. Your viewer will thank you for it.

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About Roland

I'm just an oversized avatar in a silly virtual world.

Posted on December 24, 2008, in Tech Talk. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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