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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Monday, May 21, 2007
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been revisiting high altitude travel. Evidently, LL has made some changes to the way the SL client behaves at and above a million meters. Now, instead of a slow degradation over the span of several million meters, your av completely disappears at a million-and-change. Go a few meters beyond this critical threshold, and your attachments evaporate. A few more, and there goes your av. The former can be cured with a re-attach once you're back at ground level. The latter requires a reboot. None of the normal av-revealing tricks (changing groups, rebaking textures, re-attaching objects, dropping into appearance mode, etc) works. So, apparently, we can add another ceiling to the high altitude limits: non-phys movement ceiling (768m), permanent build limit (2,000m), absolute object limit (4,096m), and now avatar existence limit (1,000,000m). (I suppose orbiter victims have been aware of this one for a while now. But, not having been the victim of such an attack recently, it was new to me.) I haven't retested anything beyond this point, as it seemed kind of pointless to stare at an empty sky without even my disintegrating avatar for entertainment.

Speaking of disintegrating avatars, the av-melting effect is still around, to some degree. As you pass a few hundred thousand meters, floating point rounding errors kick in, distorting the individual points in your avatar's mesh in the process.

Sadly, it appears that the effect is lessened with more modern machines and graphics cards. The pictures below were taken on my home machine (three or four years old). I just tested on my brand new work machine, and the effect is hardly noticeable. Just the occasional sudden snap of arm or hand from one rounding "band" to another, and a minor sinking of the eyes. Kind of a disappointing discovery, actually. Yet another experience future SL residents will miss.

Still, I find it gratifying to see at least one thing in SL that actually works better on an old machine. Well, for certain values of "works."

For best results, uncheck "Enable Vertex Shaders" in your graphics preferences. This will allow even people with newer machines to see the effect.

I ended up creating a HUD device capable of safely and quickly boosting an avatar up to nearly a million meters, and bringing him back to ground level (via map teleport) on demand. It's kind of a tamed orbiter, I suppose. (Wish I'd done this a year ago, when graphics cards were less resistant to the effect. Ah, well.) This has been built out as a kind of carnival ride, for use at the upcoming SLRFL fundraising carnival. It's this Sunday, May 27, from 1pm to 9pm SLT. Lots of rides, games, auctions, live DJs, and even a kissing booth! Be there (SLUrl, comes active this weekend) there or be square! We'll see how this works out as a carnival attraction. I wish, now, that I had leaned a little less heavily on the av-melting aspect, and more heavily on the million-meters-high aspect. Oh well, too late now. I ain't rebuilding it!

In any case, I'm quite proud of how the little kiosk came out. It feels good to build something simple, even if it is just a few walls and some Library Atoll textures. And, of course, it makes me feel better to actually participate in the SLRFL fundraising efforts, too. I'm also volunteering to take souvenir photos at the aforementioned kissing booth. This will be with the aid of a basic little HUD I whipped up to control the camera and generate hearts-and-flowers picture frames on the fly. Hopefully, that will be a little more value-added than the snaps the participants will no doubt take on their own.

When I started all this, I'd planned on leveraging Plywood into a fundraising tool. (Hubris and vanity, I know, I know.) Advertisements, book sales, character plugs and endorsements... Oh, what plans I had for whoring Plywood for the cause! Alas, after my dismal failure at revivifying Plywood's rotting corpse, that didn't really come together. So, save for the donation of the meager proceeds from Mo-Tech Industries, I've been little more than dead weight in my RFL group. I'm trying to be a bit more active now, to make up for that aspect of the comic debacle. We'll see how that works out.

Addendum, 5/29/07
Well, 55 HUDs were handed out at the carnival. I'd guess that maybe a third of those were actually used, due to the immense lag in the crowded sim borking attachments. Part of it may be poor signage. Folks seem to be remarkably incurious in SL, or perhaps just overly cautious, and often won't even click on a single button unless they know exactly what they'll get. The "touch this and something cool will happen" approach doesn't seem to work. They're going to put out another kiosk at the Midway Fair next weekend. Hopefully it'll be noticed this time.

I've only been on SL a couple of days, so this may be a foolish question to ask: is it possible to go below 0 meters in height -- and if so, (pardon the reference) how low can you go?
(Sorry; posted this before in the wrong entry.)
Under normal circumstances, yes, 0 meters is as low as you can go. Sometimes you will see land lowered down as far as 0 meters (or maybe 1 meter, not 100% certain- given tools available it's sometimes hard to casually tell), on some of the older sims in the center of the mainland (the earliest sims let you adjust land heights up to +/- 40 meters) and on private islands (where they can pretty much do what they want.

I've never seen a controllable, reproducible method of going below 0 meters. But sometimes you'll get physics bugs in vehicles that will result in falling through the ground to negative elevations. There appears to be no limit there, but you're not in control of your avatar in those instances, in any case. (Usually requires a reboot, or at least a teleport, to get out.) I don't believe you could, for example, use a booster to power yourself down through the ground (just tried it- it actually will sometimes show your elevation as negative for a tiny fraction of a second before popping you back up to ground height). After a physics bug, you might be able to fall far enough to start getting melt effects, or just get to a negative million, but you'd be falling at regular 1g. LONG trip.
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