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Avatar Rendering Complexity feature in Secondlife


Linden Labs has incorporated a new feature with the new updated Secondlife viewer.  From what I read in the Firestorm group, this feature will also be implemented in the next Firestorm update.

What is Avatar Rendering Complexity?

Avatar Rendering Complexity is a numerical score representing how difficult it is to draw an avatar, ranging from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands. It is affected by your avatar’s shape, clothing, and attachments. Since avatars are some of the most visually detailed objects in Second Life, avatars with complexity scores at the upper end of the range can severely impact performance of the Second Life Viewer. Being aware of your own complexity and that of those around you can be an important part of managing the performance of your viewer and how your avatar affects the performance of other Second Life Residents.

How can I determine the complexity of my avatar?

Whenever you change what your avatar is wearing, or add or remove one of your avatar’s attachments (Any object in your inventory can be attached to your avatar and worn as part of an outfit. Examples of attachments include customized hair, jewelry, shoes, weapons, and other accessories. Attachments may contain scripts, but they do not count against a land parcel’s object limit.), a small notice appears in the upper right corner of your screen to tell you your avatar’s new complexity value.

Hint: Removing attachments from your avatar

To remove an attachment from your avatar, find it in your inventory, right-click it, and select Detach From Yourself. Objects worn by your avatar appear in bold text in your inventory along with a note showing where each object is attached. You can also right-click directly on the object and select Detach.

If you don’t mind that other Residents may not see your avatar and you wish to stop receiving these notices, you can disable the message Warn me if my avatar complexity may be too high in the Notifications tab of the Preferences window, which may be accessed by choosing Me > Preferences.

Why are some avatars solid colors and what is a JellyDoll?

Avatars can be rendered as solid-colored silhouettes (a special form of impostor we call a JellyDoll) if they exceed the avatar complexity threshold set by the Maximum Avatar Complexity slider in the Advanced Graphics Preferences window.  This greatly reduces that amount of work your computer must perform in order to draw complex avatars, resulting in improved performance.

The default value of Maximum complexity is determined by your computer’s specifications and what graphics level you choose, but can be adjusted manually in the Advanced Graphics Preferences window:

  1. Open the Preferences window by choosing Me > Preferences from the top menu bar.
  2. Click the Graphics tab of the preferences window.
  3. Click the Advanced Settings button to open the Advanced Graphics Preferences window.
  4. In the Avatar section of the Advanced Graphics Preferences window, adjust the Maximum Avatar Complexity slider to your preferred threshold.  You may move the slider all the way to the right to make the threshold unlimited.

There are other uncommon factors that can cause an avatar to be rendered as a JellyDoll.

How can I examine complexity values?

You can view the complexity scores of avatars around you by activating a feature from the Advanced menu.  To use this feature, choose Advanced > Performance Tools > Show avatar complexity information from the top menu bar.

This displays three values as floating text above each avatar:

  • Complexity – The numerical complexity score of the avatar.
  • Rank –  How close the avatar is to your camera. The closest is “1”, next closest is “2”, etc…
  • Attachment surface area, in square meters – This value can, uncommonly, cause an avatar to be shown as a JellyDoll.

Each value is color coded from green to red to indicate how it relates to your own limits (values well under your limit are green, values at or over your limit are shown as red and may be in bold font). Values shown in gray are ones for which you have no limit, such as the complexity score of your own avatar.

This feature does not tell you how the complexity of your avatar relates to the limits set by those around you.  There is no absolute “good” or “bad” value for complexity; just a relationship between each avatar’s complexity and the limits of those who are viewing it at any one time.

How can I reduce lag while still drawing other avatars?

You can reduce the performance impact of complex avatars without resorting to JellyDolls. The setting Max. # of non-impostors controls the number of avatars nearest to your camera that will be fully rendered; any avatars beyond that number will be drawn as an Impostor. An impostor is drawn with fewer lighting and texture effects, making them look less realistic (some people describe it as looking like a cardboard cutout). Impostors are also updated less frequently, which means their animations will not look as smooth as a fully rendered avatar.

Drawing more distant avatars as impostors does not improve performance as dramatically as the maximum complexity threshold, but looks better because the impostor avatars retain their visual appearance rather than becoming a solid-colored JellyDoll. You can use both methods together by setting your maximum complexity threshold fairly high, so that it affects only the most expensive avatars, while setting the maximum number of non-impostors so that only avatars nearest you are drawn in full 3D detail.

To access the Max. # of non-impostors slider:

  1. Choose Me > Preferences from the top menu bar.
  2. Click the Graphics tab on the Preferences window.
  3. Click the Advanced Settings button in the Graphics tab to open the Advanced Graphics Preferences window.
  4. Find and adjust the Max. # of non-impostors slider in the Avatar section.


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