Friday, May 30, 2008

ARC and You!

On the blogs recently, I see lots of blanter concerning the "ARC" which I find just a tad on the overreacting side.

But first, just what is ARC? It's known as the "Avatar Rendering Cost" tool, which is a fancy way of measuring how big an impact your avatar makes upon the grid. It's a quick way of seeing if your 255 prim necklace is crashing people out. A higher number means your avatar is drawing more resources and thus causing more pain to your neighbors.

The idea behind Linden Lab releasing these tools to the public is to get those who complain about lag to shut the hell up. With ARC, you can spend your days trying to pin down who's dragging down the sim and vent your anger out upon him, her, or it.

THe fuss arises (because no matter what, they must make a fuss) due to the observation that a lot of popular attachments are high prim and rendering heavy. There is a fear that due to the popularity of events and the massive waves attending them that only those with the minimal ARC number will be allowed in and thus discriminate against those with heavier ARC numbers. They fear that everyone will be forced down into attachment-less clothes-less black skinned avatars in order to enjoy any form of SL.

But, I don't think that will happen.

In engineering, there are always constant trade-offs. An improvment in one area will be off set in another area, and the big game is to get what you want with minimal trade-offs. You'll never get the perfect concept, that's impossible. But you'll try. In addition, and especially in games and real-life vehicles, there is a constant leveraging of performance parameters. Aircraft such as the A-10 do not have the speed or manuveurability of a F-16 simply because the immense armor and weapons load will not allow it, however, that's acceptable because it does not have to dog fight, just blast tanks.

The ARC tool is going to inspire a similar thought process. It cannot be denied that today people load tons of attachments onto themselves, with lots of scripts imbedded into the mix. As Second Life has come along, and new scripters have come in, attachments have steadily reached epic proportions. There are prim breasts, prim chest hair, prim this and that, and often with all kinds of nifty scripts which change the color or cause it to do something or imitate a real life this or that. There has been a shift towards these kinds of things due to plain old peer pressure, since bigger and more detailed was often seen as better. It took some incredibly heavy attachments before people began to bellow about it.

Now, with the ARC tool, the Lindens have introduced a method of self reflection. For once, we are confronted with a number which represents just how much of a pain we can be to our close friends and fellow party goers/concert attendees/sim neighbors. And there is a sense of guilt and shame, especially to those who have really high numbers (I haven't tested the tool myself, but I think 2500+ is bad). I think the big fuss is due to people wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They want to go easy on their fellow avatar but they don't want to sacrifice their 255 prim boots.

So, why am I confident we won't be reduced to an endless sea of black? Because people will subconscienously apply engineering principles to the matter.

Consider this. I find that my three piece hair, each piece 255 prims, gives me a value of ARC 55000. I want a good looking hairstyle, but I don't want to drag a sim with me when I enter, either. The crowd against ARC argues that we HAVE to go to basic Linden default hair. But that's a false dichtomy, because there will be a certain value of ARC at which there would be little effect upon Second Life performance, say, it's 1500 (just counting the hair). All I would have to do is simply shop for a designer who designs good but efficient hair. If I stay in the 1400-1600 range, I may be able to find something that looks good and saves wear on sims. It won't be as detailed as my original piece, but it won't be as much a memory whore either. Compromise.

And those builders who design for efficiency will be rewarded, as the crowd drifts to wards lowering their ARC. It will feed upon itself, after a fashion. A balance will be struck between going completely nude and blinging out.

Those who detract the ARC complain that we're discriminating against their right (right!?) to wear prim heavy avatars, presenting a scenario in which we're a sea of clones. But that simply won't happen. What will happen is that we'll drift towards a lower ARC count without hitting dead zero. The detractors don't want to consider this and radically alter their shopping habits or upset their way of living. They've made a significant investment in their avatar's appearance and perhaps have a trademark (think Aimee Weber) which they don't want to change but is causing an ARC meltdown.

The simple fact is that the genie is out of the bottle and things will change. Discredit and disprove the ARC as much as you want, it is one of the few indicators of avatar cost out there and people will use it (just as people will use ban lines despite their hideous appearance on the grid).

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