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Penny Patton

Avatar Draw Weight

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Draw Weight
OR
A Tale of Two Avatars


 Remember Avatar Draw Weight? That feature LL added many years ago (I think it was around 2008-2009 or so) which put a number on how much work it was for your computer to render each avatar onscreen. With green numbers being in the "acceptable" range, and red numbers being, well, pretty much everyone if you ever turned it on.

 It seems as if no one can get their avatars "into the green". As recently as the last year or so I've read people complaining over on the SL forums that the colour range denoting avatar resource use was unrealistic, that we'd all have to wander around naked to get ourselves down into the green, or even the orange.

 I can understand the frustration. Here, LL provided a tool that was supposed to help people manage their avatar's resource use, but the goals it sets seem far out of reach without drastically reducing the quality of our avatars, and to most people it seemed unreasonable.

 They blamed the tool, but the truth is, the rendering levels displayed by Draw Weight are not unreasonable at all, it's just that content creators are making no effort to produce reasonably optimized content for avatars.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

draw weight comparison.jpg

Here is my avatar. Currently I'm sporting a fantasy avatar based on the Greek minotaur myth. On the left is my avatar how it appeared about two weeks ago. The right is my avatar at the time of this writing. The numbers are, of course, the draw weight of my avatar. And no, that is not a typo. Although my more current avatar appears to have even more detail, it is actually about 1/4th the draw weight it was a week earlier.

 How did I achieve this drastic reduction in rendering weight?

 Pretty easily, actually.

  •  Many attachments, including new mesh attachments, tend to have a prim hidden inside of them which serves no purpose other than to clog VRAM up with a huge texture nobody sees. I ripped out every single one of those "root prims".
  •   My mesh body has several clothing/tattoo layers. I don't use those, or any of the scripted functions of the body. So I ripped out every unused layer, plus the scripts.
  • I replaced every sculpted prim I could with a mesh attachment.
  • I removed every single attachment which was covered up by other attachments. My eyes, for example, have sphere prims over them with a texture adding a glistening effect. It looks great, but with my mask no one can see them. So off they went!
  • I discovered my mask had an ungodly amount of polygons, many of which aren't even visible because they're buried inside other pieces of the mask. So I replaced it with a low-poly alternative. The new mask looks every bit as detailed, just different.
  • Textures count towards your draw weight, too. I reduced every texture I could down to a quarter or less of its original size. Can you tell which textures I did that to? I doubt it. Unless you zoom in far closer than anyone ever would, you cannot see the difference between a 1024x1024 texture and a 512x512 texture on an avatar attachment. In many cases, you can even go down to 256 or 128 without a noticeable loss in quality.

Here's the SL Wiki page which explains everything SL factors into calculating Draw Weight.


 Now, I did this all over a couple of weeks, but I didn't actually spend all that much time on it. A few minutes here. A few minutes there. I don't get on SL nearly as much as I used to, which is why it was spread out over all that time.

 

Still not "In the Green".

 Now, if you've been paying attention, you might say "this is a big drop in draw weight, yes, but you're still not in the green!" And you'd be right!

 The problem is, no matter how much I optimize through modding, unless I create all my own content from scratch, I'm at the mercy of content creators.  I want my avatar to look a certain way and I'm only willing to make so many compromises for efficiency.

 Here's my avatar in wireframe.

draw weight wireframe.jpg

Notice how even in wireframe, large chunks of my avatar appear to be solid, or nearly solid? Yeah. That's obscenely wasteful. You could cut the polygon count of this avatar down to a quarter of what you see here and not be able to tell the difference when viewing it normally. Hell, adding simple material maps can make the attachments look even more detailed than they appear out of the box, even with the reduction in polygons.

 But without changing the style I want for my avatar, I',m at the mercy of content creators. Take the hair for example. It's got way more polygons and textures than it needs, but I have yet to find a hair style that matches the idea in my head as close as this does. I have a couple alternate hair styles which drop me down to around 38,000-39,000, but they're completely different than the look I'm going for.

 Ever notice how it's easy to find mesh furniture that is only 1-5 Land Impact points these days? Even when mesh first came out you were usually looking at 10-20LI This is because we are all beholden to Land Impact. If you want to get the most out of your land, you avoid high LI content and buy the content that looks the best while managing to keep a low LI cost. Content creators realize this, and to get you to spend your hard earned L$ in their shops, they try to make their content cost as few Land Impact points as possible.

 Avatars have no such limits. You can wear 38 attachments, each of which can be up to the equivalent of 256 LI. That means you can wear the equivalent of 9,728 LI on your avatar. That is far more than half a sim. TWO avatars can put more strain on your computer than a fully detailed sim can with your draw distance cranked to the maximum.

 If avatars had a similarly limited pool of points, you can bet your low-poly behind that every single content creator would be tripping over themselves to try and outdo everyone else in delivering high detail at a low rendering cost and it would be EASY for anyone to look as good, or better, than they do now, while keeping their avatar firmly "in the green" with regards to draw weight.

 So what good does it do?

 What good is it, optimizing my avatar like this, when I'm just going to be surrounded by avatars so bloated and overtextured that my videocard is going to be overwhelmed anyways?

 That's a fair point. When I'm out and about in the world, it doesn't make a huge difference. Maybe a few FPS here and there. Afterall, my avatar is usually the largest object on my screen and always displayed at the highest LOD level unless I go camming around the sim, so there's at least a little gain. The biggest benefit is that my avatar always loads lightning fast now.

 The real difference is when I go to my own builds. Hanging out in one of my skyboxes or sims with a few friends, I have seen a framerate improvement of up to 10FPS between now and a week ago. That's not too shabby. For maybe an hour of work spread out over a week or two, I have gained the equivalent of what I might see spending $250 on a slightly better videocard.

 Food for thought.

 

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The textures are huge as far as draw weight on stuff. If you have a solid color, why do you need a 1024 size texture with you could get by with a 1 x 1? Why do jewelry makers use a 1024 on a tiny gold band and stone that takes time to render that, unless you get right on top of it with your camera, you won't be able to see the difference between that and a 512 or even a 64. Higher resolution doesn't mean better. It usually just means more work for the graphics. I know on the clothes I make, all textures are a 512 max. I tossed out the 1024's a long time ago. Unless you are dealing with something with a lot of fine writing on it, you don't need anything higher than a 512.

 

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Very, very informative post - thank you.

I'm going to have to have a look at mine one of these days. As you say, it doesn't make that much difference in a public area, but it's stll worth doing. 

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Very good post Penny!

 

As a creator who has made avatars, the Draw weight recommendations are actually pretty generous, for the most part. My most popular avatar is my Lycan Avatar and his hair, all over his body, is actually real geometry, and even with all his clothing on, he doesn't go over 30k. I could actually reduce him significantly, if I wanted.

 

I think what really needs to happen, besides LL putting some kind of limit in, is that consumers need to demand that all avatars sold on the Marketplace have draw weights. If the merchant doesn't post draw weights, then refuse to buy from them, or ask them. Just like no1 would ever buy furniture without it showing Land Impact, consumers should not be buying avatars with no draw weights in their description.

 

Your avatar, although not that high of a draw weight, is extremely wasteful. I'm not saying that to criticize anyone, just as a statement of fact. The sword looks to be the only thing on him that is optimized. That shield alone is extremely wasteful, and it's 1 of the few things on your avatar that you can see thru. My point, for pointing this out, is that despite all that wastefulness in the avatar, it is still has a pretty low score. So, pretty much any avatar creator that can't, at least, get their score into the orange, likely doesn't have much of a clue what they are doing.

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I have a feeling that the sort of draw weight limitations of which you speak will most certainly be instituted into the new platform which LL is developing.  Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that they ever will be imposed on SL users.  Doing so would render most of everyone's wearable inventory useless.  Image the outcry of pretty much every user in SL should LL take such a step.  LL are very careful not to break backwards compatibility in SL, which is probably the main reason why they're creating a new VW.

Could they do it if they wanted to?... sure... and in such a way that we could all have an extended warning period.  Perhaps, implementing it in phases.  But, considering their focus on developing their new platform as a means to overcome any backwards compatibility issues, I seriously doubt that they'll ever go through the trouble of doing so.

...Dres

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Dresden Ceriano wrote:

I have a feeling that the sort of draw weight limitations of which you speak will most certainly be instituted into the new platform which LL is developing.  Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that they ever will be imposed on SL users.  Doing so would render most of everyone's wearable inventory useless.  

I really, really hope such limits are planned for LL's new platform. Just, looking at LL's history, I don't really take it as a given that they will.

And I totally agree on your comments about such limits for SL itself. It's way too late in the game to simply slap them in now.

The tragic part is, LL has had plenty of opportunities over the past decade and a half to implement avatar rendering limits in such a way as to not break legacy content, but have chosen not to every single time. Really, a system like that should have been in SL's DNA since day one, but in the years since, LL could have added them by tying them to a shiny new feature SL users would have been unable to resist. Such as flexi-prims, sculpts, mesh, materials, then fitmesh. All perfect opportunities LL passed up on and that's a shame.

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Penny Patton wrote:

I really, really hope such limits are planned for LL's new platform. Just, looking at LL's history, I don't really take it as a given that they will.

I don't take it as a given either.  But, that's the very sort of thing that needs to be implemented into the new platform from the very beginning.  It would be much easier to institutionalize those restrictions from the start, than to try to reign them in later.  I sincerely hope that the developers which LL has tasked with creating this new platform are smart enough to realize the danger of not reigning in such exploitable excess.

Perhaps I'm naive, but I simply fail to understand why LL would undertake the creation of a whole new VW, if they weren't intent on fixing that which is most troublesome about the one currently in existence.  Limitations on attachments and texture sizes are only a part of that, a major part... avatar size (which you've railed about since forever) is too.  If they're too stupid to realize where they've gone wrong with their first platform, I've very little hope for the longevity of their next one.

...Dres

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Penny Patton wrote:

That said, skip to about 20 minutes into this video of a recent Linden Office Hour, shared vby SaraCarena in another thread.

I like Jessica's suggestion that Oz buy us all new, updated GPUs... lol.

...Dres

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Medhue Simoni wrote:

I think what really needs to happen, besides LL putting some kind of limit in, is that consumers need to demand that all avatars sold on the Marketplace have draw weights..

and there it is, that's the problem.  Right now what happens is that the majority of consumers are seduced by wording in adverts like "High polygon, highest detail!" and they buy it, ignorant of any consequence.  Then they like to zoom in closer than would happen in any optimised game and take pictures of it.

Anything that does not stay super high detail when zoomed in is considered blocky trash, just like the SL avatar and while it may not be the most super smooth optimised geometry, instead, in the pursuit of smoothing out a few places, people prefer to resort to replacement mesh bodies which themselves have lots of higher geometry scripted faces and in some cases, to cover multiple clothing layers, they have multiple versions of the same thing.  Oh how we've progressed!

So, while Penny has spent time ripping all of these options out, in doing so, the result is a single state avatar and i'd question whether the majority of people do this?  Are people going to spend time ripping parts apart (where they even can, assuming everything is modify permission) just to chase a fantasy unenforced render figure?  No they're not.

Bottom line is that some merchants care, some don't and some have no idea what the difference is anyway, just keep slapping the subdivide button until all sharp point disappear right? :matte-motes-evil:

 

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Sassy Romano wrote:


Medhue Simoni wrote:

I think what really needs to happen, besides LL putting some kind of limit in, is that consumers need to demand that all avatars sold on the Marketplace have draw weights..

Anything that does not stay super high detail when zoomed in is considered blocky trash, just like the SL avatar and while it may not be the most super smooth optimised geometry, instead, in the pursuit of smoothing out a few places, people prefer to resort to replacement mesh bodies which themselves have lots of higher geometry scripted faces and in some cases, to cover multiple clothing layers, they have multiple versions of the same thing.  Oh how we've progressed!
 

There are people on the forum who keep saying that as far as draw weights, "MESH IS TEH DEBBIL! WAU!" Could someone please point me to some actual numbers to say that mesh is the culprit? When I compare mesh items to their equivalent sculpty items most mesh items have lower draw weights. Sure, there are some bad meshes but they just aren't the norm as far as I can tell. I remember sitting in a meeting watching people with draw weights over 200,000 while wearing no mesh at all saying what you're saying.

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Mesh has the potential to be either far more efficient or far more bloated than sculpted prims. It really depends on the creator.

 

I will say that LL severely underestimates the impact of textures on performance and that many mesh creations use far more texture memory than similar sculpt/prim content, which is where a lot of the misplaced complaints that "mesh is laggy" come from.

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Sassy Romano wrote:


Oh how we've progressed!

 

Just a couple weeks ago, I wandered across a video of a women who was beraiding a designer, warranted or not, I have no idea. What this lady was complaining about whas that her mesh hands don't match up exactly with her mesh body, but the problem with the separate mesh feet she can live with for now, if she wear her boots. I was like. OMG! I wonder if she has separate mesh breasts and butt.

Yeah, I think it's a bit out of control now. And..... all these crazy customization huds. It's nutty. That said, LL should be paying attention to this. Arguably, female avatars and accessories are by far the largest market in SL. When they build the Avatar editor for the new world, they should cater to this, and make it so that all of us can import completely customizable characters. They should allow us to import models with our own blend shapes that make all of our avatars even more customizable than the SL avatar. Yeah, it is more data, but it's alot less data than what is going on in SL. In the new world, they will have to implement limits.

Really, I'm getting far too excited to see what LL does in the new world. I need to calm down, as not to set up an expectation that LL can't meet, for my inevitable disappointment. Custom skeletons will kind of change everything for me. I might even think about doing various rigs where I make all the animations for these unique animal rigs, image a dragon rig, then I put out the rig, for free, so anyone can create a dragon and use my rig, which fits my animations. If LL does it right, people could even add to my rig, and my animations should still work, as long as they don't mess with the hierarchy chain. I could make rigs for all kinds of creatures. Heck, I'd even rig the models for them.

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I'd love to see that video. People don't get that with different designers you get different rigging and different polygon count on the mesh. You put them together and they aren't going to match exactly. It's like red or black...what shade red, what shade black. Designer A may use 0.0.0 for their black but ad in a highlight. B may stay with the same 0,0,0 and add nothing. Both are RGB 0,0,0 but they aren't going to match.

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Penny Patton wrote:

That said, skip to about 20 minutes into this video of a recent Linden Office Hour, shared vby SaraCarena in another thread.

 


Penny, you can test that viewer including the automute feature for high draw weight avatars Oz was talking about there.

See STORM-2082 - Allow saving and loading of graphic settings and ability to control view of "blinged" avatars

The viewer download link is in the "Testing" section on that JIRA issue.

That feature is still a WIP though so expect some bugs.

The viewer download link on the JIRA issue is not always the latest version - you can always find the latest viewer download here: automated-builds-secondlife-com.s3.amazonaws.com/hg/repo/jonathan_storm-2082/latest.html

Use the "Install" links (CYGWYN for Windows) not the "TeamCity" links.

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I'm not sure where it is in the Linden Viewer or Firestorm. I think it's hidden in the Advanced and Debug menus.

I use Black Dragon, which puts Draw Weight in a handy "Useful Features" menu.

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I can't think of a fair way to cut things...

But they need to be cut...

Perhaps an LSL call that will report back the polygon count or "land impact if it was rezzed at that size" of any avatar it queries.

- Then people could add that to those script counter things.

And start spamming each other until folks started cutting it down.

 

BUT some people will just say they're being harrassed rather than self correct.

And its not their fault, but the fault of content creators...

- Though the SAME can be said for mesh furniture... and over time people just stopped buying the 200-land-impact sofas when the shop next door had one for 1-land impact.

 

What we really need, is an avatar impact budget. That you CANNOT buy your way up in... and works on a throttle of some kind.

a green, yellow, and red.

If you're green your SL is normal, if yellow, you cannot teleport or cross sims, and your avatar gains a yellow 'outline' visible to self and everyone else. If red, you get a popup to pick which things to remove, default sorted by their 'impact' - and your avatar goes invisible until you hit at least yellow.

- But then the numbers set for these would need to make sense, and start higher than ideal, then get scaled down to the final goal after a year, scaling down 1/4th to the goal per quarter.

(ie: give people time to replace bad junk).

 

Also...

A second system whereby items OVER a certain limit cannot be sold or traded, and merchants with too many such items lose their selling privileges until they remove relevant listings...

- I am not certain HOW this could be done in a way merchants would not cheat around. After all, much of what is sold in SL today is just a script, and clicking that script delivers your goods...

- So you would have people just selling scripts, and then the over limit items would fail to deliver when the script was clicked... but the merchant would already have their payment...

 

 

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Penny Patton wrote:

 

 TWO avatars can put more strain on your computer than a fully detailed sim can with your draw distance cranked to the maximum.

 

 

 

 

 

That`s quite scary, out of interest what`s the conversion factor between LI and draw weight, 100k DW would be roughly what LI? I`d guess that many more users think about LI coz it`s there when they buy furniture or own land while av draw weight/render cost is buried away in the advanced menu where probly not a lot of users even look or understand what it`s for.

Personally think it would be better if it was renamed to maybe "Avatar Land Impact" or "My Lag Factor" and placed on a toolbar button that`s there by default so everyone is aware of it.

Great post and very useful info, deffo be spending 15 minutes every time I log in to trim a few points off my outfits although it`s a bit daunting for people like me who don`t really know a lot about how textures and meshes work.

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Penny Patton wrote:

Draw Weight

 Here's my avatar in wireframe.

draw weight wireframe.jpg

Notice how even in wireframe, large chunks of my avatar appear to be solid, or nearly solid? Yeah. That's obscenely wasteful. You could cut the polygon count of this avatar down to a quarter of what you see here and not be able to tell the difference when viewing it normally. Hell, adding simple material maps can make the attachments look even more detailed than they appear out of the box, even with the reduction in polygons.

 

 But without changing the style I want for my avatar, I',m at the mercy of content creators.

 

 The real difference is when I go to my own builds. Hanging out in one of my skyboxes or sims with a few friends, I have seen a framerate improvement of up to 10FPS between now and a week ago. That's not too shabby. For maybe an hour of work spread out over a week or two, I have gained the equivalent of what I might see spending $250 on a slightly better videocard.

 

 Food for thought.

 

Its interesting to look at this. Most of the popular mesh bodies right now are NOT this solid / badly done.

BUT quite a few are worse - and those often look like they were stolen from some other source, in not so much detail but style. Models from games, 3D art sites, etc.

 

I've seen what you note in hair from some places. I've just forced myself to change buying habits.

I've seen some very basic, simplistic outfits, with absurd polygon counts. And I've seen highly detailed well animated works that are shockeningly minanlistic.

 

This whole discussion is a bit like 'Carbon Taxing' - that tries to make pollutors bear the costs of their pollution rather than just the public.

Right now - for bad mesh and sculpties, we users of SL bear ALL of the cost, and content creators just get to make a fast buck.

 

**********************


SaraCarena wrote:


Penny Patton wrote:

 

 TWO avatars can put more strain on your computer than a fully detailed sim can with your draw distance cranked to the maximum.

 

 

 

 

 

That`s quite scary, out of interest what`s the conversion factor between LI and draw weight, 100k DW would be roughly what LI? I`d guess that many more users think about LI coz it`s there when they buy furniture or own land while av draw weight/render cost is buried away in the advanced menu where probly not a lot of users even look or understand what it`s for.

Personally think it would be better if it was renamed to maybe "Avatar Land Impact" or "My Lag Factor" and placed on a toolbar button that`s there by default so everyone is aware of it.

Probably not directly comparable. The two formulas might have been created for similar motives, but likely have little actual logic in common.

That said, I agree with your notion. I would go further and if someone hit a yellow or red flagging condition - it should be visible to everyone around them and something they cannot conceal. Like changing them to a solid yellow or red color.

Shaming is really the only method that would work to get people to then put pressure on content creators to "STOP IT" with the junk content.

 

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Penny Patton wrote:

Speaking of, I just noticed that Draw Weight doesn't discern between Masked and Blended alpha. That's a huge oversight if LL is planning to introduce a feature specifically designed to encourage less resource intensive avatars.

 


What are you basing this statement on? I just put on a badly optimized hairstyle which gave my avatar a draw weight of over 80,000, changed the hairstyle to alpha masking, detached and reattached it, and my draw weight dropped to 25,000 with no other changes.

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Also, just to show off, but this version of my avatar has a draw weight of...

supah low draw.jpg

...34,111 which is firmly out of the red zone!

So yeah, if there were any pressure on content creators to be even a little efficient with their creations,it would actually be easy to put together a detailed avatar and still have a reasonably small impact on rendering performance.

 I kinda think LL should add a "Draw Weight" field to items sold on the marketplace, much like they list prims (which itself needs to be changed to "Land Impact").

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