Monday, June 15, 2009

Survival tips for hunters

Warning: Not only a fashion-related post. If you don't care, scroll down to the picture - the outfit details are below that.

There are currently about a dozen (or more) active hunts on SL™. People tend to have mixed feelings towards those, but a very common argument against them is that they're lagfests, so some plain refuse to participate, which is something I don't totally get, since I know there are a couple of things one could try before giving up in order to improve the hunting experience.

I am the proud owner of a Frankensteined computer, i.e. one made up of both very old components (including the graphics card) and brand spanking new ones. To give a rough idea what my Second Life™ experience is like: I can't activate atmospheric shaders, reflections on water and glow are nonexistent, and my skies are generally pretty plain. I do, however, have a fairly smooth in-world existence, and I even make it through hunts. But how?

First of all, I am good friends with my
Graphics tab on the Preferences menu (or dialog, in geekspeak). I keep changing the settings depending on where I go - Ultra is reserved for photo sessions, Mid works for everyday usage and Low is for crowded evironments - sales, hunts, lucky chair stalking, etc. Low settings basically ensure somewhat quicker rezzing, although mileage can vary, depending on the amount of stuff that needs to be rezzed. Sometimes the many sculpties that people wear never stop looking like giant balls, but to be honest, on such occasions I don't really pay attention to what people are wearing. Which leads me to something else: ARC.
Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC) shows a point score above each avatar's head which indicates how "laggy" they are on the viewer-side. ARC is found in Advanced Menu > Rendering > Info Displays > Avatar Rendering Cost. [...] It's generally best to be considerate of others when putting together your avatar, and to do what you can to stay under a score of 2,000, especially in crowded areas. Under 1,000 is even better. These are only guidelines, but be aware that the higher your score is, the more lag you generate for other Residents, particularly those with older machines.
ARC is something that generates somewhat heated discussions, and I must say I'm no expert in the matter, so I'll stay away from fundamentalism. I try to keep my score low whenever I go to crowded sims; however, I do my best to avoid seeing what the others' rendering cost is. Policing other avatars' ARC will just ruin your mood - it will even make you want to poke some people in the eye - so I just want to propose a healthy (even fun, for those on the geeky side) exercise related to it, hoping it can be useful to some.

First, let me tell you how it all started. Keris (it's always the boyfriend's fault!) was totally thrilled about having a hunt for men (the Make Him Over Hunt), and in joining the hunt group, he commented that a "hunter skin" (that is, a skin with clothes baked on it, on just one layer) had been given away to be worn during the hunt and to help reduce lag. It had me wondering about the effectiveness of having all clothing textures on one layer as opposed to several, so we did the test. We detached all prims (bald! horrors!) and stayed only with textures on, he on one layer, and I, on multiple ones. Result? ARC = 1, for both. Which means you don't really need to go so minimalist - and, good news
for the fashion-conscious, you can be well-dressed while hunting.

So, based on that information, I tried to create a "hunting outfit" that kept ARC to a minimum, as I realised that my "shopping outfits" did not quite help reduce lag. This ensemble is just an example, I don't mean to prescribe an official uniform, so turn on your ARC, be creative and make your own. Here are some tips. For starters, skirts (except sculpted ones) are based on lots of prims, so they increase ARC massively - for this reason, trousers are generally better. Also, needless to say, elaborate jewellery is pretty much out of the question.

Here's my outfit, adding up to a total of 285 (306 with the wedding band):

The base skin is Tuli's Hope in natural makeup and sunkissed tone (yep, I think the skinwhoring phase is over). On the jacket layer I'm wearing the Isis shirt in midnight blue by Zaara, with the cami from Ornamental Life called Flower War on the shirt layer to cover sheerness. The nicely matching colour is Bake my Heavens - gotta love the names Shir gives to her stuffs. The trousers are also from Zaara, the Ishaya Velour slacks in white (can you tell there was a sale and I piled up?). I even added the sculpted bottoms, as they increased my ARC next to nothing, but of course, if you go without, that's even lower cost.

Clothes done, ARC still bright green. Now for the tricky bit: hair and shoes. These are the pieces that really make a difference, as they use up lots of prims and alpha textures. I've chosen a shorter (and therefore less primmy) hairstyle, without alphas - the Davina II from ETD. I've tried on lots of hair for this, and Davina was the one that gave best results for me, but I'm sure there's tons of options. Regarding the shoes, I was surprised that these older ones (thus, not made with sculpties) from Shiny Things, the Classics in blue sea, would increase my ARC so little. I decided I could even add a bonus in the form of lashes (Natural, by Miriel); but of course, if you choose to wear a skin that includes painted lashes, you could even save that extra cost. The eyes are Miriel's Cool Shimmer and the poses are from Imperial Elegance.


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