Size is everything (Because bigger isn’t always better!)

bigMost of my early forays into SL took place using an ancient, and tiny, netbook – it worked surprisingly well, most of the time, although there was many an occasion that the diminutive screen size made the inworld experience far from satisfactory. Just how unsatisfactory was patently clear whenever I managed to grab time on a real PC  with – at first – a 15″ screen, followed by an upgrade to a 21″ screen. Bigger was, most certainly, a whole lot better – no more eyestrain, lots more details and more vivid, clearer colours and text. Today I normally use dual monitors, mostly for the convenience that being able to have a workspace spanning two screens brings, but also because I can be running SL on one screen, whilst undertaking a whole range of activities on the other simultaneously.

One thing I don’t do very often however, is run SL across both screens – I’ll come back to my reasons in a moment. However, befor that, having seen the advantages of a larger screen, I came to the logical conclusion that bigger still was definitely the way forward, which lead me to my ultimate plan – SL projected onto the biggest blank wall at my disposal… SLinemascope!

It was awful! Contrary to my assumptions, SL on a 12’x4′ screen was just dire. Quite apart from text being unreadable, the sheer physical effort required to engage with big screen SL made the whole thing a ghastly experience – even for a touch typist, it’s horribly difficult to remain attentive to what you’re typing and what’s happening on the screen at the other side of the room, and even after a short session, you begin to discover that neck and shoulder muscles start to protest volubly against the excessive and unaccustomed movement they’re being subjected too. By all means, give it a go – but personally, I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Similarly, when I do decide to spread my viewer across dual screens, I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time losing my cursor and the action, whilst sustaining multiple whiplash injuries from trying to keep up with the flow of movement. You rapidly discover that, despite the increased viewing area, your practical field of vision is only going to be around 120°, and although you can see a wider angle, it tends to be far more of a distraction than a good thing. So I stick to just the one monitor, other than for those occasional utra-wide panoramic shots.

rabbit_001Screen size isn’t the only think about SL where bigger isn’t always better – take mesh, for example. The big selling point for mesh is low LI, a supremely important consideration for anyone who needs to be frugal with their prim allowance. However, LI increases exponentially when you resize upwards… the mere act of tweaking a building to fill a slightly expanded footprint can send your LI sky high, and you may as well have stuck with prims in the first place! Another great benefit of mesh is the level of detail that can be achieved, but again this can come at a cost – quite literally – adding extra vertices and going for a bigger triangle count may well be aesthetically pleasing, but it’ll cost most to upload and consequently will probably be more expensive to buy, and is going to hit your LI allowance hard too. Keep it small and simple, and everyone’s smiling!

What about erm… body parts? Whilst there’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with a full-bodied figure, and bazooka boobs and banging butts are definitely fun, you have to admit that there are some real monstrosities walking around inworld. Male avatars can be just as guilty for overplaying the size card too, (and I’m not just talking ‘appendages’) – if your shoulders are so broad your silhouette looks like an American football player in full body armour, then I can guarantee that your hips are just going to look plain wrong, and that pea of a head sat atop your tree trunk neck looks, frankly, absurd.

Massive inventories are a no-no too. There is something about SL that turns even the most frugal person into an inveterate hoarder – indeed, this is Seren’s 7th Law of SL* – having lots of stuff is fine, but there is such a thing as ‘too much stuff’ (yes, even shoes!). Once you’ve passed the inventory event horizon of ‘too much’, it becomes a self-perpetuating and utterly impossible task to ever become organised again, in fact once you hit excessive quantities of items in root folders, you are definitely going to run into technical issues in addition to wading through a ton of crap every time you want to find that frock you bought last month. Indeed, Linden Lab has catered specially for those of us unable to control our inventories, providing the occasional catastrophic asset server failure which renders even the most over-stuffed inventory to a denuded and forlorn shell of its former self. Nice.

I’ve come to the conclusion that SL operates under a general principle that everything has an upper size limit: anything below that limit is fine, but exceed it and suddenly you’re on a downward slope. Supersize by all means, but once expansion goes beyond that magical point it simply becomes bloat – unmanageable, performance-sapping and capable of attaining nightmare proportions – you’ll have created a virtual monster, and it’s out of control.

It’s a useful rule of thumb – so next time the bloat monster attacks, just slim down those particles, throw out the trash and limit your LI, and see how much things improve. When it comes to SL, just think of me… Small, neat and, (/me coughs), perfectly formed!


*Seren’s Laws of SL
Not a lot of people realise that I actually came up with the famed 3 Laws of Robotics – unfortunately, before I had my chance to achieve fame and fortune from publishing a series of robot stories based on them and their fallibility, having written them down on the back of an envelope, I accidentally posted them off to Isaac Asimov, along with some pointers about how he could improve his pulp Sci-fi writing. The rest is history. Never mind… SL is fertile territory, and over the years I’ve been formulating my own Laws of SL, which will one day (hopefully) provide the basis upon which all virtual worlds will be planned:

1st Law: Within moments of finding a quiet space to relax, get changed or try out foolish gestures, that same space will attract several hundred intrusive visitors – mostly noobs – who will completely freak you out.

2nd Law: Within seconds of being landmarked, any location will transform itself from an innocuous garden centre into a naked gogo bar, just so you can be horribly embarrassed when taking your latest partner to see that ‘lovely trimmed bush’ you came upon on your last visit.

3rd Law: No matter how well planned your journey, at some point you will exit through a different door to that through which you entered – or fall off a building – and will become hopelessly confused as to your whereabouts.

First corollary to the 3rd Law: Having become hopelessly confused, you will then attempt to confidently strike out in what you believe is the correct direction, only to realise in due course that you are now so hopelessly lost that you may as well give in and simply wander around randomly
4th Law (First Law of Increasing Entropy): The longer you use sl, the more it will break down
5th Law (Second Law of Increasing Entropy): The longer you are logged in, the more likely you are to fall asleep at the keyboard.

6th Law: The more boxes you have, the less chance there is they’ll ever be unpacked, let alone their contents worn.

7th Law: SL turns even the most frugal person into an inveterate hoarder.

Seren’s General Theory of Creativity: You’ll almost certainly find one of Arcadia Asylum’s trashy taxis, grafitti-ridden buses or grungy drugstores lurking somewhere in every seedy sim, (it’s the law!)

s. x

I said, oh wow, look at me now
I’m building up my problems to the size of a cow
No, oh, oh, oh, oh the size of a cow
Wonder Stuff – The Size Of A Cow



This entry was posted in Philosophicalisticality, SL, Techietalk. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Size is everything (Because bigger isn’t always better!)

  1. Paypabak Writer says:

    I’ll be posting a link to this on my Tumblr, if nothing else, for the Laws. It’s interesting that size goes relative with an Oculus Rift headset. It’s closer to your eyes, I suppose, but a much smaller screen than your original notebook.

    • Thanks Pay, glad you enjoyed it – I enjoyed writing this one!

      I still haven’t had a chance to try out the Rift, but it’s a good point, although I think the diminutive size of the screen is probably overcome by the feeling of immersion in the scene. Those space flight/roller coaster simulators that sit comfortably on the back of a lorry are nowhere near realistic or even wraparound, but the immersive element that the hydraulics provide are enough to convince the rider it’s real. Isn’t science clever?

      s. x

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