There may be trouble ahead … and they’re already calling it Hell Week

Today (Wednesday 11th July) there is going to be major roll out across the Second Life grid.  Those ominous words are enough to make long term Second Life residents brace as though facing a Force 9 gale, and then prepare to pick up the debris and assess the cost in its wake.

Only this time, we have warning of one cost of the storm in advance.

Mesh objects (such as vehicles) cannot physically cross from a pathfinding region into a non-pathfinding region, due to the upgrade to a newer version of the Havok physics engine.

Example of a mesh vehicle - the yacht provided to premium members in November 2011
Example of a mesh vehicle – the yacht provided to premium members in December 2011

Let’s look at that again.

Mesh objects (such as vehicles) cannot physically cross from a pathfinding region into a non-pathfinding region, due to the upgrade to a newer version of the Havok physics engine.

This, you see, is the big roll-out of the Pathfinder regions and, it seems, to accomplish this, the Lab are going to break a significant aspect of the grid. (See Known Issues on the Release Notes)

Magnum channels will be moving to the updated version. Main channel, Le Tigre and Blue Steel sims will stay on the old version … and while you can safely move from old to new, you won’t be able to move from new to old – as I understand the release notes.  So it seems that suddenly vehicles will break down at sim crossings and refuse to move through. And because the average Second Life user doesn’t read Jiras, Release Notes (like the one explaining all this) or accounts of office hours, they are not going to know why their mesh objects will stall and fail.

Followmeimthe Piedpiper's lovely Brough motorcycle - a mesh vehicle
Followmeimthe Piedpiper’s lovely Brough motorcycle – a mesh vehicle

The point is – as Oskar Linden has said, this is not a bug. It’s a known incompatibility and, to get promised jam tomorrow, we’re going to have to munch on mouldy bread today.

In Oskar Linden’s words:

 “It’s not a bug. It is an incompatibility between Havok versions. Havok is what models physics on the simulator side. Mesh objects (vehicles made of mesh or maybe like mesh bullets) will give that error when going ‘backwards in versions’. So if a mesh object goes from a Pathfinding region to a non Pathfinding region the older version of Havok cannot handle it. This issue will be resolved once the Pathfinding code is live everywhere. Until then it will be an awkward experience and we apologize for that.”

So we are left to hope that the whole Pathfinder roll-out will be found smooth, simple and bug free so that it can be rolled out swiftly to the entire grid.  The likelihood of that happening? I guess we’re rolling dice here.

Nalates has been analysing this with her customary flair (and really, for technical knowledge read her, not me).

I’ve been asking around to see what exactly is meant by “mesh objects”.  Does it, for example, affect mesh hair, or mesh clothes that move with the wearer?  The consensus appears to be that those will not be affected by the Havok versions.  But, you know, I’ll wait and see what happens when meshed-up fashionistas, petities and other mesh avatars attempt to make the sim crossings.

Vehicle designers – at least the canny ones who keep their ears to the ground (or rather to Linden Lab office hours) are stalling releasing new products until the issue is resolved – they don’t want to sell products that are obviously going to appear to be broken.

One solution would have been to rollout the release by continent but, apparently, Linden Lab don’t have the capacity to handle a continent-wide rollout at this time.

“We knew it would affect mesh,” Oskar Linden said, “but mesh vehicles aren’t so popular grid wide yet.”

A rather surprising comment when you consider that Linden Lab’s last two special gifts to Premium  Members (as a reward for their loyalty and loot) have been …

A mesh yacht and a mesh railcar.

Another example of a mesh vehicle - the railcar provided to premium members in May 2012
Another example of a mesh vehicle – the railcar provided to premium members in May 2012

But the Lab do face an unenviable dilemma.  At Nalates says:

The Lindens are considering ways to minimize the impact of Havok upgrades while in testing on the main grid’s release channels. The problem is Second Life needs to advance with technology and the Havok updates are problematic because of what the Havok people do. The Lab has a no-win decision to make: advance the SL tech and have problems or stop upgrades and fall further behind technologically.

The Havok update problem highlights one of the community problems too. A number of peeps in the community want to avoid change. Another number of peeps want the latest and greatest. It is a dilemma of sorts.

It is indeed.

All in all, as so often with Second Life, one is reminded of the tale of the Irish farmer who was asked for directions by a couple of lost but hopeful tourists.

He gazed at them for a long moment, frowned a little and then slowly said, “Well … if I were you … I wouldn’t start from here.”

Photos by Da5id Abbot

2 comments

  1. Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers?

    I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on.

    Any recommendations?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s