Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reaction Grid Update: Growing Pains?

Technical "Difficulty"
Location: Out (usually) and About (sometimes) on Reaction Grid

Where I've recently found improvements in Rezzable's Heritage Key experience, I am still withholding judgment on Reaction Grid (henceforth RG). Using both Hippo Technologies' as well as Imprudence's Mac clients for virtual worlds, I've spent a few hours struggling with tasks that I mastered three years ago in Second Life. Despite clearing my two RG avatars' caches, getting on the fastest connection available to me, and proceeding carefully, the situation has not been promising.

Perhaps the grid is growing faster than patches and support. I am not technical enough to know.

I'd high hopes for this Second Life competitor, based upon my first visits last year, especially to the 1939 World's Fair simulation. Prices are far lower than in SL to own land, and jokay Wollengong maintains a sizable operation in RG. Many educators went to RG to purchase land following her move, in part a way to express anger at Linden Lab's treatment of jokay and her work, in part to avoid having all eggs in one virtual basket. Some talented builders like Ener Hax have moved out of SL completely. Like Rezzable, Hax finds costs lower outside SL. Unlike Rezzable, however, other immigrants do not own our own servers or have a team of coders to tackle a problem.

Perhaps my subpar experiences come from being a Mac user on a grid now run on Microsoft servers--though I'm sure that was the case last year. But that's "how I roll": no Mac client, no visits by me to the grid or attention in my academic work. To its designers' credit, RG does offer a Linux client as well as, of course, one for Windows.

My problems could have come from the number of items and scripts running in the Sandbox region, but the simulator crashed repeatedly with only me present. Other regions worked somewhat better, but tasks were still painful. Setting up a free animation override to have a better walking animation took over an hour with a few relogs--I'd accomplish that in 2 minutes in Second Life.

A simple teleport to the Houston region left Iggy Strangeland--my primary avatar--wearing only a scalp-lock for hair. Then he folded up like an accordion and crashed. Both he and my secondary avatar--Zome Orlan--tried making top hats. Just about the time the hats fit, they made the avatars skin and clothing layers disappear.

I was the invisible man with hair and shoes. When the hat came off the avatar reappeared, though attaching or detaching prim items in RG frequently made me crash.

I eventually gave up on the hat and tried some hair from the inventory. Teleports resulted in random changes of hair to styles I'd worn earlier, or baldness. These glitches point to the world's database not keeping up with my choices. At least my pair of sunglasses worked out. I left a free pair on the nose of a sculpted goat at Sandbox Island. Good luck, builders, I thought. Here are some shades to hide your tears of frustration.

At least uploads are still free, because I'd have been really angry paying for my experiences in RG thus far. I thought of buying some land in RG near my friends Olivia an Viv and setting up a version of Richmond's House of Usher simulation. Now I'm going to explore more before putting down a credit card. If stability does not improve, I'm going to pass on investing.

And this week, the Virtual Worlds Roundtable makes a grid-visit to RG. That should prove interesting. I'll post a report here. (Update for Feb. 8: the VWER visit has been postponed for at least a week).

Now for a slideshow of my misadventures in RG. Let me know if you have better luck over there.
<a href="http://www.koinup.com">Koinup</a>

8 comments:

subquark said...

Our scripter, DreamWalker, was over on Reaction Grid's main grid and had the same issues as you. With our private grid (hosted by RG) we don't have those issues. But then, there are typically no more than 2 or 3 people on at any one time and we have very few things built and perhaps 20 scripts.

We (Ener Hax and myself) will be connecting our grid with the main grid and I am anxious to see what happens to our performance.

Non-Second Life worlds are new to me and I am not certain what to expect. Currently, we have 16 sims that are "private" and are running on 2 cores with 1.5G of RAM.

Once we can connect to the main grid, we can add more CPU, RAM, and/or disk space if need be. That's a nice option in my mind that is not available in Second Life.

Keep Reaction Grid's, and others, feet to the fire and we will see these alternatives develop and become better.

Still, not too bad for something in it's alpha stage.

Chris said...

The "invisible avatar" bug is one that has plagued OpenSim, not just ReactionGrid, for some time, and is a bug that surfaces on some occasions following editing attachments. Sadly there is no actual cure other than to remove the attachment, hence I strongly recommend rezzing items to a region and using a pose stand to position and size the attachment before attaching it - then when you attach it, all you should need to do is position it appropriately. I know that the OpenSim developers are aware of the invisible avatar problem, but are focussing efforts into stability and improved codebase, and their efforts in this area are to be applauded! We are hoping to upgrade ReactionGrid to more current code in the next couple of months, providing the codebase passes our extensive test plans.

It's important to note, also, that ReactionGrid do not provide any viewer software, we simply make recommendations based on our personal experiences and the experiences (and feedback!) of our Gridizens. The wide variety of clients available today is a great situation, but does lead to confusion with some features present in some viewers, broken in others, and sadly we have no control over that situation. For Mac clients, I would actually say that Imprudence (http://imprudenceviewer.org) is the current best choice, based on feedback from teachers, but there are others available and since every user has different aims and requirements, I would always suggest you explore all available options until you find one you feel happiest using.

I would say that the Sandbox is the most abused island on the grid, but that's why it's there - we encourage people to try out scripts and building on the sandbox, so it has the widest range of items and objects thrown at it of all of our regions. OpenSim is still an alpha, and while it's a fantastic alpha platform, you're more likely to find bugs in regions that are heavily used.

We have a dedicated support portal at http://metaverseheroes.com where we encourage people to submit feedback, good and bad, and to request support and assistance. Understanding the limits of the platform is key to success, so we work with all of our members to help ensure that things are as smooth as possible.

I'm sorry if you feel you have had a bad experience, but please come back and visit us from time to time - you don't have to own land to be a member of our community, and all are welcome to visit and meet with friends.

Maria Trombly said...

Wow, that is a really bad experience. Did you use the same viewer to access Second Life? I recently installed Linux and fried my video drivers (or something like that), and Hippo and Meerkat stopped working altogether.

If you're using the same exact setup on your end to access both SL and RG and only having problems with RG, however, then the problem is obviously on their end.

So far, the only problems I've ever had on RG have been teleporting in from other grids over hypergrid, and accessing objects from my inventory over hypergrid. The reason is that RG runs an older -- but more stable, debugged -- version of OpenSim and these version differences sometimes cause communication problems between grids.

RG's main selling point, in fact, is reliability and stability.

Have you heard of anyone else having the same problems?

-- Maria Korolov
Editor, Hypergrid Business
http://www.hypergridbusiness.com

Iggy O said...

I'll pulling for OpenSim grids, including this one! I want to see a rich "universe" of virtual worlds.

Chris, you bet I'll be back--starting this week for the VWER meeting. I figure that in time RG will get the bugs out.

Thank you for the comments, folks. I didn't want to slam RG, but realistically, I cannot invest in a grid, as our school did in SL, until we have enough stability to bring in students. Faculty just cannot handle but so many bugs in an application before they give up--their evaluations suffer when an application does not work. To second Dan Holt's recent remarks, I'd advise any faculty member to spend a term in RG (or any virtual world) going to meetings, exploring, and learning before putting work into a syllabus.

Heritage Key was a huge flop for my fall 2009 class. They've made marked improvements at Rezzable, and I'm certain that Reaction Grid will as well. I'll continue work in HK for my next course, and I may be sending students over to RG as well.

Iggy O said...

@Maria, I'm loving Imprudence in SL...never had a lick of trouble, even in the laggiest of areas or when driving my car on the Linden roads for my monthly "road trip."

I've not tried Hippo Viewer in SL but I will. I'll also try both of them for OpenLife, which was an utter disaster on my last visits.

Viv Trafalgar said...

Iggy - a few OpenSim editing tips that may save you some time and frustration later (there are a bunch, but here are three I hold dearest):

1. Don't use control-z to 'undo'. It is bad. Epic bad. Don't even speak the words. (this may actually be fixed in the upcoming update, but it's been so ingrained in my brain that I rarely do it without flinching in SL now.) Did I say bad? It's bad.

2. Editing linked sets is fraught - again, something likely fixed in an upcoming update. This means anything from changing the color of a linked prim (works, sometimes), to altering the position of a linked prim (better to unlink it, reposition, and then relink it). If you're wearing the item while you're editing a part, you become part of the linkset and any bugs resulting from your entirely reasonable desire to move a single prim and OpenSim's decision to interpret that as "let's play whirligig with their beloved item", will also involve you in the fun.

3. You can size linked sets and change items while wearing them, just don't do individual primwork - and in order to keep the changes to your wearable, detach from the pie menu, not the inventory menu.

Bonus advice: yelling at the screen sometimes does make a difference.

I'm a VX scripter and builder on a number of platforms, including OS - and I am as filled with hope for a multigrid as you are. I want it to be easier to grid jump (one reason I use Meerkat - because of the Grid Manager) and to create a map of worlds to visit. I also want the interface and the supporting software to keep growing - and I am filled with admiration for the OS developers who are working on it.

Iggy O said...

Viv, those are good tips.

But they are unacceptable. Being able to wear a prim item while adjusting linked parts of it should be trouble free.

OpenSim coders need to fix that bug if they expect ordinary users, or even freaks like me, to play on their grids. I'll just skip on hats and such until this bug gets fixed.

Lalo Telling said...

The "invisible avatar" bug happened to me yesterday in my OSGrid sim, while making a pair of glasses for my avatar. Lesson learned: you cannot reliably 'edit linked items' of a linkset (or add items to it) while wearing it. Sure, it's time-consuming to detach, rez on the ground, tweak, and then reattach... but as a workaround, it beats going invisible.