Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heritage Key Tut: The Mummy's Curse?

Technical "Issues" in HK
Location: Heritage Key

My students are in Heritage Key, and we are encountering some interesting "issues" to share with Rezzable's staff. I've not encountered most of these problems, but I'm running HK on a more powerful Mac laptop than my class members use.

Links to student "tourist report" blogs follow. They are to do another assignment with HK's Tomb of King Tut. We'll soldier on, but some technical issues below are likely to hinder student engagement. Every problem below disrupts the enjoyment of the virtual world, thus limiting immersion in the simulation.

Given how they've only recently gotten comfortable in Second Life, I'm wishing that Rezzable's SL Tomb of Tut still existed to finish my "Saving Isis" assignment.

  • Content: They like the idea of a virtual world dedicated to education. Antoine notes "Given that I love history, I was very excited to be able to explore some of the things that Heritage Key had to offer."

  • Changing Clothing: At the welcome area, Chelsea found that "I like how all you need to do is drag the item from the inventory onto your avatar as opposed to Second Life where you need to drag the box into a space."
  • Lag: The lag has been enormous for a virtual world with only a single avatar present in a given area. My students lack the experience to tweak their clients' graphics settings, so Rezzable has a great deal of work to do in this area.

  • Graphics Requirements: Two students on PC laptops report how their avatars misbehaved. One result, visible on my system, appears above. In the words of Antoine, "My avatar still looked like a zebra in a gay pride parade and then his face began to turn gray."

    To be fair to Rezzable, neither Antoine's nor Fierce's Dell laptops--both brand new--met the minimum system requirements. If, however, Rezzable wants faculty and students to see its content, it--and Linden Lab--must work harder to make their worlds viewable on a wider range of current systems (especially laptops).

    All of my students use laptops, mostly slower but brand new Macs and a few PCs running Vista or, in one case, XP. It would be interesting to see what happens if they finish the assignments on more powerful desktop systems.

  • Navigation: This problem can be addressed more simply. Students prefer to have choice, so HK should offer a more intuitive system to go to any point in the simulation from any other point. I'm to give a tour of the Cosmic Gallery for EDUCAUSE next week, and I cannot find the room!
  • Stability: Fierce and I tried to meet in the welcome area. We got one snaphot, shown below, before I began to crash, repeatedly. I was on a high-end iMac in our classroom, optimized to run Heritage Key's client. Chelsea likewise reported repeated crashes on her laptop when she reached the Tomb of the Boy King.
    Appearing in HK

  • Fashion: It may sounds silly to educators, but my students are already spoiled by the greater range of avatar customizing in SL. As Sarah wrote, "Coming from Second Life, I now feel the need to have my avatar resemble and represent me; but was unable to do so in Heritage Key." HK should add some better hair and skins for their newcomers. I'm surprised how quickly this year's class of writers "got into" fixing up their avatars. In past years, perhaps because of SL's more limited graphics (I know- that works against system compatibility) students did not "pimp their avatars" as much.
It's Halloween, and the Mummy seems to be after us.

The students are still excited about the prospects for HK and specialized virtual worlds. They also enjoy writing for a real audience--Rezzable's staff and CEO. We hope that Rezzable can resolve these problems so the amazing content of HK's sites--Tut and the new Stonehenge project--will work well for future explorers.

Update: You don't often get a company CEO to write back when you post a blog, but I'd like to thank Jon and Meral at Rezzable for quick replies, as well as Pavig and Viv.

My students will be told to read this post and the comments. We're prepared for the work-arounds to finish the project. Jon noted that newer versions of the viewer code will correct some problems we've been seeing, and given the improvements to HK since my first visit, I've little doubt of that.


Pavig Lok said...

Apologies for the lag. If they were using the heritage key client there is a persistent bug that effected the imprudence code and opensim. To be fair we actually inherited the bug from the SL client code. This causes long delays in texture loading whenever there is above average ping time. Hopefuly this main cause of lag will be nixed when the HK viewer gets a review.

We're currently using the current imprudence client for building on the grid. These delays are much improved thankfuly. The HK viewer is based on an earlier version of imprudence so we should inherit these gains.

Thanks for the insight :) Pavig Lok.

Iggy O said...

Pavig, I'm confident that we'll see HK continue to improve. Your team has been very diligent in responding to user concerns and reports of bugs in the system.

And I'm not surprised that SL's client code came with bugs. After 2 years of not being able to capture video on the Mac client, I just grit my teeth and accept the experience, bugs and all.

I think alpha-testing like ours helps everyone, but of course students have a grade hanging over their heads. They can complete the tasks without everyone visiting the Tomb, so that will ease some concerns they express in class.

Viv Trafalgar said...

iggy - the zebra issue is something i've seen corrected in OS when new clothing is put on and a new skin - want to run some tests? I run from a laptop 100% of the time - maybe I can help get you where you need to go.

and clothes... well i know some people ... :)

Iggy O said...

Viv, I'll have the students read this blog. I've had great feedback from Rezzable already.

I'm not doing the zebra--but my two students on PC laptops are. We'll come up with a workaround for next week, such as using the desktops in our Technology Learning Center.