LL’s Metaverse Swoons At 16,000 Logins

by Pixeleen Mistral on 27/11/06 at 12:10 am

Residents enjoy saturated network, sim crashing, intermittent teleports

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk
Robin_1Linden Lab today admitted to performance problems that might have rendered the grid nearly un-usable for at least a few users who wanted to do something other than sit in one place and share lagged-out IM and chat over the last several days. Reports earlier this weekend of repeated sim crashes and surprising lag were apparently acknowledged with a pair of in-world announcements – which were also posted to a no-comments thread on the official Linden blob blog. Evidently the Lab does not feel its interests are well served by accepting customer comments via the blog on the poor performance of the grid – perhaps under the theory that many of the complaints come from those using free accounts to partake of the metaverse’s delights.

The reaction from paying customers the Herald contacted was somewhere between angry and resigned with the consensus being that whenever the number of logged in users approaches 14,000 performance is abysmal. Today the Lab’s Second Life world – regarded by some as an ongoing multi-year beta-test – saw well over 16,000 concurrent logged-in users — with predictable results. Residents who could not teleport to their desired locations amused themselves by collecting screen shots of rare and hard-to-find ‘cannot teleport’ messages – a number of these will be added to the Herald’s special collection of unusual images.[see below the fold]


Robin Linden acknowledged “a combination of problems” that crashed sims and left those parts of the grid that were available in a lag-tastic state. Perhaps most telling was the admission that the Linden network is saturated – could this be seen as tacit admission of the planning/scalability problems which have bedeviled the Linden server gold farms and hobbled the streaming 3D platform provider? There was no word at press time on why the Linden experts on streaming 3D media were unable to predict -or provision- the network bandwidth needed to support a generally acceptable user experience. Perhaps the marketing department has gotten ahead of the technical capabilities of the game? Hard to imagine – but it has been known to happen.


Existing bandwidth and server limits may be a motivation for the Lab’s much touted move to market the Second Life experience in the pacific rim and european markets. If server capacity and bandwidth are constraints on the Lab’s ambitions, maximizing revenue for a relatively fixed investment in servers and networks would be key to improved profitability. Those who have spent significant time in-world over the last few months are well aware that the evening and weekend prime-time for game play in North America consistently brings out the worst in SL. By adding european and pacific time-shifted demand to counterbalance the North American peak loads, the Lindens may maximize the return on their hardware/network investments – and this seems consistent with other actions taken by the San Francisco-based software development firm.


So while paying customers wonder why the system’s performance continues to slide, and free accounts frolic through the blingtard garden of virtual cyber delights, one might imagine network bandwidth dealers rubbing their hands together as Linden Lab is forced into a near-term network upgrade. Over the medium term, look for the Lindens to try to squeeze more profitability out of their network and server farm by emphasizing markets outside of North America.


14 Responses to “LL’s Metaverse Swoons At 16,000 Logins”

  1. Urizenus

    Nov 27th, 2006

    I do appreciate that, faced with their inability to solve the grid-crashing lag caused by the logging in of one percent of their alleged customers, they have the good sense to hire top people to craft “can not teleport” messages for us. That shows some love, don’t you think?

  2. Sativa Prototype

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Whats with the laziness of these message creators!

    Why when I try and build in my skybox, which is the only place I can move with any regularity, (egads that sounds bad), do I not get one of the snazzy messages telling me to just stop and try later?

    I mean seriously, how in the hell are any of you building anything right now? It’s like they secretly replaced prims with mexican jumping prims.

    So where is the love, why can’t we get “Stop trying to build.” messages!

  3. Gungible

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Evidently the Lab does not feel its interests are well served by accepting customer comments via the blog on the poor performance of the grid – perhaps under the theory that many of the complaints come from those using free accounts to partake of the metaverse’s delights.

    Does this reporter always have to interject herself and her opinions into the story?

    I suppose I shouldn’t expect any different from a “publication” that relies so heavily on “reporting” from
    Retracto the Magnificent

  4. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Um, go fuck yourself, Gungible.

    If you want to read boring straight news without analysis and opinion, I dunno, go read the Linden blog or something.

    I’ve retracted exactly one statement in my Second Lifetime — and I also point out that while the Sheep did not have an apparels client to motivate them to become involved in making CopyBot — the founder of Libsecondlife *did* have a client to motivate him to make something alongside CopyBot. And I continue to challenge the Sheep’s claim that they had “nothing to do” with CopyBot when they had a member in the group libsecondlife and were gleefully present at CopyBot’s debut.

    I’m not aware of the SLH ever “retracting” or “correcting” a story before, but I can only imagine is that it never attempted to cover a story like this as big, or under as much corporate pressure.

    Brave reporting is needed now more than ever.

  5. Tomas Hausdorff

    Nov 27th, 2006

    I would speculate that about 10% of the 1.5 million Second Life residents pay the premium $9.95 a month fee. So it is true that the paying customers are getting the short end of the stick: paying for something consumed by someone else.

    Linden Lab either has to increase available bandwidth or increase the efficiency of their network protocol. The former is the fastest and easiest solution, but costs the most money. Any normal company would make the people consuming the resource pay for it…but that is not likely to happen.

    Personally, I’d like to see a number of scarce resources made less available to free accounts. Perhaps limit the inventory size a free account can have. Cap the bandwidth on free accounts to 100 Kbps. Or how about constraining total texture/prim count on free avatars. Make it so that you have to pay to get flexihair and bling-shoes.

    Free accounts should be able to tour around, see the sights, get a taste of the place. But they should be encouraged to pay if they want to really participate in the world. Otherwise, the only way Linden Lab will be able to fund the bandwidth is by raising fees for the few remaining people who actually pay something for the privilege.

  6. h@x0r

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Tomas: Your proposal for capping bandwidth on free accounts is good, as is your suggestion for a prim tax. But, guess what, you were not the first to propose a prim tax. It was Linden Labs. And when word got out the SL community threw a hissy online and made LL stop their plans. Now SL is reaping the consequences.

    LL wants a world where there is no scarcity but 1.)that is a false premise and 2.)that does not contribute to a real economy. LL should introduce scarcity of some kind and it may be prims since bandwidth and rendering time are truly limited resources. Can a good user experience and an economy be built around something like that? Possibly. And I think LL realized this and tried to move in that direction but the user community made them stop. So you can’t lay all the blame on LL.

  7. Artemis Fate

    Nov 27th, 2006

    I mostly wonder of that number of 16,000 how many of them weren’t actually THERE. I mean, how many of that 16,000 were afk in camping chairs.

    Probably a few thousand.

    Which is made worse by the likeliness of someone who’s dumb enough to sit in camping chairs all night, is likely wearing a lot of laggy particle bling, high torii hair, and badly scripted high-lag attachments.

  8. Urizenus

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me if half the people in world were lag-inducing camping blingtards, not even at their keyboards.

  9. Inigo Chamerberlin

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Seeing how Robin has seen fit to mention that “we begin the upgrade process, with further improvements due as we bring more fiber online” in the official blog – does this mean that LL have FINALLY accepted that unrestricted free access to SL IS having an adverse effect on the paying resident’s experience?

    And has Philip finally ceased his monotonous chant that “Free accounts have no impact on Second Life’s performance”?

  10. Cocoanut Koala

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Really, it’s so declasse to complain about SL’s performance, when in fact we are blessed and privileged to be able to participate in this cutting edge platform, and should be grateful to be allowed to contribute financially to support it.

    Or so I have been repeatedly told (bludgeoned with) since my first day in SL.


  11. Eloise

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Go read the SLHistory Wiki. There used to be a prim tax. And a tp tax. LL did away with them.

    There still is a prim tax in fact, although it doesn’t apply to attachments. To have prims on land permanently you need to pay tier, or pay someone that pays it for you. Premium members pay a prim tax in US$, and support the folks that don’t pay anything towards LL and their usage of prims. But then we also pay towards their bandwidth charges, new servers and everything else. If you’re going to change the system adding extra taxation to the people that already pay, in some case thousands of dollars each month, will never be a popular choice. It will stay unpopular whilst there is a division between the payers and non-payers and you are talking about applying a new flat fee to both.

    I am most assuredly NOT in the camp of all free accounts are ‘evil’ are ‘freeloaders’ are ‘useless’ etc. Finding a system that allows SL to develop and support the users, all of them, fairly is a challenge. Simple solutions may look attractive, but there is a wonderful quote to bear in mind: To any situation there is a solution, that is elegant, obvious, simple and wrong.

  12. Artemis Fate

    Nov 27th, 2006

    I think largely, LL traded performance for inflated numbers. SL was going fine before free accounts, but didn’t have the large numbers of subscribers to draw use in advertising.

    So LL set up free accounts, and they must have recognized that this would mean reduced profit and increased server load. The only profit for LL available with free accounts is on the occassion that they buy money from LL, which means as far as I can figure that they’re doing it for the purposes of advertising their subscriber numbers (they wrote the “1,000,000 accounts” on the sun after all and are consistantly comparing the number to WoW’s, despite it being a well known fact that most of those accounts are alts or inactive).

    So basically LL is seeing how many people they can cram into the ship, without any notice that it’s beginning to sink from the weight.

  13. Tomas Hausdorff

    Nov 27th, 2006

    Eloise, I’m not suggesting taxing existing premium account holders for prim usage- I’m aware of SL history, although I may not have lived through it. I’m suggesting (and it’s just an idea) putting avatar prim limits on free accounts. So a free account holder could have a very basic avatar with simple clothing attachments. If they want primhair, blingin’ belt buckles, avatar sensor HUDs, scripted armour, and scripted naughty bits, they have to upgrade to premium. A premium account holder would operate as they currently do- with no such limits or “taxes” in place.

    Probably the more important consideration is simply for Linden Lab to start considering ways to make “premium” accounts actually attractive, and to make uncommitted/non-paying residents feel just a bit like tourists. They should feel incented to upgrade if they are at all serious about the world. And if they aren’t serious, then at least reduce the impact that their presence has on the grid’s infrastructure. This can be done by placing limits on the inventory, attachments, bandwidth, etc consumed by such tourists.

  14. Odysseus

    Nov 28th, 2006

    One bit of feedback on the “free accounts don’t pay anything”, I’ve heard of a number of people that are not on premium accounts yet own land (and SL fixed a bug a couple months back that was causing problems with this combination). If you don’t like the idea of putting money into LL’s coffers, you can always rent from one of the islands (which eventually trickles down to LL in the form of island ownership fees). I wouldn’t choose to do this myself, but it means that not all “free” accounts are actually “leeching from the system”.

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