A cool trick for low-end graphic cards

I always wondered about the claim that Linden Lab? made that the “average” user of Second Life® was able to get 10 fps overall in the game.

I certainly did not! My humble Apple PowerBook G4 had an average of perhaps 3 or 4 fps – low, but enough for “not feeling lag”. It has more to do with a psychological feeling, but as soon as you get things below 4 fps, you start to “feel lag”. There is a reason for that. While your eyes are able to capture 24 frames per second, an average human reacts in about 250 msec (1/4 second). That’s the time it takes for a signal to get emitted from your brain and make your muscles consciently move. This is important for things like breaking distances in cars, for instance. It was also used in the early 90s as a measure for an “usable” Internet – real-time things (chatting, remotely logging in to another machine) used to “feel laggy” if you had ping times over 250 msec.

Anyway, I wondered how the “average SL user” managed to get 10 fps of the low-end machines. My roomie has an old PC and her fps rate was always the same order magnitude as my own as well, so this is not a Mac-related issue.

Of course, I have experienced much higher frame rates – like on empty sims! So it seemed that the problem was mainly in limiting the number of objects/textures I was feeding my graphics card to process. However, I do really like things like shiny objects and avatars with the full settings. And changing those things rarely affected much the fps rate, not more by 20% or so.

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