Friday, April 18, 2008

No fix date for Havok4 surfing

Surfing community struggles with Havok4; Linden Lab considers options

No topic is hotter in the surf community these days than Havok4, the server code that affected waves and wave/board interactions rolled out by Linden Lab at the beginning of April. However, surfers that were expecting a quick fix may be disappointed. It's a complex issue and no strategy has yet been decided on by the Havok4 roll-out team
to-date and it makes little sense for Heather Goodliffe to make changes to board and wave scripts until Linden Labs can confirm what fixes it might introduce. "I don't have a specific fix date for the waves, because we're still reviewing the issues," said Sidewinder Linden, program manager for the Havok 4 project, talking to SurfWatch.

Sim owners are struggling with unpredictable and/or nonfunctioning waves; retailers
are losing sales of waves and boards; surfers are trying to negotiate buoyancy and movement issues; and surfing wave and board designers are unsure what to do next. Some surfing sim owners have had to make major changes in order to accommodate Havok4. Bishara Resorts owner Dumisani Ah said the Havok4 changes have had a "massive impact on Majini Island due to the EPIC II wave problems and this has impacted the sales of all the board and wave vendor owners directly as well. It's been a struggle to get the sims waves adjusted." Majini is currently running pipeline waves and fluffies only.

Oddly, it seems that it was only very recently that the Havok4 roll-out team understood that Heather Goodliffe's waves had any function past visual presence or that they had a purpose "other than to look nice".
"My first encounter with Heather's waves was in trying to figure out why certain regions were having performance problems," said Sidewinder. "After some 'look for high impact scripts'-work with some regions, we figured out that those waves were a particularly heavy impact and noticed that if they were removed, the simulator stats were much better."

"The next step will be to talk to Heather about some strategies for creating a wave set that has lower impact and at the same time discuss whether there are any efficiency optimizations we can do to improve things from the simulator perspective," explained Sidewinder. "Although Havok4 does many things faster than Havok1, there are some physics operations that are less efficient in the Havok4 physics engine and we have discovered that some in-world content 'trips' on those areas."

"We have several high priority items on deck at the moment," continues Sidewinder. "We are working through the list and are trying to make things work well for everyone: within the constraint that we don't want to cripple the future to support the past - and that's always a hard line to walk with these kinds of upgrades. We'll keep working the issues, and want involvement from people who are seeing problems. I suspect that the waves solution may be a combination of script or design adjustments and some optimisations: if we can find any, since none really stood out as obvious when we first looked at them."

Second Life wave and board retailers all shared the sense of uncertainty. There are boards now available that are Havok4 compatible and reduce the problems surfers face with their older boards. Schrottvogel Wei, owner of the SJA surf shops told SurfWatch that he currently carries a line of Havok4 compatible boards. Radical Twang, owner of Reaction, commented "custom boards made from now onwards are being made with an updated script to work with Havok4 and we're currently looking into updating all the board scripts on sale, though we fear that if the issue is fixed, it'd be a big waste of time updating so many scripts, to then have everything reverted back to an original working standard".

What will happen to the older board inventory if the new Havok4 board script becomes the new standard also remains in question. It is estimated that Second Life residents collectively own thousands of surfboards and retailers have hundreds of boards in stock. "We're waiting on Linden Labs to fix some of the issues they introduced, since any fix I do will require significant logistics to replace everyone's boards and will probably be broken once Linden Lab fixes things from their end," said Heather.

By Barchan Paderborn and Tauri Tigerpaw

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