I was part of an event this past weekend that didn’t go well. I want to document it so we don’t forget these kinds of things the next time we’re planning for an online concert or festival. This was a two-day musical concert held in a single sim. The main goal of the organizers was to get as many fans into the sim as possible while minimizing lag. For that reason, the security group was monitoring the Avatar Rendering Cost on each attendee and asking that people take off attachments (including hair, if necessary) to bring their ARC value below 600 when viewed on the Phoenix viewer. We had a notecard with instructions made up in several different languages in case the person didn’t speak English. Generally people were compliant and didn’t mind taking off their bling and other laggy stuff so they could see the musical act. For those who ran past Security, we would go after them and make sure they understood the rules. Of course, in every crowd there will be someone who thinks the rules are stupid or shouldn’t apply to them, and this is where the first problem occurred. We wanted to have someone available to be able to eject and ban folks who refused to follow the rules. And there was someone available, but in a very strange twist, they refused to eject or ban anyone. This left us vulnerable to the first person who decided to cause trouble. I asked for and finally received an invitation to the sim’s security group, but by the time that was all set up, the concert was almost over for the day. It had been very laggy on Saturday, and apparently someone thought the server was to blame, so on Sunday they decided to restart the sim 15 minutes before the first fans started arriving (one hour and 15 minutes before the concert started). Our first troublemaker arrived, a lady who bypassed Security, returned to the entrance when requested, and then wouldn’t remove her laggy attachments to get the ARC down to a reasonable number. Finally I was asked to eject her. I did, although it took me three tries. Her ghosted avatar remained in the sim and she was still online talking to the Security folks. This should have been a red flag to alert us that something was wrong. More and more people flooded into the sim and lag began to be a real problem again. The music stream was offline and they couldn’t get the stage’s video display to work. The concert was delayed for 35 minutes while they tried to fix the problems. Finally the band came onstage and started playing, but the music stream wasn’t working right. Most of the fans couldn’t hear the music, and the music playing on the stream seemed to be different for each person. Some people could hear the band, I was hearing Radio Paradise, and the guy running the light show was hearing some oldies station. This was a big problem for him, because he needed to know which song the band was playing so he could change the lights accordingly. Finally someone who could hear the band put the music up on their Skype microphone so we could hear it. One of the fans shouted out a URL where the music stream was located, so those who could open a browser were able to hear what the band was playing. After the concert had been going on for an hour, I noticed that the sim’s security setup had changed. Building and scripts and even push were turned on, and I had no capability to freeze, eject, or ban anyone. Sure enough, an avatar came in right after that holding a shotgun and then jumped up on stage, and we had no way of removing him. Apparently he crashed and solved our problem for us. Because of all the problems, the band decided to end the concert early. The sim was restarted just then, which fixed the problem for everyone. When it restarted, the security was set properly and I had my parcel powers back. The band came back to sign autographs and then everyone went home. Here are some “lessons learned” from this event:
- Someone needs to be on duty at all times who has parcel powers and is willing to use them if needed. All that’s needed is the capability to freeze, eject, ban, and return items not belonging to the group. Create a security role in the sim owner’s group and invite all of the Security members who know how to use it. Organize Security in shifts so at least one of these members is available during the event. When the event is done, the Security members may be removed from the group if necessary.
- The Security Director needs to concentrate only on security. The problems with lighting display and music streams distracted our Security Director to the point where he missed some vital messages.
- Communications is very important. We used Skype and group IM chat for the event. Everyone in the group needs to be able to hear voice messages and read text messages in whatever communications channels are used. Some people can’t (or won’t) use voice chat, so their messages will be missed if someone isn’t watching the text chat window.
- The Security Director needs to keep very close control over the group’s communications. At times the communications channel was monopolized by one Security member having a nonessential question answered, and no one else could speak.
- The event was held at 3000 meters above the sim, supposedly to prevent copybotting. Because it was so high, there was no way to cross from one sim to the other without falling through the bottom of the building. The best and least laggy large gatherings I have seen have had the “performers” on stage at the intersection of 4 sims at ground level. Since the audience is spread out, lag is reduced in any single sim. It’s no more difficult to copybot something up high than at ground level, so events need to be held at ground level.
- Don’t make any changes to the sim just prior to the start of the event. If changes must be made, ensure that the sim is up and running and everything is normal before allowing attendees to enter.