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  Capped Out at the PCD Lounge  
Posted 2006-08-15 by Tony Walsh
Adverworld The Lounge was overwhelmed yesterday during a scheduled chat with Pussycat Dolls member Kimberly. Too many users tried to access the The Lounge concurrently, resulting in client software crashes and server timeouts for approximately 40 minutes after the event launched. While some community members were frustrated and disappointed at being unable to enter the adverworld (even Kimberly lost her connection temporarily), 100 avatars were still able to log in during the event, which was deemed a success by Lounge maker, San Francisco-based Doppleganger.

In an official announcement yesterday, a company spokesperson wrote "I know today was a very emotional day for many of you. Some super-duper UPs and a bunch of DOWNs... We did manage to get a fair number of people in to talk to Kim in the virtual store and Kim had a great time chatting with each and every one of you! She was very gracious and stayed online until after 3pm PDT hanging out on the Main Dance Floor and the Disco Rooftop, dancing and chatting after the event... As everyone knows we are still in Beta. We are working out bugs and doing our best to improve Lounge performance and stability."

A few thoughts here...

First of all, it's pretty interesting that The Lounge, a tiny virtual world, can support an upper limit of 100 simultaneous users in a single, contiguous space. That's better than Second Life, which can only support about 40 avatars in a single space. But it's still relatively unimpressive. As a PR effort, was the time and effort required to cater to 100 users really worth it? Let's say all 100 users had a great experience, and go tell their friends. At the next chat event, there are going to be even more disappointed users who can't get in. Virtual worlds don't seem capable of "mass media" events yet.

Secondly, I'm sensing a move away from the specific PCD brand towards a broader virtual world. The Lounge's new tagline reads "Your music, your style, your friends." Seems eerily similar to Second Life's tagline "Your world. Your Imagination." The service was launched as the "Pussy Cat Dolls Lounge," abbreviated to "PCD Lounge," and is now just "The Lounge." As expected, there isn't much lasting entertainment in a world built around one musical artist. But I'm not sure how long The Lounge will last even if it does broaden its horizons. In April, 2006 I was contacted by a PR rep for Doppleganger prior to the launch of The Lounge who told me that "the company already has significant deals with content providers and advertisers..." but I haven't seen anything outside of the original Universal Music lineup of brands since the service's launch in May.

Lastly, the service is still in beta, three months after its launch. Technically, that means The Lounge is not ready for prime time. Which gives Doppleganger lots of wiggle room to explain away problems such as those experienced with its chat event. But it's been three months since launch--how long is The Lounge going to remain in its beta phase? I have a hunch the service will be canned before it goes gold.
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Comment posted by Giff-Forseti
August 15, 2006 @ 7:43 pm
Tony, this may sound like splitting hairs, but SL can support more than 40 avatars in a single space. We've run events with 50 or 60 without needing people to take off attachments, and if you do ask for people to streamline their avatars you can get up to 80 and run OK. You can even hold an event of even more people by placing it at the crossroads of more than one sim, although I wouldn't want people to move around much.

But no argument here -- it is nowhere near ideal. I hope hardware and software improve over the next few years to the point that getting 1000 avatars into a single stadium is run of the mill.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
August 16, 2006 @ 9:22 am
Thanks for the info, Giff. If Second Life is able to reliably and consistently support 50-60 average avatars in a single average sim, I'd be comfortable saying so in future articles. My understanding has been that sims get crashy with more than a few dozen avatars on board. I am aware that larger events can be staged at the intersection of 4 sims, but as you say, that's not an ideal solution.

Now that I'm thinking about it, a useful virtual-world metric might be something like avatars/square meter (i.e. "capacity"). This might be a better indicator of potential "eyeballs" than concurrency numbers. Because who cares if you have 10,000 concurrent users when only 50 at a time can be engaged in a location-specific experience?
Comment posted by Brace
August 26, 2006 @ 8:00 pm
Technically - yes you can have 50-60 avies in one space.

But how's the actual experience?

Can you move? Can you see textures? Can you type? Can you dance? Does your new flippy floppy prim hair show up? Do you freeze and/or crash?

Sure if yer all just sitting down and listening to music or something - ok maybe.

I taught my Living Statues class in Kuula sim just this past Friday, and I heard from one of the attendees that the sim was full, and she couldn't teleport her friend in.

I believe Carl had upped the number of avies allowed to 50. I crashed. I was stuck in slo motion, the class attendies had similar problems - and we all had difficulties rezzing textures.

The sim was almost as crowded the week before when I held my class - I'd say 35-40 avatars. I crashed, half my class crashed and we all had the same problems as this week.

So yes, while the actual numbers may be possible, the quality of experience is still sadly not up to par.
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