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  ‘Second Life’ Finally Gets Updated Physics  
Posted 2007-09-30 by Tony Walsh
One of my consistent complaints about Second Life over the last couple of years has been that the virtual world hasn't aged well. Powered by the now-ancient "Havok 1" physics engine since at least 2003, Second Life will at long last be updated to the more current Havok 4 engine, improving the performance, features and capabilities of the virtual world. This is welcome news for veteran Second Life residents like myself, who have been patiently enduring the hand-waving and vague promises of Linden Lab for ages--Havoc 2 was supposed to be rolled out by the end of 2004. That's like an eternity for techies.

According to Linden Lab, Havoc 4-powered Second Life is in public beta-testing. The new engine will obviously improve and speed up physics simulation in the virtual world, but won't help to reduce network lag (slowdown) caused by too many user-created programs or avatars crowding in a single locale. A list of technical changes expected with the new engine, clipped from the Linden blog, are listed below:

  • Reduced simulator crashes
  • Less lag in the physics engine
  • More reliable prim linkage
  • Stacked dynamic objects react when supporting objects are removed
  • Improved collision management - uniform spheres collide as spheres, rather than as faceted shapes
  • Penetrating dynamic objects will be automatically pushed apart by Havok4's collision solver
  • Vertical simulation extent has been increased to 1024 meters
  • Some slight dynamic changes - avatar movements have changed slightly
  • Linden Lab has started a Wiki page for the upgrade. The company has promised not to work on Havoc 4-based features until the physics engine passes public beta testing (and is presumably rolled out grid-wide). Congrats to Linden Lab for this major Second Life milestone, which greatly increases the possibility of the virtual world's longevity.
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