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  1. #1
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    Default Artistic Levels without Lag

    LittleBigPlanet has given us a lovely selection of pretty things to play with, and the community has produced some visually complex and artistic levels. Unfortunately, I've found a lot of these are hard to play because of lag. Part of the problem is the speed and reliability of my internet connection. If you have been blessed with superior interwebs, you might not have much or any lag. But for other players to get the most enjoyment out of your gorgeous levels, it's best to assume that slow connection and lag might be a problem, and take precautions.
    That might mean making compromises here and there, but with a little knowledge and planning you can make visually stunning levels that everyone can play.

    Just a small lag can make it difficult for players to jump or grab on time, and really bad lag will make a level unplayable.
    A full thermometer can cause lag, but it's not the only factor. Too many decorations, animated materials, and moving objects (including Sackboy) will slow down the game - even if the thermometer has room to spare.

    More players will increase lag so if your level is at risk, recommend single player only. If your level is intended to be multiplayer, then be extra careful to reduce lag. Try not to let your thermometer get more than 3/4 full, because each player takes up a bit of thermometer space.
    Sackbots basically count as players on the thermometer, and they can lag out a level because they're such animated little characters. If you need Sackbots, just take care not to have too much motion around them.

    First off, let's look at ways to reduce the thermometer. I like to use the "Emit/Destroy" technique, which damaz10 has explained in this tutorial. I'd like to emphasize that emitting/destroying very large sections will cause lag, so work in smaller parts.
    Try to limit your pallet of materials, stickers, and decorations. This will help keep your thermometer down and also reduce lag. There's no set rule on how large your pallet should be, just try not to use more than you need and choose your items wisely. Keep in mind that the addition of every new material, sticker, decoration, or in-game object will increase your thermometer more than if you duplicate items already in use.

    Choosing Materials
    Animated materials use more thermometer space and contribute to lag.
    Attract-O-Gel (Muppets Pack) seems to be the worst for lag. Using an Attract-O Tweaker on non animated material is less laggy, but still a potential problem.
    Felt (Muppets Pack) is useful because its color can be changed and it takes stickers very well, making it so you don't need so many different materials in your level.
    Sticker Panel (Move Pack) is a versatile material because it's wonderful for decorations and can be made invisible too. If possible, use Sticker Panel instead of Hologram for all your invisible needs. Hologram is animated and even when it's invisible, contributes to the lag factor.
    You can fake addional materials by taking a picture and placing in on a material that you're already using. Cardboard works well, also Felt and Sticker Panel. This technique works especially well for backgrounds.
    When constructing shapes, remember that more corners means more information for the game to render. Make shapes as simple as possible by using the Corner Editor to remove unneeded points, which will depend on the material you use. For instance: when using Sponge, an octagon looks much like a circle - but the circle has many more corners.

    Choosing Stickers and Decorations
    Stickers are less of a concern, but still don't use more than needed. A few large stickers are preferable to a multitude of small ones, up to a point. If a sticker is too large you may encounter the "sticker glitch" - where the edges of your sticker turn crazy colors. If this happens check to see if it's there in Play mode and if so, make your sticker smaller and use more copies.
    Move Paintings (Paint Tool from Move Pack) can be made small, medium, or large - which is a pretty big chunk of thermometer space. So far as I know, Paintings are no different from Stickers in terms of lag. However, if you place too many large paintings they may not render properly and appear pixelated.
    Some decorations are more complex than others, and so take up more thermometer space and potentially cause lag. For example, the Cherry Blossom (Spring Creator Kit) takes up a lot more space than the Sakura.
    Animated decorations, like the Cream Handkerchief, can cause lag if you have too many close together.

    Special Effects
    Smoke Machines, Fire, Horrible Gas, and explosions all contribute to lag. Emitters used for effects (like dripping water) can be problematic, especially with a very fast rate of emitting. Bottom line, you just can't have a ton of these things going at once. Use the minimum possible number of Smoke Machines and Emitters and make sure that the Lifespan of emitted objects is not longer than needed.
    Water in your level is a factor, and having a lot of waves or changing water level can increase lag. When using water it's best to keep the bulk of your level as close to the floor as possible, as this minimizes the amount of water all together.

    Lighting
    I've done some tests with light objects and found that for minimizing lag it's best to use lights that can be set to Not Visible during gameplay, which means using either the LED Light Bulb or the Clear Light Bulb (Move Pack). Both of these lights act like decorations in that they aren't free standing objects, but have to be placed on other objects or materials. These two lights also seem to use the least Thermometer space.
    I also found lag is affected more by the radius of lights than by the number of lights. Ultimately try to use lights sparingly, but opt for several smaller radius lights over one with a huge radius.
    Changing the time of day in your level should have no effect, but increasing the fog density may increase lag (this is unconfirmed).

    The Grappling Hook
    I haven't experienced much lag with other power ups but the Grappling Hook tends to be problematic. Combined with too much decor, it'll cause game stopping lag. It seems to be the worst when a lot of Sticker Panel is used nearby. Again, this will be less of a problem for single player levels.

    Camera Angles
    The more we're seeing, the more imagery has to be rendered by the game. Pulling back to show a large area of your level can slow down gameplay. If you want to give the player a lovely view, do so without requiring precision jumps or use of the Grappling Hook - then bring the camera in closer for fast paced gameplay.
    With a wide camera angle you may see a bunch of yellow "!" and areas of your level will go invisible. This means it's to complex and you'll need to either use a closer camera or simplify the area.

    Turn it on and off
    Where you're not using the Emit/Destroy technique, you can use switches on Sticker Panel, Smoke Machines, Emitters, Lights, Danger Tweakers, and any other moving parts. These things should only be switched on when they're in view of the player, which is easily done using Player Sensors.

    Logic
    Always use Microchips to hold your logic. They're good for Cameras too.
    Instead of using Gates to control signal flow, place additional Chips on your Microchip and switch them on and off as needed.
    Minimize wiring between objects by using Tags and Tag Sensors. Remember, you can label your tags. Wires contained on a Microchips aren't a problem, but you don't want too many stretched across your level.
    Before you publish, close all the Microchips in your level.

    Building your Level
    Glue minimally, and use Anti-Gravity Tweakers to hold everything in place. When you glue objects together you increase complexity. Also, using a Tweaker set to 0% Gravity and 100% Dampening essentially removes physics calculations for that object - making less work for the game. It's preferable to use Tweakers instead of Light of Dark Matter because those materials are animated.
    Plan ahead to avoid major problems, and be prepared to compromise a little. If you're making a Grappling level then be careful of other lag factors. If you're making a level chalk full of Sticker Panel and special effects, then Grappling Hooks and wide camera angles may not be a possibility.
    Ask for feedback regarding lag when you advertise your level or recommend it to friends. If a player reports lag, ask them to be specific about where it happened and how many people were playing.

    Publishing
    When you're ready to publish (or re-publish) your level, there's a little trick I've heard about to further reduce lag. Go into Preview Mode and select any object with your Popit Curser - this registers as a change to the level. Then hover into an empty area, or an area with minimal lag potential if you have no completely empty spaces. From there, go into Play Mode and Save Changes.
    Ideally you should do this single player but if you do have friends over, make sure they follow you into the empty area.

    Music Sequencer Lag
    Although it doesn't impair the playability of your level, a delay in your custom music loop can be distracting and it's a common problem that seems to get worse with every loop of the Music Sequencer.
    The best solution I've found so far is to use a regular Sequencer to control the loop. There may still be a slight delay, but it's an improvement. Place two copies of your Music Sequencer on a regular Sequencer and set to loop. The time between the two Music Sequencers should be equal to the length of your song, with and the same distance again from the second Music Sequencer to the end of the regular Sequencer. This may sound difficult to calculate, but you can do it by just watching the Sequencer run through and placing your Music Sequencers at the right times.
    If you already know the length of your song:
    Set your Sequencer to have only two Stripes, each the same duration as your song - for example 1:05 would be 65 Seconds per Stripe. Then place one copy of your Music Sequencer on each Stripe and you're done.

    Animation Flicker (Sticker Panel)
    If you create an animation using a Sequencer, you may notice a flicker when it loops. As of yet I don't know a way to fix this aside from omitting the Sequencer all together and using a Selector and a Timer instead.
    Connect each output of the Selector to a frame of your animation, in order - output 1 to the first frame, etc. Connect the Timer's output to its own reset, and also to the Selector's Cycle input. Now set the Target Time to suit the animation style you like, 0.1 or 0.2 Seconds looks nice.

    Reasources for Artsy Creators:
    Better Decorating Tutorial
    3D/Extra Layer Tool Give-Away and Tutorial (level)
    Nudge Tool Tool Give-Away and Tutorial (level)
    Compression Tool (LBP1 level, includes instructions)
    To Sequencer from Sheet Music

    Well, that's about all I have to offer at this point. If anyone has additional suggestions please comment and I'll update this tutorial.

    Thanks to the following PSNs for helpful tips:
    Liquid_Blood_
    Dortr
    Stellakris
    Ungreth
    Blackbeltnick95
    Zing_007
    Elvenbane
    Ryumera
    lordwarblade
    NinjaMicWZ
    julesyjules
    Last edited by Pookachoo; 12-19-2012 at 09:33 PM. Reason: minor update


  2. #2
    LBPCentral Spotlight CrewLBPCentral Spotlight Crew yugnar's Avatar
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    I think I've already told you this in the Planetarium or something, still I'll repeat it: Awesome tutorial! Something that does not feel copied, that is useful and very detailed. Perfect!




  3. Thanks!


  4. #3
    LBPCentral Spotlight CrewLBPCentral Spotlight Crew biorogue's Avatar
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    Default

    Great write-up Pook and I'm positive It'll come in handy for not only myself but others as well. Excellent!


    Follow me on the twitterz @bioswoop

  5. Thanks!


  6. #4
    Can I haz bamboo? Ungreth's Avatar
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    I employ most of these techniques in my own levels, but I've gotta say that the downside to using sticker panel/felt in place of materials is the horrible sticker bug that's plagued the game since lbp1 and still remains unpatched. You say a few large stickers are preferable to many small ones and while this may ameliorate the lag situation, the larger the stickers (and the closer they lie in proximity to each other) the higher your chance of being hit by the sticker bug.

    For anyone wondering what sticker bug I'm talking about, its where the edges of materials dont display the sticker properly and instead cycle through various stickers that have been used elsewhere in the level. The best solution if this happens is to extend the edges of the affected area to hide them behind another piece of material or out of camera shot.

  7. Thanks!


  8. #5
    arbiekko
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    Great list, and depressing. It's like a list of all the foods that are bad for health. Basically everything tasty.


  9. #6
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I've updated the OP, and will do so again as needed

  10. #7

    Default

    Are you sure about the gluing thing? I've been out of the game for a long time but it was always conventional wisdom that gluing things together was the best practice. And are you sure about gravity tweakers being better than dark/light matter? Have there been tests to confirm these ideas?


  11. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Sehven View Post
    Are you sure about the gluing thing? I've been out of the game for a long time but it was always conventional wisdom that gluing things together was the best practice. And are you sure about gravity tweakers being better than dark/light matter? Have there been tests to confirm these ideas?
    Dark matter is animated and it is yet another material to add to the list of materials you use. Setting a gravity tweaker as suggested effectively removes most of the physics the engine has to calculate... hence, he's right

  12. Thanks!


  13. #9
    Can I haz bamboo? Ungreth's Avatar
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    I glue all the inanimate parts of a set piece together and then stick a single gravity tweaker on it

  14. Thanks!


  15. #10
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sehven View Post
    Are you sure about the gluing thing? I've been out of the game for a long time but it was always conventional wisdom that gluing things together was the best practice. And are you sure about gravity tweakers being better than dark/light matter? Have there been tests to confirm these ideas?
    I have actually heard conflicting information about glueing and tweakers vs dark matter, and I have not done tests myself.
    Those suggestions came from Liquid_Blood_ and I'm just trusting his info to be current and reliable. So this one's on you, Liquid

  16. #11

    Default

    Even if the anti-grav's don't help with lag, I've found it does make editing the level a lot easier at times.

    This is a great tutorial by the way.

  17. Thanks!


  18. #12
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xxMATEOSxx View Post
    Even if the anti-grav's don't help with lag, I've found it does make editing the level a lot easier at times.
    Me too. Like Ungreth, I like to glue some chunks (I should try less glueing) and if you unglue then you can lose your light/dark matter.

  19. #13
    LBPCentral Spotlight CrewKeyholder of Imagination L-I-M-I's Avatar
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    Awesome stuff bud


    I have an avatar, it's just you can't see it cause your screen is dirty.......

    I has levels!
    Stealing Sound .............................http://lbp.me/v/j5pb0y
    Ordinary Joe ......................................http://lbp.me/v/fgjzb1
    Sacks-Off, Dance-Off ................................http://lbp.me/v/jbb24n
    The Very Hungry Caterpillar..............................http://lbp.me/v/gg-xt7
    Merry Thanksgivoween Arcadium Explodaganza......http://lbp.me/v/g3gmwr

  20. #14
    Can I haz bamboo? Ungreth's Avatar
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    I think you should add a paragraph about lighting too, since this is an element that has the potential to enhance the visuals greatly, yet also to cause serious lag if misused.

  21. Thanks!


  22. #15

    Default

    Does the the time of day effect it too? long shadows, short shadows, if you see what I mean

  23. #16
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    Do you have any specific suggestions, such as certain types of light causing more problems?

  24. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by pookachoo View Post
    Do you have any specific suggestions, such as certain types of light causing more problems?
    no, I was just wondering. I would have thought that early morning and late evening light may take up more thermo because they cast longer shadows. I don't know if that's the case, but it just struck me as a possibility.

  25. #18

    Default

    When it comes to lighting a good rule to follow is to ask “What would Morgana do?”…and then use 10-20x LESS lights!

    Quote Originally Posted by GribbleGrunger View Post
    no, I was just wondering. I would have thought that early morning and late evening light may take up more thermo because they cast longer shadows. I don't know if that's the case, but it just struck me as a possibility.
    Time of day affects the position and intensity of the solar/ambient lights, not their number, still need to do all the same calculations…

    * Request for suggestions was probably to Ungreth btw.


  26. #19
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fullofwin View Post
    Time of day affects the position and intensity of the solar/ambient lights, not their number, still need to do all the same calculations…

    * Request for suggestions was probably to Ungreth btw.
    Okay, that's good to know. Request for suggestions is really to anyone

  27. #20
    LBPC Contest CrewRoyal High Alchemist Pookachoo's Avatar
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    After fiddling around with lights for a bit, I've added this section to the OP:

    Lighting
    I've done some tests with light objects and found that for minimizing lag it's best to use lights that can be set to Not Visible during gameplay, which means using either the LED Light Bulb or the Clear Light Bulb (Move Pack). Both of these lights act like decorations in that they aren't free standing objects, but have to be placed on other objects or materials. These two lights also seem to use the least Thermometer space.
    I also found lag is affected more by the radius of lights than by the number of lights. Ultimately try to use lights sparingly, but opt for several smaller radius lights over one with a huge radius.
    Changing the time of day in your level should have no effect, but increasing the fog density may increase lag (this is unconfirmed).

  28. Thanks!


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