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The last years have witnessed a dramatic growth in the number as well as in the variety of distributed virtual environment systems. These systems allow multiple users, working on different client computers that are interconnected through different networks, to interact in a shared virtual world. One of the key issues in the design of scalable and cost-effective DVE systems is the partitioning problem. This problem consists of efficiently assigning the existing clients to the servers in the system and some techniques have been already proposed for solving it. This paper experimentally analyzes the correlation of the quality function proposed in the literature for solving the partitioning problem with the performance of DVE systems. Since the results show an absence of correlation, we also propose the experimental characterization of DVE systems. The results show that the reason for that absence of correlation is the nonlinear behavior of DVE systems with regard to the number of clients in the system. DVE systems reach saturation when any of the servers reaches 100 percent of CPU utilization. The system performance greatly decreases if this limit is exceeded in any server. Also, as a direct application of these results, we present a partitioning method that is targeted to keep all the servers in the system below a certain threshold value of CPU utilization, regardless of the amount of network traffic. Evaluation results show that the proposed partitioning method can improve DVE system performance, regardless of both the movement pattern of clients and the initial distribution of clients in the virtual world.