This article covers more than just the S21 viewer review. KirstenLee’s S21 reveals some of the changes coming to SL. I touch on those as part of the viewer review. KirstenLee is working on the release of her cutting edge viewer S21, now out as a release candidate. Today Release Candidate 2 was made available. This version uses the new resident Profile System.
If you have not used KirstenLee’s viewers, the S20 and S21 viewers are series 2 viewers with a modified SLV2 User Interface (UI) and a custom render pipeline. The S21 viewer has additional UI changes. KirstenLee is making UI change to make the S21 more compatible with SLV2 skins. Of course making a better interface is part of the process too. For compatibility KirstenLee has put the sidebar control back on the right side of the screen.
The S21 is based on SLV2 code from Linden Lab’s Mesh Project Viewer. The viewer will render mesh. It does not yet have the ability to upload mesh. Only the Mesh Project Viewer has that ability. S21 also has Qarl’s patches… there’s more than one? The main one is the prim alignment tool. I’ll have to look around and see if I can find out if there are other Qarl additions.
The download is about 26mb. The viewer installs in its own folder, Kirstens S21. So, you can have both the main S20 and S21 viewers installed and usable at the same time. The viewer also creates separate cache and settings folders for its use.
General: Display Names are the default and user names are off by default. Also Group Titles are off by default too. There is the option to Highlight Friends name tags. The option to have letter keys open chat or used for movement is on the general tab. This is one of those settings I have divided opinion about where the setting should be. Also on the panel has the AFK (Away from Keyboard) timeout for log off. By default it is set to Never. Also, the Busy Mode text is on this panel.
You may notice a pattern in what is located on the General Panel. These items seem to be the more often used settings.
Graphics Settings – General Tab: This panel skips the empty panel the SLV2 initially displays and shows the advanced settings. If one is using Kirsten’s viewer they are an advanced user, so it only makes sense. The typical Low, Medium, High, and Ultra settings labels are gone. The slider is there but smaller and labeled simply as min and max. The Light and Shadows settings to enable shadows are in the panel. Shadows are off by default.
Lighting & Shadows are off as the default setting. One can turn them on without restarting the viewer. Turning them on changes the render appearance. See the comparison image. Notice the lamp in the L&S-On render. Builders will have to change how they build things. The hit on Frames per Second (FPS) is negligible.
Ambient Occlusion (definition) also has negligible affect on performance. As it affects reflection there is no change to the render inside my cottage. It too can be turned on without restarting the viewer.
Sun/Moon is a Shadows setting that enables shadows. This setting now allows one to turn it on and off without restarting the viewer. I take an 8 to 10 FPS hit when I turn on shadows.
Sun/Moon + Projectors is the next setting. The FPS degrade when it is enabled is negligible. But, Projectors are not in common use. So, this means little at this time as there are probably no Projectors in Minkarta. With the feature enabled I get about 9 to 11 FPS, which is a useable rate.
Graphics – Advanced-Lighting Tab: This panel has additional tabs on its page. The Lighting tab has the setting for Local Lights, which is enabled as the default. Glow options and Hover Glow (which I don’t like) options are on this tab. One can use these setting to tweak how you system renders glow. Hover Glow puts a glow outline around objects as your cursor moves over them. There is little or no performance change if you enable the feature.
Graphics – Advanced-Textures Tab: HTTP Get Textures is on this page and the default is enabled. The S21 makes good use of this feature and I found textures downloading quickly. You can use Ctrl-Shift-3 (toggle) to watch the texture download process. There are a number of texture settings on the page. Texture Memory should be at the max.
Graphics – Advanced-Shadows Tab: The shadow blur size and distance settings are on this tab. The defaults are fine. These are settings for photographers and those making machinima. The SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion) settings are here. They have to do with how depth affects shading, basically it should be darker under a table. SSAO makes a pass at figuring out how ambient light would make surfaces bright and dark.
Graphics – Advanced-Pref-Hardware Tab: These are advanced settings that related to your hardware. Anti-Aliasing (AA) can be enabled on this panel. AA usually degrades performance but improves the image rendered. Once you enable the setting you need to click the Apply button to apparently reset the video card and see the effect. AA x2 drops me to about 7 to 9 FPS. The image is much better. The pixel jaggies along the edge of the avatar are reduced but not gone. Stationary objects in the frame are much sharper. When I turned it off, the video card seemed to reset on its own.
Graphics – Advanced-Global Illumination Tab: (definition) This is a feature that makes the rendered image more photorealistic. It takes a really good video card. The process adds a load of calculation to the rendering process. Enabling this feature drops my FPS to 4 to 6. This is better than previous versions that took me down to 1 or less FPS. But, I am seriously considering a video card upgrade this year.
Graphics – Advanced-Miscellaneous Tab: This panel contains more camera controls. The Depth of Field (DoF) settings are here. Kirsten has used settings names that work better for photographers. The settings use names related to photography. They make much more sense to those of us that have an interest in photography beyond our cell phone pics. If you are trying to turn off DoF set the Camera f-stop (f/#) to the max value.
Sound & Media: All the normal stuff is here. The Voice Enable/Disable setting is here. One nice feature we are seeing more of is the ability to list the artist and title of music playing via the parcel channel. This setting is on by default.
Chat: One had the choice of separate chat windows or a tabbed single window, which I really like. However, I am getting used to having the icons for chat windows down in the right corner. Plus having the ability to change how the Chat/IM Toasts fade makes the whole experience better. Using the SLV2 viewer in combat is a pain. Too much stuff gets in one’s way. The setting to turn off incoming Group Chat and IM pop ups is on this panel, which could save your life. 🙂
Move & View: The camera settings for the viewer window are here using the non-photography labels. The setting to Disable Camera Constraints is on this panel. The Arrow Keys Always Move Me setting is here. If you want to use arrow keys to edit text, this has to be off. Double Click teleporting is here as is double click navigation. This gives you the choice to double click on a location and walk there or tp there instantly. Autopilot overrides TP.
Double Click TP would probably be considered to violate the rule of no tp’ing out of combat by most game administrators. It would be an unfair use of the system. The Autopilot is another matter that has probably not been considered by many. One can guide their avatar and have hands free for fighting. While I think that is more realistic to life, it is a change for combat players. Avatars move differently on Autopilot and direction changes are unusually quick.
Colors: This is neat. This is a collection of the various color settings that affect how the viewer handles color. Chat color, effects color, name tag and bubble chat background color, and floater opacity settings are on this panel.
Privacy: Yep, privacy settings are here. An additional feature is the ability to set a location for your chat logs. S21 uses a separate location for chat and IM logs. I think this is a good idea and will likely reduce viewer problems, as the chat log format is changing. But, some people want to keep all their chat logs in one place. Those that use more than one viewer may have to look in several places to find a conversation in the logs. This setting handles that problem.
Error – There is a button on this panel right at the bottom that is clipped off. No… I did not click it.
Setup: This has the bandwidth setting. Using 75% of your maximum bandwidth is recommended by some. Others say keep it at 500kbps for better luck with SL. See what works for you. Ghost avatars that block login, avatars that won’t rez, avatars that show up naked, lost inventory, and a number of other problems are some of the problems caused by a flakey connection. In the coming months this will probably change as the Lab will be working on bandwidth issues. The setting in S21 goes up to 10mbps. Of course, cache location and clearing are on this panel. The choice to use the internal or external web browser is here. Some people are reporting crashes using the internal browser that relies on WebKit. Others are having problems using Chrome as the external browser.
Advanced: This panel has the user interface setting for text size. I recommend leaving this at the default. Until viewers stabilize and skin makers can work out all the bugs for various text sizes, changing this can add unexpected problems. The settings for Grid Section at login and displaying the Advanced and Develop items in the top menu are here.
Skin: This is the skin selector. S21 moves the sidebar controls back to the right side in the S21Royal skin, the default skin. Changing the selection seems to force a viewer reset but nothing changes until the next viewer start. Royal is a pretty purple. Sticking with the default is probably safest in the RC’s.
Viewer: These are all the odd little settings that control the viewer UI. You can turn buttons in the bottom menu on and off, control tool tip fade times, turn SL hover tips on and off, and a bunch more.
Once the region loads, I am getting 20 to 25 FPS (Duel Core2 w/nVidia 8800 GTS) using the default graphics settings, which I assume are the High settings found in other viewers. The numbers look about right for that.
In the settings I’ve touched on FPS. I’ll skip going over those again.
The viewer has a new logo for the desktop icon.
The Sidebar controls are on the side again. The Sidebar behaves a little differently. It does not PUSH the world view. It does push group chats and the icons at the bottom. The inventory view remains transparent even while in use, which is nice. Other views are opaque.
Playing with the sidebar I crashed. I had a ton of stuff open as I was writing this. On relog I realized a lot of stuff had to reload. Textures that should still have been in the cache were reloading. The Lab has been working on cache issues. Whatever. Every time I open my profile in the sidebar I crash. I can open it via a right click on my avatar. The new profiles apparently use Open ID and I don’t have one so… I got no profile. Bummer. Even if I go to the My.SecondLife.com web page and login it remains empty. I’ll assume it is broken. I can manually get to the page by typing in a URL with my name… so… why doesn’t logging in bring up my prifile? There are already JIRA’s on this issue.
I got a bunch of errors when trying to look at other residents profiles. Basically in this version Profiles are a mess. That is partially the Lab’s fault as the feature is also not working well in other viewers.
You can see the obvious tie into Facebook and other social networks in the new profile stuff. So, this is the future of Profiles. The Facebook users are freaking out… well, that is an over statement… but the are blogging that Facebook is being turned into Second Life. Now isn’t that a turn-about?
Depth of Field (DoF) is turned on by default. You can see this by Alt-clicking to focus your camera/view on different things. Out doors shows it best. This is about distant things being out of focus when you are looking at something close and the reverse. At first I did not find an easy way to disable it. But the settings are in Preferences -> Graphics -> Advanced -> Misc. I don’t like DoF for general use. Setting the FNumber to the max value effectively turns it off. I prefer to set my depth of field effects in Photoshop. Rendering DoF in the viewer makes the photo useless for multiple purposes. I’ve included an image with DoF pushed past reasonable limits to highlight the effect. It’s not that gross in actual use. The arrow shows where the DoF changes from sharp to out of focus.
I don’t see memory use creeping up. So, this is one of the few Series 2 viewers that does not have horrid memory leaks.
I went running around SL with shadows on. In malls the order in which textures render shows the viewer is doing a good job of getting the nearby stuff first. I have not seen a speed-rez feature in S21 but the effect of one appears to be there. The viewer is doing smart stuff by rendering nearby stuff first.
This is not a builders viewer. KirstenLee has added the Qarl Alignment Tool. It works funny. The logic is not right. At least, not like what I’m used to in Imprudence. If you have ever used Prim Docker, you will realize Qarl’s Alignment Tool is a nice feature, but it is not going to replace the Docker. Also, there is no Build Math (see Imprudence reviews for an explanation of that). The TAB key doesn’t work in the build dialog, which is a killer. I did not know how much I used that key until it didn’t work.
The Build Panel is preparing for mesh. So, you’ll see new information and some new object attributes. The settings for Projectors are there (in Features).
While this is a release candidate viewer one could use it for most of their day to day use. It gives a nice render and even with lots of features on it is relatively fast. When you consider what turning shadows on in the SLV2.5 viewer does to FPS, KL S21 is nice.