Dolphin Viewer 3 Version Review

Another third party viewer (TPV) releases a mesh capable viewer. Dolphin 3 Viewer is the latest. See the announcement on the Dolphin Viewer blog.

The article lists the features now in Dolphin Viewer 3. Some are features that have been in the SLViewer 2 and 3 for a time. Some are Dolphin features not in the SLViewer. The current combination of features makes Dolphin Viewer 3 one of more feature rich power-user viewers.

BIG TIP for Blocked Login

I’ve seen a number of people complaining about not being able to login. This is a problem thought to be in the Linden Lab code for version 3 viewers, basically mesh capable viewers. Once one runs into the problem it seems to be very difficult to get around it and get logged in. This problem is not Dolphin Viewer problem. It is an SL problem.

Lance provides a work around for the problem. He suggests logging in with a non-mesh viewer. Once logged in, you can log out and come back with mesh enabled viewer. Why this works probably has something to do with the mesh up load enablement flags, but that is a guess on my part.

Mesh Render Capable

The Dolphin Viewer 3 will render mesh. It will not allow you to upload mesh. Uploading requires a special set of calculations handled by the Havok Physics Engine. A TPV developer must purchase a license from Havok to use the same software the Lab licensed from Havok and uses.

We will not see mesh upload in TPV’s until an open source replacement for Havok’s abilities is written and released. AFAIK, Kirsten’s discontinued viewer was the only TPV to have purchased a license and have mesh upload capability.

The Dolphin Viewer not being able to upload mesh is mostly a non-issue. Most SL residents do not need mesh upload. So, as long as it renders mesh, we should be good.

Build Tools

This is the first mesh viewer I have seen with Build Math in the Build Tools. If you don’t know about Build Math, it is the feature that allows you to type *2 at the end of say the prim’s X-dimension to double that dimension. You can multiply, divide, add, and subtract.

A nice feature in this implementation is variables. The position, size, and rotation values can be used as px, py, pz, sx, sy, sz, rx, ry, and rz. I can make a prim 15.1313m in the x-dimension and then type sx*2 in the y-dimension to set Y to 30.2626m, twice the X value.

One can also click into a value window and use keys to increment or decrement values. The key combinations are:

alt-up / alt-down: +/- 0.1
up / down: +/- 0.01
ctrl-up / ctrl-down: +/- 0.001
shift-up / shift-down: +/- 0.0001

Build Math is great for build by number people.

Download and Install

Download size is about 27mb. The download is quick.

The Dolphin Viewer 3 installs in its own folder, C:\Program Files\DolphinViewer3. So, it won’t overwrite previous versions.

The default cache for the viewer is the Second Life default cache location. Theoretically this should be OK. But, for months we have run into problems solved by clearing the cache, which I think suggests incompatibilities between viewers using the same cache. So, I create a new cache for each viewer.

The viewer creates its own settings file: settings_dolphinviewer3.xml.

This means you should be able to use this viewer without conflicts. You can leave previous versions installed.


The viewer uses the new SL splash page pre-login. The one with destinations.

Before logging in I run through the settings to get things the way I want them. I also find out about the viewer’s features.

The viewer has Lighting and Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, Depth of Field, and dynamic shadows.

There is also the Enhanced Avatar Physics setting for low to high quality render of the physics. In a crowded area turning this down can improve performance. Preferences->Graphics.

You have a choice of tabbed or windowed chat and IM. Preferences->Chat.

Double click for Teleport or Autopilot is in Preferences->Move and View.

This version has the large cache. By default it is set to 512mb. Preferences->Advanced.

There is a setting to show grid selection. Preferences->Dolphin Viewer 3. These are the various grids like OSGrid. The SL grid name AGNI is replaced with Second Life. The grid name for ADITI is replaced with Second Life Beta.

The same page has the Allow to Paste as Link feature for use in Inventory.

The HTTP Texture Get is in Preferences->Dolphin Viewer 3->Graphics. HTTP is enabled by default. This should be the faster setting. But, it seems in some regions or may be times of day the HTTP system overloads or something and things take for ever to download and render. Disabling this setting can improve things.

On the same page is the LoD setting. The setting controls when sculpty and mesh will change shapes. When one is near an object, lots of detail should display. By default this setting is at 2. Meaning you will always see more detail. The Lab’s default value is 1.25. Values can range from 0 to 8. The higher the setting the more detail you will see. A setting of 4 is the practical max. SL only uses four levels of detail (LoD). Settings over 4 supposedly have no additional effect. But, there are complex distance calc’s involved, so maybe they do have an effect.

Once Logged In

In my cottage I get 20 to25 FPS with Lighting & Shadows enabled. Ambient Occlusion and Depth of Field (DoF) and Dynamic Shadows are disabled.

Teleporting over to Celtic Myst I find the rez order seems odd. Lots of distant hidden things are rezzing first. The Interest List upgrades  from the Lab should avoid this problem and rez near things first. Once things have downloaded the FPS is 15 to 30 FPS. When I returned later I was loading off the cache and things seemed much faster.

Teleporting over to Dance Island I see the same odd rez order. While things are downloading I get 4 to 5 FPS. Avatars were slow loading. Pressing Ctrl-Shift-3 to see what the texture load was doing I found lots of small textures taking a long time to download. Almost looking hung. The region was showing 0.2 to 40 Physics FPS and Time Dilation from 0.80 to 0.98.

After 5 minutes I was still using 250kb/sec of bandwidth and only getting 5 FPS. The problem is likely more the region than the viewer.

I ran over to Big Daddy’s 80’s dance club. Again avatars are slow loading and I’m holding around 5 FPS. There are 53 people in the region. Time Dilation is 0.70 to 0.99 and 20 to 44 Physics FPS. After about 7 minutes 1/3 of the avatars had yet to rez. Lots of grey dancers.

Changing the avatar physics quality doesn’t seem to make a performance difference.

I listened to chat in Phoenix support, lots of people were asking about SL performance. So, don’t blame the bad numbers on the viewer. It is SL acting up. However, the mesh viewers do seem to slow down a lot while downloading and decompressing textures. So, don’t be surprised if you see a wide range of FPS.

The Build Math is nice and fun to play with.

Chat local/group is tabbed by default.

I used the viewer for about an hour in AGNI. No visible memory leaks.

I went on ADITI and looked at mesh things. It is easier to find mesh stuff there. The viewer renders mesh just fine.

Summing Up

The viewer is nice. The Lab’s version 3 code has some problems. Lance’s implementation hasn’t eliminated all their problems. It is a very usable viewer and has some nice features.

One thought on “Dolphin Viewer 3 Version Review

  1. thans for the write up, i will give this viewer a shot (since it’s easy to edit the XML file to list my grid, this will be convenient) =)

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