MetaReality did an interview with members of the Exodus Viewer Team. It is presented as a PODCast. I’m curious about viewers and the teams that make them, so I had to check it out. Following is my take on the interview. I’ve included time marks so you can jump to parts of the interview you may be interested in. The PODCast runs 1 hour 15 minutes.
Exodus Team; Clix Diesel, the voice of Exodus Viewer and project lead, Ash Qin is Exodus’ Linux developer and owns and runs the popular Sci-Fi sim Deshima, Geenz Spad is Exodus’ graphics guy, and Ayamo Nozaki (not present on the podcast) is the lead developer for Exodus.
0:00 – 3:45 – Introductions, we gotta know the players.
3:34 – 4:00 – Clix talks a little about the direction of the Exodus Viewer Development. Mostly that it is targeted at the SL gamers. I take that to mean those that play in the combat SIM’s. They probably take a broader view, but they are from a hardcore combat group in SL.
4:00 – Why do they build the viewer? Basically for the fun of it and to create a better second Life experience for their selves and others.
5:15 – Why do you bother with SL, what’s so special about it? They answer the main reason is because it is a platform rather than a game.
6:30 – What about the outdated render engine and its never being able to catch up to other games in video quality? I can’t ID voices well enough to say who is answer at any given time, so I’m not going to try to use names. Two of the team respond. The render engine has some old parts but most of it is current with today’s technology. The quality of what we see is set by those building and creating in SL. The team believes that some impressive and pretty builds can be made with Second Life.
The World of War Craft is brought up as a comparison. The team sees it as avoiding a photorealistic render and being more of a cartoon style of render. The textures are awesome but they are not trying for photorealism.
Second Life ranges from full on cartoon style and animae to highly photorealistic and everything in between. A creator can create in whatever style they chose. With LSL (scripting) they can do things in SL that make it an excellent creative tool.
8:30 – Why do people hate Second Life? Confusion about what Second Life is. One has to make the shift from playing a game to using a render engine with total freedom. It is a conceptual frame the user comes in with. The team thinks that preconception part is not the Lab’s fault. I disagree. The Lab’s promotion is about shaping that conception, something many of us feel they have never been able to do well. Giving props where they are due, it is a difficult task explaining what freedom in a game means when your potential customers have never experienced such freedom.
9:30 – Discussion about machinima that people using SL make and put on YouTube. Most of it sucks and has no artistic direction or style. The intro image vampire that is on the initial SL sign up page is slammed, justifiably I think. Gianna points out we have no idea what the Lab asked the hired artists to create for those images. It may not be fair to fault the artist. I only care that the final product is a horrible representation of what SL is and I believe the buck stops with Linden Lab.
12:00 – Inline with the previous discussion the team is explaining how Exodus opens up features to users and allows them to tweak the render for better photos and machinima. Gianna comments on how people comment about great new features in the Exodus Viewer that have actually been in the SL Viewer for years. They just never found them.
A combination of the Lab’s choice in marketing images, art department, and underselling fills the next 7 minutes.
19:30 – What about the balance the Lab seems to being trying to achieve between older low end computers and new high end computers? The team thinks the Lab has done a pretty good job of balancing between the average user and the high end gamer. They get into the challenges of making something work on so many different computers.
22:55 – Explains deferred render… sort of… they try to turn it into a layman’s explanation. Suffice to say your computer uses some of its memory as a temporary canvas to paint the screen image on before placing it on your screen. In many ways it is a scratch pad or sketchbook approach to rendering. For scenes that change a lot it is a more efficient way to render things.
26:15 – Why do shadows flicker in machinima? The team doesn’t know. It happens in Exodus and the SL Viewer.
27:30 – There is a Help Chat feature in Exodus. Plus links to forums, IRC chat, and some other stuff…
28:30 – Why are people so resistant to changing from the old user interface to the new one? One of team recounts there experience of people using 1.23 telling them they will never use V2 or V3 user interface because they hate it. Then turn around and tell them they love the Exodus interface, which is very similar to the V3 interface. There is nothing in the universe that will make everyone sane and rational.
30:00 – Gianna put a question out on Plurk and other social networks asking 1.23 users why they weren’t changing to newer viewers. Most of the answers have to do with not wanting to learn a new user interface (UI).
The team points out: their problem with the changeover was render speed. The Exodus viewer is based on the Geneses Viewer used by those engaged in combat games where frame rate is everything, if one wants to be competitive. So, the team was concerned with performance in Exodus.
The team has found with the new Shining Fixes SL Viewer 3 (about 3.2.5+) and Exodus are just as good as 1.23 performance-wise. They have combat player friends that are testing the Exodus viewer every day in combat SIM where thousands of physical prims are being rezzed in combat play (think bullets). The viewer and the SL Viewer are stable in those situations.
I’ve played in NoR when combat junkies were more or less in control. I used the SL Viewer and Emerald at the time. I have yet to use Exodus in combat, but the SL Viewer does pretty well. I think the SIM’s are better able to carry the load now, but I still think the 3.2 viewers are slower. However, it isn’t like I’ve done an objective comparison.