If you are following my coverage of viewers, you know that most Third Party Viewer (TPV) Developers are NOT releasing production viewers, but instead release Beta or test viewers to save on paper work. So, I am not surprised that Exodus has another Beta version out.
The Exodus blog lists the New, Fixed, and Changed features in this release. See: Beta 9 (188.8.131.52).
The release comes in both a 32-bit and a sort of 64-bit (LAA) version. The download file size is about 37mb and the download is quick. The install is simple and typical. I installed it over the top of my previous 8.1 install and it seems to work OK.
Once upon a time viewers had lots of differences and performance was significantly better or worse in different viewers. In general there is less difference between viewers now. There are some feature differences here and there, but in general all viewers seem to be much more similar than in the past. The big differences are in the user interface… and in many cases those differences are fading. Of course the viewers trying to hold to the old V1 user interface are different from the V3 interface, but, as more and more new stuff is added to the Lab’s viewer even those viewers get more V3 parts or just fall behind.
Exodus Viewer is pretty much the same as other V3 viewers… on the surface. It is when you start using it and drilling into the menus that it starts to show it has different spots. One area is in how it renders a scene in SL. For photographers and fashion models I think Exodus is the must have viewer. It sort of provides Photoshop’s adjustments in the viewer. Look at controls in: Top menu Me-> Preferences-> Visuals (button – lower middle right).
I think the surface similarity to the SL Viewer 3.4.x makes it easier for new users to adopt, which is good for users new to Exodus. As you start to dig for controls you find more features and controls exposed than in the SL Viewer. Exodus uses colored menu entries to denote entries unique to Exodus. I find I seldom need to resort to the Debug Settings to get to a setting I want when using Edocus. While this may seem to make Exodus more complicated, I think that is out weighted by placing controls out where people can find them. So, while the controls are where they can be found nothing forces one to drill down to them.
The Exodus Viewer also has features for those of us that like to play in various role play and combat games within Second Life. I’m not going to try and go through those. There are lots of neat features to discover if you are into gaming within SL.
No Big Changes
If you haven’t tried the Exodus Viewer, it is worth a look. Those using it are not going to find any big changes between this version Beta 9 and last August’s version Beta 8.1.
The team has added full Pathfinding support. This means the Havok Library has been included. You can render the Navmesh to see walkable areas and paths. It makes testing Pathfinding setups much easier. I show the Navmesh in the opening image.
In the image the white overlays on the ground and my home’s floor and patio are the Navmesh. Displaying the white overlay is what the Havok Library provides. It also means the viewer can only connect to the SL Grid.
Large Group Editing
This viewer adds the ability to work with the new server side Large Group Editing changes. So, if you have a large group >10,000, this version will work for you.
Another aspect of the Havok Library, which I haven’t said much about, is the convex hull calculation used by the SL Viewer when uploading mesh objects. That feature is part of the Havok Library. So, those viewers that license the Havok Library from Linden Lab can be using the exact same code to make their mesh uploads. That only makes a difference to those of you that do not make your own physics models for your mesh uploads. If you have the viewer make one for you, this is a significant change. It may help or hurt your Land Impact values. I don’t have a comparison because I make a physics model for every mesh thing I make. I’ve never seen the Havok code do as well or better than what I can do.
Other Fixes and Changes
You can now copy and paste as a LINK in inventory. Until you are using links, you have no idea how handy they can be. For no-copy items, it essentially allows you to work with them as if you could copy them.
Now Playing announcements work. Song titles…
There is a Copy as Link button in the viewer’s Help About Second Life Viewer. I don’t understand its purpose. It gives one a tiny link into the Exodus site which displays your viewer specs. (http://p.exodusviewer.com/tZiwS7V) I have no idea why one would want to do that.
There are a few other minor changes and fixes.
If you haven’t dug through all the Exodus Viewer features check out the Features page of the blog: Exodus Viewer Features. You will find things you did not know about.
Take Away – The Beta 9 is performing faster than the current SL Viewer and at about the same level as 8.1. I did not see an increase or slowing. As best I can tell, Exodus Viewer 9 does not have the HTTP Protocol improvements. So, when shopping in a mall things tend to be a bit slow rendering.
Performance Details – If you’re into a more precise techie take on performance this section is for you. If you’re a longer time reader you know I don’t get into highly precise tech but try to keep things understandable for the novice tech at the expense of accuracy.
Measuring performance in a meaningful way is a pain and tedious, things I tend to try and avoid. Plus the settings one uses and the hardware really affects performance. I think in general most people see Light & Shadows (labeled more accurately as Deferred Render in Exodus), Ambient Occlusion, and Sun/Moon Shadows as settings they change that make the most difference to performance. So, it is usually only those I mention.
Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Anisotropic Filtering (AF) also have a significant affect on performance, but these two are normally set the first time a viewer starts and I suspect most users never bother to change them. If you are using an nVidia 200 series card or newer, you should be changing your SL and card’s settings to use the newer and faster AA abilities of your card rather than using the SL Viewer’s AA.
To get any idea of a viewers performance and what my experience shows one needs to look back at my previous reviews of a viewer. Use this blog’s top menu to select a viewer and get a list of related reviews.
With the 8.1 Viewer, in my home, I was getting 30-36 FPS with Deferred, Occlusion, and S/M Shadows on… I think. With Exodus 9 that is down to 19 FPS… So, I was wondering if I messed something up in the previous article. With Deferred, Occlusion, and S/M Shadows off I am getting 30-36+ FPS. If I teleport up to 3,000m that jumps to about 57-63 FPS. These values are after things rez.
Doing some checking I find I have never set my video card up with specific settings for Exodus Beta. So, I did some playing to see what changes would do to my performance. One of the first changes is to turn off AA in the Exodus Viewer. That setting has a note saying a restart is required. But, as soon as I disable AA I see the jaggies appear on screen. That ‘restart’ thing may be something that is dependent on the video card. Whatever, I did a viewer restart.
After the restart and with a serious case of jaggies I get 30-39 FPS in my house. I cannot see any change in FPS by enabling or disabling AF. I do see the visual quality decrease when it is disabled. I think my video card has a lot to do with that performance factor.
After adjusting my AA and AF in the nVidia Control Panel I have an excellent image and my FPS stays in the range of 34-38 FPS.
With the nVidia card setup for Exodus when I turn on Deferred, Occlusion, and S/M Shadows my performance drops into the 17-20 FPS range. After an hour+ of being on line I was seeing the viewer slow down, into the 5-10 FPS. After a Teleport to another region the FPS comes back up into the 17-20 range. Without more testing I can’t tell if it is the region or the viewer that is slowing things down.
Part of Exodus Viewer’s render is the Tone Mapping features. If you’re interested in what this is about, read the Wikipedia on Tone Mapping. The short explanation is: tone mapping extends the range of digital images… think of taking a picture of a car on a sunny day. The high lights are washed out white and the shadows in the wheel wells glom into a black shadow where the tire and shadow merge together. With tone mapping the render of the image can be made to look more like what the human eye can see. One can distinguish between the tire and shadow and washed out areas get color.
The tone mapping feature is handy for photographers in SL. To see how it is done and what it does look at: Second Picture’s Tone Mapping tutorial. I’ve shown the original and finished images.
I’m looking for more information on the Exodus Viewer’s tone mapping controls. For now using it is trial and error on my part.
Other than the changes listed here there isn’t much new in the Exodus Viewer. While a lot of work has gone into the viewer, appearance-wise and feature-wise it is pretty much as it was in release 8.1. But, the significant changes, fixes, and the upgrade to the SL Viewer base code 3.4.2 make this a worthwhile update.