Third Party Viewers
There isn’t a lot of news coming out of third party developers (TPD). They are generally busy coding and developing their third party viewers (TPV). The Firestorm Team is an exception but, it is a good sized team. Several of the others are single developers or a couple of people, which doesn’t leave much time for PR.
The development pace at the Lab has put most TPD’s behind the curve, with a few exceptions. Also, big features that can change the user experience and especially the shared experience require approval and adoption by the Lab. The result is the Lab’s viewer is pretty much the cutting edge viewer now. I still consider TPV’s to be feature leading with the Lab cherry picking features. Power users mostly use a TPV.
The result is I use fewer TPV’s than I used to. So, my coverage of them has decreased. I once used TPV’s because I was looking for the best experience and different TPV’s gave different experiences. That is no longer the case. So, my viewer use for any given day depends on features I want/need to use.
The Lab’s viewer gives a good experience and has new features like HTTP Pipeline before most TPV’s, with Cool VL sometimes being an exception. It lacks the power user features that complicate learning to use the viewer. For general use it does well.
I wanted to take a look at where TPV’s are today. Here is the status as I see it. My opinions of the viewers are my OPINIONS, not facts.
Firestorm is expected to make a release soon. I suspect/remember/think the delay is in getting HTTP Pipeline integrated into this release. Also, AISv3 (Agent Inventory System) changes have been a delay. The team was waiting for the Lab to fix problems. The release of an ‘improved’ AIS viewer by the Lab with fixes addressing the FS Team’s concerns has the AIS work moving forward.
Alchemy has not released an update since 3.7.19, about 3 weeks ago. Cinder Roxley is still labeling this viewer a BETA version. I’ve used this one and keep it updated. It is my fall back viewer if I need to avoid an SL Viewer that goes buggy. This viewer is being optimized and debugged to be a faster and more stable version of the Linden Viewer. I don’t see it as more feature rich, just a more stable viewer.
Cool VL Viewer is on version 22.214.171.124 released Nov 11, 2014. This viewer uses a V1 interface, which I just don’t use because of personal preference. I prefer the V3 UI. But, I’m a fan of this viewer. It’s a viewer that is tech-wise up to date with the Linden Viewer and has fewer bugs. It too is a good choice for those with older or less powerful computers, which if you have a hot machine makes for a fast viewer.
CtrlAltStudio is the viewer with Oculus Rift support and is based on the Firestorm Viewer and the Linden user interface ideas. Its last release was Nov 3, version 126.96.36.199214 Alpha 4. Not having a HMD, I don’t have any point of comparison. For a time it did have support for other 3D modes than Oculus. I haven’t checked it lately.
Dolphin Viewer is on sabbatical. The last release was a BETA 3.6.99 around the beginning of August 2014. This once was on par with the Linden Viewer and with more features. The developer is involved with RL and not spending much time on this viewer. The result is it is out of date.
Exodus Viewer is also on sabbatical. Its last release was September 2013. AFAIK, there is no one working on this viewer. The team members are working on code that is going into the open source channel. Projects are cooperative efforts with the Lab. The last completed project was the Materials System.
Kokua Viewer has a NEW Linux release (3.7.8) for OpenSim, version 3.7.81-33408. The ‘1’ making it 3.7.81 denotes a cherry picked version with some features beyond the Linden version 3.7.8. I’m not really clear on what the team is doing. But, they seem to be moving toward OpenSim support. I no longer even have a copy of the viewer installed.
Marine’s Retrained Life Viewer is on version 2.9.3 and was released Oct 30, 2014. Marine’s work on RLV is in many third party viewers. I don’t use this viewer. I follow some of the goings on as I use RLV in the Firestorm Viewer.
NaranV Dean Black Dragon Viewer version 188.8.131.52 was released Oct 30, 2014. This viewer is an ongoing experiment in user interface design. The new camera panel in the Linden viewer is a product that came from this viewer developer. I tend to avoid this viewer now because I find figuring out where controls, menu items, and where other things are too frustrating. The viewer does expose many viewer settings and controls not provided in other viewers.
Singularity Viewer made their last release Sept 4, 2014 version 1.8.6. They have an active in world group. This seems to have become the V1 user interface viewer for those unhappy with Firestorm. It is maintained and an excellent viewer for those with older computers.
I am sure TPD’s are busy. From a user point of view nothing much is ‘visibly’ happening. This is very different from the days when TPV’s were ahead of the curve and exciting competition existed. The Lab has pretty well turned down experimentation and dampened innovation. It’s there, but not at the pace of days gone by.
The interesting things in Second Life are shifting. The changes the Lab makes are changing how we develop for SL. I am seeing more amazing places and things made with mesh, rigged and fitted mesh, and materials. Clothes have make a number of steps up the quality ladder.
The appearance of Second Life is changing. Experience Tools will make another change in how we experience SL.
All these changes take work from the users of Second Life. And they take time. So, slowly our world is changing. I suspect it is becoming more like what we can expect SL2 be like. Granted lots of things are going to be different and visual quality should step up, but, can it be that much different than what we have? I’m not sure. I mean how much bigger can breasts and butts get?
Tress, machines, vehicles, and things have lots of room for improvement. I expect to see those stepped up in SL2.
Avatars I think are in the area of marginal improvements. The skeleton and animation changes are likely to improve how well clothes work with the avatar. We are also likely to get better body animations, smiles, hand animation, etc. But, I expect the big changes will be in non-human avatars.
All this is leading to changes in how people write about Second Life. I know my coverage is changing.