Viewer “3”: a quick road test

So, yesterday mesh arrived (except for folk on the BlueSteel RC channel, who still appear to be waiting for mesh to be rolled-out), and  – as I predicted in my report on the roll-out, Viewer “3” jumped very quickly from Beta to the main Viewer download channel.

For those hoping Viewer “3” was bringing with it some radical departure from Viewer 2 (and I did actually hear and read speculation from some who had not actually taken a look at the new version while it was in Beta), sorry folks, that was never the aim.

Elevating the Viewer from 2.x to 3.x was never about bringing out a whole new Viewer (or even radically improving what was there already), but simply about marking the arrival of mesh. In fact, other than a muted blog post in the In-World section of the official blog (actually promoted to Featured News as I wrote this article) and a couple of Tweets, it’s actually been the only sign from Linden Lab that mesh has rolled out. While I appreciate (very sincerely) that LL included a link to this very blog in their announcement, I’m nevertheless somewhat baffled at the low-key approach.

So what does “Viewer 3” bring us.

Well, pretty much what Viewer 2.8 had, with some bug fixes and, of course, the inclusion of various mesh features.

Performance-wise, I’ve personally found it to be reasonably comparable to the likes of Firestorm on my main PC. The frame rate for a reasonably busy sim (i.e. more than a handful of avatars) comes in at around 32-37fps. On a sim where I’m just one my own or with one or two others, this bangs up to 45-48fps. It doesn’t rock the way Viewer 2.7 did for me, but these figures give a pretty smooth performance.

With shadows enabled, things aren’t so good. I crash to around 5-8fps with just one or two on the same sim. Any more than that and the frame rate bottoms-out at around 2-3. This is pretty chronic compared to Firestorm with shadows enabled, and a lot worse even than some earlier iterations of Viewer 2.

The usual annoyances remain: lack of location co-ordinates in the navigation bar, overly clunky movement / camera control pop-ups, frustratingly confusing toasties, etc. (although in fairness, all Viewers based on the V2 code have this), absolutely crappy IM / chat windows (please, please, LL, take a leaf out of the Firestorm book), yadda, yadda.

As previously mentioned, the update includes an option to allow region / sim owners to allow / disable mesh on a sim. IMPORTANT UPDATE: please see the end of this article of the latest status of this option.

Region option to allow / disable mesh

The can be found bby clicking on the WORLD menu option, then navigating to PLACE PROFILE -> ESTATE / REGION, as shown above, and then clicking on the REGION tab. The option should be available for  estate managers. However, at present the option still has a bug that means it will fault back to ALLOW on clicking APPLY. Ciaran Laval has raised a JIRA on this: VWR-26727, which has been moved to SH-2341 – please make sure you WATCH it.

When it comes to uploading mesh objects, the option can be found in the BUILD menu, alongside the other upload options.

Mesh upload options

A couple of things to bear in mind here:

  • You’ll have to have completed the Mesh Upload Status tutorial and have Payment Information On File to upload mesh objects
  • It would appear that if the land is set to a Group with object entry / rezzing is restricted to that group, you may find the mesh upload option is not displayed unless you are a member of that Group (this was certainly my experience, testing on both my own land and a sim belonging to a friend whose Group I’m not a member of).

I ran a couple of upload tests without incident (although the meshes were not that complicated, and I didn’t play with the defaults that much, as they’d already been optimised for SL). I gather others have found problems.

Other than this, there is little more to say about Viewer “3”. Others have experienced crash and frame rate issues, but in using it for some 3 hours, with plenty of teleports, etc., I didn’t encounter any technical issues. usability issues, yes; but not technical. Again, the official Viewer, in whatever version number it sits under, has a long, long way to go before it reaches the level of convenient use offered by the likes of Firestorm – at least where the non-mesh aspects are concerned.

Update 25th August, 2011

In a comment on the revised JIRA, Charlar Linden states:

Charlar Linden updated SH-2341:Status: Expected Behavior  (was: Open)   Resolution: Not Applicable – thanks – this flag would have no effect, and is being removed soon.

So it would appear the option to disable mesh is not intended to be a part of the Viewer.

The promise of prims

Alongside the arrival of mesh comes the new maximum size for native prims: 64m. It’s been somewhat overlooked in the rush to welcome mesh, but for many, it is something that has been looked forward to perhaps more than mesh itself.

Let’s face it, even with the availability of mega prims, building in-world has been hampered with the restrictions placed on prim sizing in Second Life; so the arrival of the new upper sizing limit of 64m is a popular move.

I’ve already written on the new size, and the fact that it means that many mega prims under the new upper limit can be treated as “natively-rezzed” prims (although there are some exceptions) – but it’s worth restating that far from going away with the arrival of mesh, prims look as though they are really about to come into their own.

  • For those that have shunned mega prims entirely (possibly out of concern as to whether or not LL might rescind their use at some point)  can now re-work as they wish and economise their builds
  • Those who have used megas can also rebuild, particularly replacing those megas that have been created using skew, and which can cause prim drift issues in linksets. Even where megas have been used, they can still lead to comprimises due to the limitations placed on them in terms of sixing (even with the ability to cut & slice them), so there is potentially a lot to gain through re-working current mega-based builds.
Even builds using mega prims benefit

There is additionally the promise that prims themselves are to become the focus of a new “directed experience” for users entering Second Life, as the ability to create and collaboratively build within Second Life is recognised by Linden Lab as a tremendously powerful and attractive aspect of the platform.

Prims are also important because not all of us are going to be entirely comfortable around trying to get to grips with mesh – and even if we get over the various technical hurdles and get to grips with the technology needed to do so, there is still no guarantee we won’t end up stymied when it comes to getting stuff from a particular application outside of Second Life and actually in-world in such a way that it is efficient enough resource-wise to be viable.It is therefore important that we continue to have an avenue for creative expression.

So, yes, let’s all welcome mesh and hope it achieves what is hoped; but at the same time, let’s not forget the humble prim. I’ll leave you with a little video from Phaylen Fairchild, created for SL8B, and which perfectly frames the magic that prims have brought us over the years.

Making the ocean a shared creative space: The Blu

Shared creative space and shared creativity tool – they’re becoming popular terms. Not only does Rod Humble refer to Second Life as a shared creativity tool, he suggested that shared creative space might be a Good signpostfor his thinking around at least one new product that will be coming out of Linden Lab.

Now it seems another organisation is moving into these areas, offering a web-based shared creative space and a shared creativity tool by which artists the world over can collaborate and, it would seem, make money.

The Blu presents itself as project that brings together digital media, social networking and collaborative workspaces into a global shared creative space. Neville Spitieri, co-founder of WemoMedia, the company behind The Blu, describes it thus:

“The Blu is a global mission to create the ocean on the world-wide web. It’s an interactive world where every species and habitat is a unique work of art created by digital artists and developers from all over the world.”

One of the aims of the project is to see if the Internet can be a new medium for artistic expression, storytelling and interactive media on a global scale – one which touches on the nature of ecosystems,  conservation and other key issues. Or as The Blu’s website words it, “A global geosocial experience where your participation in the curation of the “ocean on the web” influences everyoneʼs experience of it”.

There are some impressive names linked to The Blu, including:

  • Andy Jones, the Academy Award-winning animation director of Avatar, who describes his attraction to The Blu as arising from, “The possibility to work with thousands, tens of thousands, of artists around the world, that can contribute and make this environment amazing.”
  • Joichi Ito, Director of MIT’s Media Lab
  • Louis Psihoyos, the Academy Award-winning director of The Cove
  • Kevin Mack, the Academy Award-winning VFx Supervisor on What Dreams May Come
  • Richard Taylor, VFx Director, Tron
  • Takahiko Akiyama, CG Director, Final Fantasy.
Richard Taylor talks The Blu

For digital artists wishing to get involved in the project, the benefits are described as:

  • The ability to showcase work across the web
  • Connecting with a global commuinity of peers
  • Direct feedback from Academy Award-winning film makers
  • The opportunity to get paid for creations

The Blu will utilise WemoMedia’s own Maker Platform, described as “An online creative collaboration platform enabling digital artists and developers around the world to peer-produce innovative digital media”. As such, it will be the first such project / product the company will be developing using the Maker Platform.

It’s an ambitious project, and a lot of details – such as how artists get paid for their efforts  – are not presently clear. However, it is certainly intriguing – and it is starting to generate interest; as such, it’s worth keeping an eye-on.

To find out more  – and both see a video outline of the project and sign-up to get invovled – visit The Blu. There’s also a Twitter hastag for those curious  / involved in the project: #theblu

All screencaps used in this piece, ©WemoMedia / The Blu.