Exodus Viewer: dedicated combat Viewer with mesh

Update January 2nd, 2012: A new Beta of Exodus has been released, and I have an overview available. As such, comments on this page are closed. Please feel free to read, but comments are best related to the latest release, and posted on that page.

A new Second Life Viewer has been launched with an emphasis on in-world combat gaming and which includes mesh rendering capabilities.

Exodus has been developed by Clix Diesel, Genz Kitten and Ash Qin – all of whom are combat veterans in Second Life, and involved in ARK, a cyberpunk-oriented combat environment. As such, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the Viewer’s performance – something that is vital to the gaming world in Second Life.

The Viewer is currently classified as a Public Beta, so if you give it a try, remember that it may not be entirely stable, and your experience may differ from mine.

Installation and First Looks

Exodus is based on Viewer 3, and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-bit versions), Mac and Linux. The installer will be familiar to anyone who has installed a Viewer, and offers not surprises. System folders are created and a shortcut added to the desktop a-la most Viewers.

Starting the Viewer displays 3.x-style login screen, complete with BASIC and ADVANCED modes (defaulted to ADVANCED). The Viewer doesn’t include the new Viewer 3.x log-in display for the Main grid, with its Destination Guide options etc; instead, the splash screen is a black background upon which is displayed the Viewer’s stylish logo and recent update notes.

On logging-in, the Viewer presents a Viewer 3.x look and feel with a few subtle differences.

Exodus UI

The Sidebar includes two tabs dedicated to Exodus, one of which replaces the HOME tab, and has a stylised E as the tab logo. This provides access to the latest news from the Exodus team and displays the current Version number (in my case, 11.09.28.2), and a link to the Exodus blog. The second tab, bearing a familiar gears icon, provides access to the Exodus Preferences, of which more anon.

The toolbar button at the bottom of the UI has, by default: the Voice button, a client-side AO ported from Firestorm, a gears button providing access to a number of Quick Preferences somewhat similar to the Quick Preference found in Firestorm; and the familiar Gestures, Move, View, Snapshot and Search buttons. Unlike other V3 TPVs, Exodus has the Navigation Bar turned off by default, together with the Favourites Bar, and opts to use the Mini-location bar. The Advanced menu is displayed by default, as is the option to run multiple copies of the Viewer; and there are some dedicated menu options (see below).

Preferences

The main Preferences floater (Me -> Preferences) offers few differences to the standard V3 Viewer – although it does include Kitty Barnett’s Spell Checker, first seen (for V3.x) in Catzip.

There is a further interesting – and experimental – addition to the Graphics tab. Where, alongside the HARDWARE and ADVANCED buttons, there is a SPECIAL button. This will display the High Dynamic Range (HDR) settings (currently called the Advanced Graphics Settings in the actual floater). HDR should be of benefit to machinima makers and photographers, as it allows for enhanced colour correction, etc. As Geenz explains in the blog post on the subject:

“HDR stands for ‘High Dynamic Range’. HDR doesn’t necessarily increase rendering quality on its own (after all, HDR is only adds a higher dynamic color range for us to do nifty things with later on), but it does allow us to add different effects into the render pipeline like, color correction, gamma correction, and scene brightness that’s completely independent from the rest of the environment.”

HDR Options

A further enhancement to the Viewer that is not so obvious (given it is automatically activated), is the FXAA, or “Fast approXimate Anti-Aliasing” function. This provides an alternative to the “standard” anti-aliasing process used with deferred rendering, and it is intended to make the process a lot faster and should present smoother results. FXAA is apparently a feature that Linden Lab are developing for the official Viewer, but the Exodus team have implemented it through their own efforts.

You can read about both FXAA and HDR in Geenz’s blog entry.

Combat players may also like the fact that Exodus has the Mouselook zoom functionality included, making target sniping, etc., a lot easier. The function works identically to v1.x viewers that include it: enter Mouselook, press and hold the right mouse button and use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in / out (with the wheel depressed).

Sidebar Preferences

exodus-2The Sidebar preferences can be accessed by clicking on the tab with the gears icon, or by clicking on the >> tab. This comprises a number of drop-down lists (see right) which provide access to a range of settings, some of which will be familiar to users of the likes of Phoenix and Firestorm, others of which are quite unique.

By default, the tab tends to open with the Chat Command Settings displayed by default (although on my version, the tab would sometimes switch between this and opening with all the drop-down lists closed).

The Chat Commands provides a breakdown of the chat command shortcut (“/dd” for setting draw distance, for example), defaults, together with an explanation of each shortcut – which can be set to any personal preferences.

After this, things get rather interesting. The next tab is Interface Settings. This reproduces a number of options commonly found in combat HUD systems. Given the intended use of the Viewer, this is a very good idea, and like the built-in AO, helps move functions from a reliance on server-side code execution directly to the Viewer.

Settings are available to customise your crosshairs, rangefinder and threat indicators. I confess, I’m no combat specialist (I’ve only ever visited one combat sim to my knowledge – and that was on Avination), but these look to be the kind of options combat players will find useful.

Coupled with this are the Minimap Settings, which provide a range of customisable options for tailoring the mini-map to suit your specific combat requirements (such as making it easier to identify friends and foes).

The remaining drop-downs provide access to specific Viewer functions, bringing them together under logical groupings: rendering teleport and sound settings (reproducing those options found in Preferences -> Sound & Media, and additional chat and display options that otherwise tend to be spread around a number of different tabs in Preferences.

Continue reading “Exodus Viewer: dedicated combat Viewer with mesh”

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BURN2 Preview

This weekend marks the start of BURN2, the Second Life sister celebration to Burning Man.

This year, BURN2 is spread over a total of four sims, in a suitable desert theme, surrounded by sandy hills that add to the atmosphere of the event. I’ve already outlines the first couple of days of events that are going on at BURN2 (subject to final calendar adjustments), and this week I had the opportunity to tour the sims and see what they have in sort by way of builds.

Desert scene: BURN2

Featured Artists

BURN2 features displays by a number of invited artists, and I decided to start my wanderings by seeking out their work. The first wasn’t hard to find, given I’ve had the advantage of seeing it in preparation while interviewing her.

Claudia222 Jewell
Claudia222 Jewell’s “The Sacrifice”

Claudia222 Jewell’s completed The Sacrifice. It is a truly stunning piece of work, that plays fully on the visual senses in a very dramatic manner.

“The Sacrifice” from the other side

Find Claudia on the map.

 Rebeca Bashly

Rebeca has time on her mind and the passing of life with her piece, I Said I Will!

Rebeca Bashly’s “I Said I Will”

Find Rebeca on the map.

Oberon Onmura

Oberon Onmura presents Inculcation. This is hard to describe, but is fascinating to watch.

Inculcation – step inside and all will be revealed!

Find Oberon on the map.

RAG Randt

Still a work-in-progress when I sneaked a peek, RAG Randt’s piece looks a lot of fun.

RAG Randt

Find RAG on the map.

Starlash Sweetwater

Starlash presents, Identity, a wonderfully enticing piece. Enjoy and experience!

Identity

Find Starlash on the map.

Trill Zapatero

Trill Zapatero’s Grail Quest is a magnificent piece by day, and beautifully illuminated by night. The piece represents, “The Fool’s journey to the end of the universe and back., through all the pitfalls and trials of identity and desire, to death and beyond, through the  gauntlet of useless rusty grails offered up by religion and ideology, through a modernist purgatory, and into the heart and soul of the crumbling grail castle reclaimed by nature and love. all steps along the way leading to the ultimate discovery of the true grail.”

Grail Quest

Find Trill on the map.

The Temple

The BURN2 temple is an exquisite design by Damanios Thetan that blends arches, curves and spires together beautifully. As someone who has a deep affinity for Sri Lanka, I couldn’t help but see something of the Stupors of places like Anaradhapura.

BURN2 Temple

Visit the temple at BURN2.

Impressions

Would you like to fly…?

BURN2 isn’t as big as SL8B, obviously, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for content. There are some amazing and thought-provoking pieces throughout, and one can wander at will along the wheel-rutted tracks around the sims, or choose a more convenient mode of transport – such as a tour balloon that will waft you around under the power of a propeller rather than leaving it simply to the wind…

The desert theme and campfire feel has been nicely captured – although I can’t help but feel the windlight and sky could do with a Touch of Torley to add to the ambience.

Signs on exhibits were still going on when I took my wander (personal commitments mean I’m missing the official press / blogger preview), so it was hard to understand what some were about in relation to the event’s theme of Rites of Passage. Perhaps some simply don’t have a deeper meaning. Some were certainly fun walking through / over / in!

If there is one complaint to be levelled at all on the sims it is going to be the inevitable lag. Even with *just” the exhibitors and helpers and staff on the sims, it was pretty horrendous. Sculpties abound through many of the exhibits and undoubtably contribute to issues, as does the potentially high script count in some pieces. As those familiar with this blog will know, I’m a confirmed Firestorm user, and I’ve encountered very few crash issues in the months I’ve been using it (few as in less than half-a-dozen); yet during two visits to BURN2 totalling around 90 minutes, I experienced no fewer than nine Viewer crashes. Viewer 3 also crashed on me twice, and even Phoenix had issues.

Nevertheless, and while I’ll miss most of the opening weekend, I’ll be back at BURN2 next week seeing what is going on where and when!

Burning the Man and the Temple

These two events, central to BURN2 have been scheduled to suit major timezones as follows:

  • Burning of the Man – Europe, Saturday October 8th
    • Gather: 11:00 SLT
    • Burn: 11:30 SLT
  • Burning of the Man – USA, Saturday October 8th
    • Gather: 19:00 SLT
    •  Burn: 19:30 SLT
  • Burning the Man – Australia / Asia, Sunday October 9th
    • Gather: 03:00 SLT
    • Burn: 03:30 SLT
  • Burning of the Temple – Europe, Sunday October 9th
    • Gather: 11:00 SLT
    • Burn: 11:30 SLT
  • Burning of the Temple – USA, Sunday October 9th
    • Gather: 19:00 SLT
    • Burn: 19:30 SLT
  • Burning of the Temple – Australia / Asia, Monday October 10th
      • Gather: 03:00 SLT
      • Burn: 03:30 SLT

PRIM_PHYSICS fix on RC channels

According to Andrew Linden, commenting on what has become something of a heated JIRA, SVC-7305, a fix for the PRIM_PHYSICS breakage was rolled out to the three main RC channels (BlueSteel, Magnum and Le Tigre) today.

The breakage, which impacts the PRIM_PHYSICS parameter of llSetPrimitiveParams impacts a wide range of scripted moving objects in Second Life and has caused considerable consternation amount content creators. With vehicles, animals and other items effectively broken, they’ve faced either having to wait for the issue to be sorted and / or re-scripting their products while still having many hundreds – if not thousands – running amok or stalled around the grid – something that apparently left one creator of automated scripted vehicles stuck with a three-day account suspension.

If all goes well – and initial feedback so far is that the fix is working on the Magnum and Le Tigre RC channels without incident – then the fix should find is way onto the rest of the grid during the main updates next Tuesday (assuming one of the RC channels gets promoted to the main release channel at that time).

Linden Lab says “someday / maybe” to mesh parametric deformer

Linden Lab has gone to a lot of effort to provide mesh. Some of it perhaps hasn’t been handled too well at times (given the problems around Prim Equivalency, the weakness of the uploader, etc., would it really have hurt to delay the launch by a month so that some of these issues could be address as they are being already in the latest Mesh Project Viewer?).

One of the biggest issues around mesh is clothing. Simply put, the way mesh works means that options to resize worn items are limited. In some cases very limited. Even with alpha layers, it can be a case of modifying your shape to fit the item – and there are times when alpha layers aren’t suitable…leading to more and bigger issues.

Maxwell Graf suggested a means of handling the problem – a parametric deformer. He’s blogged about the idea – so have many others. He’s raised a JIRA on the subject and received the support of just about every mesh clothing designer in SL. It’s generated a lot of discussion.

It appears to have been universally ignored by Linden Lab.

Charlar Linden has commented elsewhere on the subject and suggested there might be alternative methods to employ, etc., but the lack of open commentary is confusing.

And now the JIRA has been downgraded to someday / maybe – a stance that doesn’t sound too hopeful.

Theories have been put forward as to why the JIRA has been downgraded – some have cited the recent code breakages for attachments and PRIM_PHYSICS – the suggestion that these and other issues have higher priorities, et. But such explanations really don’t make sense: this issues are under the control of a different team at LL.

Are the Lab generating an alternative? Do they simply think this is a non-issue? It’s impossible to say.

Only one this is clear right now – the stubborn silence evidenced from linden Lab isn’t winning them any favours. We’ve long been promised better and more informed communications (wasn’t that, after all what all the hoo-ha with the Lithium “Community Communications Platform”?) Rod Humble himself has promised (via Twitter) that the silence would end some time back – yet the fact remains that outward communications from Linden Lab are sporadic and frequently noteworthy for telling us what we’ve already discovered for ourselves.

Of course, one doesn’t expect LL to inform users of absolutely everything that is going on – but given the ballyhoo around mesh, the concern over limitations on mesh clothing / body attachments (which otherwise have the potential to be a huge market in-world), it would really help matters if someone, somewhere inside Battery Street actually stood up and said something on the matter of what on Earth is going on.

Rodvik? Over to you.

In the meantime, if you are cuious about mesh clothing – limitations and all – I recommend a read of Couldbe Yue’s excellent overview and guide.

Attachment update fix rolled-out

The “showstopper” bug affecting the update of worn attachments, as reported on two weeks ago saw the initial fix rolled out across the entire Main grid (with one or two exceptions), a week after it was rolled-out to the RC channels.

So far, feedback on the JIRA, SVC-7283, has been largely positive, and it appears that for most content creators impacted with the issue, the core problems are resolved.

However, there are still some outstanding issues to be addressed:

  • SVC-7321: llRemoteLoadScriptPin() does not allow injection of an O:VMCT script into an O:PERM_ALL worn attachment
  • SVC-7294:The simulator is too strict when llGiveInventory() adds restricted-permission items to fullperm attachments which already contained other restricted-permission items

Not dates are currently available on potential fixes for either.

Update: 27th Sept: Since drafting / releasing this update, testing has revealed that even with all current fixes in place, a problem still remains wherein should an update fail, existing scripts in the receiving item can still be deleted. There is currently no direct fix for this.

Mesh and the Beta grid

There are now numerous tutorials on creating mesh objects in the likes of Blender for upload to Second Life; however, getting everything just right with mesh objects, their LODs, textures, etc., isn’t easy. The unwary might even end up sending a little too much uploading and adjusting items. To this end, it is best to use the Beta grid (also known as Aditi or the Preview grid) to work on models until you’re satisfied, and then upload them to the Main grid.

As many have never logged into the Beta grid, here’s some simple instructions and pointers.

Note that this article assumes you are certified for mesh uploads on the Beta grid (if you are already certified on the Main grid of uploads, you may still need to re-certify yourself on Aditi (with thanks to Opensource Obscure for the reminder)).

Updating Your Beta Grid Account

If you have not logged-in to the Beta grid in a while, the chances are your account information (including your inventory data) is going to be stale. If you already have items in your inventory you wish to work with, this may be an issue. So the first step may well be to refresh to Beta grid details. This is done quite easily:

  • Change your login password:
    • Go to your Dashboard at http://www.secondlife.com
    • Click on the down arrow button in the ACCOUNT window near the top left of your Dashboard
    • Click on CHANGE PASSWORD
    • Set a new password for yourself and SAVE it – remember this will be immediately applied to all your SL log-ins, including the Viewer
  • Wait 24 hours.
  • Log into the Beta grid.

Logging-in to Aditi, the Beta Grid

If you’ve never logged-on to the Beta grid before, there are some additional steps to complete, depending on whether or not you have the grid selection option displayed on your Viewer’s log-in screen.

Notes

  • Obviously, as we’re talking specifically in relation to mesh, remember to use a Viewer with mesh upload capabilities
  • If you opt to use the official Mesh Development Viewer, you will, by default, be logged into the Beta grid (unless you change the grid selection option).

Displaying the Grid Selection Option

  • Start your Viewer.
  • If the grid selection option is displayed, continue with Logging-in to Aditi, below
  • To display the grid selection option:
    • Display your Viewer’s preferences (Me -> Preferences in the case of Viewer 3 or use CTRL-SHIFT-G)
    • Access the ADVANCED tab
    • Make sure SHOW GRID SELECTION AT LOGIN is checked
    • Click on OK to close the Preferences floater.
Displaying the grid selection option

Logging-in to Aditi

  • With the Viewer log-in window displayed, click on the grid selection arrow to display a list of available grids (see right)
  • Click on ADITI for the Beta grid
  • the log-in splash window will change to display the fact you have selected the Beta grid
  • Log-in using your avatar name and password as you would with the Main grid
  • You should be logged into one of the Beta grid welcome areas
  • Note you will have a L$ account balance, which is not transferrable to the Main grid!

Where to Work

As with the Main grid, the Beta grid is host to a number of sandboxes. Some of these are for general use, some are for very specific purposes; the majority have rules assoicated with them, again as with the Main grid – and you should, as always, familiar yourself with the rules and things like return times in order to avoid upsets.

While mesh is enabled across the Beta grid, there are a number of dedicated mesh sandboxes (SLurl). These tend to have the most recent releases of the server-side code related to mesh, and while they can be crowded at times in turns of the amount of items to be found on them, they tend to present the best place to work.

How Do I Preserve Upload Settings between Grids?

The Viewer should save all settings you use with a model, so when you log-in to the Main grid and select the model for upload, your settings for the model should appear in the upload floater.

What Else?

The following Linden Lab resources may be of additional assistance: