A look at Dolphin 3

dolphin-logoDolphin 3  (official 3.3.0.3 (20418) is the latest V2/V3-based Viewer for Second Life to gain support for mesh object rendering. With it comes a raft of other features. So how does it look and behave?

As with all V2/V3-based TPVs, Dolphin installs directly, without the need to install any “official” Viewer. The installation is fast and smooth, and leaves you with the customary option of launching the Viewer directly upon the installation completing.

Given it is based on one of the latest code releases from Linden Lab, Dolphin 3 is the first to incorporate the new Second Life log-in screen – and kudos to Lance and the team for including it.

For those who have been using TPVs exclusively, the new SL Viewer log-in screen allows users to search SL for activities, events, destinations, etc., and log-in to them directly, without having to log-in to home / their last location, then run a search and then teleport. It’s a nice, tidy feature, and one I’ve reviewed previously. Not everyone will find it useful – but it would be nice to see it more widely available for those who do.

Dolphin 3: Features the SL Viewer log-in screen

Logging-in

Once logged-in, Dolphin 3 presents a very V3-like UI, with some subtle differences. The Navigation Bar gains a new button – ENVIRONMENT – while retaining LAND, while the toolbar and the bottom of the window retains the INVENTORY button from Dolphin 2.

Dolphin 3 UI: familiar with a little difference

The inventory button is something that has been seen elsewhere in V2/V3 TPVs, providing a means of quickly accessing the Inventory slider of the Sidebar. Dolphin 2 has always approached things a little differently, and in a way that could appeal to those who have no great fondness for the Sidebar – it opens a dedicated Inventory window floater.

Inventory floater: directly from the Inventory button

What’s more, clicking on the Inventory Sidebar tab doesn’t close the floater – it still opens and closes the Inventory slider, as per “normal” Viewer 2 behaviour. Working together, both the button and the tab thus allow for two Inventory windows to be opened with the minimum of effort, thus overcoming one of the major complaints concerning V2/V3. I’ve always felt this to be a smart move, and it is good to see it being retained in Dolphin 3.

The Environment button provides quick access to an updated set of Windlight settings, etc.,for the sky.

New Features Overview

Mesh object rendering is perhaps the major reason for Viewer 3, and by extension, the changes we’re seeing to Viewers in general at the moment. Dolphin 3 renders mesh objects as well as V3 or any other Viewer; I used my familiar examples from the Beta grid, and they rendered without issue.

Mesh rendering

Like all Viewers that can render mesh objects, Dolphin 3 includes the new prim count / PE counts in the edit menu.

Prim Counts and PE

Also as with the majority of  TPVs at present, Dolphin 3 does not have any upload feature for mesh objects.Hopefully, this will change in the future for all TPVs that currently do not have the capability; but as I’ve mentioned ein the past, for most people the capability to see mesh objects is what matters, rather thean the ability to upload it.

Alongside mesh object rendering, Dolphin 3 supports the new native 64m maximum size  – which it again, unsurprisingly, handles without fault.

Continuing on the building theme, Dolphin 3 offers numerous nice touches that could make it a builder’s dream. these include:

  • The ability to hollow prims to 99.9%. This is something builders have been wanting in SL for years, so could be a welcome capability. However, given hollow sizes are not natively supported by Second Life, there are issues:
    • If you stretch or resize a prim previously hollowed over 95%, it will re-set to 95% until you manual increase it once more
    • If you copy a shape that is hollowed over 95%, both the original and the copy will re-set to 95%
    • Most importantly: objects hollowed over 95% will only render  / register at 95% when viewed in other Viewers (unless / until the code used in Dolphin 3 is adopted by other Viewers)
Hollowed prim: 99% in Dolphin 3 (l), render at 95% in other Viewers (Firestorm r) – click to enlarge
  • You can create sculpts directly from the Build->Create floater: Dolphin includes an additional button that nicely circumvents the clumsy need to create a cube (or other default shape) and then convert it via the drop-down menu in the Object tab
  • The Build tool Position (px, py, pz), Size (sx, sy, sz) and Rotation (rx, ry, rz) fields allow for simple calculations to be made based on an object’s current size, position or rotation for any given axis
    • Example: you wish to triple the size of an object along its Y-axis: enter sy*3 in the Y-axis field for Size (so an object that was 1.345 along its Y-axis will resize to 4.0350, etc)
    • Example: you wish to move an object by a factor of 4 along its X access: enter px*4 in the X-axis field for Position (so an object positioned at 7m relative to the west edge of the sim will move to 28m relative to west edge of the sim, while an object positioned at 22m will move to 88m, etc.)
  • Improved keyboard options for resizing prims. Click on the required Size axis box, and:
    • ALT-UP / DOWN-DOWN = +/- 0.1 (so 0.5000 becomes 0.6000 or 0.4000)
    • UP / DOWN = +/- 0.01 (so 0.5000 becomes 0.5100 or 0.4900 – current usual behaviour in all Viewers)
    • CTRL-UP / CTRL-DOWN = +/-0.001 (so 0.5000 becomes 0.5010 or 0.4990)
    • SHIFT-UP /SHIFT-DOWN = +/- 0.0001 (so becomes 0.5001 or 0.4999)

Other Additions / Updates

  • Camera Depth of Field arrives in Dolphin 3 as do “official” avatar physics
  • RLV gets a major update, bringing it into line with Marine Kelley’s 2.07, good news for those of us that enjoy the many uses of this API
  • The parcel privacy options are in Dolphin 3, putting it on a par with V3 and Firestorm again, find it on ABOUT LAND under the OPTIONS tab
  • The ADVANCED menu includes the cache location a size options (moved from SETUP)
  • Mu* (use of “:” to replace “/me” in emotes) and OOC bracket closure support is now built-in, so the Preferences options for these have been removed
  • The option to turn the mini-map on/off in the PEOPLE slider of the Sidebar has been returned.

Performance

Dokphin 3, tested on my usual set-up (Q6600 quad-core, 2.4Ghz, 3Gb RAM, nVidia Ge9800 with 1GB), performed slightly slower than Dolphin 2 in terms of frame rates, but ran slightly better than Firestorm 3 with or without shadows being rendered (around 8-10fps faster).

I’ve encountered few issues with the Viewer, other than AVG Pro throwing out what appears to be rogue anti-virus warning (I got the same message installing both Viewer 3 and Firestorm 3), but in some 10 hours of using the Viewer I’ve not had a single crash or serious issue.

Lance provides a tip for those that do encounter a force log-out however, that probably will serve other Viewers as well. From his blog: “If you crash in Dolphin Viewer 3, and get the message ‘You have been logged out of Second Life because you have been logging in from a different region’ when you try to log back in, use a non-mesh viewer to do so.  After a successful log-in with a non-mesh viewer, you can use Dolphin Viewer 3 again. This issue is also present in the original viewer from Linden Labs, and to my knowledge is being worked on”.

Opinion

Dolphin 3, as with Dolphin 2, remains a good, solid alternative to Viewer 2/3. It may not have all the bells and whistles that Firestorm offers, but for those who want a nice, reliable V3-based Viewer that offers all the common requirements – a workable alternative to the Sidebar for Inventory, bang up-to-date RLV, camera Depth of Field, avatar physics, mesh object rendering and things like a tidy radar and some well-considered additions to the Build menu – Dolphin 3 is very much worth considering. That it also has Web Profiles (not everyone’s cup-of-tea) and the new SL Viewer log-in screen should also be considered big pluses against it as well.

Those mourning the loss of Kirsten’s Viewer from the development cycle, and who want to keep abreast with the most recent Viewer updates going forward (and allowing for the loss of Kirsten’s rendering pipe), might find Dolphin a more familiar Viewer 3 TPV to transition to.

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