Increasing your Zen: Viewer updated

Update January 27th, 2013: The Zen viewer has been discontinued by its creator.

Zena Juran released a new version of the Zen Viewer over the weekend – something I almost missed due to being busy with other things in-world (of which I’ll say more another time). As mentioned in my original review earlier in the month, Zen is aimed at bringing an enhanced build experience to the V3.2 environment.

Currently still only available for windows, this new release (3.2.8.7) remains based on LL 3.2.8 Development / Project Viewer code, but sees some major changes and additions in terms of the TPV code that has been merged.

Installation and Start-up

The EXE retains more-or-less the same size as the 3.2.8.6 release, and the Viewer installs the same, complete with dedicated user folders and cache locations (rather than using the SL defaults).

Logging-in reveals little in the way of changes between 3.2.8.7 and earlier releases – other than the fact that the UI buttons are no longer transparent (more on this in a moment), the layout is the same as 3.2.8.6 and prior releases. However, open up Preferences, and the updates immediately make themselves apparent.

New Preferences Tabs

In my original review, I commented that Preferences were little-changed from V3.2, but Zena would be adding to the list of capabilities over time. Well, she has – and massively so! At the same time she’s also re-arranged things somewhat.

Expanded Preferences

Release 3.2.8.7 sees one tab in Preferences removed (LSL Pre-processing), and five new tabs added, together with an overall re-ordering of things which may initially catch used to operating by wrote a little off-guard (Graphics, for example has gone from near the top of the tab list to fairly well down the order of things). This shouldn’t interfere with overall usability, however.

The five new tabs are (in the order displayed:

  • Name Tags: Pulls together the V3.2 (usually found in the General tab) and popular TPV options relating to name tags (setting colours, etc.) together into a single tab
  • Shadows: pulls-in the shadow options popular among TPVs, and which can be found in a variety of locations (a sub-tab under graphics, for example)
  • Camera: pulls-together “standard” options such as view angle & distance (from MOVE & VIEW),  disabling camera constraints (from the Advanced menu), depth of field on/off (duplicated from Graphics), and camera / DoF sliders again found in other TPVs
  • Build: presents  the Build enhancement tools first seen in the likes of Emerald / Phoenix, and now widely used in TPVs

Visual Auto-Mute

This is perhaps the most interesting change within Zen (and potentially the most drama-risk feature to pop-up in the Viewer code in general for a while), and is the first merge I’ve seen of a new functionality from LL that was recently released as a changeset (my apologies to other TPVs if they’ve in fact merged it as well, I’m still trying to catch up on 3 days of missed blogging and updates).

Visual Auto-mute

Essentially, this functionality allows you to set thresholds above which avatars with a very heavy load (high-res textures, complex attachments (multiple prims, flexi prims, sculpts, and what have you), etc., – but not scripts, which are a completely different kettle of fish) will not be rendered by your Viewer. Instead, they will appear as “grey ghosts”, similar to when you’ve muted someone; however, you will still be able to IM them and chat with them. This should theoretically reduce the load placed on the Viewer and your system in terms of rendering, and lead to an improved SL experience.

I’ve covered Visual Auto-mute elsewhere, so will not dwell on it further here.

Graphics Preferences

The Graphics tab in Zen’s Preferences has also been updated, with an improved overall layout, largely due to the removal of the low-med-high-ultra slider from the top of the tab (itself no real loss), although a full screen option has yet to appear.

Graphics tab updates

UI Skins and Button Transparency

This release sees the range of skin options (colours) expanded, with gold, purple and red being added to the original LL teal and Zen blue. It also appears that Zena has taken-up the comment I made in my original review about having the transparency of the UI buttons user-adjustable. This release sees an opacity slider for the buttons added to the UI Skinning tab – so while the buttons are initially solid on first-time start-up, you can adjust them to a level of transparency to suit your needs.

Zen Menu Updates

Zen menu

The Zen menu sees a couple of updates. The Notifications to Top for moving incoming notifications to the top right of the screen has gone (it can now be found in PREFERENCES->NOTIFICATIONS). This moves the Pie Menu option (on by default) to the top of the menu, while an option for accessing Preferences slips-in at the bottom.

I’d still prefer to see a button added to simplify accessing preferences, but this is still a logical addition that streamlines access to frequently used menu options.

Opinion

This release moves Zen up a notch. While performance is unchanged on my usual system (no surprises there given it’s still effectively the LL 3.2.8 Development / Project Viewer code base), the additional preferences options help make the Viewer more accessible and potentially feature-friendly to SL photographers who prefer something closer to the “official” Viewer rather than plunging into Exodus or Niran’s (although Zen does not have the advanced capabilities of either of these two Viewers, obviously).

The Build heritage for Zen is clear – drawing heavily on Firestorm in terms of floater layout and the availablity of popular tools. I’d personally still like to see the camera floater get some button functionality, and still am undecided on the complete removal of button-based functions from some of the menus. Some might find it feature-light compared to other TPVs (the list of what’s not there is still pretty much as it was for 3.2.8.6), but I don’t count this against Zen in any way. Overall this is still a Viewer that presents something of the best of both worlds – good, solid building capabilities wrapped up in LL’s 3.2 code. With it now listed in the TPV Directory, it’s worth a look by anyone who might be considering easing away from the official Viewer to take advantage of TPV-originated tools, but who doesn’t necessarily want to get swamped with additional features and options.

 

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Visual Auto-mute: a farewell to ARC/ADW upsets?

A new set of functions has been released by LL as a changeset, and is starting to find its way into SL Viewers.

Essentially, this functionality allows you to set thresholds above which avatars with a very heavy load (high-res textures, complex attachments (multiple prims, flexi prims, sculpts, and what have you), etc., – but not scripts, which are a completely different kettle of fish) will not be rendered by your Viewer. Instead, such avatars will appear as “grey ghosts”, similar to when they’ve been muted; however, IMs and chat can still be exchanged. This should theoretically reduce the load placed on the Viewer and a your system in terms of rendering, and lead to an improved SL experience.

It’s important to note that the functions only affect how such avatars are rendered in your world-view; they will still render normally in their own view, and for anyone who hasn’t set thresholds / has higher thresholds than you. Also, your avatar will remain visible in your view, no matter how you set the limits.

The thresholds are governed by two functions, initially released by LL as a set of debug settings:

  • RenderAutoMuteByteLimit – Maximum bytes of attachments before an avatar is automatically visually muted (0 for no limit)
  • RenderAutoMuteSurfaceAreaLimit – Maximum surface area of attachments before an avatar is automatically visually muted (0 for no limit)

These currently require numerical values to be entered. However, it is possible that they’ll find their way into at least some Viewers as Preferences options, possibly using sliders. Zena Juran has already opted for this approach with the latest release of the Zen Viewer (below).

Visual Auto-mute as presented in the Zen Viewer

The functions are supported by a new addition to the Develop menu: Render MetaData->Attachment Bytes. When active, This displays a set of figures over / near avatars, which can be used to help you to determine the byte and area thresholds you should set.

Rendering Metadata->Attachment Bytes display enabled

The approach has already come in for considerable discussion on the SLU forum, where opinion seems to be weighted towards the favourable.

Certainly, it can’t be denied that avatars can impact Viewer performance enormously, so any moves that enable the user to have a greater degree of control over what is hurting their SL experience is potentially a good thing. But lag is a very sensitive subject – as anyone who has encountered upsets in the past due to people using ARC as a Big Stick can testify.

This approach would appear to be a lot more beneficial than something like ARC and its successor, Avatar Draw Weight (or ADW) are concerned, as it should hopefully reduce the amount of finger-pointing and hostility that goes on when people have arbitrary figures in red floating over their heads like a glaring accusation of wrong-doing.

It’s also somewhat friendlier than the other alternative to “blocking” “overloaded” avatars: that of audio mute, which denies any communications capabilities where some might be preferred and which can, if done on a group basis, leave a poor soul ostracised in silence with no idea why.

There are, however, some drawbacks. On the minor side, it is possible that setting the options when entering a popular venue may well result in you finding one or more friends around you turn into grey ghosts  – or that you end-up greyed-out in their view. This might in turn result in strained relations, but shouldn’t really be anything reasonable people can get past – and even joke about privately.

This isn’t necessarily a “one size fits all” solution as well; it is possible that, depending on the type of venues a person visits (in terms of popularity popularity, nature of the activities carried out, etc.), the thresholds may need adjusting from time-to-time in order to gain the best benefits / compromise in terms of performance benefits and visual appeal. This may limit the scope to which the new functions are used, as people are not always willing to fiddle around with sliders as they teleport around SL.

It also needs to be remembered that avatars aren’t the only load placed on the Viewer, and using functions like these might not help tremendously when moving around an environment that has dozens upon dozens of high-resolution textures all over the place (such as a store or mall). In this regard, the effectiveness of the system needs to be balanced against alternative approaches (such as the use of avatar imposters, or by simply turning-down your draw distance and turning down / off various options within the Viewer Preferences) in order to improve one’s in-world experience.

The biggest question-mark over the new controls, however, is that of effectiveness. If the results of playing with the new options is an improvement of a couple of fps in overall performance and/or a very slight improvement in rendering time, then it is unlikely that they are going to gain a lot of traction. But if people see a demonstrable improvement in their overall experience, then it is liable that the functions are going to prove more popular.

That said, anything tha moves us further away from the finger-pointing extremism that has been the plague of ARC /ADW, has to be a step in the right direction, doesn’t it? One possible benefit from this approach is a greater awareness and consideration of just how one’s own avatar might be impacting other people’s experience within SL, simply by seeing that it exceeds the thresholds one is setting against other avatars.

Well, one can hope, can’t one?

Dranopia: here be dragons – and a quest!

Second Life isn’t a game – or at least, that seems to be the 2011/12 mantra. Well, it may not be – but it is a platform wherein games can comfortably exist, as I’m all too fond of pointing out.

And a new game is set to be added to the list of attractions in SL: Dranopia: The Quest.

Many will probably be familiar with the Dranopia range of breedable dragons, which come in a range of forms to reflect the elements and more, and which have a unique back story into which owners are encouraged to immerse themselves. The dragons are the brainchild of Timmi Allen, Leni Galli and Ciaran Maktoum and can be found at Sculptie Wonder.

Chatting with Leni (far right) and the “bare bones” (!) Timmi Allen (centre)

Dranopia: The Quest adds a new dimension to the Dranopia “legend”, presenting a sim-wide airborne quest which can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they own a Dranopia dragon or not. And I have to say, it’s actually a lot of fun. It’s located on Virtual Services, located immediately adjacent to the “Sculptie” sims.

Like the dragons themselves, the game has a back story: deep in a lonely gorge lie gems of different colours – the souls of ancestral dragons, lost after a catastrophe, and now threatened by marauding groms – spherical creatures with broad mouths and spine-covered ski. These roam through the deep landscape, devouring the gems, feeding off the energy of the souls within. It is down to you, riding upon the back of a dragon, to save the souls, by flying around the sim and gathering points for each gem you touch, while avoiding the groms and other obstacles.

Looking down into the Dranopia Quest sim

While the theme may sound familiar in the wake of Linden Realms, the game is actually very cleverly executed and requires not a little concentration.

To play, you need the game HUD – available from the “how to play” section of the arrivals area, located high-up towards the middle of the sim. You will also need a dragon. If you have a Dranopia dragon of your own, you can use that – there is a rezzing area available. Otherwise you can choose one of the dragons standing close to the start area, or if none are available “hatch” a fresh one from the rezzing egg…

Fly with your own dragon, use one of the available dragons, or “hatch” one to use

Each dragon has its own characteristics and all fly a little differently to one another. Those unfamiliar with flying a dragon are advised to take the Air dragon for its agility. Once you have chosen / rezzed your dragon, it is a case of grabbing hold and taking to the air – use the WASD or arrow keys for direction, and PAGE UP/PAGE DOWN (E/C) for climbing / descending. Just make sure that you pass through the “starting gate” (clearly marked START GAME) to commence the game.

Once through the gate, the sky is yours. You have four minutes per session to collect as many points as you can by locating gems and flying through them (the value of the gems varies according to their colour – so make sure you read the guidelines!); after that, any gems you fly through will not be counted in your session score. Points gained are recorded on the HUD and, if you have sound on, you will also hear a chime.

Heading for a gem

Your HUD will also keep track of the time remaining in your current session of the game; when you’re out of time, you can either end the game (land and dismount – your dragon will de-rez, or return to the start area and land), or you can fly back through the start gate and commence a new session. But don’t keep flying the same dragon too long – they do get tired.

In addition to the screen HUD, you have a hovertext HUD reporting on your dragon’s performance – speed, power, etc. Use this to watch your performance – you may find that slower speeds are more advisable that fast speeds – and don’t forget that dragons can fly backwards (negative numbers) and can hover!

Take care, however – the floating island, the trees and other flora are all solid – hit them, and you’re liable to affect your dragon’s airborne balance and lose some flying control as a result. Most importantly of all where obstacles are concerned, watch out for the gem-hunting groms themselves. Several of these weave their way around and through the sim, hunting gems and trying to stop you; touch one, and you’ll lose all the points you’ve accumulated in your current session, and will have to start again.

Avoiding a grom

Points and Prizes

Points obtained by players are recorded and saved on a scoreboard, and there will be periodic cut-off dates, after which the top three scorers will received prize vouchers of up to L$20,000 which can be redeemed at either the Dranopia or Timmi Allen shops. A further 7 runners-up will each receive a Dranopia starter kit valued at L$1850. The first cut-off date for prizes has been set for the 9th February. All winners and runners-up will be notified by Leni Galli.

Opinion

Dranopia may not have the expansive feel of something like Linden Realms (which benefits from 12 regions per “island”) – but keeping things confined to the one sim and adding the three-dimensional element of flight makes it fun to play – especially when racing against others to grab your points.

Flight with my dragon…

The flying pose is a little alarming – you’re essentially clinging-on to the little dragon’s eyebrows rather than occupying a saddle or anything, which makes me feel a little sorry for the little fellows – especially when faced with avatars of a larger size!

Gameplay-wise, a lot of the sim is mesh, and so lag shouldn’t be a major issue – indeed, I was playing alongside members of the team and a couple of others and had deferred rendering active, shadows on and the snapshot floater open and still managed to fly with little exposure to lag. I did get a little too low at one point and clip a couple of trees – and did find I lost a degree of flight control, as I’d been warned.

Beware the groms!

The game HUD is not too obtrusive and uses the top left of your screen as the default attach point, although you can obviously move it elsewhere. There are some nice touches to the game as well – the different flight characteristics with each of the dragons and the fact that they can get tired of hauling you around the sky. The groms aren’t too hard to avoid – but snagging a gem may not always be as easy as it sounds, especially when trying to manoeuvre between rocks and plants…

Game HUD

Overall, this is a fun little quest to play – and a very clever means of promoting a product. Kudos to the team on both counts for coming up with the idea. With the new creativity tools arising from Linden Realms in the offing, I do wonder as to how the game might yet develop – one can well imagine the groms becoming somewhat more aggressive if one gets too close!

But even without the AI and other bells and whistles offered by LR, I enjoyed my time being able to preview Dranopia, it was fun to play, whether hunting for points or simply flying around the sim and having a little fun. Doubtless, I’ll be back to see how it develops, or simply to have more fun flitting around the sky on a dragon!

Links

Qarl updates on the mesh deformer

Qarl Fizz (Karl Stiefvater) has provided further commentary and feedback on the developing mesh parametric deformer project via a You Tube video. In it, he specifically addresses a number of questions and concerns, as well as providing further explanation on the current alpha of the deformer and how things are developing, and why some options and ideas are unlikely to make an appearance in the first release of the code (but may appear down the road).

Providing Feedback

Initially, feedback was requested via the deformer JIRA. However, given some of the issues raised as to the appropriateness of discussions on the JIRA, Qarl suggests that future comments on this video and the project in general should be made directly to his website for the time being.

Here’s the video in full:

Taking stock of Inventory: LL ask for feedback

ProductTeam Linden (who he/she? is it Rhett in disguise?) has posted to the Technology Forum about a new option for presenting Inventory within the Viewer. Apparently, when the Viewer was split between the Basic and Advanced modes, moves were made to try to improve / simplify inventory presentation, but they never made it to a final cut of the Viewer.

Now they have, and Linden Lab is asking for feedback. The announcement reads in part:

For new users, managing and understanding inventory is often challenging. Drag and drop over large inventories can be problematic and daunting. New users are often confused about the meaning of certain system folders.

Today we have released a Project Viewer beta that includes this simplified presentation of inventory as an option. Before we consider any widespread changes to inventory, we want to know what you think about the Simple Inventory UI, noting that the target user is someone just starting out.  

The Simple Inventory UI offers new users:

  • A simple display presenting only one folder at a time
  • Improved wayfinding and findability
  • Faster load of inventory items

The article then invites users to download a Project Viewer which includes the new Inventory presentation, and to provide feedback (via the SL forum), with any bugs that are found logged in the SINV Project JIRA. In doing to, the article notes:

It’s important to note that Simple Inventory was intended for Basic mode before Basic and Advanced modes were merged. It is still experimental and so it is unclear how it will function with extremely large Inventories, so if you have a large Inventory we don’t recommend using Simple Inventory as your only view. 

There are also some incomplete features and some known issues, again as LL note.

So, what is it like? As I have a fairly extensive inventory that (if I say so myself) is well-managed and ordered that I’m in no mood to mess with, I tapped my CTA (Crash Test Alt) on the shoulder and took the Project Viewer for a spin.

Quick Tour

The Viewer has an initial release number of 3.2.8 (248008), and installs into is own folder but shares the standard cache and user folder locations as all other SL installations. Once started, the Viewer has the same funky blue/teal UI as the DD Project Viewer – so I assume this is to provide a simple means of recognising that you’re running a Project Viewer. Otherwise, the Viewer looks and behaves like a “normal” release.

Opening Inventory initially reveals a familiar panel (for those that use the official Viewer), but one with a new SWITCH TO FOLDER VIEW link in the top right corner (below left). Clicking this brings-up the revised layout (below, right).

Inventory: from hierarchical view to folder view

Key points of the new layout:

  • Inventory is divided into clear sections: MY INVENTORY, LIBRARY, RECEIVED ITEMS (for the forthcoming Direct Delivery) and TRASH
  • You can have more than one section open at a time
  • Sections can be resized by hovering the mouse at the bottom of an open section so the cursor changes to a double-headed arrow. Click and hold the left mouse button to drag the sections beneath the open section up/down
  • Within a section, folders and contents are listed alphabetically (so system folders do not appear at the top of MY INVENTORY by default, and folders are not sorted to the top when mixed with objects)

As the view is not intended to be hierarchical, there are no arrowheads to the left of folders or any ability to open them within the displayed panel. Instead, opening a folder is now achieved in one of two ways:

  • You can hover the mouse over a folder to highlight it with an ACTIONS option. Clicking this will displays context menu from which you can select OPEN IN NEW WINDOW (below, left)
  • You can double-click on the folder and have a new view of the contents slide neatly into the existing panel, replacing what was already there.

Note that to prevent accidents, system folders automatically have the options to move, rename or delete them disabled.

Whether you opt to open folders in a new window, or display them in the existing panel, the end result is the same in terms of what you see (below, right).

Opening folders: either hover the mouse over the folder and Click ACTIONS for a menu (l) or double-click a folder. The contacts will be displayed (r)
Inventory breadcrumbs

If you opt to drill down through your folders by opening each in a new window, then navigating back and forth is a relatively simple matter of swapping between windows and closing those you’ve finished with.

However, the system also makes it possible you to navigate up / down a set of nested folders within a single panel by adding breadcrumbs to the top of the panel (right) as you open each successive folder, allowing you to navigate back up the tree. At the same time, hovering the mouse over MY INVENTORY will reveal another ACTIONS option from which you can elect to go BACK TO TOP FOLDER.

Once in a folder, items can be highlighted and the ACTIONS menu used to manipulate them (e.g. wear, move, rename, delete) – again displayed options are context-sensitive (so if you are wearing an item, that option is not displayed, for example).

You can move items around your inventory in several ways:

  • Use the ACTION menu to select MOVE for an item / folder. This opens an additional window in which you can navigate to your desired destination (double-click through the required folders), before clicking MOVE TO SELECTED FOLDER to finish the task
  • You can also simply drag-and-drop items / folders within a panel
  • You can drag-and-drop between inventory windows
  • You can drag-and-drop between sections (between RECEIVED ITEMS and MY INVENTORY, for example) – the destination section does not have to be expanded in order to do so.

A couple of things I did notice during testing were that a) worn items are not highlighted / indicated in any way and b) there is no option to remove / detach a worn item. There also appears to be a bug, as selecting WEAR appears to ADD the selected item to your avatar, rather than replacing anything already worn – my CTA ended up clumping around in two pairs of boots….

Feedback and Thoughts

I don’t really have any issues with the functionality presented here per se. It works OK, the overall layout within a panel is fine, and (known issues and bugs notwithstanding), it all works pretty much as expected. There do appear to be some issues that do need addressing, however, and as LL asked for feedback on the system as presented (and allowing for the fact it is only an initial iteration, here’s mine:

  • Add the ability to see what is actually being worn or is attached to the avatar within the Folder View
  • As most people are likely to be moving folders from RECEIVED ITEMS to MY INVENTORY, it would make sense to move RECEIVED ITEMS above LIBRARY, to reduce the chances of a mis-click dropping items into the Library section
  • As currently supplied, the functionality is perhaps a little too limited – no ability to create sub-folders, for example, so the ability to organise one’s inventory is  restricted to drag-and-drop into whatever is already there
  • Don’t be afraid of using menu options at the top of the inventory panel (File, Create, Sort, etc.) – they are lot more intuitive for users new or established than having options buried behind obscure “+” symbols and cog-wheel icons.

Also, if it is intended provide both views (Hierarchy and Folder) within the inventory panel of the a release Viewer at some point in the future, then I’d also suggesting ensuring that the top-level folder presentation is consistent between them (i.e. scrap the “system folders to top” default in favour of an alphabetical listing for the Hierarchy View), as this will assist familiarity in switching between views.

Thoughts

Candidly speaking, this alternative presentation comes across as yet another Linden curate’s egg. On the one hand, it cannot be denied that there are issues around how the inventory panel functions (the “high-speed scrolling” that can occur when trying to move an item from one folder to another, for example), and that things could be improved in terms of presentation. On the other, this approach is perhaps a little too simplistic to make a valid judgement at this point; too much functionality has been stripped away. Looking at it in the form presented, it’s hard to see the direction in which it’s liable to grow (if any) – which I think may be the issue LL are having, hence the low-key call for assistance.

I also cannot help but think LL “misunderestimate” new users here. While people are new to SL, it’s doubtful they are new to computers and things such as file management tools like Windows Explorer and the Mac Finder. After all, they’ve managed to find their way online, navigated the web to the SL website, found the Viewer download link, downloaded the Viewer, found the installer on their computer and installed it… As such, is understanding the nuances of inventory management that big an issue for them? I’m not convinced.

That said, there are undoubted benefits in some aspects of what is presented here: a “flat file” view may well be more to some people’s liking (providing it is better integrated with a hierarchical view as well), and the use of a pop-up “move” window could be preferable to some than relying on drag-and-drop – and it’s good to provide alternatives. I just can’t escape the feeling the perhaps LL are missing an opportunity. Given most people are liable to be familiar with the likes of Explorer and Finder, why not grab the bull by the horns and make inventory more approachable by presenting it in a similar manner to those tools – perhaps a two-panel display, with scrollable hierarchical view to the left, open folder view to the right with the associated drag-and-drop capabilities?

I’m not saying it would be easy to do (or even necessarily a short-term development). but were it possible to achieve, I’d venture to suggest it would meet with significant approach from established and new users alike.

I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on this to see how things develop. In the meantime, and given feedback is being sought, if you’ve not already taken a look at the Project Viewer, I’d encourage you to do so & pass your thoughts / suggests to LL via the forum.

Niran’s Viewer: release 1.13

Update Jan 24th:  Version 1.14 is now available which fixes the snapshot floater iessue meantioned in the article, and which also see the Main Menu moved to F1 from ESC, thus resolving the camera / Mouselook reset issue also mentioned here. The download location remains the same.

Nirans-logoGood grief! I turn my back on SL for 1/2 a day to go shopping and take care of that “real life” thing, and what happens? Another Viewer update pops up! :).

NiranV Dean has been busy scribing away (do coders scribe, I wonder?) on Niran’s Viewer of late, with 1.12 appearing earlier in the week and now we have 1.13 arriving. NiranV’s aim with the Viewer is not to come up with the fastest (in terms of frame rates) or the most features and functions – but rather to focus on developing better graphics and a more flexible user interface. This combination has made Niran’s Viewer daringly different  – and release 1.13 continues with this.

Main Menu

On starting the Viewer there is also little sign of any changes within the release. However, tap ESC and you’ll receive an interesting surprise: the Viewer has a “main menu”!

Niran’s: Main menu

The options on the menu are self-explanatory, and NiranV clearly states this is only an initial pass at the menu – the style and layout will be subject to change, and constructive feedback on the idea is welcomed via his blog.

I have to admit that when the idea was first explained to me, I was sceptical as to its use – but I’m not sure I fully understood what NiranV was proposing. On seeing the menu, I can see that there is potential here. However, I’m not sure that using ESC is the right key function. While I understand it may be a common approach in “traditional” games (I’m genuinely not qualified to comment either way on computer games), it has to be said that ESC has long had a “traditional” use in SL: for resetting your camera view or popping out of ML. Ergo, there is a risk here that putting ESC to another use is going to cause frowns among some users, other options for getting into / out of ML notwithstanding.

I did have problems with the My Profile and Outfits options on the menu (neither worked for me), but again, this is an experimental feature.

Snapshot Floater

The revised snapshot floater in V3.x has always struck me as being a tad on the large size. Niran’s addresses this by offering a more compact floater, although it needs a couple of tweaks to finish things off – the “expand” chevron and image resolution information is somewhat squeezed by the image preview pane, and the expanded Advanced Options slider could do with being just a little wider (the closing bracket of “(fullscreen)” seems to “fall off” the edge of the panel a little. However, this is, to me at least, an improvement over the default floater in terms of size.

Snapshot floater: a trifle squeezed?

Looking at Snapshot actually reminds me to comment on the top-to-bottom fade found in the floaters on Niran’s Viewer. I’m not sure how recent a change this is – I first noticed it on the 1.12 release – but it is really rather smart and I find it adds a little something to the Viewer as a whole.

Gestures Enhanced and Other Bits

This release sees gestures enhanced with additional trigger options, as NiranV explains, “You can now use additional trigger keys for gestures, which are E Q R F I T Y Z G C V M O P and Space, you can set them in the Shortcut key combo NOT MODIFIER!”

Also in this release as an experimental option is the ability to bulk upload .anim files via NV->FILES->UPLOAD->BULK UPLOAD.

The revised Build floater, introduced in 1.12 has gained popular feedback from the core Niran’s Viewer users and has received some nips and tucks as a result.

Build floater: nips and tucks

Version 1.12 also suffered from locking issues that appeared to be related to Shining fixes. However, following investigations, NiranV found the problem seems to actually be connected to inventory loading, and has this to say on the issue and Shining fixes in general within 1.13:

“Well with 1.12 I added some Shining fixes that seemed to cause initial freezes on login, but no ….its your Inventory! IF you freeze several times on login before [the] World turns smooth, then your Inventory has been fetched … If you want, I can do an option to disable initial fetching.

“Apart from that, I´ve added a few other Shining fixes which fixed the Underwater Crash I´ve noticed when you look into the “void” (the blue water fog at the end of a sim) and transparent meshes -> meshes should now render correctly when setting them to 1% transparency or having a transparent texture on them … instead of vanishing completely. [Be aware that] the bump map on mesh crash is still present; don’t set bump maps on meshes unless you want to crash. The bump map will be set after your relog.”

Feedback

Niran’s Viewer doesn’t have everything I like to see in a Viewer – but then again, if it and every other Viewer did have everything we all wanted, they’d all likely be exactly the same. However, it is still very much a Viewer I enjoy using. However, recent releases have suffered where I’m concerned, as they have tended to push my system to its limits when I’ve wanted to use the bells and whistles.

While Niran isn’t focused on the “traditional” elements of performance (and remembering that they are always subjective and subject to a myriad of factors that cannot always be managed in everyday use of the Viewer), I have to say the 1.13 has so far reversed performance issues for me somewhat, and has been more amenable to me running with shadows, occlusion and so on switched on. This has been a pleasant surprise, as alongside Exodus, Niran’s is my Viewer of choice for what passed for photography in my hands.

Outside of this, I think the main menu idea could well have more traction than I’d given previous credit. The inclusion of such a menu may seem out-of-step with Viewer development to date, but I have to admit that were it to be used in a Viewer specifically aimed at new users, for example, it could have considerable positive impact. As it is, it’ll be interesting to see how the idea develops within Niran’s Viewer, and whether any other TPVs adopt the approach.

All-in-all, an interesting update, with more to come in the future, going on NiranV’s blog comments!

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