Remaining Custom Buttons
The remaining custom buttons largely access Exodus features I’ve previously covered in my earlier review, so I’m not going to re-state them here. The only exception to this is the Visuals button, which accesses the new Visuals functions within Graphics, of which more below.
Exodus Preferences and Combat Options
The core Viewer Preferences tabs have a few tweaks, but other than the new Visuals button in the Graphics tab (again, see below) and the removal of the spell checker, there are no major changes. The dedicated Exodus Preferences, which brought together a lot of common TPV Preferences together with Exodus-specific options, and which used to be in a Sidebar Panel now exist in their own floater. Most are unchanged, althought there are again some nice nips and tucks as well a some interesting additions – such as the new Irssi-format option for chat (see below).
For the combat enthusiast, the team have added the ability to see friend-foe arrows floating around the sides of your screen while in third-person. Beacons will also work when in Mouselook. Other combat options are looked at in my original Exodus review.
Exodus has incorporated some fairly leading-edge graphics since it was first launched. This release enhances things even further and has photographers and Machinema makers firmly in mind. Commenting on Viewer graphics, Clix Diesel from the Exodus teams notes, “Some viewers pride themselves as having ‘great graphics.’ Fact of the matter is that most of these features are available in any viewer and can be accessed from the debug menu. While not the most user friendly way of doing it, the debug menu offers up some amazing options. So we have decided to make a neat menu with sliders to control some graphics options that seem to be popular. This gives choice to you. We will never release Exodus with crazy graphical presets that we assume you will like, or sacrifice viewer performance for the sake of some eye candy.”
The new options can be accessed via the Visuals button, which is located in PREFERENCES->GRAPHICS, or which can be displayed as a dedicated FUI button.
Geenz Spad provides information on the Visuals options in the Exodus Viewer blog, but key highlights include:
- Floating point frame buffers which enable various lighting effects such as light bloom
- HDR tone mapping
- Shader-based gamma correction
- What the team call “Filmic tonemapping”, which, according to Geenz, “Allows for more film-like quality tone mapping in comparison to other tone mapping techniques. This feature may be further extended in the future to allow for even more fine tuned control over the scene’s tone mapping”
- Complementing this is Vignetting, which essentially lowers the brightness of the image around the corners and edges of the image, leaving the centre of the image brighter than the edges
Geenz has also been working on gamma correction in the Viewer and demonstrates the results through screen caps in the blog post.
All-in-all, these are liable to be improvements photographers and machinema makers are liable to leap upon, even if I’m still trying to get my head around them :).
Much criticism has been levelled at the V3.2 Chat Bar, and Exodus has attempted to address some of the issues by reducing the overall style and form of the Chat Bar to make it less obtrusive – and it works. Sadly, the nature of the V3.2 UI means that even in its new form the Chat Bar cannot be “docked” (i.e. aligned) with the lower left corner of the Viewer window, but “hovers” above the button bar.
Exodus also includes an option to convert the chat display into an Irssi-style (IRC client) mono-spaced display. The option applies to both chat and IMs, but I have to admit, on looking at it (above right), I’m not convinced that it’ll find a strong following among established SL users.
For those that like V1 looks, there is also an option to use a V1-style chat console (lower left corner) for IM notifications, etc.
OTther Nice Touches
This release of Exodus has a myriad of other nice touches, which include:
RLVa – I was a little surprised that this appeared so soon, as when I spoke to Ash Quinn from the team, it was seen as something that, which on the “to do” list, wasn’t a particular priority; perhaps demand was greater than anticipated, so kudos to the team for its inclusion.
Not only is RLV/a included in the Viewer, Exodus uses Claice Yao’s natty “fix” which means that a Viewer restart is no longer required when turning RLV/a on/off. This capability is long overdue in general, and will hopefully filter through to other RLV-supporting TPVs as time goes on.
As a builder, I’m often working to precise constraints, and one of the things I’ve often longed for is an option to quickly and easily grab a build’s regional co-ordinates and record them in the Build floater Description field. Exodus addresses this need.
Simply edit an object / linkset, display the Build floater and click on the + next to the Description field – the object / linkset’s position is automatically copied.
The Object tab of the Build floater also includes options to copy / paste all parameters for an object / linkset (above right).
Mesh Uploads Parametric Deformer Support
With the launch of the Alpha release of the mesh parametric deformer, Exodus incorporates both the deformer code (with the usual caveats) and Nicky Dasmijn’s mesh uploader code as well. The deformer can be turned on/off via ADVANCED->RENDERING FEATURES->MESH DEFORMER.
Those trying out the parameter deformer need to remember that while the “heavy lift” work may have been coded, a lot still remains to be determined on default avatar skeletons and how existing mesh items are weighed; therefore results on using the deformer may be very mixed, depending on the mesh clothing you are testing it against. Things will improve as clothing designers work to optimise clothing items to work with the deformer.
Performance and Opinion
On my standard test PC, with network bandwidth at 1500, this release of Exodus runs at the same rates as Milkshake 3.2.6 and V3.2.6. When on my own on a sim, I can comfortably hit an average of 50fps; when at home (at 360-ish metres), this climbs to just on 60fps. Even on a sim with several others, frame rates hold at 38-40fps. With shadows enabled this drops to around an average of 18fps, slightly less that Milkshake has achieved, but very steady.
Like Niran’s Viewer, rendering on this Viewer seems a lot faster where sculpties are concerned when compared to others, with objects rendering without the usual “popping out” from disk or spheres. I’ve only had a little play with the new Visuals options, but the results so far have been impressive and haven’t had any noticeable additional impact on performance.
With the arrival of Exodus in September, it became my secondary Viewer of choice. Recently – very recently – I’ve been swayed towards Milkshake. As of today, my Viewer choice just got that much harder. This release of Exodus offers some excellent additional and new features, and I can well see it vying for my attention along with Mlikshake and Firestorm.
Overall a very solid and useful Viewer and a strong contender in the overall functionality stakes.