This release sees further incorporation of functionality found in Phoenix, including the combat-popular “Use Crouch in Toggle Mode”, which allows PAGE DOWN to be toggle “crouched walking” on / off; the option not to trim “Resident” from legacy names; the inclusion of the letter key search in the Friends list; and more.
While Firestorm can never be a “Phoenix clone” in terms of the overall UI and menu system, it is fair to say that there is really more than enough in the viewer to allow any dye-in-the-wool V1-UI / Phoenix user feel reasonably comfortable in using Firestorm – providing they are willing to give it a fair shake (which should be measured in days rather than hours – after all, no-one mastered the V1 UI in just a handful of hours). Certainly, the V1 UI mode should go a long way towards assisting any transition.
Phototools is a suite of floater updates / new floaters which bring together a range of controls, debug settings and options available within the viewer into a single, cohesive set of options aimed at the SL photographer and machinima artist. Developed by William “Paperwork Resident” Weaver, prior to this release they were available as an optional “plug-in” for Firestorm. Now, thanks to William and Ansariel Hiller, they are available from directly within Firestorm.
The core components for Phototools are a new floater (right), updated Sky and Water Presets floaters and an optional Camera floater. I have extensively reviewed Phototools in the past, so will not be going into great depth on the subject here.
The main Phototools floater and the revised Camera floater now have dedicated toolbar buttons, so those who have been using the tools no longer have to overwrite the Firestorm Quick Preferences floater or limit themselves to using either the Phototools Camera floater or the Firestorm default Camera floater.
These changes mean that users are provided with the widest spread of options for using Phototools and existing capabilities within the viewer (Quick Preferences and Camera). This is particularly useful with the Camera floater, where the additional options included with it may offer greater convenience to the machinimatographer when filming, but might otherwise get in the way.
One option which is new to Phototools as a result of the work undertaken to integrate the floaters into Firestorm, is that the Phototools Camera floater includes buttons to save and load the current camera position.
Contact Sets and Mouselook Buttons
Besides the Phototools toolbar additions, Firestorm 4.3.0 gets two new buttons for the toolbar: Contact Sets, for accessing the Firestorm Contact Sets option, and a Button for enabling / disabling Mouselook. Additionally, and in the case of Mouselook, there is now an option to disable it in Preferences (Preferences > Move & View > View > Enable Mouselook functionality). When unchecked, this disables the Mouselook buttons on the Camera floater and in the Toolbar or via pressing M (if the keyobard shortcut is enabled via Advanced > Shortcuts > Mouselook).
Firestorm 4.3.0 sees the addition of a raft of new sound options, from fully configurable UI sounds to new dedicated alert sounds. The majority of these can be found in two new Preferences tabs under Sound & Media (UI Sounds 1 and UI Sounds 2).
These new tabs allow sounds to be turned on / off (check / uncheck Play Sound), and for the sounds themselves to be customised through the use of UUIDs for sounds in a user’s inventory. Additionally, if the sound itself can be toggled by an option elsewhere – such as a menu option – then matching option in the tabs will also update. For example, setting Advanced > Quiet Snapshots will update the Taking Snapshot sound option in UI Sounds 1 to read “Mute this sound”, indicating it has already been turned off.
Additional sound options presented in 4.3.0 include:
- The Radar (Preferences > Chat > Radar) includes the ability to set and play a sound for each of its options (when a user enters / leaves chat range, etc.)
- It is now possible to hide the white dot indicators which appear above people’s heads when Voice is enabled (and which turn into a green “speaking” indicator) in your world view when Voice is enable (Preferences > Sound & Media > Voice Settings > Show voice visualizers over avatars)
- Parcel audio stream fading time can be adjusted / disabled (Preferences > Sound & Media > Enable Parcel Audio Fading)
- Default collision sounds (the “thump-thump-bump” sound, etc.) can now be disabled from Preferences (Preferences > Sound & Media > General > Play sounds from collisions) or via the pull-down volume controls at the top right of the screen.
Finally with regards to sounds on Firestorm, 4.3.0 introduces an option whereby unpacked sound files can be kept cached after logout, rather than being deleted (Preferences > Network & Cache > Dont delete unpacked DSF (sound) cache files when logging out). This may improve your experience when playing in-world sounds (less delay in them being played back as they are already cached). However, this may fill up your cache directory very quickly, and will not adhere to the max cache value (so more than 10GB may be used with caching). Because of this, the option is disabled by default.
In October, I report on Magus Freston’s request for assistance in testing a mesh upload patch. This overcomes a naming convention issue between the Sl avatar bone structure (which allows spaces in bone names, such as “left elbow”) and Collada (which does not recognise spaces, but uses underscores such as “left_elbow”). The patch had been designed to convert Collada format bone names to SL-format names on uploading a mesh.
A request to add this patch to Firestorm was submitted in mid-October (FIRE-7937), with Magus permitting Firestorm to use the patch under LGPL, and it makes its debut with this release.
Firestorm 4.3.0 also provides builders and scripters with:
- The ability to include / exclude group-owned objects during selection (Build menu > Options > Include Group-Owned Objects)
- The ability to turn off in-world object grabbing (CTRL+MOUSE) when building to avoid accidental dragging of objects or linksets in a build out of alignment (Preferences > Firestorm > Build > Use CTRL+Mouse to manipulate objects)
- Two new buttons in the Build floater:
- A Reset Scripts button on the Contents tab for resetting scripts within the selected object / linkset
- A Transparent button in the Texture Picker floater, which will turn the selected object / linkset transparent
- Taper and Sheer options on the Object tab of the Build floater now supporting editing to three decimal places
- “Restore to Last Position” now obeys “Always rez objects under the land group if possible” option (subject to land permissions)
- Uploading and saving files to disk using threaded file pickers which allow the file picker to be open without pausing the agent, allowing the user to continue anything else they’re doing while they look for the file they would like to upload. This also prevents the simulator from disconnecting the agent from the region if they’ve been paused too long while in the file picker.
The Area Search function receives a complete overhaul in Firestorm 4.3.0. The search engine has been re-worked as is now “10x to 100x faster.” In addition the floater gets a new set of tabs which enhance usability, comprising:
- The List tab – which opens be default and can be used to list objects within a region (the Refresh button at the bottom starts a scan for items to list). By default, this scan for all items in a region, however, a wide range of criteria can be set to narrow the focus of a scan
- The Find tab – which allows you to search for items by the criteria previously found at the top of the Area Search floater (item name, description, owner, group) and to which the options to search by creator name and last owner have been added. These fields can be used individually or in combination, with results displayed in the List tab
- The Filter and Option tab, which allow scans to be further filtered and refined, and what information is displayed in the List window, based on a number of additional criteria / settings
Area search now has dedicated documentation on the Firestorm wiki.
Open-Dyslexic, an open-source font, is designed to improve text readability for those suffering from dyslexia. It is available in Firestorm 4.3.0 and is available under Preferences > User Interface > Font > Font Scheme. Also to help improve readability for the visually impaired, Firestom now has an option to automatically convert all incoming text in nearby chat, IM windows, group chat windows, the chat console and bubble chat into uppercase (Preferences > Chat > General > Display group chats, IM sessions and nearby chat always in uppercase). User names are not converted, nor is outgoing text from the user.
And There’s More…
There are still more changes and updates with the release which I’ve not covered here. To see them all, I recommend you refer to the release notes provided by the Firestorm Team, which also provide full developer credits for the included updates, changes and additions. For my part, I will send out a special thank you to Whirly Fizzle, for one of her contributions – that of providing a Preferences option to disable the swirling particle effects seen when scripts communicate or when you are talking via a scripted item to save having to manually dive into the debug settings in order to find EffectScriptChatParticles and then set it to false.
Preferences > Firestorm > General > Create particle effects when scripts communicate may seem like a trivial change, but when those same like swirling particle clouds drive you bonkers and scrabbling through the debug floater to disable them, it’s an appreciated addition!
Performance and Feedback
Performance-wise, and bearing in mind I no longer have my “regular test region” on which to play with viewers, Firestorm 4.3.0 gives very similar results on my usual review system (see the panel on the right sidebar of this page) as the recent Catznip and Niran’s Viewer releases I’ve taken a look at in the last month, with my results as follows:
- Deferred off:
- Ground: 26-28 fps
- 370 metres: 30-31 fps
- 2875 metres: 46-48 fps
- Deferred on + lighting set to Sun/Moon + Projectors; ambient occlusion off:
- Ground: 9-10 fps
- 370 metres:11-13 fps
- 2875 metres: 18 fps
Interestingly, and like Catznip R7, these figures dropped only very slightly (1-2 fps on average) if I also activated ambient occlusion in deferred; again marking the fact that for me, things seem to have improved recently over the start of the year.
As a beta update, this initial release of Firestorm 4.3.0 may be a little quirky or suffer from bugs. I encountered a couple of issues which have encouraged me to switch back to the last of the pre-release builds I downloaded and await the full release. The issues were not major and, given I’ve also encountered one of them while using other viewers, I’m not altogether sure it is a Firestorm-specific problem (snapshot floater refusing to save pictures to my hard drive when using custom windlight presets). However, if you do encounter problems with the release, and don’t actually need the large group edit capability, it may be as well for you to revert to the current 4.2.2 release, and await the “official” release of 4.3.0.
That said, there is a lot packed into 4.3.0, making it one of the most significant updates to Firestorm to date. Kudos to all involved.