Kokua 184.108.40.206975 was released on Friday 21st 2013, joining the in-development Black Dragon viewer (NiranV Dean) in becoming one of the first v3-style viewers to fully adopt Materials Processing.
I’ve been remiss in my coverage of Kokua’s development, which has been fairly steaming along over the last several months (the last update I gave was for Kokua 3.4.4 in January 2013), so this piece is a little bit of a catch-up on some of the major updates – such as SSB/A support – since then, starting with the 3.6.0 changes.
Despite all the hoo-haw over the Lab’s move to sub-licence code libraries from Havok (a move which was incorrectly interpreted by some as being an attempt to stymie OpenSim), Kokua is one of the viewer which continues to happily straddle the SL / OpenSim divide by providing capabilities which work in both, as well as options specific to one or the other (such as SSB/A support for SL, and enhanced OSSL support and the ability ro disable SL’s build constraints for OpenSim use, for example).
Accepted onto the Linden Lab Thirty-party Viewer list in April, and listed in the Third-party Viewer Directory, Kokua avoids the Havok complication by providing pathfinding support without the navmesh visualisation capabilities (potentially no great loss to the vast majority of users) and by using the third-party mesh upload code for importing mesh objects, thus allowing it to comfortably span both environments.
3.6.0 Download and Installation
The Windows installer weighs-in at 36.3 MB, putting it towards the upper end of the installer list by file size, which is hardly surprising given the punch of extras the viewer includes. Installation itself was, for me, straightforward, the viewer neatly over-writing my previous version (I opted not to go my usual clean install route).
Firing-up the viewer yielded no anti-virus warnings from AVG Pro (which has recently being getting a little vociferous over SLplugin.exe of late with some viewer installations, despite having given it a pass in previous installs – the most recent flag going up with my installation of the latest SL viewer with materials support).
The current Kokua message of the day (MOTD) – coming from LL – raised a smile, using a little humour to underline the fact that SL users need to update their viewers.
Materials Processing Support
The release of Kokua 3.6.0 marks it as the first v3-style viewer to provide full viewer-side support for materials processing in for Second Life (if you’re on OpenSim, there are server-side updates required to make materials capabilities work, but there is already a preliminary effort to get these implemented).
If you’re not sure what materials processing means, please take a look at my primer provided for the SL viewer’s beta release.
As one would expect, materials support has been implemented as it is presented through the SL viewer: the Texture tab in the Build floater has been updated to provide support for normal and specular maps, which can be selected from a high-level drop-down (see right), and which include their own additional attributes (the “old” Bump and Shine options). Note that each materials map can be set with independent repeats and rotations.
Materials also includes some additional updates – the most noticeable of which is perhaps the ability to include an alpha mode when working with alpha masks. This can be set to one of:
- None – the alpha channel is ignored, rendering the face opaque, or
- Alpha blending – essentially the same as we currently have for any alpha texture, or
- A 1-bit alpha mask with each pixel either 100% transparent or 100% opaque, with a cutoff setting to determine where the threshold is (alpha masks should render faster than alpha blending, and eliminate issues with alpha layer sorting), or
- Emissive mask – so the alpha layer is interpreted as a per-pixel glow setting.
Materials support also includes gamma correction capabilities within the rendering system. This may cause scenes to render more darkly than in non-materials capable versions of Kokua, and as reported with the SL viewer, may cause some alpha rendering issues.
Materials Processing has seen various other changes made to the viewer to improve rendering, some of which have resulted in improvements to the GPU support table, and adjustments made to the graphics defaults themselves. While these may have been included in versions of Kokua prior to 3.6.0, they’re covered here for completeness.
First and foremost, the Quality and Speed slider now has seven pre-sets instead of four, adding mid-point settings between Low and medium, medium and high, and high and ultra. These are designed to better reflect the capabilities of supported graphics cards and to determine whether or not a card has the ability to support materials rendering by default (whether you actually want it to do so is up to you). As such, you may find that if you’ve not updated Kokua in a while, your default graphics setting is different from previous versions.
The other notable change (again, if you’ve not updated Kokua in a while and haven’t been following SL viewer changes over the last few months) is that the “lighting and shadows” check box has been renamed “Advanced Lighting Model” (ALM), and the option needs to be checked in order for you to see materials capabilities being rendered in your viewer.
Finally, and purely by way of a side note, if you enable ALM in SL and find you’re having issues with alphas rendering correctly with this release of Kokua (they appear entirely black), try changing Water Reflections (arrowed above) to anything other than Minimal. This may help resolve the issue for you. Another possible workaround for the “black alpha” problem is to disable ALM, click on OK to accept and close Graphics, then re-open Graphics and re-enable ALM.
Command Menu, Build Floater Updates and Look AT Options
The 3.6.0 release also sees a new Command menu implemented, which brings together those commands moved from other menus, popular commands and a number of chat commands imported from Firestorm and turned into menu options (such as “tp2cam” to teleport to your current camera location).
Additionally, the Build floater’s Object tab gets a port of the build parameters copy paste function from the (now defunct) Zen viewer as its implementation was newer than other LGPL licensed viewers, and which is completed with fine tuning tweaks from Firestorm.
The Develop > Avatar submenu also sees the inclusion of private Look At / Point At options and a “Cat mode” toggle (so the avatar’s head movements track mouse movement), all submitted by Jessica Wabbit.
Other Notable Updates for Kokua
- Release 3.5.2 (May 2013) provided OpenSim Lightshare (think: windlight) support, with a port of Cinder Roxley’s work on the capability for the OpenSim version of Firestorm by Tx Oh
- Release 3.5.1 (April 2013) saw Disable Build Constraints added under the Advanced menu. This feature is aimed at region operators who also build things so that the maximum prim limit can be set high in the simulator configuration and then be the prim size constraint controller. In the viewer the lower limit is zero so if the simulator limit were lowered from its present 0.001 meters very small prims are also possible. This allows large and small objects that can be transferred by the IAR/OAR procedures
- Release 3.5.0 incorporated Server-side Baking / Appearance support for Second Life
- Release 3.4.5 (February 2013) saw client-side animation override controls imported from Firestorm / Teapot and tested for OpenSim use,
Kokua was an early adopter of SL’s Communications Hub User Interface (CHUI) update, designed to centralise communications in the viewer. I provided an overview of the initial Kokua CHUI release in January 2013, and since then the team have worked to keep pace with updates and bug fixes coming out of LL for the capability.
Kokua continues to be developed and enhanced at a good pace, easily matching the core development work going-on with other TPVs and even staying a few steps ahead of some of them.
Performance-wise on my usual system, it performed right up there with other recently releases by several TPVs, giving me no cause for complaints at all. Again, on a personal note, there are a few things I’d like to see the likes of Kokua and other v3-based TPVs adopt – such as the ability to left/right range toolbar buttons at the bottom of the screen (as first seen in Firestorm and more recently found in Catznip R8), and the implementation of a Quick Prefs panel of some description. However, a lack of these doesn’t detract from the viewer in any way – they are merely personal preferences.
For those who used both OpenSim and Second Life and who may not be overly enamoured of Firestorm, Kokua provides a very capable alternative with some very nice little nips, tucks, and touches.