Lab issues Performance Floater viewer for feedback

via Linden Lab

Among their stated goals, Linden Lab is working to improve the user experience with Second Life with a number of projects. One of these is in making the viewer UI and viewer controls more accessible, and as a part of this work, the Performance Floater viewer (version at the time of writing) was issued as a project viewer with the intention of gaining feedback from users on the changes / options it incorporates and how they are presented.

As the name implies, the Performance Viewer is focused on bringing together various options and controls than can help improve viewer performance, and presenting them through a single new floater called (in difference to the viewer’s name) the Improve Graphics Speed floater.

This new floater can be accessed in one of two ways: via World menu → Improve Graphics Speed or by enabling the Graphics Speed button within a toolbar area. It comprises four button options, together with the viewer’s current FPS provided in large, friendly numbers at the top of the floater.

The Performance / Graphics Speed floater and accessing it

The four buttons open dedicated panels within the floater, each focused on a specific group of settings:

  • Graphics Settings: pulling together the most commonly-used Graphics options from Preferences → Graphics and the Advanced Graphics Preferences floater:
    • Quality and Speed.
    • Draw Distance.
    • Toggles for enabling / Disabling atmospheric shaders and Advanced Lighting Model, together with a drop-down for setting Shadows.
    • A toggle for disabling / enabling water transparency and a drop-down for setting the quality of water reflections.
    • A “Photography” option that most of us will recognise as being the RenderVolumeLODFactor debug setting.
    • A button to open the Advanced Graphics Preferences floater, should further adjustments be required.
  • Avatars Nearby: a set of options related to rendering the avatars around you or in general:
    • The Maximum Complexity slider (from Advanced Graphics Preferences), with the value rounded down to the nearest whole thousand.
    • The option to Always Render Friends (from Preferences → Graphics).
    • A new checkbox for de-rendering all avatars in a scene (toggles Advanced → Rendering Types → Avatars (CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-4) off / on).
    • The radio buttons for showing / hiding avatar name tags (from Preferences → General).
    • A list of nearby avatars, with indicators giving their rendering complexity, colour-coded to denote fiends.
      • Running the mouse over a name in the list will highlight it, and offer an Information icon to open their profile.
      • Right-clicking on a name will bring up options to render them fully or as a “jellydoll” (neutral grey avatar) or remove them from your Exceptions list (exceptions being those set to never / always render, no matter what your Maximum complexity setting).
    • A button directly under the avatar list to open your Exceptions list, where you can again right-click on names and alter their render behaviour.
  • Your Avatar Complexity: a list of worn attachments on your avatar with a guidance on their relative rendering cost, and an option to right-click and on any of them and remove them.
  • Your Active HUDs: a list of worn HUDs, again with a relative rendering complexity indicator and the option to highlight and remove any of the listed HUDs.
The Graphics Setting and Avatars Nearby panels in the Performance / Graphics Speed floater

Prior to the release of this viewer, concerns were expressed at a number of the Content Creation User Group meetings that doing so before the re-working of the Avatar Complexity values through the ARCTan project would lessen the impact of those changes when they are eventually deployed. I’m not sure such arguments hold that much weight, simply because a) a lot of people have already made up their minds about avatar complexity and Maximum complexity, so are unlikely to be swayed by any change in how the values are calculated; and b) those who already take note of avatar complexity and the options for managing them, no matter how the values are calculated.

That said, playing with the viewer did raise a number of niggles / ideas with me:

  • Consistency of terminology: we’re all used to terms like “Quality and Speed” and “Draw Distance” in relation to graphics settings – so seeing these arbitrarily renamed to (the contextually meaningless) “Shortcuts” and “Visibility Distance” is a little disconcerting. I hope that labelling overall – whichever terms are used going forward are made consistent across the viewer.
  • That said, the use of numbers to denote quality settings rather than the “mid” to “ultra” labels, is an improvement, and I certainly hope that it is fed back into Preferences → Graphics.
  • The use of the word “hide” in reference to the Maximum Complexity slider is misleading – avatars are not “hidden” when using this slider, but are still rendered, if only as simplified grey humanoid shapes.
  • It would be useful to have Max No. of Non-Imposter avatars added to the Avatars Nearby panel, as for some this is a preferred method of reducing avatar impact on their system over seeing “jellydolled” (or “greyed” as it should perhaps now be) avatars.
  • The Avatars Nearby panel could perhaps also benefit from some additional explanatory text, such as a more rounded note on Maximum Complexity to help encourage people to use it.

As noted, this is the first iteration of the viewer and floater in order for it to gain some exposure and generate feedback from those interested in trying it. Those who do want to offer feedback on it should do so via the Jira as either bug reports or feature requests, depending on the nature of the feedback.