Black Dragon, the v3-style viewer by NiranV Dean updated to version 18.104.22.168 (aka version 22.214.171.124965) on Tuesday, December 29th.
The update primarily comprises a re-working of the viewer’s preferences floater, with Niran noting, “while the display preferences tab has gotten quite some upgrades and consistency changes, all the other panels were left out… until now.”
The most noticeable change is that several more of the tabs now have a slider to the right, the result of options which had previously been presented in two columns now appearing in a single column. As well as this, some options have been moved around to present a more logical top-down flow, as has previously been seen in the Display option tab, and with radio buttons replaced by combo boxes.
The result is a more logical flow, but currently comes at a cost – the aforementioned increase in sliders on the right of some of the tabs. However, and here’s where an assumption on my part comes in – I do wonder if this might only be an interim thing, and whether Niran will be adding expanding sub-tabs, again in the same style as the Display tab – as possibly evidenced by the inclusion of one such sub-tab in the Sound and Media tab.
Niran also notes that this release was to have contained the Project Bento avatar skeleton updates, but these have been left out. This is probably a wise decision; Bento is still in formative beta testing, and could be subject to changes throughout the next few months, as such the viewer code (and server-side support) could undergo change. As it is, Bento support is best witnessed on Aditi.
This is clearly a tidying-up, rather than a major update. however, it continues Niran’s work in offering a consistent presentation of the UI within his viewer. Also, given that the Lab prefers TPVs do not make significant releases over the holiday period, keeping the updates to UI clean-up is probably no bad thing.
And it certainly makes a nice little Christmas present for Black Dragon users.
Black Dragon, the v3-style viewer by NiranV Dean updated to version 126.96.36.199 (aka version 188.8.131.52527) on Monday, December 14th.
The update primarily includes fixes for issues with Niran’s implementation of Avatar Complexity, and for crash issues, and includes a refactored Places floater.
Niran introduced Avatar Complexity in version 184.108.40.206 of Black Dragon. As I noted when reviewing that release, the split between controls Niran had introduced meant that it could require some juggling with the sliders to get things settled when making random adjustments. However, the was a slightly worse issue for Black Dragon users in that many found that by default, all avatars around them were either “jelly babied” – appearing as a single solid colour to reduce the rendering load on their computer – or not at all.
The reason for this seems to be that Niran missed the fact the LL code sets a default value for Avatar Complexity, based on the anticipated graphics performance of the system on which the viewer is installed, as calculated by the viewer on initial start-up – something he removed from Black Dragon a while ago. Thus, avatar rendering was defaulting to an exceptionally low value, causing avatars around the user to appear as “Jelly Babies”.
Niran has now introduced his own default value to the viewer, which should correct things. Some users may find it worthwhile playing with the sliders to achieve an ideal for their system / circumstance. He also offers a brief explanation of Avatar Complexity, which essentially replaced the old Avatar Draw Weight (ADW), which in turn replaced the original Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC), within the 220.127.116.11 release notes, and those interested can find out more by reading the official SL wiki entry on Avatar Complexity, or my own overview of the capability.
The Places floater overhaul sees the layout refactored to match other panels in the viewer, and a number of fixes added to certain niggles found with it, such as buttons not working (e.g. the Back button at the top of the panel) or it remaining stuck in its last used state.
Black Dragon 18.104.22.168 also includes two additional crash fixes which make updating to it highly recommended. This first is for a bug arising from leftover code, which would be triggered as soon as certain avatars, objects, etc., came within the viewer’s Draw Distance. The second is for a crash occurring whenever you right-click while in either zoom/pan/orbit mode in the tools floater (build window) or when in object view mode in the camera controls floater. As always, please refer to he release notes for the full list of updates.
On Sunday, November 29th, NiranV Dean released Black Dragon 22.214.171.124 (or 126.96.36.199527, depending on your personal preference). This release incorporates three significant features from the Lab, as well as Niran’s own nips, tucks, tweaks and changes.
First among the changes inherited from the Lab is the latest update to the Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) implementation which is intended to provide modern media support (HTML 5.0, WebGL).
Of possible greater interest to the vast majority of users is the addition of the Avatar Complexity rendering and the graphics presets, as found in the Lab’s Quick Graphics RC viewer. I’ve previously provided two overviews of these, in August and June of 2015, so what follows is a brief summary and examination of Niran’s implementation, starting with the graphics presets capability.
Graphics presets, a capability contributed by Jonathan Yap (see STORM-2082), allows users to create, save and use sets of viewer graphics options designed to meet a specific requirement, with the intent to help with viewer performance, and which can be used by any account logging-in to SL using the viewer on which the presets have been created.
This means, for example, you can create a sets specifically for indoor use, limiting your draw distance, reducing levels of detail for things like terrain and sky and water reflections and so, boost your system’s performance when visiting stores, etc., while having another preset with all the bells and whistles enabled for photography. Then with a couple of mouse clicks, you can swap between these and any others you create to meet your needs as you travel Second Life, all without the need to fiddle with settings or relog.
An issue with the official viewer’s implementation of graphics presets is that it requires the use of two rather clunky floaters which eat screen real estate. Niran avoids this by neatly integrating the core preset options (Save, Load and Delete presets) into the foot of the Display tab in Preferences. In doing so, he also makes creating a simple top-down flow through the Display tab options.
This means that creating a new preset is simply a matter of running through the Display options, making sure those you want active are checked and those that you don’t need are unchecked, and that all relevant sliders are correctly adjusted. Then, when you’ve done so, enter a name for the preset group in the text box at the foot of the tab (arrowed above) and click the Save button – then repeat as required.
You can also load an establish preset group from here by typing the name into the text box and clicking Load. Any unwanted presets can be removed by entering the name and clicking the Delete button.
When it comes to swapping back and forth between preset groups, however, the quickest way to do so is via the Presets icon located in the top right of the viewer window. Hovering the mouse over this displays a list of all presets you’ve created; just click the name of the one you wish to activate.
This list also include a button which will open the Preferences floater at the display tab, allowing you to quickly set-up a new preset or modify and existing preset (just make your changes and save to an existing preset name to overwrite it).
As avatars can often be the single biggest impact on the viewer in terms of rendering, particularly in crowded places, Avatar Complexity has been introduced by the Lab as a mean by which those on lower specification systems can set a limit within their viewer for rendering particularly complex avatars (i.e. those with a lot of very high-resolution textures on them and their accessories, or using a lot of high-impact mesh and sculpt attachments etc). Any avatar exceeding this limit will then be rendered as a single, solid colour, vastly reducing the processing load on the user’s system. Because they are rendered as a solid colour, such avatars have been nicknamed ”Jelly Babies” after the sweet (candy) of the same name.
Within the official viewer, the control for Avatar Complexity is a single slider (Maximum Complexity) which controls avatar rendering. Within Black Dragon, Niran control is seemingly split between three sliders, Derender Objects > Kb, Derender Surfaces > m2, and Derender Avatars > AR. and some juggling between them may be required to achieve optimal results, if you play with all of them.
Avatar Complexity in the official viewer is still not perfected; this is reflected by the fact that avatars can often remain Jelly Babied even when Maximum Complexity is set to No Limit – you have to disable avatar imposters to get avatars stuck like this to render correctly (or relog). Black Dragon didn’t seem to exhibit this problem when I was fiddling with it,
On Saturday 17th October, Niran V Dean released Black Dragon 188.8.131.52, which sees his viewer merged with the latest release from Linden Lab, gain the Lab’s Chromium Embedded Framework code for media, and which includes some updates from Niran himself.
The latter most notably take the form of a re-working of the Display tab in the Preferences floater. Here, Niran has replaced the older scrolling tab layout with a more compact version, with expandable sub-tabs allowing feature sets to be viewed and expanded whilst also offering quick and easy on / off check boxes for functions users may wish to enable / disable, but where they don’t necessarily wish to change the associated settings.
The sub-tabs can be individually opened / closed by checking on the + to the right of each tab’s title bar, and those opened will remain so until either closed, or the viewer session is closed and re-started. Opening multiple sub-tabs will add a scroll bar to the right of the Preferences floater when displaying the contents of the Display tab, allowing for smooth navigation between sub-tabs.
The inclusion of the CEF code from the Lab sees Black Dragon move a little ahead of the curve feature-wise, given the code still is only at project status when the Lab prefers TPVs not to adopt it until it has reached RC status. That said, the code appears to work well within the viewer, allowing media to be easily viewed and well as allowing the expected manipulation of webGL elements either through the viewer’s MOAP capabilities or through the built-in web browser, as the very simple video below demonstrates.
Overall, a tidy update for the viewer, with the new Display tab layout present an interesting approach to encapsulating the myriad from display options available in the viewer in a format that allows for ease of use and viewing. While scrolling and expanding options aren’t to everyone’s liking, it does offer a tidy way of presenting things, with the quick on / off check boxes on some of the sub-tabs providing a good alternative to the growl factor of otherwise having to scroll and / or open / close sub-tabs to in order to disable or enable the functions.
Those on Black Dragon who produce media products in SL, or who wish to test their MOAP applications can, with this release, get to test their items without having to necessarily fall back on the Lab’s project viewer, but with the potential for updates to be pushed out by the Lab slightly ahead of them reaching any TPV, it might still be an idea to watch the Lab’s own viewer channels, just in case things get slightly adrift.
Note the video included in this article is only a very simple demonstration of WebGL manipulation in a CEF viewer. It is not intended as an in-depth demonstration or as a significant commentary on CEF use within the viewer, where it is intended to replace the use of llqtwebkit for media support (including within in-world televisions, etc.). WebGL demos via David Walsh and with thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the link.