Lab updates on forthcoming improvements for SL

secondlifeOn Monday, February 9th, the Lab issued a blog post outlining some of the upcoming improvements to Second Life.

In all six improvements are listed, five of which are user-facing, while the sixth should also yield benefits, although these may not be in terms of observable differences in how SL operates for most people. Further of the six listed, four have project viewer associated with them, three of which relate to visible viewer-side changes in terms of improved or new functionality. The remaining two updates should be appearing as either project or release candidate viewers in the very near future.

Regular readers of my weekly SL project updates will likely already be familiar with these improvements, at list in principle, but I’ll run through them here as well.

The first of the improvements which is already available for testing is the new Avatar Hover Height (AHH) feature. For those who remember it, this effectively sees the return of the old “z-offset height adjustment” found in many TPVs, which allowed users to adjust their avatar’s height relative to the ground, whether standing, sitting or kneeling, or when using poseballs, etc., to ensure they were correctly positioned relative to whatever they were standing / sitting / kneeling upon.

Now in a project viewer (and soon to be a release candidate: Avatar Hover Height provides a means of adjusting your avatar's graphical height above the ground / floor / objects, as seen by yourself and others
Now in a project viewer (and soon to be a release candidate: Avatar Hover Height provides a means of adjusting your avatar’s graphical height above the ground / floor / objects, as seen by yourself and others

I’ve provided a complete overview of the new functionality, which does not replace the existing Appearance panel Hover slider), and server-side support for it is now available grid-wide. So, if you want to try-out the feature for yourself, you can do so by downloading the Avatar Hover Height project viewer. I’ll continue to provide updates on this feature under the Avatar Hover Height tag in this blog.

The Marketplace listing panel is the viewer-side hub of the new VMM functionality
The Marketplace listing panel is the viewer-side hub of the new VMM functionality

The second of the improvements currently undergoing testing is the Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM). This is more specifically aimed at people selling goods on the SL Marketplace, and provides them with the means to manage their Marketplace inventory and carry out an number of Marketplace operations from directly within the viewer.

Server-side support for this functionality is only available on Aditi, the beta grid at this point in time, and I’ve also provided an overview of how it works, complete with a look of the viewer-side changes and how to use the test regions on Aditi for those interested. Testing of VMM on the main grid should be commencing some time in the next month (but not until after February 14th), and I’ll continue to carry news about it under the Viewer-managed Marketplace tag in this blog.

The third improvement that is available for testing and mentioned in the blog post is that of the new Mesh Importer (upload) project viewer. As the name suggests, this provides a modified mesh uploader with optional debug output, performs name-based LOD association, and handle models with many materials, allowing models with more than 8 unique faces to be imported.

A number of bug reports have already been filed for this viewer – see the JIRA filter list for details.

The remaining two updates which will be visible to users should be appearing in project or release candidate viewers in the near future are:

  • An improved means to control and organize the many notices users receive: inventory offers, group notices, event invites, and money transactions, which will offer a new floater for such messages, rather than simply having them arrive in the same pop-up / chiclet formats which make them indistinguishable to one another at first glance
  • graphic-presets-1A means for users to save one or more sets of graphics settings on a per-account basis, allowing them to quickly switch between different sets of graphics options to assist with performance as they move around the grid (so, for example, you might have a set of “low” graphic settings you could switch-on in order to maintain performance in busy regions, and a set of “high” graphics settings, with as many bells and whistles turned on as you like and in accordance with your GPUs capabilities,, for use in quieter regions). It will also provide controls for defining how other avatars are rendered in your field of view, by allowing you to define a limit above which the viewer will cease rendering avatars fully, and instead will render them as a sold colour imposter.

The last update mentioned by the blog post is that of the Lab’s extensive tool chain update and changes to the viewer autobuild process. While this won’t bring any noticeable changes to the viewer UI, etc., it should, as the blog post notes, “improve stability, performance, and the productivity of developers so that we can more quickly bring you an even better Second Life.”

As added benefit in this work is that it should in time allow TPVs to build their viewers using the same packages as the Lab a lot more easily. And, as a side note, it also potentially smooths the way for the Lab to produce 64-bit versions of the official viewer, although there are currently no plans in the pipeline for them to start doing so, due to the 32-bit versions of the official viewer being very stable on 64-bit operating systems.

An initial project viewer built using the new tools is already available, but note that this does not contain any functional changes compared to the current release viewer.

In addition, as the Lab’s blog post notes, a similar operation has been under way to update a number of the tools used to build the server-side simulator software as well.

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