Virtual World viewers: Part 6 – Linden Lab official viewer

In Part Six I’m looking at the official viewer for Second Life: Linden Lab’s V3 client. There are different versions available from Linden Lab for development viewer betas and others that focus on Inventory management or Market Place delivery functions. This review is for the main stable release: 3.2.8.248931.

Let’s take a closer look.

Download and Installation

Linden Lab viewer 3.2.8.248931 log-in screen

The download time was 19 seconds for a file of 53.8 MB. Installation was without any problems. The Second Life viewer takes 190.8 MB of space once installed. At the log-in screen the drop-down menu defaults to the Second Life main grid Agni. Other Second Life test grids are included, but, not surprisingly for the official SL viewer, no other grids are listed.

Once the viewer window was launched a dialogue window appeared, as can be seen in the above image. The viewer was running in a pre-sized, non-full screen window. The V3 client log-in screen differs from V1 as it no longer displays a single image taken in-world but information on various locations and events.

Documentation for the Linden Lab viewer is very extensive through the Knowledge Base wiki and user forums. Articles and video tutorials on the wiki pages do not necessarily relate to the most up-to-date viewer but are helpful to get a general idea of controls and functions. Linden Lab offers a comprehensive level of language support, as this relates directly to encouraging users in Second Life, so documentation for some non-Roman character languages, e.g. Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Russian, etc., is stronger than elsewhere.

Downloads are available at: Second Life Support/Downloads

Navigation

Linden Lab viewer in-world default screen

Once logged into Second Life I noticed that I automatically rezzed at my last visited location and not my Home location. As I had not selected my last position at log-in (there was no option listed for that), or with another viewer, I assume this happened because my Home location had not been saved. As my favourite locations are stored in Inventory, and displayed in the top toolbar, I used that to teleport home.

When you first log-in the most obvious open window is for Destinations. Whilst this could be a useful tool for exploring, I found it rather distracting and closed it.

Camera Controls default setting

When arriving back at my home location I realised that the camera was set to Front View as default. This a little bit disorienting for navigation. Opening the Camera Controls window to change the view to my usual setting I noticed that the control box couldn’t be re-sized. I decided to keep it off-screen once the view was changed.

Voice Chat was off by default, so does need enabling in the Preferences window. Display avatar names is on by default so I turned that off in Preferences.

Toolbar management

Next was customizing the UI Toolbar Buttons. I brought up the window by selecting the Toolbar option from the drop-down menu “Me”. The drag and drop options were easy to use although some of the button names are slightly different to TPVs I’ve looked at. There is one major difference with the Toolbar menu: there is no option for Quick Preferences as there is in Firestorm, Phoenix and Exodus. This is a definite drawback for me as being able to access LoD controls and WindLight settings quickly offers a greater flexibility.

Environment settings

WindLight settings are the standard ones for SL without any additional user-made ones. The Environment Settings are located in the World drop-down menu.The default light settings are set to region specific day/night cycles but without the WindLight Share you can find in third-party viewers. There is an additional Day Cycle drop-down menu for other settings but I have not tested this fully.

There does not appear to be an option to change the skin theme or colour. As mentioned before; the light text against a dark background is not something I personally prefer to use, so for those with visual sensitivities I’d recommend re-sizing your viewer screen to full-screen (or as close as possible) to minimise eye strain.

Graphics

Preferences window

My Graphics Preferences were set to High as default. Hardware Skinning was enabled, so I was able to immediately see the rigged mesh hair that was worn. Anti-alias was on at x2 as default. I changed that to x8 and it appeared to work well once I had re-logged. Unfortunately, at this point, the frames per second problem occurred as I noticed a drop in responsiveness for camera and avatar movements. Having previously experienced something similar when reviewing the Exodus viewer I opened the Statistics window, under Advanced, Performance Tools.

This time the drop in fps was considerably worse, as shown in the image below.

Frames per second in Linden Lab viewer

Having checked on my external connection and sim performance as in previous reviews, I then tried turning my graphics to lower settings. The fps did not have a great improvement when the Graphics Settings slider was changed. On Low the best I was seeing was 15 frames per second.

I re-logged to see if this would help and performance did return to normal levels (around 40-50 fps). Then I tried changing the anti-alias settings. The same problem occurred as soon as tried to use it above the default x2.

As the performance was hindering other tests I decided to stop the review at this point.

Summary

In the spirit of full disclosure – I haven’t used a Linden Lab official client regularly since 2009. Taking into consideration that general levels of stability have improved over the years; my expectations were not optimistic. I had hoped that I would be proved wrong on this point.

From my perspective: there is little here that would encourage me to use this as a main viewer. My thought is that the fps problem, caused by using a higher level of anti-alias, could be resolved by the viewer running on a newer Mac. To drop from an average of 45 frames per second to 3.2 by using x8 anti-alias is a massive performance hit. It did come as a surprise that this was the worst performance I’d encountered so far.

Where I was interested in the functions that the Exodus team had included, in what is the same UI framework, with Linden Lab’s V3 I was disappointed.

The viewer functionality does appear to be have a focus on new users as paramount. There is a lot of on-screen information about activities, events and places at log-in. This could be a valid way to engage a new or light user with the variety on offer, but for a regular user it seems less necessary. The viewer may have stability and other options that work well, and yet, the basics provided don’t appeal to me as much as having a range of easily customisable options, and functioning anti-alias settings, that I’ve encountered elsewhere.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this to an experienced user with an older machine. For someone new to Second Life or primarily interested in exploring events and places, with the client installed on a suitable computer, I believe it might well provide an improved guide to this virtual environment than the old V1 versions did.

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One comment on “Virtual World viewers: Part 6 – Linden Lab official viewer

  1. Pingback: A virtual world photo contest | Mamachinima

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