I often experiment with different viewers trying to find the one that meets all my “nice to have” features. I sometimes feel like Goldilocks; this one is too soft, that one is too hot, but unlike the fairy-tale I still haven’t found one that is just right. Since I do spend so much time on this it is a big part of my SL and Renoobed experience so I thought I should document some of my experiences and impressions.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a very technical person, so this is just going to be my personal impressions based on my needs and preferences and as such is not unbiased. Any errors or omissions are completely my own. It’s certainly possible a viewer does have a feature I’m not aware of or that I, as the user, am doing something wrong. Each of these tests was done with the same windlight, in the same sandbox. I tend to stay on high graphic settings for day to day use, but for this test I selected each viewer’s default Ultra setting and didn’t do any further tweaking of graphics. All tests done using the most current version as of July 8th.
The short version for those that don’t want to read all my ramblings. (click to enlarge)
As much as I love charts, there are many things that go into viewer choice that aren’t as easily quantifiable so I’ve written about each viewer individually. Warning, it’s long, longer than usual even, so I split it up into seperate posts but they are intended to be part of the same test.
Nirans Viewer http://niranv-sl.blogspot.ca/
I’ve been using Niran’s viewer for photographs since I first discovered and wrote about it in December. At the time I felt it completely changed my SL but in the months since I’m really starting to realize I’m not the target audience for this viewer.
The development cycle is far too fast for me. Weekly releases? Particularly when there is no uninstaller and you have to manually get rid of everything so you can do a clean install? That’s a lot. I just want to log in, shop, chat, do hunts and take pictures. I don’t want to deal with a new viewer once a week. Additionally, sometimes a release is crashy, or something is added in one then later removed, so you are having to go back to a previous version to get the experience you had. For those that enjoy being a beta tester and playing with a cutting edge new feature, and truly Niran is pushing the envelope on a lot of things here from what I can see, this is probably quite enjoyable. For average Ruth like me though? It’s just to much. I actually do some end user acceptance testing as part of my RL job, I have no interest in doing it on my recreational time.
I also find the preferences to have too many options and not all that intuitive for the average end user. I don’t even know what many of these do let alone how they will impact my SL experience. Having said that, since December I do try to keep up with the releases and do still use Niran’s almost exclusively for my photos. (click to enlarge)
Tool buttons can be placed at the top. This is so intuitively useful I don’t know why other viewers don’t do this. Perhaps I’ve spent too many years using Microsoft products, but if I want to do something in any software I first look up at the top to do it. In SL this placement is also the least intrusive to my immersion and visuals.
The graphics really are the best in my opinion and you have the most options to customize them on screen in Nirans with the machinima sidebar shown here on the right.
The interface and overall experience are very different from any other viewer. You almost have to experience it to know what I mean. Second Life FEELS different when you are using Nirans. I’m particularly impressed with the tips that display upon log in and when teleporting. The screens and images used are really cool and I think add a “wow” factor that SL can sometimes be missing.
The tips that display upon log in and with every teleport are handy for those that don’t or won’t put any research into using their viewer. I really think ALL viewers, especially the official, needs to do more of this. There are a lot of people in SL who still don’t know how to use some basic features and it would be particularly helpful for new users to have a rotating list of tips that are displayed every time they log in or teleport.
The FPS on ultra as you can see in this photo (top right) is single digits, I can sometimes squeak it up to 15 but that’s the upper limit I can get in the last several releases. In fairness, I’m told that Niran’s Ultra settings are more advanced than others so it’s perhaps not a fair comparison against the ultra settings on other viewers. When I lower it to High, the FPS is in the high 40s however that defeats the purpose as the whole reason I use Nirans Viewer is to take pictures and for the graphics so I will max out most settings when I’m taking photos and do struggle with single digit FPS.
If I compare it to my “nice to have” features it comes up short and Niran has declined most of these features so I don’t expect to ever have them.
Built in AO, combined Chat and IM in one window and separate search functionality in inventory tabs are all missing here.