We (both the Lindens and some hard-working open source contributors) have been busy making improvements to Second Life, and now is a good time to let you know about some new things you’ll soon be able to enjoy. These changes include improving the way your avatar interacts with surfaces inworld, giving you more tools for managing your preferences for notifications and graphics settings, as well as improvements to make life easier for mesh creators and merchants. Read below for the details and links to download Project Viewers that will let you get an early look at some of these improvements.
One of the surprisingly difficult things to do in a virtual world is to make things come to rest in a natural-looking way. Keeping feet on the ground when standing and the right body parts on furniture seems obvious, but getting an avatar to "just touch" without either floating above or penetrating into the adjacent surface can be computationally quite expensive. To avoid some of that expense, Second Life has always used approximations, which rely on some simplifying assumptions about the avatar shape and size. Those assumptions are adjusted by a number of factors including several of your shape parameter choices, values included in attachments you are wearing, and active animations.
As we've all seen, sometimes these things combine to leave you floating above or sinking into the surface on which intuitively you should be resting. This is because the adjustments come from many sources and sometime interact in unexpected ways. Because they have not always been applied in exactly the same order, even if you wear the same set of attachments in the same setting you could sometimes get different results.
We've been doing some work on all this and testing the results in the Project HoverHeight Viewer. This viewer, and some accompanying server changes, improve things in two ways: the order in which we make adjustments to your vertical position has been made more stable -- combining the same set of attachments and animations should now always produce the same vertical offset: even if it's not perfect, it will at least be predictable. Because it can't always be perfect, we've also introduced a new final adjustment that is directly under your control: a new avatar right-click selection allows you to tweak your vertical position. This final adjustment is shared with everyone around you so that they too will see you correctly, and is saved locally by your viewer so that it persists between sessions. This new feature was inspired by a proposal from the Firestorm viewer team, and they've been helping with testing it.
Busy Second Life Residents have told us via JIRA, the Suggestion form, and other channels that they need better ways to control and organize the many notices they receive: inventory offers, group notices, event invites, and money transactions all result in the same kind of pop-ups and notice chiclets and are all listed together. It can be difficult to keep track of what has been happening, and all too easy to miss something important. An upcoming Viewer release will add a new floater that provides separate displays for different notice types, and the ability to sort them. You can prioritize and organize what's important to you.
Mesh creators have sometimes found that large or complex models can't be imported to Second Life, and the reason why is not always clear. We're upgrading support for mesh import: an upcoming Viewer update will allow uploading models that have more than eight unique faces, and improved association of physics representations and LODs by name. It also improves error reporting, including a detailed mode that dumps everything you might want to know about how your model is being processed. You can try out this work in-progress now in the Project Importer Viewer.
Viewer Managed Marketplace
Merchants get improvements too! In the next couple of months, you'll be able to manage the inventory in your Second Life Marketplace store directly from the Viewer (there is a Project Viewer available for exploring this on Aditi). Items no longer need to be loaded into the Merchant Outbox or a Magic Box; instead you'll designate items to be sold directly from your personal inventory.
Your preferred way to see the world can change depending on what you're doing, and your graphics preferences strongly affect the performance of your viewer. We're introducing an open source contribution that allows you to save named sets of graphics settings, with a drop-down for quickly changing between them. When you sit down to listen to a performance in your favorite music club, you can pick settings optimized for rich display of your companions and settings, and when you go exploring you can pick a set that trades off longer draw distances and better lighting effects for simpler rendering of details - whatever you think is important. This Viewer will also expose some controls we've been experimenting with for some time to give you better protection against nearby objects or avatars that are too difficult to render fully on your system.
Second Life Developer Tools
Finally, we've been updating several of the tools we use to build both viewers and simulators; while this doesn't directly provide new features, we believe it will improve stability, performance, and the productivity of developers so that we can more quickly bring you an even better Second Life.
All of these changes, along with other fixes and small improvements, should reach the default Viewer over the next several weeks.