SL Basic/Advanced Mode Viewer Review

by Goldie on March 31, 2011

in Games,Virtual Worlds

It seems so odd posting about Second Life again, even though that is where all of this whole web 2.0 stuff stated for me, but here it is.

The other day I downloaded the latest Beta Viewer for SL which include the initial version of Basic and advanced modes.  There are a lot of things that I like about it, and some definite criticisms, and I thought I’d capture them here rather than in 140 character segments.

First off, and my favorite part of the viewer is they have improved the graphic rendering engine for the Mac significantly.  On my Macbook pro I rez places (and myself) fairly quickly (10-30 seconds in very limited testing – not with lots of people around) AND I can move.  In the same places on the old viewer it would take me a good 5 minutes to rez and walking was a step by step, step every second or two jerky experience.  That alone gives me more options on where i use Second Life.

When I started up the viewer I set it to basic mode just to see what the starting point was.  To start with there are a number of features that I liked:

The click to move is very nice, and is a simple way to move. Also the mouse to pan/turn the avatar was a nice way to look around, although it really is more of a “push against the world to move” action than a camera view.  (In other words, it moves exactly the opposite of mouse view in game like World of Warcraft.)  Alt-zoom is still there.  Also I really like the fact that the viewer 2 tab list HUD is gone, giving back some nice screen real estate and helping with the immersiveness.  Instead there are nice text buttons at the bottom out of the way of the screen.

I like the Gesture button – it makes it easier to “emote”.   The “Destinations” button is my favorite button.  It gives you a range of categories of places to explore and you can head off into the world and ideally find places where people are. The my avatar button has a nice selection of pre-made avatars with skin/costume combos.  It makes it easy for a newcomer to change their look.  I’d love to have my outfits displayed that way and be able to do wardrobe changes that easily with my bought clothing.

The “Howto” button is the last standout feature – it brings up help with a list of “how to do x”.  It is a fairly short list but then what you can do in basic mode is fairly limited, which brings me to my criticisms.

I understand that basic is designed to give a simple interface without too much to get new users started.  They have an excellent start, but there are some key features missing that make advanced a necessity (and the changes between the two very disorienting.)  Before I touch on the concerns with advanced we’ll finish up basic.

First off, although I can wander the world, I can’t return home.  To start with, there is no way to set a home, and then there is no way to ask the viewer to send me home (unless I can get there using the back button in the navigation component at the top.)  Even my web browser has  home button – this should be an easy and an early fix.

Secondly, there is no way to access your inventory.  You can still acquire inventory nicely but there is no way to get to that inventory in basic mode.   This seems like a huge oversight.  I understand that the inventory presentation is messy – and perhaps they didn’t know how to basicize it, but it is something that has be addressed.

As you might guess basic has no build mode.  I’m ambivalent about that.   On one hand it makes the UI very simple.  On the other hand, it means that to get to building they have to intentionally switch the mode of their viewer.  There is no accidentally discovering building.   While I think removing building from the much simplified right mouse click menus is correct, it would be nice if there was a menu option, like under Edit or perhaps it’s own, that would let a person discover building.

So…we’ve explored basic, realize we need to move to advanced to build and get to our inventory…let’s check out the jump our new user will have to go through.

First up, the HUD is back, with the tabs with the indecipherable icons on them.  As a plus it does seem to tuck out the way better than I recall it doing.  However, it could be hugely helped with at least mouseover text.  What are these strange icons and why are they on my screen?

Help is now up in the menus, and takes you to the old style help – no “how to” option here.  I think at least adding the how to help, as limited as it is, to the help menu options would be useful.

Moving along, our new user now tries to click to move to a new location and…that no longer works.  I hope they figured out wasd or arrow keys for movement while they were in basic.  Well, lets look around…wait…mouse turn is gone.  Luckily the “view” button that gives you a HUD that lets you change your view around exists, and if they try the help the directions for alt-zoom aren’t too far down in the help.  However, this change is jarring.   That, and even as an advanced user I’d like have the click to move & mouse turn options back.  They are great for casual looking around. (n.b. mouse turning does have a limitation as there is no way to look up (or to use it while flying) so it could use some revamping – perhaps to have more of a “mouse view” functionality rather than an “avatar turn” functionality.

Having not played with Viewer 2 that much I’m not sure that there is that much different in the Advanced mode from what existed in Viewer 2.  I think the new basic mode is a great start but there are some key missing things I’d like to see added.  Also, since at some point a basic user is likely to go advanced it would be good to have a few of the features of basic mode brought into advanced mode as well.   I look forward to seeing the next iteration of the viewer, which hopefully will advance the state of basic, and bring some new features to advanced.

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