Wednesday, May 24, 2006

1.10.0: New Features - Useless Fluff

This morning a new version of Second Life was released, and with it a traditional slew of new features. As is the case with every "milestone" (if they can be called that) release, this new version is not without a lot of whizz-bang. We now have flexible prims, assignable left-click behaviours, and a revamped lighting system. There are other updates as well but these seem to be the major shifts.

My absolute favorite is flexible prims. These prims are non-physical phantom prims that are rendered on the client side. They react and wave with the virtual wind, but other than that, have no effect "in-world." The only really practical uses I can see for this feature are hair pieces, clothing attachments, and... curtains? Flags maybe?

What I want to know is simply this: why put the development time into client-side features when we've been waiting so long for better server-side features like.. oh I don't know... a better physics engine? Faster texture compression? Better avatar models?

I can think of dozens of "features" that in my opinion, would've been a better investment of time and resources. Having wavy hair is neat and all, but is testament to superficiality. I would be more impressed by better vehicles or even something as simple as replacing lists with arrays in LSL.

Next we have assignable left-click behaviours. Really. Need. To complicate. Things. Instead of the left-click being assigned a behaviour in the script or setting off triggers when physical, we can assign pre-determined behaviours like "buy" or "sit."

Despite the intuitiveness this feature was aiming for, it is not intuitive at all. Clearly interface usage data hasn't been used in the design decisions around the UI in SL. Firsly, there is already an intuitive way to sit that the +100k users are comfortable with. There is a whole accepted paradigm around the right-click in realms of computing that go beyond SL -- why break that? Why go through the trouble of adding horrible mouse-over icons? Secondly, what's with that new icon that floats above the prim if there is a sit-controller script in it? It sorta pops up there and disappears... and pops up... and looks bad to begin with. What is it for and why does it matter? Is it adding any value to my experience or making it more confusing by presenting unnecessary information? I don't know about you... but I believe the latter is more true.

Cruft! Cruft I tell you!

Finally we have the revamped lighting system. It's a client-side lighting system and therefor everyone may view the light differently. It is much faster in terms of render time than the server-side lighting that we residents have come to know and love/hate. It also takes advantage of the GPUs in our computers... something SL has been reluctant to take much advantage of.

I actually think client-side lighting is a great feature. We can finally have decent lighting in world that won't bring our SL experience to a grind. Fabulous. I'll just have to hold on this one and wait for the day when we can move it back to the server's side.

One day... one day.

So are SL's newest features valuable? I don't think so. I think they're mainly useless bloat and cruft. Except possibly the addition of client-side lighting -- there are too many things to pick about. More menu items. Horrible floating icons and mouse-over icons. More tabs. More confusion.


At 11:45 PM, Blogger Torley said...

Hi Icon. :)

I actually had the damndest time with sitting before click actions came along--I remember horrific memories of getting wedged in the classic Ahern-Morris WA's benches, and then having to extract myself. And then on top of that, to remember to turn around, click the bench behind me, right-click, sit, etc.

I really wish it had been easier for me!

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Torley said...

BTW nice picture of you at Tao Takashi's blog:

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Icon Serpentine said...

But we all got used to the right-click is my argument. Plus we got used to right-clicking for many other actions that didn't involve physics... physics was left mouse button, actions were right button. Now the line is blurred and it may or may not become rather confusing.

seems like LL could use an interface engineer or at least some field studies of usability from a good spread of users. they'd probably get some surprising feedback.

Thanks for popping by my blog, and the link. It is a great picture! :)


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