Radegast: A look at version 2.0

(1.28 log-in screen)

Yesterday I mentioned Radegast 2.0 (.1130) had been released and that it has, among other things, the 3D scene renderer (now called the Scene Viewer), the ability to support avatar physics and the capability to render mesh objects.

Well, it does – and it does so exceptionally well.

Installation is as per previous versions – unsurprisingly – and when you start the application, you’re greeted with the familiar splash screen, albeit it with the login data fields nicely resized and moved to the right. The discerning user will also note that 3D Scene has been added to the menu / tab bar – a hint of what is to come.

Once logged-in, you’re presented with the chat display, which retains the same overall layout as earlier versions, but with a somewhat sharper look, with resized movement controls and extended chat bar.

Preferences Options

The File menus now includes a PREFERENCES option which, when clicked, opens the Settings floater.

Radegast Preferences

This allows you a set a range of familiar preferences within Radegast, including the popular RLV Support (this is described as “partial” support in the documentation, of which more anon) and the use of MU* style emotes (so “:” can be used in place of “/me” when typing an emote), together with the ability to turn-off the typing animation. Unlike the SL Viewer, there is no requirement to re-start Radegast after checking  / unchecking certain items (such as, again, RLV).

Preferences also gives you access to two other tabs: Auto Response and Graphics Settings. Auto Response operates in a similar manner to the Auto Response function found in popular TPV Viewers such as Firestorm and Phoenix, allowing you to send a customised message to people who IM you. You can set the response to be sent automatically under one of three conditions:

  • When you set BUSY from the World menu
  • When anyone not on your Friends list IMs you
  • Whenever anyone IMs you.

The Graphics Settings obviously apply to the 3D Scene Viewer. Here you can set a number of graphics defaults that are common to most TPVs, and adjust your draw distance to a maximum of 176 metres. There is also an option to turn-on water reflections, but this will only be accessible when the 3D Scene Viewer is running.

Graphics settings

All options selected in Preferences are applied automatically (unless a restart is explicitly asked for – as with Anti-aliasing in the Graphics Settings), so there is no APPLY button – simply close the Settings floater when done.

An important note to remember if you’re running Radegast over a mobile connection: you might was to keep the draw distance in the Scene Viewer turn down relatively low to reduce the bandwidth you’re using in downloading data & so reduce any charges you may be incurring.

The 3D Scene Viewer

The 3D Viewer itself is now fully embedded into the main Radegast window. When you start it, it simply opens up a new tab.This is a nice touch when compared with the experimental versions, especially as it includes the chat bar as well, a very practical addition over some of the early variants of the renderer.

Radegast scene rendering compared to the SL Viewer (inset) – impressive (click to enlarge)

The rendering is actually bloody impressive, and offers a very good alternative to the full Viewer – but bear in mind  that:

  • This isn’t a full-blown graphical Viewer, so things might take a little time to render, especially in “busy” environments. The results, however are well worth it, as the image above hopefully demonstrates
  • Running the Scene Viewer significantly increases the use of system resources, and so might not be the best for older systems

There are a few issues, but whether these are tied to the software or your hardware set-up is hard to say. In my case, for example, I found that some prims (such as around the flowerbeds in my garden) simply didn’t rez at all, no matter what draw distance was set or where I stood relative to them.  Similarly, not all my sculptie plants were properly rendered and some of the grass of one my lawns was rendered hovering above the surrounding grass and stonework.

Rendering issues: malformed plants, missing wall prims and floating grass (all arrowed)

However, to suggest this in any way ruined my enjoyment in having my in-world scene rendered, or my inability to interact with it, would be a lie. Certainly, when compared to a Second Life view of the same location, Radegast’s ability to render the scene so well is absolutely clear. I also think the ability to render water reflections is pretty amazing as well (below).

Water reflections

Mesh rendering is equally impressive, as the images below of two familiar vehicles from the Beta grid should demonstrate (top picture captured using the old Mesh Project Viewer, the lower image captured in Radegast 2.0).

Rendering mesh objects: “Full” Viewer (top) and Radegast

Movement in the Scene Viewer has been refined to be smoother than earlier versions, although avatar rendering isn’t entirely perfect. By default, the camera is positioned behind your avatar, a-la the SL Viewer, and you can use the LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys to turn, UP to walk forward and DOWN to walk backwards – all as one would expect. If you are using an AO, the Scene Viewer attempts to render the movement scripted by the AO, although this doesn’t always *quite* work, and occasionally your avatar might develop something of a drunken lean while walking!

Tip: if you opt to reposition the camera at any time, always tap ESCAPE to place it back behind your avatar before you attempt to move again (the camera will not automatically reposition itself should you try to move). Even if you can see your avatar, you should still reposition the camera prior to moving – direction of movement appears to be relative to the camera position, not avatar position, so if your camera is not behind your avatar, it is easy to get confused as your avatar sets off in a totally unexpected direction when you press the UP or DOWN keys!

Camera movement still take a a little getting used to. Movement is carried out through a combination of holding the left mouse button and either the ALT or CTRL keys:

  • Left-click (and hold) & press ALT to orbit around something when moving the mouse
  • Left-click (and hold) & press CTRL to pan left / right up/down when moving the mouse.

Camera movement can initially be confusing – using CTRL and the mouse to move to the left will apparently pan the camera to the right, for example. The best way to understand this is to think of all camera movement in terms of dragging the on-screen image. So if you use CTRL + left mouse-click and move the mouse to your right, you are effectively “dragging” the image to the right side of your screen – and the camera position will consequently appear to move to the left as a result. This rule applies to panning up / down (“drag” the image towards the bottom of your screen to pan up, etc.), and also to the use of the ALT key to orbit around something.

Tip: If you find the image going off-centre compared to what you are trying to achieve when panning / orbiting, try pointing the cursor at something you wish to centre-on and ALT-left click to centre the view on it; then try panning / orbiting again.

Additional Viewer Options

  • For those that prefer the Scene Viewer detached, right-click on the tab name for the Scene Viewer and select Detach. This will float the Scene Viewer in a separate window, complete with a chat bar
  • Right click anywhere within the Scene Viewer to display an additional menu:
    • Undock (/Dock): will float the Scene Viewer in its own window or re-dock it as a tab within the main Radegast window
    • Options: Displays the graphics preferences that can also be accessed through FILE -> PREFERENCES
    • Debug Panel: opens the Debug options for the Viewer, where you can RESET VIEW and move the camera back behind your avatar (i.e. the same as tapping ESCAPE on your keyboard), and adjust things like the image brightness and contrast using the top two sliders.

Objects in the Scene Viewer respond to touch as they would in the “full” SL Viewer: doors will open, menu-driven objects will display their menu, etc. Right clicking on in-world objects will display a context-sensitive series of additional option to the menu described above. For example, if you right-click on an item you own, you’ll get additional options to take, delete, touch or sit on the object. Right-clicking on an object owned by someone else may give you the options to touch it (if scripted) and / or sit on it.

RLV Support

This is an interesting addition to Radegast. While it is not a full implementation of the RLV API, it nevertheless opens options and possibilities. Among the things it can do:

  • Deny the ability to remove locked items
  • automatically accept forced teleports
  • Act upon forced animations (although not necessarily rendered in the Scene Viewer)
  • Restrict chat and IM (including forcing chat to whisper, etc.)

The broader restrictions provided by RLV aren’t replicated in Radegast, so things like blocking inventory access, restricting far touch, vision restrictions, etc., are not implemented.

Other Updates

  • The login screen now stores the details of avatars logged-in to virtual worlds using Radegast, including the actual grid the avatar logged-in to. Simply select the avatar (/grid name) from the drop-down list available from the USERNAME field. The user name, password and grid are all then set
  • Radegast now supports Viewer 2 avatar Physics Layer – so if you wear a physics layer of clothing, it will render movement correctly in other people full graphical Viewers (the movement won’t be rendered in the Radegast Scene Viewer).

Opinion

Radegast 2.0 offers some nice improvements over the previous releases, and still sits head an shoulders above other “non-graphical” clients in the most common areas of use. If you want a genuinely “light” text-based access to Second Life / OpenSim the likes of Libretto or SLiteChat might be more appealing, but if you are stuck in a situation where you simply cannot run a “full” Viewer and want to have a very flexible means of accessing your preferred VW for more direct interaction with friends and the people around you, Radegast really cannot be beaten.

Elements of the client are still described as “experimental” and as such may well still be prone to crashing. That said, I’ve sent the good portion of a day running the client on both a desktop PC and my Notebook (Intel Atom 330 w/2Gb RAM and nVidia Ion2 graphics processor) without any crashes or major issues (the Notebook did have occasional avatar rendering issues – I was hair and shoes a few times, with nothing between!) and both the PC and the Notebook seemed to have issues rendering the odd prim here and there.

All-in-all a significant and well-implemented update to Radegast which is enjoyable and intuitive (for the most part!) to use. And RLV is a nice option to have – and not just for those of us into D/s scenes *grins*.

InWorldz at Zauber Paracelsus’ magical sim

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