What is WindLight? How did this happen?
WindLight “simulates the ways that sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere under different climatic conditions, such as fog or haze”. Long story short: killer skies and kickass environments.
Linden Lab has teamed up with and acquired Windward Mark, who’s responsible for developing this visual excellency. We warmly welcome our new brethren!
For more details, including the history of Windward Mark and the story behind our acquisition, see our press release and the Boston Globe article, related to Cory Linden’s post about our Boston Recruiting Party.
What does this all look like?
You know what they say about pictures and 1,000s of words, so have a taste:
For an even more copious amount of droolage:
Who does this affect?
The sky is such a, uh, big thing. You can’t miss it, nor do you want to. From machinamakers to vehicle designers to fashionistas to avid explorers, WindLight affects every Resident.
When can I try WindLight in Second Life for myself?
We’re going to release a fresh First Look viewer enabling you to interact with the environmental awesomeness first-hand! This, in the spirit of previous First Looks, will run on the Live Grid*, and will be client-side, meaning others won’t see the changes you make to the sky, but that’s planned!
* This means inventory changes, L$ transactions, and all other changes will be PERMANENT, just like running the “normal” Second Life viewer. So be careful while having fun, but we’ll warn you at the startup screen.
What features will First Look WindLight have?
This initial offering fundamentally replaces the sky the way you know it, giving you a dialog with many sliders so you can tweak its appearance to your taste. You can change basic things like color, but also delve into more advanced settings like numerous atmospheric scattering components. You can add finishing touches like gamma to “sweeten” things up, then save presets for loading later.
There’s even day cycle controls, so yes — you can animate custom days! Want to see the heavens above go from splendid sunshine to moody moonlight in a minute? You can do this, and much more.
Please keep in mind the user interface will be SUBJECT TO CHANGE, especially as we learn from community feedback and adapt in improving the system. This is a first pass and there’s plenty more to come. We’re flexible, because we know something as big as this can have a profound impact on your everyday Second Life. The best way to understand is to try it out for yourself.
What if I find a WindLight First Look bug?
Please, help us help you help us. Report the bug in our Issue Tracker and select the WindLight component (coming soon) so we can triage it faster. Thank you.
How long are days going to be?
A full day cycle is currently 4 hours. Respectful of existing behavior, First Look WindLight’s default day will also be 4 hours, but can be overridden locally, and eventually, for estates, on a per-region basis that others can see too. We’re planning to keep the Mainland at 4-hour days, but overall, this’ll allow for a lot more possibilities when estate owners and managers invoke the theme and atmosphere of their land. Think of tropical isles with sunsets fit for a pirate, sinister-looking skylines above cyberpunk cities, neutral midday for a serious business, and so on.
My graphics card isn’t very good, can I see WindLight?
We’ve coded optimizations and CPU fallback so you should be able to see some of the effects, depending on your system. It won’t be as high-quality and clouds will be missing, but it’ll still be noticeably better than what you’ve got today.
What’s in store for the future of Windward Mark tech in Second Life?
As the next-stage evolution of the current environmental system, there are more exciting improvements we plan to incrementally add, once this first phase is finished. Some of the good stuff tentatively includes but isn’t limited to:
- Cloud shadows on terrain! (HAWT!)
- Enhanced nighttime options like moonlight, moon phases, astral bodies like shooting stars.
- Smoother distance haze with a better-faded cutoff.
- Various refinements to improve realism and performance, etc.
Beyond this, we hope to implement:
- Post-process effects. Popular in many games, and we know how a lot of you have asked them to be a part of SL too. Think of bloom and nightvision.
- SHAREABLE settings! Since SL is a social world, we think you’ll agree it’d be great — and time-saving — to swap skies and related settings. Imagine coming up with a gloriously surreal sweep straight out of Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka‘s love-child and wanting to show it off, like you can with other inventory item types.
- Nimble, a realistic 3D cloud simulator.
Remember, that isn’t a complete list, but will put what we hope to accomplish in perspective.
For a better understanding, learn more about the work Windward Mark’s done.
But… I’m going to miss the old sky! Can I revert back to it?
WindLight is a replacement for the current archaic sky, which is long past its expiration date.
We understand it may take some time to get used to WindLight, and some will have concerns about how performance will be affected. We’ll do our best to smooth the transition and ensure good speed paired with amazingly cinematic sights. And as we said, we’ll keep paying attention to your suggestions to improve how Second Life looks.
Why are you adding these new features instead of fixing old bugs?
We’re doing both!
To correct any misconceptions, the Windward Mark team has been working on WindLight technology for several years. They bring their already-established expertise — work already done — in joining Linden Lab. This means that these efforts add, not detract, from our overall efforts in continuing to improve Second Life as a diverse online world with a thriving ecosystem. In addition, as described in Cory Linden’s recent blog post, about 70% of our developers are currently focused on scaling and stability-related issues, and we’re continuing to seek Resident help on our Issue Tracker and hire aggressively.
What’s more, with beautiful new environments that WindLight provides, we’re fulfilling a longtime, popular wish from many of our Residents. Varied requests for gorgeous skies, realtime weather, custom sun and moon, and lots more have been asked for since 2002, and these requests have appeared in the historical Feature Voting Tool many times, such as Prop: 141 – Real Time Weather and its duplicates. Furthermore, as we’ve seen from Resident-run snapshot sites, graphics improvements are more than just mere “eye candy”, for they uplift the emotional quality of your Second Life. Ever smile when you see a lovely sunset while hanging out with friends? 🙂
Long story short, this is more of an AND thing than an OR thing — we’re working hard so you can enjoy your inworld experience holistically.
Wait! I have more questions that weren’t answered.
Don’t worry! As we continue to make progress, we’ll be paying attention to your comments and posting more updates to keep you informed.