(…and be sure to uninstall any earlier WindLight viewers first!)
Hey everyone- this is Pastrami Linden- project leader of the WindLight team here at Linden Lab. Well, you’ve waited for it, you’ve asked about it… and here it finally is! The re-release of the WindLight First Look! As many of you first experienced in May, WindLight is a beautiful, physics-based sky and cloud rendering system which makes Second Life much more visually compelling. We rolled out a very early First Look earlier this year, and have been hard at work since then improving the visual quality, stability, and feature set available.
First, the goods… This viewer includes five major new enhancements we’re excited about. They are:
1. WindLight (obviously!)
Not only is WindLight back, there are a slew of enhancements and changes along with it, including:
- Classic Clouds are back!
- The moon is back!
- Fallback (aka non-shader) WindLight is now much faster and of higher quality, which ensures those with older hardware still get fast, beautiful new skies.
- UI improvements to the Sky Editor dialog and a new Basic Environment Editor dialog:
2. New photorealistic water
For those with powerful-enough graphics cards (see Recommended Systems), we now offer an amazing, much more physically-accurate water model. We think the results speak for themselves:
The water features accurate reflections, refractions, and sun/moon glow…
…and a full slew of user-tweakable/saveable settings, just like WindLight:
You can even change the texture used for the wave patterns!
All objects can now have a glow attribute assigned to them:
We can’t wait to see what lightscapes and fantasy worlds you make with this one!
4. Avatar Impostors
We’re really excited about this one. As many of you know, crowded scenes- and avatar rendering in general -can be very taxing on many systems. To address this issue, we’ve developed an impostor system which greatly minimizes the processing power needed for avatar rendering, especially at great distances and in crowded scenes:
The result? Up to 40% fps increase in crowded scenes. It really is amazing- give it a shot!
5. Vastly Improved Graphics Preferences tab
We’ve put a lot of work into simplifying and re-organizing the graphics preferences options in the viewer. You’ll find there is now just one elegant tab, with all of the relevant options contained therein. More importantly, you’ll find that we’ve included a simple, easy to use Performance/Quality slider that enables you to shift between high-end visual quality and fast performance at the click of a mouse- all the underlying features are changed automatically. But, for those who want to go in and tweak individual features, we give that option with the “Custom” checkbox. You can even see how the default settings change each of the features in realtime, and decide exactly what configuration works for you! This is very similar to how many high-end games handle their graphics options, and we think you’ll find it’s much more intuitive and easy to use- especially with all the new features available in this viewer.
In addition to the new features, our team has also been using the integration of WindLight as an opportunity to clean up and refactor the core Second Life rendering engine. We realize that one of your primary concerns in Second Life is the stability of the system, and we’ve been focusing on many of the underlying issues during development of this release. In addition to the features above, the release features many performance and stability enhancements. See the Release Notes for details.
Most importantly, since this is a First Look, we are relying on you, the Residents, to help us fix, enhance, debug, and optimize it before it makes its way into Release. When you find issues, please be sure to report them in the Issue Tracker. Include step-by-step repros and your system info, and please make sure to set “Affects Version” to “WindLight”. Here’s an example: VWR-960.
Also, be sure to attend our WindLight office hours at:
- Brampton Linden Stage: 106/166/25
- Tuesdays 8:00am – 9:00am PDT (ongoing)
- Thursdays 1:00pm- 2:00pm PDT (ongoing)
There is more exciting work planned for WindLight, including estate controls for custom skies/water and making skies/water available as tradeable inventory items. Stay tuned for more info.
Also, there are several known issues we’re working on. You can find a complete list in the Release Notes. Some of the notable ones are:
- Behavior in Leopard on Macs can be overly slow, and textures may be misplaced.
- Shiny doesn’t look the same as before. We’re working to get it very close, if not better.
- NVIDIA beta drivers 169.04 currently do not support shaders.
- Some of your colors and textures might appear overexposed or washed out with the new lighting framework.
For important info, please see:
We hope you enjoy this great new release and we wish all of you happy and beautiful world-building!
– Pastrami and the WindLight Team