Firestorm Beta

firestorm-logoSecond Life Viewers are making the news this week. As Linden Lab roll-out the Windlight Project Viewer and Viewer 2.7.1 with “real time” shadows, Jessica and the team over at Phoenix Firestorm roll out a Beta version of their offering.

Firestorm has been around in a couple of pre-release versions for a while, both of which I’ve looked at here in the past. I have to say that overall, it’s been a magnificent addition to TPVs even while still a work-in-progress; currently my only complaint is that it isn’t as faster, fps-wise as either Kirstenlee’s S21 and LL’s own viewer 2.

The Beta release moves Firestorm closer to prime time, and includes many features users have been requesting, making it something of a true hybrid – Viewer 2 functionality with the capability to use Viewer 1 facilities such as pie menus. Here’s a bullet-point outline of some of what to expect with it:

  • The option to switch between Viewer 1 pie menus (default) and Viewer 2 context menus
  • A resizable chat bar in the bottom toolbar area
  • Radar (still embedded in the People tab of the Sidebar by default) gets:
    • A minimap option
    • Most of the features of the Phoenix radar
    • Additional options
    • The ability to undock it from the People tab and have in displayed in its own window
  • Client-side AO with improved functionality
  • Massively-improved Bridge capabilities and security
  • Keyword alerts
  • Shared Windlight settings
  • Everything currently in the pre-releases.

You can download the Beta from here.

A video has also been produced, featuring Jessica herself, to support the release:

Viewer 2 Gets “Real-Time” Lighting

Linden Lab are certainly ramping-up Viewer 2. On top of yesterday’s announcement about the inclusion of Windlight settings for sim owners, comes the release of Viewer 2.7.1 with – among other things, “real time” shadows.

Users of many TPVs will already be familiar with the use of Dynamic Shadows, but until now, these haven’t been available in the “official” Viewer 2. This new release changes all that – and what’s more, it does so with less of a performance compromise for many GPUs.

I don’t have a top-end PC or graphics system – I have a 3-year-old Q6600 quad core and a 1Gb nVidia Ge9800. It can render shadows, but the performance hit means that the Viewer is pretty much crippled as far as doing anything else is concerned (although Kirstenlee’s marginally less so that the like of Phoenix).

With Viewer 2.7.1, however, I find the “hit” to be a lot less: fps tumbles to around 18, but that is massively better than the 5-8 fps I get elsewhere. I can actually walk around and do things! Viewer 2 also renders shadows far more crisply than I can get with other Viewers.

Me and my shadows: Phoenix (left) and Viewer 2.7.1 (right). Note how in Phoenix the Alpha Mask fails to hide my feet & the blobby shadow I cast. no such issues in Viewer 2..7.1

Another problem I get with Phoenix and the like when dynamic shadows are enabled is that items of prim clothing can flicker on avatars around me and alpha masks frequently fail (so that people’s feet are visible through there shoes). This is probably an artefact of my graphics card…but Viewer 2 eliminates it completely!

Combine shadows with the depth-of-field option (which creates a natural blurring of objects in accord with distance) and set the occulsion option, and you can get some stunning shadow effects, day and night.

The new release isn’t limited to the shadows option, either. Further improvements have been made to Search – although I’ve not actually tested that, to be honest.

Driving 2.7.1 with shadows enabled left me feeling very happy. My system may not render as well as more recent machines, but the fact that I can finally move around and interact and have smooth camera movement with shadows enabled is a massive plus.

I just hope that whatever LL have done with the code finds its way into Firestorm – while it has the same lighting options – doesn’t appear to have them implemented as yet (at least, they make no difference on my machine). When that happens, I’ll be one very happy little bunny: a much improved user interface and shadows! Bliss!

Find out more on lighting and shadows in Viewer 2.

Windlight project viewer released

Linden Lab has released the Windlight Project Viewer for Viewer 2. This is a much-anticipated Viewer that puts Windlight environmental controls directly into the hands of sim owners.

Most of us are familiar with Windlight presets – they allow us to alter the day / night settings and general ambience of the sim we’re in – so you can make it foggy or give it a psychedelic sunrise – but until now, these effects have been restricted to your Viewer – everyone else will see things howsoever they’ve set the time of day  / whatever Windlight settings they like.

With the new Windlight Project Viewer all this changes: howsoever the sim owner sets the sim’s Windlight defaults will automatically be reflected in the Viewers of visiting avatars. So, if you have a role-play sim that is set in London of the 1880s, you’ll be able to set the sim’s environment to reflect this: nighttime, foggy, etc., – any everyone entering the sim will see precisely that by default – unless and until you opt to change it for your own personal view.

As the Linden Lab announcement warns, any effects set server-side will initially only be seen by those people using the Windlight Project Viewer – but as the code is incorporated in the main viewer 2 code base, so defaults and settings will be seen by everyone.

This is pretty cool stuff, especially for those with themed sims and role-play sims, and kudos to LL for getting the controls into the server code!

Windlight and me: four views of my home, three using Windlight presets. The ability to set a sim’s environment through Windlight is now available in the Windlight Project Viewer

You can find the Viewer on the Windlight Project Viewer wiki page.