The elves of Yuale Nura would not allow me to travel onwards alone. “Your way must take you through the Valley of Ish’Nar, filled with wonders great and also dreadful, and where the heart can be drawn to seek the Key of Hope,” they told me. “And while that is a great and noble quest, perhaps it is one for your return, when our kinsmen of Caras Calar will bring you back to us, and we well all seek the key together…”
And so, with heavy heart, I departed the tree tops of Evensong Woods; but I did not travel alone, for a small company of elves travelled with me, longing to hear the sound of water against rock and see their brethren on the high walkways of Caras Calar.
At first our journey took us deeper into the great forest, the path winding between great trunks which gradually thinned as the road began to climb. As the days passed, so the deeps of the woodland fell ever further behind us, and my companions began to sing less. High peaks rose before us, their tops held by sunlight when all below was deep in the day’s end twilight. Eventually, we came to a great gorge, as if riven into the high peaks by a great axe: the Valley of Ish’Nar, guarded by the tall, silent figures carved into the living rock, great swords held at rest before them.
Here our mood became sombre as we travelled through the valley, passing among those who had come in search of the Key of Hope – and what I had been told was true; my heart yearned to join them. But I knew my quest lay in another direction for now. And so we followed the stone road, passing ancient ruins and lonely buildings of which my companions would say little, until we reached a great falls, and before it, a stone-built bridge, with one arch collapsed into the waters below.
“That is the way we must pass. Beyond the bridge lay the stairs and the road to Caras Calar. But beware! the water is swift and cold; tread with care as we have no wish to fish you from the waters a dozen leagues from here!”
So we crossed the bridge and threw down ropes which we used to descend to the waters below, crossing with care yet with haste; yet another day was drawing to a close and my companions were eager to show me the wonders of Titan’s Hollow as the sun set. Beyond the waters of the falls, after a steep climb, we rejoined the path and climbed broad stairs which soon became a carven path, cut into the rocks of the valley. And so it was, as the sun descended before us, another valley opened before us, this one deep and wide, surrounded by tall cliffs and filled with clear waters and over which, suspended like a hundred gleaming lanterns, lay the cliff city of Calas Calar.
Those who have not visited the city can scarce understand the magnificence of its beauty or the wonders of its design; crystal-walled houses, framed in gold, glass-like walkways and crystal stairways, all suspended on great golden chains cast across the clear waters of the valley from the high cliffs, and everywhere flowers and plants the likes of which the world has not otherwise seen!
Swiftly, we descended the path to join the broad stairs leading up to the great city and, spied from above, we were quickly joined by the fair folk of those high houses, eager to greet their cousins and brethren from the deep woods. I was welcomed as well, and many a wish for may stay to be long and refreshing were given; and looking up at the great houses and passing the tall flowers, inhaling their rich and delightful scent, I knew that my journey would again face a pause.
Region designs: Valley of Ish’Nar by Rynn Verwood and Titan’s Hollow by: Elicio Ember
Update April 29th: Don’t forget my additional piece on the new cloud options in Firestorm 4.4.0.
Firestorm 188.8.131.52720 made its formal debut on Monday 22nd April, although it has been well and truly put through its paces by both the Firestorm beta testers and the preview group for some time now, in order to ensure it is as ready for mainstream release as possible. It includes a huge number of updates and revisions, both from the Firestorm team and their contributors and from Linden Lab.
Given the size of the release, this is not intended to be a review of absolutely everything within Firestorm 4.4.0 – please refer to the release change log for that. Instead, this review focuses on what I regard as the key updates / changes. As always, credits for the various updates and contributions to Firestorm which re mentioned here can be found in the release change log – again, please check them there.
Server-side Baking /Appearance Support
Note that this item is Second Life-specific.
This isn’t actually a visible change to the viewer in term of UI, etc., – but it is an important one.
Server-side Baking / Appearance is a major change within Second Life which is primarily aimed at reducing or eliminating issues of “bake fail” (when the avatar skin & clothing layers fail to render correctly and with remain blurred or show the avatar wearing the “wrong” outfit). This capability is being introduced in two parts: viewer-side support and server-side support.
Viewers which do not have the viewer-side support will not work with the Server-side Baking / Appearance service once it starts being deployed on the grid – people using them will increasingly see grey avatars around them. Therefore, it is essential that Firestorm users update to Firestorm 4.4.0.
For further information on Server-side Baking / Appearance, see the following blog posts:
This release sees a large number of Preferences updates, all of which are reported in the change log, and which include:
General: new option to select display name format for IM tabs – a drop-down list of: Display Name, Username, Display Name (Username) and Username (Display name)
Notifications: a new option to Show group chat in chat console (useful if you opt to hide chiclets – see below); new drop-down option for IM receipt sounds: Play sound only if not in focus
General: the Quality and Speed slider incorporates additional settings (Low-Med, Med-High and High-Ultra); Lighting and Shadows is renamed Advance Lighting Model (as per the LL viewer); the Depth of Field check box is moved to the Depth of Field tab; the Windlight Sky Detail slider and the Avatar Physics slider swap positions
Rendering: Max number of concurrent HTTP GET requests slider removed; check box to Enable rendering of screen space reflections added
Sound and Media > General: uses radio buttons to show stream title notifications in chat, toasts or to be turned off
Move & View:
View: new check boxes to: disable the mouse wheel from controlling camera zoom; Show user interface in Mouselook; Enable context menus in Mouselook and Leave Mouselook after regaining focus
Firestorm: new check boxes to Reset camera position on avatar movement and Show the default camera controls mini-floater always as opaque
User Interface > General: new check boxes to open group profiles, teleport history, landmarks, place details, block / mute list in their own floaters; adds an option to show / hide the media control in the menu bar (useful when using a skin which includes the media controls elsewhere) and an option to hide IM and group chat chiclets completely (the notifications envelope and the number of IM’s will remain on the screen all the time whether or not chiclets are disabled)
Skins: new colour option (Ectoplasma) for AnsaStorm
A popular feature with Firestorm is the Quick Preference floater which, as the name suggests, provides fast and easy access to some of the most frequently used options in the viewer without having to open the “full” Preferences floater.
With release 4.4.0, the Quick Preferences floater has been made somewhat customisable – essentially allowing almost anything which is a debug setting to be added to the floater. However – be warned that this capability is considered to be for advanced users, and does require a willingness to delve deeper into the viewer than some users may be used to. Further, not every debug setting can be added to the floater.
Often, when installing a new version of a viewer, the recommendation is that one performs a “clean install” – removing all cached and settings files. This can make any viewer installation labour-intensive, as settings all need to be restored after the installation is complete, and this can take time and effort.
Firestorm 4.4.0 attempts to ease some of the pain by presenting users with a Preferences option which allows them to back-up many of their global and account settings to a local hard drive. Once done, the back-up can then be restored to an updated version of Firestorm following installation; so providing the back-up is kept up-to-date, restoring the majority of preferred settings is no longer a chore.
The back-up option can be found in Preferences > Backup. To use it, simply select a folder on a local hard-drive as the back-up location, then select those options which are to be saved; you can then delete all files associated with Firestorm prior to performing a clean install.