Neverfar in Second Life

Neverfar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrNeverfar – click on any image for full size

“A little piece of my heart and soul I created for this world to enjoy some quiet time and create moments,” inertia (Caridee Sparta) says of her Homestead region of Neverfar, which I came across recently while poking my nose into the Destination Guide. It is an atmospheric and eclectic place to visit, offering  a good amount to see and discover.

A good part of the region is formed by a rugged island rising from calm waters, its top stony and hard, a place where shrubs and old trees with deep roots claw for purchase. A small village sits on its hard back, a place with a strong oriental theme among its buildings – something which is always bound to attract me. While mixed in nature, with something of a lean towards Japanese influences, I found this little village put me in mind of secluded places along the south coast of China, huddling away from that country’s rapid urbanisation, or perhaps located on the Indochinese peninsula – although it might just as easily be somewhere on one of the islands of Japan.

Neverfar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrNeverfar

Surrounded by tall, evergreen mountains, and gathered around a little bay where two long fishing boats rest in the mist hugging the shoreline, the village is a mix of tall, cement-sided buildings and wooden huts and shacks, most of them with corrugated tin roofs. It has the feel of being a place of work, rather than being for vacation, so the tall face of the optimistically named Regent Hotel seems a little odd, while the neon lights illuminating a side street attempting to entice people to come and sample the local food, have an air of pathos about them, particularly considering a couple sit above shuttered entrances.

Wooden walkways offer routes around the buildings, wood being more practical given both the unforgiving rock from which the village rises and the way it extends out over the water. For example, to the north-east a small café sits on a wooden platform above the waves and reached via a narrow walkway. A second platform close by offering a place to sit warmed by an electric fire and with incense burning in a bowl in greeting while a cat enjoys the fire’s warmth.

Neverfar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrNeverfar

Behind the clustered buildings of this village are more board walks, raised over the rocks on wooden piles and reached by short stairways. They offer a view across the waters to the south, to where a smaller island sits, marked by a somewhat decrepit wooden tower at one end, and a Japanese-style house at the other. A rickety pier – or the remnants of an old bridge? – point towards this smaller island, but the only way to reach it appears to be to take to the air and join the gulls circling back and forth over the intervening water.

To the north-west is a further rocky islet, this one the location of a private residence, which is in use – so please respect privacy and avoid the temptation of trying to hop over. Facing this, on the main island, is a small music stage with a pier below it. Stage and pier are reached by crossing the rugged land to the west of the village, beyond the bicycle stands, and passing by way of an old, broken railway car now converted into something of an unusual piano lounge. Be sure to keep an eye out  for some of Cica Ghost’s animated stick figures along the path!

Neverfar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrNeverfar

Rugged and with a touch of haunting beauty under an evening’s sky, Neverfar is a welcoming place to visit. There is much to see and plenty of places scattered throughout where visitors can sit and rest.. Those wishing to have rezzing rights for photography can join the region’s group (L$499) – please do remember to pick up your bits if you do. There’s also a Flickr group for those wishing to submit their photos. Note that I do offer an alternate SLurl to that provided in the DG, as the latter (at the times of our visits at least) lands visitors atop a non-phantom tree alongside one of the broad walks.

SLurl Details

Firestorm rendering, LOD and physics

On Wednesday, January 24th, 2018, the Firestorm team released Firestorm This is a significant update to the viewer, incorporating code updates from a number of recent viewer releases from Linden Lab, as well as some major updates from the Firestorm team and a number of important new features and updates, as well as a range of bugs fixes and improvements.

Given the extent of the updates in this release, and in keeping with my usual approach to Firestorm releases, what follows is  not an in-depth review of everything new  / updated in version, but rather an overview, highlighting some of the more significant changes and updates I feel will be of most interest to users.

For full details of all changes, and all due credits to contributors, etc., please refer to the official release notes.

The Before We Begin

  • There is no need to perform a clean install with this release if you do not wish to.
  • Do, however, make sure you back-up all your settings safely so you can restore them after installing 5.0.11.

Major Lab Derived Updates

Firestorm 5.0.11 brings the viewer up to parity with the Lab’s 5.0.9 code base. It includes the following major updates from the Lab.

  • Asset-HTTP Project: Firestorm now fetches the majority of inventory assets (landmarks, wearables – system layer clothing and body parts), sounds, gestures and animations) the same way as textures, mesh and avatar baking information: via the Content Delivery Network (CDN), rather than through the simulator. This should make loading of such content both faster and more reliable.
  • 64-bit Havok sub-libraries: the 64-bit version of Firestorm now uses Havok physics with the mesh uploader , and can now visualise the pathfinding navmesh.
  • Group ability Always Allow ‘Create Landmark’:  this was accidentally removed from the viewer, and has now been returned. When enabled on a group role, it allows members of that role to override the teleport routing (e.g. right-click >teleport to) on the parcel if a landing point is set, as long as Direct Teleport is enabled on the region (BUG-100719).
  • Incorporation of the Martini (November 2017),  Moonshine (September 2017) and Margarita (August 2017) viewer updates.

Note: while Firestorm includes the 64-bit Havok sub-libraries for Second Life, it is not using Linden Lab’s Alex Ivy 64-bit code base. That will be for the next FS release.

Firestorm Updates and Additions

Viewer Performance: Mesh Rendering Information Features and Updates

Key among the updates to this release of Firestorm are new features and updates to a number of floaters intended to help users make better judgement calls on how content in Second Life might be affecting their viewer performance, and potentially make more informed choices about the goods they purchase in-world.

Build Floater – Physics View

The Show Physics Shape icon (Build Floater > Features tab) – disabled (top); enabled (bottom)

Firestorm now includes an option to viewing the physics shape of objects you can edit. Among other things, this can help avoid having items you drag from inventory fail to appear in-world, with the message “Failed to place object at specified location. Please try again.” appearing in the top right corner of the viewer window.

The option is on the Features tab of the Build floater, and takes the form of an eye icon to the right of the Physics Shape drop-down.

  • If displayed with a red line through it (default): show physics shape is disabled
  • If shown without a red line through it: show physics shape is enabled.

When enabled, the selected object’s physical shape is shown in blue. Sometimes this will match the shape of the object itself (below left); other times, it may not (below right). Any attempt to rez another item on the part of the object covered by the blue will succeed; any attempt to rez on the part of an object not covered by the blue will likely result in the “Failure to place object” message.

The show physics shape option: Build floater > Features > eye icon next to Physics Shape Type drop-down. When enabled, it shows the physics shape of an object, which may (l) or may not (r) match the physical shape of the object. Click for full size, if required

Showing the physics shape of surfaces reveals why some may be walkable and why avatars may have problems with others – such as colliding with “something” while apparently not standing close to an object, or being unable to pass through a gap or open doorway.


Build Floater: Mesh Information

The Build floater also provides a range of new information specific to mesh objects and their level of detail (LOD). This can be seen on the Object tab of the floater when a mesh object is selected. For prim objects, the tab is unchanged and will display the “old” information (Path Cut, Hollow, Twist, Taper, etc.).

For a detailed examination of LOD please refer to For LOD’s sake stop! by Beq Janus. The following is intended to provide a brief overview of the mesh object information.

Mesh objects can comprise up to four different versions, as defined by the creator a very High detailed model, with a high count of triangles, displayed with the object is being viewed up close, and then up to three models with progressively less detail (fewer triangles), designed to be used the further away the camera is from the object (Medium, Low and Lowest). These are collectively referred to as level of detail models, and are designed to improve the rendering of scenes. In essence, the further away (or smaller) and object is, the less detail can be seen and so the less detailed versions can be under when rendering it, easing the overall rendering load.

The first two parts of the mesh information related to these models when a mesh object is selected:

  • Mesh Information: lists the number of triangles used in each of the LOD models the creator has provided (note that if two ore more of the model types has the same triangle count, it indicates the same model is being used (so if Low and Lowest both show 3, or example, the same 3-triangle model is being used for both)
  • Default Drop-down: allows you to preview each of the different LOD models for the object (make sure Default is selected after use).
Up to four LOD models can be defined for SL – from a highly detailed, high triangle count version to a very low detail / low triangle count version (top). The Mesh information display allows the triangle count for the available LOD models of an object to be checked (Mesh Information section), and the actual models themselves previewed (Default drop-down). It also provides information on when the models will be swapped, one to the next, according to your viewer’s LOD Factor and the distance of your camera from the object (shown enlarged on the right) – click for full size

The Object LOD behaviour section defines the distances from your camera at which the different LOD model will be swapped one for the next, as defined by the Linden Lab (LL) default LOD Factor (1.250), the Firestorm (FS) default LOD Factor (2.000) and your current LOD factor setting.

Continue reading “Firestorm rendering, LOD and physics”