A Fairelands Journey: Autumnium and the snows of Auxentios’ Pass

Fantasy Faire 2020: Autumnium

Renewed by the beauty of Agra Adara, we crossed the inland sea to arrive at Autumnium. Scarce could the change be greater; from the arid lands that washed around the golden domes and minarets of that now distant haven of peace and the golden lands of Autumnium, a place forever caught between the greens of summer and the white and grey of winter.

Here the the trees grew tall, rich in yellow and orange and ochre and red, boughs heavy with leaf even as the ground lay under a carpet of golden grass heavy with leaves that had already fallen. Through these trees the wind blew gently, stirring branches and rippling through the wheat-like grass with a gentle sigh of warmth.

Fantasy Faire 2020: Autumnium

We followed the paved road up from the docks and through the trees the were a small town raised steep blue roofs and taller round towers between the surrounding blanket of trees. here were throngs of people, laughing, happy, and moving freely from shop to store and back as music floated down from high towers.

At the centre of the town was a great throng laughing, singing dancing, with more up on the hill above, moving among standing stones. These stones stood apart from the golds and yellows of Autumnium, for they lay among a rich carpet of green grass looking like an emerald amongst the amber grass and trees. Nor were the people dancing between and around the stones, so to did swirls of light and colour, turning and twirling between the ancient stones. Then, as I watched, two magnificent winged horses swept down from the burnished blue sky, their riders tall and fair, to land on the grass. Riders and mounts bowed us as we passed along the road below them, and I found myself longing to once again stay our journey, but we had tarried enough along our path, and so we moved on.

Fantasy Faire 2020: Autumnium

More strange lands lay before us, but in all my travels, I confess that none from this journey nor any of those from my past, could compare to the high seat of Auxentios’ Pass for the extent of its strangeness.

While Autumnium might forever be caught in the midst of an everlasting autumn, this was a place sitting in the depths of a forever winter. Occupying a saddle pass in the high mountains, it sat as a place where wealth had been exhumed from the living rock on which it had grown. In doing so, and perhaps because of its icebound isolation, the town had forged its own path, giving birth to great machines that allowed it to both survive and thrive.

Scarce could I have imagined a place so different to all I have known. Stepping up the get rocky shelves of the pass, the town stood as stalwart buildings hewn from cut stone and brick, each one standing as a fortress against the harsh cold. Broad streets lay between this formidable structures, which climbed up to a great singular building of tall sloping roofs and high smoking stacks than spoke to the warmth within.

Fantasy Faire 2020: Auxentios’ Pass

Nor was that warmth restricted to the great houses; the very streets hissed, exhaling clouds of warm steam, their surfaces utterly free of the snow and ice that clung to almost every surface. It was a magical sight, the streets looking as if they were themselves breathing, our horses skittish and reluctant to pass along them to the point where we had to find stables – heated by great pipes running along the ceilings – and set them to rest as we continued on foot, wrapped in heavy cloaks and preceded by clouds of our own exhaled breath.

As we did so, so the secret of the street was revealed: a gaping hole was open as a rectangular maw, the iron plates of the street raised on either side, allowing us to see the mighty pipes that carried heat along them, so it could heat the plates when in place, freeing them from the ice and snow. Witnessing this, I followed the line of iron road as it swept back down to where, rising above the houses, a great machine lay, red and round, belching fire from its uppermost extent, a great hissing and thumping of machinery carried to us as the breeze turned to blow along the street on which we stood.

Fantasy Faire 2020: Auxentios’ Pass

Such was the mystery of this massive thing, that we were drawn towards it, passing down the street until we could see it stood over a great pit on three massive legs like a giant iron creature rising from the deeps, drawing the energies of mother Earth with it. I would have called it the most frightening, wondrous creation I had ever seen except at that moment, another machine, smaller but no less daunting a sight, clanked around the corner on two hissing, thumping bird-like legs, a cylinder strapped behind it blowing gouts of smoke into the frigid air as it passed.

We could not help but fall back against the wall as this weird mechanical beast clanked by, and then like children drawn after a forbidden fruit, we followed it back up the road. And so we witnessed how it flourished the long funnel extending from its front, guided by unseen eyes and hands within, as it swivelled towards the icy walls of the houses before it and blasted them with a great roar of steam, blowing away the ice and snow and revealing the rich colours of the stone beneath.

And so we followed this strange machine as to banged and clomped up the hill, marvelling as it worked, to come at last to that great hill-top hall, its walls heavy with pipes that climbed up them as airships circled overhead. Here we were greeted by townsfolk and shown in through heavy doors to were many were gathered to eat and share.

Fantasy Faire 2020: Auxentios’ Pass

Autumnium by Kilik Lekvoda, sponsored by Teegle, Roleplay: Piltover & Zaun, and The Realm of Dark Moons. Featuring stores by 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Adeyakko, Balderdash, Bare Rose Tokyo, Dark Fairy Fashions, Deadly Nightshade, (Dragon Forge Weapons), Lunistice, Mindgardens Creations & Color Alchemists, Moonley Inc., ~Mythril~ & . Heraldic ., Spider Productions, Stargazer, SugarBloq, The Flying Pony, The Little Bat, Torgon’s and Tutto E Vanita.

Auxentios’ Pass by Faust Steamer, sponsored by [ContraptioN] and Insomnia Angel. Featuring stores by Birth, :::c*C*c:::, Caboodle, CerberusXing, [Cubic Cherry], Cutie Larks, Folly, GERMINAL, Ghoul 喰種, Hotdog, Limehouse Textures, NAMINOKE, ~NLD~ New Life Designs, Raven Bell, !Reliquary!, ::Static::, Stix, The Crosstime Garage, The NeoVictoria Project, and Unrepentant.

Total raised by the end of the Faire’s ninth day: L$8,449,725 (US $33,798).

SLurls and Related Links

Fantasy Faire regions are rated Moderate.

Kirsten’s viewer: a return to active duty

Around a decade ago, a popular third party viewer (TPV) among Second Life photographers was Kirsten’s viewer, produced by KirstenLee Cinquetti (aka skilled coder Lee Quick).

At the time, it pushed hard to make the graphical appearance of SL rich and deep. It was also the first TPV to experiment with analgyph 3D, far back in 2011, long before “VR headset” was in common use.

Sadly, development of the viewer drew to a close in late 2011 as a result of personal circumstance (some of which is charted in these pages), although KirstenLee kept dabbling with it on-and off (such as returning to the S19 UI version and updating it in in 2013, and keeping pace with significant viewer updates from the Lab, such as Bento for the S22.x (current UI) version in 2017).  Now – and as pointed out to me by Austin Tate – the viewer is more formally back, KirstenLee having completed the self-certification required to have the viewer once more added to the Lab’s Third Party Viewer Directory.

Available for Windows, the updated Kirsten’s Viewer is bang-slap up-to-date, in that it is built on the most recent release of the official LL code base (release 6.4.0.540188 at the time of writing), and so includes the viewer 3.x+ UI, and all significant updates from the Lab up to and including EEP, the Environment Enhancement Project, although as Kirsten noted with it’s release, some tweaks might still be required.

Kirsten’s Viewer is EEP capable

KirstenLee refers to the viewer as something of a “hybrid”, and when approaching it, it is as well to keep this in mind. “Hybrid” is this case is a reference to the fact that while it is based on the core LL code base, the viewer also pulls in elements from what might be LL project viewers (and so not necessarily ready for “prime time” use), and from other TPVs. In doing so, the focus is very much on code that improves stability / performance.

I tend as a rule to keep any feature or alteration within the existing code base and not add extras which cannot be integrated into the standard source. I also use LL code style and naming conventions.

– KirstenLee, discussing Kirsten’s Viewer

In this regard, the viewer is also described as being “aimed specifically at experienced users, with emphasis on the visuals.” This is not so much to put people off, but to underline the fact that use of the viewer comes best if you have an understanding of the more esoteric aspects of viewer use – such as clearing caches and settings from any prior versions when installing a new version (aka, performing a “clean install”). Such capabilities are not hard to grasp, and can be found documented in various locations.

Given the S23.x release is based on the latest LL code base, you can comfortably expect all of the major Lab updates to be present, as noted, and may from time-to-time include elements from upstream of the release viewer (as with the Legacy Profiles, again as mentioned above). It also pulls some updates from TPVs like Firestorm; however, those familiar with the latter should not expect Kirsten’s Viewer to expose debugs or offer viewer-specific capabilities to anywhere near the same degree – that’s not the point of this viewer (although that said, it would be nice to see Kirsten’s adopt the client-side AO mechanisms, simply because it is available in several TPVs and used by many people as a result).

Kirsten’s Viewer includes the upcoming re-integration of viewer-based profile panels – which includes the profile feed from the web, and currently found in the Lab’s current Legacy Profiles project viewer

Given this, the viewer’s Preferences and Tool Bar options are pretty must as found in the official viewer, with just a trio of differences in the the former. The Move & View tab, for example, includes additional sliders for camera movement  – lag, smoothness zoom time – again in keeping with the ideals of photography / visuals. Further, the Set-up tab does not include the auto update options, for reasons KirstenLee also explains:

I do not use the Linden auto build system. I host all the build libraries because I occasionally work on those in concert with the viewer code. It allows for much finer control over the entire process. I have a tendency to do custom compilations with different tool-sets which is something an official client would never do, for reasons of the broadest compatibility with the consumer.

– Kirstenlee, discussing Kirsten’s Viewer

Thirdly, Kirsten’s Viewer includes a custom Features tab (called S23 Features in the current release, although this will doubtless increment to match future versions). This is again camera / visuals related, and includes the option for running the viewer in analgyph mode can be found.  This includes sliders for adjusting the analgyph 3D view to account for eye separation and focal distance.

The Features tab in Kirsten’s Viewer is where you can find the analgyph options, for those with analgyph glasses

Should you have analgyph 3D glasses and use the option, the following points should be noted:

  • Activating it will disable the viewer’s Advance Lighting Model (ALM) shaders – so shadows, ambient occlusion and depth of field will all be disabled.
  • Toggling analgyph mode off will not automatically re-enabled ALM, you must do this yourself from the Graphics→Advanced Settings floater.
  • If you log-out with the analgyph option enabled, it will be disabled automatically on logging back in, but again, ALM + options will remain disabled until turned back on.
  • If you use a 3D mouse such as SpaceNavigator, you may find activating the analgyph capability will severely alter default 3D mouse movement. As the overall defaults for the SpaceNavigator (Move & View→Other Devices) were not altered and given I don’t actually have analgyph glasses to make it worthwhile, I confess I did not fiddle with settings to see if the issue could be corrected.

It may seem odd in “bringing back” a viewer after so long, but there are reasons for it, again as KirstenLee notes:

Its a matter of public record as to how development ended, a perfect storm of circumstances made continued work on it impossible. But as with all things time is a great healer. Besides after nearly 16 years of SL I find myself enjoying my in world life. And have the luxury of  a good work balance and a happy and healthy home. So while the sun shines make hay 🙂

For my part, and while I’ve not not driven the S23 release hard or far, I can only say its good to see Kirsten’s Viewer back on the active list once more. While it was never my main viewer, it was a go-to viewer for me for photography. And while it may only be subjective, it does seems to add more depth to EEP skies than I’ve noted with the official EEP viewer – the stars seem to “twinkle” more noticeably.

It’s always tempting to offer a list of what a viewer “could” or “should” have, particularly if coming from something like Firestorm – but the point of TPVs are that they are not meant to all provide the same things. With its emphasis on visuals, performance and stability, Kirsten’s Viewer addresses a specific set of goals and as such, has – and likely will have – only the tools it needs to achieve that, my own earlier comment on the client-side AO above notwithstanding.  As such, I’m looking forward to seeing the viewer’s progress, and reporting on it.

Related Links

2020 SL project updates week #18: TPVD summary

Finian’s Dream, March 2020 – blog post

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, May 1st, 2020. These meetings are generally held every other week, unless otherwise noted in any given summary. The embedded video is provided to Pantera – my thanks to her for recording and providing it. Time stamps are included with the notes will only the video at the point(s) where a specific topic is discussed.

This was a short meeting, with long periods of silence.

SL Viewer News

[0:00-3:00]

  • The CEF Special RC viewer, version 6.4.1.541204, was issued on Thursday, April 30th.
    • [12:54-13:34] This is a specific update put out in support of a particular customer’s event.

The remainder of the official views currently in progress remained unchanged through the week as:

  • Current Release version  version 6.4.0.540188, dated April 15th, promoted April 20th. Formerly the EEP RC viewer.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Zirbenz Maintenance RC viewer, version 6.4.1.540593, April 27th.
    • Camera Presets RC viewer, version 6.3.9.538729 March 25th.
    • Love Me Render RC viewer, version 6.3.9.538760, March 25th.
  • Project viewers:
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 6.4.0.532999, November 22, 2019.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.3.2.530836, September 17, 2019. Covers the re-integration of Viewer Profiles.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version 6.2.4.529111, July 16, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The Zirbenz Maintenance RC looks set to be the next viewer in line for promotion (being the only RC thus far merged up to the EEP code base). This looks set for promotion in week #19 (commencing Monday, May 4th).
  • The mesh upload updates viewer is still expected to appear as a project viewer soon™.
  • The viewer build tools update viewer is still held up by a couple of significant crash issues.
  • An FMOD update viewer is anticipated as appearing soon™.
  • Further Chrome Embedded Framework (CEF) RC updates should result in improvements to handling more (and more recent) video codecs, once available.
  • [8:07-8:55] The Legacy Profiles viewer has apparently been hit with an issue that has delayed it – although it’s not certain whether or not this has now been cleared up.

In Brief

  • [18:02-18:38] There is work being carried out on group chat. however, it is not focused on performance improvements per se, although it may end up providing some. LL do acknowledge a further pass focused on group chat reliability is required “at some point”, but probably not until after the cloud uplift.
  • There are reports that the viewer’s built-in browser is experiencing issues retaining cookies, causing people to have to log-in to the Lab’s own websites when using it (accessing non-SL websites using the internal browser isn’t recommended).
  • The simulator-side fix for off-line inventory losses from objects (see: BUG-227179) still has yet to clear QA (due to other issue with the release it is bundled in). The hope is that it will make it onto a server-side RC update “in the next couple of weeks”.
  • Firestorm and EEP – it was mentioned that the Firestorm team still have “a lot of work to do” before they’ll be in a position to make an EEP release – the forthcoming Firestorm update will not include EEP.