Monday, August 27, 2007

WindLight Wholesome Goodness

Okay everyone show of hands here, who misses WindLight? I do, I do! You know what makes it worse? Torley Linden's fantasmic pics all over Snapzilla making me feel so jellious. *sigh* So here's some uppity updates:
[cross-posted from Torley's Wiki]

[2007-08-20] When is First Look: WindLight coming out again?

Hopefully in a few weeks. I earlier hoped it would come out by the end of August, but it doesn't look like we'll hit that. The WindLight Team has been very busy fixing bugs (including those I've reported), and today, we just launched an internal testing round for Lindens (because previously, it was mainly just the WindLight Team using it). I apologize for the delay because I know how anxious a lot of you are, particularly from comments I've been getting on my snapshots.

Also for emphasis, you should know (if you don't already) that WindLight isn't just about "pretty skies" — performance improvements, rendering optimizations, and code cleanup to improve the viewer are an important part of it too. It's a false dichotomy that we spar between bug fixes vs. new features, and I am dogged (and obsessed) about improved performance & stability (aka P&S) for Second Life.

[2007-08-25] WindLight: Internal testing continues

Anyhoo, I continue to both formally test WindLight and informally use it everyday. Internal bug-churning continues; I recently announced, within Linden Lab, an internal First Look as it were, to precede the public FL. My concerns right now? Partially to do with aesthetics (subjective, I know... tricky tricky!) because I'm finding a number of scenes look too white or washed out, e.g. noon with local lighting. HARD to understand if I don't show pictures or if you're not actually using it, but...

We have fallback mode ("shaders off"), which doesn't have clouds, but still looks better than the current sky, and is supported even if your computer doesn't have a fancy graphics card. And it doesn't exhibit the really bright overcasting of the WindLight Shaders, so I toggle on/off for relative comparison. We'll keep adapting it, Pastrami Linden has been tweaking the default day cycle because he cares so passionately about making it photorealistic. Yes, photorealistic. The ripple water has gone through several iterations too: you may've heard reflections got added as an option (understandably, negates performance on slower computers), but the most recent one looks SEXIER than ever. (I can remember when we got the first ripple water added, it and it looked like "liquid bling".)

So, it's the weekend now. I'm casually sauntering inworld and doing everyday stuff. I'm also warmly concerned about overall performance, we have some bugs to work out with that because we earlier, and continue to find issues that counteract the gains done with the aforementioned optimizations. Everyone on the team wants us to be plus, positive with that, so not only do you have prettier skies, but a better experience (that's the word!) too. Wider testing tends to reveal more, so I'm looking forward to your help come public First Look re-release.

LOTS LOTS LOTS of changes have been made since last public FL: WindLight so please don't base final judgment on that. A number of crashes were fixed. (We hate those!) I know shiny was dull in early releases, well now, it shines. Even better, it uses less CPU power ("single-pass shiny"). A lot of known WindLight issues were already fixed internally, and in our release notes, we'll document all the other changes that happened behind-the-scenes so you get a more comprehensive understanding of the work that went into WindLight.

[2007-08-27] WindLight: Ripple water custom settings

Like the sky, we've added the ability to customize the look of ripple water. Like the sky, it's viewer-side for now but we eventually want to make this all share-able assets like any inventory item. I'm having a great time changing parameters like the glassiness of the water, not to mention you can alter the normal map to come out with some really tripped-out FX. Keep referring to my Flickr photostream for more examples — I'm so excited for the time when you get to enjoy this hands-on!

Also, it looks like (subjectively) stuff with WindLight shaders on is still too bright at certain times like noon. Pastrami, Bridie, hopefully some QA engineers, and I will be going on a "shader safari" to investigate further this week.

To those of you who sent in questions re: deprecating scripting calls, we haven't decided what we'll do with some of them yet. Some will stay for the time being like llCloud, because we're keeping the classic cloud layer (see VWR-960) until such time we have a full 3D replacement, dubbed Nimble, for 'em. We do want to make a lot of the finer bits scriptable — imagine a rock concert scripted with songs to coincide with dramatic sky changes? But that is further down the road and relies on current work to be done first... so let's keep going. :)

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