The First Look viewer containing WindLight was released yesterday. For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, WindLight is technology acquired by Linden Lab that changes the sky and lighting in world, allowing both more realistic and less realistic views, if that makes sense. It changes the way lighting works in-world, shadowing structures much more effectively than the previous lighting system did, although the effect of lighting on your av can be a little more funky. You can get the First Look viewer here.

I gave the viewer a hearty workout last night, teleporting between sims, building, shopping and taking pics (obviously 😉 ), and it performed like a champ. Toward the end of a five-hour session the viewer started getting a little laggy and bogged down, as if the cache had gotten full or something, but on the whole it performed amazingly well for a First Look first release! (I still have nightmares over the 5-10 crashes per night I had in the previous First Look.)

When you first start up the viewer it’s a little confusing, as the lighting appears normal. You have to activate both Vertex shading in Preferences, as well as opening the World > Sky Settings menu (or use Cmd+Opt+W on a Mac). The default lighting setting is very harsh, and is probably not the best base lighting case, but the dropdown in the Sky Settings dialog allows for a number of preset scenarios, which I took advantage of in these photos.

Getting a default lighting setting that more or less works as the previous lighting did, and that therefore won’t change the colors on items you see in world, is going to be a challenge. This new lighting affects everything. I heard reports that local lighting didn’t work anymore, but I was able to wear my fireflies (my local facial lighting, for those just joining us) and noticed a slight lighting effect; it was just overwhelmed by the strength of the sunlight.

As Kisa so sagely said in the Second Life Flickr group, there appears to be a great deal more excitement around the release of WindLight than there is around sculpties. I think we’re all eager for something that improves the graphics in SL, which haven’t seen an update in a long time, while the learning curve on sculpties is pretty darn steep.

I shot this at {PLUNDER}, a new sim that has stores like FORM, Civvies, and Gear Shift. The sim is based around an airship city, a concept I love, and the execution is wonderful, although I wasn’t too fond of the large central platform. This sim was made for the Ghost setting in WindLight.

It’s not all good, of course. At higher altitudes (for example, at the 700m level at which my house is located), you get an odd distortion of the sky, as if it were only just above you, and you get weird effects at the horizon. Closer to ground level, there are occasionally issues with the rendering of the sea as it extends to the horizon. These, along with the basic standard lighting issue, will surely get cleared up over the next few revisions of the First Look viewer.

I think at the moment, this will be a great viewer for taking photos (obviously), but probably not for day to day use because of the color distortion. If I’m building or shopping, I need to know that the colors I’m seeing are shown neutrally in order to make a decision. But other than that, I really like it. 🙂