SL WindLight: Second Life But Not As You Know It

secondlife1.jpgLinden Lab released the WindLight First Look Second Life client Wednesday, the first serious release of Second Life that incorporates the technology Linden Lab acquired when it took over Windward Mark Interactive in May.

We noted at the time of the acquisition that the technology would bring “better clouds and wind” to Second Life, but this was in retrospect an understatement. Having tested the new client, it not only brings photo realistic clouds to Second Life, it also introduces realistic water, and more importantly far improved shadow and time related graphical representations.

One of the most common criticisms of Second Life is that the in-world 3D rendering is poor; I’ve been supportive of the concept of the Second Life metaverse in the past, but I’ve always thought we were seeing the 1.0 version of a virtual world without having yet seen the 2.0 version, or the really amazing universally accepted virtual world that will gain much wider acceptance. Windlight takes Second Life to about 1.8. The same user generated buildings are still there, but suddenly they have been improved by their environmental surroundings. Water ripples with the reflection of surrounding buildings while a sunset casts realistic shadows and lighting on the buildings below.

The client is rated “first look” which translates to Alpha release, so it’s far from perfect. Testing on a MacPro resulted in regular crashes, although it was stable on a Macbook Pro. Second Life fans and observers can download the client here.

The photos below don’t capture the full effect, you need to download the client and fly around for that, but they do demonstrate some of the visual improvements with the new client.