Saturday, September 10, 2011

Farewell Kirstens viewer

Some sad news today.  Kirstens viewer will stop development.  For those of you unfamiliar with viewers other than the default Linden Labs Viewer that comes with SL then you should know that there are quite a few great 3rd party viewers created for Second Life.  Essentially Linden Labs has made everything open source minus anything which requires a license (such as Havok physics engine).  A variety of people or groups take this code and create their own ways for us to interact with Second Life.  Some focus on performance others on graphics etc.  Kirstens was the top viewer for graphics.  Quite easily.  You definitely had to have a powerful computer to run it, but should you be so fortunate the experience was fantastic.  Shadows and ambiance were unmatched.  To put it in perspective I think the default setting for LOD in Kirstens was set at 12 where other viewers are at 1 or 2.  As I said in a previous post, that means most sculpts wont take their shape until you are right beside them.  Kirstens focus was on beautifying Second Life.  For the machinimatographer this is very sad news.  It was the viewer of choice for high quality film with effects.  My Annas Many Murders machinima was done in it and had it not been then many of the scenes you see would not have shown up quite the same.

It's really unfortunate that this comes at the time when Linden Labs have just brought out mesh capability.  Mesh allows for almost direct movement of high quality works created in computer animation programs like Maya, 3D Studio max, Softimage XSI and Zbrush to be brought into Second Life with minimal loss from the original creation.  This means that a new level of quality can be shown in the 3D environment but also exhibited outside SL in the form of machinima.  Machinima passes through the feared "walled garden" that prevents the outside world seeing what we can achieve here.  Linden Labs marketing people are focusing on supporting machinima for that advertising dimension.   So essentially they have given us the capability to make high end graphic work yet now the top machinima making viewer has shut down.
     This brings me to the fairly new Linden Labs philosophy which I have come across since being part of the Linden Endowment for the Arts group.  Linden Labs would like to step back and let the users take control of their own projects.  We have seen this with events such as Burning Life which now exists only due to the generosity of users who supply sims for the event.  I understand the reasoning for doing this as any large event requires the use of many Linden employees who they would prefer to be working on other things.  The problem with this philosophy is that users such as KirstenLee Cinquetti , who created this very useful viewer, essentially make content for Linden Labs for free in their spare time.  Creating this viewer is a huge undertaking, constantly upgrading it then fixing the little bugs etc all were done by the user with virtually no encouragement or support.         Personal issues have forced Kirsten to focus on finding additional work in RL.  To do this she pretty much has to sacrifice her time spent in Second Life.  It would seem to me that it may be a good idea for the Lab to adjust this philosophy in order to employ Kirsten to continue making this viewer for their own marketing benefit.  What is the value in showing the capabilities of Second Life outside the walled garden in the highest level of graphical representation?  Is it worth 10k a year? 20 or 40k to a company which profits each year in the hundreds of millions of dollars?  Perhaps they would fear setting a precedent whereby other content creators would demand payment to stay within second life.  I don't  know but it is really is disappointing to see this viewer disappear.

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