The Firestorm Second Life Viewer Now Supports Bakes on Mesh

The latest version of the popular Firestorm viewer for Second Life, released on October 1st, 2019, now supports Bakes on Mesh!

The Bakes on Mesh release from Firestorm has been long awaited; apologies for that. This should be considered by all in SL a MAJOR UPDATE, and it is important that all our SL users upgrade to it. This update contains a lot of rendering-related changes from Linden Lab, without which you WILL be running into avatars that look badly broken to you. Even if you don’t intend to use or purchase anything with BoM, you will still need to be able to see BoM items in your viewer. Please take the update. I can assure you we have put this through a rigorous QA process; it’s a great build!

You will need to get free Bakes on Mesh relay HUDs for the mesh heads and bodies you use. In my case, I picked up a Bakes on Mesh relay hud for Catwa heads from the Catwa store (at this exact SLURL), and a Bakes on Mesh relay HUD for the Maitreya Lara body on the SL Marketplace (here’s the listing).

If you want to get up to speed on how to use these HUDs, here are three videos by NovataSecondLife to help you get started:

The best part of Bakes on Mesh is that I am now able to wear old system skins that I thought I would never be able to use again with my mesh head and body! Here is a French court look, using an old Marie Antoinette-style powdered system skin from Xtreme Reality on my Maitreya Lara body and Catwa Kimberly head:

C’est parfait!

You can download the latest version of the Firestorm viewer here.

Photographs were taken at the Château de Versailles sim.

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Why Second Life STILL Has 600,000 Regular Users After 16 Years

“Peace? …” by Alice Buttigieg
(Second Life Pic of the Day 07.22.2019)

In the December 2017 issue of The Atlantic magazine, Leslie Jamison wrote an article about Second Life. The webpage for that article has the original article title, Second Life Still Has 600,000 Regular Users (which you can check for yourself by doing a Google search):

However, it would seem that Leslie’s editor at The Atlantic wanted a somewhat punchier title, and so we have The Digital Ruins of a Forgotten Future, which shows up when you click on that link. (I’m pretty sure that Linden Lab is less than pleased with that particular editor.)

There’s a quote from that article which is, to my knowledge, the most up-to-date statistic we have about how many people still use Second Life:

Of the 36 million Second Life accounts that had been created by 2013—the most recent data Linden Lab will provide—only an estimated 600,000 people still regularly use the platform.

“Only” 600,000? That still makes Second Life, far and away, the most popular virtual world. And yet, somehow, the mainstream news media continues to portray Second Life as quaint, outdated and underused.


Well, today, Jessica Lyon, the founder, CEO, and project manager of the Firestorm viewer project, posted an editorial about their recent decision to separate the Firestorm viewer into Second Life and OpenSim versions, titled OpenSim: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Now, I am not going to dissect all the gory technical details of that announcement here. But one statistic did happen to catch my eye:

Let’s get this out of the way first:  542,967 unique users across 9.9 million sessions spending 17.7 million hours logged into Second Life on Firestorm over the last 30-day period. 

That is our most recent set of metrics regarding Firestorm usage in Second Life, directly from Linden Lab. Those are mind-blowing figures. Although we don’t have metrics for how many OpenSim users run Firestorm, it is safe to say it isn’t anywhere near that. My estimate would be somewhere around 2,000 users. But still… THAT’S NOT WHY!

It is because of those numbers that we prioritize Second Life, but those numbers are NOT why we struggle with OpenSim.

So, in other words, over the past 30 days, 542,967 unique Second Life account holders used the Firestorm viewer to access Second Life. Now, Firestorm is by far the most popular viewer. Let’s assume that all the other viewers combined (including Second Life’s own native viewer) have only 10% of the market that Firestorm occupies, which I think is a fairly reasonable assumption.

10% of 542,967 is 54,296. Adding 54,296 to 542,967 (or just multiplying 542,967 by 1.10) gives us…597,264.

Which means that Second Life, still, has approximately 600,000 regular users in the past month.

Why are people still so committed to Second Life after 16 years? As I have written before:

What is the secret to Second Life’s “stickiness”? In a word, it’s investment: investment of time, investment of money, investment in an avatar representation, and investment in community.

Until a social VR/virtual world platform comes along that can offer everything that Second Life does, it is going to continue to be the most commercially successful and most popular virtual world around, and a reliable cash cow for Linden Lab.

One day, one of the newer social VR platforms like Sansar, VRChat, Rec Room, or perhaps even Facebook’s upcoming “Metaverse” project, will steal that crown. But not today. And not tomorrow.

Whether you like it or not, and whether the news media admits it or not, Second Life is still relevant and still rules. Competing metaverse platforms would kill to get the level of usage Second Life still gets, even after 16 years of continuous operation, even as it has been all but written off by mainstream media.

Pursuing the Holy Grail of Second Life in Virtual Reality: A New Solution Using Firestorm and SteamVR

holygrail
Obligatory image from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

I first heard the news from Wagner James Au of the long-running Second Life blog New World Notes: someone has come up with a new way to navigate SL in a VR headset!

OK this is pretty amazing: Someone named Peter Kappler quietly created code to run Second Life in VR via Firestorm and Steam VR, and then posted the source code online. “It’s not a fully working Firestorm,” he allows on his YouTube, “there is still a lot to do. The file I posted is a source file in C++ for coders that wish to maybe work on a VR version for Second Life.”

There have been at least two other attempts to create a VR port for Second Life, but performance has not been impressive — Linden Lab had an experimental client of its own, but discontinued supporting it due to lack of decent frame rate. The demo video…suggests Kappler has come up with a fairly decent port; better yet, by open sourcing his code, he’s encouraging other developers to improve it further.

Here’s the eight-minute demo video Wagner refers to (there’s no sound):

Now, there is no guarantee that this open-source solution (which relies on SteamVR and the Firestorm viewer code) will be able to attain the high framerates required to avoid VR sickness. But it does look somewhat promising!

Second Life was never intended for VR; the platform is simply too dated to support it. Any solution will be a kludge at best. But I do find it interesting that people keep pursuing the Holy Grail of SL in VR, anyways. I wouldn’t mind trying this out myself, just to see how well it works.

Thank you for the heads-up, Wagner!