The ability to display the world of Second Life with dynamic lighting and shadows has been a long-requested feature by many Residents. Machinima creators, artists, and real world architects want it to add vividness and realism to their projects, for example. Many just want it because the world looks way cooler when it's enabled. (If they have a powerful 3D graphics card, that is.) Last year, Linden programmers created a "shadow branch" of the client which does just that, but for various reasons, the company has yet to integrate that feature into the official viewer that everyday Residents use. Consequently, brilliant hackers like Katharine Berry have compiled the feature into their own versions of the viewer. Perhaps the most popular of these, Kirsten's Viewer by KirstenLee Cinquetti, has generated a cult following. (Since then, however, Ms. Cinquetti apparently quit developing versions of the viewer last January.)
So where will Residents looking for dynamic lighting go? According to Linden developer Qarl Linden, the Lindens themselves plan to implement the feature in the very near future. "I've heard rumors it will appear (as a debugging option) in the next viewer," he wrote on my blog last week. "So in the next couple weeks, perhaps?" I followed up with Qarl via email, and he offered more detail: "It will definitely appear in some future official viewer -- whether it appears in 1.23 will be based solely on technical issues (how much it conflicts with the existing trunk, how it fares in QA, etc.)" So keep a close eye on the feature list when the official viewer is next updated, for a chance to finally switch on the shadows.
Image credit: Lainy Voom machinima test using Kirsten's Viewer.