Done some tinkering on render farm stuff (that’s all I will say on open forum). The follow areas need to be baked: smoke sim, fluid sim, cloth sim, softbody sim, collisions, particles, dynamic paint, and I’m thinking the ocean sim/modifier. They all require the user to bake a cache that then must be made available to each render slave.
To answer your question:
So the Question here was: are simulations a big thing in projects around the Blender community - more plainly put, is it worth the effort to integrate this into a render farm?
Short answer is: I don’t know, that is up to you. Without supporting those things mentioned you are limiting yourself as to what you can render.
Renderfarm.fi is a free blender render farm, you donate your computer to the grid and you can use the service to render and I guess they are getting a little backed up with work to render. They do not support anything that needs baked.
Renderfarm.fi had a contest once, called alien life. Create an animation about alien life, render on their system and if you won, you got a copy of a dvd from blender.org by David Revoy. So I gave it a shot, my idea was simple. 1st scene would be a rover robot approaching a pool of water, it would stop, raise it’s camera up and examine the pool. 2nd scene would be a view from the rover’s camera. I gave up on it in frustration because I wanted to use the smoke sim for fog effect, fluid sim for the pool, etc, etc…
Renderfarm.fi is a free service, you get what you pay for, so I can’t bitch. If it’s a paid service and wouldn’t support those things then you’re limiting yourself as to what you can render, so you’re limiting your business. Without support for anything that needs to be baked, you could do arch-viz renderings, character animations, etc… But you couldn’t render a space battle with explosions (thinking you need smoke sim for missile trails and explosions) or a character animation of a magic wand the spews particles.
As to you detecting and baking those sims yourself, just require the user to bake them & upload them along with the .blend file. After all, the user has probably done so already to test and tweak the animation. So the user already has the caches sitting on their harddrive, so why use your system to bake them?
Look at your competition, do they support those sims? You have to price yourself so you are competitive with them…
Edit: I mention Renderfarm.fi is getting backed up with work, but don’t take that as business is booming in the render farm field. Take that as they are backed up with work because they are free…