Monday, June 18, 2012

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Cloud Party: New Facebook-Based User-Generated 3D Virtual World Supported by SL Co-Founder Cory Ondrejka & Ex-Cryptic Studios CTO Bruce Rogers

Cloud Party virtual world Facebook

Cloud Party is a new 3D virtual world on Facebook now in open Beta that's described as "a world built by people like you". It just apparently went online, so I've only explored a few minutes, but as you can see above, it's got the look and feel of Second Life circa 2003. That's no surprise, because Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka (who's now with Facebook), and Cryptic Studio's ex-CTO Bruce Rogers, who founded a startup called Walletin with Cory before also joining Facebook with Ondrejka, are investors and advisors to Cloud Party. (I just confirmed that directly with Cory.)

If you're not a Facebook user (and a lot of NWN readers are not), here's what Cloud Party has so far:

Along with an avatar you control with point-and-click interaction or MMO-style keyboard controls, there's a virtual currency system (Cloud Dollars), user-to-user chat, and direct interaction with world objects (with physics, etc.) Judging by the name, I'm guessing there's some kind of cloud streaming involved, but however it works, the 3D graphics are pretty smooth for Facebook. (I haven't had a chance to interact with other avatars, but then, I'm early to the Cloud Party party.) Along with Cory, many Lindens past and present are already playing around in Cloud Party, and I have a feeling we'll hear more about their involvement (as fans or supporters) soon. In any case, I plan to talk with Cloud Party's CEO, Sam Thompson (another Cryptic veteran, along with most of Cloud Party's development team), in the coming days. In any case, looks like there's still some life in the 3D virtual world ideal, and Lindens who've long ago left Second Life are still hoping to see it grow.

Hat tip: RjDj's Robert "Dizzy Banjo" Thomas, who first spotted Cory's involvement in Cloud Party via Facebook's ticker.

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Ezra

So yeah..they have a DIRECT Second Life competitor here it seems.

A bunch of default primitive types (even with default plywood texture), AND mesh upload. I was able to get the uploader to recognize both OBJs and DAEs. It gave me an error or something about multiple materials I don't understand but wow, my mesh uploaded and at the very least I could see it when rezzed in world in seconds.

Also seeing a lot of animated meshes, someone's octopus tentacles or something floating around.

A lot to dig into here and maybe this is very early into what they're planning...but its so obvious this is a direct Second Life competitor I'd have to say.

Damien Fate

The fact that you can get in there and look around within seconds is a huge plus over SL. I wish I had more time to check it out further, but it looks promising (if rough!)

Ramesh Ramloll

Point and click interaction is already happening on Kitely.

http://youtu.be/Mqg0udrIrYQ

kirstenlee

Just took a brief look over the shoulder of my partner Dawny who is playing about with this and its impressive, very very impressive.
This may be its first early public outing but just a few seconds watching tells me this is going to deal a crushing blow to SL numbers, and have repercussions for opensim and other places such as IMVU etc etc

Cory on fire with the massive clout of Facebook.
a challenger appears!

shockwave yareach

It would be unfortunate if SL was destroyed by this Cloud Party thing. Because the only people on the planet I distrust more than the Lindens are the privacy invaders in Facebook.

Adeon Writer

I'm not a fan of point and click / run towards cursor style control. I could not get into any virtual world which provides only those types if inputs.

Iggy

I knew Cory was up to something. I'll have to have a peek!

@shockwave, I don't trust FB either, but if the avi has my RL name and I use it for class demos of the technology, from my perspective, I could care less. Many of my edu colleagues ID by RL name in SL already.

Damien Fate

@Adeon, you can use WASD and arrow keys to move also.

Botgirl Questi

I have issues with Facebook authentication, but the tech is brilliant. Rezzed right in with no download. Inworld building. Integrated tutorial. Very nice.

Pussycat Catnap

I'm with shockwave on this one.

And the RL name attached to it makes it useless for anyone wishing to explore concepts like identity or self expression. Or anything other than the self you present at your daily 9-5.


elizabeth (16)

as a sandbox for making stuff then is pretty cool

+

@pussycat- i dont think self discovery/exploration of identity is the audience for this app. any identity fbers do have is already linked quite closely to their reals. they seem to be quite ok with that

Jo Yardley

"Server not responding".
We broke it already.

Ezra

It's also accessible via http://its.cloudpartytime.com which is nicer than the Facebook app, but it still requires Facebook authentication.

Not sure if Facebook authentication will always be the only way to use it but I imagine not.

@Jo

It's up and fine for me and a lot of others present in the beginning area.

Iggy

@pussycat, it must help that I am a freak in all possible worlds. So exploring my identity is not key.

Worked well and was intuitive to me when I logged in, but some basics such as being able to sit on an object were MIA. I hope this motivates LL to do some soul searching, because this thing could mean real competition. I really hope so, since SL is overpriced and in need of something to nip at it's heels.

Jo yardley

Finally made it in (had to use a few different viewers) and although it is smooth and fast, but right now it is a bit too early to judge.
It is so simple and has so few options.
Until I get to make a custom avatar and will be able to build a 1920s city, I'll stick to SL.

Mind you, if SL would be able to become browserfriendly and facebook connectable...

Seymore Steamweaver

Love it. Been in it for hours. Earned a free house with like 120 prims or something from doing the tutorials. Building and scripting tools are very easy. Shadows look great. An excellent start for a brand new world still in beta.

Stone Semyorka

I tried it and found it fun for a few minutes. It is absolutely 2003 unsophisticated sl so the novelty wears off. You wouldn't go off to Cloud Party if you were accustomed to the level of social networking at Muddy's.

I was disappointed that none of the sky islands actually had any for-sale signs.

It's labeled beta so I'm sure it will be improved some day, possibly at the same speed at which sl has been improved over the years.

Seymore Steamweaver

The physics engine is better than SL's that's for sure. And from talking with one of the workers their economy should be up and running in a few days. They have done absolutely ZERO advertising for it and this article is the only publicity, and a complete surprise to them. So they're all of a sudden in mega busy bee mode. This is Not a launch, it's a beta.

Marianne McCann

"It looks like your computer or browser does not support WebGL."

Ezra

@Iggy @Jo

You'd be surprised how much is there right now in development tools that works -now-.

Everyone clamoring for Avatar 2.0 in Second Life would be thoroughly impressed with the ability to upload entirely new avatars different from the default "Male" and "Female".

Everyone in the thick of the debate over the mesh deformer and standard sizing and all that jazz would be very impressed by the fact that clothes, accessories etc can be rigged for custom avatars and skeletons uploaded.

Animation fans would adore having custom skeletons able to upload for and animate for. One of the default object types is a 'sequencer' which I didn't play with too much but seems to be basically an Animation Override specific to default or custom skeletons.

Fans of building and texturing would love the fact OBJ and DAE file uploads work. Multimaterial too, AND support for more materials than just color. There's support for normal maps, "spheremaps" which to me seem to be thsoe reflective cubemap type deals. There's some other map types I haven't played with.

And if uploading DAE files with animations attached to them for the object; well that's supported to, each object can have its very own skeleton and sequencer (set of animations) the exact same as an avatar. You can observe this in the beginner's area if those flailing octopus tentacles are still there.

Scripter? The language is server-side javascript. The script editor has the nicest documentation so far. There aren't 100+ different functions like LSL, but there's also no need for that many when 'animPlay' covers 90% of what one needs to create a Meeroo vs. all the hackity hack in Second Life.

There's physics, sound, particles, etc. all that stuff. Probably the biggest missing thing I see is lack of HTTP functions, but the need for it is lessened by the fact scripts have strong permanent state; data can survive script resets. Data can be made global to all scripts of the same type.

And speaking of physics, what's already there is much more impressive than what Linden Lab is getting out of their Havok license. Every object can be given a collision shape material type (ice or concrete). Not sure if resizing effects 'mass' like it does in Second Life. A lot of things from SL's pathfinding like creating convincing following/avoiding works now, but I doubt the more clever stuff of Second Life's pathfinding like...well pathfinding.

So..there's a ton here. A ton that Second Life already does, and more importantly a ton more that people have been begging Linden Lab for.

The only issue, all of the above isn't already taken advantage of. So there default furniture set you're given with the free apartment doesn't have a chair you can sit in. But...that chair is scriptable, animations uploadable via DAE, sits etc. can be made just as with Second Life.

I played with this all day and had a lot of fun getting as far as I could without documentation. This lives or dies by two things:

1. Authentication and accounts other than Facebook. Sam Thompson, a dev there answering a lot of questions all day mentioned Facebook authentication helps them right now focus on other things since they're a small team. He did express desire though that Facebook authentication not always be the only scheme.

2. Land pricing. No idea what it'll be, but the 'Cloud Buck' abstraction is already there. Already they seem more lenient than Linden Lab though; anyone who completes the beginning tutorial gets an apartment for free. No premium necessary. Very well may be a beta thing but would be awesome if it survives it until launch.


What's certain though this has been crafted to be a direct competitor to Second Life. Whether it succeeds or not, I'm happy Linden Lab finally has what seems to be a real competitor. This thing is like a blueprint of what Linden Lab should've been working on the past 3-4 years.

Hitomi Tiponi

For what is very early days this is very impressive. Yes, it crashes but it works smoothly and already looks quite polished. You could easily see it using the in-world goods and island renting model to make money.

They have hit the key features already and (apart from an unresizable chat box) the UI is nicely done and unobtrusive.

After getting your house I'd suggest exploring some of the other islands in the sky as it gives you some ideas of the scripted objects that will be available.

Spoke to one of the Cloud Party devs in world and they clearly have several extra bits to add, not least being documentation (oh, and they may make point and click move an option as many of them aren't so keen either)

Iggy

It's intuitive and stable on a laptop with wireless, a key point for eductors. I've done part I of the tutorial, and will be back to learn building next.

No idea about mobile support yet, but I am guessing it will be coming. Would NOT work well for building on a phone, but the UI is simple enough for walk and chat, especially on a tablet.

What do you brains know about WebGL and security vulnerabilities from running it?

Arcadia Codesmith

I wish them all the luck in the world. More competition in the virtual world arena means everybody needs to shake off their complacency and step up their game.

Ciaran Laval

If they ever allow alternative logins, I'll happily give it a whirl, I'm not going to create a Facebook profile just to use a service though.

shockwave yareach

WebGL is a layer atop your existing graphics layer, allowing websites to render 3d graphics with (I believe) an XML-like language. It is very similar to what SL does -- sends graphics and locations and rotations, and updates position data when position of something is changed. It's a layer of abstraction above the graphics layer in your pc.

As for exploits, the most probable one in the future will be binary payload following buffer overload. WebGL is new and probably not shaken out fully yet, so the old tricks of throwing more data at a known buffer size and knowing how many bytes after that should have a rewritten routine for the DLL will probably work, though no such hack is in the field at this time to my knowledge.

Ajax Manatiso

The key will be further development and customer sipport. Right now most land owners in SL are very unhappy because Linden Lab's customer support philosophy is "too freaking bad, go cry to your mama."

Hitomi Tiponi

Just tried this on my Nvidia Ion equipped netbook and even with graphics turned down low it was running at about same speed as Viewer 3 (and slower than Viewer 1) even though it was rendering as lot less complexity than a typical SL scene. That rather limits it's appeal.

Rusalka Writer

My only question is can I get money out of it?

Masami Kuramoto

Last year people told me that WebGL-based virtual worlds are not feasible. Where are they today?

Pussycat Catnap

@pussycat, it must help that I am a freak in all possible worlds. So exploring my identity is not key.
********************

When a prospective employer demands your Facebook password as a condition of employment - a growing trend - you will be forced to seriously think about how you use this tool.

Not just about exploring being a freak. You won't even be able to freely express yourself. Even saying 'had a bad day at work' could lose you your RL job...

Hitomi Tiponi

@Pussycat - I would never work for any company that behaved in such an asshole way, and in breach of a site's ToS. There are plenty that don't - stop the scaremongering that the popular press employs.

Barbara Thomas

If you go to http://its.cloudpartytime.com/login/
there is an option for Anonymous login as well as Facebook login

Alazarin Mobius

Meh. I'm underwhelmed. I might check in again in a while. Sometime. Meanwhile I'm off to an SL premium sandbox to prep a stage set for my show at SL9B tomorrow.

Kim Anubis

Barbara, Ty for mentioning the Anonymous login option. Won't run on my iPad (boo) so I'll have to check it out later.

Brookston Holiday

I wonder what Rodvik is up to right about now.

shockwave yareach

@Pussycat - simply create a new account and leave it empty. When HR demands a password, let them see that empty account. What, you gave them what they wanted -- you don't have time for the stupid facebook in the first place.

Not only do you protect your privacy, but the company is now looking in the wrong place to see what you are posting.

Mistletoe

Agreeing with Arcadia: competition is a great thing. You always run faster when someone's chasing you, as my neighbor used to say.

Jonathan Yap

I am getting a message that my computer does not support WebGL. My video driver is not all that old and the computer is one year old, so this does not bode well for general users on older systems.

DD Ra

@Jonathan Yap It was the same for me with my Chromium browser, but I had no problem to connect with Firefox.

elizabeth (16)

@seymore

if you complete the tutorial including the building tutorial then you get a house. and a party hat (:

elizabeth (16)

sorry

@stone

WADE1 Jya

The dumb thing about this is its entirely inside facebook. I refuse to use facebook - the appalling spy machine - so not touching this.

Putting the whole thing inside facebook makes this world entirely codependent in the worst way. So they lost me on step one.

By the time beta finishes & this is just getting going facebook will be dead. Everyone I talk to lately is deleting their accounts on facebook. It's about as smart as if they launched it inside of MySpace of Friendster years ago...

Why didn't they just put it on the net? Facebook attachment makes the whole thing kind of a joke really.

WADE1 Jya

Hah caught the reason why this is inside facebook. Cory is EMPLOYEE of facebook, I never knew.

Guess he has no choice then but to put it inside facebook. Now it all makes perfect sense.

Desdemona Enfield

I am looking forward to a virtual world that is far more than a clone competitor to the Linden/Opensim grids.

Show me a world rendered as augmented reality locative art. Show me LIDAR systems that allow the movement of my arms and legs to drive the avatars movement and actions. Show me avatar facial expressions that track my physical reactions. Show me eye tracking that controls the avatar eye and head movement. Show me tactile feedback. Show me web browser based interfaces for inventory management and avatar fashion styling. Show me a plug-in interaction architecture that creates a secondary market for experimental user interfaces.

des/de

Ferd Frederix

I had a wonderful time in the first half hour. My mesh test uploaded just fine, It had a dozen neat parameters to play with.

The fact this runs mesh and Javascript inside a browser makes it a very potential SL competitor.

Sketchbook

I don't think they are going after SL users. They are going after Facebook Users who have no problem using the service (still). SL is tiny, IMVU has what 50M users, Facebook well many many millions.

The transition piece is SL creators who create mesh, they can upload to both marketplaces and sell on both.

This can only be good for SL Creators.

WADE1 Jya

Hah maybe good for SL Creators who enjoy being tracked, stalked & spied on. Well enjoy guys.

This SL Creator says 'no thanks!'.

I already went through the ordeal once of deleting a facebook account & the complicated follow up to ensure everything was TRULY deleted from their servers. Since then facebook only got much more creepy & even more resistant to deleting your data when requested to.

Never going back there.

LOL enjoy chasing the crowd to get all those 'likes' & 'pokes'.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

It's not really "inside" Facebook — it just requires authentication with Facebook, which will extract all your data, force you to use your RL name as your avatar name, and places your Facebook profile picture on the Cloud Party profile. Besides that, the only additional "integration" is to allow you to share pictures on your Facebook albums, but that's not really the kind of integration you get on a Zynga game.

While CP's CEO claims that they won't use any other kind of authentication, the truth is that it should be easy to implement it if they wished, since the authentication is just used for registration — just like IMVU does it, and like SL could do it if LL weren't so stubborn :)

On the other hand, this idea that "Cloud Party is open to 800 million users so it will be an immediate success" is a stupid meme that has to be stopped. Just because you can use a Facebook account to register for something doesn't mean you get access to those 800 million users! My own blog allows anyone to post comments using their Facebook account, and that didn't get me 800 million users. In fact, it didn't really improve the traffic (most of my faithful readers don't use Facebook, anyway!) at all. It's just a convenient way.

It has, however, extreme media appeal, so I challenge LL to do the same; as I've posted elsewhere, it's child's play to integrate a dozen different authentication mechanisms for user registration on the "Join" page and could be done by an incompetent programmer like myself in a week or two :) Once that's done, LL could boast "Facebook authentication" just like CP and fool the media — which is good for press releases and positive feedback everywhere, but worthless for attracting new users.

Also, the question is not really getting more new users. It's retaining them and converting them into paying customers. LL already gets 10-20k new users every day. None of them remain... well, except for a handful. Very, very few become paying customers. That's the big issue here, and one that Cloud Party will have to face as well. At the end of the day, someone has to pay for the Amazon cloud service they're using :)

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Don't forget that we can always use the Tipodean viewer to log in to SL via the Web :) Oh, of course, it requires installing a huge and heavy Unity3D plugin, but you just need to do it once...

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