Cloud Party's Virtual World Islands Offer Declaration of Independence from High Second Life Land Tier
Cloud Party is now offering private virtual islands for monthly rent, and if you're a fan of the web-based 3D virtual world backed by Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka, or if you're not a fan of Second Life's high virtual land tier prices (a common complaint from New World Notes readers), you'll probably like these prices:
"In short," CEO Sam Thompson tells me, "there are 100 meter x 100 meter private islands for $14.95 a month, or 500 meter x 500 meter islands for $99.95 a month. There is also a discount for paying 6 months rent ahead of time (for the price of 5)." What's more, Cloud Party's virtual currency, Cloud Coins, is now on the market, and you pay your rent with them.
As you may have noticed, a 500 x 500 meter Cloud Party island is 250,000 square meters, making it much larger than a private island in Second Life, which is 65,536 square meters, and which costs you a $1000 upfront fee, and a recurring $295 monthly tier. In effect, the Cloud Party prices offer SL land owners a declaration of independence from high tier costs. (Couldn't resist the July 4th metaphor, sorry.)
"Based on what I've seen," Thompson tells me, when I ask him about private islands in SL, "I think you get a lot more for your dollar in Cloud Party, especially in terms of land area, but I think it may depend on the scene you are trying to build and how you build it. As the tools improve your options for building within the constraints should improve as well."
The Cloud Party islands allow 25 concurrent avatars, which is significantly less than what SL allows (though 25 is close to a practical limit, before lag starts to get heavy), but Thompson says that limit is soon to change:
"Concurrent avatars that can interact is the same as before, but will be changing pretty soon: 25. However, you can have unlimited visitors to your island at any one time (either size), they just get segmented into distinct instances. We're going to improve the client to handle more than 25 at a time in the near term.
"These limits are not set in stone, but are just a beta starting point for us, and part of why the limits are structured the way they are is because we're still trying to find the best way to balance the needs of our content creators and visitors. A huge part of the draw of Cloud Party is the access to a wider audience that being on the web brings, but that also means a wider variety of computer hardware. For the past year I've been developing Cloud Party on an entry-level laptop from 2008, and our main graphics programmer is working on an even worse laptop. Keeping Cloud Party running well for older hardware is a priority for us, and will continue to be important for mobile access. We've had a lot of positive feedback about how well Cloud Party runs for most users!"
Just yesterday, I explored a pretty impressive Cloud Party island by an SL artist, and Thompson says more tools for talented folks like that are coming: "We've spent a lot of time internally trying to find a way to allow creators to build awesome scenes that may exceed those limits on paper but will run well because of the way those scenes are built. For example, we encourage the use of normal maps, which is a technique used to build an object that appears to be made of many times more triangles than it actually is. For now, keeping the limits static allows us to focus on other features people want while keeping Cloud Party accessible to everyone. We will continue to improve options for content creators, such as making some simpler interactive objects not count as dynamic (sitting in chairs or playing sounds for example). We'd love feedback about how we can set reasonable build limits that satisfy both visitors and creators.
"The bottom line is that I expect these [technical] numbers to change over time, specifically in a way that gives island owners more freedom."
More freedom, lower tier taxes: Good for countries and virtual worlds.