Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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Cloud Party's Advantages Over Second Life for Content Creators (Comment of the Week)

Cloud Party versus Second Life

The latest updates to Cloud Party provoked many very interesting comments on NWN over the long holiday/Christmas weekend, perhaps most perceptive of all being this one from reader Ezra, who spells out Cloud Party's advantages over Second Life for developers in great detail:

"[T]he biggest difference between Cloud Party and Second Life is that everything is highly customizable.

"Take Hamlet mentioning there's flight [in Cloud Party] now. Well they didn't just add flight, they added a new asset type called the 'Movement Module' for all creators to think up things with. They thought of and created basic flight. A Movement Module dictates an avatar's air and ground acceleration, deceleration, jump height, jump speed, whether they jump at all or fly instead, their mass/gravity and whether they fall down at all or instead fall up, or stay suspended in air, and more.

"And that's just the movement/physics part of what composes that flight. There's also the 'Sequencer' asset type that choreographs animations, particles, meshes attaching and detaching, and other events in well...a sequenced way.

"In Second Life, there's a lot of hacking about to accomplish such things. Want to fly faster? Flight feather that uses LSL functions in a way not intended. Want to animate differently while flying? More use of LSL functions looping and killing default animations that weren't meant to be tortured that way.

"The same goes for just about everything:

"Want a non-humanoid avatar in Cloud Party? Just upload a custom skeleton for it. Share it and others can create animations and meshes for it. In Second Life that requires offsetting bones not purposed for such things and often breaking one's avatar until re-log.

"Want a new sky? There's a 'Sky' asset type that does what one would think. In Second Life a believable sky is accomplished by a mix of WindLight settings that not all will see, or one of those skydomes.

"Want a new ground/terrain, or none at all? In Cloud Party, just delete it rather than send it to the bottom of the ocean as with Second Life. Though, this is one of the areas where it can be seen as a limitation in Cloud Party; there's no built in terrain editing, but there's less need for there to be since it supports mesh out the gate and there's no concept of size limits.

"Want an animated pet bunny? Create it, rig it, give it its own sequencer of choreographed animating and popping a carrot out of no where and eating it or whatever. Release the rig to others so they can create custom animations and sequencers for it. In Second Life of course, you'd either be rotating prims about, swapping their visibility, or swapping sculptmaps.

"So on and so forth. The theme has been and continues to be that when the Cloud Party devs give us something to work with, it's going to be highly customizable and connectable, much in the same vein as Unity's components and UDK's nodes. There's more to an 'Object' than it just being a mesh with a script. There's so much that can be accomplished without ever touching a script. All of this becomes immediately available the first time you enter, hit B for Build, and choose 'Create'.

"...Graphics engine wise, there'll never be Far Cry 3 level detail in Cloud Party, but it already has a complete material system inclusive of normal maps, specular, transmission, a separate diffuse, reflection maps, and some other settings. But also right now due to still being in beta there's some glaring omissions like lights other than ambient and the sun. Once and if that's in however it's rendering will be very impressive.

"I could go on about aspects of other asset types and how workflows differ from Second Life, but again its spammy for a comment, and instantly clear after just opening the Build Mode in Cloud Party."

Not Spammy at all, Ezra -- apropos like a boss, actually. If I can add another advantage point: In took me ten seconds to log into Cloud Party to take the screenshot you see above. Had I tried to do the same with SL, it could easily take ten minutes.

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Cube Republic

Yes this is all great, but the worlds very empty at the moment. I'm not seeing the mass exodus from SL just yet! Also it may have better graphics, however graphically it's bland and over-saturated.

As for flight, it's not a very fluid experience, it's like riding the worst physics vehicle in second life.

It may have superior creation tools, but we all appreciate superior tools require advanced knowledge of 3D applications, so this raises the bar for content creation.


Finally I'm with a big CP face-palm at the moment because you can only cash out if you live in USA and have a USA based bank account.

Maxwell Graf

There is one primary factor that I wish everyone in SL would consider about Cloud Party, and it is in answer to the primary complaint that I hear about it:

It is in a beta state still. This means that it is not finished, no full initial release of the application has been accomplished. That being said, if a comparison is to be made between SL and CP, it is very important to consider this when doing so. It would be much more fair to compare it to the SL world of 2005 or perhaps even 2004. The most popular complaints are "it is boring," or "there is nothing/no one there." That is to be expected at this stage; They have not marketed it, they have not even fully released it. Most of the people who are currently there are either A)visiting it to check it out for the first time, maybe to return later when it becomes more populated, or B)creators and developers like myself who are experimenting with the software and its limitations/boundaries, seeing how everything works and giving feedback to the devs. So for now, you wont find tons of content, lots of things "to do," or a large population. Having spent over 6 months there with regular logins/time in world, I can say that it has definitely grown in a number of ways and has more potential now than it did when I first began building/exploring there. It continues to get better, and I imagine will keep doing so.

As it draws closer to and finally does fully release as a Version 1 product, I think we will begin to see the content and population that so many find as the primary reason for dismissing it as a platform. Certainly the technology of and by itself will allow for the kind of expansion, customization and development that is necessary (and lacking in SL) for it to become, if not much larger than SL in the long run, at least a major contender to be considered along side of SL and virtual reality platforms in general.

It is new. It is beta. It will take time to develop and grow, though it already has been doing so.

This latest batch of updates and releases, I believe, are a major turning point for CP, and will, in time to come, be able to be seen for what they are...a milestone in the history of the platform there which marks perhaps the beginning of something pretty amazing.

I do not believe SL is going away any time soon. I certainly have no plans to stop enjoying or working in it. Cloud Party, however, deserves to be given an opportunity to present itself as a fully developed initial release before we begin to make comparisons or even give it a chance to get off the ground.

A major difficulty that CP (and bluemars, for that matter) has which SL did not have to deal with is that the majority of those checking it out are biased already about what a virtual world should be. They have spent time, perhaps years, in SL and have the expectations that come along with that. If those expectations are not met on first contact or soon after, then it is dismissed as a failure, which is unfortunate.

I hope that my comments here will be of some help, even to a few early explorers, so that we can give them a fair and balanced opportunity to do what they are trying to do.

Ciaran Laval

@Maxwell Graf I don't think it's fair to compare Cloud Party with SL 2005, Cloud Party has advantages that SL didn't when it came to user generated virtual worlds, namely that SL has ridden out some of the problems that Cloud Party can avoid due to SL taking those first steps.

I agree that Cloud Party should be given a chance and I'd spend more time there if I could fix the constraints of time and space, it's an interesting development.

The problem for Cloud Party however is the same problem that faces MMO's when they try and be the next World Of Warcraft. WoW is where the people are, that's why it continues to have so many users. Newer more technically superior MMO's simply do not have the people.

SL is the benchmark in virtual worlds and although it's declining, as is WoW, it's where the people are, do not underestimate the impact for users of being where the people are.

I'm not being critical of Cloud Party, as I said earlier, it's an interesting development, but like Blue Mars before it, attracting and retaining users is the big challenge and that's a hard nut to crack.

Cube Republic

I agree with some of the above points. However you can't really compare it to SL because at the time SL was 'wow-tech' as in it represented an unknown frontier. The internet was still relatively new and the idea of virtual worlds seemed amazing. Just think about how much land was changing hands for during the hype period and how much media coverage it was getting. Now in the next decade consumers are a bit more savy, so just where does CP fit into all this? Is there any consumers out there actually wanting to join a new virtual world and play dress up/make home or whatever?

Personally I've been up and down with CP, I rushed in at first and learnt some of the tools, and as the months rolled on I lost interest due to there not really anyone being there and lack of a MP.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Is this a good translation into tl;dr-ese? "Creators do things with Cloud Party; they do things despite Second Life."

Maxwell Graf

I think the real make-or-break point for CP will be if, when they do finally offer a full release and begin a marketing push (which they have not done), that will result in pulling in a core user base not just from SL, but from the FB community of users. This seems to be a target market that they plan on drawing the core of the user base from, though it has been completely un-tapped so far, for the reasons mentioned above. Once they do begin to tap into that user base, it could result in a huge influx of users, most of whom will be largely unfamiliar with virtual worlds. I hesitate to make the comparison, but even farmville was capable of attracting 300 millions users in just 6 months, though that user base dropped off almost as quickly, which is understandable considering the scope of the app. I find myself wondering, as I imagine the CP devs are, if presented with a rich and varied, open-ended virtual environment for the first time (instead of just farmville), how would those FB users react? We have seen what SL was capable of when we all saw it for the first time: We are still there. Can that happen again? I hope so. There is a majority of internet users out there who have never had the exposure to the wonder of a virtual world and all the possibilities it presents. If even a very small percentage of FB users end up using Cloud Party, it would be marginally larger than SL ever was, which is, I think, what CP is banking on.

Amanda Dallin

" If I can add another advantage point: In took me ten seconds to log into Cloud Party to take the screenshot you see above. Had I tried to do the same with SL, it could easily take ten minutes."

Ten minutes? What are you logging in with, a tin can and string? It generally takes about 30 seconds to login to Second Life unless you have to update you viewer. That's not very oftenl. Ten seconds compared to thirty is not an appreciable difference for anyone who is sane.

Desmond Shang

A few quick comments.

1) Second Life, for all its failings, even when declining a bit, is the world that made it. It is the common ground, the place just about everyone has seen, or heard of. This is significant insofar as it proved the business model. Even one one hundredth of Second Life would still be a highly successful company, in its own right. It's just a matter of perspective.

2) Cloud Party is great, I find it very exciting that it, and Kitely and other open source grids are existing on multi year spans. These worlds don't detract from Second Life, in fact, all of them together validate each other.

3) Big money and/or venture capital is still king. Let's face it, more than one online experience was either tens or hundreds of millions short, when it came to development. If you were looking for venture capital in 2008 through the present... you probably got stalled before you even got started. Whose fault is a lack of capital? That's a very different sort of failure than 'unsatisfactory result.' Also, for those who did have a big budget and no choice but to roll the dice (EA, Blizzard &c) ~ even they have to be in search of a customer. A customer with both gobs of available time *and* steady money, both of which have taken a major hit. Add the move to the freemium business model, plus the shift to mobile computing and it's a very, very hard business case to make, to make another game.

4) Cool factor. This is the magic, the hard to predict stuff. SL had it once. Apple products still do. Facebook kinda still has it. Myspace even had it once, and so did AOL. Currently, Minecraft has it. We should be very, very glad of the 'long tail' factor, insofar as SL is still, relatively speaking compared to a lot of tech, *quite* solid. A 10% decline may sound bad, but in an environment where 98% decline is not that uncommon, we should be impressed by the resiliency. And what was that cool factor? Honestly... it was the residents themselves; their wild, fantastic personalities and the expressions thereof. Where else on the internet could you go, to meet such a cast of characters?

SL was never really comparable to online games; it was more comparable to Oz, with its tin men, flying monkeys, Emerald Cities and a million stories that moved forward of their own accord, with or without you.

Cloud Party, Inworldz, Kitely, opensim and others are all provinces of a greater universe with wild, imaginative entities moving throughout it all, and that's a wonderful thing.

Ezra

@Melissa Yeuxdoux "Is this a good translation into tl;dr-ese?"

I wrote that comment to answer a question. A question that I first tried to answer by saying the list of differences between Cloud Party and Second Life would be too long for a comment. So sorry for the rambling.

The tl;dr of it is that Cloud Party has great tools for creating that many have begged for and wanted out of Second Life that may never make it into it, to no fault of Second Life other than it was built ten years ago and couldn't learn from itself the way Cloud Party has.

Outside of the content creation tools there's a ton of things Cloud Party doesn't have that Second Life does. Everything that has to do with socializing, building and managing communities Second Life excels at. All criticisms and worries about Cloud Party never becoming something actually populated enough for those content creation tools to actually matter are entirely fair and I agree with. And I hope the Cloud Party devs are listening to everyone bringing those up. Right now they have decent input from content creators from Second Life but it'd be nice if community builders were letting them know what was needed too.

Recka Wuyts

The main thing I notice is that the apple is different from the orange. You can peel an apple but most people don't. I suppose you could eat an orange with the peel on but it is pretty bitter.

So I guess the difference is that oranges are better than apples because of color, the orange being orange while the apple comes in lots of colors.

I won't stop eating apples or oranges but I can't wait to get down to Mexico and eat me some papaya.

I don't build, I live. What is the best tool for that? Being there. So I'll be there when I am, until then I am here. But as soon as the people over there are eating more oranges than the people here I will be taking my apples and going over there to look for papaya.


Arabella Jones

Cloud Party compared to Second Life? It sounds as though there is an overall structure laid out for Cloud Party, while Second Life has more just happened. I wouldn't say SL has evolved, because I'm not sure there is the feedback loop that weeds out the failures.

What will be interesting is how Cloud Party looks after a year or so of being complete and attracting paying customers. Any user-created thing is in a race between creation and apparent nothingness. That's a part of the reasons for a Beta: people get the chance to get in and create things.

And Cloud Party has to have a plan, so those early creations will continue to work. Go looking around Second Life and you can the old stuff still. Some of it broke over the last year, and some of that was not so old.

An SL uncertainty: just what did the Lindens think rigged mesh would be used for? Didn't they expect clothing?

Arcadia Codesmith

Any time you're making software tools, it is critical to carefully observe how people use, abuse, misuse and brilliantly improvise upon the tool. See, once you release it, it's not yours anymore. It belongs to the community, and they usually have very different ideas on how it should work than you do.

If you're smart, you let their behavior guide you in your next iteration. If they're overriding your default animations to substitute their own, you ought to design a way to efficiently plug in new animations. If they're floating houses in the stratosphere just to get a little privacy, maybe you need some way to create secure private spaces. If nobody uses the default avatar because it's so fugly, you give them a lovely new well-proportioned avatar.

That's what you do if you're smart. If you're Linden Lab, you ignore what the customers are doing and make decisions based on what you think they ought to be doing.

Cloud Party may be a beta ghost town at the moment, but it sounds like they're making the smart decisions, and I'm guessing that comes in part from observing the activities of Second Life residents more closely than Linden Lab does. That's going to pay off in the long run, if they stick with it through the lean takeoff phase.

Daniel Smith

@Maxwell - on CP: "It is in a beta state still"

There are many who would say that SL still feels like it's in Beta :)

(but we love it anyway...)

Ezra

@Maxwell "I think the real make-or-break point for CP will be if, when they do finally offer a full release and begin a marketing push (which they have not done), that will result in pulling in a core user base not just from SL, but from the FB community of users."

Also for whatever reason Second Life still gets 10-20k sign-ups a day, it just doesn't keep them. I'm sure all sign-ups aren't unique, but the amount that sign-up for Second Life vs. actually use it is tremendous.

Most definitely the Cloud Party devs need to advertise the same way Second Life does. Better yet, the way IMVU does. IMVU didn't grow from nor subsists on attracting people from Second Life primarily. Just an onslaught of advertisement around the web seemed to do the trick for IMVU.

Hamlet Au

That's a good point. The AdSense ads for Second Life bring in a ton of new users -- trouble is, most of them go away because they can't be bothered to download a client or figure out how to use SL (if the client can even run well their computer, which it often can't). Since Cloud Party is web-based and more user-friendly, many new users will be much more likely to stick.

Pussycat Catnap

I registered for Cloud Party last week. Granted I was in Canada on a slow computer so maybe that is why I got what I got...

But it looked like it had the same problem as Blue Mars: My avatar seemed Caucasian / Native American no matter what I did.

At least this time the second of those is my RL ethnicity... O.o Whereas with blue Mars everyone was forced to be a Hawaiian/Anglo multiracial. :P

There was also an amazing -lack- of content for avatar customization. The only hair I could find was a pack of 5 freebies. Let alone the issue I have even in SL of getting kinky, nappy, or dreads hair. There was just two starters, and the 5 in the freebie - for everyone of any ethnicity.

My avatar, I made her as dark as someone from India can get - but her features... I will try again on a better machine and see if I can see more impact from the sliders. Because right now she looks like someone from Jersey Shore who spent 2 hours too long in the tanning booth and then applied Southern 'blackface' makeup. :)

And then there's the lack of fashion to wear...

And I've yet to find a way to change my base animations...

And I haven't even started in on the issues for Nekos and Furries... Or anyone else who wants some avatar originality. I -DID- see some avatar replacements for things... will have to see what can be done with them...

Pussycat Catnap

"trouble is, most of them go away because they can't be bothered to download a client or figure out how to use SL"

Or they go away because they never arrived.

I suspect 99% of them sar automated spam bots registered for what in the SEO appears to be an online community with a forum.
- Spam Bots target these with 10s of thousands of account creations per day, on even small forums, just to register sleeper accounts.

They will then cycle back months later and post up a random worded post with all kinds of odd phrases compiled together. The purpose of which is to hide what terms in there apply to their actual client, and to make that client's terms appear to be related to the forum, in order to 'ride the coattails' of the forum's organic search ranking in google and bing.

- It only takes a post or two per week to do this. But you need to get a few hundred thousand accounts injected into a target system in order to hope that the system's admins fail to catch and ban / delete all of them.

If the forum or site is run by people who do not know how to look for invalid accounts, or how to recognize the difference, you can easily put in a million or two accounts with no one the wiser...

Where I work, we were up to 250000 of them before I figured out what they really were, and came up with some patterns among our real customers that let us wipe the database with as low risk as possible of hitting real ones.
- And that was in a span of about 4 months.

LLs / SL has been going for years being run by people who show all the signs of not knowing how to manage a community both in terms or customer relations, security, and awareness of who their customers even are.

Consider that SL doesn't even run captcha software... although with OCR, many bots can blast past that now. When we put it on our system, it merely reduced bot accounts from about 10,000 per day down to about 100 - significant, but still a good number getting in. It took a change in our SEO to finally shake the bots. To make our forum no longer look like a forum, while still looking like a forum... :)

So my new theory is that most people who sign up to SL actually enter the world, and stay. Probably only a few dozens per day (but I have no idea on the actual rate of people that create an account and stay).

But most bots that sign up, never enter the world, because they never were even designed to. They are just like 'bacteria' crashing up against the walls of the internet, and in this case, getting into the skin... but not further because what they land on is not what they were designed to target.

Fia Wycliffe

How do you fly fast? i saw a couple did it and reed here in the blog but i cant find it.
Please respond
/hugs Fia

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