Friday, December 21, 2012

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Cloud Party Adds Flight, Removes Facebook Requirement!

Cloud Party virtual world

Cloud Party is giving virtual world fans some really great holiday gifts this weekend -- starting today, avatars in the world backed by Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka and Cryptic Studios vet Bruce Rogers will be able to fly. And not fly like they do in Second Life, but with animations and particle trails (see screencap above). Perhaps even more important, Facebook is no longer required for account creation. "You can also create account with just an email address and password," Cloud Party CEO Sam Thompson tells me by e-mail. To build and use some other Cloud Party features, you will still need to verify your account, which you can do through Facebook, or with a valid credit card ("which we don't charge").

Up until now, Facebook Connect has been required for Cloud Party log-in, which many virtual world fans, particularly Second Life users, have complained quite vociferously about. But according to Thompson, the company never intended to make Facebook the only access method: "[I]t just saved us a lot of work on the login side and was pretty effective at reducing griefing. Now that we have finished many of our other major features (such as the new Marketplace and Cash Out), it became a priority issue for us." He adds that they're planning to add other log-in and validation methods, such as Google+, in the next few weeks, and probably Twitter OAuth eventually.

There's some other features getting rolled out today -- read on, read on:

"As something of an early Christmas present, we're launching many of our most requested features all today:

  • New Built-in flight with animations and particle trails
  • New Beginner Island
  • Full Access (including house deletion) over the free house plot we give out
  • Anonymous users can pick a display name
  • Users can upload their own profile pic (instead of using Facebook's)
  • Logins without Facebook!

"In terms of the new logins," expands Sam, "you can now set your username without creating an account at all. You can also create account with just an email address and password." I'm interested to see how removing Facebook will help Cloud Party's growth. With so many other excellent features in place, this could be the thing that finally gets growth going strong.

 

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Sage Grey

I guess I don't really understand the point of Cloud Party. It seems to be walking the exact same path as Second Life, but has a long way to go to match it. Why is that interesting and where's the value added? Not criticizing, and I wish them well, but I don't really get the point.

An interesting thing to do would be to build a virtual world where you could do or MAKE things not possible in any virtual world that currently exists. The main limitation of SL is that the server-side only architecture of SL means you can't build anything which requires synchronization of events, as perceived by the client. That means you can't build most game-like activities in SL. We have a rich DJ scene in SL, but you can't implement something like a visual DJ performance in SL (of the sort done by Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Skrillex, whoever), despite it being the obvious thing to do if you have a 3D graphics engine. You can't do anything which isn't highly tolerant of latency. You can't do a lot of the things just begging to be made with a "game engine". Any of the myriad of games and apps, big or indie, found on something like Xbox Live just isn't possible in SL.

The basic approach for building virtual environments synchronized over a network is well understood now and has been encapsulated in widely-available game engines for years now. (Unreal engine, Unity3D, Valve Source, Cryengine, etc.) SL can't implement most of the things possible in those engines because of its server-side based architecture. It's a shame because there are many things one would like to do in a shared virtual world which simply cannot be done in SL as it is.

There was a time when Philip Rosedale used to wax philosophical about SL as a platform, and as the upcoming 3D web. While the 3D web thing was kinda overblown, overall it was a very cool vision. However, it was NEVER going to be possible under the current SL architecture. I guess they originally planned to be more ambitious about evolving the underlying technology...

Blue Mars was the first virtual world to try to break out of that box. Unfortunately it failed. It was based on Cryengine 2 and in principle would have allowed building game-like scenes of the sort already found in other Cryengine based games. Very roughly, you could have done in a virtual world anything you see on Xbox Live. That would have been a big leap forward for virtual worlds. One could have built some seriously cool things not possible in SL. On the downside, it lacked streaming of the geometry and textures. Streaming is the big value added of Second Life's technology over other systems of its day (and even now).

Cloud Party seems to be like SL in that it provides streaming, but is server-side for the world state, with the client mostly only for rendering like with SL. That means it has the same fundamental limitations in what you can make and do in it. It seems to be Second Life all over again, but with a long way to go.

Or is there something else going on with it?

Kim Anubis

This is great news. Thanks for reporting it, Hamlet, and happy holidays!

Ezra

"Or is there something else going on with it?"

The short of it is Cloud Party has a lot of possibilities and limitations Second Life doesn't have. There's enough differences to not just sum Cloud Party up as Second Life in a browser.

The long of it is too much for a comment. So the answer to your question is that yes, there's much more going on with it, especially when it comes to your concerns of creativity and what the engine supports. You can't create Far Cry 3 with it, but the possibilities in comparison to Second Life are expanded in a lot of great ways.

Sage Grey

Ezra, could you please give a simple example of something one could implement in Cloud Party that couldn't be done in SL? If I look at the scripting system, which roughly defines the scope of what is implementable in the world, I don't see anything fundamentally distinct so far. Certainly at the bottom, as far as I can tell, it's still scripts bound to objects, executed on the server with event triggers pushed out to the client, with no explicit synchronization between events for when presented on the client. That alone makes what's possible more like SL than what one can do in a "proper" game engine. Perhaps some mileage could be had with a richer API within that model...

Timo Gufler

Wow, those are wonderful news, that you can sign up Cloud Party without a Facebook account finally. Flying is nice, but I would like to be able to sail there by sailboat too. Currently it looks like the place is designed for airships only

Guni

Nobody seems to care. I just logged in to CloudParty and I could not find a single other soul, even after visiting those islands listed as "Active". Could it be that no matter what features they add they are going to fall flat and never reach critical mass of users and content because there are simply not enough people who bother?

Ezra

"Ezra, could you please give a simple example of something one could implement in Cloud Party that couldn't be done in SL?"

It's hard to answer that because creativity plays such a big part.

But the biggest difference between Cloud Party and Second Life is that everything is highly customizable.

Take Hamlet mentioning there's flight 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 avatars 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 relog.

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'.

I'm not sure I get your worries about "synchronization" and how that inhibits virtual worlds, but i don't see anymore latency or lack of responsiveness with Cloud Party than I do multiplayer games or MMOs.

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.

Ezra

"Could it be that no matter what features they add they are going to fall flat and never reach critical mass of users and content because there are simply not enough people who bother?"

It very much matters what features they add. And the biggest they're missing right now are social and communication based ones that allow communities to grow and stay together.

If Second Life didn't have range-based chat, groups, group notices, group chat, profiles with more interesting fields and search that found people and events as well as places, it'd be devoid of all except those fixated with the creation tools as well.

So, hopefully all of that comes next. Until then its possible to say hi and emote a wave to someone, friend them even, but greater community building is impossible.

JoJa Dhara

Yeh we can fly!!! I am possitive with Cloudparty. I am so happy it is browserbased and see golden uppertunities. Does it replace Second Life/ Open Sim or any other world. No.. it has its on identity but with basics for a succesfull user created world.
Just use it next to it to show your creations. You can in choose make money out of the virtual goods again but most intresting is with this kind of creating you can also print it out in 3D for real.

Cube Republic

This is great, but wait...

In SL we can add another island and make a continent and keep flying, in CP your stuck inside a small box sized environment.

Cube Republic

edit to the above quote, it appears they've changed it so multiple islands can be chained together!

Sage Grey

Thank you Ezra. That's a very nice answer, I appreciate it. If I may summarize, I think you're saying it does a couple of types of nice things. First, it solves some of the problems SL addresses but better. That's a good thing of course. Second, it does some smart things to address the division of labor between the server and client, such as the sequencer.

What I mean by the "synchronization" and how a "proper" game engine works isn't about the graphics, which seem just fine in Cloud Party. It's about the client/server relationship.

In something like UDK, if one wants to implement, say, a guy firing a rocket, part of the game logic for that gets compiled into the client. When I hit the fire button, the client immediately displays the animation for the gun recoiling, sets off the particles for the rocket flare, and plays the sound effects. The user sees no lag because the event is handled immediately on the client side.

In Second Life, that logic lives in a script on the server. If I hit the fire button, an event is sent over the network to the server, the script decides it must kick off all the animations, sounds, particles, etc., and it sends events back to the client. As such, there's a delay before the user sees anything. What's more, the events arrive in arbitrary order and are not synchronized together. The user will see the particle effect go off first maybe, sometime later hear the sound, and maybe even later see the animation. Everything is delayed and janky looking.

Cloud Party seems to use the sequencer idea to try to mitigate this to some degree. The server must still initiate the event, so there is still some delay, but at least everything can happen in unison. That's a neat thing.

On top of that, game engines hide latency using client-side prediction. This works because the client and server co-simulate some of the same game logic. The client has code simulating the trajectory of the rocket and it immediately starts displaying the rocket flying through the air when I hit the fire button. Something happens immediately on the screen so there is no delay so far. It also tells the server this is happening, and the server simulates it too to see if it agrees with the clients calculations. If the server's simulation agrees with the client, it may remain silent or send an acknowledgement, but the client sees no lag at all since everything was already happening client-side already. In principle, if I'm connected to a server and I'm the only player, I should never see lag because the server and client should always agree with each other. It's only when there's a second player that there might be disagreement. The other player might, say, dodge the rocket. The fact that the opponent changed directions is different from what the first client assumed would happen so the server updates the first client about that. All this time the client has been simulating and displaying the game on its own without waiting for the server. Because of that, it's now WRONG (a little). It didn't account for the opponent changing direction. If the latency to the server is low enough, the error will be small however. The client will correct the error to conform to the server's version over a few frames using interpolation, or whatever, and hopefully the user will never know the difference.

Whew. Sorry for the spam. The point is simply that in Second Life, all that junk runs only on the server so there is no latency hiding at all. (In fact, it does client-side prediction JUST for the avatar movement, which is why you walk too far during a sim crossing, but that's an exception. The script results are never predicted.) That's why fast-paced games can never be built in Second Life. I believe Cloud Party has the same basic problem. It seems to mitigate that a little bit with the sequencer, which is a neat halfway point, but that doesn't make it UDK either.

I don't know if the Cloud Party people are thinking about this at all. If somebody were to bring that capability to virtual worlds, it would be truly awesome. That would seem to be tantamount to streaming some of the scripts to the client and executing them locally which would be quite a step. Maybe it's too hard.

Anyways, thank you for the detailed answer. I'll look further into Cloud Party based on what you wrote. It does seem to have some very nice features.

Pienaar

From Sage: "The main limitation of SL is that the server-side only architecture of SL means you can't build anything which requires synchronization of events, as perceived by the client. That means you can't build most game-like activities in SL."

@ Sage: You say a lot of things here but it is simply wrong. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEUGAYt3XcM. Then explain to me: Why can almost 20 people play soccer against each other in SL if "fast paced games cannot be build in SL".

What you are saying is IMHO blah with too many words. Most MMO are based on the server-client structure and they work. There are other reasons why there are not many "games" in SL, but it is certainly not "synchronization of events as perceived by the client".

Sage Grey

Pienaar: Thank you for the comment and the video. While it's very cool that people can make amateur level stuff in SL, I don't think anyone can argue SL is a serious platform for action games. Particularly if you want to play with people from around the world where lag compensation becomes important, you would not build a game like how SL does it.

You write: "What you are saying is IMHO blah with too many words. Most MMO are based on the server-client structure and they work. There are other reasons why there are not many "games" in SL, but it is certainly not "synchronization of events as perceived by the client"."

I assure you that any major MMO, World of Warcraft or whatever, has a rich client and does not just use a "viewer". Most games today, not just MMOs, are based on a client-server architecture, yes. That doesn't mean the client is just a dumb renderer, as is the case with SL.

Someday somebody is going to build a system which combines the streaming capabilities of SL with the approach of standard game kits like UDK. You will then be able to implement something which meets the normal expectations of a good action game inside a virtual world. That will also let you do other things you'd like to do in a virtual world, like live music concerts where the lights and animations are synchronized with the beat of the music or whatever. SL is not that system, and Cloud Party does not seem to be it either.

Pienaar

Hi Sage, sorry that my post was a bit moody yesterday and thanks for answering so matter-of-factly. Your answer makes perfect sense and I now understand what message you wanted to give. You are right that a system which combines SL streaming capabilities and the approach of standard games would be a killer app and I would move platform instantly.

Oh, and Merry Christmas. :D

Joe Rigby

One of the most critical issues facing virtual worlds is ease
of construction http://www.flickr.com/photos/23841806@N06/7900521902/ and in
the case of this Chinese village we are illustrating to HAWSER that
environments can be up to 6 miles square and comprise elements taken "as is"
from previously made UNREAL game mods. The UNREAL gaming engine was supplied
originally with an SDK editor for anyone interested to generate their own
environments. http://www.avaya.com/usa/product/avayalive-engage Thousands of
these "mods" are available on line and they can be dissembled or picked over
(by copy and paste) to develop complex unique scenarios for any particular
purpose. It has not seemingly sunk in yet with the virtual world community
that there is already a vast crowd of able developers out there with the
UNREAL background that can easily use AVAYALIVE ENGAGE to construct
individualized bespoke environments for any training, architectural or
engineering use. In fact any 3D model generated by laser scanning,
photogrammetry and 3D CAD software might be readily imported into this
platform.Other samples at;

http://wa3530.avayalive.com

http://wa692.avayalive.com

Sage Grey

Hi Pienaar, thank you and no worries at all. :) I do regret being a bit of a windbag in the comments, so I understand how you feel. XD I really liked the video showing the ever surprising level of creativity of SL residents, thank you. Merry Christmas to you too! Take care. :)

Metacam Oh

SL is still going on? What's their road map, oh right they don't have one.

Eddi Haskell

If cloud party can be used on a computer as well as a lightweight pad device, and is fully browser enabled, that is a gigantic competitive edge. I thought that Linden would do more work on browser-capable Second Life but the initial project shown in 2011 (I believe) has gone nowhere.

The problem with Cloud Party, to be quite frank about it, is that over 95% of it is not worth visiting. Except for some exceptions (such as JCCCC Coronet's World) it looks like a Second Life Sandbox as imagined by Bozo the Clown. Once it starts having content as good as Kitely, for example, it might go somewhere. Cloud Party needs to do what it can to enable excellent content and the growth of communities.

joker

"excellent content and the growth of communities"

Neither of which has anything to do with its founders skill sets. Typical 3d platform development to nowhere.

Pussycat Catnap

I think I just created an account but I'm not sure. Its super confusing. You have to log in anonymously, and then click the create account button from inworld.

Pussycat Catnap

My display name is Pussycat Catnap. But I'm not sure what this is linked to. I seem to have a separate forum account - PussycatCatnap.

And I have no idea if these are linked or not... :P

It looks like they've not quite polished off the decoupling from Facebook. But that fact that they are doing it, means the water is safe to go in now...

Pussycat Catnap

It continues to keep trying to sync to facebook. So I will have to clean my home Mac of all of my and other's facebook info before logging in from there - don't want it auto-linking something; right or wrong... thankfully I don't use facebook, but I've visited the place a few times. :)

Pussycat Catnap

It continues to keep trying to sync to facebook. So I will have to clean my home Mac of all of my and other's facebook info before logging in from there - don't want it auto-linking something; right or wrong... thankfully I don't use facebook, but I've visited the place a few times. :)

Pussycat Catnap

"Ezra, could you please give a simple example of something one could implement in Cloud Party that couldn't be done in SL?"

Driving a car for a few hours to visit an assortment of different places on a "road trip" with friends to explore the world without having a plan for where you are going and what you will be traveling through.

While the SL of today is mostly estate islands, the mainland is still there. And the SL mainland is the only place in any virtual world (other than MMOs), that actually feels like a world.

Bouncer Criss

I give CP 6 months at the most.

Singerman Marquette

It seems like it might be like the other OS grids, where content creators from Second Life go there, set up shop, and leave behind an empty mall of content no-one is there to buy. They do need to offer more of an incentive to create an account in the first place. Second Life after all has become a place for 3D modelers creating content, merchants who buy this merchandise Full Perm from the SL Marketplace, and a bunch of freebie-seeking individuals who try to pimp out their avatars for the lowest price possible: *FREE*.

Furthermore the economy in Second Life is being ruined by some of these merchants who buy this "business in a box" stuff Full Perm and then sell it for 0-10L on Marketplace, making it nearly impossible for the honest hardworking content creators to sell anything other than full perm creations.

I'm in the prim baby business so hardly any chance of anyone ever selling a full perm prim baby which does what ours does, so I'm somewhat safe for now. But I am afraid i can't take my wares to CloudParty as they only have mesh, and not the three building block types found in Second Life.

Some people say Second Life is in decline without factoring in the slumping RL economy. Everything is in decline for now until the RL economy improves greatly and people once again feel comfortable enough to invest RL money into a 3D environment.

Toady Nakamura

Tried it... was griefed in the first 30 seconds in the welcome center. Then the people standing there claim it's not griefing.

Sound familiar??

I say I can't move, they start asking how old my computer is!

Sound familiar??

Then they say it's in beta, try again.

Sound familiar??

Lame... back to SL where I can get something done and not get attacked with demon balls in the welcome center.

Oberon Octagon

Just a note about Google+ sign-n capability. Google is not virtual identity friendly. I can keep my email but Google+ is not available because I am not real.

Pussycat Catnap

I've read just the opposite about G+...

That under their current system, if you "prove" your virtual identity is known, they will leave it alone. And the proof seems to be "having enough followers."

I plan to try g+, but I still recommend and will be making a whole new gmail to use with it not connected to any others.

For me Cloud Party seems to have a lot of good elements, but the content is lacking, and I'm not sure the Facebook crowd is the right crowd to appeal to - despite their size. And Cloud Party may already have done too much self injury in so short a time by having so close an association with Facebook. Even now without that, it still have Facebook preference all over it.

Mykael

On the sync side, the Movement Modules run on the client without any lag. If you want to see the different compare the immediacy of walking or flying with driving one of the vehicles on the IBM island. The vehicles are run by a server side script and have lag - the movement module stuff just runs immediately. I've seen cars and helicopters done as movement modules so far, probably with lots to follow. I suspect you could make one with a rocket launcher and get it to fire (although targeting might be interesting with current tech). Then it would just send the server a message saying it had fired... (Might need a bit of tweaking of the script set, but the devs are listening and very responsive).

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