Friday, February 01, 2013

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One Hour with dio: First Impressions of Linden Lab's Latest Creation Tool (And Whether It's Right for You)

Dio Glitch

Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Like many of you, Linden Lab's dio was not even on my radar until this week. true story: when Hamlet first mentioned it to me I thought he had just typoed "SL" with extra flair. Once I realized I was behind on possibly the latest and greatest thing, I decided to set an hour aside to get to the bottom of all this dio business... And obviously blog the results.

The plan changed somewhat after I actually sat down with the dio beta. I felt almost mislead, and while I agree that dio is neat and has potential for certain projects, it's not always going to be your best option. Here's what I mean:

 

First and foremost, I felt completely misinformed by the launch trailer above. Maybe it was just me being dense, but the simple style of the animation lead me to believe that this demonstration of dio's capabilities was actually made in dio. Move a character around, interact with the environment... Considering that the screen the character looks at with dio on it is filled with people moving around, animated in the same style that she is, I don't think my assumption was unreasonable. I even set out to make a new room using some Glitch pics I'd saved since, when you think about it, much of Glitch was just a series of connected rooms, full of objects to interact with.

The problem is that dio (as it is now, and yes it is a beta) really only has a few basic things in common with what the trailer shows you: There are rooms, and you can click on objects to interact with them.

Dio rabbit hole

Your dio room can have a background, while all of the exits and interactable objects sit on the left-hand side of the room. You can program a range of different interactions for those objects, but you can't (as I tried to do) drag those objects into the frame so you could interact with them in the context of the room, like you see in that trailer. That could change further down the road of course, but essentially you have your interactable items on one side, your chat on the other, and the room itself (a picture, some text, or both) in the middle.

LegendMUD_login_screenshot

Several astute NWN commenters have already hit the nail on the head: dio is more like a MUCK/MUD/MUSH with pictures than anything else (yes, some young people know what those are too.) It's perfectly neat and functional for what it is, but in a lot of cases it is not going to be the best tool for the job.

In his initial post on dio, Hamlet suggested that content creators (fashion designers in particular) would benefit from making dio rooms based on their in-world store experiences. But to be perfectly honest, having sat down with dio I think that would be one of the least effective uses of the platform (no offense, Hamlet!) If you want to show someone your store and the objects within it, isn't it significantly better to get them in-world, or at least on the marketplace, so they can actually buy? There has been vague talk about L$ being used by dio somehow, but I'm skeptical that LL intends to make dio usable as a SL Marketplace alternative. So, for fashionistas and designers, what's the point?

The end goal of most store experiences is a purchase. The vast, vast majority SL shops are big rooms full of things to buy, and for the most part very little intrigue or interaction beyond that. Even stores that do, for example Bare Rose, often rely on a dynamic social atmosphere that comes a lot more naturally in SL than in the comparatively static spaces of dio. Of course some SL sims can absolutely present an interesting dio experience, but if what you're really looking to do amounts to a slideshow, a catalogue, or a secondary storefront there are practically hundreds of better alternatives out there already... most of which SL designers have been using for years.

Renpy game

I've spent the past week and a half making my own mini visual novel (shown above) in a significantly more powerful (and also free) game creation tool called Ren'py, and that is probably the root of much of my disappointment with dio. Ren'py uses its on ad hoc scripting language in tandem with Python to produce visual novels, dating sims, and even rpgs. I barely know enough HTML to function on the internet, nevermind any other scripting languages, but I was able to pick it up almost immediately. The community for it is massive and your game can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You can have sounds and transitions and clickable maps and custom UIs and even inventory systems. The cherry on top is that unlike most other easy DIY game making tools (like RPG Maker, GameMaker, or Novelty) the end result is Mac, Windows, and Linux compatible.

If you want to create some interactive text and not much else, inklewriter is another good alternative, perfect for slightly more straightforward Choose Your Own Adventure-style experiences (for an example, check out Emily Gera's hilarious Congratulations, You are Now a Kotaku Commenter).

As it stands, dio is somewhere in between inklewriter and Ren'py. Is it going to be the next big thing when it comes to online content-creation platforms? I have no idea. Ultimately it's easy to use and easy to share, and it has a lot of great potential storytelling (and even teaching) applications... but it's not the only option, nor is it the best tool for every job. It's up to you to determine which engine will fit your needs and suit your tastes the most.

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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Damien Fate

I haven't tried it yet, but from what you posted it seems very different from the trailer which I saw yesterday. I thought you would have avatars too.

So no FATEwear on Dio then.

zyrra

I felt mislead by the video to some degree. I chalked it up to diving in before really reading it. I quickly believed the video represented what I could actually create. However, I do think it could have other potential uses. I plan to investigate it a bit further to see what else dio might have to offer.

Kala Bijoux

This feels like a fairly typical LL move - they have an idea or concept that could work and they release it WAY before it has all the components it should. I know it is just in beta but they are getting buzz about it NOW. People are going to try it, not be impressed and never come back (sound familiar?). I hate to be the one bagging on LL but this pattern keeps happening. Right now it feels like they are just throwing as many concepts as they can in hopes that one sticks. Nothing is going to stick tho unless it has enough content and "oomph" (for lack of a better term) behind it to be more than a blip.

When I first read the blips, it sounded like maybe there were virtual rooms, like SL 3d reality type, that you could set up. Static text and pictures aren't going to cut it in this day and age.

I do like that they have are talking about letting people monetize off of it - as I see it, one of LL's strengths is that they have a large pool of amateur content creators/digital artists that can make content.

Kala Bijoux

This feels like a fairly typical LL move - they have an idea or concept that could work and they release it WAY before it has all the components it should. I know it is just in beta but they are getting buzz about it NOW. People are going to try it, not be impressed and never come back (sound familiar?). I hate to be the one bagging on LL but this pattern keeps happening. Right now it feels like they are just throwing as many concepts as they can in hopes that one sticks. Nothing is going to stick tho unless it has enough content and "oomph" (for lack of a better term) behind it to be more than a blip.

When I first read the blips, it sounded like maybe there were virtual rooms, like SL 3d reality type, that you could set up. Static text and pictures aren't going to cut it in this day and age.

I do like that they have are talking about letting people monetize off of it - as I see it, one of LL's strengths is that they have a large pool of amateur content creators/digital artists that can make content.

Storm Thunders

Where can I try the app in the video?

Dio, baby, why'd you come out to party wearing your sweats? Come back when I can mouse over an element instead of having to use the side boxes, you've got support for outbound links, and clicking or mousing over something in a scene can change its appearance without leaving the room. Embedding and sound would be sweet too.

Ciaran Laval

I had no interest in dio until I sat down and actually used it, because I thought it was going to be another social networking space.

Personally, I think it's a fun application, whether there's much longevity to it is another matter but fashionistas could definitely display their wares there, complete with links to their inworld stores or Marketplace stores.

Renmiri Writer

Excellent review.

Dio is not ready for prime time and it baffles me that a company that is so good at #D interaction, (SL, the minecraft clone) would go for a text and pictures slideshow thing. This is so old!!

Dio, go to your retirement home and reminisce about the good old times of text only MUDs.

Perhaps if they added user account control it could be used for text based RP like the ones people did on EzBoard back in the day. But still, why go so far away from your strength LL ?

CronoCloud Creeggan

I pretty much agree with the comments here about mouseover and objects "in" the room. But as I said, this is sort of "Inform" (Language for making Zork style text adventure games), for the masses....with pictures. I think i t's interesting, and hope LL add more features to it over time.

Connie Arida

Yawns and waits for parametric deformation mesh and materials in SL.

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