Cloud Party has just released simplified, collaborative, mesh-based block-building tools to its web-based user-generated virtual world backed/advised by Second Life co-creator Cory Ondrejka. The tools, Cloud Party CEO Sam Thompson tells me, "are designed to be incredibly easy to learn and use, yet still very powerful." To promote those tools, the company is holding a house-building contest with 1000 Cloud Coins (worth $50) to the winner.
Block-building tools sound similar to Second Life's original prim-building tools, but Thompson tells me there's some key differences, which to make me, make this new system sound quite more kickass:
"One of the biggest differences is that you are actually generating a mesh itself, not a collection of prims," he explains, "which means a large improvement in performance. By default, objects are on a simple grid (like LEGOS) which means collaborative builders can start in different areas and their builds will merge nicely. We also support multi-resolution editing, meaning you can combine blocks at a much smaller grid size to add details, while still getting the benefits of the default grid size."
"While the tools are limited to block shapes right now, you can rotate them and they even-work on non-uniform scales, which allows a lot of flexibility. We are working on ways to create more complicated meshes as well (possibly including curves), but those are in the experimental stages at the moment."
"Speaking of which, more features are coming:
"The other cool thing about them is that they create a single well-tesselated mesh instead of a giant pile of individual objects, which means it's very efficient to render. We'll also be eventually providing tools to get those meshes out of Cloud Party for further editing or even 3D printing." Emphasis mine, because, dude, whoa.
So if they add these features, they'll be more robust and exportable than Second Life's system currently is. But from a user experience, are they better than Second Life's? Sam points me to testimony from a Cloud Party builder, Phate Shepherd, who's also built in Second Life:
"I can't keep thinking what a stroke of genius this was. The one thing that anyone in SL could do (usually badly) was build a home. It was easy to mod them, move doors around and put wallpaper on the walls. I never thought something even better would be in Cloud Party.
"With voxel buildings, anyone can mod them. My OCD loves that all the walls will be aligned and uniform. You never have to worry about wallpaper alignment... it just works. Wall moulding can be changed separate of the wall texture. Normal mapped moulding looks very convincing.
"Mesh trim makers can make windows and door frames that will fit into any voxel house. Kitchen appliances and bathroom fittings just need to build on .25 meter increments, and it will all fit nicely into a voxel house."
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