Cloud Party is marking its first year of operation with a 3D virtual art contest, which is being judged by the editor of Artinfo magazine, with the winner taking a cash prize of $1000. Read all the details here. With that kind of money, the winner could rent a 500 meter x 500 meter Cloud Party island for almost an entire year. (Or alternately, they could spend that $1000 to cover about three months rent of a Second Life sim.)
Responding to news that ex-Linden VP Cyn Skyberg has joined Cloud Party's development team, reader Ezra made a compelling argument on what the company needs to do next:
"The social and community tools are still very much lacking. There's no radius based chat (whisper, say, shout). There's no groups and so no sub-communities with specific interests and purposes, collective ownership of land, isolated chat, notices and hierarchies. The few social tools Cloud Party does have like friend lists leave a lot to be desired; like more prominent and fleshed out profiles connected to things like people search.
"The tools for developers have been above and beyond great from the start and have only gotten better. Things like island prices have satisfied and been little complained about, and while they're far from getting Cloud Coin as fluid as L$, progress continues to be made there as well. I'll bet though absolutely no one is heaping praise on how good socializing and community building is in Cloud Party. It's almost non-existent.
This is big news for Cloud Party, the web-based virtual world backed by Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka: Cyn Skyberg, who was Linden Lab's Vice President of Customer Relations for many years, has become the company's Director of Community and Communications. "Essentially I'll be handling all community interactions and experiences, new user experience, and internal and external communications," Cyn tells me. "I'm the first non-technical hire, so we're still figuring out where I can be most helpful. Luckily I have some experiences to draw on!"
That's an understatement, because Cyn ran Second Life's community and support organization for five years. After being laid off by Linden Lab in the bloodbath of 2010, she had a stint with the Wikimedia Foundation, and with that impressive resume, probably could have worked anywhere. So it's notable she's chosen to return to virtual worlds. Here's why she did it, and joined Cloud Party:
"A few things really," she tells me. "The tech is awesome, really amazing. So that's one. Secondly, I liked the emphasis on simplifying the way you build and create your own objects; the new build tools completely change the playing field."
But Cyn tells me she had an even more important motivation:
Cloud Party Adds Mesh-Based, Collaborative Building Blocks Which Sound Super Superior to SL's Prim-Based System
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."
Some enterprising Cloud Party users are playing around with hacks that get the web-based virtual world to run in a smartphone or tablet, and getting some pretty good results. Like this screencapture from Jesse, who ran Cloud Party on his Nexus 4, and got about 8-10 frames per second, which is not great, but not totally terrible. This is possible because Cloud Party is driven by WebGL, so you can run it on many mobile/tablet browsers:
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:
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:
Cloud Party Gets Major Update: Monetization, Attachments, Graphics Updates, Increased Concurrency & Much More
Cloud Party, the web-based user-generated 3D virtual world backed by Second Life co-founder Cory Ondrejka and Cryptic Studios vet Bruce Rogers, has a huge update today -- first and foremost, as company CEO Sam Thompson tells me, "[W]e're opening the Marketplace up to full actual sales for Cloud Coins, including cash out, all done directly in the app... The marketplace also includes the royalties feature we mentioned before, as well as some new features like category listings, purchase and sales history with CSV download, and a return system." (Which already seems to me more robust than what Second Life's Marketplace has now.) There's more updates, including increased concurrency and graphics enhancement -- full geek details after the break.
It's been about seven months since Cloud Party launched in early beta, and since then, it's generated a small but pretty passionate user community. "We've been consistently impressed with how dedicated our core community is," says Sam, "as well as surprised by their creativity. We have been trying to make all aspects of Cloud Party user-customizable, and our users have come up with interesting new ways to take advantage of that, such as building wearable vehicles or cool rides that take advantage of our physics engine. You can see some examples of the rides at Misfit Toy Island, and interesting items all over the marketplace."
Now that it's possible to make real money from selling Cloud Party content, Sam Thompson speculates the world may change: "We've had many content creators express interest in adding their mesh content to Cloud Party, but they were waiting for the full marketplace to be ready. So, hopefully we'll see lots of new and interesting content added to the marketplace soon!"
As for other updates to Cloud Party, read on, read on:
OpenSim has gained about 2,000 new users since January, according to the latest data released by HyperGrid Business. In January, HyperGrid's Maria Korolov reported that the open source spinoff of Second Life had about 15,000 users (roughly the same as it had in 2009). Last month, she reported, "The total number of active users on the top 40 grids dropped to 17,303 this month, 61 actives less than August’s 17,364 users, mostly due to the fact that ReactionGrid has shut down its OpenSim grid and no longer appears in our stats." (ReactionGrid, which counts major organizations like NASA and Microsoft as clients, has moved away from OpenSim for a web-based 3D solution, and thus represents a significant loss for the OpenSim development community.) Those losses aside, OpenSim saw very small growth, but some growth all the same. However, OpenSim will probably need active users in the six figures to make it a truly viable consumer-facing service.
Cloud Party Avatar Costumes Now Come With Low Lag "Standard" Mode, Full Effect "High Definition" Mode
Cloud Party's Avatar Development Kit is now online which you can get right here in its first version (with other additions to come), with at least one feature I think is pretty innovative: Standard Definition versus High Definition:
One problem virtual worlds struggle with is letting users fully express themselves in their avatars while not causing performance problems for other users with slower computers who are nearby. We've come up with a way to address that problem: Standard and High Definition modes for avatar costumes. Each costume part will have at most one mesh/material combination that can be marked as 'Standard Definition' (SD). This must be under a certain triangle limit (the limits are defined per slot further down in this document). The other mesh/material combinations will automatically be marked as 'High Definition' (HD). HD meshes have no triangle limit.
In other words (if I'm reading this right), each avatar costume will come with a Standard Definition mode, so when you're in an area with lots of other avatars, you can toggle down, to reduce lag. And when you're just hanging around with one or two other folks, or want to take solo fashion screenshots, you can kick into High Definition mode.
Cloud Party CEO Sam Thompson explained more to me via e-mail: