Feb 212014
 

Pirates? Ahoy?

Today is the last day to enjoy Cloud Party, the browser based virtual world. The Cloud Party team announced back in January that they would be closing down after the team moved to Yahoo!

We’re excited to announce that the time has come for the Cloud Party team to start our next adventure. We are joining Yahoo! The last two years have been an incredible experience for everyone here. We’ve been continually amazed by your creativity and the worlds you’ve built and shared with us.

Cloud Party will continue to run until February 21, 2014.

Since that announcement there hasn’t really been more to add from the Cloud Party team, there are no end of the world parties being ran, there are no goodbye posts as of yet, the platform is quietly disappearing.

Panic

This isn’t like when City Of Heroes closed, I was quite upset about that even though I hadn’t played it for years. Of course the big reason for that was that I didn’t embrace Cloud Party in the same manner that I embraced City Of Heroes. That was part of the problem for Cloud Party, not that I didn’t embrace it, but that enough people didn’t embrace it.

Continue reading »

Jan 242014
 

Pirates? Ahoy?

In a not that surprising announcement, Sam Thompson has announced that Cloud Party will close on February 21st. I say not that surprisng because Cloud Party users had been commenting on the lack of updates during December, prompting Sam Thompson to say on the forums:

We see you’ve noticed how quiet we are. Things always seem to slow down around here this time of year, and this year is no exception. We’re going to pick it up a bit on the bug front over the next couple of weeks and make sure we are catching those. Be sure to use the in-world bug report feature, we try to follow the forums but sometimes bugs reported on the forums slip through the cracks.

Right now we are having another time of introspection while we figure out where we want to go next with Cloud Party. We will be talking with everyone more before the holiday break, so please be patient with us. Hope you are having a great holiday season so far!

Cloud Party had some wonderful concepts, some excellent building tools and being browser based meant that people didn’t have to fuddle around with a client. However they couldn’t quite gain enough traction to make an identity of their own for enough people to embrace the product in my view. Content creators were also shy of investing too much there as cashing out proved problematic due to new financial regulations.

The blog post says:

We’re excited to announce that the time has come for the Cloud Party team to start our next adventure. We are joining Yahoo! The last two years have been an incredible experience for everyone here. We’ve been continually amazed by your creativity and the worlds you’ve built and shared with us.

Cloud Party will continue to run until February 21, 2014. We want to support our community during this transition. In the interest of preserving your extraordinary Cloud Party creations, we’ve added export tools and written this guide to help you export your content. If you have any questions, please contact support.

We are privileged to have had so many wonderful users share ideas and creations. We are excited to bring our vision and experience to a team that is as passionate about games as we are. Thank you all for sharing in this journey with us, and we hope you stick around for what’s next!

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll stick around to see what they do with Yahoo! considering the steaming mess they’ve made of Flickr since May 2013, Yahoo! are not a company I have great faith in, but I will give anyone a fair chance and it may be that Yahoo! with the Cloud Party team do come up with something useful.

Continue reading »

Dec 302013
 

The challenge with a review of the year is to try and make it worth reading. There’s a balance between including information and including too much information. This year’s review is largely based on Second Life and my own posts, so there’s plenty of information that I will be missing. For those who want a more in depth review, Inara Pey has been reviewing 2013 too.

For me personally it was a difficult year, Reed, Dee, Izzy and TJ Linden all gave me wonderful support, even when I myself was more than a tad grouchy with them but I do appreciate the efforts they made to accommodate me.

This post is not as long as it looks, if you skip the pictures, links and embedded videos it won’t take as long to read as you may think at first glance. I did consider breaking this down in to different posts, as I did last year. However at the end of the day it is what it is, so it looks like it’s epic in length but it’s really not. However to aid people I’ve decided to go back to HTML school and create a table of contents! Hurrah.

Contents

Continue reading »

Dec 272013
 

The Cloud Party team have gone quiet during December. Indeed they’ve gone so quiet that Chic Aeon posted in the Cloud Party forum about it. This is a measure of the fact that the Cloud Party team and recently that has meant Cyn (nee Linden) Skyberg has been regularly blogging updates. I was so concerned that I went in search of answers.

Now a good place to find answers is from pirates, you give them some grog and they talk, so I found myself at Yarr Bay.

Not Buried Treasure

Grr bloody Flickr! I had to opt out of the new photo experience to grab the HTML code, IFrames for sharing photos? Seriously? Anyway, where was I? Oh yes searching for answers. At Yarr Bay I found a treasure chest, with a pirate hat, but alas no answer as to where the updates have gone.

So next I made my way to a more sensible location, I headed for Suburbia.

Suburbia

The good thing about Suburbia is that you get curtain twitchers, people who watch what is happening in the street, but they had no answers for me. They did not know why people weren’t talking. One person suggested that it’s the season to be merry and to not worry. However by nature I worry, I would have to go to somewhere much more dark.

Continue reading »

Dec 052013
 

Over at New World Notes Hamlet Au recently published a post about declining tier income for Linden Lab. In the post Hamlet argues that cutting tier prices is not the way forward, attracting new users is. I agree with him on the tier angle for now, cutting tier would drastically cut Linden Lab’s income. However I’ve long argued that Linden Lab need more income streams, Second Life is too reliant on tier. Hamlet argues that Second Life needs more users, but more users are not the answer to the tier conundrum on their own. They need to be incentivised to part with their money and tier is a barrier not an attraction.

Hamlet also makes the following comment:

So no, the future for Second Life isn’t private land — it’s new users, and new platforms, and radical experiments in how Second Life is used and designed. For instance, some Lindens have been trying to add game mechanics to Second Life for several years, but have been stymied by bureaucracy and fear of protests by a minority of hardcore “Second Life is not a game!” users. But as we keep seeing, something dramatic has to change, or the hemorrhaging will continue, until it no longer can.

The problem here is that game mechanics are not going to deal with the income issue, Linden Lab need new income streams which may in turn lead them to be in a position to reduce tier costs. The other issue is that game mechanics will put some people off because Second Life is indeed, not a game, although there are games within Second Life. A Second Life wide gamification system would be controversial. An optional gamification system that people could tie into their own game development would be potentially wonderful. For example a Linden Lab hosted achievement system that you could tailor to the needs of your roleplaying sim or even your store would have potential.

One way of attracting new users to Second Life is to have more games inworld. Linden Lab could develop pathfinding further and introduce skeletons that can be animated and used as NPC’s. That way more exciting experiences could be created, which in turn may attract new users.

However then we’re back to the tier is too damn high because there are not enough people who can afford to throw away USD$295.00 (plus VAT for some) to create the kind of experience that may attract new users. The fact that tier will be due whilst people are planning, developing and testing these experiences undermines the concept even more. Vicious circle indeed.

Dwarfins

However there are games in Second Life. Estelle Pienaar’s SL Play Instinct is largely dedicated to highlighting games within Second Life. The destination guide also has a games category with pages of games. Some of the games are made to be played on parcels or breedable games. Breedable games are good for Second Life as they require those involved to have land. Other games are sim wide experiences, the latter are much harder to maintain.


System Failure

From the creators of the Flesh Game and Resting Place comes the seventh Halloween survival horror event: System Failure. Not for the squeamish, System Failure is a completely interactive and possibly rewarding Second Life gaming experience. Featuring multiple levels, challenging puzzles, big scares dozens of prizes. Opening October 17, there is no safe mode in System Failure.

Visit in Second Life

Continue reading »

Dec 032013
 

Although I’ve had a Cloud Party account for a while, I haven’t spent much time there. I have been there a little bit over the last few days playing with the inworld building blocks tools and they are a lot of fun, although my unpublished land currently looks like a rubbish tip.

However what caught my eye this evening was the avatar development kit version 1.0. This is intended for Cloud Party content creators who want to create clothing or animations for avatars in Cloud Party. Now clothing and animations are not my fields but I found this quote from the wiki interesting:

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.

SD mesh/material combinations will always be drawn, but HD mesh/material combinations will drop out at a distance. The distance it drops out at will vary from user to user. Some users with low-end computers or mobile devices might never see the HD version of the costume.

It’s best practice to make most, if not all, of your costume piece fit within the SD triangle limits. If you don’t, that costume piece will disappear or maybe even never be drawn on certain lower-end machines, even if it’s a shirt or pants. We’ll be providing tools on the marketplace for users to easily see what they look like in SD vs HD. Also, certain costume slots REQUIRE a SD mesh.

An example of a good use of the SD/HD system is a coat with brass buttons. The coat itself should fit within the SD triangle limits and use just one material. The coat can have a separate material with shiny, reflective brass buttons and buckles that will not be drawn in SD.”

Now the first thing I’m thinking here is that surely it’s dangerous, to say the least, to allow people to create a mesh with no triangle limit, however on closer inspection it looks as if those around you won’t suffer if you do go buck mad in the triangle department.

Continue reading »

Nov 252013
 

Maxwell Graf’s Rustica in Cloud Party is a very impressive setting:

Pirates? Ahoy?

Maxwell who has a presence in both Cloud Party and Second Life is a very accomplished content creator and the Cloud Party setting is very much a picturesque build to get lost in your thoughts and admire the scenery.

Rustica Building

However whereas the above builds are Mesh Maxwell has now started to play with Cloud Party’s inworld voxel building tools as he explains in an interesting post over at SLUniverse. Maxwell is downloading his Voxel build (which is a nice feature in Cloud Party), importing it into 3DS Max and then uploading the build to Second Life as a Collada file.

This process isn’t without minor challenges and Maxwell explains how he had to convert the downloaded obj file to FBX before it would play nicely in 3DS Max. However there are also benefits to this process.

Continue reading »

Nov 192013
 

One of the issues regarding Cloud Party is the inability to cash out. This is understandable as content creators are more likely to be tempted to engage if they can find financial reward. Cloud Party do allow you to pay for services such as island rentals using Cloud Party coins, so there is a degree of economic movement but it stays firmly within Cloud Party.

Kitely on the other hand allow people to list items on their marketplace with the option of a Paypal payment as well as Kitely credits. There’s no cashing out from Kitely but paypal payments are a way of a merchant getting cold hard cash. Again, like Cloud Party, the inworld currency can be used to pay for services.

However what people would really like to be able to do is to sell Cloud Party coins or Kitely credits in the same manner as Linden Dollars can be bought and sold. The beauty of this solution is that it adds an added level of consumer confidence, because when they make a purchase, they are doing so with an inworld currency, they aren’t handing over details to a stranger in a virtual land. That’s the beauty of the virtual currency.

Recent legislation in the USA has given platform providers the heebie jeebies about users selling virtual currencies, hence why they aren’t that widely available. However you would think that someone would seize the opportunity to tap into this market, be that Paypal, Amazon or even Linden Lab.

Now I’m sure plenty of companies would like the idea of selling virtual currencies to consumers, the part they aren’t so keen on is allowing users to sell that virtual currency. Linden Lab of course do this with the Lindex, so why can’t they expand this to offering a service to other companies?

Continue reading »

Nov 072013
 

Learning providers can create entire campuses composed of multiple learning environments. Game designers can create custom games  Virtual world providers can provide any type of environment (within similar constraints as the Entertainment Software Ratings Board [ESRB] content ranges, we intend to avoid the issues that Second Life is wrestling with due to the adult/erotic/pornographic flavor of so much of their content).” – Richard Garriott (AKA Lord British).

The above quote, which I covered in more detail back in June 2011 was to do with a project that Lord British was contemplating, that now seems to have morphed into Shroud Of The Avatar, an MMO, so the previous post is now well out of date. However the issue of adult content is rearing its head once more, this time in Cloud Party where more attention is bringing more questions.

Questions regarding adult and mature content in Cloud Party are not new, indeed they have been discussed in the Cloud Party forums more than once. Cloud Party’s community standards are pretty clear on the issue of mature and adult content:

Sexually Explicit Content We do not allow adult content or behavior, or visuals of explicit sex or simulated sex on the platform.

Yet there’s another side to this coin, it’s the whole icky factor some have of sharing spaces with children as young as thirteen. This happens in World Of Warcraft, you’re short of a player on a guild run, you advertise for one more and along comes a gnome warrior with purple hair who tells you “I’m 13” and the rest of the group are “WTF!” but of course, in a 13+ environment you’re likely to run into thirteen year olds!

A thread over at SLUniverse raises the issue of the other side of the coin:

It has some very good stuff. But no cash out and the PG13 rule ..”

There’s PG-13, and then there’s hanging out with 13 year olds.

The point remains though that in Cloud Party there’s no partitioning of age groups whatsoever at present. They could use a General (13-17) and Mature (18+) filtering themselves, even if they omit Adult forever.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but can a happy medium be reached?

Continue reading »

Nov 062013
 

I downloaded a Sinclair Spectrum emulator for the android the other week. After the initial buzz of seeing all those old game titles from the eighties my interest waned. The android is a bit clunky for such games, many games don’t work and time has not been kind to many of them. However it was a thrill at first. When I had a Speccy as a kid, so did lots of my school friends. We’d share games (piracy as my teacher scolded us, so don’t try that at home). We’d go to each others houses, we’d have fun not only due to the games but because there was also a social aspect.

I left the Speccy behind many moons ago, as I did the Commodore Amiga after that, and I have been looking to see if there’s a legal Amiga emulator but will most likely go through the same cycle as I did with the Speccy emulator, thrill, then flat and no social side to keep the interest.

As it’s my blog I can draw comparisons between the Speccy and Second Life, a bit of a stretch it may be but I can draw them. The Speccy was not the height of technology on release, there were better products around but the Speccy caught the imagination. Therefore software developers were alerted to it and stretched the Speccy to limits beyond what many thought it was capable of, Lords Of Midnight springs to mind here. The Speccy had the people and of all the ingredients that make a product a success, that is arguably the most important one.

Roll forward many years and Second Life is simply where it’s at in virtual world terms. Cloud Party has some very impressive concepts going for it. I like their royalty system on content sales whereby if you sell an asset with royalties enabled, if someone else then sells another asset whilst using your asset as part of the build, you’ll receive a royalty payment. Cloud Party has also had materials for quite a while now. Another impressive apsect of Cloud Party is that objects are not the only limiting factor in a build. In Cloud Party you can have x amount of objects, or x amount triangles or x amount of bandwidth, whichever you hit first will strike the build limit. This is a well considered concept as objects are far from the only issue when it comes to performance.

Kitely has some impressive offerings, such as putting sims to sleep when not in use due to using a cloud based system. Kitely is also not only cheaper than Second Life, but for those who may only spend a few hours a month there they have a time based billing option and under any plan you get at least one free sim to play around with.

Inworldz is also cheaper than Second Life, Jim Tarber and the team are also moving in directions Second Life isn’t, as can be seen in the Inworldz Techblog where they inform visitors they’re implementing physX and project Thoosa, which is aimed at making everything run faster and more efficiently. Inworldz has also implemented Qarl’s mesh deformer project.

However despite these advances in other virtual worlds, Second Life still has that magical community ingredient and what makes this all the more impressive is that Second Life still has the community despite the fact that Linden Lab have been actively distancing themselves from the Second Life community for a few years now.

Continue reading »