Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Quick Tour of Cloud Party and Some Thoughts

So today there's been a huge buzz about a new virtual world platform that suddenly appeared seemingly out of nowhere, I followed the inworld tutorial, and immediately set to work feeling my way through the interface and platform. I haven't tested it as extensively as others have been, so if what you see here piques your interest, do go in and share your findings!

Here's a quick laundry list of features:

  • Mesh upload (Collada)
  • Materials (Normal, Specular, etc.)
  • Custom bones and animations
  • JavaScript scripting. (omg, a REAL programming language! fjakldfajfj;fda FINALLY)
  • Local avatar movement (no more rubber banding)
So let's break it down:

The Tour

So on entering and being shown all the shiny new features, it feels like these guys know what builders in SL have been craving for (literally) years now. If you've read my past post on building an RPG in SL, you'll know that I had the worst time of it with LSL, among other things.

Mesh upload is already a given, so let's take a brief look at the other things.

Custom bones and animation

There's a bright rainbowy-tentacular future in store for the future dev's of the metaverse!

Well, immediately you can see that there's obviously SL users here :P but what's significant about this picture is that those tentacles are actually waving back and forth and curling. We've been drooling over this prospect and begging/waiting/whining/raging for years.

NPC's, hello again! I can't reiterate enough how important NPC's are!


Another one we've been waiting on for a while. Here's the materials floater:

Criticisms aside, the SL renderer is quite the feat- it handles massive amounts of vertices and textures quite admirably. I'm not sure how efficient WebGL rendering is, but the truth is, normal maps were designed to get around this kind of problem- by making the lighting appear smooth when in actuality you have a low resolution model. There's also other modern goodies like specular maps, for when you want to add that extra bit of light-dependent shine, and of course diffuse maps, for your basic texturing needs.

Scripting - JavaScript

Not exactly hip to the scripting language yet, I went and inspected someone else's build. I don't know whose it was though so props to whoever made it.

Look at that. It's beautiful- so beautiful. It's JavaScript. In all reality I hate JavaScript (what with "===" and all that)- but you know what, given the alternative was LSL, this looks like the Venus de Milo to me right now. Honest to goodness objects, arrays, properties-- I haven't dug deep but I'm sure that scripters around the metaverse are probably thinking how nice it would be to work with a true scripting language for once.

I'm known for this phrase, I'll say it again, "RAZZIE HAET LSL".

Oh, one more thing, the scripting window opens in a separate tab-- which means you can script on another screen. Oh heck yes.

Local Avatar Movement

So this one is a quick one to explain. Rubber banding is the bane of the metaverse. You get one hiccup in the line and suddenly you're walking in place, and then suddenly shot forward. It's annoying, and people have been begging for client side avatar movement for ages.

It's also controversial.

You see there's a trade-off. If you do client side collision, you get smooth instantaneous movement with no penalty when your connection hiccups for a brief second- however this means that other avatars are non-physical to you. Basically, if two people are controlling their own physics, who decides who pushes who? If the server is handling it, it can decide, but you're at an impass between two points of authority, so the simplest solution is to just pass through each other..

-- and that's what you have here. Some people hate it, I personally love it. I'll take smooth walking over avatar<->avatar collision any day. I can't be sure how the rest of the physics work, but that's my understanding of the clipping so far.

But the question you might be asking now is, do physics even work?

Server-Side Physics

Avatar<->Avatar may not collide, but Object<->Avatar does! So physics for the most part works as you would expect, big win there. That wooden marble knocked me out of the way, I took one for the team, so be happy!

Basic Object Editing

The object editor is pretty straight forward, you see a channel window appear on the left with all the object editing properties. You select movement buttons from the top, and you can choose between a visual library of items. I should note, those are not prims in the SL sense, I can't be sure, but I don't think you can do prim torture commands on these items.

Your inventory looks very sleek, no more guessing what strange crime against humanity may be lurking in what you took into your inventory as "Object". At least, depending on how you take the picture :P

Just to be complete, I uploaded a simple cube and took a picture to see how it would look in my inventory and what the process was like-- very nice!

I forgot to mention, you also look like this when you're in build mode :P


I don't really have a proper header for these other notes, as I was primarily focused on the builder's aspect, but I'll stuff it here.

At some point I triggered the ability to have a free house, I don't know what the deal is but I gave it a shot.

I guess that's my house, alongside the many other ones just like it :P Here's the shot of the whole neighborhood.

Here's also a glimpse of the inside of the house, as well as a look into one of their UI floaters. Seems pretty straightforward.

A lot of your UI in regards to personal actions happen by accessing a "smartphone" with what looks to be an iPhone and Android shiny button style interface.

The UI is overall pretty easy to come to grips with. I think they were pretty successful in reducing the learning curve on this thing

No SL-Style Camera - which means placing objects can be a pain

This is just a personal pet peeve, and it's not just Cloud Party that does it, every non-SL virtual world I've visited does it. Nobody ever implements an SL-style camera. If it's a legal thing, I couldn't know- but I've visited Kaneva, Active Worlds, Blue Mars, Onverse, Friends Hangout, Tundra, Jibe, IMVU, Cobalt, OpenWonderland, Multiverse- and who knows what else- and NOBODY, I mean NOBODY ever implements the SL camera.

I even wrote one in Unity3D to see if it was a technical thing. It totally isn't. If I can do it, anybody can.

Seriously, if there's no legal ramification, and no design reason- give us an SL-style camera, somebody, anybody. I've been using the flycam to take pictures, it's definitely something, but it isn't designed for building like the SL-camera was. If it's a design thing, at least give us a mode where we -can- use it, at least to build.

Why should I have to run my ass clear across the metaverse just to see what the letters on a sign say, or do some weird sort of juggle and dance just to cam to the side of an object I'm looking at. Maybe I'm missing something in the tutorial, but this really eats me.

Most importantly, and I want to make this clear, it pains me even more-so in Cloud Party than any other VW because they are so close to awesome it's not even funny. So if any Cloud Party dev's are reading this, I'm really applauding you, honestly, this rocks. You guys have done a great job rethinking inventory, and object channel windows, using simple to understand floaters, I hardly had to ask any questions to figure out how to move around.

So this last bit about the camera hurts so much because, you know, "so close,  yet so far away"-- but it's beta, so I make a big whine about it to hopefully bring attention to the issue :)

It could also just be me. I'm totally willing to accept that no one else has an issue with it.

For the non-builder, the camera navigation is still ace

In all reality maneuvering around here has been one of the least aversive experiences I've had in navigating a VW. In fact, I would say it's one of the best ones bar none, short of SL.

Some Thoughts

All in all, it's good to see solid potential for an alternative to SL. Really, this is probably the most promising thing we've seen in regards to actually being close to a functionably useable alternative to the SL platform since RealXtend debut'ed their viewer mod with mesh, materials, and bones (another project to be covered in another post).

There's an army of content creators out there, desperately searching for a platform that can handle the dreams they want to build. They have the know-how and passion to design entire worlds- they just need a platform that can do it.


  1. *grumbles* I went thru the tutorial but wasn't given my free home, not sure why.
    I think this is pretty exciting, and believe it will take off sooner or later. Probably more for the newcomers of virtual worlds than us veterans of SL/Opensim, but we can be there to provide the content, free or otherwise.
    I too was bothered at not being able to cam up to something, pretty frustrating for someone used to the usual way in the SL/OS viewers.

  2. As someone who uses secondlife as an expression of imagination, roleplay and to immerse into fictional settings ...this is a total, and unmitigated disaster. Being tied to facebook, and by necessity people's real life identities means that the furries, goreans and other "freaks" will be pushed out in favor of generic consumers and corporate suits. For that reason, business types will love it, and it will kill secondlife (AND opensim).

    I'm depressed and demoralized. This is the future -and there's no room in it for anyone who is not a suit or a customer.

    1. That is a good point, this seems to be directly aimed at the general public en masse. I admit I had stars in my eyes with all the building goodies I'd been chomping at the bit to have for years in SL and OpenSim, so I hadn't yet considered the social implications.

      I do think Sans is on the right track (below). I hope this drives competition at LL to start getting a move on with features they'd been neglecting to implement for years.

  3. I don't think it's a Second Life killer, even if they add better avatar customization and shopping and camera movement. I think it could be a bridge to Second Life, though, for people who don't know they like virtual worlds yet.

  4. It's not even close to a SL killer, Once you get past all the build tools and start to look at the social side, it is seriously lacking, worse still is the avatar customization.

    I feel like a lumpy low resolution sim.

    Sure there will be content creators that will upload all nice boned mesh avies that look awesome, but if you can't freely dress them up (and we know that from mesh in SL, you generally can't mix and match) you loose what is basically half the point for many people (well. ok .. all the point if you're one of the few left over BM users).

    Hanheld hits a nail on the head. I do not want to be part of a virtual world in which I might knowingly find my mom. Awkward doesn't come even close.

    The title also seems to suggest some kind of party, however the platform seems to omit pretty much everything you would need to throw one.

  5. As long as it remains tied to Facebook, it is not a serious threat to Second Life. On facebook, we are our real selves. It could be a nice virtual world for my real self to meet with my favourite Aunt to play a game, or race go karts with my grandson, or furnish homes to show off to my sisters and meet and chat with them. I would be my real self there, matronly and grandmotherly, and I would behave myself.

    After that I would head on over to Second Life to be my 23 year old avatar with the hot body, able to wear hot fashions that I would just look silly wearing in real life. I could do frivolous things without worrying about other people judging me, like role playing on a medieval sim, racing a giant snail, or maybe even being a little bit naughty.

    To summarize:

    Facebook Cloud Party = fun way to maintain real life social and family connections, business connections/meetings, educational projects, and a secondary market for my mesh products.

    Second Life = pure fun, exploration, excitement and friends free of judgement

    That is how I see it as long as Cloud Party remains tied to Facebook. Linden Lab should be worried all the same. If Cloud Party were to disconnect from facebook, permit anonymous avatars, and price their land significantly lower than Second Life, they would be a real threat to Second Life.

  6. I don´t use Facebook, so definitely no cloud party for me. Got an account once, tracked all my lost friends, got their email addresses and phone numbers, closed my account. I hate Facebook and their data greed. Plus, Zuckerberg unifies for me many things I dislike. Creating a Facebook account for me was like being forced to use a public toilet. You go in, hold your breath, focus on not touching anything and feel a relief when you're free again.

  7. Cloud Party's been gone for over a year but I miss it. It had its faults, but it was fun, and the idea of a series of floating islands was a good one. I had a house as well, but never knew what to do with it.