Cloud Party: the new kid on the block

Building in Cloud Party

While there are basic in-world content creation tools, these are (from what I’ve been able to see) pretty basic, and the primary aim with Cloud Party is to support the upload and use of mesh content – and people are already doing so. Scripting is supported (JavaScript?), and the developer are working on a more well-defined object count (think SL’s Land Impact).

An avatar in build mode

Entering build mode turns your avatar into a free-floating cloud…complete with hard-hat, which is a little cute (see right).

Given I can only use Cloud Party anonymously, and so don’t have access to the tools, there’s little of detail I can say on their effectiveness. The included shapes are primitive-like, and there are also a number of default items, such as a football and a canon. However, Brookston Holiday has produced a video demonstrating uploading a mesh to Cloud Party and applying textures which helps demonstrate some of the build capabilities.

Maxwell Graf was also on-hand during my explorations, and he was playing with mesh uploads and reported that the uploader is smooth – there is no need to upload any physics shape with a mesh – just upload the mesh itself, and it works.

Watching Maxwell Graf import one of his mesh creations into Cloud Party

The Cell Phone

The Cell Phone combines the functions of several of SL’s functions and floaters, and is actually a pretty neat gadget. Anyone with a smartphone will immediately get the concept of icons and opening applets – and it’ll be interesting to see if things like scrolling are added to the phone as Cloud Party’s functionality expands. Currently, eleven options are provided:

  • Contacts: this would appear to be analogous to SL’s Friends  / Contacts. However, whether it is for listing friends you make within Cloud Party OR links to your Facebook contact (or does both), is unclear to me, as the option came up blank and with no obvious controls / options
  • Navigation: is discussed above
  • Settings: allows you to change various settings for the graphics, sound and interface. These are all straight-forward toggle options (on / off or true / false)
  • Build: access the various build functions (also press B to access) – requires FB log-in
  • Outfits: allows you to change outfit  / skin – requires FB log-in
  • Facebook: allows you to post to your FB Wall or invite FB friends to Cloud Party
  • Camera: allows you to take in-world snapshots
  • Photos: allows you to view any photos taken (FB log-in apparently required)
  • Goals: displays the tutorials
  • Activity: appears to form a diary of your activities in Cloud Party
  • Help: displays a number of help topics

Additionally, the phone has a HOME button, taken you back to the default display, and some options have a BACK button, allowing you to return to the previous page in a category (such as going from the Graphics settings back to the main Settings display) or also back to the default display.

The camera option is a little funky and keeps with the cell phone idea, presenting you with a screen resembling that of a smartphone when in camera mode. Again, options are minimal and simple to use.

Camera mode

Islands

The island-in-the-sky concept is interesting. Those logging-in to Cloud Party via FB have the option of claiming space for a home – there is apparently at least one style available from the library – and some customisation is possible. Land is currently “free” to FB users, but this is set to change in the future, as the company will be using the land model for its revenue stream, and islands will be offered for rent.

Currently, islands all appear to be formed from a couple of common maps – all those I visited were of one of two styles; again, once they are available for rent, this may well change. There are some options available for a degree of customisation which are showcased on islands developed by noted individuals – such as Cory Ondrejka, who has a Martian-style sky over his castle, and Lilli Thompson (formerly of Google), who has given one of her islands a somewhat alien feel to it not only through the inclusion of waving tentacles, but also through a mist-like aquamarine sky.

Stranger in a strange land – atmospheric effects in Cloud Party are currently limited

I assume such capabilities will be open to those who rent islands from the company, and it’ll be interesting to see if there are more options for customisation available – and what plans the company have in had to deal with more dynamic features, such a sun / moon / cloud movements, flowing water, etc. (even a day / night cycle), as the platform is enhanced.

There are certain things you can’t do at present: don’t expect to be able to sit down on anything or to be able to fly, for example. However, these capabilities are definitely on the horizon, as are overall improvements to the physics engine and improved scripting tools to make use of these abilities.

Thoughts and Feedback

Cloud Party is at an awkward juncture in its development: far enough along to warrant a beta, nascent enough to be all-to-easily dismissed. As such, this makes assessing the platform in terms of capabilities and functionality somewhat difficult; what isn’t there now may well be in the planning stages or set for a release in the near future, so looking at it purely in these terms is somewhat unfair. Even when one steps back from the nitty-gritty of tool sets and the like, that this is an early beta still tends to mean that every positive about the platform seems to be countered by a negative, making drawing any clear-cut conclusion a little difficult.

That it draws on experience gain from the likes of Second Life and OpenSim is hardly surprising – Cory Ondrejka’s involvement notwithstanding – it would be foolhardy for anyone to enter an arena so closely aligned to both OpenSim and Second Life without taking a long, hard look at both regardless of people’s backgrounds / connections with either. Does Ondrejka’s involvement as an investor make Cloud Party any more a serious “rival” to SL than any of the more commercial offerings growing out of the OpenSim environment or OpenSim itself? No, it doesn’t – although it has certainly helped with Cloud party’s overall visibility.

On the technical front some have already decried Cloud Party on the basis of the browser-based approach and “lack of functionality”. I actually think this is a mistake, not only because this is still very early days and we have only the broadest of brush-strokes as to what we’re likely to see as the platform is enhanced, but also because like it or not, the UI actually works for the most part, and it is very easy to grasp. What’s more – it is not something that has to be downloaded and installed, nor does it act as wrapper around something that is downloaded and installed. In a word, it is accessible. And it is easy to grasp. Sure, one can argue that it is missing X or Y at this point in time – but the ease with which it gets people up and – literally – running (people don’t seem to walk in Cloud Party at present) around and doing things is impressive.

16 thoughts on “Cloud Party: the new kid on the block

  1. With 3 pages — you might at least have found out what their (Comprehensive) scripting language WAS !

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  2. It is one of many (and better than some) attempts to move beyond LL/SL.
    I still maintain that what holds most of us here is our inventories and the wide variety of creations available. LL would have to REALLY piss me off for me to move.
    LL definitely needs to pay attention to the tablet/cell phone/wireless trend; but without leaving the serious desktop gamers behind. I, for one, paid a lot of money for a machine that would allow me to see SL to it’s full potential.

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    1. It’s funny – there was an exchange on Twitter where precisely the same point was raised – and I agree. One of the biggest ties people have to SL is the amount they have spent on their inventory. Unless or until their friends all opt to up and move or LL do something so incredibly idiotic they manage to drive people from their doors, then the majority of people who have spent time and effort in SL will always prefer to look at their inventory, consider the expenditure it represents and stay.

      The mobile device market offers interesting challenges which some – such as Alina Lynette with the Lumiya client – are working towards cracking. It would be nice to see SL gain the capability to run on portable devices like tablets and mobiles, and it’ll be interesting to see how Cloud play pans-out once it is available for the likes of smartphones.

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          1. I don’t have a Windows 8 running on my PC or notebook, so can’t say. I’ve heard others are running SL on it successfully, however. Potentially the place to look for news is on the SL forums.

            Tablets-wise, Lumiya is – as far as I’m aware – the only client available (on the Android platform) that offers a reasonable SL experience, given it has basic in-world rendering which allows movement and actions as well as seeing the world around you, and provides core inventory access (with more functionality coming). It’s still a long way behind the technical complexity of the viewer (unsurprisingly), and doesn’t support building, etc., but the speed with which it is being enhanced is impressive.

            There are a number of text-based apps for Android and the iPhone, but how well these run on tablets, I can’t say (although I assume they work without issue); I’ve never actually used a tablet, mush less owned one! :).

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        1. Again, agreed – to a point.

          Cloud Party doesn’t have the content – yet. However, with due respect to all other VWs, none of them come close to SL in terms of the volume of goods that are available – but that actually hasn’t impacted their growth per se. As such, I think it is fair to say that from a consumer (rather than creator) perspective, the barrier to “jumping ship” has far more to do with how much money people have invested in their SL inventories than the availability (or otherwise) of goods elsewhere (alongside the fact that SL is “where their friends are”, obviously).

          So while a lack of goods can be an initial issue (and one all new VWs face), it isn’t something that cannot be overcome. Indeed, in this respect, Cloud Party may well have a major advantage over existing VWs. It is specifically geared towards mesh, and it would appear from initial experiments that mesh content initially created for the likes of SL (and elsewhere) readily uploads into CP with few issues and potentially far more easily than is the case with importing models in SL.

          Ergo, and assuming this remains the case, if Cloud Party can put together an attractive enough commercial proposition to 3D content creators (both those already involved in SL and other VWs and those who have yet to dip their toes in the water) and demonstrate that there is a viable and real means for said modellers to gain revenue from the platform, then the lack of appreciable content within CP might actually be very short-lived.

          Obviously, there are other issues around this point (and I’m deliberately only touching on questions of in-world economy and potential revenue for modellers in passing, in world to keep my points relatively succinct :)). Not the least of these is showing that the CP avatars can become sophisticated enough to have widespread appeal and are actually capable of supporting things like mesh clothing and attachments. There is also the inevitable issue of building a user base willing to actually buy the goods and float an economy within the platform.

          Both the creation of content and the need to build a user base are somewhat hand-in-glove, obviously. However, while CP may well be able to turn to to content creators already activity in SL and elsewhere in order to help build the required content, it isn’t necessarily tied to other VWs when it comes to growing a user base (although obviously the initial pioneers are more likely to come from SL and elsewhere).

          As I pointed out in the article, CP is sitting on the doorstep of the biggest on-line user community in the world, and are specifically geared towards getting that community into their world and doing things quickly and easily. If they can market themselves and their product in such a way as to get just 1% of that user community (or even just a half of one percent) engaged and involved in what they are offering, they actually don’t need the likes of you and me yo help turn their wheels (which is not to say they wouldn’t like to have us as well!).

          Inventory and content is fascinating, because right now there are so many unknowns. Again, as has been touched upon in Twitter exchanges – the fact that CP is largely spurning in-world content creation tools and capabilities might even aid Second Life and other VWs, simply because there could – will, perhaps, be users coming into CP who do want to create and build without having to go to the lengths of learning 3D content creation, and thus may gravitate to other VWs in order to do so.

          This is what makes Cloud Party so fascinating, assuming it does find its feet (and we should remember that it is a little over a week old in terms of the open beta) and that the developers can enhance its capabilities to a level of “game-like” sophistication, then things could go in so many directions, for the good of Cloud Party and for the good of grid-based VWs as a whole.

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  3. The language is said to be Javascript all over the [expletive] Internet. Could be really interesting from a programmer point of you. BUT… FaceBorg… Bleh! The [expletive] censorship… (Kill me [expletive] now!) And the avatars… Can I have Ruth instead? ROFL And the name is as [expletive] bad as SecondLife but for other reasons. “Cloud” is really used and abused in every way nowadays. Just don’t count me in. I’m going back into my “niche” with my flexi tail.

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    1. Yup. I questioned it, as I don’t have any build rights, etc, having an anonymous account, and people were actually questioning whether it was JavaScript or JavaScript + something else during my visit…

      The avatars need work, sure…but I actually prefer them overall to the old Ruth ;-). As stated, I’ll be watching CP to see where it goes.

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  4. There is a lot of ‘right now’ functionality that’s missing, dealing with things that are happing around you and presenting that. Social controls, interacting, sharing and collaborating.

    Saying the beta shouldn’t be judged for lacking these and other items is perhaps not very fair and misses a fundamental technical limitation.

    This runs in a a browser. The only upside is the quick access and they are already pushing the envelope.

    There is a limit on the amount of stuff you can do before the performance drops off, and that flight ceiling so to speak, is a lot lower then you might think. Sure there are plenty of very heavy weight web based applications around, but they all suffer the same problem, they are horrendously slow (and none of the examples I can think of try and render a 3D world).

    The more UI you add, the more tools you add, the richer you make the avatars, the more complicated the scenes, the faster you hit the critical hard limit. It might run on a table or iDevice now, give it a year and a bloat load of user generated content. Not a hope.

    With what’s been said by the creators and by cory, it looks like CP will not be changing in any drastic way between now and launch. There will be a market place to buy and sell content for your home, there will be homes and island spaces to buy.

    The are not social enough for the mass FB user base, they are not technical enough for the SL users, if There.com ever manage to pull off the same stunt, CP just wont stand a chance.

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    1. There is a lot of “right now” functionality missing for those who have the exposure to VWs and expect a lot of additional capabilities, yes. Collaboration is a big hole in things as that doesn’t seem to play a role in CP’s development – and I do actually think that is something they are going to regret if things stay that way.

      Does it miss a fundamental technical limitation? I’m not so sure. Frankly, without a clear roadmap, we don’t know where CP is going and precisely what the technology will support – and the broad indicators that have been given so far are just that: broad indicators, nothing more; they’re certainly not a definitive roadmap.

      Certainly, there is a technical limitation – we have the same within SL, where performance is constantly an issue (for vastly different reasons, granted, but it amounts to the same thing) – and users live with it. Providing it doesn’t become too much of an onus on CP, things could go the same way there.

      It’s an open book right now, with unwritten pages, and we simply don’t know. If I’m honest, I have doubts about CP’s longevity – for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned (revenue model, not sufficient enough differentiator to pull-in a sufficient critical mass from other VWs to encourage content development and more widespread use elsewhere, and so on. Even so, I’m not writing them off yet – and I think it potentially unwise to dismiss them so thoroughly. Other VWs have found a niche with as little to offer and even if CP fails to offer sufficient attraction to pull in hordes of FB users, there is not reason to say they cannot also find their niche placement on the basis of what we’re seeing right now or on the basis of the broad brush strokes of future direction the company has provided in statements to date.

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  5. I was writing a comment here in thanks for your thorough review, but it was getting so long that I decided to turn it into a 7000-word article instead… 🙂

    Thanks for convincing me to test Cloud Party 🙂 It was your article that made me try it out!

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