Building in Cloud Party
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.
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.
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.
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.