Update: Botgirl Questi pointed me to this coverage of the Yahoo! buy-out of Cloud Party, which includes a statement from Yahoo! on the acquisition.
It’s been the darling for some, and has come a long way in a short period of time. However, it now appears is if things are to draw to a close at Cloud Party, as spotted by Phadrus on the SLU forums.
After a year which has seen some rapid development, particularly in the latter half of 2013, with features and options being added nigh-on weekly – such as Oculus Rift support, and e-mail updates hitting users’ in boxes as a matter of routine, the company has today announced a major change of direction via a new blog post from Cloud Party’s CEO, Sam Thompson.
The blog post reads in full:
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 us at email@example.com.
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!
While “closing” isn’t specifically mentioned in the post, an end-date for the service is clearly given – February 21st. This tends to indicate that this is more than a matter of Cloud Party simply transitioning to a new owner following acquisition, and that the platform is indeed going away. This begs the question as to what Sam and his team will be doing at Yahoo!, and will the experiences they’ve gained through running Cloud Party be part of whatever plans their new employers have?
Given that this is Yahoo!, who haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory with either the acquisition of Flickr or the overhaul of their own Yahoo! Groups, will anyone from the “old” Cloud Party be sufficiently motivated to sign-up to whatever does follow?
While it perhaps never attracted the volume of users it might, Cloud Party offered some intriguing concepts, many of which did attract a fair few content creators from the likes of Second Life, particularly given the ease with which mesh creations could be designed and imported into the platform.
So far, there has been no visible response to the announcement on the Cloud Party forums, although the word is spreading.
It’s been a while since I last reported on developments over on Cloud Party. There’s a lot that has been going on and which I’ve received e-mails about; I’ve just not had time to sit down and write-up everything.
The platform has recently started introducing features and capabilities on a weekly basis which have seen one or two new features introduced each week. The most recent of these is an official announcement of support for Oculus Rift.
The blog post, issued on Wednesday October 9th, gave details on the support being provided, including the regions within Cloud Party which have been set-up for use with the headset.
There’s currently no native Rift support within Cloud Party, so those with an Oculus Rift SDK kit will need to go one of two routes: either run OculusBridge, a standalone app which bridges the headset and a web browser via websockets, or via vr.js, a browser plugin which works directly with the headset (although the blog post notes this is not recommended as a result of Google’s announcement that Chrome will cease support for plugins in 2014).
The blog post additionally provides general advice on using the Rift – including notes about head movement (the visual stimulus and sudden head movements have been known to cause nausea and other issues as a result mismatched inner-ear cues).
One of the builds within Cloud Party supporting Rift use is a hoverbike race, which appears to be based on the race launched in late September and promoted via a short video.
Other recent updates over the past two months or so have seen a revamp of the Cloud Party website, which had it take on far more of a social environment feel, with the ability to preview people’s builds, “Like” them, share them via social media, etc., and which included the ability to embed builds in things like YouTube, etc.
August also saw the introduction of a new membership structure, with free accounts replaced the limited-functionality “anonymous” accounts together with a two-tier subscription option for general users. Thes free account option provides users with an unlimited number of “small” builds (up to 10MB bandwidth per build), 5 marketplace listings and knowledge base access.
The Basic subscription option, at $14.95 a month ($11.95 if paid annually), includes the “free” membership features and:
2 medium sized builds
20 free marketplace listings
Billing / Fraud Support
Privacy / group edit settings on builds
The Pro subscription, at $99.95 a month ($79.95 if paid annually) features the above and:
4 medium sized Builds, 2 large Builds
100 free marketplace listings
Live tech support
There is also an Enterprise subscription / billing option, but details of this have to be applied for from Cloud Party directly.
Further recent updates have seen avatars within Cloud Party become more customisable, with facial customisations and animated attachments, while builds have gained customisable skies and the ability to play videos.
A key factor with many of the updates is that they’ve also been accompanied with tutorials on how to make use of them’ such as with the customisable skies, helping users make the most of the updates. One has been promised for the Oculus Rift support as well.
For those not already aware of the fact, Cloud Party is no longer tied to Facebook for access. You can now do so via Facebook or Google+ or via account registration. As a formally “anonymous” user, I switched to using my Google+ account back in August. Logging-in with it was smooth and hassle-free – although I did experience an odd moment of deja-vu when an avatar picker looking remarkably like the one used in Second Life many moons ago popped-up!
All told, Cloud Party continues to hum along, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, it’ll be interesting to see what else pops up in the coming weeks.
I’m not that active in Cloud Party, although I do log-in from time to time, largely because Claudia222 Jewell has a workshop there and I love slipping in and seeing what she is doing, and also because Maxwell Graf tends to be busy there as well.
Nevertheless, Cloud Party appear to be very much aware of me, as I discovered they’d e-mailed me about their first art contest. Entitled the “Monumental Work of Public Art”, it is being held to mark the platform’s first first anniversary, and it is open to anyone to enter.
On offer is a $1,000 USD prize for the overall winner, and a 2,000 Cloud Coins prize for the “Community Favourite” entry as judged by Cloud Party residents. In addition, all artists entering the contest will receive an in-world studio workspace in which to create their entry.
The e-mail announcement reads in part:
Cloud Party is pleased to announce a very exciting community event to celebrate our first year. In collaboration with Ben Davis, editor of Artinfo Magazine, we are sponsoring an Art in Cloud Party contest. Our theme is “Monumental Work of Public Art” with a first prize of $1,000.00 (USD)! The Community Favourite prize, as voted by our community, takes home 2000CC (Cloud Coins virtual currency).
If you decide to enter, you’ll get access to your own virtual studio space for a month to create your masterpiece. Entries will be judged on the following criteria:
Originality of concept
How well it takes advantage of the virtual environment
The rules for what you create are pretty wide open. It can be visual, interactive, collaborative – whatever you come up with that meets your definition of art and reflects our theme. Since this is a subjective topic we intend to be pretty open-minded, but do keep our Terms of Service in mind and that this is a 13+ website.
Key Dates for the Contest
The contest opens at 12:00 noon PDT on Wednesday May 8th, 2013
Last of contest and first day of community voting: 17:00 PDT Wednesday June 12th, 2013
Official winner and Community Favourite winner announcement: 12:00 noon PDT Friday June 14th, 2013.
The overall winner will be judged by Ben Davis, editor of Artinfo magazine.
How To Enter
Those wishing to enter must submit Art in Cloud Party Entry Formafter the competition has formally opened at midday PDT on Wednesday March 8th, 2013 – any entry forms received before this time will be ignored
Entrants should receive confirmation of their application and be granted access to their Cloud Party studio workspace within 24 hours of their entry form being received
Once an entry is completed, an Art in Cloud Party Submission Form must be submitted in order for the piece to be considered in the formal judging and Community Favourites contest.
As per their promise at the start of the beta, Cloud Party have started offering island for rent.
Two island types have been initially offered, the wording of the FAQ suggesting more may be in the pipeline. These are termed “Private” and “Deluxe” and have the following specs:
Each island comes with its own URL – allowing you to access it directly from any web-browser (logging-in to CP in the process). Currently, there is no access control for islands – they are open to anyone using the navigation option or who “bubble hops”, although access controls are a promised future feature. This point aside, island rental does give you:
“Full” control within the bubble surrounding the island, so you can alter the colour / direction of the light, change the time of day and the look of the sky in general
The ability to remove the default island itself and replace it with something you’ve uploaded, such as a space station or “underwater base” or whatever captures your imagination.
Build rights, and the ability (as of July 4th) to define who else has build rights on your island (see below for further details).
Additionally, deluxe islands have the option to rework the external mesh of the bubble itself from the default transparent sphere.
Give the volumes quoted for the islands would appear to refer to the bubbles surrounding them rather than the actual sizes of the islands themselves, it’s hard to get a grip on the physical surface area available with each type of island. However, I’d estimate a private island has a surface area of around 6,000 sq metres and a deluxe at around 190,000 sq metres.
I base both calculations on the maximum circular area available within each sphere (again, taking the quoted sizes of 100 and 500 metres as diameters, rather than radii) and then allowing for a small “gap” between the islands and the sphere boundary and making an allowance for the irregular shape of both islands. The “gap” allowance seems reasonable given it is possible to “fall off” the edge of an island rather than hitting the sphere boundary (you get returned to the middle of the sphere if you do, presumably after “hitting” the boundary of the sphere).
Even at 6,000 sq metres, the private island would seem to provide enough room to establish a comfortable home and should suit most personal requirements. The deluxe island appears to be around the same size as the residential islands that were rolled out at the start of the beta, and which offer individual homes available to those with Facebook accounts. As such, they do provide an appreciable amount of space that could be put to a wide variety of uses.
Each island type includes a set of quota for building. This is defined in three ways: objects, dynamic objects and triangles. Mesh elements can comprise up to four material faces, each of which itself actually counts as a single “object”. So while it may appear to be a single object, it comprises a material face count (just like an SL linkset comprises prims and sculpts), and it is the material face count that impacts an island’s object quota, not the mesh object itself (just like the objects in a linkset count towards land impact in SL, not the linkset per se).
Displaying information on objects is potentially confusing at present. Right-clicking on an in-world object and displaying an information pop-up for it, for example, only reveals the triangle count. Going to the Build mode, however, does provide counts for triangles, objects and dynamic objects – but also introduces a further category, that of “large objects”. Quite how this relates to the primary object count is unclear, and as I don’t have build rights myself in CP, it is not something I’ve been able to investigate in any real detail.
It’ll be interesting to see how objects and goods are defined when the Cloud Party marketplace is rolled out. From a purely lay perspective, one would suggest that the baseline measure should be “material faces”, as this seems to be the most accurate means of comparing actual content with the object allowances of each island type. However, it is probably fair to say that triangle counts may also be a contender from a technical perspective.
Search and Build Permissions Updates
In introducing the rental islands, CP have also updated the Navigation option of the Cellphone to include a basic search option, allowing you to search for locations either by name or user name.
On July 4th, Cloud Party added the capability for those renting islands to let friends build on their island. This can be enabled via the island information page (Cellphone->Navigation-> Personal Tab->Current Island->Edit Info button). This now includes a Build Permissions: Edit button. Clicking this displays a list of Facebook friends with Cloud Party accounts, and names can be dragged to the FULL ACCESS box. This allows them to build on your island, and they can move / delete anything you have placed on your island. They cannot, however, edit or duplicate objects. Further information on CP’s permissioning system will apparently be announced “Once the marketplace is closer”.
Command Line Options
Something that hasn’t appeared to have been widely covered in blogging about Cloud Party is the availability of command line options. Whether this is because they are a new feature or not, I’ve no idea, but they provide a range of interesting options. Commands can be entered in chat and are preceded by “/”. Entering a single letter after the slash (e.g. “/a”) displays a list of commands starting with that letter. While visiting Claudia222 Jewell I had a play with a few of the commands, including the avatar rescaling, which allows you to instantly alter your avatar’s size (between 1.5 times and 0.5 time the default size).
So rentals are now available within Cloud Party. How popular they prove to be after the initial “curiosity rush” has passed remains to be seen. As others have stated, the platform has a good way to go before it can be considered a serious contender in the VW ring – and I still remain unconvinced on building a platform purely around a land revenue model. I’ll be continuing to watch developments as best I can as they are announced / rolled-out and allowing for the fact there is still – as yet – nothing within Cloud party sufficient enough for me to sign-up with Facebook in any capacity whatsoever.