Cloud Party vs Second Life

A few Second Life bloggers are covering Cloud Party, a new 3D virtual world on Facebook. Hamlet at new World Notes has posted an interview with Cloud Party’s CEO, Sam Thompson.

My Home in Cloud Party

The current version of Cloud Party is a beta version. They are 9 months into development, which I think is pretty awesome.

To play anonymously: http://its.cloudpartytime.com/login/
To play via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CloudParty  – Now disabled.

There is a notice up today that says the Facebook links have stopped working. You can use your Facebook login stuff, but I can’t get to Cloud Party from my previous links. If you link to CloudPartyTime.com from Facebook while logged into FB, you are automatically logged into Cloud Party.

We’ve Moved

WARNING: If you attempt play using Internet Explorer 9, you will need to install a Google Chrome plug-in. I recommend using Firefox or Chrome to play.

Additionally if you login anonymously, you are very limited in what you can do.

Differences

I find the avatars in Cloudy party a bit cartoony. For now they are limited in appearance and clothes. So, like Blue Mars in the beginning, everyone looks alike. That will change with time.

Building

All building in Cloud Party (CP) is via mesh. There are no primitives, meaning no parametric objects as we have in SL, think cube with its parameters twist, hole, taper, and etc. CP has basic building shapes one can rez just as Blender has basic building shapes. Still the cubes and spheres are mesh objects.

Object Editing

In-world you can scale and rotate things very much as is done in SL. Some of the move interface I find clumsy to use. To move things one needs to adjust the ‘increment’. Basically the ‘increment’ changes the ‘snap to grid’ increment for movement. All movement is ‘snap to grid’. I can see where that would make fitting standard size things together easier. But, it threw me a curve for the first things I was moving. It took a minute to figure out how to position a TV on a table.

Camera Control

The first I really miss in CP is camera controls. There are other camera control modes; Free Camera, Focus or Tethered Camera, and Maya Camera. You can find and explanation of how these work within build mode here: Cloud Party Camera Controls in Build Mode.

I think they are still way lame, but give them time. This is a beta.

Making Clothes

It helps a great deal to read the documentation. Duh! Of course finding it is a bit trick. For building it is here: Cloud Party Forum: Building Controls. This video is done using Maya. But it is possible to use Blender. The steps for making mesh clothes in Second Life and Cloud Party are pretty much the same.

Cloud Party Forum

When you want to make clothes, check out the video here: Video tutorial for creating a simple dress. (21 minutes) This is mostly about modeling in Maya. At time mark 13:00 the part about importing into CP starts.

There is an shorter video of just the import part. See: Creating New Costume Pieces in Cloud Party Tutorial. CP calls clothes costume pieces.

You can get the avatars here: Cloud Party Custom Content: Avatars download. They come with the skeleton/armature in Collada format and FBX. There is a Maya file included too. I was not able to do anything with the files. Blender is not cooperating this morning. It’s FBX import is not showing. I’ll try another time when I have more patience and can mess with the FBX converter. Text-Enhance has invaded my browsers and I’m rather pissy this morning.

Cloud Party uses Collada format for their imports. So, Blender theoretically has the tools to use with CP. This may help expand interest in Collada in the Blender community, which is a good thing for SL.

CP has a simplified avatar and no real body shape controls, at least for now. So, making one dress fits all avatars.

Materials/Textures

CP has a materials system, something we lack in SL. Materials systems allow creators to use normal maps. You may know them as bump maps, but there is a technical difference between bump and normal maps. These maps allow creators to add detail to models they build.

We have bump map ability in SL. We are limited to only a half dozen different maps. That limit makes it a nearly useless feature of SL, at least for me.

I don’t know if we can make skins. The default skin wears underwear. No nudity. It will be interesting to see if they add or block the more adult content.

Animations and Skeletons

In Second Life we have one skeleton or in 3D modeling terms: an armature. We cannot upload other skeletons. In CP we can. There is a video using Maya showing how to make a simple skeleton and animation for a cylinder. See: Cloud Party Animation Tutorial. This is the same page we looked at for the short video on importing clothes.

Emotes

In Second Life we have facial expressions we call emotes. We can’t do much with them other than play them. Our emote-huds just play the built in emotes. We also have gestures, which are a sort of simplified scripts that we can use toplay emotes (smile or frown), animations to dance or whatever, and say things in chat.

In CP their emotes do not appear one to manipulate the face. But, that could just my impression and lack of knowledge. Otherwise, CP Emotes are like SL Gestures, but a bit more complex to do. They start building the emote in Maya. Don’t freak. That is just a tutorial. In SL if we want to add an animation we have to work outside SL to build the animation too. CP has the tools, abet primitive now, to build there emote from an inventory of animations.

See: Cloud Party Tutorial for creating emotes.

38 thoughts on “Cloud Party vs Second Life

  1. I tried it using Firefox 13.0.1 and got:

    “It looks like your computer or browser does not support WebSockets.

    You may also have more luck with Google Chrome.”

    Apparently, they push people to use Big Brother’s browser… That’ll be without me, folks !

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  3. nice overview Nal, as usual. I spoke a couple times with Sam and Conor (2 of the founders, I believe). They said several times that they really want feedback, so hopefully they’ve seen this blog. Also, asking for feedback from residents is one of the best examples of the cliche “drinking from a firehose” I’ve encountered, so I hope they’re ready. 😉

    • While I was just accessing CP from FB I was puzzled where more info was. Google was not finding it. I hope they made their forum Google friendly.

  4. On scripting…

    “We can do more in SL and way more in OpenSim, but again this is a beta.”

    I’d agree LSL is meatier right now, but not entirely for the right reasons. Some things in Cloud Party are just way easier to pull off for a variety of reasons that might mean we never see some LSL function equivalents that solve similar problems.

    Example, given its possible right now in Cloud Party to “animPlay({keyword: ‘meeroo_jump’})”, that negates the need for a lot of LSL functions that are chiefly used to pull off motion in linksets.

    There’s also no HTTP functions as far as I can tell, but the necessity of those are mitigated by Cloud Party’s scripts’ “persistent state” in a lot of cases. Scripts can share a “state key” that allows them to share parameters. And these persistent parameters exist at 3 levels: user, object, global. So for a lot of Second Life scripts out there doing everything between writing and reading to an object’s description field to leveraging MySQL for fear of script resets or inability to share state between scripts, this exists in Cloud Party.

    The fact that its Javascript is pretty great too. Key/value hash objects and multidimensional arrays are something in CP that would eliminate a lot of hackery in LSL scripts.

    Other than that I’d also add that “Head” and “Body” are costume piece options. So you shouldn’t think of “Male” and “Female” as avatars inclusive their heads and bodies so much as “Male” and “Female” are just 2 different skeleton types. Meaning for custom skins and shapes, that’ll probably happen via creating Costumes. No idea though how content creators are going to be expected to make sure every custom Body and Head fits other costume pieces like shirts, etc. Looks like CP might have its own deformer issue.

    • I haven’t worked with CP enough to know, but it looks like the avatars and clothes will have to be matched sets. CP may never be as mix and match as SL.

  5. I tried Cloud Party yesterday and it was working fine. I never liked Blue Mars, but Cloud Party definatly will be a Second Life competitor. Though the interesting thing that I noticed is, nobody likes to use his official Facebook account. People that I talked to use their SL-Facebook account or create a new one just for Cloud Party. Hardly anybody is playing Facebook games anymore from the people that I know. I think Facebook integration was intended to be the major advantage of Cloud Party. The other of course is a modern architecture. It is fast and runs smoothly. SL residents will have an easy transition, since most stuff is cloned from SL. This could be a real danger to SL, but also result in innovation in SL, since they have real competition for the first time.

    • People like the free games. Advertisers like all the eyes. But, metrics on sales results from FB advertising are rarely seen. The lack of solid results and people’s tiring of the games is hurting FB.

      Anonymous play seems to be important to people. But, that breaks the financial model of FB. I think FB management sees the two as incompatible.

      • There is really no way (right now) that CP can take advantage of FB ads or something like that, like Zynga does. In fact, games on Facebook are dying a slow death; so unless the CP developers are insane, they’re not after that at all, but are just using FB logins as a quick & dirty way to establish accounts with profiles & pictures etc. without the need to force people to type a lot — because people are lazy 🙂 — and it will also make sure that you don’t get people grumbling over names “taken over” by others and so forth (although it does mean you’ll get a zillion “John Smiths”, all of them valid avatar names, of course).

        Thanks for the very technical review, Nalates. It was particularly interesting to understand how you develop content, meshed clothing & shapes, animations, and so forth — I had missed all that on other reviews 🙂

  6. Great article Nal. I know I can always count on you to sum things up well and present an accurate picture.

    Second Life still has advantages over Cloud Party. You have mentioned avatars that we can easily customize as one of them.

    Let us not downplay the importance of being able to link regions, move between them and interact with everyone there. I see the isolation of islands and breaking into instances as a huge disadvantage. Consider events featuring live musicians or staged productions. You cannot hold a large event if 24 or more people cannot see or hear the performers. Many role play sims like to group together to form continents to encourage movement and role play between them.

    Speaking of live performance, that is not currently possible in Cloud Party without voice and ability to stream audio or other media. Ventrillo or Skype has limits, and it would be very difficult to get everyone through the process of logging into these and connecting.

    Anonymity is very important to us. We like to disconnect between our real life identities and our in world presence. Our avatars have taken on identities and lives of their own. I know I value my privacy. Not everyone has a right to know everything about me. My kids, employer, favourite Auntie, siblings, or friends do not need to know everything about me. I like the freedom to explore new things, ideas, and activities privately.

    Vivienne has a life of her own. She is associated with a store, Black Rose, established in Second Life in 2004. Stepping into Cloud Party with my real name, no-one knows who I am. It could even damage business. Who wants to buy sexy lingerie from a grandmother who looks like a grandmother? I don’t sell sexy lingerie, but what if I did, or worse such as sex toys? Image is everything, and that is true in virtual worlds as it is in real life.

    In Cloud Party, I saw many Second Life names I recognized. What is the risk in doing that? How likely is Facebook to discover them and bring the hammer down on them? What would they do? Would they warn first, or just ban all of your accounts without warning?

    Cloud Party may be something we do in addition to Second Life, like WOW or SWTOR, or other games, but I don’t think we will be leaving Second Life. I can see myself bringing my mesh into Cloud Party and selling it there, and welcome that opportunity. i can see myself inviting my grandson in (if it does not permit adult content) and spending time there teaching him some cool skills that could be useful to his future (modelling, scripting) or visiting and having fun at cool places together. With the fast and easy tutorial and easy to learn basic interface, I can see me organizing a virtual world morning coffee klatch with my siblings, kids, nieces, nephews, and favourite Auntie in Cloud Party.

    I see Cloud Party as more of a threat to the popular IMVU than I do to Second Life. If it pulls in a lot of the IMVU crowd, I will be a very happy content creator and merchant.

    Go Cloud Party! Second Life, you are my first virtual world love and I will never leave you.

    • I had another thought on the problem of instances.

      Imagine you are part of a group who own islands built on a common role play theme that wish to interact with each other. You have a great idea and say to your friends, “Hey I see some people over there! Let’s go raid them!” You buckle on your sword, put on your armour and teleport over. You arrive, and realize that only two of your group have made it it. You look at your partner and say, “Oh crap, we’re going to die.” Meanwhile, on Instance B the bulk of your raiding party lands and says, “Where did everybody go?”

      Imagine you hear about a new cool club, or your friend is DJ at a hot club tonight. You look forward to meeting new friends. You go there, but land in a new instance with no DJ, no friends, no-one to dance with or meet.

      Imagine you hear about a great scripting class and you want to learn Cloud Party’s new scripting language at the CP Builder’s Brewery. You hop on over, but drat, you are in a different instance from the instructor.

      I don’t think Second Life has anything to worry about, at least for a while.

    • Thank you very much for this comment. You touched several points I had not thought of.

      I suspect you are very much on with the idea of Cloud Party being more of a competitive threat to IMVU than SL. I hadn’t thought of that as I seldom play with IMVU.

      I am curious how long free uploads will last at CP. SL has upload costs based on mesh complexity for a good reason.

      Grandmom selling sex toys… now there is a visual.

      • IMVU also has a lot of content going on which allows people to personalise all their avatars pretty easily — and a huge marketplace for content. On the other hand, it might be easier to adapt IMVU clothes (they’re all meshed too) to CP clothes…

        And, of course, IMVU is room-based but it’s not trivial to create one own’s room, while CP makes it possible for anyone to do so.

        But to displace IMVU out of its market, they would need to do the kind of massive advertising that IMVU did 🙂

  7. Nal, here are the geometry and rig files for the CP Avatar in .blend format:

    MaleRig: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/33011823/MaleRig.zip
    FemaleRig: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/33011823/FemaleRig.zip

    They don’t include the skin weights though. They just wouldn’t come through with the conversion. Hopefully, the company will provide more formats other than Maya for the geometry/skin weight files.

    Also, this rig can’t be used to make animations for CP. Something is off with rotations. The CP staff said they were looking into it. The rig is suitable for making clothing and attachments however.

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  9. It seems Cloud Party is aiming to be a nearly direct clone of Second Life, right down to the network architectural decisions. Specifically, like SL, it seems to be a server-side only architecture, i.e. scripts, physics, and other aspects of “game simulation” run on the server or are at least initiated by the server, and updates are streamed to a “dumb” client which mostly only does rendering. As such it inherits the same limitations as SL.

    I think a lot of why SL has kind of flat-lined is because the set of things you can *do* in the world is very limited due to the architecture. This is basically the whole “SL as a platform” issue, which it simply never had the architecture to achieve in the first place.

    For example, despite the abundance of very good network multplayer action games in today’s world, you can’t play or implement games (well) in SL because the scripts run on the server and thus the lag can’t be masked. There are many people who like to do game-like activities such as sword fights or military wars in SL but I can only imagine they do it because the *social experience* outweighs the atrociousness of the game experience.

    Despite the very rich amateur music DJ and live performance culture in SL (one of the best parts of the world!), you can’t implement something like the Daft Punk concert in SL (light show synched with music), despite how a gaming world should be *perfect* for that sort of thing, again because everything executes on the servers and thus synching is impossible.

    Anything which is latency sensitive or involves time synchronization is fundamentally impossible in SL.

    Since ’97 or so, with the advent of network gaming, making a lag-tolerant multi-user synchronized virtual experience has been a well understood thing. All games now, practically universally, use fundamentally the same client-side predicted, server-side authoritative approach, implemented using parallel simulation on both the server AND client simultaneously, from AAA multiplayer games like CoD right down to many of the most humble of indie games on Xbox Live. All the game engines (Unreal, Cryengine, Valve Source, etc. etc.) have that approach built in. Yet 15 years into the age of network gaming, nobody has ever made a virtual world which doesn’t fall back to an everything-runs-on-the-server approach. As such, the set of things realizable in virtual worlds has remained capped. Almost anything is implementable in a modern game engine, yet only a particular subset has become possible in virtual worlds.

    The failure of Blue Mars is really too bad, as it was to be implemented with Cryengine. It would have been the first virtual world with modern networking. It might have meant that things like lag-sensitive action games or virtual live performances might have actually become possible in a virtual world. Cloud Party seems content to retrace the path of SL.

    • Wow, excellent points, Sage… when I heard the bare-bones description of Cloud Party, I didn’t realise it was actually pretty much the same philosophy that Cory had put down on his papers and academic articles in… 2003. While CP might look different, it really works in the same way. That’s a very interesting observation.

      I have no experience in game design and architecture, but my knowledge is barely enough to understand that those decisions the Lab made in 2001-2003 were a result of having to deal with user-generated content on demand, i.e. scenes where the content is being modified, in real time, by groups of avatars collaborating together. At that time, relying solely on client-side sync would complicate matters. OpenCroquet was the first thing I read about which attempted to deal with this problem, but that was years ago. I can imagine that nowadays there is nothing “magical” about collaborative, real-time, user-generated content that requires everything to be done on the server. Maybe LL should hire you as a consultant to let them know how it’s done! If LL doesn’t want to, perhaps Cloud Party, Inc. is more willing to listen to you…

      Maybe now I’m finally understanding why LL wants to put Havok in the client and start off-loading some of the server functions to the viewer instead. Perhaps someone at the ‘Lab figured out that they had to start somewhere…

      • Wow, I did not expect the famous and ever insightful Gwyneth Llewelyn to reply! :O Thank you for the gracious comment. It’s really painful to see virtual worlds not reach their true promise due to stagnation of the architecture. Virtual worlds will always be incredibly limited in terms of what can be realized in them until they too have the basic networking amenities of a proper game engine. As you say, the difficulties of doing that with real-time changes made it sensible to stay server-only back in the day, but things have evolved enormously since then.

        That said, it’s not a trivial problem. As far as I know, as of yet *nobody* has successfully married game technology with full-blown “streaming”. Mostly that’s because there hasn’t been much demand, but to this day games are generally compiled and distributed using installs. Even the capability for basic streaming of graphical assets is not found in most of the big engines, and it’s only now with the shift to web and mobile gaming that one finally sees it in engines targeting those platforms, e.g. the Unity engine. (So far Unity supports asset streaming, but otherwise its networking is still limited.) SL’s big contribution to game technology was a systematic streaming of media assets (but not “game logic”) for the purpose of realizing a full 3D world. However it falls down on the server-side only thing. Someday somebody will properly put the two together.

        The master of streaming these days is the world wide web itself. Besides the media assets of a page, Javascript, and often flash (code) is streamed and allowed to execute client-side. The network synchronization problem is easier than for games (but also more ad hoc), but the server and client interact more or less nicely (AJAX etc.). On the client side, code can interact with all the page elements. That’s why the web, despite its warts, is a true network applications platform. Philip Rosedale used to wax philosophical about SL as a platform being the future WWW, but the great irony is that the part which would have made that possible is exactly what’s missing from SL. The oft flogged analogy of the SL viewer to the web browser is actually quite appropriate here. In a virtual world, like with the web, you want to be able to stream both media assets *and* code to the viewer. The code needs to be able to execute client-side and it needs to be able to interact with the 3D scene (“document model”), though synchronized with the server in a way particular to games.

        Because of the inherently streaming nature of the web, the games closest to achieving this marriage are currently web games (e.g. facebook games). Who knows, with the advent of serious web game technology such as WebGL, perhaps the eventual marriage of proper game-engine networking with streaming will start not with virtual worlds but in a smaller way with web games. Wouldn’t it be funny if Cory pushed for that at facebook?

        That’s a great point you make about client-side Havok. It would be very nice if there’s somebody at Linden Labs pushing for these things.

  10. I’m surprised that many people see sharding as a roadblock for live music events. I see it as a big advantage. Once the scripting language includes basic functions to read data from remote servers, synchronizing multi-shard content will be a walk in the park.

    http://forums.cloudpartytime.com/discussion/56/feature-request-support-for-live-performances

  11. Hi, thanks for all these interesting coments.

    I just want to add something about Sam Thompson the CEO, he seems to be there all time, thought sometimes he was several lol. But he’s very friendly and listening your ideas. Did someone talk to governor linden ? This is very important for me, i m making à web site for french people (francophone) www.cloud-party.fr and i already asked several times his help.

    I think because of this, cloud party will raise quickly.

    • “Governor Linden” is technically not even a real person 😉 but a general-purpose avatar that is used for maintenance. That doesn’t mean that he/she is never seen online; it’s just very rare! So no wonder you don’t get replies from Governor Linden…

      To get in touch with the Lindens you should visit their Office Hours instead. To know when the next is due, you can follow them on Twitter.

      If all else fails, get in touch with Torley Linden. Whatever his current role at Linden Lab is called, his main duty is to make residents happy 🙂 Also, since Torley is Canadian, he might be quite fond of supporting francophone projects…

      • What I was meaning is it’s nearly impossible to talk to one of the second’s life CEO.

        Sam Thompson is very friendly, has important knowledges, and really helpful, not just a financial.

        And i talked sometimes to torley on forums, and i must say that was nice.

        • Ah, sorry, I misunderstand you. I wouldn’t say it’s “nearly impossible” — Rod Humble, LL’s current CEO, might be hard to catch in-world, but he routinely posts on forums and the like. He also answers emails.

          The difference is that Cloud Party is still a tiny, 5-person startup, where all founders necessarily need to do their all their work in-world setting up everything. While Linden Lab has grown to 200 employees since 1999, and no matter how much fun Rod Humble has logging in to SL, he still needs time to manage a 200-person-company from his office…

          So it’s obvious that Sam is in Cloud Party all the time 🙂 I used to own a start-up too, and during the first years, I was always online chatting with my customers on IRC… then, as things start to grow, administrative matters require pretty much all the time, and we had to hire employees to deal with users directly. That’s normal. What is unusual about Linden Lab is that even after more than a decade, the executive team not only continues to have time to log in to Second Life, but to answer emails from all customers and even participate on blogs and forums…

          How often do you see Steve Ballmer on Microsoft Messenger? Or Larry Page on Google Hangouts? 🙂

  12. Now you can earn money in the Cloud Party Marketplace (US residents for now) Paypal will come later for other countries.

    5 slots are free to put an item for sale, but you can sell inworld for free too, unlimited items.

    On peut maintenant gagner de l’argent sur Cloud Party en vendant ses créations sur le marketplace de Cloud Party, seulement si on a un compte bancaire américain pour le moment, Paypal viendra ensuite.

    5 objets à mettre en vente gratuitement sur le marketplace et en illimité inworld.

    A bientôt dans les nuages

  13. Pingback: CloudParty: Nuovo mondo virtuale all’orizzonte, guida all’uso… | VIRTUAL WORLDS MAGAZINE

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