Sailboat Prototype

I wanted to find out, if it was be possible to build a sailboat in Cloud Party. One of the content creators was kind to build a simple reference sailing ship. It didn’t support collisions, advanced sailing physics or even keyboard controls, but still it was an exciting experience and I’m thankful for his demo and helpfulness.

One of the Cloud Party developers gave me some ideas, how to start the sailboat project. I made a simple sailboat prototype mesh and script, to see how a simulated floating vehicle would behave. However, the first challenge was to make the sailboat float. Since the Cloud Party physics doesn’t know the water level, water doesn’t have any effect on the boat. A natural consequence of this was, that the boat sank like a stone, that was a quite discouraging experience. :(

But it doesn't float...

But it doesn’t float…

The only solution, to prevent the boat from sinking, was to disable gravity and simulate floating behavior in the sailboat script. That may not be the most elegant solution, but currently we don’t have anything else. Since keyboard controls (namely the arrow keys) can’t be dispatched to the boat script, the sailboat was controlled with local chat commands.

Here we go!

Here we go!

Eventually the boat moved, turned and heeled without major issues. At moment the boat is closer to a motorboat than a sailboat. Still, I’m happy that the proof of concept succeeded!

Next it’s time to replace the ad-hoc physics of the prototype with something more realistic and try make the boat use wind. If Cloud Party development team added a feature, to control simulated vehicles with keyboard, we should have all needed ingredients, to put together a usable sailboat. One day we will be there. :)

Walking on the deck as the boat moves

Walking on the deck as the boat moves

Advertisements

New Worlds

Do you remember the golden years of Second Life, when the virtual world was growing and everybody was excited about the future? Many saw Second Life as a pixel revolution, which would become a 3D Internet one day. But it didn’t and it won’t. The long term trend shows, that Second Life land mass is shrinking steadily and the current Linden management lacks vision, how to fix that. Meanwhile its competitors are becoming stronger and stronger. Recent statistics show, that OpenSim-based virtual worlds, especially InWorldz, are gaining popularity steadily. I feature two interesting alternatives to Second Life below shortly: InWorldz and Cloud Party.

InWorldz

OpenSim-based technology is improving little by little. It’s a project to build similar server software like the one running in Linden Lab’s clusters. As the name implies, OpenSim is open-source software built by community and contributed by some of the major commercial grids too. On viewer-side we can use either Third-Party-Viewers (TPV) or grid-specific viewers, that both are based on Second Life technology.

InWorldz is one of the leading grids currently, according to the statistics. Many Second Life content creators are selling their products in InWorldz too. It’s not difficult to find high-quality skins, hairs, clothes, houses and other goods there. Some time ago InWorldz even asked ex-Linden developer, Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz), to implement clothing deformer in their viewer, which is a branch of Firestorm. Other cool technical enhancements are Nvidia physx integration and the phlox script engine.

St. George Reef, InWorldz

St. George Reef, InWorldz

But what about the world itself? Since the viewer-side is practically same as in Second Life, it looks and feels same too, that lowers learning curve dramatically. When I signed in InWorldz, my first question was, how to find shops and destinations, since there is no marketplace or destination guide. Currently Firestorm and Kokua lack V1-like searches, that are required to make in-world search to work, but InWorldz viewer supports them. Kokua is planning to add it in the future.

InWorldz Search

Search dialog

In addition to content and technology, social life is very important part of virtual worlds. If you are a new resident, you will end up to InWorldz Desert Island (IDI), where you can find mentors and other people, to ask questions and recommendations. There is also a board, which gives you a long list of landmarks to different stores and places. To find events, I was recommended to join two groups, called “Where Can I Find It” and “Pulse of Inworldz”. It was an interesting co-incidence, that I met a content creator in InWorldz Desert Island. She was very upset because of the recent ToS change of Linden Lab too.

InWorldz Desert Island

InWorldz Desert Island

For some reason, I had problems with world map search. It couldn’t find anything, but remained in searching state. I contacted to InWorldz support, who responded quickly, that they will ask developer to check out the situation soon. This was impressive, compared to Second Life support.

Cloud Party

Cloud Party was started over two years ago and has matured significantly during that time. Its software architecture is very modern, as you can use a WebGL capable web browser as a client (Chrome or Chromium are recommended, though) and there is a lot of innovation included, that makes SL look like a dinosaur compared to it. Builders should be happy, because they can use diffuse and normal maps to improve surfaces, and meshes are supported out of box. There is no home-made scripting language, similar to LSL, but all scripts are written in JavaScript, which is one of the most widely used programming language in the world.

The world of Cloud Party is different from Second Life or OpenSim grids. There are islands (also known as “builds”), that are like isolated planets in the universe. You can make them look exactly as you like. There are many builds, that look like nature, but some others are surreal. There is no such thing as water level by default, but you can create large volumes, that look like water. So far I don’t have any information, if it’s possible to swim or sail on them.

Island template by Landscapes Unlimited

Island template by Landscapes Unlimited

There is a marketplace, where you can find different kinds of things, like houses, clothes, plants, etc. Still, the selection is very humble compared that of Second Life. That makes your freedom to customize your avatar limited, but the selection is improving slowly, as content creators are becoming interested in the world. A fascinating feature of marketplace is, that you can sell building components and get royalties of their use automatically, when the derived works are sold.

My house in my free starter land

My house in my free starter land

You can find people in the public places by keeping your eyes on the “active” tab of the navigation app. Some of them are from Second Life, others not. There is a mix of people with pseudonym names and Facebook-based real life identities. If you want to have a private place, it’s best to become a subscriber, that includes far more advantages than SL premium account.

Cloud Party still lacks the critical mass of active residents and content creators, but it is improving steadily and has a lot of innovation.

Conclusion

Both InWorldz and Cloud Party are nice options to Second Life, but both of them are still determinedly under construction. InWorldz has attracted many content creators already, that is vital, to make a virtual world to survive. If you decide to give try another world, don’t be chocked, if you feel yourself like a clueless newbie in the beginning… ;)

InWorldz Mainland

InWorldz Mainland

Water in Cloud Party?

Cloud Party has been around for some time already and I decided to have a second look on it. Nowadays it’s possible to access it without a Facebook account, that makes it more desirable for many. Because I like virtual sailing, I was curious to see, if that would be possible in Cloud Party too.

Starting Island

Starting Island

So, I opened Cloud Party with a guest account and then tried to create a new account with my email address, but something got wrong. I was told, my email address is already registered. But what’s the password? Since I couldn’t find any “Forgot Password” link, I sent their support an email. The support responded next day and reseted my password. They also told, that Forgot Password link will be added soon.

Proposal?

Girlfriend candidate?

I had a look around as a noob. There weren’t many people around. I met three Russians, but we didn’t have a common language. Bit later I met a newbie Latvian girl, who wanted to start a relationship with me and get married! Oh well, I thought, I was having a break from SL…

My first impression was, that the world is so clean and organized. In Cloud Party there is no such thing as mainland, that probably affects to that. All the “islands” float in a space. You can teleport between them using the navigation tools or just by clicking one of them floating in the sky in front of you.

Floating Islands

Floating islands

All the controls are represented as mobile phone apps, that can be accessed by clicking on mobile phone symbol in the top right corner of the screen. That must be very intuitive for our current smart phone generation… :)

Soon I started to look for water. How can it be found in a world, which consists of huge rocks floating in the air only? In Second Life every sim is surrounded by ocean, which connects all the islands together. But how are things arranged in Cloud Party, where universe is structured differently? I managed to find a club, which is surrounded by sea. There must be an option, which allows the islands to have water around them. Still, I would say, that Cloud Party water needs to improve, to meet the quality, people have got used in Second Life.

My next attempt was to find a driveable vehicle, even a sailboat, but couldn’t find any. Will Cloud Party offer an ocean for sailors in the future? Having a big rock with a tiny pond in center of it wouldn’t make many happy. The surrounding sea around the club island was probably more like a decoration. There is a planned feature called Meta-World Map coming. It promises to allow island owners to relocate their islands in the grid. You can imagine, that by placing several islands at some altitude and surrounding them with water, your might be able to offer a sailing experience. Let’s see, if the new feature will bring any solution to the problem.

Club Henmations

Club Henmations with beach

Content creation is possible, but it’s all about mesh imports. This allows building high-quality items, but turns away many beginner content creators. Learning creating good-looking meshes on tools like Blender, is a long and tedious job. Cloud Party has its own marketplace already, but has only few items. I believe, that the situation will improve.

Marketplace

Marketplace

An interesting innovation in Cloud Party economy are Royalties. If you sell an asset (mesh, texture, etc.) with Resell permissions, you can set a royalty, which is paid to you on each resells. I consider this much better than the Full perm practice in Second Life.

There are many features, which are planned to be added to Cloud Party martketplace, such as ratings and reviews, gift purchaces, limited run sales, direct transfers (user to user), customizable store pages for brands, asset upgrades, etc. Many of them are can be found in Second Life marketplace already.

Here are some of my feelings about Cloud Party in nutshell:

Strengths

  • The concept of universe consisting of floating islands is fascinating
  • The royalty system
  • Limited camera controls improve privacy
  • Mobile phone like controls are a great idea
  • Browser-based client
  • Scripting is based on a well-known standard language (JavaScript)

Challenges

  • Small floating islands don’t look like an ideal environment for vehicles, especially sailboats….
  • It’s not easy to meet people and there is no list of events
  • Photography tools are limited, especially because your avatar is in the center of screen all the time
  • Avatar movement is quite inaccurate, because he moves and turns so fast. This adds a toy-like feel, that is not so good.
  • Graphics quality is quite basic compared to Second Life

It should be remembered, that Cloud Party is a young place still and under constant development. It will take time, before it can reach the level of Second Life, but at least the beginning looks promising. Even if Cloud Party was a disappointment from sailor’s view point, the visit there was eye-opening and worth it.

...

Waiting for water