I have been keeping an eye on Cloud Party as a possible second market, and a place to keep in touch with family members not in Second Life for various reasons. Their graphics cards may not handle Second Life, they may be put off by the learning curve just to do the most basic things on a clunky interface, or they may have heard bad things about the seamy underside of Second Life. Cloud Party is to be congratulated for an easy to learn and use interface that has people up and running in about five minutes in the game. Of course to add content takes more, but most users will not be content creators.
Me standing in front of my marble fireplace that I uploaded with no great difficulty in my Cloud Party home.
I have not been too concerned about Cloud Party becoming serious competition for Second Life yet. That is a big YET. Today they moved one step closer by offering two classes of private islands at a much lower tier cost than Second Life.
There are two types of islands, Private and Deluxe. Here are the differences between the two.
To give you some idea of how this compares, a Second Life region is 256 x 256 x 5000+ meters. (I am not sure what the current build height restriction is now.) So, a private island is about a quarter of the size of a Second Life region, and a deluxe island is about the size of four Second Life sims.
Their pricing is impressive, and could present a potential threat to Second life, with a private island going for only $14.95 US per month, and a deluxe island priced at $99.95 a month.
It looks great, right? I am sure that it will draw many second lifers. I don’t know if they will leave Second Life or split their time between both worlds. I will not be jumping in just yet. Once again, that is a big YET.
I am not too impressed with their object limits. Consider what a lot of Second Life sim owners do with their sims. We usually build some kind of city or environment. We may rent out areas and alot prims to renters for merchant stalls, or for homes.
Cloud Party offers some clarification on their terminology on their FAQ.
- Total Objects: Each mesh is usually one object. If a mesh has multiple independent materials, each material counts as an object.
- Dynamic Objects: Scripted, physically simulated, or animated objects count as Dynamic.
- Triangles: The total triangle count of all placed meshes in the Island.
Let us look at total objects first. 1200 objects is not a lot. You cannot compare this directly to prims, because a prim object in Second Life could be made up of many prims, and each prim is counted toward the 15,000 prim maximum per sim.
Each object in Cloud Party can have a maximum of 4 material faces which can take a separate texture. (Second Life meshes can have up to 8 material faces and can handle 8 different textures that way.) A mesh house would have to have different material faces for walls (interior and exterior), the roof, floor, steps, windows, etc. Even with stacking textures, you need to use most of the UV map area for them or you get very fuzzy, low rez looking textures. To do that, you need to use materials, and several of them for outside walls, inside walls, walls with windows, walls with doors, and AO shading in the corners and around edges.
Considering all of that, you might only be able to have two walls with four materials (for exterior and interior walls) per mesh for a house, and that mesh would count as 4 objects. Even a small, one storey house with only one room could easily come in counting as 20 prims or more. You would need meshes for walls, a roof, a door, a floor windows, and stairs. I think that object counts would end up being similar to the number of ordinary prims required to build an equivalent home in Second Life. I think that Cloud Party buildings will count as 20 objects for a basic shack to 300 or more for a modest house, and even more for more complex buildings. For a deluxe island four times the size of a Second Life sim, it would appear to me that 1200 objects will not be enough. For 350 objects on a private island, you will be able to build a small home and furnish it, but not much more I would think.
I think the total triangle limit of 1,000,000 may also be on the low side for a deluxe island (300,000 for a private island). I understand the need for a triangle limit to encourage mesh makers to make their meshes efficient and objects as low poly as possible. The islands are big, and the object and triangle limits are not enough to fill them, in my opinion.
I don’t know if they can increase that. I don’t know if WebGL has limits in the amount of data it can stream in a browser. Perhaps someone who knows more about that could comment and address that.
I also don’t like the limit of 100 dynamic, or scripted, objects on a deluxe Island or 25 on a private island. Consider everything you use scripts for. They make your fires move and crackle. They make it possible to open doors, make water move, sit on furniture, drive a vehicle, fire a weapon, play animations, make textures move, and more.
There is an interesting line on the FAQ, and I am not sure what it means.
“We will be adding a meta-world map to let users see the layout of the islands. Where islands are placed is not set in stone, and we are still designing how they will be arranged and possibly allowing them to move relative to each other.”
Does that mean that you would only appear to be close to each other on the map? Does it mean possible connection and being able to walk from one to the other? Would it just mean you could see each other in the sky for easy teleportation? I am sure clarification will come. I doubt very much they will connect islands in the near future, if ever. I don’t know if using WebGL in a browser would ever permit region crossing.
The pricing is very attractive, to be sure. What you can do with it is limited. I think we are too spoiled by Second Life to settle for less.
Still, it is very impressive what a small number of people have been able to do and how fast they are updating it in a small period of time. I certainly do not count this team out yet. That is a big YET.