3Di Cloud no threat to Cloud Party

I just checked out the beta test of the 3Di Cloud, a browser-based social world platform. And though the two share some surface similarities, 3Di Cloud is no Cloud Party.

In fact, as of right now, 3Di Cloud barely looks like a product.

Japan’s 3Di, Inc., best known for their browser-based OpenSim viewers, has been moving more into Unity-based development lately. 3Di Cloud runs on Unity.

The platform also shows a distinct Japanese aesthetic, with anime-style avatars. This might work for kid-oriented social worlds, but for enterprise users, this platform seems a complete non-starter. Which is a shame, since it would be nice to see more enterprise-friendly virtual platforms, and 3Di has a history of business-focused projects.

Here are some issues with the beta test. According to 3Di senior manager Norman Lin no date has yet been set for the official launch, so some of these may be addressed by then.

3Di Cloud is the latest entry to the browser-based virtual world space.

The avatars

Schools and companies that have problems with the avatars in Second Life or Protosphere because they’re too cartoony will recoil in horror from 3Di Cloud. These avatars look like they’re out of an older-generation console game aimed at elementary school-age children — or at teenage girls terminally obsessed with cuteness.

Users choose an avatar at login from a set selection — currently just four — and there are no avatar customization tools. Currently, the avatars do not persist — when you log out and back in again, you start over.

According to Lin, there are no plans to have the avatars persist across different 3Di Cloud worlds. If I have a world, and you have a world, and I want to visit yours, I’ll need to create a new avatar on entry.

Oh, and the avatars can’t stand still. They’re always dancing around like they have to go to the bathroom.

The text chat box

This is one issue that can be resolved quickly, and, hopefully, will. The text chat box — currently in an inconvenient top left location, can not be moved, resized, or scrolled through. The font size is large, so you can only see the last few comments of a conversation — less, if a comment is long and takes up more than one line.

Without voice, text chat is the only communication medium available, and it’s unusable in its current state.

The graphics

The graphics are the standard Unity stock. Decent enough, nothing to write home about. The water sloshed around a bit too much. As far as I could see there were no interactive elements in the environment. There were bikes, but clicking on them didn’t result in a bike ride. There were doors on the buildings, but they didn’t open.

Because of the way the system is architected, there are no in-world building tools. Customers who need to change their environments will have to pay extra for a license, and then use 3D modeling programs to edit their scenes.

Clould Party also requires that users use 3D software to create new objects, but once created, those objects can be moved or resized from within the environment, creating a very different kind of experience.

Some reviewers have given serious thought to Cloud Party as an alternative to Second Life. 3Di Cloud isn’t anywhere close.

The navigation

You move by clicking on the ground. That’s it. There are no camera controls, no zooming in or out.

You can’t look at the face of the avatar you’re talking except by walking around them until you catch a good viewing angle.

One weird thing was that you could run up the side of a tree, but not up the side of a building.

The complete absence of any functionality does have one benefit, however — there’s no need for an in-world tutorial, and no learning curve.

Unity vs. WebGL

Finally, it was probably a mistake to develop this platform in Unity. Yes, Unity currently has an advantage over WebGL is that it has support for more browsers, can run on mobile devices, and can even be exported to Flash.

But both Flash and Unity are on their way out, and Cloud Party has demonstrated that it’s possible to build a very functional, very responsive world using the WebGL standards that are currently available.

Yes, it will take time for all the browsers to catch up — and for everyone to update their browsers once they do — but WebGL runs natively, with no plugin download required, and is clearly the direction in which things should be moving.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

18 Responses

  1. Gaga says:

    So another one gets on the virtual worlds band wagon but none to date have proved as rock solid as Second Life and Opensim and it’s still only SL & OS that offer the ability to build in the viewer (leaving mesh aside). Cloud Party might pose some threat to SL but not much. CP dose offer a smooth webGL with some limited building tools of a kind short of external mesh creation which is its main tool just the same as Unity on which this 3Di is based. So, it’s more of the same with none of the polish other have already managed.

    It would be great to have a plug-in or webGL to run Opensim on a web page for none-builders to play and experience the highly creative worlds of SL & OS while leaving it to using a full viewer for all the building and, hopefully, that is not too far off. After all, the Cloud Party team managed to cobble CP together in something like nine months and, even at entry level, it’s pretty impressive. One can’t say the same for 3Di Cloud.

  2. Revel Peters says:

    haha yeah i saw the previous article and looked at the avatars and made faces. I  think the only promising advancement is cloud party I am pretty picky when it comes to this stuff but it offers what sl and opensim does but in a more easy to use format and from what the general feedback has always been with relation to opensim and sl is “its too complicated” .  I actually enjoyed the cloud party and if I had the time and will would even commit to setting up in there.   For the moment though I am already overloaded with things that need doing so that wont be happening I dont think 🙂

  3. sargemisfit@gmail.com' Sarge Misfit says:

    Maybe I just need more coffee, but it struck me that 3di and Cloud Party are looking more like a hybrid of The Sims and FaceBook than anything else.

  4. I agree. WebGL is clearly the direction in which things should be moving.
    The only decent unity3d based virtual world I have come across is  friendshangout. http://friendshangout.com/.

  5. kripkensteinr@gmail.com' kripken says:

    > But both Flash and Unity are on their way out

    I am a big WebGL fan and a developer as well, but I don’t think it’s fair to say Unity is “on its way out”. The opposite seems to be the case. They are increasing in developer mindshare with many games and non-game projects being started all the time, including virtual worlds.

    Flash, however, no disagreement here 😉

    • chris@tipodean.com' Chris Collins says:

      I was also surprised that you would say “Unity3d is on the way out” as well. Where did you find those stats?

      The stats off the website http://unity3d.com/company/public-relations/ would prove the opposite. These stats also do not include IOS and Android where Unity3d has many of the top games. 

      Unity ranks#1 for mobile game developer technology survey, topping the list with 53,1% of developers reporting using Unity. ( http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/169846/Mobile_game_developer_survey_leans_heavily_toward_iOS_Unity.php )
      Unity named to AlwaysOn 2012 onMobile 100 Top Private Companies in Enabling technologies category ( http://aonetwork.com/AOStory/Announcing-2012-OnMobile-100-Top-Private-Companies )

      • It’s just my opinion. Having tried out Unity environments, and the Cloud Party environment, I’d always pick the no-download CP environment.

        Plus, it’s free for developers — no Unity license costs or Flash license costs.

        And, in the long term, it’s going to be supported by a wider variety of devices because these are Web standards. 

        So, my personal opinion, I’m betting on HTML 5 and Web GL in the medium-to-long term.

        In the short term, Flash and Unity have their advantages, and many vendors have invested substantial resources and will want to recoup their investment, so they won’t disappear overnight.

        • chris@tipodean.com' Chris Collins says:

          OK gotcha, can’t argue with your own opinion. One quick correction you can get Unity3d for free https://store.unity3d.com/ . Also if you play any games on mobile and tablet that you got off an app store chances are it is built with Unity and you just do not know it. 

  6. I look forward to seeing the final release. Thank for the update!

  7. sargemisfit@gmail.com' Sarge Misfit says:

    What about content creation?

    For me, being able to build things without any special skills or software is truly just as important as any of the social aspects.

    • nlin.message@gmail.com' nlin (message) says:

      For this product, you’ll need Unity and 3D modeling software to create custom content.

      What kind of a simple content creation interface do you think would be ideal?

      • sargemisfit@gmail.com' Sarge Misfit says:

        The same as is currently available in all OpenSim and AurroaSim based stand-alones and grids. Anyone can simply rez a primitive object (or Prim), vary the dimensions and link them together to create more complex objects.

        Prims have default shapes such as box, sphere, cylinder and others. They can be hollowed, cut, dimpled, sliced and more.

        Whether prims are linked together or not, their individual faces can have textures applied to give them the look of anything from plants to bricks to machinery, its limited only by the texture.

        Scripts can be added to a Prim to create movement, visual effects, interaction, posing of avatars and more.

        All of this is done inworld using only your viewer and whatever you have stored in your avatar’s inventory. Having Blender or PhotoShop or any other outside software is not required.

        The requirement to use 3D modelling software limits people due to the costs of the software or the lack of training in its use.

        • Gaga says:

          Sarge, personally, I see the tools requirement as a limiting factor where a webGL application is better suited to drawing in users to a Lite version of Opensim worlds.

          You already have a full viewer to do your building so the question I would be asking is can an Opensim world be streamed to webGL in order to provide a first look for potential new users. See my reply to Maria above for more…

          • sargemisfit@gmail.com' Sarge Misfit says:

            Yes. For OpenSim. But 3di and Cloud Party aren’t OpenSim based, are they? The point I’m making is that such virtual worlds have some of the same limits as the MMOs that I’ve (mostly) left behind. For me, there is very little appeal to visit them.

            I can certainly get behind having both a WebViewer and a seperate viewer for use across the Metaverse.

  8. x@y.za' Guest says:

    unity dindt support linux. cloudpartytime will kill opensim because they use webgl.

    • I don’t think Cloud Party will kill OpenSim.

      Folks go to OpenSim in order to get full control of their worlds — schools, companies, role playing groups, social grids, etc… — you have total access control, environment control, full backups, 50+ hosting options, you can do any kind of back-end or enterprise integration you want, user controls, content controls, set up your own virtual currency, etc… and, of course, the hypergrid.

      I do see Cloud Party as being a potential threat to Second Life if they’re able to get a critical mass of users to try it.

      Meanwhile, there’s nothing keeping the OpenSim community from developing a WebGL-based viewer of its own.

      • Gaga says:

        Personally, I don’t see Cloud Party as much of a threat to Second Life in the short term unless the content sellers from SL are willing to set up shop there. CP is a walled garden so there is nothing stopping them really other than the fact CP has no real traffic yet and is in beta phase with a lot of work still to do.

        There are a lot of VW platform options now and they all have something appealing to someone but mass appeal for any one platform is another matter and Second Life is still way out in front along with IMVU and Minecraft, etc. In the short term CP might be a threat to Kitely since they both use Facebook login but Kitely dose have other choices now. I don’t see CP as a threat to Opensim in general and, given the fact CP was brought to the market in just 9 months, I can’t see why a small team of developers could not code a webGL application for Opensim just as quickly. The coding options are wide open in HTML5.

        I don’t even think an OS webGL app needs to be that sophisicated either. My experience is that there are realtively few builders and content makers who need in-world tools but the majority are social players and gamers – in other words, consumers of services. So long as they can fill their inventory, dress up and interact with the world with gestures, vehicles and object placement the majority don’t need tools and webGL can be as Lite as you like. People who know how to make stuff can get a full viewer and so too can anyone that has found their way to Opensim via webGL and wants more from it. WebGL is just an easy way to attract more residents to Opensim grids in the first place.

        We’ve been talking about doing similar with Unity, Tipodean and the web apps SpotON3D took a patent on. But they all need a plugin and even a full viewer in the background. WebGL needs no plugin at all which makes it more effective. Your OS world is just the click of a link away.

  9. rjh@holtz.tv' Robert Holtz says:

    Unity is NOT on its way out.