|Tyra Banks Virtual Boob Lounge||2007-02-22 06:09:00 GMT
by Kami Harbinger
It scores well up front, because it has Mac and Windows versions. They list the Mac version as alpha, but it worked perfectly on my machine, and was a very easy install and run. There are two city servers currently: San Francisco and Miami. Unfortunately, they're identical, and SF had 200+ people while Miami had 80.
Graphically, it's pretty lame. Very primitive cell-shaded cartoon avatars, with limited selections of clothes and hair from their closet; you can't make your own. The sim is tiny, and has blocky, low-polygon-count models with low-rez textures, portraying a nightclub district.
Moving around's pretty smooth, and the interface is very simple and easy to use (once you hit F1 and find out what keys to use to make the screen bigger on the Mac!). The chat system's good, and it hooks into AIM (or .Mac, which also uses AIM). That's pretty cool. I wish SL hooked into any real chat system. Heck, I'd like SL to just steal that interface. It's nice. It's easy to activate gestures and start dancing and emoting and chatting. You forget, after a while, just how much SL's interface really sucks, but this really points it out. Go play with this thing just to see how easy the interface is.
The music starts playing smoothly as you approach the clubs. Most of it was teeny-bopper pop crap and some mediocre hip-hop, but in the sushi bar, they were playing New Order. New Order in a sushi bar. Awesome. That is cooler than midnight in Antarctica.
Unfortunately, there's not much to do there. You can wander aimlessly and find the various music hotspots. There are touch-spots that'll let you lean on bars, lounge on chairs, or even turn you rainbow-colored or solid black for a while. There's a skating rink, though it's hard to reach, and there's no hockey pucks, or anything else to interact with. There's bots all over the place, tending bar or guarding club entrances, but they don't seem to react to anything; damn it, how do I get them to give me the Unagi Sushi Quest?
You can't build anything, there's no activities except standing on a dance floor and bump-and-grinding on each other. I did start jumping onto the walls to try to reach the elevated train that passes by, but you can't reach it. If you fall in the water, you die and reappear in the starting area.
As Richard Bartle wrote in Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds, there are four major player types: Socializers, Explorers, Achievers, and Killers/Griefers. The Lounge is only aimed at Socializers. Explorers will run around for maybe 15 minutes, get bored, log out. Achievers log out immediately. They do have quick, easy tools for muting and abuse-reporting troublemakers, so they clearly have had problems with Griefers.
I'd almost want to recommend this as someone's first non-game MMO. Ease of use, interoperable chat, and simple emotes are killer apps. Music would be, if they had more selection, maybe even some personal control. They supposedly have live DJs a couple times a day, so I may go back in and report on that this weekend.
But the primitive graphics are distractingly bad, even by SL's amateur-hour "I made this!" standards, they need activities to prevent boredom in non-Socializers, and they need to add entirely different cities, maybe with activities that require you to travel between the cities. They don't have to go to full player-created content, though that'd be nice, but being able to customize clothes and maybe make your own apartment by arranging their furniture would be cool.
|Outback Steakhouse Online||2007-02-22 05:00:00 GMT
by Kami Harbinger
Outback Steakhouse Online! It's hot! It's 100,000x better than Second Life! Robert Scoble says so! It's powered with Magic Pixie Dust™!
Looks useless to me.
No Mac client = no (or far fewer) cutting-edge people. No artists, no musicians, nobody but accountants. So right there, they've cut their own throats. And yeah, I really wanna see someone try building 3D models with an Xbox joystick. Hah. Yes, us Mac users are somewhat condescending. We try to be nice about it, but the fact is, Windows is useless for artistic pursuits. Making any media platform without Mac support is retarded. There.com already tried that, and it's an ugly, fringe system.
Using P2P is insane, or at least very ignorant. Putting the client *and* server in the hands of the enemy (the end-user) is so apocalyptically stupid I can't even believe I read that. This has been known in the virtual world and online gaming communities for 25+ years; if you give the users control of what someone else can see, they will abuse it. And most people simply don't have the upstream speed to support anyone else. You desperately want centrally-located servers on a fast network pipe, not some crappy home DSL.
Their scaling numbers (100x SL's!) are beyond preposterous, into outright, Bush-level lies. You have to download textures, maps, and models sooner or later. You can put everything on a CD, as games do; or wait 10-15 minutes for a region to download fully at the start, as many older VW systems did (and then stream more stuff in when additional people arrive); or you can stream them as you need them, as SL does. Those are your only options. Magic pixies are not going to get your data onto the client any faster.
If you do stream everything up-front, your app will rapidly consume many GB of disk space. How many 100s of GB do you have free? Say goodbye to all of it.
Graphically, SL is primarily limited by video card memory. You can send very blocky, ugly avatars with nasty low-rez textures and get a somewhat faster system, though you won't beat SL's avatar count by more than 5-10x with that, and it'll look terrible, it'll make There.com look attractive. If you send avatars as complex as SL's, or more so, and decent textures, you will get exactly the same performance problems in large groups as SL.
On the server side, to get any better performance than SL, you have to greatly simplify or remove the server-side physics model; if you trust the client, some people will find ways to cheat and abuse others. Maybe you don't want physics, but the physics is a large part of what makes SL feel like a different but equally real world.
This isn't even remotely a serious proposal.
(no, they're not really associated with Outback Steakhouse. That'd be cool, actually. I'm just hungry for steak right now).
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