Lively, dubbed Google’s Second Life, launched today. I checked it out. Here are my thoughts on Lively vs. Second Life.
Lively is a browser plugin. Quick, simple install. Load up your web browser (FF or IE), goto Lively.com, login with your Google account (everyone has one of these by now), and you’re in a virtual room in no time. Too bad it’s only available on Windows.
Second Life is a desktop app available on more platforms (Win, Mac, Linux). First, you have to sign up for an SL account which requires credit card validation. After a more painful 35-73MB download, the client only works on more mid to high end computers with high speed internet because the client is very performance heavy. If you’ve made it this far, congrats because most people don’t. For the average user, there are just way too many doors to open.
When I first got into Lively, I was annoyed that the UI didn’t work like Second Life. In Lively, the avatar doesn’t walk around smoothly. When you double click somewhere, your avatar teleports to that location. Every object you click on has different properties and functions you can do to them (inconsistency). There are dozens of icons all over the screen, and I have to hover over each one of them to figure out what they do (poor visibility).
Linden Lab has spent a lot of time perfecting how to move your avatar/objects and navigate the environment. The use of the ALT + mouse for panning, dragging and dropping for objects, scroll wheel for zooming, right click for pie menu, and keyboard arrow key for maneuvering your avatar are all examples of great natural mapping.
Winner: Second Life
Obviously, Second Life is going to blow Lively out of the water in graphics and such, especially with the new Windlight viewer. However, how many users are Linden Lab losing because SL wasn’t built for basic computers with integrated graphic cards? Lively may not be that pretty, but it can probably run on almost every computer. Great graphics do not make a virtual world good; it’s the social interactions and online media that will make it immersive and addicting.
Winner: Second Life
Lighthouse in Second Life. Flickr / Felony Fabre
Google is entering the virtual world space at a very interesting time. Recently, VWs have been popping up out of the woodwork. Whether you believe it’s a marketing ploy or if it truly helps your brand, virtual worlds are hot right now, and everyone and their mother is building one. The one thing they don’t have is Google’s vast user base and resources…
The Virtual Arms Race Is On
What makes virtual worlds so popular? It’s the user generated content (UGC). Millions of L$ (Lindens) are exchanged hands in Second Life every day between buyers and content creators. Content = Money. In 2008/2009, I predict there will be a rush to see who can get the most UGC for virtual worlds, since this is where the future profits will be. There will be a virtual arms race to see who can warehouse the best and the largest quantity of 3D content that can be exported to different virtual worlds. If Google plays its cards right, it could dominate this space just like it did with search and online video.
“He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past.” -George Orwell
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