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  Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock  
 
 
Posted 2008-07-17 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
TechCrunch reports on the release of WebFlock, a hosted, in-browser virtual world service offered by The Electric Sheep Company. Formerly Second Life-obsessed (weren't we all at one point), the company brought a number of major brands into the overhyped virtual world (such as Major League Baseball, LEGO, and Starwood Hotels). Now, the Sheep have cut out the middle-world by starting up their own.

Because WebFlock is Flash based, it's accessible by over 90% of the web browsers out there: in other words, everyone can get in easily (unlike the recently-launched Google Lively, which requires a large plugin download and only runs on Windows-based PCs running Internet Exploder). Gotta like low barriers to entry.

Sheep CEO Sibley Verbeck reportedly puts the price of basic private-world hosting at "under $100,000" for a year of service. Well out of the range of any but rich corporations. Showtime is coughing up for the service, bringing an extension of its L-Word TV property to WebFlock after a successful splash in Second Life. I suspect many major brands will follow suit, as controlled spaces are much more attractive than "anything goes" sandboxes.
 
     
 
   
 
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  6 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by RyanHensonCreighton
July 17, 2008 @ 11:16 am
     
 
Erm ... HOW? i keep staring at their screenshot wondering how they managed 3D avatars in Flash. It's a little suspect that they don't have an actual live demo running on their site. i'm guessing they're using pre-rendered 3d (ie 2D) charcters? And if that's the case, then i'm also guessing it's unlikely you can customize those characters with costume pieces, etc.

Just guessing, of course ...
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by seilerj
July 17, 2008 @ 11:22 am
     
 
It's not actually fully 3D. I talked to Sibley Verbeck about the project and the cost/benefit of no downloads for VirtualWorldsNews.com:

"For business and ROI, even if itís the easiest download in the world, it still will cut the audience participation in half," he continued. "Thatís fine if youíre spending a long time and trying to get adoption through social networks. But thatís not what weíre doing. The trade off is itís not true 3D. Weíve been doing a little bit of 3D capabilities and extending what you can do to Flash. But it is a trade off."
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by RyanHensonCreighton
July 17, 2008 @ 11:27 am
     
 
Ah - okay. i thought they knew something i didn't know. Sibley's right, though - i'm haunted by a graph that Daniel James of Three Rings showed off at GDC 07, where there's this massive precipitous cliff-like drop-off at the client download step during the Puzzle Pirates sign-up/set-up phase. Like, HUGE. You know when you watch teevee and a truck goes off a cliff and bursts into flames? It was THAT kind of cliff. As big as their numbers are, they lose so MANY people at that point in the process.

PS i don't mean to alarm anyone here, but the "L-word" stands for "lesbian." Be ever vigilant.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by GiffConstable
July 17, 2008 @ 11:52 am
     
 
Yes Ryan, the avatars are typically created in Maya or Max but they are rendered into sprites. That doesn't prevent avatars from being individually personalized, but we haven't finished that capability yet in our feature set.

You can still have a very 3D feel with our rendering engine (less toylike than isometric in my opinion), but you don't have full camera control. Personally, I think that is a feature you DON'T want right now (unless you are doing enterprise simulation/training or mirrorworld stuff) -- if you've ever watched people try to learn the camera controls in your typical full-3D virtual world, it is sheer pain.

The environments are also created in Maya or Max and then exported to Collada.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by qDot
July 17, 2008 @ 1:45 pm
     
 
Second Life-obsessed (weren't we all at one point) [...] the overhyped virtual world

So exactly which furry pissed in your wheaties? :D
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by RyanHensonCreighton
July 17, 2008 @ 1:46 pm
     
 
Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ...

But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV commercial for Kwallada lice shampoo. Is that just me?
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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