Saturday, January 25, 2014

Life's Illusions: the end of Cloud Party

I really don't know clouds at all
Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell

Cloud Party is closing because they got busted by the WWF for allowing residents to shoot transgender unicorns. OK, that may not exactly be what happened, sigh, it may just a boring money thing. I bet that's what it was. You can find out what happened here because Maria Korolov and her team are all over it.
It's been ages since Thirza went into Cloud Party, so it's all my fault, and yours too, you bastard, for not creating a paying account or whatever it is that would have kept it afloat. 
It seemed only right to pop back in. 
Got my little paradise island, messed with all the settings as you do, managed to actually flip the land upside down and ended up trapped underneath it. 
Then followed a tremendous battle with the camera, I heroically resisted all offers of help, tutorials and common sense.  In the end, I broke down and gave the tutorials a shot, but I hate learning new viewers and I hate the hair. 
If they'd had less greasy hair, this thing would have been the next SL, as so many gnomes predicted it would be, as recently as last year.
It is amazing how much your avatar appearance matters. Arrive in a grid, and the first half hour is spent - wasted, really - on not looking like an idiot or at least attempting the same. Grid builders beware! make quality skins and clean hair available to all!

There were a few builders on, they were commenting on the end of an era. Someone said 'what am I going to do with the 15 Cloud Coins I still have!' but she was only joking. They can't be cashed out, but then again, you play, you pay, right? Someone else said that maybe Kickstart could save Cloud party; someone else set up a forum as to 'where to go next'. This is a community in meltdown, after all. I asked them where they were planning on going when CP closed. Open sim seemed the number one choice.
Jesse Thompson suggested some places worth seeing before the build closed so I went to check them out.
The first was Rustica by Maxwell Graf , which failed to load. Maybe it's already packed up in the artist's portfolio. 
I tried Failed Inventor's Land of Lulz next, which Jesse said should have some content (in fact there was pathos in the "work in Progress' doormat to the fort. It has a Legoland meets Minecraft look about it, and while the structure was interesting, there was not anything to do - and indeed why should there be?
Ylvis: The Fox by Emma Wordsmith was more engaging. Unlike SL or elsewhere, youre avatar is immediately grabbed by the build and involved in the action. 
No clicking on Blue permission windows here! The foxy dancing was a sequence of poses, colors and magical cutouts (there were horses, but I was too slow to get a screenshot of them. Plus I was having too much fun.) It has a brilliant chilling misty pagan feel about it.
Into the dark by Lilli Thompson again throws you in at the deep end. A dark night, and yours is the only lamp. No boring atmosphere-ruining notecard with an overblown explanation. A forest of dead trees, with one live one in the middle, and these creatures, white, mysterious, perhaps bunnies, perhaps wolves, that follow you. It took me ages to realize they wanted me to take them to the tree, and I ended up tarrying on the build, trying to lead them. This build makes an instant and genial connection to your inner nature. The dark simplicity makes it literally enchanting. 
There were quite a few visitors on CP today, no doubt, like me and Cody Rhapsody, all had heard the news and were wondering what they had missed. Everyone I spoke to seemed to have presences either in SL or open sim or both. Like we were all remembering a garden shed we'd neglected for years, and now that it was collapsing, wanted to check out what had been stored in there. 
Sarah Kline very kindly suggested I visit Reflection by Ashara and perhaps this build above all suggests the 'Post Photo to Facebook' imperative that seemed central to the raison d'etre of CP. There are loads in Picasa now, and probably everyone's look the same, but in the moment, it feels like you've captured a moment. As minutely unique, and vastly unrepeated as the sea.
 Jesse Thompson very kindly also told me about his own build Tartarus, which is fantastically spooky. I have no idea how they do this particle effect, but it's great.
 That yellow stuff may be toxic sludge, or the blood of Yahoo users, it's not clear. Definitely the Tomb of the Unknown Startup, though.
Another great suggestion was Misfit Toys by Phate Shepherd, which reminded me a bit of Cornflakes Woodcook in OSGrid. Same sense of humor and love of the wheel-of-death style ride.  
 Gosh and I got to sit down! for the first and, wow, sad to say, last time in Cloud Party. What will happen to the blue dog? Do they have a blue section in dog heaven?
Lastly, I couldn't miss out on our old friend Patrick Moya's builds. The ultimate party animal, how could he not have a strong presence in Cloud Party?  There is a strong latex vibe in this build which is, somewhat ironically, a museum. 
It is sad that CP is going away, and hopefully as Cody said, they'll make their code open source, so others can build and learn from what they have done, and maybe that blue doggie will get another life.On the whole, one gets the feeling that even for the hard-core partygoers, the end of the world is not - the end of the world, if you see what I mean. All virtual lives are an illusion, after all. The learning curve these builders have followed in Cloud Party will feed into a great river of experience, which will live on in open sim (I hope most of all!) and in SL and other worlds too. 
What remains is just to thank all those creators who have invested so much imagination and talent into making lovely things for us to see, and to remember to appreciate what we have when we have it.

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