Google’s Lively Isn’t.

Posted by | November 21, 2008

Out around July, the search engine giant and our future overlord Google launched a virtual world project called Lively. Another one of Google’s experiments, Lively was meant as a sort of MMO playground that would expand along a common standard to create a massive virtual space across the countries of the world. However, the game, if you could call it that, was hamstrung by a family-friendly approach that limited its appeal against the (very much more) relaxed Second Life MMO. Also, user reports had the client as a rather bloated, slow, and inconsistent beast that failed to perform on even the beefiest computers.

Yesterday, Google announced they were shutting down Lively in December and clearing out the dev team to hurl them back into the Search Mines of Googlestania. No particular reason for axing the service was given, except that it didn’t pay off suitably to survive.

Hopefully, Google is still considering its vision of a standards-based MMO core that could link the world in a shared virtuality. Still, unless they come up with a solid, reliable, and fast user experience, no one is going to come and play. Of all the MMO companies out there, Blizzard seems to understand this lesson the best. Warcraft’s graphics were dated before the game even saw release, but what they did have was used well, creating and enhancing the game’s visual style. Thanks to that, WoW can run on a toasted ham sandwich, a move which certainly hasn’t hurt their market base. It seems to me that graphical overhead, to a point, is the enemy of a satisfying virtual experience. Perhaps the next generation of MMOs would benefit from a more stylized approach to their worlds, along with clean and balanced net code, to place performance first on their list of goals.

Too bad performance doesn’t make for good screenshots.


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