Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not So Lively Afterall

I made passing reference in an earlier post to the fact that Google Lively (the virtual world from Google) wasn't usable, and elsewhere I've gone so far as to predict that it would straight-up bomb. Apparently I was right.

The problems with Google Lively are instructive: it drew a lot of attention, and even excitement in certain circles, but it simply wasn't usable. It was trying to sell itself as a "browser based" virtual world, meaning you could embed it in webpages. That sounds nice, I'm sure, but 1) it required a 10 MB download to work, 2) after the 10 MB download it took about 20 minutes to load a room (in my experience), and 3) it was a fully 3D world without any solid navigation controls. So if you require a huge download AND long load times for your app, it's not very effective as an embeddable widget, and if the user has to dedicate a huge amount of effort to moving their avatar across the room (much less around a corner, that was a nightmare), then it's not providing the kind of casual experience that users attracted to browser-based world were looking for in the first place.

In other words, this was an example of a world that tried to use features to compensate for lack of a driving vision or solid design of any kind. Did they even have designers on this project? I mean the menus are all enormous, the camera and navigation controls feel like they're from the early 90s when 3rd person 3D was a peculiarity at best, and chat all occured in bubbles that flew as far as possible from your avatar, with a thin line connecting them to the speaker. The point is that core usability cannot be an afterthought, but just about everything else they did include can be.

I feel a particularly inappropriate amount of schadenfreude when I see this graphic:
That's right: Google Lively was 70% hype and 30% loading screens.

-Silent Ellipsis


Sam said...


Ryan said...

I never even heard about it. I think it would have been more successful had it been made to be an erotic virtual world. And even then, it would have been populated by about 200 people... 199 of whom are men.