Allthough Virtual Worlds have really taken a flight in the past year, there still is a lot of skepsis towards social worlds. Often heard complaints are:
- The graphics suck (gaming worlds usually have much better graphics)
- The interface sucks
Linden Lab seems to take note of this. Early 2007 they have acquired Windward Mark Interactive LLC which resulted in a first windlight client in may 2007 with improved athmosperic rendering. After a shortlived testing period, Windlight was withdrawn from the standard viewer, but it's back again and being implemented in the standard client soon.
The client never changed though and other's gave it a try. Probably the best effort was the socalled Nicholas viewer, but with all the updates Linden Lab pushes it's hard to keep the viewer up to date. Pretty much the same goes for the OnRez Viewer, built by the Electric Sheep Company. While the OnRez viewer certainly looked a lot "fresher" and more up to date, it never really took off.
Now, Linden Lab has been working on updating the look and feel of their client for some time now, codenamed Dazzle. The first screenshots are promising. The client looks fresh:
It will take more than a visual facelift to take away complaints on the usability of the viewer. It will need reorganisation of functions. There should be more interaction design and usability testing to determine the best ways of accessing the inventory, or juggle IM screens.
We're not there yet, but every step is a step forward.