Move over Second Life, Google's own avatar filled 3D world has launched (in Beta) and we've taken an early look at Lively and what the alternative world brings.
As with all of these types of things the first thing you usually have to do, after a short download, is create an avatar. But wait! the first thing you need to do in Lively is create or enter a room where you can start to fiddle with the way you look.
It's not the most intuitive of starts for Lively – which is something of a surprise in comparison to the generally pick up and play apps that Google normally creates – but the 'getting started' link does make things clear and getting an avatar set up is relatively quick; although the customisation is currently a little more limited that you might ideally like.
In fact, at the present time you're limited to what is already in the Google catalogue – with the help section explaining: "Most of the avatars, clothing and objects were created by vendors working with Google... We hope to enable user-generated content and even more customisation soon."
Joining a room
Joining a room is, well, time consuming, especially if your PC isn't really built for heavy graphical use. Expect a fairly lengthy wait for the more populous rooms as your computer chugs through the myriad avatars and elements to generate the environment.
Any virtual world is likely to be judged on the socialising element and, judging from TechRadar's early look, the chat is a little short of Einsteinian discourse.
After giving up on Google's test room due to the ridiculous load time, we dropped in on the 'I hate Ewoks' Room – which someone has obviously spent a lot of time designing.
The conversation was flowing – unfortunately that flow was a veritable nonsense of "LOL!111s", "I'm from Poland!!" and the kind of over-excited babble you would come to associate with any popular open chatroom.
It's something that a fair-minded person wouldn't hold against a Virtual World – but then again when has fair-minded ever come into anything?
Movement is with a variety of double clicks and mouse drags. It's a little painful to get anywhere in crowded rooms but not too bad in a more empty environment. Certain chat brings about animations (LOL!111 for instance) but the default animation is seemingly 'look bored' with arms crossed and a slightly odd sway.
At the moment, especially with the UGC element turned off, it's hard to see just what Lively brings to the, ahem, world of virtual social networking – with plenty of similar ideas already launched.
On top of that, it doesn't really seem to tie into the Google's ethos of organising the world's information, and it certainly doesn't have the invested community interest of something like Sony PlayStation's eagerly awaited Home.
This is Google, however, and it would be silly to write off its chances of making this a success. But on the early evidence it's going to take lot more effort to make this a world-beating and world-creating product.
Check it out yourself at Lively.com, but you'll need either a Google or Facebook account, Windows Vista or XP and Internet Explorer or Firefox.