Wednesday, April 14, 2010

20 of 52 - Viewer 2.0 - inspired by World of Warcraft?

First time I saw it, I was actually thrilled about viewer 2.0. It seemed slick, modern and kind of cool.

Then I had to search for the functions I wanted that was kind of hidden, to somehow hide the complexity of the UI for new users. Like showing the position I'm in. It kind of annoyed me, but OK, its fixable.

Later on I found that the chat and IM system with small icons showing in the bottom line, instead of transparent text merely scrolling up the screen was cumbersome in actual use. I spent so much time clicking on icons to retrieve conversations, it really worked me up.

The other day, I suddenly noticed I had not been using viewer 2.0 for a long time, and I also felt I really did not want to. So I wonder: What makes me react that way? Is it just a question about getting used to the interface, as M Linden says? Or is there something fundamentally wrong with it, as lots of residents feel.

Now, the above situation is not unusual: 2 Inventory windows, a chat window and the edit dialog, all up at once. In viewer 2.0, that makes your view of the world rather small I think it's safe to say LOL. In contrast with the previous viewer:

All the windows are transparent, allowing you to keep oriented all around you, even if you have lots of stuff going on. Also, the tabbed IM window with blinking tabs signalling new messages is a fast and easy way of switching between conversations, if you don't want multiple windows open.

The old UI elements is smaller and less obtrusive in the old viewer. In viewer 2.0, the buttons, fields and borders around stuff are so much more "in the way" of things.

Now, SL is not the only virtual world in town. Its not even the largest; that position belongs to the game World of Warcraft. So, I thought it would be interesting to look at the GUI of WoW, comparing it to the line of development that Linden Lab is now taking.

The incredible Hulk - Cristopher

In contrast to the viewer 2.0, there are lots of small UI elements on screen; text and graphics effects showing what's happening is popping up all over the screen.

But when you open some dialogs, your view is suddenly gone:

Please Cry Wolf if you see them, cause I certainly can't

Non-transparent dialogs. Makes me wonder: Is this where the LL developers got their inspiration from? Do they actually play WoW at Battery Road?

Walking through a toombstone - am I a ghost now?

According to Ener, Phantoms are your friends. Seems that is true in WoW too:-)

One funny detail: When you choose to exit the game, your character sits down, looking kind of tired:

Apart from the non-transparent dialogs, WoW looks nothing like Viewer 2.0. It's not pretending to be a web browser to hide it's complexity. Because a WoW screen can be fearfully more complex than the beginner examples I show here. Yet, people don't seem daunted by the complexity of the GUI; rather the opposite. More than 10 million people actually pay monthly to play WoW, as opposed to Second Life that has a little more than 100.000 paying (premium) members.

So: Did LL had to simplify the viewer to get people to stay in SL? The latest numbers actually indicates that it has not helped a lot.

For me, the hunt for the best viewer continues. But I doubt it will be viewer 2.0.


iliveisl said...

good observations, especially in regard to why the sudden change in your feeling toward the new browser. while change forced onto us can be taxing and require adaptation (as M said), it could also be that the new browser is just not quite right and beyond "just get used to it" type of an approach

when something "just works", it typically will do better than a product that simply misses it by a tiny bit

iPods are successful because they are well designed. i had a Creative Zen a few years back. Creative has made outstanding computer peripherals for years, so i figure their MP3 player should be very good. i am sure they spent months developing it and millions of dollars

but it just was to awkward to use and i gave it a year (it was kind of expensive for me) but eventually got an iPod. the difference was evident right away. going from not using it at all to using it all day, everyday

they both do the same, they both are close in size - but one's interface was easier. not that any one thing stood out, just a better flow

that small diff may be what is at play with the new viewer and i suspect is what is causing the challenge for you

small decisions have big consequences - MySpace used to be the bomb, but now Facebook is. some of that is in ease-of-use

thanks for posting this thought provoking article =)

Cristopher Lefavre said...

Yeah, I guess the Zen / iPod comparison is a good example of the same issue. For me, at least, viewer 2.0 is not the iPod interface of virtual worlds:-)