LivePlace To Launch Photo-Realistic Virtual World Rendered In The Cloud has posted a video displaying a very impressive render of a 3D virtual world called City Space. At this point very little is known about LivePlace, other than that the WHOIS lists the domain’s owner as Brad Greenspan, one of the co-founders of MySpace. Note: It appears that in the 20 minutes since I spoke to Greenspan about this post, someone was told to take LivePlace down (apparently nobody was supposed to find it).

Update: They’ve taken the video down. We’ve republished a copy, below.

The other nugget of information found in the video is that the game is running on OTOY, the 3D engine that renders graphics in the cloud. The technology allows relatively weak computers (or even mobile phones) to display incredibly detailed graphics comparable to those seen in Hollywood movies.

Note: We’ve put up a slightly modified version of the video at the request of OTOY. We’ve removed a 10 second sequence that was originally intended for an unaired Audi commercial. OTOY’s Jules Urbach says that the room will be in the future virtual world, but asked that we remove the scene for now.

The video shows a massive virtual city filled with towering skyscrapers, parks, user-customized apartments and houses, public meeting places, subways, and everything else you might expect in a metropolitan area, all beautifully rendered by the OTOY engine. The game also features impressive real time lighting, reflection, and weather effects that rival those seen in detailed 3D games (and even some movies).

At this point it appears that gameplay will be focused on human avatars, who can own their own living spaces and offices, buy and sell goods at a virtual mall, and interact with each other in public places.

While there are a number of online games that offer impressive graphics (though none of this caliber), the real potential behind LivePlace and the OTOY engine is the cloud-based rendering engine, which allows games on almost any computer to play without needing a powerful graphics card. OTOY has been developed to work in any browser without a plugin, which makes the barrier for entry into this virtual world much lower than Second Life. Of course, we have no idea when City Space will actually launch, so it’s far to early to hail it as the second coming of social online worlds.

Update 2: According to this comment, portions of the video are taken from an artist’s portfolio that may not be related to LivePlace (the video he linked to is identical to the first 10 seconds of the clip above). It’s possible that the artist works for LivePlace, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it was rendered in real time…

Update 3: Here’s what OTOY’s Jules Urbach has to say:

The 14 mins of real time rendering in this material is streaming live to a Treo 700 at 240 kpbs. This was captured on March 2007, the server was running an ATI RX 1900 GPU. The tech has improved massively since then (as has the HW we now run on). There was never intention to show any part of this to the public until we could include voxel rendering and Lightstage based characters. I think anyone who liked what they saw, will find the final project much more impressive.

The whole aim of our work last month on the Ruby demo for AMD was to show that the quality of offline and real time work is identical starting with this generation of GPUs. The following presentations this month are just introducing Lightstage and how it makes characters (or any CG object) look 100% real in those real time environments.

The virtual worlds these technologies are going to be applied to was not meant to be discussed until later this year, after one further announcement regarding the server side platform being developed for OTOY.

We had nothing to do with editing or leaking this video and can’t comment on anything other than the OTOY technology, since this project is still under NDA.

Jules Urbach