Just to summarize the article linked to for those who don't feel like checking it, Google has announced its intention to release an API for its Lively 3D web-chat thingy. I believe that Lively's original purpose was to be a sort of MMO-Lite online community thing. But without the objectives that usually come with quest-centric MMOs, it has received a lot of criticism and industry scorn. While most of Google's past initiatives have been popular, Lively has pretty much been written off by the on-line community as unnecessary.
With this announcement, though, it seems as if Google's original intent for Lively has been revealed. Like many of their past services, Google hasn't created something specific, but rather an infrastructure for their users to run with. The initial release of the API will allow users to create their own interactive content to use within Lively. This will include plugins for major modeling packages. Later releases are expected to give users the ability to create their own full games using Lively as an engine of sorts.
There is still been very little information about this released. Is anyone around here interested in using a pre-built on-line 3D engine to produce products? Google claims that they do not intend to charge for use of the engine, what could this mean to indie developers? I'm thinking there could be a lot of potential here for machinima. Web-series built with this could be easily distributed.
It isn't standalone. At least, not at the moment. The initial plan is to release the necessary tools and documentation to allow users to construct their own interactive objects for use in the "rooms" system that they've already constructed. It would be possible to use this to construct playable games within the space that already exists, but they would not be standalone affairs. They would be much more akin to plug-in player models, or any other element that adds to a game without changing the root functionality or content.
They say that down the line they would like to open up enough of the system to users so that they would be able to produce and even monetize their own games that would be playable on-line.
Of course, this is largely conjecture at this point, as Google has yet to put anything into actual practice. It's an intriguing idea, none the less. As a producer of an on-line 3D chat service, Google is highly suspect. But as a developer of on-line middleware, they are quite proficient, and have an extensive userbase. The original use for Lively is laughable, and will never catch on with a broad enough market. But if they make a medium by which users can produce their own on-line 3D creations, then it could have lasting potential.