Internet software giant Google today revealed Google Lively, a browser-based online world in which users can design rooms and avatars for chat and other functions.
Built with social networking web site integration in mind, Lively allows player-designed rooms to be embedded within a user's page on such sites as Facebook and MySpace. The tool is available now free of charge at the official web site.
Lively incorporates many features seen in Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation Home software, reflecting the recent push towards avatar creation and customization by the Nintendo Wii's Mii avatars and a similar system planned for the Xbox 360.
Google 3D operations head Mel Guymon told Gamasutra that Lively is meant as a "true persistent space" for social network users.
Lively functions by way of a 10MB browser plug-in, which allows users to navigate a room without leaving the web site they are currently browsing. All of the rooms are connected, creating what Google calls a "continuous virtual world" to browse around.
According to Guymon, the project had been in the works for over two and a half years. Lively in its current form does not incorporate any monetizing features such as items purchasable for real money—at present, all of the in-world objects are free of charge.
The developer went on to note that the goal "is to get as many people using [Lively] as possible."
Many developers are currently exploring the social networking possibilities inherent in games. Last year, Sony Computer Entertainment revealed PlayStation Home, a social networking program for the PlayStation 3. The oft-delayed software is expected to launch in open beta this fall.