I have not written in a couple of weeks, I have spent time updating the look of my website arianeb.com. Check it out!
Its been a while since I visited some of the virtual worlds I reviewed earlier on this site. I’m partly writing this inspired by a post about the fate of There Philippines, a Filipino version of There which is declining in popularity. Based on what I read, the game runners of There PH, were content with a subset of There, leaving out what I believe are the most important elements: Paz’s and custom content approval.
Ariane’s first law of Virtual Worlding:
If you want a successful virtual world, you must have two things: 1) Custom player content, 2) customizable homes for players. Leave one or both out, and your virtual world will be a bust.
The most successful virtual world game is Second Life, which was built entirely around both principles. Other successes like There and even the limited in scope IMVU have both, and as a result have thousands of players on at any given time.
I recently took a look at The Lounge to see how things are going there. There were about 105 players last night, which is about 102 more than last time I was there. Similar story in Red Light Center, which has 147 currently logged in, and they have porn! I know they are both new and what not, but the rule still applies. Neither has custom player content, neither has customizable homes for players. (RLC has private rooms for virtual sex, but that does not count.) They will never succeed as virtual worlds, just as novelty add ons.
Currently, there are two new virtual worlds in beta that I know about. Kaneva is in closed beta, and PS3 Home (see previous post) was just announced. Both feature customizable homes, but based on what I have read, neither are adding custom player content. PS3 Home says it will eventually, but launching without it already built in is a mistake. Both will allow user pictures and music to decorate their homes, but custom housing isn’t enough, just ask The Sims Online.
They also need texturing walls, clothing, furniture, and especially avatars, even if it requires an approval system like There. Otherwise they are doomed to draw in crowds initially, but people won’t stay.
Everybody needs a break now and then.
I mentioned a few posts before that the metaverse is becoming for many people the new “third place” where you can relax and unwind from home and work. Like the real world, it seems that bars and clubs are often the most popular venues.
So I decided to stop by a few of the virtual bars and clubs and just hang.
The virtual club experience consists of going to an area of the 3D world decorated like a club. You dress up your avatar, do sexy dance animation moves that are physically impossible in the real world, and everybody listens to the same streaming audio. This usually spurs conversation. The drinks are free but virtual.
Virtual clubs first started in Active Worlds. My first experiences were in The Sims Online where streaming audio didn’t exist so you had to open winamp and go to a URL that the DJ provided. They have become a requirement for any social game. Even the newest, Virtual Laguna Beach, has four of them.
Above is a bar scene in IMVU. Because there are no physical locations or events in IMVU it is tough to fill a bar with people. I’m hoping this changes once they get the bugs in chat cast ironed out.
Basically, The Lounge, consists of one big club. This game still has yet to really find any kind of an audience. Their last update though improved some animations and graphics. The fact that most all the avatars look like young teenagers tells you right away where the target audience is. Probably not my scene.
Red Light Center is a more mature audience, and for me anyways, the ONLY place worth visiting is Club Blu (sorry, I’m not into the porn theaters or sex palace scene). There is usually a small group of players here hanging out and dancing. It’s usually a friendly atmosphere, but the ratio of men to women is very lopsided right now.
I dont play City of Heroes much these days, but here is a file photo of a party on Pocket D. If you want to know what is going on these days here, just imagine the above picture without the people. Sometimes you can find stuff going on in Pocket Zero (the only neutral place where City of Heroes meets City of Villains), but the biggest party atmosphere location in City of Heroes is probably right outside Atlas Hall.
Almost every MMORPG has its places to hang out, and it is usually where the newbies hang out, or in front of some big quest starting place where people try and get on a good team. Every single one of them have dance animations that people like to play when they are just hanging around waiting on the rest of the team.
Back at my old stomping grounds There.com. It has a lot of great club settings: The Inferno, Club Bali, Oro Lounge, The Cannery, Aero Lounge, etc. They are unfortunately rarely used. Best bet here is to go and see when and where events are scheduled. House parties are still a regular activity in There.
Welcome to Bad Girls, the most popular club in Second Life. Always a big crowd, and always a live DJ, 24 hours a day every day. Second life has many popular clubs, and the best ones are the ones on private sims: Bad Girls, The Edge, Hot Licks, Studio 54, Club Vixens. The atmosphere in each is different, and when the crowds get big, they get very laggy.
I guess like real life, sometimes the bar scene is great, sometimes it is just boring and sad. It all depends on your attitude and friends you tag along with.
This is a new 3D social game designed primarily for its adult content. It is currently being advertised as “open beta” and it does have a few bugs and lacks much content.
A lot of the doors around town simply say “coming soon”, and if you try to access anything interesting, like the streaming video, it asks for you to purchase the VIP membership for $20 a month.
Currently there is no custom content, so you are very limited in wardrobe and avatar looks, and most of the wardrobe is extremely revealing, at least on the female side. Animations are also very limited too.
For all intents and purposes, this is just a clever gimmick to sell membership in a porn site. There is nothing here that isn’t doable better in Second Life.
The one thing I am interested in is this: What the makers of this program have done is make a simple bare bones 3D chat and navigate system. I am curious as to how small it is and how simple it is. A simple bare bones 3D chat and navigate system as a front for other websites and commerce besides just porn could be huge.
Update: The makers of this program also have opened up a MySpace like place for adults (R-rated content) http://www.utherverse.com
They WILL add custom clothing for sure as it is an option available in the profiles. They should add custom faces as the 3 they currently offer are pretty boring.
Bottom line: Not worth $20 a month just to access porn content. There is not enough free 3D content to keep people around for long. The social networking end shows promise and it is done much better than Xpeeps, but the community is a bit too small right now.
UPDATE #2: Wired did a review of Red Light Center as well and came more or less to the same conclusion as me. Their review is here.