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Twinity – what is it good for?

Twinity – the virtual world that mashes up the real with the virtual world”, proclaims their website. However, Twinity is no more of a mashup of the real and virtual worlds than any other virtual world. It\’s a world of real people meeting other real people, filled with real digital content, all set against a backdrop of digital representations of real places and places that could exist in real life. What\’s new here, if anything, and where might Twinity fit in the greater scheme of things?

\"Chad

Like many mashups, the main justification for their existence is convenience: bringing together multiple ideas, and associating them in a useful and time-saving manner. Twinity takes pre-existing concepts, makes a light, fluffy interface to access them, and uses what is currently a slow and buggy system to serve up the result. It doesn\’t sound too good so far, but to be fair the whole system is still in Beta. However, only the flakiness of the system looks set to change, as the feature-set does not seem to be destined to change radically.

So what would make a potential user pick Twinity over another virtual world, or choose to use it despite the mass of more accessible options available for entertainment purposes?

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1. Lightweight interface: there\’s less to learn about interacting with the world than in other virtual worlds. However, this means that the Users\’ options are limited when it comes to interacting with the world (where “User” is Twinity jargon term referring to the real person at the keyboard).

2. Convenience: it puts a whole bunch of people together with some digital diversions, in a place where they can interact with other people who have an interest in the same digital material. The entertainment types are quite limited at this point and it does not look as though that is going to change substantively in the near future.

How does Twinity overlap other virtual worlds?

1. Virtual physical presence: unlike text-based solutions, Twinity gives Users visual cues from the people around them, from simply knowing who is in the room to being able to get some measure of personality from appearance.

2. Eclectic encounter-based mechanic: Users can bump into other Users and interact with them. Interactions which might never have occurred in the real world are common-place and informal in a virtual world.

3. Virtual physical proximity: Users have something immediate to talk about that they can share. Proximity to objects and entertainment sources gives Users a shared experience that can form the basis of their interactions.

4. User-created items: This is common to many virtual worlds, to a greater or lesser extent. This capacity has not yet been added to Twinity, but is expected in the near future, certainly before the product exits the Beta phase.

In which ways does Twinity not compare well with other virtual worlds?

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1. Broad cross-section of User backgrounds: Users are attracted to virtual worlds for a variety of reasons, and these differing reasons ensures that Users will be different from each other in some ways. However, a world with as many restrictions as Twinity is likely to filter out a number of potential Users because of the limitations on experiences and expression.

2. In-world creation tools: No in-world tools for content have been announced.

3. Limited movement and camera control options: This may be seen as a benefit by some, and a lack by others. Movement is orthogonal and diagonal only and camera controls are heavily simplified.

4. No geography: Twinity is essentially a set of rooms linked by teleportation. Outdoor spaces provide a semblance of geography, but really they are no more extensive than sound stages.

5. Windows-only client: Mac and Linux users are simply not catered for.

The lightweight simplicity of the interface may be sufficient to attract a large contingent of Users to the platform, however that very simplicity is likely to turn off users of people who have used other, more sophisticated worlds previously. In short, the platform is appropriate for people looking specifically for a lightweight chatting and entertainment solution – but don\’t expect more than that.

Raph Koster: MMOs versus MUDs

Metaplace\’s Raph Koster has been around long enough to know most virtual world history. He\’s raised some interesting points about MUDs and MMOs, stating that the latter have \”removed more features from MUD gameplay than they have added\”.

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One of the hundreds of MUDs still running: Project Carthage

What do you think? Is there truly anything new in multiplayer gaming or virtual worlds more broadly? What further evolution would truly impress you?

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Hollywood Reporter (USA) – Nick splits games, virtual worlds. \”MTV Networks\’ Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group said Tuesday that it has formed separate divisions focused on gaming and virtual worlds and has promoted executives from within the Viacom-owned company to run the new groups.\”

2. BusinessWeek (USA) – What Do Teens Want? \”Using its online community, Habbo, Sulake surveyed some 58,000 teenagers to compile marketing data covering cosmetics to mobile-phone preferences. Nearly 59,000 captive teens might seem like every parent\’s worst nightmare. But for Helsinki (Finland)-based Sulake, such a group provided a pain-free way to gain valuable insight into what \”kids these days\” really care about. Pain-free because Sulake runs Habbo, the nine-year-old virtual world that as of early June had some 100 million avatars, 9.5 million of them active on the site each month. And because Sulake could use the world as a platform to question the teens—virtually. Habbo\’s second Global Youth Survey features the results of a two-month-long poll conducted at the end of last year, which surveyed 58,486 teens in 31 countries. The findings were recently published in a 255-page report targeted at companies looking to market to the lucrative demographic.\”

3. Financial Times (UK) – Habbo hits a hundred million teen avatars. \”The most financially successful virtual worlds are not 3D and sophisticated, but flat and appealing to younger audiences.
Think Neopets, Webkinz, Club Penguin and Runescape, not Second Life. Habbo, whose graphics are reminiscent of the Code Monkeys cartoon and 8-bit 80s video games, announced today that its 100-millionth avatar had been created.\”

4. Computerworld (USA) – Cisco chief lauds coming virtual-world technology. \”Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers today appeared at a virtual press conference in Second Life, where he predicted that virtual world technologies will eventually \”explode\” in terms of business usage and their impact.
Chambers, whose avatar was dressed in a business suit, disagreed with some recent expert opinions and blogs that virtual world designers and operators are facing a downturn in businesses that are interested in starting up virtual world meeting rooms or product demonstrations in Second Life and other platforms.\”

5. Computing SA (South Africa) – Three steps to encourage corporate investment in virtual worlds. \”Many business leaders are sceptical of investing in virtual worlds because of the continuing lack of clarity regarding their proven benefits, but there are steps IT leaders can take to encourage corporate investment, according to Gartner. Haphazard investments in poorly planned virtual world projects will continue to cause funding difficulties in some instances, but, once the benefits have been proved, many organisations find that virtual worlds enhance casual social interactions inside the distributed enterprise, which can lead to innovation and produce competitive advantage.\”

6. TechCrunch – RocketOn Layers A Virtual World Onto The Web. \”Last February we hinted at South San Francisco startup Rocketon’s plan to release a virtual world that spanned the web. At the time, it appeared as though the company was pursuing an embeddable widget strategy. But instead of integrating virtual worlds into webpages, it has actually placed one on top of them so that avatars can roam the web just as you currently surf it. Comparisons can be drawn to both Weblin and PMOG. Whereas Weblin places a little avatar on the bottom of your browser that can be used to chat with other visitors to a webpage, PMOG turns web surfing into a game with mine laying and loot plundering.\”

7. Pocket Gamer (UK) – Disney virtual world gets a mobile game spin-off. \”One of the trends we\’re keen on following in the coming months is cross-platform gaming, and specifically the plans of PC-based massively multiplayer online games and web-based virtual worlds to launch mobile elements.
Yesterday\’s report on Blizzard Entertainment\’s mobile recruitment shows the activity in this area, but an article in the New York Times about Disney has also made us prick up our ears.\”

8. The Industry Standard (USA) – Second Life roiled by by Linden Lab\’s DMCA policies. \”It seems that he Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the topic du jour. From the current AP flap to the music industry, intellectual property and the legal issues that surround it are being debated everywhere, including the virtual worlds. Second Life is having its own issues with DMCA enforcement as well. Piracy in the virtual world is a hotly contested issue made all the more difficult because every object in a virtual world can be subject to copyright. Our own Ian Lamont had noted the issue that many Second Life content creators had with piracy concerns a year ago, and apparently, residents still have those same concerns about Linden Lab enforcement.\”

9. iTWire (Australia) – Second Life announces the world\’s biggest virtual party. \”It hardly seems possible, but the immersive 3D virtual fantasy world of Second Life is 5 years old. To celebrate, Linden Lab is staging a Virtual World\’s Fair which might just be the biggest birthday party never held. It was on June 23rd 2003 that the 3D world inhabited by avatars known as Second Life emerged from the shadows of Beta testing and opened its doors to an awaiting public. To celebrate this 5th birthday, the company behind the virtual phenomena has announced an ambitious two week long party which will run until July 7th.\”

10. Silicon Valley Insider (USA) – If Second Life Is Over, Someone Needs To Tell Cisco (CSCO). \”Conventional wisdom is that Second Life is an overhyped ghost town that\’s wasted many of corporate America\’s marketing dollars. But no one seems to have told the folks at Cisco (CSCO), which has maintained a steady presence in Linden Lab\’s (SAI #11) virtual world.\”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Retransmisja koncertu Agi Zaryan w SL TVP Kultura (part2)

2. Fracturing

3. Neko Adventures of Ivy Nakamichi ep2

World of Warcraft to be overtaken as largest world?

Wagner James Au, writing for GigaOM, gives some interesting details on teen virtual world Habbo Hotel\’s ongoing growth. With 9.5 million active users it\’s sneaking up on WoW\’s more than ten million.

Any Habbo users out there that want to talk about its appeal?

World of Warcraft: 112 km squared

Did you know the whole of World of Warcraft comes out at 112 kilometres squared in real world measurement? For those interested in WoW and science, spend six minutes watching this:

vBusiness Expo line-up announced

Virtual world business advisers Clever Zebra are continuing their relentless schedule of events and products with the announcement of the line-up for the July vBusiness Expo being held on the 30th July:

- Steve Prentice from Gartner will provide the opening keynote address: \’Virtual Worlds in Business – Are we virtually there yet?\’, \”where he will summarize the state of the virtual world business in mid 2008, and explore the opportunities and pitfalls of virtual worlds in business.\”

- Dr. Tony O\’Driscoll from Duke University will provide the second keynote: \’ \”Webvolution\” and the iWeb Singularity.\’ – \”Dr. O\’Driscoll will focus on how 3D internet technologies are redefining how we live, work and play.\”

Clever Zebra\’s pitch to business for the day is:

Learn from the real experience of organizations using varied platforms with a wide variety of use cases. (These use cases will also help you justify virtual worlds budgets as well as help you better understand the value of virtual worlds). Our panel on \”Virtual Worlds @ Work\” led by SRIC-BI\’s Eilif Trondsen Ph.D promises to be one of the high-value highlights of the day.
Learn about new platforms and technolgies about to affect the enterprise virtual worlds market during our \”Clever Zebra Virtual Radar\” panel led by me, Nick Wilson.

I\’ll be speaking with VastPark CEO Bruce Joy and Sun Microsystems Wonderland\’s Nicole Yankelovich among others and discussing the technologies likely to affect the enterprise market within the next 3 – 18mts

Finally, although details will come a little later, we are working together with our partners at Forterra Systems to provide a range of educational sessions that will run concurrently at varied times throughout the day. This means that you\’ll be able to catch just the sessions that will help you the most.

The feedback I received from a couple of businesses that participated in the first vBusiness Expo was positive and it\’s good to see Aussie startup VastPark getting a guernsey on this one.