I was invited to the beta test of Twinity, a virtual world by German company Metaversum. They have some interesting ideas, e.g. visualization of their world on a map of Earth. However, the whole thing seems rather limited to me. Since the creators asked for some feedback, I emailed them my first impressions. Here are the things I told them:
* Very limited appearance tools. Editing the avatar is a slow and clunky process. Minimum age of avatars is limited to 16 years. Since child avatars belong to the most creative and entertaining residents in Second Life, Twinity loses a big proportion of potential users: those who like to create and play as kids in virtual worlds.
* I could not find any building tools. These are one of the fist things I look for in a virtual world. I found a menu for scripting, but it’s unclear what exactly can be scripted; since I did not find any tools for creating objects/prims, I don’t know what scripting is for. Seems to me that focus of Twinity is on content sales.
* Twinity has a WASD control scheme, but it’s clunky, too. I consider WASD and First Person View some of the most important things in virtual worlds. A and D should be for strafing (not for rotating the view!) The Mouse should be for looking around. Give us a key to switch to cursor. In Twinity I have to press the right mouse key for looking around, which means I will press it for about 90% of my time. I’ll have cramps in my hand! Give us one key on the keyboard to change between 1st person mode and 3rd person/cursor control. I NEVER want to use 3d person view in MMOs/virtual worlds. Also give us more options to configure things like mouse sensitivity etc.
* I could not leave apartments and houses. Is Twinity limited to indoor activities at this point? Maybe that’s because it’s still in a beta state.
Over and all, the whole thing seems a lot like Kaneva to me. Or the upcoming Playstation Home, where you will be able to chose between eight or even nine different places to live in, wowie. Dusan wrote about that crap in his blog recently. Twinity, Kaneva and the idea of Home show to me, in spite of all the things that annoy us when we are on the grid, how cool Second Life is.
Post scriptum: The Twinity developers replied to my feedback. First Catherine explained, that there will be construction tools, and that Twinity will let users import builds from 3D software (like 3DS Max). About kids Catherine wrote: “To be honest, I don’t share your opinion concerning the limitation to just 16years, but I can transmit your proposition.” I then asked what exactly was the problem with kids in a virtual word, and if Twinity will be limited to human avatars. No furries, dragons, balls of light? I then got a reply from Mohammad: “Twinity is not a fantasy world; rather it is where the virtual world meets the real world. For that reason, Twinity allows only human avatars. The age limits on avatars are due to legal regulations that we observe.” So, let me get this straight: Even though Twinity is clearly not a mirror world (like Google Earth will soon be), but a virtual world, there’s no room for something as fantasy! Jeezus! The thing about legality also puzzles me quite a bit: While there are laws in some countries against displaying virtual sex with a minor, I don’t know a single law in any country of Europe or America that prohibits the general use of a child avatar in a virtual world. So it seems to me that the developers of Twinity would rather limit their own virtual world based on fears of negative media coverage, than create it on facts about communities and with a clear vision of what the metaverse can be. This restrictive attitude even in a beta phase makes Twinity quite unattractive to me, so I will stick to the worlds where I can choose freely what kind of avatar to display.