Sunday, June 28, 2009
Twinity: two sides of the mirror
Twinity has been in public beta for quite some time now; I've been a member for over a year. It started with standalone rooms, tied to a geographical location but without a real sense of world. That changed when virtual Berlin came: we were finally able to walk outside! With the arrival of virtual Berlin, Twinity's mirror world philosophy became a reality, be it at a limited scale. Obviously there's more to come: Singapore is in the works, hopefully to be launched later this year. Earlier there was talk about London, too, but I think we're not going to hear much about that until after the Singapore launch. It seems logical to finish that one first before taking on the next big project!
I don't have access to the Twinity subscriber database, but I have a feeling that Twinity's audience is still mainly based in Germany. 'Man spricht English', of course, but many Twinizens talk German between them. Adding Singapore to the mix might change this: the expected influx of visitors from Asia might tip the scales from a mainly German speaking to a more internationally oriented population. This too, obviously, presents opportunities for growth; it might also make Twinity an even more diverse and interesting mirror than it is today.
Two sides of the mirror
The mirror world vision which is slowly materialising in Twinity offers possibilities for real world businesses, tourism and such to present themselves to a virtual audience. And they do; the list of Twinity partners is growing. I can't judge whether the growth is fast enough or not, but it's is certainly there.
But the mirror vision also implies limits. Twinity has to resemble the real world as closely as possible, leaving little room for creativity in shaping or changing the world. Twinity's designers (the German company Metaversum) nor citizens ('Twinizens') can't just go ahead and randomly build houses or toy with the landscape, as is possible in Second Life. Clothing and interior designing allow for some creativity, and to be honest, some Twinizens have created beautiful spaces. But all in all, Twinity is, in this regard, more limited than SL citizens are used to. For me that's not much of an issue as I wasn't an active artist or designer anyway, but for some it is.
Who's providing the entertainment?
It also, and perhaps more significantly, means that Twinizens need to be entertained, much more so than in Second Life, where residents can easily organise their own concerts and events. This puts and additional burden on Metaversum; more than in Second Life or other game environments, amusement and entertainment has to be provided (or facilitated) by them, the world's owners. Exploring Berlin is nice for a start, but after a few sessions you probably have seen the best parts, and Twinizens might stop logging in, if that's really all there is! Looking at the list of events that have been organized recently, I think Metaversum understands this all too well. There have been movie premieres, literaty events, live music, parties, contests, games.. Metaversum is putting a lot of effort in this area. But if they didn't, I'm not sure Twinity would survive another year.