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.


Tinsel Silvera said...

Good commentary Sered. I came into Twinity beta in December 2007 and was heavily involved for the first six months or so. As Twinity grew it became predominantly German (as expected considering home base) and as it expanded further away from the States I became less involved. I am patiently waiting for them to come towards this side of the pond. I stop in once a month or so to check on things. I still believe very much in the future of Twinity and what it has to offer the virtual world communities. They have an amazing staff who I enjoyed many fun beta times with. I look forward to them mirroring the States.

Sered said...

Hey Tinsel,
Thanks! I'm not sure when Twinity will cross the Atlantic.. I think it's quite an effort building a virtual city like they did with Berlin. As of now they have a European city online, an Asian city is in the works; an American city might be a logical third. But up until now, I haven't heard of ideas like that.

Do you still have that art display in Twinity?

jere said...

@sered, Thanks so much for this commentary. It's good to hear your perspective, and @Tinsel's comments about the perceived German-centric community. I'm glad that the growth that Twinity has experienced is felt, and I recognize that we still have a long way to go on many sides, both community and product. We're continuing the work, and doing the best we can right now. Thanks, jeremy from twinity

R.C. said...

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with you about Twinity vs SL in terms of the need for Twinizens to be "entertained" due to the limitation of activities. Twinity is not at all limited; it just offers activities that are vastly different from those of SL.

Does this "difference" place a huge strain on Metaversum to entertain its users? And does it threaten the future of Twinity if Metaversum doesn't deliver? Absolutely not. Take Moove. This is a virtual world that allows users nothing to do but decorate their apartments, create mods, and host other users. Yet it still has thousands of members after its launch in 1999. In fact, at peak hours there will be well over 1000 users online.

Imagine that-- nothing to do but do that, yet somehow so many users are still active members. This is because the Second Life way is not the only way to keep an online community thriving. There are other ways, and some preceded SL by a good many years.

In terms of the limitations of what you can do to Twinity's landscape, I can tell you that as a former member of There, this is a Godsend. There, when it opened, had a beautiful virtual world with wonderful, exotic themes. Several years later, the place literally begun looking like a junk yard, because the members littered the landscape with ugly, crude objects. Trust me, the last thing anyone would want is to walk past the Rathaus and see the front of it littered with things like cartoon characters and ice cream cones. Or to have views of the Berliner Dom blocked by a huge, ugly house.

Lastly, to fault Twinity for the inability to alter its landscape is to miss its point. Twinity is essentially a place of virtual tourism. The point is for people interested in travel or other countries in general to find out more about particular city-- its bars, landmarks, shopping centers, and other hotspots. Not to alter it.

Just my opinion. Great blog, BTW! :-)

Sered said...

R.C., thanks for your comments! Regarding the landscape and such: we don't disagree. SL mainland is also often a mess :) Twinity is intended to be a mirror world and that definitely brings it's own value - that's why I'm still around after more than a year - but also limitations, and I know people have left because of those.

On communities in virtual worlds: I don't know Moove, but I know that for an international audience, there's not much to do in Twinity, if it weren't for Metaversum organizing events. I need to go to work now, perhaps I'll add more later :)


R.C. said...

Ok, take care. :-)

PS- Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Sorry all, dont really understand Twiinty application, I check it out and inside is some sort of a mirror base on google map, but there is nothing for people to do. All the shops fronts are fake and pubs and cafes and even shops are fake.

How do you intend to mirror the world like that if you have fake combine with real. Do you really know what is real or fake anymore?