Sunday, April 18, 2010

Twinity: cracks in the mirror

One fascinating aspect of Twinity has always been it's mirror philosophy: "Twinity is a 3D mirror world based on real cities and real people." Second Life used to have the tag line "Your world, your imagination"; Twinity has "Powered by Real Life", which nicely captures the difference between the two.

There are, however, small cracks in the mirror, situations where the real world and the virtual mirror do not match. For instance, most people do not use their real identity in Twinity; they own places they don't have in the real world. These differences do not matter that much to me: the cities and buildings that make up the real world are mirrored, the inhabitants not necessarily.

But this becomes more of an issue with Twinity's latest addition: the idyllical island of Palmadora which has opened recently. It's a beautiful place and it looks quite realistic, but unfortunately it doesn't exist in the real world. It's a completely imaginary city, designed on a small uninhabited island that does exist in the real world: Espalmador, between Ibiza and Formentera.


I have mixed feelings about Palmador. As a virtual place, it may just be what Twinity needed: a sunny, relaxed place with a strong mediterranean vibe that will remind everyone of holiday. A perfect location for relaxing, chatting, showing off beachwear and of course the occassional party! It's also a nice break from the cityscapes currently dominating Twinity.

Palmadora

But - there should not be a Palmador: the mirror is conjuring up a picture that doesn't exist in reality. It's a pretty picture and I like it, but if Metaversum takes it's mirror philosophy serious, it wouldn't be there.

I don't know why Metaversum chose to create Palmador. While thinking about this issue, I spent some time looking for alternatives in the Carribean. There are lots of small inhabited islands there, and any one of these would have been a believable mirror location for Twinity. It could have been one of the small Bahamas islands, or for instance Mustique in the eastern Carribean , a privately owned and operated island with one or two hotels and a about a hundred exclusive, posh villas most of us probably can't afford in real life. What a great mirror location! The added benefit would have been that on a dark European evening, the sun would still be shining on this tropical destination!

Palmadora is nice and I'm sure I'll spend time there. It may be precisely what Twinity needs at this moment. But the crack in the mirror still bothers me a bit, and leaves me wondering what Metaversum is up to next.

Sered Woollahra blogs at Sered's lives and lives in Second Life, Twinity, Eve Online and OpenSim.

10 comments:

R.C. said...

Wow. I'm really surprised to hear someone feeling conflicted about Palmadora, because I saw it as an inevitable addition to the world, what with so many "beach" apartments becoming popular. I think I also know exactly why it was created-- if you're familliar with There, it has many elements that would naturally appeal to former Therians, who Twinity is still trying to keep from running to Second Life or Blue Mars. The beach houses are very similar to an area called Cannery Row that used to be on There; the tropical feel is a lot like the islands on There. There's even a slightly vague-ish Saja feel to it as well.

So my feeling on Palmadora is this: if it takes an island like that to attract and retain Therians, why not? Having a small place that slightly veers away from There's "mirror" philosophy is a small price to pay.

I am conflicted about Palmadora in one sense. In a way, it's going to take the thunder away from places like A Dream.

Sered Woollahra said...

RC,

I like Palmadora, but it's a deviation from Metaversums' own stated cornerstone policy upon which they've built their entire virtual world; it's also their unique selling point.

I don't disagree with the necessity for a beach location, I just wonder whether there wasn't a suitable real world location they could have mirrored, providing the beach location while keeping the mirror intact!

I'd say it's almost unavoidable for Metaversum to rephrase or evaluate the mirror philosophy at this point, perhaps changing it to a mixed mirror world where real and imaginary can coexist. A sort of 'augmented mirror' world.

Thanks for stopping by,
sered

R.C. said...

Hi, Sered,

Well, I think the reason why Metaversum didn't go with an actual Caribbean location is that the demands of Therians were too specific to allow for one. To put it another way, had it chosen a real island (like Barbados or St. Kitts), Metaversum would've been forced to add stuff to it that didn't exist, in order to appeal to the wishes of Therians who wanted it to mimic stuff from their world. Then it really would've been violating its philosophy, because these islands *already* have structures, attractions, etc.

Palmadora was the compromise Metaversum had to make in order to appease Therians. True, Palmadora doesn't *really* have the stuff that it does in Twinity, but this is a minor infraction considering that there's nothing on the island, IMO. I'd be more worried if Palmadora had pre-existing structures and Metaversum wiped them away with its own buildings. O_o

Still, I hear what you're saying. Metaversum has to be careful not to lose sight of its purpose in adding new content. On that we can agree.

Anonymous said...

http://blog.twinity.com/archive/2009/08/20/are-mirror-worlds-mirroring-the-real-world-from-virtual-speak/

Hi Researcher here. Many months ago I posted a issue on Twinity Blog. As mentioned much earlier , They are not a mirror world and as predicted, they are moving away from a Mirror World.

Its actually very simple here.. Twinity has failed to find revenue from a Mirror World application and thus having investors on board has to find new ways to generate revenues. Hence the fantasy element..

Their mirror world concept has not taken off successfully in any way. No retailers have taken space, No real business has taken a stake in their world. All the content are moving towards fake content. Fake Pubs, Fake shops, etc.

Hence I am not surprise their investors have probably force their hand to "GET ME REVENUE" or we are shutting you down.

Having spend millions building Berlin, Singapore and now London. I expect their revenues are pittance compare to amount spend.

Any other fantasy game would have generate more revenue than Twinity.com

I dont expect them to last much longer if they continue on their route of a MIRROR world. There is simply no traffic there to justify the existance of the world.

I am not suprise if 2-3 months down the road, They will announce a new fantasy world like similar to There.com

Twinity as a mirror world is a failure. 2 Yrs in the making and its still not taking off.

Pier said...

I think that the whole industry of virtual worlds is suffering from a sort of media, hype and investors abandon....I'm not sure that the concept if mirror world is in itself erroneous.....now media and crowds are more focused on mobile applications and social networking. It make sense indeed, because both these areas have a clear focus and multiple explicit goals for the users. While, it's not clear at all what users of virtual worlds are meant to do there....
left mmorpgs, that it clear what they're supposed to do, social worlds both fantasy and mirrors/realistic have some issues. They're all still in some of alpha stage, at least until when it will be clear to all how, when, why and who is meant to use them.

In the meanwhile, the two leader companies in the virtual worlds industry (Linden Lab/Second Life & IMVU inc./IMVU) are doing an excellent job on improving usability, integrate the client with the web and viceversa, give users the chance to create business inside the worlds, and improve the casual users experience.

My take is that Twinity should follow the same path. I consider the shift from a mirror to a fantasy perspective less important in respect to the future success of this world....usability, user experience, user generated marketplace, customization of the experience, amazing contents will make the difference, then.

Anonymous said...

Twinity as predicted is dying , major management change, now the entire business is handle by a new CEO who was ex CTO...
This is going to be interesting.

R.C. said...

I know it's been awhile since this post was made, but I just wanted to comment:

For the doomsayers who are expressing a sort of gloating prediction and analysis of Twinity's "demise":

1) Twinity is not "dying"-- for the first time since I've joined in 2008, the game is finally seeing active servers 24/7. No, there aren't thousands of players on a Second Life level yet, but it's definitely a far cry from those embarrassing nights when you'd log on and there would only be one other person online.

2) A lot of Twinity's problems had nothing to do with its mirror world concept but deep infrastructural problems and management issues. I hate to say this, but it seems to me that the previous' management strategy was "if they build it, they will come." In other words, just build this huge, glittering, pretty world without thinking certain key elements through, hope the money rolls in from investors and players, then use that money to iron out the kinks afterwards. As a result of this line of thinking, many times Twinity would often put the cart before the horse, which resulted in poor membership and interest on the part of companies to join.

For example, Twinity at one point attracted major companies like Sony to hold high profile events to attract players. Problem is that around this time, the servers were so unstable and the client so buggy, most players could barely stay online for more than a few minutes without crashing. When players weren't frustrated by crashing servers and bugs, there was the fact that many aspects integral to keeping them-- like real estate, virtual business and economy-- were underdeveloped. Players would join wanting to have virtual jobs or make money off real estate or run a business and there'd be no jobs, a poorly implemented real estate, and an even poorly implemented economy. So they'd leave.

As of this year I can confidently say that Twinity has finally "seen the ligt" and is now fixing all the problems that once drove players away, which explains why it's seeing the most active server activity since its inception. So don't be so quick to write it off yet as "dying" or claim with a sort of self-assurance that the reason why it was struggling was due to its real world mirror concept. On the contrary.

Anonymous said...

Hi Researcher Here.

I Still beg to defer.. Take a look at Alexa.com Traffic on Twinity and its very telling.

Page Views are all time low, the high peaks are gone, whats left are diminishing traffic.

Yes system has been more stable but traffic is still miserable. All those people who have signed up will never come back in again, because there is nothing for them to come back in again.

It will take a revamp and a miracle for Twinity to come back up to speed .

I hope they have a shit load of money to burn but I dont think so.
The revenue model of the Mirror World is completely screwed.
Confusion and a sense of direction which Twinity is moving forward is also creating issues.

Hornestly if I want to chat and make friends , I would go IMVU or 2nd Life.

I still dont get Twinity . Their messaging is completely screwed.
just my 2 cents worth.

Anonymous said...

Rc I sense that you are a paid twinity supporter . However I also noticed that your twinity monitor blog is closed for good .
Did you give up on twinity ?or have they stop paying you .
Twinity is dead and is a matter of when !

Anonymous said...

Twinity is not really commercially developed. I know one Therian who spent a lot of money on real estate but had to create 3 avatars just to buy 150 properties for re-sale. I know he would have spend a few thousand euros buying a whole bunch but he said that they were not really geared up for any serious investors and he sold them off cheap and left.

This is the main problem. People initially think wow this looks good and serious investors get sucked in with thinking that it might actually offer something but then realise the numbers online at any one time are still so low and the management infrastructure so bad that you would be better off getting someone to walk round advertising in your local town with a sandwich board and you would probably get more customers.

I hope Twinity does survive but they need to get more financially savvy and understand that in its present form no serious investor no matter how keen on virtual worlds is going to invest any serious money into it. There are too many disillusioned ex Twinity people out there who will be the first to point out the frustrations of many who have tried it and given up for one reason or another.

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