Twinity Beta versus Second Life

So I get an email today that the Twinity beta test now has room for me. Joy.

Dear Logan,

There is now a space open for you in the Twinity beta!
You have the opportunity to be one of the very first
people to see Twinity, the new virtual world that mashes
up real and virtual life.

Signing up for Twinity is free.

And so forth and so on with a link to the client download. So I run through the setup screens and I get dumped into a world map. Very pretty.

Twinity World Map

It is all glowy-when-you-mouseover a country. So I select a country, but nothing much really happens. I select one a buncha times, still zip. Not to be stymied, I look around, see a list of cities at the bottom of the screen, and find a “create place” button. That sounds promising. Off we go. Along the way, I see that I am either registered user number 310, or number 310 currently online. Who knows?

I go through the create place dialog. For some reason Twinity constrains me to create my location in one of four or so cities in my selected country, the USA. So I pick New York out of the list, and name my little place after my actual city.

Then Twinity gives me the chance to select the layout of my place from a short list of templates, like club, atelier place, etc. Finishing these options, I create my place and voila, there I am.

Right away I see that this Twinity has something over Second Life. It drags you along on rails and makes you learn how to… do whatever it is you’re supposed to do in Twinity. My little avatar, we’ll call him Joe Chubbycheeks, shows up in a nicely texture-baked flat or apartment.

Joe Chubbycheeks

Joe’s not going to win any fashion contests with his well-rounded (read: fat) head, but let’s be honest. Second Life’s Ruth avatar is at least equally fugly. Ok, at least Ruth doesn’t have little stripes tattooed across her face. Maybe some day.

Joe’s an enterprising guy, so I decide to have him decorate the place. I know I can decorate because the helpful little tooltips told me so. Right clicking on anything brings up an integrated shop/my inventory/upload asset interface, all apparently linked to the thing I right-clicked on.Object mod interface

Apparently I don’t have anything in my inventory with which to furnish the place and everything in the shop costs linden dollars spacebucks or whatever the local denomination is [“globals” –ed.], so for a moment I’m sad. Then I realize the kind beta developers have given me a thousand spacebucks to start with! Welcome to my financial empire!

On my way to shop for a loveseat, I get distracted by the clothes section of the shop. Mr. Chubbycheeks dons his shiny new baseball cap for $20 spacebucks globals a moment later.

I try to camscan out the window– I see ripple water out there– but the camera is constrained to stay inside my brown-wallpapered walls. Shame. If I can’t figure out how to open the windows, then I can’t throw myself out them. Safe for the moment.

Already I can see that even in beta, parts of the UI have so much more finesse than the Second Life client does. Menu panels fade in and out, and clothing items at least are previewed in 3d before you buy them within the shop interface.

I have started with three outfits, default, basics and business, stored in a nice tabbed interface. Slightly disconcerting that one cannot yet strip to the buff, but then again, I’m still standing next to the window.

As I wander a bit more, it becomes clear the the lighting model is still under development. There’s a sense that Joe’s face is underlit, while the back of the poor guy is well-lit.
Lighting model

To console myself of Joe’s skin problem, I decide to buy a sink from that handy store interface. A couple of right-clicks and clicks and yes-its-ok-to-spend-my-spacebucks globals, and my sink is now hovering in space in my room. It is tipped forward 90 degrees, but never fear! We can rotate the sucker. But not on the right axis…? A few minutes tinkering doesn’t quite get me to where the sink wants to be, so I scrub it and try to go exploring.

As I’m driving myself nuts over how to pen my front door, I realize that Twinity has one killer interface feature over SL so far: the shop is integrated right into the inventory. No minimizing the client to find slexchange or onRez. No teleporting to some laggy shop filled with flexi prim trees and bling. Just a few clicks. Not terribly immersive to the sense of being in the world of twinity, but extremely convenient. Perhaps the Second Life inventory Library section is an apt parallel.

After banging my head on the door for awhile, it seems clear that I can’t quite go outside very easily yet. It’s ok, Twinity is still in early beta. So instead, I drop back to that world map and teleport somewhere, Chez Mareike. After a minute or so, the place rezzes in fully. For awhile, it is a little strange; the walls and floor rez last of all, leaving me standing in midair, surrounded by bar kitsch until the floor materializes.

Browsing through the location info, to my surprise I see a weather report giving temperature, moon phase, and cloudiness? The temperature looks about right for this time of year, just above freezing.

Here, someone has installed lights. The local lighting looks better than in SL, and maps nicely onto the objects around the place as well.

Poking around the chat interface, it looks like no one else is around. Well, at least there are cheery little butterflies flitting around.

Taking a step back from Chez Mareike, I reflect on how at this stage, Twinity is so far a stripped down and simplified version of Second Life. It takes the “pimp out a default house and meet people” approach as far as I can tell. Put up your posters, rewallpaper, install a web browser framed on your wall, rub elbows with people.

As a Second Life user, this place is a little frustrating so far, but it is early yet, and I must not lose sight of the fact that so many people don’t WANT an SL. They want a mySpace version, just like most people aren’t interested in learning HTML to put up a proper website. Afterall, the simple version is all a lot of people are seeking.

8 thoughts on “Twinity Beta versus Second Life”

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