The next big virtual world will scale Second Life Mountain
not on the strength of its dance clubs, but based on interactivity and social
networking. One game in particular mixes these strengths well.
Pixels and Policy guest-blogger Bruce Lehmann investigates Onverse,
a new online world now in Beta, and asks the question: What are players looking
for in a new world?
Breaking the Mold in the Metaverse
Over the last few years there have been quite a few aspiring
Second Life competitors: Kaneva, IMVU, Exit Reality, Vivaty and Prototerra,
to name some. Each present a slightly different but awkwardly familiar user experience.
By comparison, Second Life is huge, immersive and original. IMVU and Vivaty both suffer from the recent across-the-board decline in users headed to the "non-major" virtual worlds. Exit Reality and
Prototerra (and its newer cousin, 3DJay), are somewhat more successful. One can be
forgiven for assuming the non-Second Life world is an endless repetition of the
same themes. This brings us to Onverse.
Like Kaneva, IMVU and others, Onverse is a between virtual
reality and social networking sites like Facebook, a direction most new virtual
worlds are veering. You create an account on their site, then download and
install your virtual passport into the Onverse world. That's when things get really interesting.
For a Beta program, Onverse is surprisingly stable. There
are no system requirements as of yet, so tread cautiously. I am running it on a
Quad Core PC with 4gb of ram and a 640MB video card and a fiber optic internet
connection, so I see no lag or problems. I have not been able to test it on a
less powerful machine.
Onverse: Break Things, Make Friends
Once launched, Onverse proudly advertises its Torque
game engine. Upon logging in you are given a choice of two starting worlds:
the Learning Center or Volcano Island, and are then presented a choice of
places to “land” in your selected world.
Now, to a jaded old virtual world traveler like me, it all
looks familiar. Avatars running around, dance clubs, ho-hum. The problem is, if
you make that quick decision you will probably dismiss it off and leave (I did,
but went back). Closer investigation reveals why Onverse stands out from the
Unlike most other online environments, Onverse is designed
as a virtual-worldwide scavenger hunt. Instead of objects, you are hunting for
player points, the in-world currency. You have tools in your possession that
will help you in your hunt: a shovel to dig out “PP’s,” a butterfly net to
catch flying points, and a hammer to smash thing that may yield encased points.
The more points you get, the more virtual goods you can buy.
You get around by running/walking (switched by the ‘Shift’
key), or by calling up a map and ‘Teleporting’ somewhere else. There is another
way to get around that is unique to Onverse and yields one of its most
entertaining aspects: the Avatar Cannon. Walk up to one of these beauties and
right click it, and your avatar is fired through the air to a different region
of the world.
This idea lends some fun to travel.
You get a free apartment to ‘live’ in and they are almost
apologetic about how small it is. Of course, as you collect/earn PP’s you will
be able to purchase a larger place and even a house. You can also purchase
furniture, clothing, and items like costumes and such.
Onverse is a surprisingly pleasant experience. The avatars
are stylized like in, and they look well-designed. The places are nicely done
and the interactivity aspect is perhaps a step above Second Life. There is a
sense of vastness to the areas missing in places like IMVU. Onverse will keep