Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Kaneva Review w/ virtual world screenshots

Not my review, I never acquired enough Kaneva points, or whatever they call them, to earn my way into the virtual world. However, an MIT researcher got a special invite and captured some screenshots along with his first impressions of the virtual world. The interesting thing to me about Kaneva is that (currently) it's only an indoor world. I think limiting the world is a good idea. Part of the problem with Second Life is that is too large, resulting in vast empty spaces that hold no interest for the audience.

However, Kaneva makes a different design choice that I think is problematic. They make you go to a mall to buy things for your apartment. In the review, the researcher goes to buy picture frames for his apartment and has to walk around the mall to find the shop that sells picture frames. I would have given up after about two seconds, but then again I buy everything online. Doesn't it make more sense to give your user the option to buy stuff for his or her apartment while he or she is in the apartment? Why make it hard to buy stuff? That just seems short-sighted.

Kaneva, and maybe every virtual world, makes the mistake of assuming that the key feature of virtual worlds to be exact replication of physical space, and our experience of moving through it. Second Life's original credo was no teleporting, because they wanted users to experience the virtual world as they would the real world. They changed that stance, I'm assuming because users got tired of walking for ten minutes to get to somewhere interesting. In fact, Slurls were developed by third-party developers so that Second Lifers could avoid travel through Second Life altogether(well, maybe that wasn't the intent, but it is the result. A Slurl is a link on a webpage that when clicked takes you directly to a location in Second Life.

I think it's a huge mistake to attempt to make virtual worlds into direct analogues of the real world. Traversing space in the real world is unavoidable. In a virtual world, it is optional. We developers would be wise to remember that.

I have a lot more to say about this subject but I'll reserve it for another post, when it's not 3AM. :)