Saturday, October 04, 2008


The people I hang out with are either dedicated gamers (people that play World of Warcraft, Warhamemr, Lord of the Rings Online or Rapelz), or metaverse enthusiasts that explore virtual worlds and do interesting blah blah on interoperability and portability. In neither community we take 3D chatrooms very seriously and why should we? Those are just chatrooms, not entire worlds. When we chat, we use twitter, msn or skype.

I guess that's not fair on the chatrooms. Let's be honest. What have we seen of corporate use in virtual worlds sofar? Most users to Second Life do little else than using it as a social hangout to chat or do other social stuff which could easily have been done just as good in a 3D chatroom.

We can laugh at most of these 3D chatrooms and wave them away as being niche things in the industry. This is true for a number of these environments, as some can barely reach 2.5D or have a sole focus on sex, like Rapture or Naughty America, but there's one that stands out among its peers: IMVU.

I Envy You

You just can't miss IMVU these days. Whereas the majority of 3D related ads was taken up by World of Warcraft about a year ago, lately the ad market for 3D products seems to be dominated by IMVU. In the picture below a screenshot from the IMVU website, and 5 different IMVU ads I encountered in the last 5 hours at technorati.

Aside from the addvertisements, I don't hear a lot about IMVU, but it's serious business out there. In the past year they've grown rapidly - without much fuzz overtaking even Second Life in users - growing to over 20 million registered users, with about 600K active users every month. So what is IMVU exactly and why is it so succesfull

IMVU is a graphical instant messaging client with over 20 million registered users, and over 600,000 active monthly users, as of June 6th, 2008. Currently, it is in public beta, and has been available since April 02, 2004. It is developed by IMVU, Inc., founded by Will Harvey, a video game developer and founder of There.

IMVU has world’s largest catalog of virtual goods with over 1.5 million items, produced by over 100,000 content creators. It has generated $1 million in revenue per month, 90% of which comes directly from consumers who buy IMVU credits and virtual goods.

The primary focus of IMVU is the ability to use personalized 3D avatars and environments that let the user interact with the person they are chatting with. The secondary focus of IMVU is allowing the members to develop content that can be purchased by other members for use in personalizing their avatars and environments. [Wikipedia]

In general the presscoverage for Virtual Worlds has been dominated by Second Life, both positive and negative. The people I've spoken to, working at other Virtual Worlds generally feel most impact of the negative publications about Second Life, and feel they have hurt the industry and hampered growth. Yet again, this does not seem to be true for IMVU. They've mainly steered away from the press and did their own things. IMVU started up in 2004 and it took them four years (!) to release their first press statement, or as IMVU's CEO Cary Rosenzweig said last June:

"Today we take a big step for IMVU as a company - we’re issuing our first-ever
press release.

We are starting public relations (“PR”) activities for the first time in order to tell the IMVU story to a larger audience. We want to reach out and attract even more people to IMVU so that you have more people to meet, more people to have fun with, more people to buy your items from the catalog, more people to become content creators themselves."

And this was only after they've hit the 20M user mark.

In November last year I made a short overview of chatroom. To see what elkse is out there, check out this blogpost.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Wheel of Time Turns and weaves Tar Valon in SL

One of the greatest works of fantasy in the known world is, beyond any doubt, "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. The special Centenary edition (1892-1992) I have of this trilogy, published at the 100th birthday of Tolkien (post-mortem of course) quotes the Sunday Times:
"The English-speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and those who are going to read them."

Thousands of works of fantasy have been published ever since, yet few come close to the absolute mastery of Tolkien. There is one though, that may have surpassed him, which is James Oliver Rigney a.k.a. Robert Jordan (actually -and sadly- was, as he passed away last year) who wrote the epic Wheel of Time series.

The Wheel of Time series is currently an 11 book epic story about good vs. evil (no surprise there). A particular place in the series is the city of Tar Valon.

Tar Valon is a city located on an island on the River Erinin, within sight of Dragonmount. It is the center of Aes Sedai power and is also the largest, most populous city in the Westlands. Tar Valon also controls a small amount of territory directly adjacent to it, although it does not have as much land as it did before the War of the Hundred Years. Tar Valon is ruled by the Amyrlin Seat, although the day-to-day bureaucracy is handled by a council of Aes Sedai sisters and civil administrators. The city is notable as the only place where Aes Sedai have wielded officialized administrative power since the War of the Hundred Years. The population of the city in 1000 NE is roughly 500,000. It has remained independent of outside control for its entire existence, although it has suffered several major sieges and even direct assaults. [WoT Wiki]

A shade of this magnificent city was created in Second Life and just opened today, so time to take a few snapshots. Let me start off with an official map of the city as it appears in the books of The Wheel of Time.

The Second Life version has to do with limited space on a one-sim build, but the outlines are quite similar.

Dominating the island is the White Tower, seat of the Aes Sedai. A few snapshots from the inside. The 'knight' you see standing there in the library (of the Brown Ajah) is actually me, VeeJay as a 'Warden', which are masters of war, bodyguards to the Aes Sedai.

A close up of me dressed as a Warden. Well actually, it's not just 'a Warden' This is me as al'Lan Mandragoran,

al'Lan Mangragoran - Uncrowned King of Malkier, a land which was swallowed by the Blight shortly after his birth in 953 NE. He is Dai Shan (DYE SHAN) a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri and the last surviving Malkieri lord. At the age of sixteen he began a one-man war against the Blight and the Shadow which continued until he was bonded as Warder by Moiraine in 979 NE. Warder. His full name is al'Lan Mandragoran and his title is Lord of the Seven Towers.

The Aiel call him Aan'allein which means "a man who is an entire nation" in the Old Tongue. [Encyclopedia WoT]

The armor was tailormade for me by Jet Control, master armssmith and possibly the largest armsdealer in Second Life and was inspired by the cover of the first book in the Wheel of Time series, "The Eye of the World"

In June 2007 is sought out the Wheel of Time fans in Second Life and called them to start building the World of Robert Jordan in order to enter a calendar competition, which at the time didn't succeed. Now finally we've got our first place to RolePlay. Enjoy the fun at Tar Valon.


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Massively presents: Mines of Moria

Ever since I read the Lord of the Rings, in the early 90's, I've been a huge fan. When Peter Jackson made an epic movie out of it, I drooled. Now, we've got Lord of the Rings Online. The Guys and Gals over at Massively also have taken a liking of LotRO and put up a series of articles on the latest expansion to LotRO, the "Mines of Moria"

By this time you've scoured through our 43-image visual tour of Lord of the Rings Online's Mines of Moria, our PAX08 Moria preview gallery and our main Mines of Moria gallery, but you're ready for more! Guess what! You're in luck, because we now present to you an exclusive video of footage shot during our dev tour. This video was created by Massively's Features Editor Dan O'Halloran and showcases the expansiveness of the Mines of Moria. You'll find it just after the jump below.

If you still can't get enough Moria, keep your eyes glued on Massively over the next few weeks for more information, news, in-depth guides and more!


Now I'm moving into dangerous waters, but I think I'll pick Lord of the Rings Online ten times out of ten over World of Warcraft. The graphics are outstanding, but so are those in WoW, so is the gameplay. The absolute winner for me is the whole background, the history, the heroic battles of Middle Earth, the epic tales of the Valar and the Maya, the treason of Boromir, the regalness of Aragorn, the desolate walls of Gondor, the tales of Theoden King and so on. This is a history, a background, a legacy that World of Warcraft can never compete with.

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