So supposedly everyone is trying to clone Second Life. Here’s word via Mobil Avenue on three different takes on the model, each trying to fix what they see as a key issue: HiPiHi in China, which looks like SL with easier tools; Planet Cazmo, which keeps the house decorating aspect but changes it into a browser-based Animal Crossing lookalike; and finally, reviews trickling out of the closed Kaneva beta, which is putting more MySpace peanut butter in your SL chocolate. Are they really SL clones?
So, HiPiHi really looks like SL. A lot; check out the avatar stances on the homepage. Some of the high-end screenshots seem to show off a bit more artistic sensibility on someone’s part — I don’t know whether those pics are from user-built or HiPiHi-built showcases, but they do look pretty good. Bjorn Lee has written a good overview that expounds on similarities and differences; perhaps the most obvious is that HiPiHi offers not one but two facings. HiPiHi World is the alleged SL clone; HiPiHi Home is more like CyWorld, very “apartment” based, but with real avatars and the ability to go visit other people. (And that seems to be where the pretty shots come from). There’s mention of convergence with mobile devices too. On the rest, it sounds similar: user ownership of IP, in-world currency, pictures of people flying around, and so on.
You can download a trailer for the title here (30MB RAR-compressed WMV). Apart from the incongruous use of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” as a backing track for the house decoration segment, what it reveals isn’t so much like SL as like There. Which, given the recent success of Virtual Laguna Beach, may actually be a smart move. I didn’t see any mention of scripting; I also didn’t see any 3d modeling. What I saw was lots of tweaking of pre-fabs: adjusting hues, scalars, and so on. Looks like it has some decent building tools for landscapes.
Quite a contrast to Planet Cazmo, which looks like Dofus or Animal Crossing, very cartoony, and not like SL at all. It’s more entertainment-focused, witht he splash page talking about playing mini-games to earn points so you can buy more stuff — very Club Penguin, but with 3d avatars, the ability to create in-game content in some fashion (the site does not elaborate), and house decoration. There’s not much on the site yet, and it looks like there’s not much in the title yet either: it’s telling that the screenshots all seem to be taken within ten feet of one another. SL clone? I don’t think so…
Kaneva is still under NDA, which is getting obeyed, bent, or broken to varying degrees. 3d apartments, check. Pre-built geometry that you can buy and then retexture. In-world streaming video. The interesting parts are, of course, the very very MySpace-like integration of a social network. You can actually look at this part right now — and yeah, it looks like MySpace. With virtual apartments. This is a phrase that during my fundraising process I must have heard hundreds of times… Although Kaneva themselves are saying “Second Life Lite,” they must mean really really lite.
So these supposed SL clones don’t look like SL clones to me. One looks like the Chinese version of There’s original tagline of “Virtual Club Med.” The next looks like a higher-production-values version of Club Penguin. And the last looks like MySpace with virtual apartments. I don’t actually see anyone cloning SL itself, despite it being on The Today show. Some of this, no doubt, is because what SL is doing is really hard from a technical point of view; and some of it is because of the perception that no matter what numbers it hits, it’s still geeky and unappealing to the mass market. Were SL more firmly in the videogame market, it would have been cloned by now for sure.