3Dchat LLC has launched the online game 3Dchat, an immersive 3D virtual world in development since 2008 by GolemLabs. Built upon the Gamebryo engine, 3Dchat is a virtual world for the 18 and over set, a social networking environment, and a proprietary identity verification service all wrapped into one. Unfortunately, the game will not be available for the Mac.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a walkthrough of the game with 3Dchat CEO Glenn Garritano, CFO Greg Garritano, and GolemLabs president Jean-René Couture, who showed me the ins and outs of this immense virtual 3D world.
First and foremost, 3Dchat is meant to be a virtual world where adults may play. Under 18’s need not apply…no exceptions. In fact, the requirement is so rigorous, they won’t even allow you to create avatars that look like kids in this world. The company confirms your age, and everything else required about you for application, using a new identity verification service called VERYfied. Described as being a first for online worlds of this type, VERYfied will certify a user’s identity through official partners, such as Aristotle, PayPal, eBay, etc. One of the biggest concerns expressed among the developers was protecting players from interacting with others who were not what they seemed…for example, a teenage boy playing a female avatar.
Avatars are highly customizable, including 300 “bones” for rendering purposes. This gave a large degree of flexibility to the body types and facial features that you could create using the character editing tool by just moving your mouse around and clicking. However, I suspect that in a fantasy virtual world that many players will be creating iconic body types and ignoring some of the real features of the character editor. You can also change many other aspects of your avatar, such as hair and eye color, nose size, jaw placement, and dozens more that we never got into. The possibilities are pretty endless.
Once your avatar is created, you can step into the virtual world of 3Dchat. Your first stop is your own penthouse suite, complete with a
houseboy housemate that gets messages for you and many other things. Your housemate can even be your escort into the outside world. Your housemate is customizable as well (including gender), so you can decide just how formal, hippy, or exotic you want him (or her) to be. Your penthouse is customizable too…notice a pattern? Yes, you can change the color of the paint, the furniture, where things are placed, etc.
Walking out into the 3Dchat world, the first thing you will notice is the graphics. The visuals are quite stunning, detailed, and smooth. Watching a video walkthrough of 3Dchat really gets across the quality of the graphics in-game, from chandeliers on the ceiling, to complex art on the walls, to detailed mosaics made from moss and lichen on stone walkways.
There are many places to visit in 3Dchat, from bars and dance clubs, to art shows and movie theaters, to libraries and parks. The developers have some extensive ideas of what they want to do with all of this virtual space. For example, you can walk into a dance club and request music from the DJ to play. You can go into a movie theater and watch a streaming video that is available, or you can purchase one through Netflix. You can purchase art from the art gallery, or if you are an artist you can rent space in the art gallery for an art show.
All of this will be available via a variety of purchasing methods dependent on what the seller desires. This I figure may end up creating some complications, as individual sellers using tools with different user interfaces may cause confusion among buyers.
Where is the gaming, you ask? The game side of things involves quests. There will be numerous quests to go on involving finding hidden objects, playing mini-games, opening achievements with certain actions, etc. So this isn’t so much a game as a social networking space that includes gaming as an integral part of the world.
These games can get you in-world currency which will then allow you to purchase all manner of things, from clothes to music to movies, etc that are available within the game. You can also purchase items using real-world currency too, items that have a real-world component. These items would include purchasing music to go on your iPod, buying clothes you see in-game for real-world use, etc.
You can also interact with other players in 3Dchat. This can involve verbal conversation as well as physical actions. And here’s where things can get interesting. Because this is an adult world where players can do adult things, those actions can get very…well…adult. From pinching someone elses butt to cuddling and kissing, one can see that this is an opportunity for real fun…and real problems.
Not to worry, says Glenn Garritano. All actions performed must be approved by the receiving party. Want to kiss someone? You’ve gotta ask permission, and they have to give it. Garritano didn’t go into details regarding how this approval feature would work, and at one point mentioned that a player could slap another player when an unwanted action had been committed, such as a butt pinch. So perhaps this approval method works on a sliding scale, set to as much or little pre-approval as the player wants.
The actions can get hot and heavy, too. Depending on the type of account you actually get, you can get access to the premium sections of the world, which include gentlemen’s clubs with erotic dancers, Sex island, and other sensual experiences. And when asked about just how far can avatars go as far as their behaviors, the basic response was anything that was consensual.
At this point, a comparison could be made between 3Dchat and Second Life, but the comparison might be better described as Second Life 2.0, where the graphics are better, the world is more refined, and the security is tighter. But how long can that last? And will 3Dchat become a world full of men wandering around looking for female companionship? Will women be attracted by the security elements of VERYfy and the approval features enough to come onto the site?
Right now the website, the main front for 3Dchat for the public, gives a very male-centric viewpoint for the virtual world. Yet the game has real potential for both genders, with dance clubs and gentlemen’s clubs, beauty shops and shopping districts, penthouse suites designed the way anyone wants and interactions to the degree you feel comfortable.
Another issue for 3Dchat involves platform access. The website has stated that the site will be available for the Mac upon launch of the game. However, during the walkthrough, I was presented with a far different response when I asked about system requirements. Garritano stated that the game would be available for the Mac the end of next year, and only if there was a “real outcry” for it. This is a distinct turnaround from “available at launch” and I was given no reason for the sudden change. System requirements for the Windows version are still not set, according to the publisher, but we were told we only needed a “decent graphics card, like ATI 9600″. A very low-end graphics card requirement such as this would mean that the issues regarding a Mac version are not graphics-based at all.
The potential for the game is endless, and the ability for the game to turn into an adventure for adults of both genders is a real possibility. It’s just sad to see that, once again, a publisher is cutting out the Mac for no real apparent reason.