IMVU – An online chatting experience augmented with a 3D world and customisation features

Chatty Business

It can be pretty difficult to talk the unfamiliar into having a go with or even not laughing at the world of online chat. After all, people that are accustomed to getting their conversations done in real life may look down their nose at web-based interaction, seeing it as devoid of any real charm or art and something that sweaty 14-year-old teenagers do before they have grown up properly. The truth is that the online chat world is a serious business, as is the increasing level of customisation and personalisation the is afforded to the online chatting community. IMVU is a social application that focuses itself not only on giving players the ability to chat to other players online, but letting them do so as a persona and avatar that has been created and customised to their own specifications. IMVU is basically an augmented version of a traditional chat room that has snippets and sections of real-life thrown into its 3D environment: this is perhaps why it has become so popular.

A Second Second-Life

If anyone has ever played the famous/infamous Second Life, then IMVU should be a familiar (if somewhat stripped down) experience. The game is played straight from your browser as opposed to going through the fuss of installing it, but in spite of this limitation it still plays quite impressively. You’ll spend most of your IMVU time getting to the nitty gritty of customising your character, with everything from appearance to clothing and the surroundings that he/she exists in being up for swapping, changing, augmenting, upgrading, and generally switching about to your heart’s content.

The level of customisation is quite staggering in fact. You can swap out anything from your character’s threads (that means clothes for anyone that feels revulsion or simply confused when they hear such slang) to the shoes that they wear, including ones from various famous brands. If you want accessories, the game also has them, with everything from necklaces to piercings and glasses for you to make yourself look like a virtual version of you.

Chatting, and then Some

To make the experience a little more than an exercise in self-perpetuating vanity, you are also able to chat with pretty much anyone else playing the game as well. One can view the game like an MMO with a social side that is more developed than your standard Massively Multiplayer Online experience. The chat rooms exists in the game as virtual 3D environments which have a maximum capacity and can be entered by anyone. You don’t walk around in the game, but rather use the mouse to click on areas/chat rooms you’d like to be in and you will travel there. There is even the option to design various items of clothing and accessories in order to put them in the online store to sell them for actual money.

The downside to the game is that the true action happens in the VIP club, which must be paid for with real-life money in a subscription fashion. Still, it’s a comprehensive world that is unrivalled by standard chat rooms and beaten only by Second Life and a handful of other such games. The customisation here is extensive, the opportunity for social interaction is admirable, and there is even an over-18s club which allows people to, well, engage in adult conversations if they so wish. The graphics are a little bit basic and the 3D engine isn’t particularly powerful, but it’s enough to give the chat a fairly unique dimension and make the game desirable to play for many people around the world. It isn’t quite as cool as superhero-based games like DC Universe Online, but it has its moments and holds its own in spite of not having any affiliation with already-successful franchises.