www.whyville.net Mar 22, 2009 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

How Whyville Stacks Up

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In response to the surmounting criticism of Whyville's new features, some City Workers have cited the necessity to keep up with other online communities as a reason for the changes. I went undercover onto two other such communities in order to determine how they compare.

Site: Habbo (Habbo.com)

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Avatars: The avatars on Habbo are pseudo-3D sprites that can be customized with a wide variety of free parts at any time or paid parts. You can even change clothes, appearance and race in the middle of chatting, since the main game client opens in a separate window from the browser.

Chat: Chat messages appear as bubbles at the top of the window. This makes it easier to keep track of the order of a conversation, but not where in the room the person who's chatting is. Some bubbles also get pushed off the screen if there is a lot of text or multiple conversations. Offensive words or parts of words are replaced by "bobba"; however, this filter can be turned off.

Economy: Users earn "pixels" simply by participating in chat; however, these are essentially worthless. Most in-game products can only be purchased with "coins."

Games: There is a wide variety of games to be played. Many involve strategy, and pixels are earned just for participating. Some can only be earned by joining "Habbo Club" for amounts starting at 20 coins, or $4 USD. Non-Habbo Club members are often treated like second-class citizens, and the part of the site where you join even says "no riff-raff allowed."

Rooms: The rooms are made to look like pools and stuff you'd find at hotels, but there are many user-created rooms that show off the various users' design ingenuity (or lack thereof). Despite the filters, however, many users make private rooms to do inappropriate things, like scams involving "selling" furniture.

Sponsorship: The site is sponsored by entities like American Idol and NBC's Heroes by implementing new areas and items.

Target Audience: Kids-Teens

Overall: There are some neat ideas like badges and achievements for using the site, and the 3D-ish free user-owned rooms, but too much of the site is paid to be worth it if you don't like spending a lot of real money on virtual items.

Site: GaiaOnline (GaiaOnline.com)

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Avatars: Gaia's avatars are also pseudo-3D sprites, but nearly all apparel must be purchased with in-game currency.

Chat: Chat messages appear as bubbles next to the avatar, but disappear after about 3 seconds or so, making it difficult to say something long and still have it be read. Offensive words or parts of words are replaced by asterisks in chat and on the forums, unless you turn off the chat filter.

Economy: The in-game currency is gold, which can be found simply by clicking on random bushes. You can buy "Gaia Cash" to buy special collectibles.

Games: There are many arcade-type games to be played.

Rooms: You can go to a number of generic, pastoral rooms, or go to villages with user-owned houses.

Sponsorship: The site is sponsored by things like Madagascar 2 or Verizon Wireless, mostly by adding new rooms. In addition, there are a few full-length movies that can be seen for free, though none would load for me.

Target Audience: Anime fans of all ages

Overall: The site is mainly intended for anime fans, which I'm not, so I can't really say to what end it achieves its goal. But it can be enjoyable enough, if you don't mind people going around yelling "111 IF U R GIRL!??!" on a regular basis.

In summation, I found Whyville to be a better site than both. All of these sites can learn from each other, but Whyville has been around longer and does most things much better.



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