[Our sister site on virtual/online worlds, WorldsInMotion.biz, is still blasting it - and seems to have secured the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website creators for its Austin GDC Summit in September, haw. It's also continuing to profile free-to-play sites/worlds, and this time, Mathew Kumar pokes at the avatar-tastic WeeWorld.]

Here's an overview of WeeWorld, a social network built upon the WeeMee avatars that were originally created for use as avatars across chat programs - including AIM and Skype. As a result, WeeWorld is heavily based around the idea of self expression through dressing your WeeMee and their environment.

2008_05_27_weeworld.jpgName: WeeWorld
Company:
WeeWorld
Established:
May 2008

How it Works: WeeWorld is experienced on the web through a combination of html and Flash. It requires no installation. Navigation and gameplay are accomplished via mouse and keyboard input.

2008_05_27_weeworld2.jpgOverview: WeeWorld has elements of both social worlds and social networks, with the player's homepage similar to MySpace or Facebook, but also featuring a room for the player's avatar, which the player can decorate with objects. Players can take their WeeMee into the WeeWorld and visit locations (largely for chatting with other users) or interact with other users socially via other methods (forums, messaging, etc.) and can also play a variety of games -- most of which star the player's WeeMee.

Payment Method: WeeWorld is free to play, and earns revenue through microtransactions (points are purchased to update the player's look with new items) and licensing.

Key Features:

- Unique avatar with a huge variety of dress-up options
- Full social network (friends, messaging, blogging, etc.)
- Live chat in WeeWorld with avatars and locations
- Games

WeeWorld: In-Depth Tour

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WeeMees have existed since 2005 as a purely avatar orientated experience, so it's no surprise to say that WeeWorld's avatar customization is beyond compare. Once you've selected your sex, skin color (6 options) head shape (3 options) and eye color (6 options) the possible number of combinations has to number in the billions, with 120 hair styles; 51 possible facial hair options… and the clothes! Goodness, the clothes. You really can't argue with 218 different possible tops, can you? And for practically every option you can choose the color scheme.

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The avatars have an intentionally South Parky-ness about them (indeed, you could duplicate many South Park characters using the system) but are full of character thanks to the number of possible options at hand, and you'll eventually stumble upon a combination that looks like you (or looks like you wish you looked) -- and more amazingly, there are even more options to select from once you've completed your initial character in the shop.

For example, one area that is slightly lacking in character creation is in shoe selection -- no Converse! -- so I was pleased to see a suitable facsimile for sale in the shop for 250 points. 250 points is a mere 50 cents, but you do have to purchase points in $5 blocks. So I passed.

Though I've been playing for a while, I'm not sure if there's much you can do with points except buy more clothes and items for your WeeMee. For many users this will be perfectly acceptable, as redressing their WeeMee regularly is part of the experience. You can earn points a few other ways than by spending money -- by taking part in competitions, for example – but you can't earn any by playing the flash games attached to WeeWorld.

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The games are kind of cute timewasters, anyway. There, are, of course, the usual match 3 rip-offs and the like, but some are pretty unique, and most of them use your WeeMee as the character you control, which is a nice touch.

Anyway. The second area to show your uniqueness is your WeeMee's room. Much like the WeeMee itself this is incredibly customizable, with hundreds of different objects to arrange, and currently, they're all free. I spent far longer than I meant to arranging my ideal kind of "bachelor pad" (arcade and pinball machines, flatscreen TVs and game consoles) than I meant to.

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Your WeeMee and his room in a way act as your MySpace or Facebook "homepage" -- pages that other users can visit and leave messages on – and this forms the kind of "shell" to the WeeWorld experience – probably the part that you would interact with most day to day.

However, there's also the section that puts the "World" into WeeWorld – the, er, world. Currently in beta, it's probably the most unique way I could imagine putting otherwise static avatars into a 2D world you simply select a location (currently, there are only locations available in "New Dome City" and once you're there, you can stand still and chat with the other players who are nearby, or you can use your mouse to select your character, and as if using a slingshot "fling" your player across the screen to interact with other characters.

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Not to say that so far I've seen much in the way of meaningful conversation. In fact, it does seem to work currently more like a random IRC chatroom than a social world, with characters simply bouncing around to scream "DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT WITH ME" at each other.

WeeWorld: Conclusion

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WeeMees have had a long and successful life already as avatars in chat programs such as AIM and Skype, so the question is if the upgrade to having their own WeeWorld, a social site that uses aspects of Facebook and MySpace and MMOs has been worth it. My feelings?

I'm not so sure. WeeWorld is interesting to us because it’s the aspects that were already firmly in place that are the most successful by far.

The creation and modification of your avatar is, frankly, absolutely beyond compare. Even with a small and basic base figure (the WeeMees themselves are a little plain) there's so much you can do to them, with tons of hairstyles, clothes options and other general attachments that they're just really fun to mess around with.

And creating your room, part of your WeeMee's online presence, is just as fun, being a natural extension of dressing up your WeeMee. If we had any complaints it would simply be to have some more flexibility in placing objects on your WeeMee and in their room -- more ability to rotate or otherwise layer, for example. But it's a small quibble.

The social network aspects that work the best are similarly those with a proven track record (as it were) -- your WeeMee's page, with other users able to leave you messages (and you on theirs) a friends list and even being able to blog.

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It's really (and rather sadly) the most touted new feature, the WeeWorld itself that falls down flat on its face. Now, it's still in beta, so we should be fair to it and say that it could improve greatly, but in general it's not the functional aspects that are the problem -- it's the community.

Functionally, WeeWorld works fine -- the idea of using a slingshot to ping your WeeMee around the levels is cute, and if the beta progresses as I imagine it should, small troubles like the ability for WeeMees to layer (and block each other otherwise) should be easily fixed, and the areas, currently limited to a small number of sprawling clubs, should open up and (hopefully) be more interesting to explore.

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The problem is that right now, even with changes, I can't imagine why I'd want to hang around in such an odorous community. As I said in the previous post, the world seems to mostly consist of characters bouncing around screaming date requests at each other. Not to go all "Daily Mail" on WeeWorld, but with a fair amount of users teens and tweens, and the chat unfettered, it made me feel pretty uncomfortable, as it's not always obvious how old someone is that you're talking to. Especially when you're worlds away from the polite and collaborative chat in a world such as Dizzywood.

So that leaves WeeWorld in kind of an odd position. As social networks go, it's got its benefits -- great avatar/room customization, for one -- but as an MMO (of sorts) it's nothing more than a IRC chatroom that makes me feel terribly uncomfortable. Perhaps it'll improve, but I'll be honest and say I don't hold out much hope.

Useful Links:
WeeWorld - About