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WIM Q & A: 'Doppelganger's Tim Stevens Talks vSide'

Game Developer Research-affiliated online worlds weblog WorldsInMotion.biz has published a new interview with Doppelganger's CEO
Game Developer Research and Gamasutra-affiliated online worlds weblog WorldsInMotion.biz has published a new interview with Doppelganger's CEO Tim Stevens, discussing bringing music and celebs into its vSide online world. In a particularly game-relevant part of the interview, which is viewable in full on WorldsInMotion.biz, Stevens feels that the continual evolution of the real-time participatory content will differentiate vSide from totally freeform experiences like Second Life as well as the pure game content updates of popular MMOs. He described an ongoing murder mystery story in-world constantly being updated with new info and evidence for users to explore on their own-- and noted that players won't be able to solve the mystery without partnering up. Story elements like these are aided both by in-world NPCs and real guide avatars, and are an example of the customizability of the vSide experience-- there's plenty to do for both the casual user and the deeply involved. In fact, Stevens strongly believes that user engagement is a better measure of a world's success than sheer numbers -- while Doppelganger's 150,000 registered users in closed testing certainly sounds small alongside other worlds, those users spend, according to the company, 9.5 hours in-world per month, and most recently in June, the average in-world session was 1 hour, 11 minutes (up from 51 minutes in April). Compare this to figures that suggest the average amount of time spent on social networking sites adds up to 2 hours per user per month. Stevens eschews the idea of working on existing models, and says his greatest inspiration for vSide was not in any other online community, but in highly-detailed video games -- he cites Halo and Counter-Strike as influences, and hired an art director formerly of Bungie. "Nobody out there has figured out the power of the virtual world," he says. "Lots of sites have figured out how to provide an activity that has generated a lot of interest and a lot of users, but nothing that has really captured the imagination like television did when it first came out. I think all those companies are absolutely phenomenal and I think there’s space in the landscape for all of those kinds of experiences." Stevens concluded: "It’s really knowing and being crystal clear... why are users coming into your online experience? What are they getting out of it? How are they connecting? I am building a business that will engage users 10-12 hours a month or for an hour each time for 4 to 5 years. I want ‘em from 14-15 all the way to early twenties." You can now read the full interview on WorldsInMotion.biz, which also includes a significantly updated Online Worlds Atlas, now profiling worlds such as Sherwood Dungeon, Toontown, Nicktropolis, Runescape, and many more in detail, with screenshots, in-game world specifics, and analysis.

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