Yesterday, three-person development team Surreal Games launched a Kickstarter to help fund their fledgling virtual world, Surreal Adventures, developed in Unity and intended for release on a variety of platforms (including mobile devices). They've set a goal of $100,000 with funding drawing to a close on August 9th.
What exactly makes Surreal Adventures any different than the virtual world that have come (and, in some cases, gone) in the past decade? Well, for starters...
Surreal Adventures is set on a cruise ship, which in spite of its clubs and shops and casinos is a slightly more closed environment than avid virtual world afficionados might be used to. However the ship environment provides an interesting take on player housing in the form of cabins. Kickstarter backers have the opportunity to upgrade their own accomodations on the ship which, depending on how much you donate, can end with a penthouse suite and a personal helicopter.
Players aren't just restricted to the ship. This game almost has a bit of a Westworld thing going, where cruisegoers can elect to go on a variety of different adventures/activities. Again, this seems restrictive compared to the openness of Second Life, but sometimes there's something to be said for having a few carefully crafted environments and experiences in the place of many others with far less careful design behind them.
To be perfectly honest, my first reaction to many of the screenshots on Surreal's Kickstarter was not entirely favourable. It looks a bit dated, but there's good reason for that. Obviously the game is still in development, so a certain level of polish just won't be there, but the fact that it'll be playable on PCs as well as mobile devices is also a significant factor. As far as Unity-based games go, this one actually looks pretty okay.
Surreal Adventures' mobile support (and the developers' background in mobile gaming) is pretty crucial, and it's something that Second Life has yet to really get right. Considering how much "casual" gaming takes place on Android and iOS platforms, supporting them seems vital for a new virtual world's survival.
Now, if $100,000 seems like a surprisingly low goal for such an ambitious project, it's because they've already raised $300,000 in angel funding on their own, and are turning to crowdfunding for the remainder. If your curiosity has been piqued at all, you can check out Surreal's Facebook page as well as their Kickstarter page for more information.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.