World Review: Switch In
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World Status: Operational
Switch In is the flagship of its parent company, Switch In software. Of the four virtual environments they make, this is by far the most sophisticated. It is a shockwave based virtual environment, that the company refer to as 'lightweight Second Life'.
Designed with social interaction in mind, and to pay for itself by making users pay for clothing accessories, it follows the standard mold of the 3D chatroom. At least, it does in theory. In practice, it tends to maybe not do as well as the standard 3D chatroom, and could benefit from some features it does not have that most 2D chatrooms do, such as logs.
Things start to go wrong soon after sign-up. Initially the choices are simple. It asks for a name to remember you by, and an email address to confirm identity. Credit card information is optional at this stage.
After log-in, the world, which expands dynamically to whatever size your browser window is, running happily in Internet Explorer or Firefox, asks you the standard question: Are you 13 or older? You can click yes or no here, it does not really matter, you'll be let in either way. The key difference is, if you are younger than 13, you can see everything and do everything within the world, you just cannot chat. At all.
Next, we move on to avatar design, which has a lot of wonderful customisation options: There are two avatars to choose from, one male, one female, but there are a few options to customise them.
This is good, as the female default is bulimic with spider-limbs. After a few seconds of staring, it is possible to figure out what is wrong: her upper legs, from pelvis to knee are twice as long as everything below the knee. Sadly, you do not get to change this.
The male avatar is slightly better - at least he knows what food is, but shares the same arachnid disposition in his limbs. On top of that, both avatars suffer from what we soon learn is standard practice throughout Switch In: rendering any 3D polygon object in as few polygons as realistically possible. 1995 level of sophistication this is not.
We begin avatar creation, creating a form to enter the world with. Next follows the painful process of customising a female avatar.
Initial options on the avatar are quite simple. You use sliders to change between a variety of tops, all pre-made for you. Skimpy tops, warm coats, everything figure hugs so well, it matches your exact curve outline. It is quite impressive to see a baggy coat hugging your curves like a slender top.
Sadly the options are soon depleted; there are only seven tops to choose from, all bright red. A quick click on the red swatch next to the name soon changes that however; it opens a colour pallette in the same window, for you to change the colour of your top to anything the computer can produce. Textures are unfortunately not possible.
After the top, we move on to bottoms. We won't look at shoes since there is only one choice, and it cannot be changed. Bottoms are quite fun, especially as there are a mix of trousers and skirts. The trousers fit fine, but the skirts were clearly designed for a much less lanky model. What is supposed to be a mini-skirt looks more like a belt, and the pencil-skirt does not manage to reach the knees, or even halfway down the upper leg.
Its almost time to move on. Customisation options seem few and far between, but there are some unlabelled buttons with obscure symbols on them in the upper left corner. Maybe they do something?
It turns out they do. These are your advanced options, tucked out of the way, in case they are to advanced for the intended audience.
The hourglass on the far left, is the standard full view. Clicking the smily face zooms in on the face, where you can change hair colour, hair style, change the look of your face - sadly there is only one option to choose from, that gets cycled through. You can change your eye colour to blue, purple, or brown, and can don one of four pre-designed smiles. Along with the eyes, the lips are the only texturemaps on the avatar, and they truly look painted-on, in both cases.
The sunglasses icon is next, offering a huge, ok not huge, somewhat small list of accessories for the face - an eye patch, a monocle, or nothing at all. It also allows you to put a pattern over your breasts, because those are part of the face, apparently. Finally for the girl, you can add dangly earrings. You can add them, because once added ,you cannot take them off again.
The fourth window, purchases, only works if you supplied them with credit card details. During this review, that never occurred, nor is it ever likely to.
All set to enter, the 'done' button is clicked and?
The first thing that may go through your mind when the world loads may be something akin to "Argh! My eyes! It burns!" After toning the contrast down on your display system, or finding a pair of sunglasses, you are ready to continue.
To say that Switch In likes to use a happy palette is a bit like saying Las Vegas likes neon. Bright, frequently conflicting colours are everywhere. You step out initially into a random world, which seems to change daily. On the first review visit it was a brilliant bright purple castle. On the second, a bright red love boat floor, with floating hearts everywhere.
The second thing you notice is the swearing. It constantly scrolls by, with barely a sentence without a misspelt swear word. You see, Switch In is completely unsupervised, and the first thing that was encountered - then the second and the third, was open cybersex. Badly written cybersex, interspersed with random, nonsensical comments. Fortunately, chat only displays the last eight lines spoken, and there is no logging. Unfortunately, you cannot turn it off.
If you selected 'over 13' on the original options, you can now type into this mess if you like. However, the chat box function supports a max of 39 characters, so keep it brief. The first time you post, you find you are a guest, whilst others around you are members - paid users. No attempt was made to find out how much a subscription would cost; by this point it was hard to believe why anyone would desire one.
Moving away from the main crowds did not help, as the chat is apparently not limited to a set distance. Everyone in the world, all at once, on those eight lines. There were 25 in world on initial visit, so it does help practice your speed-reading.
The world interface was the first thing to look at. It takes the form of a bar down the bottom, with options laid out in a line. Moving from the left, first up was the 39 character text box. Next to it, the mute menu. Open it and type in the names of those you would rather not see. That got rid of the cybersex.
At first glance the next two seemed to be duplicates. The first, when moused over, said 'animations', the second 'emotions'. A quick trial revealed that they are not duplicates: Animations offers a list of sequence files for your avatar to perform. Emotions placed a big yellow smiley floating over the top of your head, to indicate your mood.
The last two options are 'world' and 'friends list'. Friends list was either broken or requires a paid membership to work, and worlds list could wait until this world was explored. Sadly, that did not take long. Stepping off the dance floor revealed a blue void around it. Stepping into the void revealed an eternal plummet into nothingness. Time to check out the world list.
Turns out there are six worlds in Switch In, each with a max user count of 25. Netting a grand total of 150 users. It does not seem to be in any danger of exceeding that. In fact, it seems everyone was in the entrance world, that garish red mess of a dance floor. The other worlds were empty. Picking 'maze' it was time to head in.
Ooh, apparently in maze, sexual chat is prohibited. Unfortunately the enforcement is an automated chat filter that simply blocks an entire line and warns the person saying it, if a character-match is successful. It did not like the word 'assassin'.
Maze turned out to be just as advertised: A hedge maze. You start off in the centre and work your way to the outside. Good fun, except for the ending. When you turn that final corner and run out of the maze, you are rewarded with an eternal plummet into nothingness.
Client OS:Win 2K, Win 98, Win 2K, Win 2K
Client OS:Win 2K, Win 98, Win 2K, Win 2K