Second Life

IMVU

8.6 Overall Score
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10

Large playerbase. | You can meet people from all over the world.

Bubble chat can be difficult to read.

IMVU – A Virtual Hangout For the Artistic

IMVU burst onto the virtual world scene in 2004; since then, it has cemented its place in the online virtual world scene by having the largest selection of goods of any of its competition.

The site and program is geared towards those who want to chat and those who want to create, and with over 3 million active users, there’s a plethora of both!There are several distinct functions: avatar creation and customization, chatting, room customization, games, and creating items for sale. The game is free to play, but you need to purchase credits to buy clothes, furniture, pets, houses and more. And if you want to make your own items for sale, you need to buy the VIP membership. Today, we’ll be focusing on the free version of the game.

Gameplay

After signup, where you choose a pre-set avatar, you’re greeted with a tile display of program options. The program is set to require you to “tour” the site by clicking through each unlocked option to gain access to the locked areas.

To start, you’ll have to dress up your avatar; spoiler, this is where IMVU shines.

Avatar Customization

Because players are the ones who create all of the items for sale on IMVU, there is no shortage of options. To start, you can completely customize the hair, skin tone, eye shape and other features of your avatar, using in-game presets or features created by community members. Once you have that set, you can dress your avatar in any way you see fit, and when you first log in, you’re given access to a pretty healthy, albeit comparatively small, set of choices. You can use the free items already in the program, or head on over to “Shop” to buy specific pieces for your online persona.

Below, you’ll see the avatar go from the preset version available during sign-up, and the quickly customized version using the options available.

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The pre-set avatar is sweet, but looks a little generic.

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Switching out the top, donning a new pair of pants and tweaking the skin color turned the girly stock avatar into a unique creation.

You can change clothes, shoes, add accessories, and even delve into body piercings (my avatar decided on an eyebrow piercing hidden by that fierce purple hair). But that’s not all. IMVU also allows you choose a pet! And not just a cute puppy or kitten – you can get everything from a tiny butterfly to a roaring tiger, and your pet will follow your avatar everywhere.

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This sweet gray and white pit bull seems to fit AddisonRosealee’s vibe perfectly!

The process of dressing up and shopping for your avatar unlocks the first two areas of IMVU, freeing you to head on over to the site’s main focus: chatting.

Chatting in IMVU

There are a few ways to go about this, but during your initial use, you’ll have to start with the chat rooms. And there are a lot of chat rooms.

As with everything else on the site, these are created by users, so the quality and format varies pretty drastically. When you open the chat feature, you can whittle your search down by language and how many members are in the room.

There are pages upon pages of options, which means that no matter what type of room you’re looking for, from a “No Fighting!” chat room housed in a coffee shop to spaces dedicated specifically to the over 18 crowd, you can find something that will suit you. But searching through the available chat rooms is somewhat tedious, especially since you have to click the “information” icon for every room to see the description.

My avatar decided to head to the Early Morning Coffee Room, where I got to see how this group of players interacted with each other, how easy it was to move my avatar about, and gauge the graphics.

Let’s start with the graphics – they’re relatively decent for this type of program; absolutely not realistic, but the color variations, textures and level of detail in the rooms I visited were pretty impressive. No, this isn’t Second Life level, but it’s not distractingly bad either.

Navigating around the rooms is somewhat cumbersome – you have to click preset, glowing markers to move your avatar to different locations, but you can do everything from stand in front of a bookshelf and check out the titles to plop down on a super comfy couch. The issue comes with changing the view on your screen – IMVU allows you to drag your mouse around to alter the angle, but sometimes this places your view behind a plant, inside a window, or looking at the room from the top down. With practice, I’m sure moving the screen view is a lot easier, but for a newbie, it wasn’t intuitive.

But onto the point – chatting. There were 6 to 9 users in the room at any given time, and conversation was pleasant if intermittent. Of course, this was the room labeled as “No Fighting,” so more drama-heavy spaces may have been stronger in conversation.From here, I moved on to a spa-inspired room, and got to talk about the upcoming super bowl with another player; here, conversation was definitely livelier.

The chat system is extremely easy to use, with bubbles showing above your avatar every time you “say” something and an old-school chat log at the bottom of the screen, where you can see all of the conversation in the room as it happens and where you can add your own input. The program is quick, with no apparent lag time, and overall a well-thought out feature. If I’m being nitpicky, the fact that you can’t automatically click on a name and direct your comment to a specific user is kind of annoying; instead, you have to type out the avatar name.

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Chat bubbles make it easy to see what others are saying, while the chat bar below makes following the room’s conversation (or multiple conversations) a breeze.

Of course, chat rooms aren’t the only option. You can also use the “Chat Now” feature,where IMVU randomly sets you up with another user in the generic coffee house BuckStars.

Because the program randomly sets you up with another user, there’s no telling who you’ll end up having coffee with. My first set-up failed – the user left the room without even saying hello! However, the second set-up worked out well, and a conversation involving hobbies and the best movies ensued. Chatting was simple, the avatars moved gracefully when left alone, and there’s even several action options you can manually choose, from giving a hug to stepping on someone’s foot. I opted not to step on the other player, and instead let my avatar play with her hands and flip her hair as she chose.

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After a few pleasentries, we delved into the best Godfather movie and whether the new Kingsman film is worth seeing (hint – it’s your average spy flick).

Room Customization and Home Purchases

The last section of the program allows you to decorate your own space, and IMVU sets your player up with a pretty sweet penthouse complete with sparse furniture, huge windows and a kitchen that most would drool over in real life. Move a few pieces of furniture around and buy a table, and you’ve completed the “explore IMVU quest” and “decorate a room” quest all in one fell swoop, giving you access to the rest of the free areas!

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Sleek and huge, IMVU gives you plenty of free space to explore and tweak.

Just as with the clothing, the furnishing options for your room are endless. IMVU provides you with a few key pieces, but the store is really where it’s at. Users have come up with all kinds of furniture, which you can quickly purchase with credits and add to your room. But lo and behold, you can also buy an entire house or an entirely new room as well! And just as with the clothing, furniture, and pet choices, the housing and room choices are endless.

While the array of options is nothing to sneeze at (there’s a reason IMVU is famous for its catalog of online goods), the search feature left much to be desired. The icons for the new rooms often failed to show exactly what the space looked like, which may be an issue with the creators, and a simple search for “beach house” worked well, but the more specific “Japanese beach house” pulled up gothic mansions and little cottages by page two.

But then I managed to find this space:

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I added a killer bed with a canopy, a distressed dresser and then reused the white sofas from the mod penthouse as patio furniture.

You get to keep the furnishings from the old spot, as well as a few freebies and the stuff you already purchased; and of course, you’re more than welcome to purchase as many new items as your credits will allow.

In-Game Game

In addition to playing the most epic round of dress-up ever, overhauling any house or room you can imagine, and chatting with an endless array of players from around the world, IMVU also comes with a game. One that is surprisingly more difficult to master than it initially looks!

Similar to Collapse!, Tetris and every variation of gem games, Walk Out matches you up against another player, with the goal to be the first to earn 100 style points. You have to swap one gem to create a three-in-a-row selection of same-colored gems, but you only earn style points if one of the gems has a number over it. You have to think fast – about 10 seconds, or you lose your turn and a few points. It’s fast-paced, there’s always someone to play, and there’s little to no lag time. Plus, you get to see what your avatar looks like strutting his or her stuff. And if you want a rematch, you can click that choice after the game and, if the other user agrees, play the same person. If you can manage all of this with ease, you can even use the in-game chat feature to make a new friend!

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Addison ended up losing this round – as well as the three subsequent rounds against the stunning brunette!

For more screenshots, click here.

Final Thoughts

On the negative side, the search features in-game leave a lot to be desired; but realistically, given the level of options available, a better search system may not be possible. The advertisements are annoying, with a commercial playing before you enter new chat rooms to banners streaming across the top of your screen. However, you can eliminate this with VIP status for a small monthly fee. And while there’s no in-program “tour,” the game is easy to navigate once you get the hang of it.

There aren’t enough words to describe the level of options and detail in IMVU – from the selection of clothes to the types of pets, the endless array of rooms to the options for your own personal space; you can honestly create any look and any style of life you want. The graphics are fun, textured and endlessly colorful, and there’s little to no lag time as you play. The various chat features make it easy to connect with someone (even if your first few tries fail), and with 80,000 users online at any given time, you’re sure to find someone to chat with.

All in all, it’s a well-thought out universe that truly captures the creative spirit!

IMVU is free to play.

Play IMVU Now

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