Be another you in another world right in your browser
Find a hangout spot and have fun with your friends
Explore the many worlds in SmallWorlds
SmallWorlds is a virtual world browser-based game by New Zealand-based Auckland Outsmart Games, which has been in service since 2008 and has been catering to the virtual world needs of players around the globe with its easy-to-use interface and accessibility. Although similar to other social games such as Second Life and Habbo and simulation games like the Sims, SmallWorlds is still special in its own right because it takes the best of both genres and provides it within your browser.
Players start off in a small bar where they create their characters and are oriented through the game’s mechanics. Players are provided opportunity to adjust parts of their look, a feature not-so-featured in other social browser-based games. Almost all the clothes available in the game are customizable in terms of color and material, and even the clothes of NPCs could be purchased should a player find a combination they like.
Players have options to level seven skill paths, which they can gain experience for through missions, playing shooting games, sowing plants or crafting up items. These skills are arena (for fighting), artist and crafting (for the creative arts), explorer (for navigating worlds), farming, (for gathering), gamer and social (for other social aspects of the game). Widgets are applications that are built-in within the game that boost the gaining of these experience points, but only one or two work at any given time.
Pets are also almost just as customizable as players, and are provided with a plethora of fun emoticons and movements the player could select and see. Plants are also available which, when grown enough, could provide players with items and EXP. There is also an interesting feature that allows players to play an isometric shooting game against other players – these extra features provide color to the game and make players unique. There are various play styles to choose from: the social savant, the farmer-slash-item gatherer, or even the vicious aggressive gamer. SmallWorlds really does provide a “small world” in a player’s browser.
Perhaps the one feature that makes SmallWorlds stand out against other virtual reality games is its inter-connectivity function, which integrates the game with websites such as YouTube, Flickr, SoundCloud and other Web 2.0 services – making the virtual world feel anchored to our own, making the game more relatable to all sorts of audiences who want to play and hang out online at the same time.
Its predominantly free-to-play nature (with extras that could be paid for) is what keeps players going back to play the game, being able to play almost all aspects of the game without being hindered by VIP membership. Major updates in 2013 saw a brand new layout for the site and the forums, as well as a new weekly challenge called Kudos that grants players special items. Daily rewards also give opportunity for quick level progression to give more time for players to hang out.
The interface of the game is similar to that of a Facebook application, with friends easily accessible at the bottom and primary features laid out above it. Majority of the screen is dedicated to the playing area and a chat box is found to the left, where players could easily interact. However, its music is somewhat repetitive and predictable, which can make the game look stale.
The graphics, while outstanding for its browser-based nature, can look a bit dull for players when exposed to them too much. The combination of colors do not inspire activity, and while cool colors represent socialization and rest, there is too much of cool colors that players may be bored.
Another downside of the game is perhaps its lack of exposure and thus lack of players. Some areas are empty and are often just occupied by one to three players that barely interact. Players can also barely interact with NPCs and are not provided with that a lot of options. Level progression, while decent, is purely dependent on doing simple commands and do not provide much challenge, thus removing all sort of “progression” in terms of exploring the entire Small Worlds game.
Due to its friendly interface, it was used as a learning tool in the New Zealand Virtual School project, scheduled to open again in 2011 but with offices in central Christchurch. Sadly, the earthquake saw changes that led to the termination of the project. SmallWorlds was also voted top prize in the Social Computing category of the Adobe MAX Awards in 2009.
Regardless, despite its limitations, SmallWorlds’ friendly approach to gaming and its flexibility in allowing room for multiple play styles allows it to become a game worthy of the attention of all kinds of gamers. Its unique simulation-slash- house-building approach to playing make it truly a more unique experience than other games in its field.