Vienna-based Avaloop has finally released a beta version of their Social Networking Game Papermint . Until now only available in German, this hyper-stylized 3D virtual world combines familiar interactivity with a smart Internet-forward gestalt. Bandwidth hog Second Life choked itself on realistically rendered avatars and proliferating shopping malls. Neopets' Web-based world is nearly completely realized in paltry illustrations. Disney's Club Penguin is waddling along with the tween set. But Papermint develops a quality that has been seldom fully incorporated into Massively Multiplayer Online gameplay: artistic


The visual world of Papermint is fundamentally shaped by the palette and humor of lead artist Barbara Lippe , a native Austrian who is responsible for the candy colors and disco-anime demeanor of the customizable avatars. Her background in game theory and Japanese character design has a profound impact on the structure of the game. Thanks to Lippe, MMO design has something to say to a more intellectual audience.

Paper is the substance of the world - everything here is made from paper. This is a clever technical device, as the rendering of 2D objects requires far less processing power without sacrificing the immersion of a 3D environment. Players can have their own unique avatar and rent a home - and this is where the mint comes in. Mint grows in this world - one type of currency that can be used to buy outfits, decorations or an apartment - but the plant withers quickly. Sturdier Papercoins can be purchased by the user, like Linden dollars in Second Life.

Taking an MMO to the next level is a formidable challenge, and Papermint certainly hasn't shrunk from it. One of the newest and most significant developments to the game is the ability of married players to become pregnant, which is achieved through a dance move-matching mini-game. The resulting pregnancy is carried by either partner, and the child is played by a newly signed up member.