I have recently been introduced to Secret Builders by my teenage daughter. (heard her talk about it from time to time) and decided to look into this one a little further.
So Secret Builders is a virtual world that was created by a former teacher and a group of parents of young children. It was started in 2007. Umair Kahn (the developer) previously worked for Intel and helped design microprocessors and this was a dream he brought to life. (http://www.secretbuilders.com/parents_overview_details.html#who)
Secret Builders is unique among free online games because it is a fully moderated virtual world. You can create your own avatar, explore lands, participate in quests, and play a large number of games. Not only is it all fun, but also educating. You will learn so much through your adventure in Secret Builders as you run into famous people, live through popular stories, and play educational games. Playing more will get you more rewards! Build your very own tree house and decorate it with posters, furniture, and electronics. You can even adopt a cute, flying pet as a companion. Secret Builders exposes you new friends in a safe and friendly community, making it more appropriate than other free online games and appealing to parents and teachers. (http://www.secretbuilders.com/Free_Online_Games.html)
Secret Builders is where children come to play games, interact with famous characters of cultural and historical significance, and go on Quests that span the world.
Home Page for Secret Builders
WHAT FUNCTIONALITY IT PROVIDES:
I would say that this game runs along similar lines of second life but on a child’s level. So this environment is based around your avatar going different places, doing quests and building and decorating your tree house/home. The quests involve problem solving, collecting important items, playing games and also helping other people.
You can change the features of the avatar ranging from eyes, hair, clothing, accessories, etc. The avatar does not have any of the aspects of feeding, bathing, toileting, etc. You get to meet and interact with other avatars via clicking like, to like another avatar or also sending messages through the message system.
There is an option for building but you must be a super builder. Though I have not become a super builder to access that function, the menu looks a fairly basic build menu customized for children to use.
Build Menu for building furniture
Build Menu for building furniture in Secret Builders
There are gold and silver coins. Gold can be bought via paypal. You can win coins for games that you play and then use the coins for items that you buy. In super builder status you are able to convert your silver coins into gold.
GAMES AND QUESTS:
There are games and quests that you can do. There are a selection of games to choose from.
Games Menu for the different types of games available
Once selected from above menu, then you have a game selection to choose from
Another big aspect of Secret Builders. Your avatar is spending a lot of time decorating the house. So your buying and selling or even building the furniture along with being able to paint the house to a color design of your choosing.
HOW WELL IT RUNS:
The program itself runs pretty smoothly. Its easy to pick up and rather straight forward. It took me a little to grasp at the beginning as was not sure what I needed to be actually doing and found google does not really have a lot explaining to what you actually need to do in the game (has stuff regarding just general game description but not the actual object of the game as such, but best I could find was this, http://www.secretbuilders.com/help.html ). I can see in the game that there is a lot of computer generated aspects to the games. I’m guessing when there are not a lot of people online playing, the computer generates players to keep it functioning (you can tell a computer player in the game by the gold coin down on lower left of there avatar).
HOW IT IS USED:
Secret Builders players can furnish their in-game homes, play dress-up, invite friends to parties, look after pets, create clubs, contribute art and writing in the magazine, ‘The Crooked Pencil’, learn about managing money, enter contests and contribute their own ideas to improve the Secret Builders world even more!
Secret Builders School also offers players the ability to earn virtual currency through attendance. There they learn in a more traditional manner, with subjects including Art, Language, Geography, History, Math, Science and Computers, with Brain Games to help keep their logical reasoning in tip-top shape. (http://www.secretbuilders.com/parents_overview_details.html)
I have a house and can decorate it.
My house before decorating took place
Decorating my wee house
So firstly I needed to go to Fashion Show to partake in fashion shows to win prizes and get money.
Waiting for the fashion show to begin
Gold and Silver Coins are the currency used on there but the gold coins are the ones that you want and use more. You can buy gold coins using paypal ( Once you have money, you can buy things you need). You can go to shops or even a flea market. So the aim is to become a super builder. As a super builder you can do a lot more but there is a cost to be one. $7 per month and you get super builder status along with the extra perks. (you get a monthly allowance in gold coins plus gifts). As a super builder you can build furniture for your house. You can however, buy/swap/sell in order to decorate your house whether your a super builder or not.
HOW IT COMPARES TO OTHERS:
I can only really compare this to Second Life and I do see small similarities. I see it having the basic features (very basic) similar in the fact of the avatar and being able to alter its features also along with the networking (meeting people and communicating in the environment). Being able to buy the currency online and needing money to function in the environment. Both also have a building aspect and you can decorate homes though second life’s building aspect is a lot broader than secret builders.
WHAT YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF IT ARE:
As I’ve stated earlier, I see this as a very very basic child’s play version of second life that I feel has been rather well done. There are pop ups through out it suggesting upgrading to super builder status which annoy the heck out of me. Clothing does appear to have its limitations. You can only buy so much and certain types so always going to be wearing something that someone else may have but just could be a difference in color. Over all I think its a great children’s game that also has options for parents to play and interact there as well. This game could be a great starting point for children to guide them over to the world of second life as they progress in age and understanding I feel.