The mysterious Conduit Labs has gone through pains to keep its nature under wraps. The company’s stated goal is to create online social experiences that are as rich as those we have offline, and it has managed to raise $5.5 million from Charles River Ventures and Prism Ventureworks without even launching a product.
Yet, despite numerous appearances on gaming conference panels from its CEO and co-founder, Nabeel Hyatt, and buzz surrounding the fact that one of Rock Band’s game designers is involved, no one has had any idea what Conduit Labs is actually doing.
Now, thanks to the magic of FriendFeed and some sleuthing on Twitter, I managed to get myself into the company’s alpha site, LoudCrowd, and while the alpha version of LoudCrowd does not reveal the full scope of Conduit Labs’ secrets, it does offer some enticing hints.
So far, it seems that LoudCrowd is part virtual world, part social network and part casual game. Before I began, I created an avatar using only the most basic set of options. I could pick skin color, hair color and sex. I then uploaded a photo, hoping that it would map my face to my avatar, but it didn’t. At this stage, photos are just used so other people could identify me on the dance floor.
Dance floor? Yes.
Right now, LoudCrowd’s experience centers around a rhythm-based dancing game that is like a far simpler version of Dance Dance Revolution — a Dance Dance Revolution for the casual gaming set. The key to the game is pressing arrow keys at the right time. I won points when I brought out my skills and won more points when fellow dancers chose me as a partner.
These points, as you might have guessed, can be used to jazz up my avatar. Currently, LoudCrowd simply automatically offers new items, like “space” jackets, pants and hats. I imagine that down the road, one will be able to select from a range of options and, of course, pay real cash to make one’s virtual self exceptionally special.
Conduit Labs has built the whole game on Flash, and the talents of the company’s designers are abundantly clear. The game is simple and fun, the look is cartoonish, but not cheap, and the animations are great. While the dancing game could get old eventually, it’s clear that there will be many others to play as LoudCrowd develops. Hyatt once told me that Conduit Labs has “no desire to rebuild a social graph,” so I expect it will leverage those that already exist — perhaps by using Facebook’s Friend Connect or building the whole package into the social networks, themselves.
As an interesting aside, it seems that the company paid $39,000 to buy the LoudCrowd url.
We have reached out to Hyatt for comment and will update when we hear back.
(Thanks, Annie Ok!)
w=400&h=302]Loudcrowd Preview by Conduit Labs