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[P]
Are You There?

By Paige Nuno in Op-Ed
Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 06:26:04 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

This is a review of my experiences with the new massively multiplayer online environment, "There". It's been mentioned before on Slashdot, but I've not seen any good in-depth reviews by the players.

I've been using "There" for about a week now, and have so far enjoyed it. Most comments that I've read on "There" are about it's similarities to the Sims Online; however, I have never played the Sims Online, so I cannot comment on that. Any comparisons I may make will be with my short experiences playing Ultima Online, and my four years of playing EverQuest.


The first step was to check the system requirements. They're rather steep, and There, Inc. believes that most of the people that they are aiming for joining "There", will need to upgrade their systems first. Why they choose to aim at this section of the market is beyond me.

"There" System Requirements - Detailed

Installation was easy. You register your avatar name, and then download the installer. When you run the installer, it takes care of everything. The one time I was prompted though, rather annoyed me. "There" requires that you use Internet Explorer as your default browser, which I had all but forgotten about, since I switched to Mozilla. Talking to the developers, I'm told that, while "There" uses the browser a lot, it isn't specifically tied to IE, and could be changed with only a little work. Whether they will do this or not remains to be seen.

When you start out, the interface only takes a little while to learn to use. Most people that I've met have picked it up incredibly fast. Looking around, you see a lot of other people around chatting, and that you have 10,000 Therebucks (T$) to go shopping. For simple movements, you use the arrows to move around, pressing forward twice to run. The mouse can also be used to look around, and to jump. There is a menu at the base of the screen with everything you can do. So far, pretty simple to use.

Before I continue, I will explain how you earn Therebucks. Unfortunately, there are very few ways. One way, and the most common right now, is to simply purchase Therebucks with a credit card. The current "exchange rate" is T$1,787 for every one dollar spent. However, while you can calculate how much you would get in return for your Therebucks, there's no actual way to go from Therebucks to real money. Another way is to get a job in "There." However, jobs in "There" are very few and far between. Of everyone I've met in "There," only one person actually had a job. How well the jobs in "There" pay, I don't know. Another way to earn money is to sell things in Auction. This is "There"'s player market. You can sell things you've purchased online, or things that you've created this way, to other players in order to earn Therebucks. If "There" later requires a monthly fee, There, Inc. has stated that a monthly Therebucks check, would be given each month. Currently though, this is not the case.

The world of "There" is extremely detailed and fun to explore. At the moment, there is only one world, with four continents. Of the four continents, only one seems complete, and only one other even comes close. The primary continent is Tiki with many realistic environments, mostly surrounding a tropical island resort, with large desert areas. This is the only continent with any real content, unfortunately. You can race buggies, have hover board competitions, fashion shows, stand up comedy, and everything "There" promises. The other continents are Tyr, a very gothic island, with a large castle, glowing crystals, fire cacti, and other intriguing visual aspects, but nothing for events; Saja, which is actually a bunch of islands floating in the sky, which has almost no content, is hard to traverse, and actually looks rather bland; and Egypt, which just exists.

To get around "There", you have two options. The first option is that you can "port" to another location, by choosing it from a bookmarked favorite, a map, or a billboard, or by being summoned by another player. This is the easiest way of traveling. Open the map, choose a location, and click, "Go There." Find something you think is neat that you'd like to show your friends? Just summon them!

The second option is to manually explore the world. This is rather fun, but will exhaust it's possibilities quickly, if content isn't added quickly enough. In order to explore the world, you can walk, drive a buggy, ride a hover board, or jettison around with a hover pack. The interesting thing about "There", is that there is no zoning, such as in the current games, except when you teleport. Due to memory requirements, in EverQuest, you zoned all the time, and some of them were hideous. In "There", however, you can walk from Tiki to Egypt, or to Tyr, with no loading, if you have the patience.

Walking is rather slow, so you really need a vehicle to explore the world. Buggies are one of the more common vehicles, as they can be rather cheap, going as low as T$4,499, can seat two people, and can be used for racing. The hover pack is probably the most useful, as it allows you to travel in areas that a buggy or hover board wouldn't allow, such as Saja. If you try to explore Saja without one, expect a long fall, very soon. Unfortunately, hover packs are more expensive than buggies, with the cheapest at T$4,999, and are very slow. The vehicle everyone wants though, is a hover board. These are fast, have good controls, and you can do tricks on them. There are two types of hover boards: Cruisers, and Radicals. Cruisers are cheaper, as low as T$5,499, with Rads only going as low as T$11,399, out of reach of most players to begin with.

In "There", you create an avatar to represent yourself. "There" has a wide range of customizations; You can be skinny, fat, tall, or short. Hair comes in a multitude of colors, from shades of brown, blonde, and red, to white, blue, and pink, as well as other colors. There are about ten shades of skin colors to choose from, ranging from pasty white to a very dark brown. These have creative names, such as, "Latte," and "Cocoa." You can also change your clothing, your outfits, and your "looksets". In order to create outfits, you purchase various clothing, and you click save while wearing the clothing in the outfit. You can change how your avatar looks physically, other than your avatar's hair, by going to a spa, and getting a treatment. This costs nothing, and you can change everything from your height, and weight, to the shape and size of your mouth and nose. You save your "lookset" the same way you save an outfit. However, you only have one lookset to start with, and you have to purchase more, for roughly T$1,650.

The first thing most people do in "There" is to try to change their starting avatars by purchasing clothing. This is the first problem most people realize about "There". Clothing is expensive! The average piece of clothing in "There" is around T$7,000, but you only start with T$10,000. Most people choose a new shirt as a first option, and if they can get more money, they will usually buy a vehicle next. As you can imagine, people look very similar in "There" right now. What good is all this customization if no one can afford it? For those that are willing to put out real US dollars, there still exists the dilemma that there really aren't very many choices. There, Inc. promises us more clothing, more toys, and more boarding tricks though before it goes live. Hopefully they'll be able to fulfill this promise.

Items that you can purchase that count as clothing include tops, pants, footwear, hairstyles, and cosmetics (called grooming, for the guys). The tops are mostly bland, but they include t-shirts, dress shirts, jackets, tankinis, and vests. The pants too, are bland, but are a bit more diverse in how they look, with shorts, low-fit jeans, lounge pants, running shorts, and the like. Footwear consists of various types of sandals and boots, and don't offer many options. As for cosmetics, these really should just be part of the looksets, but of course, There, Inc. would make less money that way, now wouldn't they? In the choice of cosmetics, you have colored contacts, which of course change your eye color, lipstick ("manstick," for the guys), and eyebrow colors.

If you think the options are a bit too bland though, you can join the "There" Developer program. A rather large number of the beta testers are currently in this program, as the demand for user created objects is rather high, and is one of "There"'s big selling points. When you look at the object templates, you'll see that there are an extremely low number of polygons per item, which explains "There"'s graphics when compared to other games. Unfortunately, it costs T$18,000 to even submit an item, and T$3000 for each item you would like created. So if you want something made, you had better make it good enough for people to buy it in Auction. There are already some rather creative products in the Auctions, and I think this could be one of There, Inc.'s major profit points.

Communicating in "There" is a breeze. When standing around other people, you can see chat bubbles floating over their heads, as they speak. If they are a distance off, the bubble will be somewhat transparent, and if you're standing next to them, you can start a "conversation." A conversation isn't much different from normal chatting with the bubbles, only both of your avatars are moved to an optimal position for reading each other's bubbles. Other people can join a conversation simply by clicking on the conversation's action menu, and choosing join conversation. The avatars move into a half circle formation, becoming more circular with more people. The problem with this approach though, is that it can be hard to keep up with the conversation with this many bubbles going at once. Luckily, "There" has IMs, which are a lot like using ICQ or MSN Messenger. You can message someone from anywhere in the world, and you can invite any number of other people into the conversation. This is a more traditional way of chatting, with all text being sequential, and the name of the poster to the left of the comment. For meetings and events, this is automated by certain areas, such as Fun Zones (race locations, stages, etc), and clubhouses, which open a window and automatically put anyone in the area into the chat. You can store buddies, for quick IMing, and you can see when they're online or offline.

As far as support goes, it's great right now. You literally get a response within seconds, in-game, and minutes, out of it, although they are not always able to help you immediately. While playing, there are usually several "Helpers" around talking to people, and are great with responses, which is to be expected of a beta, of course. The one thing that I found interesting, was that there are quite a few of "There"'s developers playing as well. I beta tested EverQuest, and I never ran into any; In "There", I've run into three in this past week. All very nice people, too.

While I think that "There" is a great idea in theory, I don't think that "There" will succeed once it goes live, for a couple of reasons. It will probably be expensive. While There, Inc. still officially says that they are unsure if they will charge a monthly fee, they've also commented that they will most likely charge $10 a month. With a monthly fee, and having to spend real money in order to get Therebucks, most people won't try it because it's not a game, it's a glorified chat room. It won't be worth that much. Also, they are intending to aim "There" towards housewives, and other women, specifically teenage girls. However, most of these women aren't going to play. Many can barely use IMs and e-mail, let alone an entire virtual world. I'm currently in a local project to educate other women about computers, and just from what I see, the market they are aiming is still struggling to learn how to use computers, and while I'm sure the beta population isn't a great way to determine the final population, currently, there's about a ten to one ratio of men to women.

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Poll
Would you try There?
o Yes 10%
o No 40%
o Yes, if it was free. 30%
o What is There? I don't read articles. 18%

Votes: 104
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o "There"
o Slashdot [2]
o "There" System Requirements - Detailed
o Also by Paige Nuno


Display: Sort:
Are You There? | 96 comments (53 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
I hate to sound like a zealot (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by rdskutter on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 10:11:05 AM EST

but... is there a Linux client available?

If not then I won't be playing. I spend far too much time on discworld mud anyway.

Discworld MUD website


Yanks are like ICBMs: Good to have on your side, but dangerous to have nearby. - OzJuggler
History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

No Linux (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by Paige Nuno on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 10:24:42 AM EST

My understanding is that it's Windows only for now, with a Mac version coming next year. Depending on how they do the Mac version though, it shouldn't be too hard to port to Linux, I'd think, but I doubt they will.

[ Parent ]
It's like IRC only with pictures. (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by sasquatchan on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 11:25:27 AM EST

And as it seems, let me be the first to say "get your ass up and go outside instead of sitting infront of a computer if you want social interaction."

Benefits:

  • You don't have to pay to go outside. (yeah, yeah, cover charge, bar, buy drinks etc. There's other places to meet folks and socialize)
  • Fresh air, sunshine, real human interaction
  • Have a better chance of telling the real females from the impersonators.

    Downsides:

  • Exposure to real humans can be traumatic if not propperly socialized.
  • Social Anxiety is more pronounced. You can't be as suave when hiding behind keyboard and monitor.

    Gracious, I don't know if I should be afraid or disgusted.
    -- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.

  • I feel the same way (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 11:34:44 AM EST

    Pretty much all computer activities really need to be balanced with going outside and doing other things. For me though, it's a bit cheaper to play EQ than it is to go to the movies, and I'm married now, so I'm not trying to impress my wife that badly...Although I probably should.

    I live out in the middle of a redneck town in a redneck state though, and there really aren't many options for going out. We have a three cinema theater, some crappy redneck bars, and two strip clubs, and that's about it. Not much to do here.

    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
    [ Parent ]

    erosion of public spaces in meatspace (4.25 / 4) (#39)
    by turmeric on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:08:38 PM EST

    'go outside' : to what? freeways? endless avenues of empty suburbs? there are no public spaces left in america. there are no cafes, there are no clubs or little houses where people tell stories or fart around or whatever. if you sit around at night in a group on a piece of grass, more than likely the cops will arrest you for being suspicious. and 'good people' dont stay out late you know .

    this is the way life is in many large american cities. there IS NO SOCIAL INTERACTION. EVERYTHING IS PRIVATIZEd. THE PEOPLE WHO RUN THE COUNTRY ARE PARANOID ISOLOATIONIST FUCKWADS WHO DONT KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO SIT AROUND AND BE WITH OTHER PEOPEL SO THEY DONT UNDERSTAND WHY WE NEED PUBLIC SPACES>

    id also like to mention that quite a lot of places have only liquor bars to go to to socialize. liquor bars are invariably smoky and filled with drunks and are not fun to hang out at. sorry, that is the way life is in america.

    [ Parent ]

    I agree with you too, sorta. (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:40:05 PM EST

    That's a bit paranoid for my tastes, but I agree with your last statement. In a lot of places, like here, there really isn't anything to do. I commented earlier that the only things around here are bars and strip clubs. I'm married, and I'm not interested in looking at other women anyway, so strip clubs are out. And I don't drink, so bars are sort of out of the question. There's a really great move theater about two hours away, but if I don't time it just right, it's filled with preteens. Tons of them. It's scary. You can barely move. At least you can see over their heads though. And that's a lot of gas just to watch a movie. And I'm poor. So yeah.

    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
    [ Parent ]
    heh (5.00 / 2) (#52)
    by postindustrialist on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 01:49:18 PM EST

    Have a better chance of telling the real females from the impersonators.

    lmao.. trust me, there's some out there that ya can't tell either.and the ones that you can tell people mistake anyhow. when i had long hair i was mistaken for female soooo many times.. and trust me, it's not so fucking hard to tell that i got a dick either.
    oooh.. looks likes somebody has anger problems.
    question everything.
    this sig is only one hundred and fifty characters long and it's still not eno
    [ Parent ]
    Sounds interesting...But... (4.50 / 2) (#28)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 11:29:59 AM EST

    I'm a hardcore EQer, and while I think the MMORPG market still has more room for games, I think most people are going to be coming from other games, such as EQ, UO, DAoC, etc. Personally, I probably won't switch. I've got MSN for chatting with my friends, and I really don't like talking to strangers.. But I don't IRC either, which could be why I'm not intested in this. It's like IRC with pictures, and they're not that great for the what it needs to play it. Plus, if it is integrated with Windows that badly, then I won't be able to use WineX for it anyway. That would make me a sad panda...

    Nice review though. I heard about this the first time it showed up on Slashdot, and checked it out, but it looked like it was trying to make people act like beach bums on their computers or something. Plus the graphics suck. Or did I say that?

    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!

    Conversely (none / 0) (#36)
    by zephc on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 11:54:21 AM EST

    I am rather interested in an expansive 3D world where I don't have to fight all the time - not really my nature =]

    I've played around with some of the 3D Chat progrs from a few years ago and usually the 3D wasn't there yet, and 56K was just too dog slow.  So, I definitely want to check this out.

    [ Parent ]

    Lol, I know what you mean. (none / 0) (#38)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:08:06 PM EST

    I'm not really much of a fighter myself, but I've been playing for a long time, and I've got a lot of friends here now. Once you hit level 55 or so with your first character, it's pretty easy to get your other characters up, so then you just keep doing it over and over again.

    What type of 3d programs did you use? I remember using some virtual chatting program from Microsoft, and there was no one ever there. Also tried Adobe Atmospheres, recently, but just didn't like it.

    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
    [ Parent ]

    circa 1998 (none / 0) (#45)
    by zephc on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:44:33 PM EST

    I think I tried one called Worlds or something like that.  One of the programs i remember had sprite-based avatars - very primitive - and graphics on par with DOOM.  Another one i tried had actualy 3D faces that you designed and that was your avatar, rather than a whole virtual body.  The faces were interesting, as you could hit hot keys to make them emote in different ways.  It also supported (very slow) voice chat if you had a mic.  It was fun, played with it for a couple months, but I didnt really meet anyone there as I think people tended to wander around a lot more, and probably didn't use th program as often as one would use IRC etc

    [ Parent ]
    second life (none / 0) (#47)
    by majik on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:53:55 PM EST

    Give second life a whirl if you can get a beta account. I got access to both "there" and second life. After a little more than a week, I'm only playing in second life. It's less commercialized than there. And its a much more dynamic world. The size of the available land changes relative to the number of subscribers. Its pretty neat.
    Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
    [ Parent ]
    Habbo (5.00 / 2) (#34)
    by Greyjack on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 11:47:58 AM EST

    So... this is a souped-up version of Habbo Hotel, then.  (I'll leave IRC comparisons to the other comments)

    --
    Here is my philosophy: Everything changes (the word "everything" has just changed as the word "change" has: it now means "no change") --Ron Padgett


    Yup, pretty much. (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Paige Nuno on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 11:58:52 AM EST

    The graphics in that program you linked though remind me a lot of the game Earthbound. Just stuck out, since I just finished that the other day. :-)

    [ Parent ]
    Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by carbon on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 12:01:20 AM EST

    I was wondering what those screenies reminded me of... now I know. Been a while since a played EB... that was the game that introduced RPGs to me, and it's still one of my favs.


    Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
    [ Parent ]
    OT: What server were you on in EQ? -nt- (3.00 / 2) (#40)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:10:08 PM EST



    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
    Povar. You? -nt- (none / 0) (#41)
    by Paige Nuno on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:20:02 PM EST



    [ Parent ]
    Bristlebane. (none / 0) (#46)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:48:27 PM EST

    So why'd you switch? "There" doesn't seem that interesting, really, and if you really played for four years you'd have been pretty uber.

    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
    [ Parent ]
    Oh I was. (none / 0) (#49)
    by Paige Nuno on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 01:35:31 PM EST

    I was uber 133t, and I had all the phat lewts. Tons of characters, six accounts which were costing too much, and I was wasting my time, and all of my friends had quit, were going to quit, or wanted to quit but couldn't. Several e-mailed me later saying they quit once I did. I'm not sure whether to feel guilty about that, or to feel proud that I got them off it.

    I was actually going to try stay away from any online games after that, for time reasons, but I read about There and thought I'd try it, sort of like that nicotine gum. I needed something to fill the void of the social aspects of EQ that I loved so much. It's not nearly as intensive as EverQuest was, and even then it has limited hours. I intend to keep my online hours small, too, even once it's full time.

    For the people that will say, "You should just go out and get a life." I do have a life. I still go to the movies, dance clubs and the like. I can only take so much of stupid pickup lines or "Hey, you're not REALLY a nerd, are you? You sure don't looke like one." Or at lan parties, "Oh my god, there's a GIRL here. What happened?" ... Social events outside of my house are often just repetitive drivel.

    As to family, my parents are in the process of divorce. I'd rather not talk about that.

    That leaves my one other passion: reading. And I still did that when I played EQ, and I do it while I play "There." I try to read a book a day, with at least one technical or historical book per week.

    I'm sorry to have spouted that. It just came out. But I'll post it anyway.

    [ Parent ]

    Aingsty, eh? (none / 0) (#53)
    by mold on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 01:57:13 PM EST

    Well, I can see your reasoning for leaving EQ. I've tried to quit myself, although I ended up playing again a few days later.

    I don't go outside, and I'm a guy, so I really can't comment on the next section... But if you want, I promise never to hit on you if I meet you in real life.

    Wait, were you just complaining about being smart and good looking? That's impressive. I'll take your good looks (a male version, of course), if you'd like. I know how much those suck.

    Hope things are better with your parents. :-)

    Reading is cool. I like to read too! :-)

    And last but not least, don't worry about the spouting. It happens to the best of us at times.

    ---
    Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
    [ Parent ]

    Hehe, sorry. (none / 0) (#54)
    by Paige Nuno on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 02:06:01 PM EST

    Well, I never said I was good looking, just not ugly. For some reason, guys that I meet in the same field, or at lan parties, et al, seem to be less shy of trying to hit on girls that are like them. Which I guess wouldn't be bad if I was looking for a guy. :-P

    [ Parent ]
    the Sims (5.00 / 3) (#42)
    by kpaul on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:22:55 PM EST

    I never would've imagined a game like this would have become so popular. I played it for a couple hours, but then I got extremely bored with it. I mean, aren't games so you can escape reality, not so you can micromanage a virtual representation of yourself complete with bathroom and sleepy time?


    2014 Halloween Costumes

    Different type of escape. (none / 0) (#43)
    by Paige Nuno on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 12:40:03 PM EST

    Well, it's not nearly that micromanaged, but I can see where you'd be bored.

    As to it being a good escape, it works for me. I can meet new people without forced competition, and I can do thinks I can't do in real life. I absolutely love the hoverboards, and learning new tricks. I've always enjoyed surfing, but I can't do it in real life because I have bad knees, so I'm getting my kicks elsewhere :-)

    Part of why I think it might fail, is that the only things that really differenciate it from other chatting are the graphics, the games, and exploring. And they've already said that they intend to expand the world slowly.

    [ Parent ]

    I did like the original. (none / 0) (#66)
    by kpaul on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 08:42:03 PM EST

    I spent literally hours and hours with SimCity and the sequels. Even had a version on my Handspring for a while.

    I guess I can see, though, how the Sims may be a more social type simulation - for extroverts rather than introverts.

    What was particularly funny (odd) to me was that you could have your Sim sit at a desk in the game and simulate playing a game (of a Sim playing a game simulating a sim?) - and if you stayed up too late you'd be groggy for work and...

    rinse. repeat. ;)


    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]

    That bodes well for them (none / 0) (#82)
    by ph317 on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 04:19:04 PM EST


    Extroverts make up the majority of the population by far.  K5 and any other computerish/engineeringish/hackerish area of the population might be mostly introverted, but an extrovert-attracting game that's easy for the unwashed masses to consume might win big.

    [ Parent ]
    emote nods in agreement. [nt] (none / 0) (#85)
    by kpaul on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 10:37:21 PM EST


    2014 Halloween Costumes
    [ Parent ]
    Body mods? (4.66 / 3) (#58)
    by fencepost on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 03:14:29 PM EST

    I mean, really, forget this clothing/cosmetics bit.

    Run around "naked" until you can amass enough cash for something interesting like designer warts!

    --
    "I can't believe I'm giving someone enema advice." -karlj000

    There. (5.00 / 4) (#62)
    by kwsNI on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 04:19:57 PM EST

    For people without lives, they'll rent one to you.

    kwsNI

    Really?? (none / 0) (#68)
    by Stick on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 01:16:15 AM EST

    Sign me up then!


    ---
    Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
    [ Parent ]
    Active Worlds (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by Tatarigami on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 05:42:31 PM EST

    A while back I got interested in Activeworlds, which seems a very similar idea -- shared virtual space, themed communities and the ability for registered users to stake out real estate and build on it. They had areas like Winter Town, Wild West Town, Atlantis Town, Mars Town, etc.

    It was an interesting environment in spite of the loading times (fix yourself a meal and a drink the first time you visit a realm and download the textures) and I had a chance to explore some truly innovative uses of virtual architecture. In the end, what killed my interest was interface limitations (you can move forwards. You can move backwards. You can turn. Then you can do it again) and the fact this glorified chat room was completely empty of people at the times I was visiting.

    From your description, it sounds like There has overcome the interface limitations (except for the fact it's still just a screen, dammit), now they just need to concentrate on the second part. (And maybe introduce some ultra-ultra-simple building tools. Can you imagine a whole city built by the same people who make those Quake levels you quit after ten seconds?)

    Active Worlds went down the crapper (5.00 / 1) (#70)
    by Stick on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 01:28:50 AM EST

    A year or so back they raised their prices to something like $10 a month. I think it's pretty much killed it off. The technology is way out of date, and they don't have enough programmers to develop new versions quickly. Their marketing and management is also lacking. I think 'There' and other new programs coming out will be the death of it. Right now they Active Worlds don't have any competition so people who like the concept don't really have a choice about who they use.


    ---
    Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
    [ Parent ]
    Where's the beef? (none / 0) (#65)
    by mstefan on Tue Jan 28, 2003 at 08:25:42 PM EST

    Hard to imagine how something like this could be successful when it's directly competing with TSO (which is getting a mixed reception). For the pure fantasy RPGers you have EverQuest, and for the PvPers it looks like Shadowbane may actually see the light of day (at least that's where the uberguilds seem to be headed). For the people who want to "work" in a game and build things, there's Ultima Online. For the people who are sci-fi junkies, there will Star Wars Galaxies. And for the people who want to get it on by talking dirty to each other, there's AOL or one of the #100%sex channels on the IRC network of your choice (except DALnet, of course). So what niche is something like TSO or There actually filling?

    $10 per month would be a big mistake (5.00 / 1) (#71)
    by Stick on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 01:43:24 AM EST

    I used to use active worlds a few years ago, and kept partially up to date with events that happened there. They raised their prices to $10 (or something close) and it's nearly destroyed them. I went in a few months ago (into the free world) and was shocked to see how empty it had become. The problem had been that teenage users couldn't afford it, and if they could they could afford to play everquest or some online game instead. Many adults couldn't afford it either. Many didn't see it as worth that price. One world went from having a minimum of 100 people on average, to 4 people. That's a big drop.

    Programs like Active Worlds or There need a large user base. Why would anyone want to go to an empty 3D world. I could go play a standalone game for less money. Look at ICQ, the most sucessful IM program. The reason why it was so successful was because it had lots of people on it.

    There has some good ideas about making money with the 'therebucks' concept. If they add in a few other passive money making techniques they should be able to make enough money to cover things. A large user base will give them more money making opportunities than a small one.


    ---
    Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n

    Stupid M$ stooges (3.66 / 6) (#72)
    by salsaman on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 07:37:17 AM EST

    <rant>

    I signed up for the 'There' beta, and a day later I got an email reply back 'Sorry but you are using Linux, our service only works with Microsoft Windows, blah blah blah...please contact us again if you upgrade your system'.

    Upgrade ? Upgrade ? Surely some mistake...shouldn't they have said please contact us if you *downgrade* your system ?

    </rant>

    now, now (none / 0) (#75)
    by twistedfirestarter on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 09:00:51 AM EST

    crossgrade is an completely inoffensive term.

    [ Parent ]
    but... (none / 0) (#83)
    by Djinh on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 04:28:22 PM EST

    ...not nearly as much fun!

    --
    We are the Euro. Resistance is futile. All your dollars will be assimilated.
    [ Parent ]
    No, it's an upgrade (none / 0) (#77)
    by Stick on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 09:59:34 AM EST

    Windows has this cool feature where you can install software in seconds rather than weeks.


    ---
    Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
    [ Parent ]
    Like the slammer worm you mean ? (5.00 / 2) (#78)
    by salsaman on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 10:15:17 AM EST

    heh

    [ Parent ]
    Release the lawyers [nt] (none / 0) (#79)
    by Stick on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 10:31:40 AM EST




    ---
    Stick, thine posts bring light to mine eyes, tingles to my loins. Yea, each moment I sit, my monitor before me, waiting, yearning, needing your prose to make the moment complete. - Joh3n
    [ Parent ]
    Debian installation procedure (5.00 / 1) (#80)
    by 5s for Everyone on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 12:35:03 PM EST

    <pre>5sForAll@clowbook$ apt-get install gimp Downloading Gimp-0.9.9... Unpacking Gimp-0.9.9... Setting up Gimp-0.9.9... 5sForAll@clowbook$</pre> Took about 10 seconds, and I didn't even have to put in a CD-ROM.
    --
    There is Damezumari in the Bamboo Joint
    [ Parent ]
    Erk (5.00 / 1) (#81)
    by 5s for Everyone on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 04:08:32 PM EST

    That didn't come out correctly.
    5sForAll@clowbook$ apt-get install gimp

    Downloading Gimp-0.9.9...

    Unpacking Gimp-0.9.9...

    Setting up Gimp-0.9.9...

    5sForAll@clowbook$

    Took about 10 seconds, and I didn't even have to put in a CD-ROM.


    --
    There is Damezumari in the Bamboo Joint
    [ Parent ]
    But is there a main drag (5.00 / 2) (#84)
    by Skippy on Wed Jan 29, 2003 at 07:33:59 PM EST

    where I can chase a glass-knife wielding Aleut with my katana on virtual motorcyles? That is what I want to know and I'm not joining until they add it!

    # I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
    re: But is there a main drag (5.00 / 1) (#92)
    by esquilax on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 10:07:21 PM EST

    good job! you made the reference, and didn't mention the title of the book at all! classy! :)

    [ Parent ]
    Target population? (5.00 / 4) (#86)
    by Signal 11 on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 12:43:23 AM EST

    To keep it short and sweet: I think you underestimate women. I taught my girlfriend how to send administrative messages in W2K in a couple minutes. Actually, I teased her with pop-up messages - Messages like "Out of Paper On Drive D:" - until she finally relented and demanded to know how I was doing it. I have yet to explain to her how I remotely shut down her computer when I want to go and cuddle and she's busy zoning on some new internet addiction. Actually, I flatly refuse to give that secret away. Being a geek is damn useful, sometimes. ;)

    Everyone knows how to use e-mail, and instant messaging is a no-brainer. I think the technological barriers you perceive simply don't exist. I also know a lot of women fake technical incompetence so someone else will do it for them. This is not an exaggeration. I quickly discovered after flatly refusing to help my girlfriend unless she also sat with me and learned it that she magically increased her IQ by about 40 points. The "sweet and innocent" thing buys you about five seconds of sympathy with me. After that, I expect you to learn how to fix your own brakes, learn how to run scandisk and defrag, and perform other technological feats of mediocre proportions. Incentives work well too - like, for example, "we won't be able to go on that roadtrip to see your favorite band if the brakes don't get fixed."

    The biggest problem I've found with teaching women technology is not in the user interface but in data entry. Specifically converting the world of big, small, a smidgeon, a bit, and "just a little" into discrete units like inches, gallons, feet, and the like. I believe this is more a psychological thing than anything else, very probably related to gender stereotyping rather than any inherent defect in the female brain. Regardless, I will continue to attempt to drag my girlfriend -- kicking and screaming if necessary -- into the world of specific measurements.

    Anyway, as I said at the beginning of this reply -- you (that is, the author of this story) don't give nearly enough credit to women. They're perfectly capable of doing it. Now, giving them a good reason to is another matter entirely and many books have been written about that little "issue". :)


    --
    Society needs therapy. It's having
    trouble accepting itself.

    Oh, I agree. (none / 0) (#88)
    by Paige Nuno on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 06:45:45 AM EST

    That ended up worded improperly. Someone asked me to clarify what type of women they were aiming for, and I pushed that in without reading it properly, and I didn't even realize how it read until voting.

    Mind you, I'm a woman in the computer field myself (see above rant), and while I think most women can use computers without problems (I use them all the time, after all...), the target audience will have more trouble. This, I feel, has less to do with them being women than it does with the age groups they are targeting; They just happen to be targeting the women in this age group.

    I've been working at a local center to help women learn to learn computers. Specifically, we try to teach older women how to use computers. The main issues that I've noticed, are less about the specific programs than about how to interface with the computer. Unfortunately, There, Inc. is not only aiming at older women, but they then intend these women to upgrade their computers specifically for this program, and then pay to use it.

    Most of the women that I meet with want to learn computers not because they think it will help them with anything specific, or because they feel that they have to. Which, in this day and age may be.

    The other age group they are aiming at is teenagers. Specifically, women. Having been a teenage girl in the not-too-distant past, this really isn't a good group to target. For one, they really don't have that much money, and two, other than papers, or homework assignments, the computer is used for chatting with friends that are already known. And in my case, playing EverQuest (I was a weird one, even with my gaming friends.) Most teenagers I know, male or female, don't use computers for meeting new people.

    In hindsight, I probably would have focused on the age, rather than the sex of those There is being marketed to, but one quote stuck out in my mind too much, "If we can build a product that women love, guys will show up," There, Inc.'s CEO.

    [ Parent ]

    RE: There CEO's infamous quote (none / 0) (#90)
    by Signal 11 on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 06:29:41 PM EST

    "If we can build a product that women love, guys will show up," There, Inc.'s CEO.

    It was a poor attempt at sex-appeal, that's all. Quite frankly, this is the 21st century and girls go out man-hunting just as often as the boys go looking for girls. Little known fact, you know. You just gotta go where the type of person you're looking for is. So I mean, hey, if you're looking for men who sit in front of a PC playing a video game and slurping down Ramen noodles all day, and whose couch probably contains at least $3.27 in change, a half pound of crushed doritoes and wonton shells, then you should play There!

    That's probably not quite what the CEO wants to hear, but I think it's a fair bit closer to the truth.


    --
    Society needs therapy. It's having
    trouble accepting itself.
    [ Parent ]

    Oh, sweet Signal 11 (none / 0) (#96)
    by LilDebbie on Thu Feb 20, 2003 at 08:10:33 PM EST

    Please come back and don't ever leave use again. Kuro5hin needs all the trolls it can get. Especially the trolls who believe what they're saying.

    My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
    - hugin -

    [ Parent ]
    The word "There" (none / 0) (#87)
    by metalfan on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 01:39:40 AM EST

    You said it too many times, now it has no meaning! Ahh the horror!

    Good idea; now, the execution... (none / 0) (#89)
    by Alias on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 09:00:43 AM EST

    For me, MMORPGs are mostly of the hack'n'slash type: "kill them, take their stuff, level up, repeat". I can fire up games such as Diablo II and do that without an Internet connection and subscription fees, thank you very much!

    Now, what I would really like to see, is a virtual environment where I could not only roam weird places and interact with their denizens, real or artificial, but also build them! Have my own piece of turf, a sort of virtual Aliasland.

    Now, There seems to go into the direction of a more social type of MMORPG, which I see as a Good Thing. I'm more worried about the blatantly merchandisey stuff.

    I know that running MMORPG servers have mammoth hardware and bandwidth requirements, but I can see where this is coming: branded, virtual clothing, advertisement boards everywhere.

    Just like real life, only more so.

    Stéphane "Alias" Gallay -- Damn! My .sig is too lon

    even technophobic women can play complex games (none / 0) (#91)
    by truffle on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 07:45:42 PM EST

    If women find a game interesting they will learn how to play it. Take Everquest as an example. When EQ first came out, the female/male ratio was quite low. The ratio of women players has definitely incresed over time though. I think women tend to be secondary adopters. Instead of going out to the computer store to say "I want this new game", they're more likely to learn about a game from a friend, or boyfriend, observe it, decide it looks fun, and then try it. Once women decide they enjoy a game, they generally master it. Even technophobic ones.

    meow

    Yeah (none / 0) (#93)
    by starsky on Fri Jan 31, 2003 at 07:36:00 AM EST

    it ain't just guys pretending to be women, honest.

    [ Parent ]
    Housewives with High-end Boxen? (none / 0) (#94)
    by rdmiller3 on Fri Jan 31, 2003 at 05:27:35 PM EST

    The biggest flaw I see in their whole target demographic is how horribly it conflicts with their system requirements.

    C'mon... how many housewives and teenage girls are going to be using high-end equipment?

    Sure, you can easily buy a 1GHz box with 256MB of RAM and an extra 400MB of disk, and you can get cable or DSL in most places by just doubling what you normally pay per month for phone or cable... but most families buy a middle-range computer and keep it for more than five years. And what about the growing number of people buying cheap, low-end machines just to be able to browse the web and do e-mail? Those boxes haven't got a chance of meeting the system requirements listed.

    If "There" is going to reach its target demographic, they're going to have to run on most of that demographic's expected hardware... not just some of it.

    Games like this make me mad (none / 0) (#95)
    by Uncle Alex on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 01:52:17 AM EST

    These kinds of game bother me to no end.

    Why the hell would I want to micro-manage my life in a virtual, mundane setting? This isn't escapism. It's fear of the world beyond your front door, plain and simple.

    I'm reasonably addicted to PC games. I've spent many late nights playing Starcraft, Morrowind, and RTCW online. As a matter of fact, I sell games for a living (RPGs, board games and such). But why in the name of everything you hold dear would you actually pay to play a game which... is outside your door.

    Are You There? | 96 comments (53 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
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