There is back! Can you imagine?! Just when you were wondering if you'd have to flee to Open Sim technocommunist lands or other scrappy not-ready-for-prime-time worlds if/when Second Life closes or is overrun by Something Awful griefers from Steam, you have this nice little world coming back!
I just heard it was revived today on Massively, but I think it's actually been back open for a few months. Why didn't we know?
Read the Massively piece by Beau Hindman to get a more deeply informed study, but I'll give you part of my take as the first in my series of blog posts on my recent weeks of exploration in various other worlds alternative to SL. (I even revived my EVE online old account, now 7 years, and goddamn that game is hard! Anyone want to walk me through and I will come mine for you. I only want to mine. No wars.)
Now as for There, Second Lifers always laugh at There as being more primitive in graphics and capability. There was a place that hordes of people fled from to SL, to the point that the Lindens even winked and made a last name, Therein, which has some of the most respected oldbies, like DavidM Therein, who makes the very realistic food. Desmond Shang got his illustrious start as a metaversal mogul in There.
I don't care about graphics, and primitive game mechanics like The Sims Online are fine by me.
There has some really nice aspects to it.
First, unlike Cloud Party and some other newer worlds, it really has a sense of place, a place you can walk around, and hear the crunch of earth under your feet. That's important.
There has teleporting, which satisfies the SL yearn for that sense of contiguity and travel that some other games or worlds replace with rooms or instances that don't.
There's an easy way to change your view, and you can even get the avatar completely out of your picture, something you really have to work at doing in SL.
There isn't afraid of business, and has land or houses for rent everywhere. You can make and sell stuff. Now There tells us that you can even cash out your Therebux *if you are a developer*. That part bothers me, because I'd much rather be able to have second-hand sales and have a store in which I sell others' goods, or rent out houses and cash out the money as well. Why can't land barons be developers, too, in There? They surely must add that.
Even while the graphics are more simpler, the people making There know how to create a sense of place and even mystery and intrigue with what they do with it, such as the Bone Yard and the Lost Temple.
I think there are people there, but I couldn't find a single one. I went to a newbies open house and didn't see a soul there, except a mannikin.
There is a bit of a strange system whereby Internet pages are opened up when you do things like search an events list or shop. But hey, in fact our beloved Second Life does that now too, which is why it doesn't work as well.
I was hoping to just teleport to something that seemed like it was The Coca Cola Store in something called CC Metro -- after I couldn't seem to get the screens to move through on the online store. Maybe it's outdated information? I got all error screens on the Coke -- not good for the brand.
Unlike the hippies at Linden Lab who loathed big companies even when they came in and paid huge amounts to them and their insider developers, I like the companies and brands in There -- I liked it years ago when I heard the developer Michael Wilson first speak at the very first virtual worlds conference, held at the Jewish museum in New York City in Battery Park.
Brands are good, we all buy them, I don't have any socialist attitude here or anti-American claptrap whatsoever. I want to go and buy the Coke t-shirt, the Coke buggy or drink dispenser -- whatever. But... I didn't manage to. I couldn't find CC Metro on the map, maybe it is part of old There? Or I didn't get something about this name? Or maybe there aren't stores inworld to shop in, only the web? Next time...
There gets you hitting the ground running and right into an event friendly to newbies or simply a nice place to explore much faster than SL. It's because it doesn't have a silly welcome area. Not anymore (it used to, and I think it used to have the same problem with FIC types being mentors and then becoming impossible to deal with).
You can pick groups to join in There by topic because search works that way. It would be harder in SL because search is now the Google appliance turning up all kinds of random stuff.
To sit or open doors or chat, you have to click a little down arrow. That's annoying if you are used to right-clicking to interact, but you lose sight of it after awhile.
Even so, There doesn't have enough of the places to explore or sense of easy ability to decorate my space with my home-made stuff that SL has, and can't replace SL for me likely ever. It has a concept of a paz, as explained by Hind:
I still love the look of There and truly enjoy many of the sites and sounds of the world. I even had many of the same old items in my inventory, including a hoverboard. I spent so much time on my hoverboard in the past, doing tricks and assembling temporary skate parks using a "paz," a portable area that can be decorated, saved, and pulled out in certain areas. Imagine a portable home and yard that can put into your pocket... that's a paz. I had as much fun as I ever had before by shooting around on my board this week. Again, though, I missed seeing dozens of people doing the same.
This is sort of a pocket holodeck that you take out and rez and put back, and there are certain designated areas where you can do that, I think. Nobody can complain the tier is too high in There, the rentals seem quite reasonable. I didn't explore if they had that same kind of land/sim market they used to.
Concurrency is a mystery -- and the pushpins on the map don't seem to equal people, only sort of homesteads. I just couldn't find a soul today.
I liked that There's founder Michael Wilson had a vision of community, a *PG* vision of community which is actually very satisfying to people who hate having the adult stuff shoved in their face, and also had notions of governance and commerce not often common to these worlds created by the technocommunists. Good!
Wilson did something interesting years ago when he found there were no girls in his game. He said that if you were female, you could mail a form to There and they would send you a graphics card. Imagine! they found that the single biggest hurdle for women was better computers, and not having graphic cards. So they sent them! Now, my next hurdle was finding someone to install it, but eventually I found someone. Unfortunately, my computer then died for other reasons before I could get to There, but I never forgot that -- which is why I cheerfully handed over $10 to play There -- which is required. No freebies. Good! Sure it cuts down on creativity, privacy and foreigners outside of America. But it also cuts down on griefing. See how it works. Not for everybody, but an interesting experiment to watch.
And as Michael Wilson explains on his blog, he decided to make it 18 and older. That way, you get rid of this concern about kids and the problem of pedophiles at least on paper, as it were. Sure, kids and pedophiles can still sneak in, but it reduces the percentages and most importantly, reduces the vulnerability to liability.
I can't quite tell when There reopened -- but I guess it was in May as announced back then. Funny no one has mentioned it. Already Wilson noted that in August, he had made $15,000 in subscriptions -- and...some other thing called "TB" (rentals of items ingame?) for more than $41,000.
Income (this period) from all AvMans
TB Sales: $25,442 (avg $21.91/purchase, $820.7/day)
Gross Income: $41,302
Now *that* is how you have to run a world. Not this free stuff like Cloud Party and whining that you are still in beta and people should forgive you if you didn't do this or that yet.
Read more on this blog for how one player submitted a dune buggy on a web-based submissions system and put it in world for sale.
There's an interesting problem then that has come up, which is characteristic of all game worlds, which Wilson addresses frankly:
It’s been brought to our attention that some people are selling things in exchange for real U.S. $ – usually via PayPal.
Don’t do this. It’s against the rules. It will get you banned, for life.
There are at least two reasons for this rule:
- Since the transaction doesn’t go through There, there’s no way for us to control it. Unlike an Auction or Trade, we can’t guarantee that you’ll get the goods for the money, or you’ll get the money for the goods.
- It deprives There of income, which, as you can see from the cashflow, we need. We don’t need the money to line our pockets. We need it to stay open. So, if you do this, you’re stealing from There, and from your fellow members.
Hmm. Well, I think this needs debating, as powerful as the argument is. You know, if you make a currency exchange like the LindEx, and then take commissions on currency sales, and tie that to the shopping page -- oh, never mind.
I don't think I ever got along with Michael Wilson -- the first time I introduced myself I said I was from the Alphabille Herald (years ago! 2004 or 2005!) and wondered if the newspaper could open up in There. He didn't seem thrilled. He may have also heard of Prokofy and my blog and not be thrilled with any attention from me. I don't think There could be any kind of home for me -- I worry about a world that has only one man's notion of The Better World being the last word on everything, and no player council or even JIRA! Even so, it's an interesting experiment to watch.
Months from now, I will try to make something in There -- I don't have the time now to go through all the menus, the fighting with Photoshop, etc. I'd be interested to see how hard it is to make a t-shirt or a table. Anybody?
People like to be part of betas and start-ups and scrappy little open source nerd parties. The Lindens used to be friends with us and tell us their numbers and gave us lots of internal data about the economy. All that's gone now, sequestered from view.
What I like about Michael Wilson's re-opening of There is that he is telling users about the numbers involved (and that his salary is $1/year -- he has always done this as a labour of love, and if he has a beach house, it's not from your virtual sweat shop).
He won't tell us how many users there were, and I would endlessly try to pry this out of There staff and insiders when I hung around those virtual world exhibits, and conclude that it was like 100,000. But nobody knows, and he is still not talking.
But he is talking about the costs of running a virtual world, and it's true that no one, not even Linden Lab, which is the most transparent of worlds, is doing this. He's got it right down to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield costs and stuff.
So far, it's in the hole, but with some changes -- like enabling land barons to cash out, like enabling faster web purchases and inworld purchases of rented or bought items -- it will flush more money out of us faster. So far, so good, and I wish him success in making this world.