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There Inc - Propagating the Bad of Society?

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the the-baywatch-view dept.

PC Games (Games) 43

An anonymous reader writes "A former beta tester has written up a negative, but interesting, review of the 'virtual world' MMO title There. While it mainly contains sarcastic remarks directed at the game mechanics (or lack there-of), near the end it also claims that There is 'a mirror of the shallowest possible view of American consumerist society.' It concludes by saying that There is missing anything that would classify it as a game, and that as a chat service it capitalizes on 'our society's tendency to believe that being attractive is a prerequisite for being accepted by others.' Should developers try to be aware of whether their game will reproduce negative trends already present in real life?" We recently ran a story on the official launch of There, a game that has its fans as well as its detractors.

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fp (-1)

Michael's a Jerk! (668185) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426725)

I win, I win!

PS Simoniker, whatever happened to Michael?

Reminds of a critique (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7426734)

"There's no there there."

If this were a newsgroup... (2, Funny)

I(rispee_I(reme (310391) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426766)

Godwin's law would be invoked already:

Have you ever wondered what sort of society Hitler would have envisioned if he had grown up in modern times and watched waaay too much MTV? Well I used to, and then I beta tested a game called There...

Re:If this were a newsgroup... (1)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426797)

Wouldn't that make starting the arguement/discussion with the Nazi comparison create some sort of opposite effect?

Something like... I don't know... satire?

snow crash? (0, Troll)

mutewinter (688449) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426775)

Didn't these guys read Snow Crash? This wasn't what the Metaverse was quite supposed to be like.

Re:snow crash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7426821)

didnt you read snowcrash? maybe you did but you didnt comprehend it.

Who Cares (2, Interesting)

bob65 (590395) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426856)

Should developers try to be aware of whether their game will reproduce negative trends already present in real life?

I think they do already. Should they care? Well that's up to them. Should they have to care? No. Should we care? That depends who you are.

I was a beta tester... (2, Interesting)

Kraken137 (15062) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426968)

When I first heard about it, I saw the word 'metaverse' bandied around. I was also led to believe that it would be amazing looking. So, I signed up to be a beta tester. Some time later, I got an email inviting me to download and install <i>There</i>. I installed windows on a spare partition, installed the 'game', and cranked it up.

The disappointment in my apartment was thick enough to cut with a knife. <i>There</i> is like the metaverse in the same way that ENIAC with a few thousand blown tubes is like ASCI White. I agree with all the points outlined in that article - <i>There</i> isn't.

If you want chat...and interaction... (2, Interesting)

voss (52565) | more than 10 years ago | (#7426979)

Sims Online is way better...with a heck of a lot more content.

Alternatively if you want a more adult experience Second Life has better graphics...and more revealing outfits.

If "there" was free and then charged you 15 cents for buying extra clothing or doodads, you could understand it and it might even kinda cute, but when they want a monthly payment and then nickel and diming you on top...that just gets annoying.

Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (3, Interesting)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427008)

The author mentioned Second Life on page three [] , which is also where the crux of the review lies.

I haven't played Second Life [] (though I have been accepted into the beta [] ), it seems to offer a lot more gameplay than There does, and looks to be a more innovative title, offering users the ability to edit their world, and create any object they can imagine, given they're adapt and patient enough to work with their rudimentary 3d modeling tools.

Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (3, Informative)

Bishop (4500) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427237)

Second Life looks to be a much better "game." Stephenson's Metaverse is often refrenced. Second Life looks to be closer to a Metaverse then There.

Second Life seems to encourage player content and player control. It is interesting how players are rewarded for makeing good content. Players are able to charge other players fees for products, land, and access to land (services). There are monthly stipends with bonuses for high, player generated, ratings. There are tools for radically altering a characters apearence, and building almost anything. The scripting language looks to fairly powerfull. Players can even alter terrain.

I find it equally interesting that I was able to learn about Second Life through there own online documentation. Second Life seems to be quite open about what there "game" is. Whereas most links on the There website require an account to access.

Second Life looks to be a very ambitious project. It will be interesting to see if they can pull it off. I am quite interested if the balance of player control will work, or if Second Life will degenerate into a trollfest like some many other services online.

Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427670)

Projects like Second Life are almost guaranteed to have a certain level of success if they have the team skills to put together such a project. The only problem is what gets most MMO games, the randomness of human behavior when the game tries to go mass market. Obviously, the more people there are the harder it is to manage things. A small group of 5 or so people can control a couple hundred people with a few 'super weapons' (a couple dozen level 50 characters, the ability to summon several of the most powerful monsters in the game, etc). But when you try to hit "mass market" you get a couple thousand which leads to problems.

If Second Life can some how manage the balance between player control and the unruly mobs of the internet (face it, there are always people out there who'll pay for your game just to mess it up) , then they've discovered the holy grail of MMOGs.

Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (1)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427814)

A couple of things: Stipends are weekly and as for trolls/griefers, Linden Lab takes very good care of their game, having several Liaisons in the game to help players, announce events, and get rid of unwanted people.
They're all very nice and friendly, and most if not all are veteran players working from their home, though now that they're working for Linden Lab they usually dont spend as much time on their player accounts.
All the devs and employees in general have accounts in the game, and even the CEO plays it frequently. He is a very nice guy, who actually acts like a normal human being instead of vomiting marketing speak :)
Now go and play the damn game already, you get a free trial week and nothing is charged to your credit card unless you actively and voluntarily choose to go to the website again at the end of it and join the game as a resident.
The one thing SL is currently lacking is people.

Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (2, Interesting)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427802)

You were accepted into the beta? When? The beta was over months ago! In June, IIRC.
There's lots of stuff to do over there even if you dont want to build anything. There's a huge racetrack, free vehicles, a pretty big amusement park, casino games, and the best thing about all of this is that you dont have to keep pumping money into the system.
Want clothes? You have built-in tools for making your own clothes. Want a car, a hoverboard, a balloon, a rocket, a boat? You can easily make them yourself, or buy them off another player.
Most content in the game is entirely user-made, including the LindenWorld theme park and the DarkLife RPG, both of which I am a part of.
There's classes to teach you everything you need to know, and all sorts of events, parties, contests, the works. Everyone is pretty helpful (the game is more collaborative than competitive) and if you decide to try it, look for Eggy Lippmann in there and i'll take you through the basics.

Second Life (1)

hughperkins (705005) | more than 10 years ago | (#7428625)

Second Life is a *very* interesting MMORPG development. I really want to see where it leads. I tried it a couple of weeks ago and just played it continuously for a week. No time to eat, barely time to sleep, ridiculous hours. I pulled the plug eventually, but will surely go back. This game is ground-breaking.


Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (1)

cmacb (547347) | more than 10 years ago | (#7430402)

"I haven't played Second Life (though I have been accepted into the beta), it seems to offer a lot more gameplay than There does, "

Huh? Second life has been out of beta for a few months now. If you are still waiting for your invitation to sign up, consider this it.

"There" (which is actually a rather poor choice of names since not putting it in quotes almost always leads to a confusing sentence) is way too cartoonish to me. Microsoft experimented with chat bubbles in one of the versions of MS Chat and most people found it very confusing. The graphics too look very flat to me. I've never seen a screen shot where there was any evidence of shading or local lighting effects.

They appear to have a great marketing department though. By having a beta program that allowed just about everyone to sign up they have built a large user base. They also have an NDA that you agree to when you sign up. However I get the impression that enforcement of the NDA is quite selective. If they don't like the tone of the text you include with the screen shots you get a call from their lawyers.

If you look at the "about us" section of their web page is reads like a who's who of the dot-com bust. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but they are for the most part marketing people and bean counters, not programmers and technologists. Their game plan is obviously along the old dot-com lines: Get the most market share quickly and render the competition irrelevant.

Unfortunately for this marketing plan, it isn't going to work. 3D-VR is too new, fundamental improvements are still being made and for the next 5 to 10 years there is not going to be a shake-out of companies doing this kind of stuff. Instead there will be a steady churn of new systems coming online and old ones (some of them anyway) becoming marginalized.

Why do you think Microsoft doesn't have a product in this area? I have no doubt that they will at some point, but they have no appetite for long drawn out competitions, they just want to buy the winner (sure beats actually funding an R&D department).

Second Life has an environment almost totally built by users. You can create an attractive avatar or a short, fat and pimply one. You can be a space alien or a penguin (although there are some limitations on non-human forms). While the 3D look is not photo-realistic, it is certainly in that direction. Textures you apply to objects retain close to their original resolution when inspected up close.

Servers for Second life are Linux based (no big surprise there) but I have heard that most of the original development for the client takes place on Linux machines too, and is then ported to Windows for the final build. This means that unlike some other systems that have been developed using Windows only tools and then (as an afterthought) ported to other platforms (Myst for OS X comes to mind, as well as some of the Linux ports done using Wine) this is likely to be a first-class client under both OS X and Linux. For Linux in particular it may well be "the only game in town" and for a good long while.

Re:If you want chat...and interaction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7427224)

i wouldn't call gawking at near-nude polygonal characters in computer games an 'adult experience'.

Wouldn't it be nice... (1)

josefcub (212738) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427021)

...If you could transfer some of that T$ and T-merchandise and T-chicks, etc from the game to the real world, instead of the currently used way, of sucking your entire financial worth into looking good in a game? :)

What you're thinking is already done in a game... (1)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427048)

called Project Entropia [] (except for the chick, of course ^_-.)

Another start-up that's much more interesting than There.

Re:Wouldn't it be nice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7434712)

Actually, you can. There are multiple player-run currency converter services in There that will convert your T$ into $US via paypal. There, Inc. is also working on allowing you to do this via their own method, however there appears to be quite a bit of red tape to cut through to make it happen.

Beta test (4, Interesting)

chizu (669687) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427031)

I was a beta tester near the very end of the beta. I thought this "game" was really shallow and boring. There was just nothing to do but stand around and talk to people, unless you wanted to pay another $10 to play a game in this "game". "There" was very bad from a technical standpoint, it uses internet explorer as a major engine component and refused to run while Mozilla was my default browser. Then there is the cost of "There". Looks cheap at first, and it is if you were a beta tester (all of the stuff about to be mentioned costs a total of $30 for beta testers). But if your the average player the costs will shoot through the roof before you even play. $20 to start, $30 for sound, $50 for a graphics pack. Then $5 bucks a month. Then the fees to get anything done in there, $5 bucks to buy virtual shoes, $5 more for a shirt, $5 more for a buggy ride. This is all real money. Then your limited to 640x480 res and the poor graphics make a GeForce4 TI 4600 and P4 2.4GHz chug. It's the most lacking and expensive online "game" I've ever seen. Even the notoriously buggy anarchy online played better at launch than There does now.

If you want a good online gaming experiance stick with everquest, anarchy online or dark age of camelot. Heck, diablo 2 or even just something like UT offer a better online experiance. There just isn't worth it.

Re:Beta test (1)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427064)

I think that might be the entire point of this review. There is not a game, though /. and the creators (There Inc.) seem to want to believe it, the latter going so far as to market it as such.

The points you make as per it having poor graphics and utilizing IE usher home that sentiment. In all honesty, this article should be on the Slashdot front page or Ask Slashdot instead of further misleading consumers.

Re:Beta test (1)

tellurian (90659) | more than 10 years ago | (#7429037)

I had high hopes for this game but after reading your review, I wasn't surprised. "There" should follow Google's golden rule, "If the users come, so will the money." Someone with a little too much power at There has put high prices on everything. Instead they should focus on getting a user base even though it will burn a little more capital (of which they have plenty).

Why is this even news? (2, Insightful)

Cali Thalen (627449) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427114)

Some socially mal-adjusted gamer logs into a beta 'game' and talks about how it's 1) not complete, and 2) not fun chatting with people.

Forget the fact that the very first sentance uses a Hitler reference. He's certainly not the right person to write a review about There, or anything else for that matter.

For those who might actually be interested in what There is, it's a half-finished (if that) online community (metaverse? maybe). There are both social and gaming aspects, so it's not completely either one. If you don't like to interact with other people, you won't have fun. If all you like to do is play FPS or PRG games, it's not for you.

There is a place to meet people. It's a place to interact, through social, game, or contest activities. You can start or join clubs, race vehicles, hold classes, participate in trivia and quest contest. You can modify your 'avatar' appearance, and buy clothes designed by other players. Even the vehicles can be skinned and even modeled in some cases.

Even if you are not a social person, there is plenty to keep you busy for at least a few hours a week, and There plans to add more content over time. There will be yahoo-esque games such as cards planned in the near future.

I am not at all the target There member (I'm more of an RPG gamer), but I've still been playing since early in the beta, and I've yet to get bored. Any 'game' that can hold my attention for mroe than 9 months, especially one that's still in development, seems like a pretty well-made experiment.

Re:Why is this even news? (2, Insightful)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427147)

"For those who might actually be interested in what There is, it's a half-finished..."

Funny that they're charging $49.99 a year [] to play a half-finished game. Even funnier is that you (and many other people) have bought into it.

But I guess that's the state of many [] online [] games [] ...

Re:Why is this even news? (1)

woofiegrrl (132444) | more than 10 years ago | (#7449408)

Now that is something I do agree with, even though I am a fan of There. It's a bit silly that they're charging so much for it when it's down all the time.

lol (1)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427174)

That review was hilarious despite the bias. Anyway, I don't mind the existance of There of it keeps all the creeps away from the rest of the internet.

Re:lol (1)

Glytch (4881) | more than 10 years ago | (#7429296)

There will alwys be more creeps [] on the net than one single creepsink can handle. It's a law of the universe.

Huh? (1)

That's Unpossible! (722232) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427239)

Should developers try to be aware of whether their game will reproduce negative trends already present in real life?

Developers should try to be aware of what management wants. Management should try to be aware of what consumers want.

Let the armchair psychologists and talking heads worry about this other crap.

One quote sums it up... (1)

pixel_bc (265009) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427247)

The picture on the last page of the review:

"So, you're both really men, aren't you?"


Young ones (1)

Joe Tie. (567096) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427371)

I thought his character looked a bit like Vyvyan minus the metal.

Simply a poorly done review (1)

TomGroves (622890) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427375)

This is a very weak article, and only reinforces the image of geeks as judgmental know-it-alls. Some people just like to walk around and chat with different people. I like Flight Sim, but maybe he likes BF1942. Not only is his 'review' grossly biased, but it is also inaccurate. For instance, he makes the remark that the monthly plan for There has an activation fee, and then rhetorically asks how many other games have an activation fee. He answers 'NONE!'... I answer 'MOST!', what does he consider the $45 at Best Buy- a donation?

Re:Simply a poorly done review (1)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427422)

The $45 at Best Buy gets you a tangible item... you gain a CD, a manual, a snazzy box. Ok, ok, that's weak, but its how games have always been, and it's not likely to change merely because they're massively multiplayer.

I guess my problem with what you said is that you're saying it's acceptable for There Inc. to charge you a one time fee to join the game, but only if you're paying on a monthly basis, and completely ignoring the fact that the people who sign up for a year pay no "activation fee." By that rationale, I should be able to pay for a year of SWG, and not have to purchase the game.

Re:Simply a poorly done review (1)

TomGroves (622890) | more than 10 years ago | (#7428695)

The montly plan costs more real money, but returns more Therebucks. The yearly plan costs less real money but doesn't give as many There bucks.

It ISN'T a game. (1)

Shadows-and-Ice (669658) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427467)

It's one massive big sprawling chat room. Thus, it will reflect chat room behaviour, not game behaviour.

Re:It ISN'T a game. (1)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427487)

/. seems to think [] it is [] ...

Unfinished. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7427579)

The game needs a Rocket Launcher. Now that's entertainment.

Re:Unfinished. (2, Funny)

zenintrude (462825) | more than 10 years ago | (#7427833)

Way ahead of you []

Sims similarities (1)

neostorm (462848) | more than 10 years ago | (#7428138)

I had the same feelings about the Sims, though Sims is a good game and all, it also sends the message:
Money + Material goods + "Friends" = Success

Everyone likes income, toys and friends, but not on such a shallow level as the game reflects it to be. Money is an enabler, not an asset, and it would be interesting to see if this does have some overlapping effects on peoples attitudes in their lives.

Take your own (2, Informative)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 10 years ago | (#7428806)

So he didn't like it. This is newsworthy?

I visit There from time to time (as BlackCloud). I want to make a few remarks:

The landscape is much more interesting and varied than he makes it out to be (once you've had your fill of two-tone landscapes). See below for a link to take your own tour.

Who would want to socialize with someone so lacking in personality as starting avatars seem to be?? On one had he equates personality with the initial garb, on the other he complains about the consumer aspect of the game.

My original character sported, aside from a perfectly trapezoidal head, a red mohawk that cost most of my starting money. After that I only had enough money for some cheap black pants. Needless to say, I wouldn't make many friends in There. Notice he said "wouldn't", not "didn't". One of the most popular people I know in There dresses badly, has a freakish head with a wild white afro and sports a pot belly. Why is he popular? He's funny and a great conversationalist. No one is ignored in There because of how they look.

uessing muscular chest skins and leather-esque pants are hot commodities in There... among 40-50 year old truck drivers, anyway. This isn't any different than an 22 year old guy pretending to be a female elf from the safety of his parents' basement.

There Inc. is charging people to create content, and charging other people to use that content. Yes, and it makes sense for a couple of reasons. All uploaded content is reviewed before being allowed into the game to keep out obscene or copyrighted material. I suspect the fee (besides paying for the review) also keeps inflation in check. If creating content was free, and you could sell said content at whatever price, soon there would be a glut of money. Content would be a way to manufacture money. There's economy was designed by real economists, by the way.

Once you pay the cover charge required by many of There's events Many, but not most.

however don't even think about joining a group that already has more than eight people in it... nobody could communicate with that many people at once! How is this a problem with the game?

Many emotes cause your character to do some action, or an icon to spring from various parts of their body. They've introduced dance moves recently too :) The emotes are suprisingly effective at making the game more immersive.

Well, since the other plan doesn't come with an activation fee, I'm going to guess it's just a clever way of saying they're "activating" their need for more money. The other plan doesn't come with a monthly stipend either. The exchange rate is $1 = T$1787, so each month you get $4.95 worth of T$. The monthly charge is also $4.95, so you get the game for the price of the activation fee. That's not a bad deal since money is useful (though not necessary) in There. Every virtual world needs some form of exchange.

This is evidenced by the sheer amount of benches and loveseats scattered around the land I found them a more convenient place to chat 1 on 1. Standing is fine too but sitting prevents you have 2 people in a conversation no one else can join.

There, Inc. is capitalizing on our society's tendency to believe that being attractive I wish I could find the link to the article I read here on Slashdot about Everquest. It gave some stats the showed players overwhelmingly favored the more attractive races (like elves) compared to the uglier ones (such as gnomes). And in There you can be as good looking or ugly as you want to be. If you spend a little time in There you'll see it's personality that makes one popular, and generosity (you can loan anything you have, from clothes to vehicles, and recall those items whenever you want).

Take a look around there yourself at this site []

It looks like There is also going to do some open source work []

MMORPG (2, Insightful)

Night0wl (251522) | more than 10 years ago | (#7429263)

I noticed this article a few days before slashdots posting of it. And for the most part the author is a troll, and I'm ashamed to share the "Owl" part of his nickname with him.
I've played There for several months in the beta, and continue to to this day. All of his points are valid, the land scape does not have copious ammounts of variation. People tend to all be beautiful.
But if you are an obnoxious troll who seeks only to berate the game and other people, you will be ignored and shunned in There. Just as you would in real life. I suspect that the author of this article didn't find any friends, and rather then tempting to right that in some way he got pissy and left the game.

Also, his credability-for my self-was lost when he called it an "MMORPG"

There are many things out there that can be considered an MMORPG, this is *not* one of them. There is no role playing here. I'm not castic a magic spell to slay a rat. I'm not using my space pistol to shoot a rat. I'm not swinging my sword to kill a rat. I'm conversing with a wide array of people in a digital world, that just happens to have buggies, bikes, boards, and so forth.


jermyjerm (705338) | more than 10 years ago | (#7430307)

There is no role playing here. I'm not castic a magic spell to slay a rat. I'm not using my space pistol to shoot a rat. I'm not swinging my sword to kill a rat. I'm conversing with a wide array of people in a digital world, that just happens to have buggies, bikes, boards, and so forth.

You're being represented by an avatar which you create, and interacting with others through that avatar. Despite the fact that you're not taking on the role of a hero (or as someone who kills rats), you're still taking on a role that is different from your own in real life. Role playing, in other words.

I think the fact that I (writer of the article) treated There as a game when its original intent was not to be one might be more of a problem, but I still think that point is debatable.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7457781)

I played "There" for a month and found it addictive, but then I tried Second Life and lost most interest in "There". There are some fun things to do in "There" but they get boring fast after you do them continusily, and if you don't like spending money, well, you're screwed.

If you want a 'Metaverse' Second Life is the closest thing I've seen on the internet that could be considered one, theres even a couple people with the in-game-last-name of Protagonist and The Black Sun is being built.
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