Hugsies Blog!

March 2, 2010

Goodbye There.com

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Hugsie @ 12:47 pm

One of the first GOOD MMOs I ever played was there.com.  I got into the beta in early 2003, then less than year later went public (and we all knew it still needed more time in beta). Over the next six+ years it changed names (company), ownerships, executive officers came and went, and all kinds of investment capitol poured into the service. So now seven years+ since the public beta began, they are going bye bye.

This is a sad story but I’m also rather relieved that they are shutting down.  Feels like apart of me is on it’s death bed about to pass away.  It’s like waiting for a sick loved one to finally pass on, because they had been suffering for years with a quality of life that had been complete shit (and yes I have been though that in RL).

Yet I don’t feel bad for them.  While the employees were doing their best with in the limitations they had; the simple fact is that the service it self was half-assed. So many bugs and legacy issues from PRE-BETA still exited in the service.

So that said, I still resent There because of their short comings, short sightedness, stubborness, and ignorance. Mostly for the sipmle fact they NEVER seemed to have learned anything from those SEVEN years that we, as beta testers and other users, warning them about what was wrong with the service.  Forums were a complete joke.  It’s horrible cumbersome clusterfuck of an inventory system. UI so heavily reliant on Flash because of how things were “tacked on” using the Flash API the UI was beyond cumbersome.  It was only compatible with Internet Explorer that it inherently didn’t allow other platforms to use it (mac, linux).  It only recently in the last couple years they made the website, and forums “compatible” with FireFox, but you still needed IE to get into world.

User created content was way too restrictive, and EXPENSIVE.  With no in-world tools to create anything, you had to spend literally 4-10 USD to submit something to be put into game; using you own software that ranged a few hundred dollars (photoshop, etc).  It then had follow strict guidelines that a team of employees would pass judgment on if it was a proper thing to have in There (smells like socialism).  For which they had an obvious double,  triple, if not quadruple standards for what was accepted and what was rejected.  Plus you wouldn’t get a full refund if they chose to reject it.  Even then down the road after it was approved they could yank it from the service at ANY time if someone complained on some superficial thing.

It’s been declining ever since “Black Friday” (May 21st 2004) when they announced they were going to downsize, and reevaluate the service in a few months.  Remote in-game employees got laid off as quickly as they were hired on.  Everyone went into a panic. I even sold away my home thinking they were going to close down in a few months.

They were also really slow at adopting anything new.  It took over FIVE fucking years for them to put in a hugging animation into the game, long after I had already quit being a regular.  It also too them FOREVER to support simple Alpha channels so you could create clothing with out having to pre-render a skin tone on it. For which they would just end up changing the RGB values with out warning when a new client was updated.

Now here we are in the dawn of a new decade (or the end of one, depends on your math), and after seeing so many other virtual worlds (MMOs) close down due to the crappy economy, There.com just can’t make the money anymore.  Users aren’t buying ThereBucks anymore. I don’t think they really ever DID make a profit, since so many investors pulled out (Nike, Levi’s, Cosmopolitan, iVillage, MTV (Virtual Laguna Beach), Coca-cola, even the US Army!) and cut their losses as a tax write off.

But it is survival of the fittest here.  There.com has so many technical flaws and POOR coding and bugs that plagued the service though it’s entire lifetime; not to say no other online service don’t have flaws like this, but for FUCKS SAKE they stuck out like a sore thumb, and they kept ignoring and bury them under more sloppy programming, as if it would just go away.

When the original creators of There.com left (and formed IMVU.com), the people who were left benind had no choice but to keep running the service in patch-work like fashion, since they probably didn’t know, or understand the nuances to the service to keep lean and mean. So we ended up with a clusterfuck; literally!

Year after year playing on There was becoming too restrictive, since too many bratty kids kept pouring into the service that made the adults uncomfortable (well thanks to Virtual  Laguna Beach closing down, letting the tweens loose). So any remotely “mature” material was being rejected.  Granted the service was intended to be PG-13, something that Linden Labs wishes they were from the start, but Second Life wouldn’t have lasted as long as it had if it had (Both SL and There are about the same age, with SL exiting beta 6 months earlier)

I also don’t see a future for Makena’s OLIVE engine that There was running on. At least not in it’s current form that’s really hardly much different from what it was 7 years ago.  They would have to re-write it from scratch, and fix the database issues with user inventory, the cumbersome UI, drop Flash and Internet Exploder, and have in world tools to create content.  Oh wait, someone else did that already LINDEN LABS!

But even Second Life isn’t perfect and they are suffering from too much growth. but it was BY FAR a better product that There.com EVER was.  Better content, better inventory system that isn’t a complete clusterfuck, no restrictions on CREATING content (you can make more than just texture a Tshirt), the virtual money is worth more.  The only good thing there.com had was the physics and vehicles.

There.com made their announcement a week from their close date.  That’s a really short time span.  Yet before this, no one had the sense that things were really going bad for them.  Most business don’t talk about how bad business is, though they do tend to talk about how great things are.  It’s probably good not to let this drag on longer than it needs to be since every day they keep this service online is more bills to pay.  I’m glad I left There.com about four years ago and I don’t regret it.  The friends I made I still keep in contact with either on SL, email, or other forms of chat.  That lifetime membership I paid $40 for after the Beta ended sure didn’t live up to it’s name, unless I die before next Tuesday. In the end, Second Life was just a better system. Not perfect, not by a long shot, but there.com was a mess of a game, even from just a UI standpoint.

So I’m happy to see it go, and clear up bandwidth for something else.

Update: Holey crap, Micheal Wilson (CEO) said in-game he read this blog. :O

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1 Comment »

  1. Loved this entry because it was one of the few “eulogies” that didn’t go the soppy route of painting There as a victim of fate and bluntly said what needed to be said– if There died, it was through its own hand.

    I posted a similar type eulogy on my own blog about how There’s mistakes basically resulted in it dying prematurely, except my focus was less on the UI problems than other areas. Once you get past the paragraph about Twinity, you’ll see me go into all the things There did wrong over the years, from relying too heavily on user generated content and events, to allowing the world to become a virtual junk yard. Having seen how much potential was in the world back in 2003, it’s really gut-wrenching to see all the mistakes that were made and how easily they could’ve been rectified. If only There had listened to feedback. If only!

    Comment by R.C. — March 10, 2010 @ 4:12 pm


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