There.com was the second 3D Virtual World I joined and from June 2003 to May 2004, it was my only virtual home. I was a Beta and a regular, well known throughout the early days of There.
On Tuesday May 9th my former virtual home will close for good. My former residence at the Ebony Rock Funzone will disappear in the virtual ether.
The announcement comes as a surprise to everyone, including some of the employees of Makena. This thread at sothereforums.com is where a lot of former Thereans as well as former employees are going to talk about the closure as the official forums have closed completely.
From a technical standpoint, There was above everybody. The biggest wants of Second Life players today is copy protection, smooth transition from region to region, better ways to market products, and better vehicles. There had these things from day 1. Avatars in There have capabilities still not seen in any other game. Planet There was the largest avatar navigable 3D object, just slightly smaller than planet Earth. Actual land mass is about 650 sq km, about 1/3 the size of Second Life.
If I were to design a new “ultimate” 3D Virtual World, I would start with There, radically improve the graphics, the avatars, and steal IMVU’s awesome interface, steal Second Life’s system of building, add scripting capabilities, and animation import. At the heart of it though, it would still be There.
So long There, I will miss you.
Just read an announcement that Doppelganger inc. is closing the teen oriented 3D virtual world vSide a week from today. Its sister 3DVW “Virtual Lower East Side” was still in beta when it was “temporarily closed for updating” about a year ago and never re-opened due to pulled sponsorship from MTV which also closed Virtual MTV a few months back.
I always thought it seemed a bit too simplistic, and the lack of variety in avatars and clothing options was a turn-off. But it did not take up much drive space, and the cool looking line art graphics could run on older machines without a problem.
But after three years of development, it should have been more popular by now. Lack of additional funding is the culprit.
I’m going to have to look at the other virtual worlds to see if they are all still operating. In this economy we could likely expect more closings.
UPDATE: see my comments below.
There.com’s sister 3DVW Virtual MTV is closing its doors. Here’s a portion of the note posted at There:
As some of you might have heard, MTV is planning to shut down “vmtv.com”, originally known as “Virtual Laguna Beach”, later this month. We at Makena will be sorry to see it go, as its environments based on hit shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills were a new experience for us, and an exciting learning process for Makena and the VMTV community. As you can imagine, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on why they decided to shut it down, or what their future plans are.
However, as you all know, a virtual community is far more than the environment. In fact, it’s a small part of what makes it a community. Even though the environments are gone as we knew them, we know that the VMTV community will still be there, and many of them might visit us in There.com. As with any visitor from any virtual world, I know that the There community will welcome them and do their very best to make them feel at home.
As you know, VMTV was based off the same software as There.com, but it had a “simplified” UI and lacked a lot of There’s coolest features (Hoverpacks, ‘hugs, and real estate, to name a few), so a lot of the members might have questions and need a little help here and there. I know you’ll all be more than willing to help them out and introduce them to everything from CC Metro to our huge catalog of developer items.
So let’s dust off the Welcome mats and warm up those volcano fizzes! Company’s a comin!
CEO, Makena Technologies
Viacom, once a major supporter of these worlds, who also sponsored the now goneThe L Word Islands in Second Life, and the vSide clone Virtual Lower East Side, seems to be pulling out of the 3D virtual world business all together.
This is no doubt part of the major cutbacks being made at Viacom, which isn’t making as much money in TV ad revenue as they once did.
Update: From the vmtv.com forums:
Dear vMTV member,
In August of 2006 MTV launched its own virtual world where you could watch our shows and live the MTV life, virtually. You’ve sent us your comments and we listened. We’re excited to let you know that you can now check out a new and improved version of Virtual MTV at virtual.mtv.com! This new ALPHA version is browser-based and allows you to create an avatar, get your own crib, explore virtual worlds and play games.
Here’s how it’s going to work: On February 19, 2009, vMTV (www.vmtv.com) will officially close and the new virtual world experience will begin. You will be able to link your new virtual account with your old one and convert your MTV$ to our new virtual currency, MTV Coin, at a 1:1 exchange rate (e.g., 1 MTV$ will convert to 1 MTV Coin). Be sure to link your accounts by February 18th or your existing MTV$ will not be eligible for conversion for use in the new Virtual MTV.
To convert your MTV$ amount to MTV Coin, you first have to sign up for MTV.com and then link your existing avatar to that account (it helps if the email you use for vMTV is the same). If at any point you have trouble linking your account, please email us at email@example.com. For terms and conditions of the use of MTV Coin in Virtual MTV please see our Virtual Reality Additional Terms for MTV.com http://www.mtv.com/sitewide/mtvinfo/virtual_terms.pdf
Thanks for playing and we hope to see you in our new world – we built it with you in mind!
Thanks and enjoy,
So that’s that. Another one bites the dust.
Last night, the Google blog announced the end of Google Lively. This may rank as the shortest lived 3D virtual world ever, less than 6 months.
The first sign of trouble was the sudden jump in popularity, followed by the fairly consistent drop in popularity within a couple of weeks after release. It never picked back up, and apparently there is a ton or never released content waiting in the wings. The second sign was Google shutting down its offices on the ASU campus that served as the primary development location of Lively.
So what happened? How did the internet’s biggest developer release a cool product like this and fail? And what does this say about the future of similar projects like 3dxplorer.com, vivaty.com, exitreality.com, justleapin.com, scenecaster.com, and any other 3D worlds designed to work in 2D browsers?
(And may I also note, this is not the only high profile closure I am aware of. Cyworld is closing its US operations to focus on its Asian business. I wrote about it a couple of years ago, but heard diddly squat about it since then.)
I posted earlier that I thought Google Lively had the potential to be the progenitor of a 3D internet. Guess I was wrong. In fact, this may require a rethink of the whole concept.
Here is my rethink: The idea of a 3D internet built to work in a 2D browser shall never succeed beyond the “novelty” phase. There will be the “ooh thats cool” exceptions that some advertising team does for some product, but the die has been cast. The concept is a failure. Lets move on.
Furthermore, and let me change to bold type, The failure of Google Lively puts the last nail in the coffin to the idea that any 3D virtual world can succeed under the same business model as 2D virtual worlds.
2D virtual worlds that run on 2D browsers are doing very well, but the additional overhead and useability of 3D kills much of what makes 2D virtual worlds successful. In 2D worlds you can buy a room and decorate it with purchaseable pre-designed items. The fact that is only 2D means that it is so simple a young kid can figure it out, and young kids love these 2D worlds.
The added dimension to 3D makes things harder. To build stuff in 3D requires understanding perspectives, camera controls vs avatar controls, size, yaw/pitch/roll, 3D texture mapping, etc. The people that cope best are experienced 3D gamers which instantly limits your audience. Then any useful 3D virtual world is going to require a seperate client download, which limits the audience further.
The successful 3D VWs (Second Life, There, and IMVU) allow users to create their own content and sell the content to others, something even 2D virtual worlds don’t do. This is the fundamental difference between 2D and 3D.
Google lively attempted to bridge the gap. They succeeded in creating a 3D web embeddable viewer, They made building and arranging your “room” amazingly simple and offered a large inventory of free stuff to put in the rooms. That, and the fact they are Google, offered the best hope of bridging the 2D and 3D gap. But, ultimately the useability wasn’t satisfying to the 2D crowd, and the lack of custom content wasn’t satisfying to the 3D crowd.
Hence the end of the experiment. The 2D and 3D virtual worlds are likely to evolve even further apart now that they have proven incompatible.
The Sims Online was not the first 3D social virtual world game. Worlds.com, activeworlds.com, and a dozen imitators came out in the 90′s.
The Sims Online (aka TSO) is however the first mainstream popular game of the genre, thanks mostly to “The Sims” name. It brought in thousands of new people into the genre, many of which promptly left never to return, but a few of us enjoyed the genre enough to stick with it for many games of the genre that followed.
Most of these players joined TSO in the beta days in fall of 2002. The game launched to paying players in January 2003, which was about the time I joined. It is the opinion of many, that the games heyday was in beta.
The Sims name got lots of people in, but the game had a major flaw: There was only a limited amount of things that you can do, and there was no user created content… ever!, despite promises that someday it would be available.
The result was people got bored fairly quickly. Most people that lasted more than 3 months were the ones that developed friendships to keep them in the game. There was constant turnover.
Worse was the fact that in early 2003, There.com and Second Life were both soliciting closed beta players. By August of 2003, when I quit TSO never to return, virtually all the people I knew in TSO had moved to There Beta, and/or Second Life beta, including myself.
The Sims Online carried on with much smaller numbers, for five years. They added a few new features after I left, including pets, and a second version where you could play a whole family of characters at once. A friend of mine tried to get back into the game two years ago and initially liked it, but only lasted about 3 weeks.
Earlier this year, the game was relaunched as “EA Land”, but only lasted 2 months before they announced its close on August first. Ironically, TSO closes five years after I left.
So yes it was a crappy online game, but it brought a lot of people, including myself, into the world of 3D Social Online Gaming, where we still hang out.
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