iay@thereMusings on a Virtual World

This blog has been retired, as the virtual world on which it mused itself fell into darkness. If There ever rises from the ashes, I might blog about it here again.

You can find the most recent ten entries below. If you need more, consider looking through the categories or browse the archives by month from the menus at the left.


Spam

I haven't been to Karuna Plaza for a while (I haven't been around There much for a while, but that's another story). Today I went there to find some people scattered around as usual but also to find that the infamous "Spam Wall of Karuna" had (almost) disappeared.

This seems to have been achieved by dropping a number of 200m x 200m x 500m "sacred" portazones to prevent members doing the same thing with smaller zones. The things-for-sale area has therefore moved a bit further down towards the beach; the closest large member-built structure to the plaza is now a religious outlet rather than a commercial one.

Is this a good thing? I suppose in an abstract way it is; the area is now free from all those advertisments from members that everyone was steamed up about. The area seems to be a lot quieter as well, but that might not be related.

What irks me is that the member-provided spam has been replaced with There-provided spam, most notably the huge skirt models pictured. Am I happy that the several rounds of badly thought out changes to sign and scroll permissions followed by the more recent raising of document prices by a factor of ten, all in the name of reduced clutter, has made the world of Thereia a safe place for 30ft high advertisments from The Management with flashing neon on them?

Curiously, no.

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Thar She Blows!

If you do be the kind o' Captain who sails the seven seas o' Thereia a-seekin' and a-searching for the Thereian like o' Cap'n Ahab's great white whale, get yourself down to the chandler's and pick up a copy o' Cap'n Ahab's helper

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Pyramids

Here's an interesting picture taken as the result of some accidental aerobatics in the Cannery area. If your point of view is under the water, you can see that all of the wooden pillars on which the piers stand are actually much longer than you can see from above the surface, and come to a point at some great depth. In other words, they are not square posts at all but inverted square-based pyramids.

The reason things are done this way is to save on rendering resources in your client machine, where the basic unit of cost is often the simple triangle. A square post of any height has two triangles per face, so a total of 12 triangles in all. A square-based pyramid, on the other hand, has two triangles on the base (the top of the post in this case), one triangle per side and of course no bottom face at all. This gives a total of only 6 triangles, a saving of 50%. The extremely elongated pyramids still look like square posts if you only look at the portion above the surface.

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Big Eights

They enjoy it, you know. No, really, I have it on good authority. Particularly the shrine building part and the presents.

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The Drinks Are On Bruce!

As well as his part in releasing the Tyr houses, Bacios and PortaHomes into the world, There_Economy continues to raise spirits in There in his night job as part-time barman at KOBnBOB's Outback Bar in Monkey Crater.

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Bacio

Although There, Inc. has been clear about not doing new development for the There consumer service, they have made the decision to put some of the things that were already "done" into the live world. The Tyr housing is starting to appear in auctions, and both the PortaHome units and the new Bacio vehicle type we've we've been hearing about for ages will soon be released into the There shop.

I'm sure the major practical effect of these changes will be to soak up a lot of the surplus There currency that is sloshing around. This is probably good for the community, because the currency market is frankly nuts right now. It will be good for the long term survival of the world, too, as the sooner the "panic selling" overhang is removed the sooner people will go back to buying currency from There, Inc. and the sooner, therefore, that they will be able to judge the true revenue potential of the world in its "no development" phase.

In the short term, though, having some new toys to play with will cheer everyone up, and the Bacio is definitely a fun new toy. I got a chance to play with a very indirect loaner today: as you can see, it is basically a two-person hoverbike but with a more upright posture for the riders and different sound effects. The avatar animations are excellent, particularly in turns and jumps; the main limitation seems to be that as the passenger's hands are gripping a bar at the back of the vehicle, they can't hold a paintball gun or a drink.

Yes, they do come in more "manly" colours.

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Not The End Of The World

It has been a few days now since the announcement that There, Inc. would be shifting effort almost entirely from providing the consumer service — running the world we've come to know and love, in other words — to working on the "technology platform". I've seen a lot of strong reactions by others in forums and elsewhere: ranging between "the sky is falling" to "this is a tremendous opportunity for the membership".

The sky has clearly not fallen, as yet, and we have been half-promised that the service will remain open for at least 90 days. I can still do the things I enjoy with the friends I've found here, so I'm certainly not on my way elsewhere as yet. This blog, the technical wiki, my There software and the Community Rapid Transit System aren't going anywhere either.

I'm not as optimistic as some about the longer term future of the There world. Even if There, Inc. successfully refocus on platform development, I don't foresee a time when that new platform will be reintegrated with what we have now; that's just in the nature of "forked" development. We are more likely to see, for example, There, Inc.'s wonderfully expressive avatar technology in Half Life 3 in 2007 than we are to get any significant enhancements to the existing world in a few months time.

The reality is that this change has come about for hard commercial reasons: not enough members have joined the consumer service and spent real cash in-world to make it worth expending the significant effort required to continue actively enhancing it. What's more, I can only guess that this must be quite definitively true; the figures must be such that There, Inc. didn't see that situation as being likely to change in the foreseeable future.

We can hope that the cost/benefit equation is much closer to balance now, after re-deployment of many technical resources and (we understand) a significant round of layoffs. Maybe that will keep the world alive beyond the 90-day evaluation period; I certainly hope so. Whether the world survives or not, though, the commercial failure of There's consumer service is a disappointment. As Dan Hunter says at Terra Nova:

[…] it can't be good news for the development of virtual worlds beyond the typical D&D-inspired MMOGs.

See you in There… I hope.

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Ignores

Well, here we all are in V2.12 of There. A nice new starry sky above that island with the crater in it, a swing to sit in at iVillage, even a map of Motu Motu! I even quite like some of the new Tyr housing neighbourhoods, although the price is a little rich for me.

Of course, there are things I dislike too: this release sees draconian reductions in the permissions for sign and ThereDoc usage, for example. This is supposed to address lag and clutter but the downside is that a lot of interesting free-standing content in the world will die over the next day or so. I won't duplicate my forum rants on this subject here, you'll be glad to hear.

And then there are ignores, which are now not visible on your profile or on anyone else's (they are still there in the XML, but the stylesheet doesn't show them any more).

I have 14 avatars ignoring me at present (I won't say people, because a lot of them are from a single person in multiple chained "fauxbies") and it was beginning to look like I was a bad person. I didn't go the route of hiding my shame by making my profile "buddies only", though, because I want people to be able to find out a little about me if they meet me in-world. I've personally never met anyone objectionable enough to warrant an ignore; I guess I've been lucky so far.

My hope is that, now that your ignores aren't displayed for everyone to see, at least some of the many people who seem to have protected their profiles because a few people have hit "ignore" on them will now go back to showing us all who they are.

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Mute

I love walking around There and listening to the music people are playing; it adds tremendously to the feeling of "place" when you can walk up to someone's zone and hear the same music they do.

Sometimes, though, particularly in crowded areas where you don't want to pay the bandwidth and lag costs, it can be nice to turn radios off. Unfortunately, the obvious solution (turn down the volume knob, or the There music volume slider) doesn't actually disconnect you from the radio station in the current release (V2.06). Walking up to an individual radio and muting it manually does disconnect you from the station, but doesn't work very well in an area with multiple speakers.

Although this issue is apparently going to be addressed in a future release of There (V2.10), I've decided to make my personal loudspeaker muting program available for download to anyone who would like to try it. This program works just like walking up to every loudspeaker you can see and pressing mute on each one.

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Wink

This gag blends in well enough with the There-designed parts of the café that I bet a lot of people walking through don't think anything of it — until it winks at them.

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