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Okay, okay. I give. I revisited “There” today after getting an invitation for a tour (and also a fair bit of well-deserved crap) in the comments to an earlier post where I criticized There for looking like a toy, having a terrible interface, and limiting me to an ugly orange shirt.

I didn’t manage to connect with the two readers who offered to show me around, or with another reader who offered to give me some stuff to get started (but thanks ‘SailorGuy,’ ‘aztec3,’ and ‘TheyCallMeNascar,’ I will look for you later). I did, however, spend some time exploring There on my own.

VB Editor Benjamin Duranske's There Avatar 'BenjaminNoble'Partly to appease my loyal readers from the land of There, and partly to give it a fair look, I forked over the $9.95 for a “Premium Membership.” I also gave Makena Technologies another ten dollars so I could buy my very own blue oxford shirt, khaki pants, oxford shoes, and tortoise-frame glasses. And I got a haircut. Collectively, this de-newbifying shopping spree pretty much wiped out my Hamilton, which goes some distance toward clarifying Makena Technologies’ business model.

The clothing was a little steep, but that $9.95 I paid for premium status? It’s a one time charge. And there’s more to premium membership than getting to change your wardrobe. For your $9.95, you get permanent access to a bunch of nifty features, including voice communication. That’s right, it’s There already, and it works really well. How do you like them apples, Second Life fans?

I stand by my critique of the visuals (incredibly dated) and avatar customization options (very limited). And the interface is inferior to Second Life’s in every way, particularly for camera positioning. But that all said, I now see some genuine advantages to There.

One advantage is that by locking down the environment in There much more thoroughly than it is in Second Life, the avatars appear to move and interact with the world and each other more fluidly. When your avatar runs over something that goes up, for example, he automatically adjusts to look like he’s doing it in a way that doesn’t look stupid. When he sits, he sits looking at other avatars, apparently engaged in a dialog, occasionally shifting. That’s right out of the box, no user-created incompatible-with-everyone-else’s gadgets necessary. Also, lag and server issues appear (at least on one mid-day visit) to be almost nonexistent. I didn’t once fall through floors or run through walls. The chat balloon system is integrated well too, causing avatars to automatically shift attention during a conversation based on who typed last.

I’m not about to switch my primary platform, but I am more impressed with certain aspects of There than I was originally, and I look forward to bringing VB readers reports about legal developments in-world in the future.

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3 Responses to “Revisiting “There” Reveals Function Over Form”

  1. on 09 May 2007 at 11:13 amRaph

    I disagree that There’s interface is inferior in every way — and apparently so do you, since you go on to cite several interface things that are better. :)

    There is generally regarded as having very good social interaction design. Its interface is far simpler and less flexible than SL’s, but we shouldn’t be blinded, as powerusers, by the flexibility — it’s also complex and a huge barrier for many users.

    In terms of graphics — both are dated, really, but a fixation on graphics is a mistake. In terms of overall experience, There is more consistent, and that counts for something too. Arguably, both of them, by requiring hardware acceleration, aimed too hig hat initial release.

  2. on 09 May 2007 at 3:15 pmBenjamin Duranske

    Hi Raph – welcome, and thanks for the comment.

    I may have been imprecise here so I’ll clarify. By “interface,” I’m only referring to my tools for interacting with the world, not the way the world presents itself to me (which I think There does do really well). I find the interface tools themselves in There inferior basically across the board, though I have to concede your point that Second Life’s tools have such an incredibly steep learning curve that they are borderline inaccessible for many users.

  3. on 05 Jul 2007 at 6:30 amtovorinok


    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!


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