In March of 1996, Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. partnered up with Nissho Iwai Corporation and Worlds Inc, acquiring the rights to Worlds Inc.'s WorldsChat source code for the creation of virtual 3D chat clients.
They created the company Globe Warp, part of the Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. Multimedia Division, and under this name they released Worlds Chat/ J. Based on the original source code of Worlds Chat Gold, this program supported Room-Wide Text Chat, One-On-One Chat, and even Voice Chat on systems as early as Windows 95/98.
On May 1996, the Worlds Chat / J service went live, operated by the US-based Worlds Inc.
Globe Warp promptly went on to focus on the creation and distribution of several more virtual chat clients based on this same source code for various groups and companies, with the intent of using the technology to develop services for information, entertainment, and edutainment, as well as electronic commerce, advertising, and online shopping.
These chat clients, referred to here as variants of Worlds Chat Japan, are listed below.
Most (if not all) Globe Warp-developed chat clients could be found on the main Globe Warp website. Some required registration, some were open to unregistered guests, and others were free for all. All of them (save for Meet At Plaza) used the same Worlds Chat Gold source code.
The maximum amount of users that could see and communicate with eachother in a single room was 8. This would be recalculated whenever users moved around, and only the 8 nearest users would be able to communicate with one another. It's as of yet unclear if this limitation extended to every single version of Worlds Chat Japan or Meet At Plaza.
Worlds Chat / J takes place on the same space station that the western Worlds Chat primarily took place on (prior to September 13th, 1996), though with several distinct differences - While it features similar "pods" dedicated to different topics, it also houses several unique areas like the netSpace Community Lounge and the Virtual Star Bar.
As of 2001, Worlds Chat / J exceeded 120,000 registered users since the service started in May 1996. According to several press releases, the average number of new registrations per day at this time was about 100, the average number of logins per day was about 2,500, and the average duration of stay per person was about 45 minutes.
Meet At Plaza (sometimes translated/stylized as MetaPlaza) was, in a way, the "successor" to Worlds Chat / J, though it was already listed on the GlobeWarp site alongside Worlds Chat Japan since the earliest archive of their website on October 12, 1999. They existed simultaneously since an early time, and (presumably) had similar lifespans. This is curious, considering Meet At Plaza was made with a much more recent version of the Worlds Chat code than any of the other clients, Worlds Chat / J included, though it likely has something to do with the fact that Meet At Plaza never seemed to have officially left Beta.
Various versions of the Meet At Plaza beta could be downloaded from globewarp.or.jp, or obtained via a CD-Rom (either ordered directly, or attached to various books and magazines)
The first version of Meet At Plaza, called "Beta-mini", was released on February 10, 1997.
The last known version of Meet At Plaza to be archived was last modified on March 30, 1997.
The Main Plaza
Meet At Plaza featured far more detailed environments, 3D geometry, moving models and greater interactivity with the virtual spaces - a far cry from the other programs, the spaces of which ultimately amount to little more than square rooms with fancy wallpaper. Where Worlds Chat / J took place on a relatively small and samey space station, Meet At Plaza features a genuine world for users to explore.
The unique areas from WC/J (netSpace Lounge, Virtual Star Bar) also existed in the world of Meet At Plaza.
Virtual Stardom Concert Hall
There were many little activities to take part in at the MetaPlaza - for instance, in addition to the usual events orchestrated by Globe Warp and Worlds Inc., users could actually upload midis to Globewarp either via e-mail or by physically mailing a floppy disk containing the midi to the company. These midis would play in the Virtual Stardom concert hall, with the game selecting songs based on the user's position & orientation in the room.
Users could take part in popularity polls on the website, where they would vote for their favorite midis. By the end of the vote, the 5 most popular midis would be kept, and 5 new midis would be added. All of this was done in cooperation with Daiichi Kosho Company, a japanese electronics and aircraft manufacturer that specializes in karaoke equipment that is listed as having provided the concert hall space.
IDO World & The Flower Shop
The online storefront aspect was also incorporated into Meet At Plaza, of course - users could visit the in-world flower shop (provided by HANA-Cupid, a Japanese flower company) and click the posters to order gifts and seasonal flowers for their loved ones and special occasions, or go on a blimp ride adventure through an entire world made to advertise IDO's mobile service.
Unfortunately, a vast majority of the clickable posters link to pages that were only accessible through the MetaPlaza, and no web-archiving bots seem to have saved any copies of these.
Perhaps owing to the limited nature of how many people could communicate in one room at a time, the community of MetaPlaza was quick to form several different clubs. Groups like Tanuki World, who set up their own games and events like hide & seek and avatar guessing games, or the Whale Kingdom, a club started (evidently - Google Translate makes it unclear) by an elementary school student named Mio-chan who laid claim to a secret little area in the MetaPlaza chat park. Tanuki World had 17 members by the end of MetaPlaza's lifespan, and the Whale Kingdom had 38!
Clubs certainly had a lot of draw in Meet At Plaza, and some of their more prominent members wound up becoming relatively well-known among the users of the chat program.
When running MetaPlaza, you will be informed that access to the beta expired as of 7/1/99. To get around this and run the game without having to change your system clock, click here to download "GammaFrame.class" and place it inside your "MEET AT PLAZA\gamma\" folder. Overwrite the file that is already there, and the game should run normally.
There was an alternate "game" called Haunted Plaza(化けぷら座) which used the MetaPlaza system. This was a ghost-themed chat client based on a haunted house. Players would start as a "human soul" avatar, and could find other spooky costumes scattered around the virtual space. A seminar on (among other things) GlobeWarp's virtual chat programs describes Haunted Plaza as focusing more on gameplay and fun content than social communication. There were mechanisms in the game world that players could click to make something scary pop up, and generally frightening your fellow players seems to have been the goal of Haunted Plaza.
"The precincts are lined with stores like fairs, and there are lanterns, candy crafts, and Jizo statues. There is a room for training in the
main hall , and there is an old pond in the backyard."
On January 31 2003, The Worlds Chat / J service (and Meet At Plaza along with it) was officially discontinued. Users formed a Meta Destruction Prevention Committee, with several of the service's most well-known members joining the cause to try to keep the Plaza alive. Unfortunately, this was not enough to convince Globe Warp to keep the servers going. Left with no choice, users flocked to Cyber Oz City(another chat client produced and operated by Globe Warp) and Tetreal World (a "four-dimensional" virtual reality chat world built by Techno Design) but found it to be lacking in what their lost virtual home had to offer.
With their one refuge failing to capture their hearts the way the MetaPlaza did, the community gradually petered out and its members went their separate ways.
Northern shrimp! > Thank you all for everything.
Northern shrimp! > The connections made here are lifelong
Click on the images below to learn more about each Globe Warp chat program.
For best results, play on a virtual Windows XP.
Most of these clients will work on Windows 10 unless otherwise stated, but automatic compatibility options set by the OS will constantly lower the volume to minimum after running the program for the first time.
If you know how to make it NOT do that, please Click Here and let me know!
Click on any of the below chat clients to view a gallery containing every single avatar from that client.
All Avatars and their filenames were extracted directly and as-is from their respective program's files and rotate counter-clockwise by default. If an Avatar is rotating the opposite direction from the rest, it means that avatar's rotation frames are reversed.
BooBooChat, ChaChaRa, CHAT de TUKA, RIMCHAT and TulieWorld all have a "WOODY" avatar that is misaligned in such a way that Frame 1, which should be facing the viewer, is facing diagonally to the left.
"METAP\MUSIC\CHANT05.MID", converted to MP3
Looking back on these chat programs is a strange experience. The barriers of time, language and context can quickly warp the perspective we have on them. It's easy to explore the abandoned halls of these bizarre little pockets of online space and feel a sense of eerie loneliness or melancholy, the weird little worlds appearing to us like bizarre dreamlike oddities built with no rhyme or reason, the context behind their creation a thing of decades past. The servers are long dead, and even if we were to somehow reinstate them, the communities that sprung up within them have long since moved on. There is no way for us to experience what it was like when it was active, no way for us to see signs of online life travel alongside us...
Especially compared to the massive melting pot that is social media today, these relics from the past can seem like little more than strange, hollow ruins.
But the Globe Warp chat clients were genuinely some of the most popular online hangouts in Japan at the time! These little 3D messenger applications were a big part of peoples' lives! These weren't just curiosities in the march of technological progress, these were places. These were communities of likeminded individuals who came together to share their common interests in bustling and popular virtual neighborhoods, where people engaged in events and expressed their creativity through shared avatars... And so many things on the internet are like this! How many other chat clients are out there that we've never even heard of, each with their own contained worlds, regular users, in-jokes, and history...? How many forums and unique websites out there have been left to crumble into digital dust as Social Media began dominating the space of online communications?
It may seem as though these programs only existed for a very short time, but many many things can happen in a few years. A minute spent waiting for something can feel like an eternity. One year of your childhood can seem like a lifetime of new experiences. Time only seems short when it's already passed, and with this in mind it's easy to imagine how many relationships must have begun on programs like Worlds Chat / J. How many friendships began and ended here? How many stories have been shared here? How many lives did these people manage to touch, just because this program happened to be there to connect them at the right time?
Even all those other big creative social games, like ActiveWorlds and SecondLife and VRChat... They're all in the same boat, all of them infinitely expanding in all directions as their userbase grows, flourishes, and ultimately moves on. They leave their worlds littered with countless works of art, unfathomable amounts of structures and gadgets that they put blood, sweat and tears into, hours and days and months of work and effort... now just lying there on the winding streets, dormant and uncredited until the servers finally give out.
That is why I go out of my way to preserve these programs, beyond simply backing up their executables and keeping the software running. To preserve the past is to look as deeply into history as you possibly can. You cannot hope to save what's good about a social space without trying to get to know the people that used to frequent it.
That is why I urge you, dear reader, to save everything you love. Log your chat histories, save forum threads you're interested in, keep them in a little time capsule and put it somewhere safe. Because after all...
You never know it's history until it's gone.
metap.globewarp.or.jp:5700: The server has disconnected.
metap.globewarp.or.jp:5700: The server is shutting down.
metap.globewarp.or.jp:5700: Continue retries.