Multiuser Worlds III: Active Worlds

ZUZU World

Used with permission of Princess Tia of ZuZu World.

Dateline: 04/21/99

Active Worlds (AW) is one of the most active if not THE most active 3D environment. It was started in early 1995 by Worlds Inc. (For a complete history see Now the company has gone public (AWLD) and is called Active Worlds. There are routinely several hundred people present in the site which consists of many individual worlds. The main world also routinely has a few hundred people in it any the busier times of the day.

You can download and visit the AW environments for free but as a "guest" you can't take on the form of most Avatars. There are some very cool avatars. Some people even sell them. The illustration at the beginning of this article comes from "ZuZu World" run by Princess Tia, in reality she will design and sell you an avatar for whatever your active world needs.

There is a fairly active (pun intended) community and an Active Worlds Events Committee that provides an up-to-date calendar of events. People tend to converse with each other using Active Worlds terms like "see you at GZ!" where GZ means Ground Zero, which is the 0,0 coordinate of the world. Many of the worlds are HUGE and you must tell people where interesting things are located. One of the more interesting aspects of AW is that the users can build there own building and mini-worlds.

If you imagine that Active Worlds is a place where people can come and build there own homesteads and that this has been going on for quite a while, you begin to get the flavor of this place. One of the most dramatic pieces of evidence of the vitality of the community is the existence of a "satellite" picture of the Active Worlds main world. This satellite picture, was created by assigning colors to each of the Active Worlds objects and placing it in it's proper location. The result is a fascinating example of how a virtual community has built and spread out as a virtual community with its own unique sociology.

Active Worlds University is he place to go for lots of instructions and tutorials about Active Worlds. This URL must be executed in the Active Worlds browser. Speaking of which when you run AW the graphical 3D world is one of several panes in the browser.

active worlds browser view, web browser on right, worlds on left, chat in middle bottom

AW Browser, used with permission of Active Worlds.

Why even time itself is unique in this place. The Alpha World Atomic Clock is a time zone (sort of) used to coordinate events in Active Worlds.

If your game for creating your own worlds you can get some advice on creating renderware objects along with some advice and tutorials on authoring for Active Worlds environments. Renderware is from Criterion Technologiesthe creators of RenderWare a 3D graphics engine, whose format is used by by the Active Worlds browser. Actually one of the shortcomings of AW is the rendering used does a fairly poor job of lighting and they don't use a Z buffer so avatars show up from behind walls in annoying ways. This isn't the fault of RenderWare but a tradeoff in it's use by the AW browser, all in all it's not bad and I'd expect hardware to solve this problem in the near term anyway.

Well that about wraps it up from inside this little world. Maybe I'll catch you in AW someday!

One Year Ago in Focus on VRML Current Events: Multi-user, Flocking, Death and Taxes

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