Virtual Space

Recovered from Archive.org – Mar 18, 1997

A few months back VRML made its debut in a hot flash of excitement which quickly dwindled to a dull florescent glow of light praise. The problem was that the only thing you could look at was a 3D view of a giant N. No one else was there, and it was quiet. Virtual Space wasn’t happening like people hoped. (Not quickly anyway). Avatars and shared whiteboards just weren’t available.

Recently there has been an resurgance of VRML and Virtual Worlds.Microsoft and Intel have agreed to support VRML on the internet in the form of better hardware and software specifically designed for the purpose of furthering Virtual Reality. I think the state of shared graphical environments deserves a blurb in Net Happenings at the very least.

One of the first entries into the virtual game is Alpha World. Boasting probably the smoothest navigation, Alpha Worlds sets a fairly high standard for what we can expect from Virtual Worlds. One of the most annoying things I found was that there was no global WHO command. If you moved more than a few virtual feet from another avatar…they werent chatable anymore. Learn from the muds: give emotes and commands and the users will make the illusion.

The Palace is a virtual environment with many rooms and toys. You get a happy face body with Mr. Potato Head-like appendages and accessories. Your name is Guest234 or something similar unless you pay $20 in which case you get a custom avatar and a name. There were some stock sounds you could make but no speech. You could chat with the people in the room or move around the palace. A glorified IRC, but very amusing and lots of fun. Not 3D but very graphical.

SONY throws its formidable weight into the arena with its Virtual Society Bureau. It’s a VRML chat room with some extra toys. Navigation is fairly straight-forward and chat is pretty simple. It is only in Beta 3 so its got some bugs. It gives your avatar two actions, smile and say hello. I know it’s only two, but assuming they add to that arsenal with many more actions it will quickly become more “life-like”. Definitely keep tabs on it.

Sierra Online has finally entered the online gaming industry with Realms. If you have ever played a Sierra game (Leisure Suit Larry, Kinds Quest…) then you know what you can expect from Realms. It’s a full featured game with attacking other players and adventuring. No speech but a lot of audio. A lot of fun but still buggy. Not 3D but still visually exciting. HUGE download. (Over 5 megs last version)

The latest entry into the Virtual Chat arena is none other than Intel. With their new Moondo they add a very important and exciting feature to the Virtual World. Audio, and not the stock garbage that comes with the others. You click on the speak icon and Yap away. I just spoke to a guy in Texas, as clear as Internet Phone (if that’s saying much). The navigation was very, very slow, very lagged, but the speech came through very well. There wasnt anywhere to go and there were no actions you could do but I was looking at an Avatar and hearing the guy in Texas. Its a step forward all right. 🙂

I meant for this article to be short. Whoops.

In conclusion…to be continued…

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