See Copyright and Usage Notice

Installing and Immigrating into Active Worlds

What do I need to visit Active Worlds?

To visit AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds, you must have a PC running Microsoft Windows 95 or NT. As shown in the minimum machine table at the beginning of this chapter, you need a 486 66 MHz PC running Windows 95 and a direct connection to the Internet. Your PC should have at least 16MB of memory. A Pentium machine with plenty of memory (24MB of RAM or more) will run this world much faster, but is not required.

Using Active Worlds through AOL, CompuServe, and other on-line services

You canít use Active Worlds through on-line services unless they support direct Internet access. For example, you can use Active Worlds through America Online, the Microsoft Network, and CompuServe 3.0 as they do provide this service. To do this, you must be able to configure your on-line service to access the Internet through Winsock (the tool Windows uses to communicate with the Internet) and then run Active Worlds. See the section, ìSetting up your on-line service to connect directly with the Internet,î in Appendix D. If you have problems doing this, contact your on-line service for help.

If you can connect directly to the Internet by a dial-up SLIP or PPP connection of at least 14.4 kbps, then you should be ready to run Active Worlds. If you are at work or a place where you have a PC on the Internet full time (such as a university or college), you can also use Active Worlds. Connecting from work might require you to check on your firewall and proxy server restrictions. See the section on ìQuestions and Answers About Connectingî in the FAQ found on the book companion website at:

Getting Started and a Few Disclaimers

The Active Worlds Browser is the software you need to enter AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds. The Active Worlds Browser is easy to install and easy to use. You will be installing Active Worlds Browser either from the CD in this book or by downloading it from the Internet. Getting Active Worlds Browser installed is easier than you might think and soon you will be building your own Metaverse. Metaverse is the name for the virtual world described in Neal Stephensonís 1992 classic novel Snow Crash. I highly recommend that you beg, borrow, or steal this novel and compare the Metaverse with your experience in AlphaWorld. Snow Crash is listed in the bibliography.

Active Worlds Browser is experimental shareware software. As long as Circle of Fire supports it, it will be free to use (you have to accept the terms of your free license during installation). You are not charged for the time you spend exploring, chatting, and building in AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds, but you could be charged for the hours you use from your Internet service provider (ISP). Check with your ISP for its monthly free hours and rates.

Active Worlds is constantly changing

Active Worlds Browser is constantly evolving, and will likely have changed since this chapter was written. I placed the very latest version of Active Worlds Browser on your book CD, and it may be somewhat different from what is described here. In fact, when you log on, you will likely be asked to upgrade to a new version. Upgrading is easy and is described in a section below called ìActive Worlds is asking me if I want to upgradeî. The differences from your running version of Active Worlds Browser and what is described here will not be major and this chapter will still be a great guide to Active Worlds. If you see new features or changes, you should check for information under the Help menu in the Active Worlds Browser.

Active Worlds is now owned by its users!

At the time this chapter was finished, Worlds Incorporated (the original company that developed Active Worlds) had just sold Active Worlds (including AlphaWorld) to a group of users working with Circle of Fire Studios. This is exciting to me as it means that Active Worlds will continue to evolve and grow, driven by the people who love it most, its users! The new home for Active Worlds is at: Please see your Avatars book home page at for the latest news on Active Worlds.

[start Set Aside, with helper Web site icon]

Keep up-to-date with your favorite worlds; visit your Avatars! Web site.

As a special service for readers of Avatars!, I have a special home page on the World Wide Web devoted to keeping you up-to-date on your favorite worlds. Find news about software updates, social events held within these virtual worlds, and brand new worlds you might want to visit at Bookmark it!

[end Set Aside]

If you have questions or problems

If you have questions or problems installing Active Worlds Browser or running any Active World, you should consult the ìAlphaWorld and Active Worlds FAQ,î later in this chapter. If this does not help you, check the Active Worlds. home page at, and the Active Worlds Support page at

To contact the Active Worlds team at Circle of Fire Studios directly with your suggestions, bug reports, or comments, email them through their homepage at

Another good source of information on how to use Active Worlds is the on-line Windows Help file. Just press F1 while using Active Worlds and use the table of contents or index to find your topic of interest.

We appreciate your feedback on Avatars! but we donít have the resources to provide technical support. The Active Worlds Team and I are happy to hear about your experiences with AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds. Contact us through the Avatars! book Web site at

Macintosh, UNIX, and OS/2 versions and running under Windows NT

At this writing, there are no native versions of the Active Worlds Browser for the Macintosh, UNIX, or OS/2. Check the Active Worlds and Avatars! book Web pages for updates on new versions which might support these platforms. You may also be able to run the Active Worlds Browser using a Windows emulation system on non-Windows platforms. Active Worlds may run under Windows NT, but the Active Worlds team reports that you may also experience problems. Check the Active Worlds Web site for assistance with operation under Windows NT.

Bear with me through the following step-by-step instructions and soon you will be experiencing life as an avatar in digital space!

Do you have a previous version of the Active Worlds Browser installed?

If you have previously installed the Active Worlds Browser, it may be wise to delete it before installing your version from the CD. If your version of the Active Worlds Browser is more recent than the one on the CD, you may want to stick with it.

In Windows 95, you can remove a program this way: Open the Control Panel, double-click on the Add/Remove Programs icon, scroll down to Active Worlds, highlight it, and click on the Add/Remove button to delete it from the system. You can also do this by deleting the folder in which the Active Worlds Browser resides.

Installing the Active Worlds Browser from the Avatars! CD-ROM

If you have a CD-ROM drive on your PC, you can install the Active Worlds Browser directly from there. If you donít have a CD-ROM drive, skip to the section, ìInstalling or upgrading the Active Worlds Browser from the Internet.î In Chapter 16 we provide a step by step example of installing from the CD-ROM. I suggest you refer to this chapter and follow the same steps for the Active Worlds Browser. Once the installation program on your CD-ROM has started, you can return to this chapter to the section: ìRunning the Installation.î

Installing or upgrading the Active Worlds Browser from the Internet

If you want the very latest version of Active Worlds, or were informed that you had to upgrade the version found on your Avatars! CD, then you must download it from the Internet. If you havenít done this before, donít panic, it is easier than you might think!

  1. Connect to the Internet (dial up with your modem or make sure your Internet connection is active).
  2. Start your Web browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer.
  3. In the top of the browser, you will see a long area called Location, where you can enter text.
  4. Click in this area, delete the text inside, and type in Press the Enter key.
  5. After a few moments, the home page for Active Worlds should appear. If nothing comes up for a long time, check to see that you are online.
  6. If the Active Worlds page is not available for some reason or is not carrying the Active Worlds software, try entering the location for the Avatars! home page, which is This page may contain more up-to-date links for Active Worlds.
  7. Once you are at the Active Worlds home page, follow the instructions for downloading or upgrading the Active Worlds Browser. At one point, you will click on a link and be prompted for a place to save a file.
  8. A few seconds after clicking on the link, you will be presented with a dialogue box. Click Save File (Netscape) or Save As (Internet Explorer) to download the file to disk (or you can save it on your desktop).
  9. Next, you will be prompted to choose a folder in which to save the downloaded file. Note where you chose to save the file and the name of the file itself (it could be called something like awb152.exe). You can use the folder designated by your Web browser or select another. I put all downloaded files in a folder which I call \download.
  10. Wait patiently, this download is not large (about 1.2MB). It should only take about fifteen minutes, depending on the speed of your connection. While waiting, you can run other programs, but be careful about interfering with the connection. (Try not to do more work on the Internet while the download is progressing, and if you are using your regular telephone line for your modem, donít try to make a telephone call.) If you have a call-waiting feature, you may want to turn it off before beginning the download. If someone calls in, this could interrupt your download.

Figure 7.2: awi1.gif
Find the file you downloaded.

  1. After the download is finished. you must open the folder where the file was downloaded and find that file. To do this:
    • Open the My Computer icon on your desktop.
    • Open the MS-DOS C: icon representing your hard disk.
    • Open the folder into which you saved the file (in \download, as shown in the preceding figure).
    • Close all other programs except your Internet connection and keep this folder open.
    • Double click on the file named something like ìawb152.exeî that looks like a little blue and green Earth.
  2. Go to, ìRunning the Installation,î in the following section.

Running the Installation

Whether you are running the installation from the CD using your Web browser, from the CD file you directly copied, or from the file you downloaded from the Internet, use this section to guide you through the installation. Note that if you downloaded Active Worlds from the Internet, the installation process may have changed. If this has happened, refer to instructions on the Active Worlds Web site.

  1. It is a good idea to close other programs before you continue with the installation. In Windows 95, you can do this by clicking on the running application icons on the task bar and then closing them. In Windows 95 you can use Alt+Tab to go to other running applications even when the installer is waiting for your input and you cannot see the task bar. Simply hold down Alt while pressing Tab and select the icon representing your running application. You can leave your Internet connection running.
  2. Start the installation program. You will be prompted to accept the terms of a license agreement; read them and, if you agree, accept the terms.
  3. You will be prompted to select the folder, or destination directory into which the Active Worlds Browser will be installed. I recommend that you just accept the given destination directory (Active Worlds).
  4. After the installation is complete, there might be a shortcut to the Active Worlds Browser on your desktop. You can also find the Active Worlds Browser in your Start (arrow) Programs (arrow) Active Worlds folder under your Start menu.
  5. For all the settings to take effect you might be asked to reboot your computer. If you are installing the Active Worlds Browser for a second time, you may not have to reboot. To reboot: in Windows 95, click on the Start button, select Shut Down, and then Restart the Computer.
  6. After the computer restarts, I recommend that you do the following clean up of files before you start getting absorbed in AlphaWorld. After this, you will be ready to get started.

Clean up after installation

If you copied the Active Worlds Browser installation file onto your desktop, into a folder, or you downloaded it from the Internet, you can delete it after the installation is complete. It should have a name like awb152.exe. You can keep the original installer around just in case you have to reinstall it. Of course, you will have your CD with the original installers, so you do not need to take up valuable hard disk space (1.2MB just for the Active Worlds installer).

The help files

There will be files called Help placed in your Start menu folder. If you open this file, you will find general information about this release of the Active Worlds Browser.

Traveling the Alphaverse with the Active Worlds Browser

AlphaWorld is just one of many virtual worlds available under the Active Worlds Browser. The Active Worlds Browser is the software provided on your Avatars! book CD. With the Active Worlds Browser you can explore many different virtual worlds. AlphaWorld was the original, and still is the largest, of these worlds. Once in AlphaWorld, you can visit other worlds in the Active Worlds Browser universe. This chapter will focus on AlphaWorld and give you a look at other Active Worlds Browser worlds.

Starting the Active Worlds Browser

Before starting up the Active Worlds Browser, you must re-establish your connection to the Internet. Once you are connected (test your connection by seeing if your Web browser works), double-click on the Active Worlds Browser icon to start up the browser. In Windows 95, you can find the Active Worlds Browser on your desktop, under the Start menu at Programs (arrow) Active Worlds. You can also look in the folder called Active Worlds where you can find the Active Worlds Browser program directly.

Figure 7.3: awim1.jpg
The Active Worlds Browser startup dialogue.

Active Worlds is asking me if I want to upgrade

As soon as you start Active Worlds Browser you may see a message like that shown in the preceding figure. This message may read ìthere is a newer version of Active Worlds available. Your version may work but may not have all the latest features. Press OK to automatically upgrade or Skip to use your current version..î I recommend you press OK and receive the upgrade. This will not take long and will ensure you are using the latest version. After Active Worlds downloads its upgrade (usually 100 or 200KB) it will upgrade itself and then restart.

The version of Active Worlds Browser installed from the CD will require upgrading in this way. You may be asked to upgrade in several steps, depending on how old your version of Active Worlds is. In the event that you are told that you must download a whole new version of the Active Worlds Browser, return to the previous section, ìInstalling or upgrading Active Worlds Browser from the Internet.î

What! You donít have your immigration papers?

Figure 7.4: awim2.jpg
Enter a name for your tourist visa or immigrate and become a citizen

When you enter the Active Worlds universe you must enter either as a tourist or become a citizen through a process called immigration. When you enter for the first time, these choices are presented to you in a dialogue box like the one shown in the preceding figure. Entering as a tourist allows you to communicate and explore but not to build. I recommend immigrating right away. If you donít choose to immigrate right away you can change your status from tourist to citizen by selecting Change to from the Citizen menu in Active Worlds Browser and immigrating. If you do enter as a tourist, you must select a nickname by which you will be known. If you want to immigrate, follow these three simple steps.

Immigration Step 1: Supply your nickname, e-mail address, and password

If you choose to immigrate right away or opt to immigrate after you have visited Active Worlds as a tourist, the procedure is the same: you have to fill out a form (nothing changes even in the virtual worlds!).

Figure 7.5: awim3.jpg
The citizenship application to immigrate to Active Worlds

Donít panic, immigration into this virtual world is much easier than crossing national boundaries! As the preceding dialogue shows, all you have to do is enter your nickname (some fanciful name you would like to be known by in the world), your e-mail address, and password (enter it twice for verification). In the example above, I entered my customary nickname DigiGardener, an email address, and a password I wonít forget. When you type in the password, you will not be able to see it, just ì*î symbols. This is done to hide the password. Be careful when you type it in. I use the old hunt-and-peck method, pressing each key with one finger and watching the keyboard thus giving me fewer chances to make a mistake. When you enter Active Worlds in the future, you will not have to enter this password again, but it is good to record it somewhere in case you need it.

Note that all of this information (except your password) is stored in file called aworld.ini which can be found in your Active Worlds folder. You can save this file as a safe backup for your identity. For more about the file, see the section, ìQuestions and Answers related to Your Identityî in the FAQ for Active Worlds on our companion book Web site. Lastly, if you forget your password, there is an option in the Change To option under the Citizen menu which will request the Active Worlds server to send you your password by email.

You are not anonymous in this world

Note that by supplying your e-mail address, you are not anonymous in any Active World you visit. The Active Worlds team made the decision to require this immigration process so that they could count how many people join AlphaWorld, keep in touch with citizens about upgrades and changes, and encourage people to be responsible. If your identity is known, you are less likely to do or say anything offensive in the greater community.

Immigration Step 2: Verifying that your nickname is available

As soon as you press OK in the preceding dialogue, the Active Worlds citizen server goes into action, checking to see if the nickname you entered is available. It is important to have your name be unique in every active world, as this is the only way to reach you. You might receive the message: ìSorry, the name ëDigiGardenerí is already in use by another citizen. Please try another name (tip: try something really creative!)î which means that your nickname is already taken. With almost 200,000 registered users, you can bet that every name of a fantasy character from books like Tolkien or science fiction or names of rock stars are already taken. You can keep trying to enter new nicknames (like sting99 or sting999?) until one is accepted.

If the Active Worlds server is down (which is rare), you may be given the message ìActive Worlds Immigration Office Closed Until...î. In this case your best option is to come back later and try again.

You can actually run Active Worlds without being connected to the Internet. You will be given the option to enter in ìstand-alone modeî. In this mode you will be able to travel around in a world alone and visit places you have previously visited (as they have already been downloaded onto your hard disk). I often use stand-alone mode to show people Active Worlds and our town: Sherwood Forest on my laptop computer. I donít have to go scurrying around for a phone jack.

Immigration Step 3: Arriving in the world!

After a few seconds, the Active Worlds entry dialogue should say ìStarting...î and then disappear to be replaced by a new window, the Active Worlds client window. You will then land at the Ground Zero point of one of the Active Worlds known as The Gate. A Ground Zero point is the universal place of entry for everyone in a virtual world. There are ways to come into different points in Active Worlds, called teleports, which we shall explore later in this chapter.

It may be hard to tell when you are at Ground Zero because not much of the world may be visible for a few seconds. The Active Worlds server, to which you are connected, is busily sending you a whole set of little pictures. These pictures will be put together by the Active Worlds Browser to show you the world and the people in it. After a minute or so, you should start seeing the area around Ground Zero. When you enter new Active Worlds areas you have not visited before, all you will see for a few seconds is a sea of little black triangles. These black triangles are anchor points where the picture objects will be placed. If a triangle moves, it might indicate that an avatar is associated with that point.

These little pictures are called Renderware or RWX objects. These are the basic building blocks of AlphaWorld and all the other Active Worlds. If you want to get into the details of Renderware objects, you should view the help documents in the Active Worlds Browser or on the Active Worlds web site. As these objects arrive over the Internet, they are stored on your hard disk. This is called caching. Once you have many objects cached, you will not be waiting so long for scenes in the world to download.

Active Worlds just grow and grow

The more you travel in AlphaWorld and the other Active Worlds, and the more objects you get in your cache, the faster travel becomes. As you travel, you will also pick up more city data; all those anchor triangles to which the objects are attached. All this means is that the more journeys you take, the more disk space is taken up for AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds. You can easily consume 40MB or more. In the Settings dialogue found under the Options menu, you can set the Disk Usage to limit how many and how long objects are stored on your hard disk.

Now that we are finally ìin the worldî lets move on to start exploring the Active Worlds universe!

© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1997, All rights reserved.