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World Building Tools

There are many tools you can use to build virtual worlds. Because virtual worlds a created differently for each of the different virtual worlds programs, you may have to use different tools to create worlds for each of these environments.

As we have seen earlier in the chapter on AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds, some worlds allow you to build right inside them. AlphaWorld works on the "Leggo" metaphor, allowing you to fit a set of 3D objects together. This method has been quite successful for the Active Worlds universe. WorldsAway lets you customize your avatar and personal spaces using prebuild components. In worlds like the Palace or Virtual Places, the world is represented as a two dimensional image or Web site backdrop. These worlds can be build using standard image editors or HTML Web page building tools.

For worlds like Onlive Traveler, OZ Virtual, Black Sun Passport and others, you must use a separate authoring program to build a virtual scene and then connect this scene into the world. In this section we will discuss a few of these VRML authoring programs, including Internet3D Space Builder, which is provided on your book CD-ROM. Note that making VRML worlds for multi-user or avatar supported environments can require a few extra steps over plain old lone surfing VRML scenes.

In summary, the following table lists many of the multi-user virtual worlds we have talked about in this book and associated tools used to create new worlds or design avatars.
Virtual world environment Tools used to create a world Tools used to design avatars
Worlds Chat No public tools available, Worlds Inc. can make custom worlds Users have created avatars using their own 'hacks' see Creating Your Own Avatar and Other Activities in our chapter on Worlds Chat
The Palace Tools come with the Palace server to make your own Palace site. Palace worlds are GIF images with selectable hot spots. The Palace has an avatar builder built in. You can also use Sven Technologies Avatar Maker (described later in this chapter) to export Palace avatars
Active Worlds You can build in the common AlphaWorld space using the selection of "Leggo" objects. Circle of Fire offers world servers for sale, in which case you can create your own world and its avatars. No avatar maker is included but if you become a caretaker of your own world you can design your own avatar using tools like LifeForms from Credo Interactive.
WorldsAway You can change your own areas in the world using pre-built objects. Fujitsu Software offers WorldsAway worlds and servers for sale and will also work with you to design your own world. No avatar maker available, but you can customize your avatar with available body parts.
Onlive Traveler Onlive Technologies can provide a space authoring building kit. Any program exporting VRML 2.0 can also be used to create worlds for Traveler. The Traveler Avatar Authoring Kit uses 3D Studio Max and you need a special design license to publish them. You have to be quite skillful at building Traveler avatars, which must be crafted by hand to coordinate with the voice/sip synching.
Virtual Places Web pages are the backdrop for worlds. Avatars can be imported as images fitting certain dimensions
Black Sun Passport Worlds can be built out of VRML 1.0 and 2.0 files using any 3D authoring tools such as ParaGraph's Internet3D Space Builder described later in this chapter. Avatars can be made using any VRML exporting avatar authoring kit such as Sven Technologies' Avatar Maker
Comic Chat Proprietary Tools Proprietary Tools
OZ Virtual Worlds can be built out of VRML 1.0 and 2.0 files using any 3D VRML authoring tool. Avatars must be constructed by OZ designers.
Sony Community Place Browser Worlds can be built out of VRML 1.0 and 2.0 files using any 3D VRML authoring tools. Avatars are build out of VRML components
SenseMedia's Sprawl Worlds can be built out of VRML 1.0 and 2.0 files using any 3D VRML authoring tools. Avatars are build out of VRML components
Microsoft V-Chat A world authoring kit is available to qualified partners for Microsoft. Avatars can be made and imported by users of the authoring kit.
NTT's Interspace Spaces are built by NTT or its partners for clients using tools such as Sense8's World Up Avatars must be built by design partners for NTT
Sierra's The Realm Proprietary Tools Proprietary Tools
3DO's Meridian 59 Proprietary Tools Proprietary Tools
ID's Quake A Quake Level Builder is distributed as shareware. Other companies, such as Virtus, also offer Quake builders. Avatars can be built within the Quake authoring system.
Ultima Proprietary Tools Proprietary Tools

Table 14.1 Virtual worlds and associate world building and avatar creation tools

In this section we will review a series of virtual world building tools. Avatar design will be covered in the section called Avatar Designers and Methods later in this chapter. The tools we will review include:

Paragraph International's Internet3D Space Builder (included on the book CD-ROM)

Silicon Graphics Cosmo Worlds

AutoDesk's 3D Studio MAX

Other World Building Software

ParaGraph International's Internet3D Space Builder

ParaGraph International has kindly contributed a great piece of VRML world building software called Internet Space Builder (ISB), which you will find on your book CD-ROM.

What is included on your CD-ROM

The version of ISB on your book CD-ROM is a restricted version, meaning that you can't build a scene (a world) with more than 1400 faces, 7 textures, 2 pictures, 2 movies and 2 Web address references (URLs). Even though it is restricted, this version of ISB can still be used to build some pretty nice worlds and then export them out to VRML. If you really get into world building, the thing to do would be to purchase a full unrestricted version of ISB, which costs less than $100. To find out how you can order ISB or where you might find it in your local computer store, call ParaGraph at (408) 364-7700, or send them email at, or visit their home page at:

Reviewing the interface

Internet3D Space Builder in Action: adding texture to a model of Hallucigenia

As you can see by the preceding figure, ISB is a sophisticated modeling program. Models or whole virtual worlds built in VRML 2.0 can be brought into ISB. Older D96, and Virtual Home Space Builder .MUS files can also be imported. A wide range of editing operations can then be carried out on models and then whole virtual world scenes can be constructed. Models and world scenes can be saved as VRML 2.0 files in compressed formation (GZIP) or uncompressed format (.WRL). You can also "publish" your worlds, by exporting the geometry and all images, movies and other resources into a common folder.

I will briefly describe each part of the ISB interface here to get you started. To really learn ISB, I recommend that you follow the tutorials in the ISB Quickstart Guide. It is all on the Web at: The main page for ISB is at:

[Could we lay out these items as text boxes pointing into the above image of ISB ? The text boxes would contain the titles of each area in the interface]

Integrating the VRML output between other authoring programs.

Avatar model made in Sven Technologies' Avatar Maker brought into Internet3D Space Builder

This figure shows a model of an avatar made in Sven Technologies' AvatarMaker (see the section on AvatarMaker later in this chapter) brought into ISB for further touch-up. Using several tools to develop one world is a common approach and almost a necessity. No one tool does it all.

Other products from ParaGraph

ParaGraph also provides more products to support you in your world building adventures. Some of these are available for free trial downloads. A quick summary of these products follows:

Silicon Graphics Cosmo Worlds

Cosmo Worlds (see information at: is one of the most powerful VRML authoring systems available. Cosmo Worlds currently runs on Silicon Graphics workstations under their flavor of UNIX called IRIX. SGI tells me that Cosmo Worlds will be available under Windows NT, widening its audience.

AutoDesk's 3D Studio MAX

Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD ( have brought 3D Studio Max and Character Studio to the virtual worlds authoring scene. See 3D Studio Max and other products from Kinetix at:

3D Studio MAX is the first 3D modeling and animation program ever to be designed specifically for the Windows NT operating system. 3D Studio MAX was in development for three years and every effort has been made to make this the most extensible, and limitless platform for Plug-in development. With over 65,000 registered DOS 3D Studio users, 3D Studio MAX will begin its life with a solid install base of professional animators and modelers.

3D Studio MAX is thoroughly object based, multi-threaded, and is a native 32-bit application written specifically for the Windows NT operating system. It takes full advantage of Windows NT's true multi-tasking, protected address space, integrated networking, symmetric multi-processing, and fast 3D graphics. 3D Studio MAX's interactive graphics utilize the HEIDI graphics library developed by Ithaca Software, and delivers an efficient software-only rendering environment for all tasks and is capable of exploiting hardware acceleration. 3D Studio MAX provides the foundation for the strongest of development platforms. To learn more about 3DS MAX read the Q&A.

Other world Building Software

See the section Links to World Building and Avatar Designing Resources at the end of this chapter for extensive links to more world building software.

© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1997, All rights reserved.