Exploring and Building
Virtual Worlds on the Internet
Grand Tour of Worlds
Your Guide to the Grand Tour of Worlds
- Introduction: Get set for the Tour
- Destinations in Digital Space
- Tour Packages
- Roadmap to the Rest of the Book
Introduction: Get set for the Tour
Map to the Virtual World Cosmos
"Hiro is approaching the Street. It is the Broadway, the Champs Elysees of the Metaverse. It is the brilliantly lit boulevard that can be seen, miniaturized and backward, reflected in the lenses of his goggles. It does not really exist. But right now, millions of people are walking up and down it."
-Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, page 24.
Neal Stephenson wrote this passage in his hit 1992 novel Snow Crash, long before there were any avatars actually walking around in the Internet. Back then, people were starting to experiment with something called virtual reality, where you put on an immersive headset (or goggles, as Stephenson described it) and "jacked in" to an alternate universes beamed into your eyes.
It is hard to believe that only three years later, in the spring of 1995, Worlds Chat, the very first three dimensional virtual world appeared on the Internet, complete with avatars moving around in a simulated space station and talking. With Worlds Chat and the other virtual worlds you don't need goggles.. the world appears inside a window on your computer. Since Worlds Chat, there has been an explosion of virtual worlds on the Internet with hundreds of thousands of people discovering what it is like to be an avatar in Cyberspace. Stephenson's huge Metaverse virtual world with its millions of inhabitants jacking in with goggles is not here yet, but you can experience something like it on your computer today.
It has been a thrill to write this book but even more thrilling to be able to spend so much time exploring and building virtual worlds on the Internet. Living as an avatar over the past year I have met thousands of people from all over the world, attended virtual weddings and parties, build a three dimensional town with 60 other people, gone skiing with avatar friends, and much, much more. I have met many of the people in person who I met first in virtual worlds. I can truly say that my experiences in Avatar Cyberspace has changed my life in the real world.
So it is a great pleasure to invite you today to explore these worlds with me. I look forward to being your tour guide and I hope you enjoy the ride and find a whole new way to be with people and express yourself creatively in this new medium. Don't worry about being hunted by monsters in these virtual worlds. For the most part, they are not games but places to meet, communicate and create. Without further adieu, let us get started.
For my avatar, I chose the same name in every virtual world: DigiGardener. This name expresses my desire to be a kind of digital Johnny Appleseed, who ventures out to sow seeds all across the new frontier of Cyberspace. DigiGardener is now a seasoned traveler, qualified to be captain of his own ship, the HMS Avatar. Captain Digi invites you aboard his sturdy cybernautic craft. He will take you on a grand tour of the avatar cosmos. In each chapter, you can read Digi's personal diary entries for some though provoking ideas and challenging questions.
Your Keys to Avatar Cyberspace: Your Book CD-ROM and Companion World Wide Web Site
To make it easier for you to get touring with virtual worlds, I have provided a CD-ROM with this book. It is packed with free virtual world software, artwork, music, and of course, avatars. This will save you the time and trouble downloading a whole lot of software from the Internet. Please see Chapter 16: The Book CD-ROM Your Key to Avatar Cyberspace for instructions on how to use the CD-ROM. Individual instructions for installing each piece of virtual world software and tools can be found in the chapters for that world.
Access to most of these worlds are free of charge or offer some level of free trial access, but you have to have a connection to the Internet or an on-line service, which will cost something. I am sorry if we missed some worlds, as new ones are being created all the time. Chances are if you don't find it in this book or on the CD-ROM, you will find it on our companion book Web site, at: http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars. Because some of the virtual worlds may have been updated with new features, you may have to download new versions. You can do this also through the book Web site.
Destinations in Digital Space
Captain Digi says: all aboard!
Fearless rookie cybernaut, Captain DigiGardener (that's me!), says "all aboard"! It is time to board our intrepid Internet space cruiser, the good ship Avatar. We will fire up its digital drives and head for orbit. We are going on a journey to the farthest reaches of digital space. You will be leaving the normal world of Web pages, e-mail and text chat rooms far behind. You will become a true cybernaut, exploring many strange new worlds, fraternizing with the locals, building bases on virtual planets and having more fun than you ever thought possible on the Internet!
All you have to do now is look over all the possible destinations and then choose your own tour package and the Captain and crew of the good ship Avatar will take you on any trip you want. Lets take a look at some of the worlds awaiting us..
Your guide to the Solar System of Worlds
The first stop our journey into digital space will be the orbiting Worlds Chat Space Station. This is the first waystation before you venture out into the far reaches of the virtual solar system. In WorldsChat you will get your space legs, learn how to navigate in three dimensions, and chat with the locals. Worlds Chat is your space academy, and once you graduate you will be ready for your first interplanetary hop. Worlds Chat Space Station
First Stop in Digital Space
On our way out into the virtual solar system, we will encounter an asteroid belt of tiny worlds. This is The Palace, a constellation of thousands of chat worldlets with their populations of wafer thin avatars. Here you will learn how to navigate and communicate in a two dimensional world, how to throw a snowball in Cyberspace, and how to design your own avatar! The Palace
We will make first planetfall at AlphaWorld, a huge green planet covered by a sprawling city built by some of its 200,000 citizens. In AlphaWorld and other Active Worlds you will learn about street life in a large three dimensional virtual city, how to build your own digital homestead, get married, and even go skiing in Cyberspace! AlphaWorld and Active Worlds
Launching on to our next rendez-vous, we will be caught up in a dreamlike state and our good ship Avatar will enter a mysterious zone, the WorldsAway Dreamscape. Here avatars mill around in a community with a carnival atmosphere. In WorldsAway you will learn how to buy and sell a whole new body, run a Bingo racket, and rent an apartment of your own. WorldsAway
In This Dream You Can Fly
Next we will be called onward to a glowing world of a thousand voices. Onlive Traveler is a place where avatars in giant three dimensional heads talk in their own voices. Here you will learn how to sing in Cyberspace, use the Internet to talk to friends and family across the world, and even play some avatar football! Onlive Traveler
Mystic Voyages Through Sound
Piloting the good ship Avatar we will pass into a continuum of two alternate universes, where the web and avatars meet. In Virtual Places every Web page turns into a virtual world. You will take your first virtual driving lesson and pilot a big yellow bus full of avatars on a grand trip around the web. Here you will also learn how to make your own avatar and furnish your place in a town of avatar apartments. Virtual Places
Grand Central Station of the Web Universe
Our cybernautic craft will drift through timeless digital realms toward the invisible attraction of the Black Sun. The Black Sun is a star gate into a whole universe of worlds. In the power of Passport, the vehicle carrying us through this gate, you will get lost in a maze of three dimensional landscapes, and learn how to build your own world. Black Sun Passport
Through the Star Gate
Time for shore leave for the crew of Avatars and we will all head for some comic relief in Comic Chat. In Comic Chat you will be cast as an actor in a living comic strip and play a part in a live comedy theater. You will meet famous personalities, including a Bill Gates impersonator who is pretty convincing (at least for your gullible captain Digi!). Comic Chat
By this time, out cybercraft Avavar will be in need of a refit so we will head for the dark star of OZ, a cluster of deep space stations. On board OZ you will cruise through of the coolest places in the virtual universe. Learning to dance in digital discos and experiencing walls of sound and music will be just part of your experience on the OZ stations. OZ Virtual
Journey to the Dark Star
Is this the end of our mission? Not yet! New virtual worlds are being born all the time. As Avatar Cyberspace spreads across the Internet, you will find worlds for every interest, culture, language and purpose. We will take a glimpse into these brave new worlds and beyond into the future of digital space. Brave New Worlds
Well, it is no surprise but virtual worlds are not the only place you can find avatars. We will visit some multi player gaming worlds where avatars are starting to show up and where you can socialize as well as doing battle with dragons or other human inhabitants. You will get a preview of some of these and learn how to get into the game! Gaming Worlds
set phasers on stun!
What is an adventure into the unknown without meeting something truly alien? How about E.T. in Cyberspace? Well, Biota comes pretty close! You will learn about the weird world of daemons, agents, bots, biots and digital organisms and try your hand at planting a seed or hatching an egg in Cyberspace! Life in Digital Space
Bots, Biota and the virtual E.T.
The digital drive on the good ship Avatar will just about be of juice by now, so we will head home. After all the worlds we will have seen, you might want to take up the trade of world builder, and craft a few of your own. You may also want to learn how to design avatars and open a Cyberspace body shop. In this chapter we will introduce you to the tools that will give you an apprentice certificate in world building and avatar designing. Build Your Own World, Design Your Own Avatar
The Tour Packages
Now that you have had a chance to look over the destinations in our travel brochure, you are well equipped to choose your tour package. You can choose the trip that best suits you from our roster below, make up your own itinerary or do it all and take the Grand Tour of Worlds.
Are you driving a Macintosh or Windows PC?
The following guidelines should help you decide which worlds you can visit. More specific descriptions of the computer you must have can be found at the beginning of each chapter
If you have a Macintosh you can use:
- The Palace
- Virtual Places
- Play in some of the Gaming Worlds
- Visit some of the Life in Digital Space
- Use some of the tools from Build your own World, design your own Avatar
- Other worlds could be visited using a Windows emulator running on the Macintosh
Note that there may be Macintosh versions of new worlds coming out, so keep an eye on the Avatars Book Web Site at: http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars
If you have a Windows 3.1 PC* you can use:
- Worlds Chat
- The Palace
- Virtual Places
- Try some of the Brave New Worlds
- Play in some of the Gaming Worlds
- Visit some of the Life in Digital Space
If you have a Windows 95 PC* you can use:
- Worlds Chat
- AlphaWorld and Active Worlds
- The Palace
- Virtual Places
- Onlive Traveler
- Black Sun Passport
- Comic Chat
- OZ Virtual
- Try most of the Brave New Worlds
- Play in most of the Gaming Worlds
- Visit most of the Life in Digital Space
- Use most of the tools from Build your own World, design your own Avatar
*Note that most of the worlds software that runs under Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 will run under Windows NT and the upcoming Windows 97, but you should check the installation guidelines for each application. Note also that Windows emulation systems on the Macintosh, OS/2 or Unix/X-Windows may be able to run some of this software.
A Tour for the Novice or Young User
Just getting your Internet legs? If so, easy does it and try this itinerary. For starters try chatting up a storm and exploring ThePalace (Chapter 3), and for a little comic humor visit Comic Chat (Chapter 9) and then when you are ready for a little more dimension (third, that is), try boarding the Worlds Chat Space Station (Chapter 2).
A Tour Itinerary for the Social Butterfly
Lets talk! Hooked on daytime soaps or talk radio? Addicted to chat rooms in your online service? Feed your rumor mill with this tour package. Start off with ThePalace (Chapter 3), and then move on to Virtual Places (Chapter 7) which runs both on America Online and the Internet. If you are a CompuServe subscriber or have an Internet connection, try the WorldsAway Dreamscape (Chapter 5). If you are ready for chat in three dimensions, check out Worlds Chat (Chapter 2). Step up to the ultimate in talk on the Internet with Onlive Traveler (Chapter 6) where you can use your own voice to speak with others in a great 3D virtual world.
A Tour for the Pro Gamer
Looking for way cool new spaces on the Internet? Grab your board, run down to the virtual surf and catch this ride! If you want fast 3D chat, start out with Worlds Chat (Chapter 2). This will get your 3D legs in shape as you careen around in the space station. Find your voice, recruit a team and play avatar football in Onlive Traveler (Chapter 6), then roll on through to the spacey VRML world OZ (Chapter 10). Remember, you can't kill other people in social avatar worlds, but if you still have an itch to shoot, check out the avatar arcade of Gaming Worlds (Chapter 12). There are new gaming worlds coming out all the time, so keep an eye on the Gaming Worlds page on the Avatars Companion Web Site at: http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars
High Rolling in Wheeler Dealer's Paradise
If buying low and selling high is where you get your thrills, then the WorldsAway Dreamscape (Chapter 5) is for you. Buy and sell objects, earn credits, gamble on bingo and rent your own apartments. You should also find check out the Gaming Worlds (Chapter 12) where swords and sorcery are available, for a price! If becoming a land baron is your dream, step into AlphaWorld and Active Worlds (Chapter 4) and develop suburbs and strip malls for hungry new avatar consumers.
A Working Vacation for the World builder
Intent on building the greatest homeworld of your imagination for all to see on the Internet? Spending all day and night coding 3D scenes, modeling behavior or painting pixels? Then take a step up to multi-user and order our world builder's special! Start out with AlphaWorld and Active Worlds (Chapter 4) where you can easily put together pieces and build an entire virtual city. Move on to the VRML homeworlds of Black Sun Passport (Chapter 8) and the Sony Community Place Browser (in Chapter 11) where you can learn how to connect in your own custom homeworld and watch the avatars stream in! Marvel at the beautiful VRML, sculpted sound and music, and the craftsmanship of avatars and their gestures in OZ (Chapter 10). Finish with a visit to the master builder's workshop and Build your own World, design your own Avatar (Chapter 14) with real professional's tools.
Beta Tester Fanatics' Heaven
Many of these worlds are in some form of beta test but if you really want the thrill of first cut software on your hard disk, try Brave New Worlds (Chapter 11). There are new worlds coming out all the time, so keep an eye on the Brave New Worlds page on the Avatars Book Web Site at: http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars.
If you are a Digital Anthropologist Researching this New Cyberspace
Get those notebooks out and questions ready to interview the natives. Start out with a little bookwork by taking our Tutorial (Appendix C) and a primer in the language of avatar culture through our Glossary of Terms. Next, step into inhabited Cyberspace with field work in the highly developed community of WorldsAway Dreamscape (Chapter 5). Research how people identify strongly with the spaces they have built in AlphaWorld and Active Worlds (Chapter 4) and Black Sun Passport (Chapter 8). Conduct Ethnographic interviews in the voice enabled worlds of Onlive Traveler (Chapter 6). For further research and background on the medium, see our Bibliography of Recommended Reading and Appendix A on Projects, Groups, Events, and Philosophers in Avatar CyberSpace. And lastly, watch for new developments in the medium posted on the Avatars Book Web Site at: http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars.
For Followers of Weird
For believers in UFOs, artificial life, and robots ruling the world, look no farther than Life in Digital Space (Chapter 13, what else?). Work deep into the night on your own digital organics, but please don't let your Frankensteins escape onto the Internet!
The Grand Tour: if you want it all!
Don't want to miss a thing? For true cybernauts, we have designed the grand tour! Join us on a ride through the whole solar system of virtual worlds. We will not miss a single planet, space station or asteroid on our route! When you are done, you will be the toast of parties in the digital universe, a key operator in the coin of the virtual realm, and a top apprentice builder ready to build worlds to suit! Just follow the whole itinerary in Destinations in Digital Space and check your Avatars Book Web Site at: http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars for any new worlds to explore.
A Road Map to the rest of Avatars!
When you have returned from your first tour of duty in virtual worlds, you will find that the digital space academy has plenty more to offer. Arm yourself with new knowledge by visiting other parts of your Avatars book. I have provided chapters and appendices to meet all your needs:
- Find all the latest news of the worlds at the Companion Website.
- Install another world from the Book CD-ROM.
- Peruse great books and Web sites in our Bibliography of Recommended Reading.
- Learn the lingo of the worlds from our Glossary of Terms.
- Get more involved in Avatar Cyberspace through our appendix on Projects, Groups, Events, Philosophers, News, and Predecessors in Avatar Cyberspace.
- Got some questions but you are not a computer nerd, see the General Questions and Answers appendix.
This chapter will introduce you to the companion website for this book. This website is called The Avatar Teleport and is one of the most useful tools for explorers of virtual worlds. The Teleport provides live links to world providers' web sites, citizen home pages, and events and news about avatar Cyberspace. In addition, you will find select parts of your Avatars book to aid you if you are a researcher or educator using the book in the lab or classroom. Lastly, new worlds and tools and links to worlds constructed for you, readers of Avatars will make the Avatar Teleport (at http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars worth revisiting frequently. The Companion Web Site
Enter the Avatar Teleport
This chapter will step you through installing a virtual world and other software from the Book CD-ROM. I will also provide you with a map of the files and folders on the CD-ROM, which will also include the full HTML version of this book and other special materials. The Book CD-ROM
Your Key to Avatar Cyberspace
Bibliography of Recommended Reading
This bibliography will give you a kind of Avatars 101 course on where this all came from and where it all may be going. There are not many books on avatars (the one you are holding now is one of the first) so this bibliography lists titles from related fields that should be quite thought provoking!
Glossary of Terms
With a new medium comes a whole new language. Actually, each virtual world has developed a few unique terms of its own. The Glossary is a compendium of all the new words (at least in English) I have heard while in virtual worlds.
Projects, Groups, Events, Philosophers, News, and Predecessors in Avatar Cyberspace
This appendix lists some of the most interesting projects, groups, events, and people in avatar Cyberspace, with a couple of fascinating interviews. Copious links to Web sites where you can find further information are given. I hope that you follow up with some of these links and get more involved in the avatar community.
General Questions and Answers
Does something seem to be going wrong with your virtual world or your computer system since you started using a virtual world? Got a general question about virtual worlds and you are not a computer nerd? Are you a parent concerned with your family members lost in avatar zones? Check out this appendix for answers to these questions. Note that almost every chapter on a virtual world has a FAQ (a Frequently Asked Questions) section. If you cannot find answers in a chapter's FAQ, the check this appendix.
© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1997-98, All rights reserved.