See Copyright and Usage Notice
The Virtual Places communities
Figure 10.1.1 vpmac1.jpg
Virtual Places on the Macintosh
Virtual Places (VP) has an interesting history. Created
by an Israeli company named Ubique (which continues to develop
VP to this day), it was first hosted by GNN, an Internet service
provider in Berkeley, California from late 1995. At about
the same time, America Online (AOL) entered the picture. AOL already
had a very successful business with chat rooms (30 to 40 percent
of their customersí on-line time was spent chatting), and
it needed a visual avatar chat space. AOL bought Virtual Places
(and ultimately bought GNN), so Ubique built a completely integrated
version of VP which runs inside AOL. Lastly (or at least when
this chapter was written), Ubique brought out another new version
of VP (version 2.1) that runs as a separate application with Microsoft
Internet Explorer. This version is hosted at http://talk.excite.com,
and is a follow-up to the original 1.0 version that runs with
Netscape Navigator. More versions of VP are emerging, and those
will give you plenty of choices!
|Version of VP||Community||Host Site||User Population||Comments|
|AOL Version 2.0||Virtual Places for America Online||Log on to AOL and go to keyword: VP||Averages 700 to 1,500 members during prime hours||Best viewed with AOL 3.0 for Windows 95|
|Excite Version 2.1||Excite's VP||Download from talk.excite.com||Averages 300 to 500-plus members during prime hours||Beta, works with Internet Explorer 3.0|
|Internet Version 2.0||Small but growing community hosted by VPchat||Download from www.vpchat.com||Averages 100 to 250-plus members during prime hours||Requires Internet Explorer 3.0 or later|
|Internet Version 1.0||The earlier VP chat client and community on the Internet||Find it also at www.vpchat.com||Averages 250-500 members during prime hours||Best viewed with Netscape 3.0|
Table 10.1 The Virtual Places Communities.
Which community should you select?
If you subscribe to America Online, and you do not
have any other connection to the Internet, you should choose the
AOL version (this works best with version 3.0 of AOL for Windows
95). If you have a direct connection to the Internet, and you
are using a Macintosh, and have Netscape 2.0.2 or above, you should
go with version 1.0. If you have a Macintosh with Internet Explorer
3.0, try the Excite VP. If you have a PC with Windows 3.1 or 3.11,
and any version of Netscape Navigator, you should try version
1.0. If you have a PC with Windows 95 and Internet Explorer 3.0
or higher and a connection to the Internet, try version 2.0 or
Exciteís VP version 2.1. Excite is an online service that
supports Web searching and has recently branched out into chat
and online communities.
The AOL versions of VP tend to have more moderation
and parental controls in place. The open communities tend to be
more of a free-for-all.
Just want pure chat?
Figure 10.2 vp9e.jpg
Virtual Places has pure chat in Java.
The good folks at Virtual Places have created their
own version of Virtual Places in Java. This version does not support
avatars, just pure chat and group tours of Web sites. It is much
easier to get started in this kind of chat and then move on to
avatar worlds if you really dig the experience. The previous figure
shows a lively group of over 40s talking about Geritol (ugh!).
If you want to experience VPís Java Chat, just point your
Java-enabled Web browser (Netscape Navigator 3.0 or Microsoft
Internet Explorer 3.0) at http://talk.excite.com
and select Go right to live chat. In about 30 seconds you will
Installing and Downloading Virtual Places
What do I need to use Virtual Places?
To use Virtual Places, you need either a PC with
a 486 processor and Windows 3.11 or a Macintosh with a 68030 processor
and Mac OS version 7.5.3 or
higher. There are many flavors of Virtual
Places (as you can see in the preceding section) which may require
more powerful computers. If you are an America Online subscriber,
you can get into Virtual Places directly through AOL. If you have
a direct connection to the Internet (dial-up or local network)
you can use the other versions of VP listed in Table 10.1.
Software and connection requirements
Along with the Virtual Places client software, you
must run a Web browser, such as the browser in AOL, Netscape,
or Internet Explorer. Various versions of VP work with various
browsers, so check table 10.1. You can get your Virtual Places
client software from the CD-ROM in this book or download it directly
from the Internet, or through AOL.
If you use another on-line service such as CompuServe,
Microsoft Network, or Prodigy you may be able to use an open (non-AOL)
version of VP if your on-line service supports direct Internet
access through the 32-bit Winsock.
(Short for Windows Sockets,
Winsock is a standard interface for Microsoft Windows applications
and the Internet. Winsocks allow communication between Windows
Web browsers, e-mail clients, IRC clients, or any other Windows
Winsock applications and the TCP/IP). See,
ìSetting up your on-line service to connect directly with
the Internet,î in Appendix D. If you
have further problems, contact your on-line service for help.
Getting started and a few disclaimers
Virtual Places is 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 or interacting in VP,
but you could be charged for the hours you are on-line
from your Internet service provider (ISP) or from America
Online (if you are using AOL VP). Check with your ISP or
AOL on monthly free hours and rates. Of course, you should remember
that you are also charged by your telephone company for using
the phone line while you are using a modem.
More about the companion CD software
Virtual Places is constantly evolving, and may have
changed since this chapter was written. I placed the very latest
versions of Virtual Places on your book CD, and it may be somewhat
different from what is described here. These differences will
not be major, and this chapter will still be a great guide to
Virtual Places and its worlds. If you see new features or changes,
check for information under the Help menu in Virtual Places.
[Sidebar with help icon:
Keep up-to-date on your favorite worlds; visit your
Avatars! book Web site often
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 try at http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars. Bookmark it!
..end of sidebar]
If you have questions or problems
If you have questions or problems installing or running
Virtual Places, consult the ìFrequently Asked Questions
(FAQ),î at the end of the chapter. If this does not help
you, check the Virtual Places home page at http://www.vplaces.com/vpnet,
especially the excellent tutorial at http://www.vplaces.com/vpnet/support.
A reference guide, technical support, and release notes can be
found at http://www.vplaces.com/vpnet/help/.
Another important page for VP users is http://www.vpchat.com/,
which contains avatars, gestures, help sections, and pointers
to all available versions of VP.
Reporting a bug to the VP folks is simple. Simply
fill out the bug report form for the Windows or Macintosh version
you are using on the Web site at http://www.vplaces.com/vpnet.
I appreciate your feedback on Avatars! but
I donít have the resources to provide technical support.
I would be happy to hear about your experiences in Virtual Places.
Contact me through the Avatars! book Web site at http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars.
UNIX, and OS/2 versions
At this writing, there are no versions of Virtual
Places client program for UNIX or OS/2. Check the Virtual Places
and Avatars! book Web pages for updates on new versions
which might support these platforms. You also may be able to run
the Virtual Places client using a Windows emulation system on
non-Windows machines. Note that if you are considering hosting
your own Virtual Places community, the Virtual Places community
server runs on standard UNIX platforms, and connects with any
version of VP on Windows or the Macintosh.
Installing Virtual Places from your Avatars! CD
If you have a CD-ROM drive on your PC, you can install
Virtual Places directly from the book CD-ROM. If you donít
have a CD-ROM drive, skip to the section, ìInstalling or
upgrading Virtual Places from the Internet,î later in this
chapter. In Chapter 20, I provide step-by-step instructions for
installing software from the CD-ROM. Refer to this chapter, and
then follow the same steps for Virtual Places. Once the installation
program on your CD-ROM has started, you can return to this chapter
to the section, ìRunning the Installation.î
Installing Virtual Places through America Online
If you use AOL and wish to use Virtual Places directly inside AOL, follow these steps to get chatting in the Web cosmos under AOL:
1. Start and log onto AOL
2. Go to keyword (select the Go To menu and keyword, or press Ctrl+K on a PC, or Command+K on a Mac)
3. Enter the letters VP and press Go
Figure 10.3 vp6a.jpg
The AOL Virtual Places dialogue.
4. You will be presented with an AOL Virtual Places
dialogue like the one in the preceding figure. You can take a
sneak preview of VP or avatars, or just go to Explore Virtual
Figure 10.4 vp6c.jpg
Download VP through AOL.
5. AOL will present you with more dialogue boxes,
explaining terms of service, and then you can begin downloading
the Virtual Places software. This will take between 20 minutes
and an hour, depending on the speed of your connection.
Figure 10.5 vp6f.jpg
The AOL Virtual Places startup dialogue.
6. Once the download is finished, AOL will prompt
you to install VP. VP will run and download further components
(mostly artwork), and then start, giving you a dialogue like the
one in the previous figure. You will be asked to enter your personal
information and set your avatar. This procedure is pretty much
the same in all versions of VP, and it is covered in a section
called, ìGetting your start in VP,î later in this
Installing or upgrading Virtual Places from the Internet
If you want the very latest open Internet version
of Virtual Places, or were informed that you had to upgrade the
version found on your Avatars! CD, then you must download
files from the Internet. If you haven't done this before, don't
panic; it is easier than you might think!
Running the installation
Whether you are running the installation from the
CD-ROM, or from the file you downloaded from the Internet, use
this section to guide you through the installation. Note that
if you downloaded Virtual Places from the Internet, the installation
process may have changed. If this has happened, refer to instructions
on Virtual Places Web site. Here are installation instructions
for both the PC and Macintosh platforms.
For the PC
For the Macintosh
Memory requirements for the PC
PCs generally require 8MB of RAM for VP and your
Web browser, although 16MB is recommended (especially if you are
running Windows 95).
Memory requirements for the Macintosh
Virtual Places requires 3MB of RAM (4MB is recommended),
and works with a Web browser. The following chart shows the memory
requirements for different configurations:
Memory requirements for Macintosh versions of Virtual Places
|Virtual Places with Web browser||Minimum||Recommended|
You may need to use Virtual Memory for VP to work
on your Macintosh. Check your Macintosh documentation to find
out if Virtual Memory is active on your computer.
If you use Netscape 3.0, it is recommended that at
least 12M of the recommended RAM are physical memory. In the current
beta version of the Macintosh software, there is no support for
the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. A future release of the
software will support Internet Explorer.
Files created by the installation
If you are running Windows 95, a shortcut to Virtual
Places will be placed on your desktop and a folder called \program
files\vplaces. In Windows 3.1, you will find VP in a program group
called Virtual Places and a directory called \vplaces. On
the Macintosh you can find VP in a folder called Vplaces.
Clean up after installation
If you downloaded the Virtual Places installation
file from the Internet, you can delete it after the installation
is complete. Do not delete the Virtual Places program you just
installed by mistake.