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Microsoft V-Chat: Frantic Antics
Microsoft brought us Comic Chat, described in an earlier chapter in this book Microsoft has now created V-Chat, a multi-dimensional world full of avatars with expressive personalities and a powerful will to chat. V-Chat debuted in early 1996 on the Microsoft Network (where it is still available). More recently, V-Chat appeared on the open Internet in version 1.1. If you are an MSN member or have a general Internet account and a Windows 95 PC (486 or above) you can join the antics in V-Chat.
Sources for V-Chat
To learn all about V-Chat for the Internet, visit the home page at: http://vchat1.microsoft.com/. V-Chat on MSN can be found under ???. Download the open Internet V-Chat from the V-Chat install page at: http://vchat1.microsoft.com/install/default.htm and enter the V-Chat worlds from http://vchat1.microsoft.com/chat/default.htm (you must download and install these worlds individually before you can enter them). Note also that you must have DirectX installed before you can use V-Chat. DirectX is available from the V-Chat install page listed above.
There is an avatar gallery for V-Chat at: http://vchat1.microsoft.com/avatars/default.htm and an Avatar Wizard which allows you to create personalized avatars available from the same Web page. You can then use those avatars privately or publish them on a web server so that other V-Chat users can use them.
Figure 14.10.1: vc1b.jpg
V-Chat showing avatars in conversation in the Compass world
The interface to Microsoft's V-Chat is very clean and easy to operate. The big window shows my own point of view of several avatars meeting in the Compass (the world everyone goes into first). Text chat can be entered into an area below this and sent with various types of delivery: normal, thought balloons, exclamation or whisper. This is very similar to Comic Chat which was also produced by Microsoft. Threads of text chat flow through the window above the world view area. On the right hand side are listed participants in this particular world. We can see good old DigiGardener (me) in the list and just below the list of people you can see how my avatar looks.. Mr. Dredd in this case. In the world we can actually see another dreadlock guy who looks like me.
Figure 14.10.2: vc2c.jpg
Hello host JamesC, how are the avatars behaving today?
As well as a healthy set of avatar-participants, we can see someone called and someone called AS-Angel-JamesC and AutomatedHost. AutomatedHost is just a bot representing the room manager. AutomatedHost gives you periodic updates on activities in the world and does housekeeping. AS-Angel-JamesC is the name of a real human host (JamesC) who happens to be online at the moment. To go to JamesC (or any other avatar-user) just right click on their name in the list and select Find. V-Chat will then pilot you over in front of the avatar attached to that name.
Figure 14.10.3: vc3b.jpg
Hey babies, V-Chat avatar gestures are sure expressive!
Gestures, a great part of V-Chat, can be applied to your avatar by clicking on the buttons at the top of the window or selected from the Avatar menu.
Figure 14.10.4: vc3a.jpg
BugWorld showing the Avatar Selector and what the Happy state of my bug avatar looks like
V-Chat features many worlds, called environments. Some environments are two dimensional (such as Bug World, shown above) and some are 3D. Each world has its own particular set of avatars, as is also shown in the preceding figure. The Compass environment (shown earlier in this section), where everyone enters for the first time, is a 3D plateau surrounded by teeth-like mountains. You can navigate around the worlds by either holding down the left mouse button or by using the cursor keys. Holding down the Ctrl key while moving forward or backwards will cause you to rise or fall.
The current list of V-Chat environments are listed at the web page: http://vchat1.microsoft.com/chat/default.htm. Note that you must download and install these worlds individually before you can enter them. I list these worlds in the following table. Note that there will probably be more worlds available by the time you read this book.
World Environment Description Approximate Size of Download Compass #1 a general chat area Included when you download the V-Chat 1.1 Compass #2 another general chat area Included when you download the V-Chat 1.1 Practice Area a place to meet other newbies 200KB Table Top a chat area that looks like a kitchen table 350KB Fishbowl a general chat area inside a fish bowl 400KB Lodge a very popular country lodge chat zone 1000KB Bugworld a 2D chat world. You can see yourself in the environment! 800KB Lunar Islands A gathering place for Teens 450KB Red Den A great place to meet other singles 650KB
Table 14.10.1: V-Chat Community Spaces
Build your own V-Chat world
The V-Chat Building Kit, which enables you to create custom V-Chat environments, is currently only available to forum managers and content providers who have a relationship with Microsoft. If you are interested in creating a V-Chat space, contact Kelvin Chan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a newbie in V-Chat, I really did not get the sense for the community that has formed there. However, JamesC, the first host that I met, pointed me to his web page at: http://www.tex-is.net/users/jamesc/james.htm. JamesC described himself in this way:
Well a little about myself. I'm a retired construction supervisor. I retired after I had major back surgery. I'm currently an angel host on MSN Vchat1.1, which is a lot of fun.
Judging by how many people were in V-Chat when I visited, I would say that this brave new world has quite a future ahead of it!