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Making Your Own Avatar and Creating Props in The Palace

I loved my roundhead, but now that I am a registered user and have my own name DigiGardener, I want my own avatar. One of my favorite avatars is Leola the tiger from OnLive! Traveler, but how do I bring her into The Palace? I would really like to just walk through a door from Traveler and enter The Palace, taking my avatar, personal information, and collected objects with me. It would be wonderful to port from world to world seamlessly, but I have a feeling this may not be possible for awhile. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and making it all fit together is just too difficult at the moment. I know of two projects, one called Universal Avatars and another called Living Worlds that are working together to make this possible. If you are interested in these avatar standards projects, see Appendix A, ìOther Projects and Groups in Avatar Cyberspace.î

Step 1: Get the image with which you want to make your avatar

So, back to Leola! The Palace has made it very easy for you to create your own avatar using the images you love. To capture Leola, I ran Traveler (another virtual world I describe in this book) and used the PC Print Screen (or pressed PrtScr) to capture the Traveler screen which shows Leola. On a Macintosh, you can also capture the screen with a different set of keyboard commands (check your Macintosh documentation, there are also several add-on programs to do this). I then started my trusty paint program, Paint Shop Pro (any paint program will work, including good-old free MSPaint or MacPaint), and pasted the screen into a blank canvas.

Figure 6.14: pa7f.jpg
An image tile of the Leola tiger avatar I clipped out to bring into The Palace.

Step 2: Use a paint program to make it the right size

Next, in the paint program, I cropped out just my Leola tiger (seen in the previous figure) and then resized her to a single tile of 44 by 44 pixels. You can also make avatars by fitting multiple tiles together, but that is an advanced avatar building topic. The 44-by-44 tile will fit just perfectly into the space normally taken up by a roundhead happy face avatar. After making it the right size and doing some clean up, I again copied it to my Windows (or Mac) clipboard.

Step 3: Create a new prop

Figure 6.15: pa7k.jpg
I paste my new avatar into the Prop editor.

I then ran The Palace client software and clicked on the Satchel icon to bring up the Prop Picker window. On the Prop Picker window, I pressed New to make a new prop, and the Prop Editor window popped up. Next I pasted my 44-by-44 pixel Leola tile into the Prop Editor window (by pressing Ctrl+V on the PC or Command V on the Mac). As you can see from the preceding figure, Leola was now squarely plopped onto my old roundhead avatar. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move the image up, down, left, or right, which is what I did here to show you the roundhead underneath Leola.

Step 4: Try out your avatar for size

Figure 6.16: pa7l.jpg
Oops! My avatar is just a little too high on the old roundhead avatar.

Next, within the Prop Editor window, select the item Head so that it is checked. This means that the prop you are making will become your new head. You can also type in a name for your prop instead of NewProp, such as MyNewHead. Now select OK, and you will return to the Prop Picker window. The last step is to double-click on the new prop, which should appear at the top of the Prop Picker window. By double-clicking, you assign that prop to your avatar. You can assign any other prop to your avatar in the same way. As you can see from the previous figure, the new Leola tiger is riding a little too high on the old roundhead avatar. I returned to the Prop Editor to move Leola down. Note that I temporarily turned the Head option for this prop off so that the original roundhead was still showing underneath for comparison purposes.

Step 5: Preen your avatar

Figure 6.17: pa7n.jpg
Clean up around Leola.

Once I was happy with how Leola was placed as my avatar, I returned to the Prop Editor to do some clean up. I used the eraser tool (shown in the previous figure) to clear away the original backdrop. You could use this to remove Aunt Thelma from that great avatar picture of you. After making certain the Head option was checked on, I was ready to try on my final avatar, and voilà! Leola, small cute tiger!

Figure 6.18: pa7o.jpg
Voilà! Just the avatar I wanted!

A quick avatar facelift: changing your face color

Figure 6.19: pa4f.jpg
You can change your facial expression and color.

If all of this prop and custom avatar stuff is getting you confused, and you simply want a little more expression in your avatar, you might consider more easily changing your face expression or color. Beneath the array of 16 expressions in the face window (shown in the previous figure), you will see a palette of 16 colors. Clicking on one of these colors causes your roundhead avatar face to change to that color. Face colors can be used to great effect in signifying emotional states, especially when used in conjunction with appropriate expressions (i.e.; red plus the Angry Face, Blue plus the Sad Face).

If you have an extended keyboard (with a separate numeric keypad on one side), you can use the plus and minus keys on the keypad to change your face color as well.

More about props

Props are little 44-by-44 pixel graphic objects that you can move around with the mouse, or attach to your avatar. You can combine up to nine objects at a time. Props are selected from the Prop Picker window by double-clicking on them. Although registered members can pick up any loose props that they find lying around in a room, guests are restricted to handling only those props which appear by default in the Prop window (they were put there by The Palace site designers, not another user). You can take a prop off your avatar by double-clicking on it again in the Prop Picker window, or by dragging and dropping it into the Trash icon.

Recording and playing macros

Figure 6.20: pa4d.jpg
The Macro menu.

A Macro corresponds to a specific costume (including face color, expression, and props). By playing back a pre-recorded Macro, you can rapidly change your costume. When you've created a look that's right for you, you probably will want to save it as a macro, so you can recall it with a simple keystroke. The Macros menu allows you to record up to 10 costume changes, and instantly recall them by using a corresponding hot key combination (Command 0 through Command 9 for Mac users; Ctrl+0 through Ctrl+9 for Windows users).

For example, when you select Record Macro/5, your current costume is saved as Macro #5. From then on (until you record another Macro over #5), you can instantly recall that particular look by pressing the hot key combination (Command 5 for Mac users; Ctrl+5 for Windows users).

Using the painting tools

Figure 6.21: pa4g.jpg
The Painting window.

Clicking on the Palette icon opens the Painting window, which presents you with a collection of painting tools. Any registered member can paint in The Palace, and everybody in the room sees what you are painting. Exception: wizards and gods can turn painting off in particular rooms. Some Palace operators consider painting to be a nuisance activity, and turn it off.

The following painting tools are available:

Pencil/Filled Region

This Tool button toggles between two states: pencil and filled region. The Pencil tool (which is selected when no colored area appears around the pencil on the button), allows you to draw in various colors and thicknesses. The Filled Region tool (which is selected when a colored area does appear around the pencil on the button) operates similarly, but turns the region drawn into a closed shape. In the Mac version, it also fills this region with the selected color.

Line Sizer

This tool is used to change the width of the Pencil and Filled Region tools. The current size is the one in the center of the icon. To increase the pencil size, click in the upper right-hand corner of this button. To decrease the pencil size, click in the lower left-hand corner.


When clicked once, this button deletes the most recent drawing command. When double-clicked, it deletes all drawing on the screen.


The Palace allows you to draw on two layers; Behind Avatars and In Front Of Avatars. This button allows you to toggle between these two layers.


The Palette tool allows you to select from the 236 drawing colors of the world-famous M-and-M Palette. The colors are organized into 6 slices of an RGB cube, next to a ramp of grays.


Although not visible as a tool in the Painting window, there is an Eyedropper tool available for selecting colors directly off of the screen image. The cursor changes to an eyedropper when you hold down Option (for Mac users), or Ctrl (for Windows users), and press the mouse button down anywhere in the view screen (no matter what tool is selected when the hot key is pressed); the color under the mouse pointer becomes the current drawing color in the Paint window. This function can be useful for extending a particular color you see on the screen.

Interacting with loose props

Props, when not waiting patiently in your satchel, are found either attached to people's faces, or scattered around loose in various rooms; that means they can be picked up by any registered member. The easiest way to create a loose prop is to put it on (by double-clicking on it in the Prop Picker window), then pull it off your face, and drag it into the room. There are a lot of things you can do with loose props, such as:

Making your own props

Registered Palace members are able to create their own custom props. You saw earlier how to make a custom avatar. An avatar is just another single prop or set of props. To work with your collection of props, you first have to open the Prop Picker window; simply click on the Satchel icon at the bottom of your screen.

To create a new prop, select New Prop on the Props menu, or press the New button in the Prop window. The prop editor will appear.

To edit an existing prop, select Edit Prop on the Props menu, or press the Edit button in the Prop window. To modify an existing prop while retaining the original (unedited) version, first duplicate the prop by using the Duplicate command on the Props menu (or press the Copy button in the Prop window), then select one of the pair, and choose Edit. This action also causes the prop editor to appear.

The Prop Editor

We first saw the Prop Editor when I was making the custom Leola tiger avatar. This section will give you a little more information about the Prop Editor, describing its tools in detail.

The Pencil

This tool, as you might expect, is used for drawing new props, or adding color and detail to existing props. There are a number of special hot key options you can use; simply hold the appropriate key down while using the Pencil tool:

Pencil tool hot keys
MacWindows Function
ShiftShiftConstrains the pencil to the nearest straight line while held.
CommandAltTurns the pencil tool into the paint bucket while held.
OptionCtrlTurns the pencil tool into an Eyedropper tool while held.

Table 6.4

The Selector Box

This tool can be used to select and move rectangular sections of your prop. In the Mac version, it is automatically selected when you paste a picture into the Prop Editor. In the PC version, it is automatically selected upon entering the Prop Editor, and it must be the selected tool before you can paste a picture in.

To select a rectangular section of your prop, simply press down at one corner of the desired area, drag the cursor to the diagonally-opposite corner, then release the mouse button. The indicated area may now be dragged around within the editing surface, and will be locked into place upon selecting any tool. The drag copy hot key option is also available to Mac users:

Move sections of the prop
MacWindows Function
Optionnot available Drags a copy of the selected area (leaving the original in place).

 Table 6.5

The Eraser

This tool is used to erase parts of your prop. Erased portions are transparent; they allow the underlying face and/or background to show through. The optional hot key allows you to pour transparency (the grey pattern that will show as transparent when your prop is used) into solid-colored areas of your prop.

The transparency hot key
MacWindows Function
Command AltTurns cursor to eraser paint can which pours transparency.

 Table 6.6

Bruce, are there any more commands to add to these tables??? Switch them to narrative instead?.. yes that is a good idea. Do u want to do it or should I?

The Eyedropper

Although not visible as a tool in the Prop Editor, there is an Eyedropper tool available for selecting colors directly off the prop. The cursor changes to the eyedropper when you hold down Option (for Mac users) or Ctrl (for Windows users), and press the mouse button down anywhere in the image (no matter what tool is selected when the hot key is pressed); the color under the mouse cursor becomes the current drawing color for the Pencil tool.

The Paint Can

Also not visible as a tool in the Prop Editor, there is a Paint Can tool available for pouring colors (and transparencies) directly into the prop image. The cursor changes to a paint can when you hold down Command (for Mac users), or Alt (for Windows users), while the mouse is anywhere in the image (this occurs no matter what tool is selected when the hot key is pressed; with the single exception of the selector box).

The Line Sizer

This tool is used to change the size of the pencil and eraser tools. The current pencil size is the one in the center of the icon. To increase the pencil size, click in the upper right-hand corner of this button. To decrease the pencil size, click in the lower left-hand corner.

The palette

The palette is used to select a drawing color. This color will be used by all pencil operations until another color is selected via the Palette or the Eyedropper function.

Prop Name

This text box allows you to give your prop a name. For registered members, this feature is especially important, as there are IptScrae commands (a scripting language described in the section iptscrae>IptScrae: Better Living Through Scripting) which can be used to automate props as long as their names are known.


Clicking here closes the Prop Editor without saving any changes you have made to your prop.


Clicking here saves your work and closes the Prop Editor. Edited props are saved in their original positions in the Prop window; new props appear at the top of this window.

Check off the type of prop you are making

Head Props

In addition to normal props, such as those that all Palace guests have access to, members may use various head props to completely change their avatar's appearance. A head is a prop which completely replaces the roundhead. Any prop may be made into a head prop. Mac users can do this by selecting the face flag on the Props menu. Windows users can do the same thing by clicking on the Head option box at the bottom of the Prop Editor window. For both platforms, this causes the background smiley head in the Prop Editor to disappear.

Ghost Props

A ghost is a semi-transparent prop, meaning that the underlying head prop and background art will be seen faintly through the image of this prop. Any prop may be made into a ghost prop. Mac users can do this by selecting the ghost flag on the Props menu. Windows users can do the same thing by clicking on the Ghost option box at the bottom of the Prop Editor window.

Rare Props

Although this feature had not been implemented at the time I wrote this chapter, it will eventually be used to provide for a class of props which cannot simply be copied and dragged away by anyone. This will allow for one-of-a-kind personal possessions, and will exponentially increase the value of certain items. For now, however, making a prop rare has no effect at all.

Prop Editor Background Color (Mac version only)

The Prop menu contains commands which will change the background color displayed in the Prop Editor. That can be useful at times to make the prop stand out.

Pasting into the Prop Editor

As we saw in the previous section in which I made the Leola tiger avatar, you can cut and paste pictures from other sources into the Prop Editor. Simply select the image you want (using Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or any other quality graphics software), and copy it. In the Palace client, open the satchel and click on New to open the Prop Editor. Simply paste the image in and save it; that's all there is to it! Mac users can use the Edit menu for this operation; for Windows users, the hot key combination for pasting is Ctrl+V.

If the picture is up to 44 by 44 pixels in size (i.e., the height and width of a single prop), it will retain its original size when pasted in. If the image is larger than 44 by 44 pixels in size, it will be altered. Macs and PCs handle this differently: the Mac client will scale the image down to fit into a 44-by-44 area, while the Windows version will merely paste the upper left-hand 44-by-44 pixels into the area.

Note to Mac users: If you don't want the image to be scaled down as previously described, hold down Shift as you paste the picture in.

Creating Oversized Props

Throughout The Palace, you will often see people wearing images that are quite obviously larger than the default 44-by-44 pixel size of a single prop. These oversized props are actually comprised of several (up to nine) normal-sized props, and are created by offsetting the props' relative positions in the Prop Editor.

Figure 6.22: pagrid.gif
The total prop area shows how to tile together props.

As shown in the preceding illustration, the area in which you may place a prop is actually comprised of nine 44-by-44 cells. Any prop may be saved anywhere in this 132-by-132 square.

While the Prop Editor is open, and the selector box is the active tool, the arrow keys can be used to move the image vertically and horizontally, relative to the central prop space (i.e., the location of the default roundhead). It is this feature which allows the creation of oversized props. Here's how to do it:

1. First, create several 44-by-44-pixel partial images to serve as the individual parts of the oversized prop. Since you can get up to nine (3-by-3) props on your avatar at one time, this means that the oversized prop must not exceed 132 by 132 pixels in size. You might want to keep your graphic editing program open while performing these operations, so you can grab new pieces of the oversized image as needed.

2. Next, use the Arrow keys to move these individual props as required. If they are all 44 by 44 pixels in size, this is particularly easy; simply slide them as far as they will go in the direction you need to move them. Cartoon-balloons always appear to emanate from a point very close to the center of the central cell. Try to consider where you will want your cartoon-balloons to appear when you speak while wearing the oversized prop, and place the individual pieces accordingly.

For example, let's say I'm creating an oversized prop which is a picture of a clock face, measuring 88 by 88 pixels (equivalent to four normal prop tiles) in size. I might decide to use the four upper-left cells, which would make my cartoon-balloons emit from the lower right-hand corner of my oversized face. I paste in the upper left-hand corner of my clock image and use the Arrow keys to move it 44 pixels to the left, and 44 pixels upward (as far it can go in those directions), saving the prop in this position. I then grab the next 44 x 44 pixel piece from my graphic editing program, and paste it into the Prop Editor, moving it 44 pixels upward and saving it. The lower left-hand piece is moved 44 pixels to the left and saved, while the lower right-hand corner (the fourth and final piece) is saved in its default position (the central cell). Later, when I double-click on these props to put them on, they will appear in their offset positions, together forming the completed image of my oversized clock face. That's it!

Donít forget to define all of the props you just put on a macro. This will allow you to quickly re-clothe your avatar in its new props.

Creating Your Own World with the Palace Server

The Palace server is a user-friendly, do-it-yourself home 2D Virtual World Kit. With the Palace server software, you can open your own place and become a Palace operator.

While most of the powers and options available to you as a Palace operator are easy to learn and easy to use, an endless number of advanced interactive tricks and shortcuts can best (or only) be achieved by mastering IptScrae ; the programming language which comes with the software.

With The Palace, you can get as deep as you want: advanced interactive worlds may require months of detailed and incremental development, while basic Palace environments may be set up in an hour or two. In fact, you can open your own carbon-copy of the original The Palace Mansion in minutesówithout even changing an option or writing a single line of code!

Creating whole Palace sites is beyond the scope of this chapter, so I encourage you to look at the documentation on the server and the IptScrae programming language at


The penultimate power in a Palace site rests in the hands of its god(s), who are generally also the owners and operators. Godhood brings with it some responsibility as well, since it is the god of the site who ultimately must take responsibility for the look, feel, mood, pace, and ongoing activities associated with the site in the minds of others.

To help them shoulder some of this cosmic responsibility, Palace gods have been given a special set of commands above and beyond the ordinary wizard powers.

© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1997, All rights reserved.