Jun 7, 2006

Strange Days

Interesting how things work out all of a sudden. At first Active Worlds had no idea when they were going to release version 4.1 to the public, and so for the forseeable future we decided to design as if we were going to have 3.6 for at least another 4-6 months. Then we wake up one morning and suddenly AW is having a countdown to 4.1 release.

This caught us by surprise, no doubt, as visions of VoIP danced in out heads. And then the big day! AW 4.1 was released to the public (initially for citizens only) and later to everyone. But the problem was that the software was still buggy. Which is expected of any x.1 version of AW. Usually it's the x.2 that is alot more stable. No big deal, we figured... and then it hit us. "Hey, where's our world?".

In the mad dash to release 4.1, AW it seems, hadn't actually gotten many worlds converted to the new server. Ok, that's fine. No need for impatience. A few days later, our own world, VR5, was ported over to the new server and things looked great. Until we tried to get into our world, that is.

Upon entry, a then unknown bug in the media command for 4.1 (or whatever they want to tell the public) created a very deinite crash of the browser. We had forgotten that The Edge Radio was cued to play streaming at the Ground Zero. And at 2 am, I was called on the phone to figure out why this had happened and to get the world back to public viewing standards.

So, after finally giving in, I decided to push the self destruct button on the existing Ground Zero. A short countdown, and then a brilliant flash of light as nuclear weaponry were effortlessly ignited precisely at the center of the world.

And then silence.

After rubbing my eyes and refocusing, all there was left was smoldering grass textures on the ground. "Did this work?" we asked. And upon clearing our cache and re-entering, we found nothing to crash the browser.


The next task was obviously to get at least a basic GZ and some roads back up before we reopened the world to the public again. And such we did (for the most part). Moving onto those new advanced things that AW 4.1 promised, at last! A few movers, (flying cars, a few tanks), some particle effects at the stadium (fireworks, etc) - things were moving along nice and then...

One of the greatest achievements AW had to offer, was in fact, not being offered at the time. Contrary to whatever the GateKeepers were saying, VoIP is still not availible in a majority of worlds. Apparently somebody figured out within 15 minutes of release that there is no way to shut that feature off or mute people - leading to the ability to publicly swear in G rated areas.

The world VR5 technically has no rating. Problem is that there isn't an option for that in the rating list. It is currently set to PG-13 to denote that it really isn't for children, though we have no problem with anyone coming in to visit (child or adult). The reason it is not "R" or "X" rated is because people automatically think we have pornographic material in our world. This is not true. What we mean by an NR rating is that anything can happen, just like real life. We don't really mind if you are swearing or talking about whatever you want to talk about. It's a freedom of speech thing in here.

We do not have time to play babysitter and enforce rules on people who are there to have a good time. About the only real rule we have is "Respect others". That's it. If the majority in an area think something is out of line - democracy wins. Plain and simple.

So, after looking into the VoIP and enabling it on our own world, we still do not have use of it. We wait patiently for VR5 to gain VoIP as a feature. It will be unmoderated, and up to the individual to mute others they do not wish to hear.

We did manage to finally make some benches you can sit on. This may not seem like anything special, but in an Active Worlds environment - you must realize that nobody has been able to properly (if at all) sit down since 1995. That's right, 11 years. So finally being able to sit on a wall, park bench, or wherever a creative mind can think of is a giant leap forward.

Another thing we were planning ahead for was the mover command. Seeing that AW 4.1 was soon to be released, MPL Capri started to throw together a flying car object for which we could use in the world. They are now located just north of ground zero (though texturing is still being done on them). As an afterthought, I decided to also add a few tanks for people to drive around as well. You could consider this our answer to AWGate's gliders and magic carpets.

As with anything else, since AW 4.1 is still buggy and needs some time to get it all ironed out, we have also decided to delay a release of the new Metaverse EX until such time that the browser is fully stable and AW stops performing regular updates to the client. The version availible on our site is still 3.6c and for at least a little while longer will allow you to access the 3.6 server. At this time, I would not recommend that anyone download this version and to please be patient while we put together a version for 4.1.

One last thing before I end this post: I am glad to announce that VR5 has been nominated for 2 Cy Awards this year! One of the nominations is for a world that utilizes the full potential of the AW browser. The second nomination is for The Edge Radio pertaining to the most creative and outstanding event held in the virtual universe (read: The Aztech Rising concert in April was awesome and innovative).

Whether we win or not, it still is an honor to be considered (I've been building innovative things for about ten years now and this is my first nomination). I will still hope that we win at least one Cy Award this year, so we may know that the work we are doing in VR5 is appreciated by the public. Without the public, our efforts are useless :)

Looking ahead to the future - MPL Knight


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