Jun 21, 2006

Things and Stuff...

System Maintenance

Alot has happened over the past 12 months, here in the City of Nidus - From the complete construction and destruction of our city, to the 4.1 upgrades on the server. New abilities and commands, followed by technical difficulties on the AW Servers for unspecified reasons.

Our city has gone through alot these past 12 months, and the server has been restarted quite alot lately :) This quite probably causes alot of our visitors undue stress, to find that the world either doesn't exist or that the objects don't load as expected.

We apologize for these hiccups in service, in as much as we can apologize on our end. We aren't sure what the technical troubles are at ActiveWorlds, but we feel that they must be pretty big in order to cause repeated server restarts.

This brings me to the Object Path for our world. Over the past 12 months, we have accumulated quite a bit of stuff in our OP (old objects, new objects, copies, useless textures to test with) and so there comes a time when server maintenance is a must. We will be undergoing some server maintenance for awhile as we try to consolidate what we have and reorganize our resources. The amount of time this will take is unspecified, as we have not taken inventory to see how large this task will be.

As a visitor to our city, you may or may not experience some minor trouble when trying to view the world (world may not load any of the objects). This is normal as we may end up shutting down the server for awhile to get things in order. I personally promise that this isn't permanent, and we will be bringing the servers back online again after inventory.

The Cy Awards

On June 24th, 2006 8pm VRT The Universe will gather for the premier event of the year. The Cy Awards! The Cy Awards are like the Oscars of VR, in that a large scale event occurs with all of the citizens of the universe, where they convene and vote on multiple categories concerning the virtual universe.

Nominations have already been concluded, leaving our fair city with 4 seperate nominations in 4 different categories. I have been told by the Cy Committee this year that out of our 4 nominations, only one has made it into the final three for consideration for a Cy Award :)

Nominated for Best Event in Active Worlds, Aztech Rising Concert. This year it should be interesting, and I truly hope we win the Cy Award for Best Event. This would encourage us to further push the limits and put together more events for the universe. I have high hopes this year and I am keeping my virtual fingers crossed as I hold my breath and pass out in anticipation.. lol

In Other News

While it's a little too late to make the 2006 Cy awards, Capri Primal has made quite an advance with his recent project "Starbucks Photomodel". When we last updated, Starbucks was still a prototype build using standard AW building practices (ie: hundreds of objects and textures) to achieve it's look. Now as the new model is being worked on, we have cut it down to about 17k in model size and a few textures to load. Needess to say FPS has risen and it should take less resources to move around.

As time passes, we intend to replace the old builds with new phototextured models like we did with Starbucks, so the overall effect will be a quick and clean loading environment with less lag.

More Concerts Planned

At the end of July, we will play host to the return of Aztech Rising in our newly renovated Nidus Arena (nominated for best object). Some new renovations, and access to 4.1 effects should make this series of concerts better than our last. Details are still being worked out on whic direction we are going for this concert, though we still may continue with the prerecorded setup for ease. With the Aztech Rising concert on the PartyShip (OneSummer) the band tested out a quasi-live stream with some success.

The end of August should be bringing us a totally new band to play at the Nidus Arena - Myndkill! Hailing out of Florida, Myndkill is a type of Goth-Rock band (not sure if thats a good way to describe them) but their music definitely kicks butt! With their concert, we are pushing the envelope yet again by setting up a fully live stream from the studio. We are also looking into a live video stream for the concert as well, though as we are pushing our luck already, we may simply stick with a live webcam on that concert to go with the live stream from the studio :)

Tourist Avatars

Tourists have gotten a bad rap over the years, with the ever decreasing amount of things they are allowed to experience in the Active Worlds environment. One of our ways to show we care about tourism is to set up Avatar Movers in our city, so tourists can finally inhabit other bodies than the default two avatars on the menu.

This isn't a perfect solution, but at least we are heading in the right direction. As it stands, The City of Nidus offers 40 Avatars for Tourists (I think thats a record) through the use of the Mover command. Details are found in te avatar gallery as to what you can and cannot do with the avatars.

Again, because we will be undergoing maintenance for awhile, these things will be temporarily unavailible - but I assure you we will be bringing the OP server back online after inventory, so please be patient with us :)

Looking to the future - MPL Knight

Jun 9, 2006

8 Reasons You Should Vote for Us :)

We've been creating some pretty nifty things for the AW universe over the past ten years, but this is the first time our work has been given four seperate nominations. One nomination for "Best World", another for "Best Media Presentation" (The Edge Radio Presentation of the Aztech Rising concert held in this world April 22nd), Another for "Best Event" (Concert) and last but not least, "Best Object" - Nidus Arena.

While Nidus Arena was good, there are plenty of things that Wes Seay has created which better show off his abilities using Phototextures. Alot of the stuff is new and a work in progress (like the Starbucks or BestBuy) but you can see whre we are going with all of this. We brought back the old version of our world just for the Cys this year, so you can see the things we have been working on for the past 12 months. When the Cys are over, some of it will stay and some will go.

Not that they are not existing on the server, we are busy doing custom photoreal models to take the place of the Cell Space hogs that originally were there. That said, there are 8 very good reasons we deserve your vote this year (for at least Best World). And we are including pictures to prove it :)

The pictures for this post don;t even cover half of what we are doing in here when it comes to innovation and forward thinking. We'll admit that alot of worlds simply look pretty and have great eyecandy (and alot of those we are in competition with for the Cys). The problem is, no matter how good something looks, it's usually at the expense of functionality.

Take for instance, our Arcade. When was the last time you were in a working arcade
in ActiveWorlds? Not a bunch of props that look good, but an actual working arcade? I will be the first to admit that this world isn't as pretty as most of our competitors worlds, but that is because we are putting more effort into making stuff work. We want everything to do something instead of just look pretty. We have a full Media Library, Post Office, Graveyard, Starbucks, BestBuy, and we are working on numerous projects to add to the world in order to make things better for everybody - the first of which is the Avatar Movers Gallery (allowing tourists to choose from 40 avatars).

This world is about innovation and thinking out of the box. Sometimes we look nice, and sometimes it looks like a random junkyard of ideas. But in the end, we always give something new to the community. Innovation and pushing the AW Browser to it's limits - that is why we were nominated for Best World. When other worlds were having Bingo or Easter Egg Hunts, We threw a live concert at Nidus Arena. We packed the world that night, with 53 + people in attendance. That is why we were nominated for Best Media Presentation AND Best Event.

This year, we strongly urge you to consider us for your Cy vote for at least one of those categories. We aren't giving away free prizes for every vote, and we
do not believe that this is merely a popularity contest. This isn't about that - the Cys are about showing appreciation to the people who are working hard to make things better for all of us.

Remember - voting in the Cys starts June 10th and ends June 17th. Get out to the polls and show us some love :)

Looking toward the Future of AW - MP
L Knight

Jun 7, 2006

Tourists Are People Too : )

We love tourists. No, really :) You see, without tourism there would be no interest in the AW browser. Unfortunately, there are alot of restrictions on just what a tourist to this system can do and see. Some of the best things are completely off limits to them that we feel should not be.

There really is no call for being against tourists. Each world has to pay in order to allow them to visit, most worlds do not allow them in only because of that. Then there is the inability to have a contacts list or telegram anyone when you are a tourist. And what's up with only allowing them to have access to two lousy avatars?

Well, today we have partially solved that last problem. Not that it's a perfect solution (nothing ever is), but at least it's an idea. What you see in the picture is a tourist test subject (Bola7). What Bola looks like now is the standard Male tourist avatar from Active Worlds, which gets very redundant after the third tourist enters a world. You end up with a sea of tourists that all look the same.

Behind Bola7 in the picture are a small portion of "Loaner Avatars" we have set up in our world to allow tourists the ability to select from around forty (40) different avatars to choose from. Yes, you read correct - 40 diferent avatars for Tourist use. This is alot higher than the standard 2 availible in every other world. There are a few provisions with using these though (like you didn't see this coming).

All of the "Loaner Avatars" availible in our gallery are nothing more than avatar shaped "movers". So with any mover in AW 4.1 there are limits. You cannot use another mover object while using a Loaner Avatar. The animations for the avatar are not included with the loaner either (it's a mover). And the last thing is that because we are having a glitch with the movers, while using a loaner avatar you will not be able to fly. We tried to enable it but everytime you get into the avatar it starts to float away.

These are the basic rules with this, but I think it's an even trade off. Tourists get to choose from over 40 availible avatars to change their look, at the cost of a few restrictions. Not that these restrictions cannot be lifted. You would simply have to get out of the loaned avatar to regain the abilities you lost. Want to drive a car or use another mover? Just give up the loaned avatar first. Want to fly? Give up the loaner, friend :)

So in the end, one problem is solved while still keeping *some* restictions. We are also looking into the ability to have more than one person inside a body. Multiple personlities :) Try out the CPX900 (it's the really big one). That avatar allows for multiple people to inhabit it. The last person to get in is the driver :)

Could be interesting for Tours around a world - Have a single avatar mover that looks like a Tourguide, and everyone piles into that avatar for the tour :) Alot of things are possible here, and we would like to try and explore as many as we can.

I would also like to make a correction for the previous entry - VR5 world is not nominated for 2 Cy awards this year. Instead it was recently brought to my attention that we are in fact nominated for 3 Cy awards :) Keith Thomas for the Edge Radio presentation of the Aztech Rising Concert, The World itself for Innovation and Design, and deservingly our very own Capri Primal (MPL Capri) for the work he is doing in the world with Photorealistic and advanced modelling (check out the Starbucks he's working on).

I would like to thank everyone who nominated us for these Cy awards, and we definitely hope we win at least one for our efforts. Remember - Voting starts on June 10th, so be sure to give us a vote for at least one of our nominations :) It would be much appreciated!

... of course we would be tickled pink if we brought home all three Cy awards this year, but even I know that is just wishful thinking.. lol

Looking ahead to the future of AW - MPL Knight

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