Fifteen years ago this week, programmer Ron Britvich launched version 1.0 of Active Worlds. Started as an autonomous project of Worlds, Inc. (a spinoff of educational gamesmaker Knowledge Adventure), Active Worlds was one of the first and most ambitious attempts to create a 3D virtual community on the web. Built on the architecture of Britvich's Worlds Chat beta, Active Worlds debuted in the form of Alphaworld, a sunny green infinite plane open to public building. In its opening years Alphaworld experienced a land rush of construction, resulting in an anarchic starfish sprawl larger than the state of California. A sister company, Circle of Fire, was soon founded to craft additional themed hubs, and once individual ownership of worlds became possible the AW community spawned a veritable universe of hundreds of worlds. Although the company has seen its ups and downs since those heady times and its fortunes have slowly dwindled, the Active Worlds platform survives to this day. Look inside for a simple guide on how to log in to the (free) service, rundowns of the best worlds, links to essays analyzing the program's legacy, and other content summing up its venerable community. [more inside]
After a year of research spanning four continents and interviews with dozens of people across the internet, Dancing Ink Productions will release their findings from the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project on Thursday, January 29.
Imagine a massively multiplayer music studio, connected worldwide over the Internet. Log in, and everyone sees a set of synths, effects, sequencers, or other custom patches. Everyone’s looking at essentially the same screen, and can add beats, trip out effects, slide the bpm up and down, and reprogram synths — all at once. That’s the basic idea of netpd.
Game Theories: Are these virtual worlds the best place to study the real one? The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game. It turned out to be $2,266 U.S. per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia. (by Clive Thompson)
Terror and Technology Online Shockwave-demos its mid-May virtual trade show, marketed vigorously to the readership of the Journal of Homeland Security. "A new perspective on how the war on terror can and should be fought. Exhibitors will gain brand influence by presenting to influential market players."