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Orbital Rendezvous: Stepping Aboard Worlds Chat

  • Before you start Worlds Chat, you should connect to the Internet (dial up with your modem or make sure your Internet connection is active). If your Web browser can bring up a Web page, then your Internet connection is probably active.
  • If you are running Windows 3.1, go to the program manager, open the Worlds program group, and double-click the Worlds Chat 1.1 Demo icon to begin. Worlds Chat installs a special graphics library for Windows 3.1 called WinG. If this is the first time you are running Worlds Chat with WinG; youíll see the ìred wormsî of the WinG self-test program. This is WinG setting itself up. You will only see this once the first time you set up WinG for Worlds Chat on Windows 3.1.
  • In Windows 95, click the Start button, select Programs, Worlds, and Worlds Chat 1.1 Demo. You can also start Worlds Chat by double-clicking on the shortcut on your desktop (if you put one there). After 10 or 20 seconds, Worlds Chat will start and present you with the startup screen. If you experience problems at this point, see the ìWorlds Chat FAQî at the end of this chapter.
  • Figure 5.14: wcs1.gif

    The startup screen for Worlds Chat.

    Docking in the Worlds Chat Space Station

    Cybernauts to deep space Worlds Chat: we are coming into the docking port!

    Worlds Chat control to incoming cybernauts: You have to choose your avatar first, so stop in at the avatar gallery and take a look around.

    Figure 5.15: wcs3.gif

    Stop into the gallery to choose your avatar.

    You should be seeing the avatar gallery on your screen. Once you choose an avatar, you can enter the Worlds Chat Space Station

    Whoa, the floor is moving!

    When Worlds Chat lands you into the gallery, you will soon find that when you slide your mouse forward and back, you move smoothly through the space. Your mouse is tied to motion. If you move it left or right, you will turn. Repeatedly lifting the mouse up, setting it back down, and pushing it away from you will move you forward, this is called ìmousing or pucking itî (like pushing a hockey puck around). You can move backward with the opposite motion.

    You may be surprised at how smoothly the scene changes around you. Unless you have played games like Doom or Descent, this kind of experience can be truly breathtaking for the first-time visitor. Before the power of PCs and the speed of computer games combined to make virtual worlds possible, you would have had to know someone with a very expensive virtual reality computer to try this.

    Figure 5.16: wcs2.gif

    Look out at the space station.

    So, letís get back to the fun! Turn to your immediate left and travel along the wall of portraits toward the corner window. Looking through the window, you will see a multipod space station (as the preceding figure shows). That is the Worlds Chat station out there on the Internet. There may be up to 1,000 people on board at the same time. Getting excited? I sure was the first time I visited here. Letís choose an avatar and get connected!

    Figure 5.17: wc4n.gif

    The green walking man symbol.

    Click your mouse. You should see a green walking man symbol appear at the bottom right-hand corner of the view window. This indicates that your mouse is no longer tied to your motion. You can use the mouse to select an avatar or menu items. Just click on the green man to start moving again with your mouse. Relax, youíll get the hang of it. If you move the mouse too fast or far, it can go outside of the Worlds Chat window and you will stop moving, so be careful to take small steps.

    Keys and how they move you
    Key Action
    Forward arrow Move forward
    Backward arrow Move backward
    Left arrow Turn to your left
    Right arrow Turn to your right

    Table 5.1

    Pucking along with the mouse can get tiring, and it is not a very precise way to move (joystick support would be good). A good alternate way to move is using the arrow keys on your keyboard. If your arrow keys are only on your number pad (they also have numbers on them), make sure your Num Lock key is off (a light may go off when you press it) so that your arrows can control direction. Many keyboards have separate arrow keys, and it is better to use these. The preceding table shows the keys and how they move you. You will find after awhile (unless you are already an avid gamer) that you can roll your fingers from one arrow key to another and even hold two down at once (say, forward and right) to make smooth turns. You certainly donít have to just move forward then left in separate steps. Good computer games have given us this turbo control to fly through virtual spaces…bravo!

    Click on the green man and switch to the keyboard to try this out. While you are at it, take a look at the portraits on the walls of the gallery. This is not just some digital museum; you are looking at avatar body styles. Stop, click your mouse to get it back, and then you can click on any of these avatar choices.

    Personally, I prefer the penguin. Maybe it is just that I have always wanted to own a tuxedo! When you pick an avatar, it comes out of the portrait and spins before you. If you like the look of it, you can opt to be embodied by it, or go back to the gallery to look for another. Donít worry, avatars wonít be offended if you donít choose them. You can enter Worlds Chat as a different avatar every time you go in, if you like. When you re-enter Worlds Chat, you will still have your last avatar choice. You can always return to the gallery and change your selection.

    Figure 5.18: wcs4.gif

    Get ready to board the station.

    Once you have chosen your avatar, you are on the verge of going aboard the space station. As the preceding figure shows, you can enter as a guest or as registered user. I will tell you more about the benefits of being a registered user in the section, ìGoing Gold: The Good Life as a Registered User.î So, we will enter as a guest; just press Enter Worlds Chat. You should see messages in the window as your Worlds Chat client software tries to connect to the server at Worlds Inc. If you cannot connect, it could be because of the following reasons:

    1. Your Internet connection is not working from your PC, or you forgot to dial in (or you timed out and disconnected). Test your connection to the Internet or reconnect and try again (you will have to close and restart Worlds Chat).
    2. Worlds Chatís server is not working or is overloaded at the moment. Try again in a few minutes (or even the next day).
    3. The Internet is just too busy and it is taking too long to reach the server. Try again in a few minutes (or in an hour or two).

    Single-user mode…alone and lost in space!

    If you cannot connect to the Worlds Chat server, you will be given the option of going into the station in single-user mode. If you click on Y for yes, you can enter and explore the station on your own. You can use single-user mode to practice your navigation skills and explore the station, although you will see no other users there. If you do not want to go into the station in single-user mode, click on N and try again later.

    Sound and music in Worlds Chat

    [Jackie: clarified here]

    Under the Options menu, you can turn sound and music on or off. If your computer does not have a 16-bit sound card capable of playing WAV files (such as the SoundBlaster 16), you should turn sound and music off. Do this by checking the Sound and Music items off on the Options menu. You can also press F2 and F3 to turn sound and music on and off.

    Note that if you have no sound cards, Worlds Chat may crash if you attempt to log on with sound or music set to On. The avatar gallery has no sound or music, so you have a chance to adjust these settings before entering Worlds Chat.

    Your time in paradise is limited

    Worlds chat demo users (the version on the CD in this book) have a time limit for each session. You will hear beeps, see text warnings, and the Worlds Chat screen will start to go white when you are close to being timed out. Just log back in to start the timer again. Becoming a registered user (see the section, ìGoing Gold: The Good Life as a Registered Userî earlier in this chapter) will allow you to stay on as long as you want.

    Your Worlds Chat demo version may have an expiration date. Check the readme.txt file that you should find in the \worlds\chatdemo directory for the exact date. Expired Worlds Chat demo users will not be able to log into Worlds Chatís server and will be shown a message that they must download a new version of Worlds Chat from the Internet. If this happens to you, see the section, ìInstalling or upgrading Worlds Chat from the Internet,î for instructions on getting a new version of Worlds Chat.

    Beam me in, Scotty!

    Figure 5.19: wc1a.gif

    Here we are!

    We are in! The transporter has teleported us right into the hub, in the heart of the Worlds Chat Space Station. The penguin standing right there is what I look like to other avatars. In Worlds Chat, you are in first person view, that is, you see the world through your own eyes. There is no way to see yourself except through the mirror on board the station. You can have someone take a screen capture picture of you and send it, which is done quite often.

    The following figure shows the teleport Ground Zero. Ground Zero is the point at which everyone enters a virtual world. It is a good idea to move off the Ground Zero point right after you come in to avoid being landed on by the next personís avatar. Watching the Ground Zero in Worlds Chat, you can see people materializing as they teleport into the hub. The blue flash announces the arrival or departure of an avatar. If you have sound activated (and have a 16-bit sound card and speakers), sounds accompany the blue flash, making for a dramatic and fun effect.

    Figure 5.20: wc3a.gif

    New avatars materialize in the hub.

    The new guest (number 500) who has just teleported in is dressed as a crash dummy avatar. This is the default avatar, meaning that Worlds Chat has not yet been told by the server what this person really chose for an avatar. If you wait a few seconds, Guest 500 may change from the dummy avatar into their real choice. If you see a lot of dummy avatars running around who donít change, this means they are using an avatar which your version of Worlds Chat cannot show. This may also mean that they are registered users with special avatars, or are using avatars from a third-party source.

    Figure 5.21: wc3b.gif

    Wow! Who is that?
    A registered user is showing off!

    Hey, you want to buy an avatar?

    [Jackie: clarified here]

    There is an active market in custom-designed avatars. The most popular avatar repository can be found at Stingís place on the Web at This site contains instructions on how to create a custom avatar or how to download a pre-built custom avatar and include it in your Worlds Chat. We will not cover this topic in this chapter as it is not a feature built into Worlds Chat but something figured out by users on their own. If you are really interested in your own avatar, there are more juicy details in the section ìCreating Your Own Avatar and Other Activitiesî later on in this chapter.

    It is a kick just to watch people arriving in their costumes at the digital masquerade. Some users come in the fancy avatars available only to registered users.

    More on the Worlds Chat interface

    Take a look back at your Worlds Chat software. You will notice in the lower right-hand corner a three-dimensional map of the space station. The glowing section in the center is the hub, which glows because you are there. You can move your mouse (click to get it back and to get the green walking man) over to this map and click on any part of the station you want to visit, and this will teleport you to that spot in a flash. Letís not go there yet, as we will try to find someone to take us on a walking tour. You see a lot more by touring around on foot.

    Letís chat!

    On the lower-right is a chat area. At the very bottom of this area is a chat entry field. If you type in your message and then press Enter, you will send your words (next to your avatar badge name) into the general chat. You will see your words appear in the chat box above the entry area, with your given name labeling your chat. Other people will be chatting this way. You can see all the chat from people within a distinct area of the station, such as the hub. Note that you will see the chat from only the six nearest people. If you want to have a private conversation with someone, you can move away from other avatars or use the whisper feature (described later in this chapter). A last point: Worlds Chat seems to be a bit slow at picking up the text you type and you can sometimes make spelling mistakes. If it is a lot of trouble to correct a small mistake, donít worry; spelling does not have to be perfect!

    It is best to try and get in front of someoneís avatar before you start trying to chat with them. Use their name to get their attention (they should see you, unless they are not at their computer). You could say something like, ìHey Guest222, I like your funky Ken Doll avatar!î

    Social etiquette in digital space: it isnít any different there!

    Be careful to check the chat box to see if this person is not already deep in conversation with someone else. Rules of social etiquette and politeness apply here as they do in the real world. Remember, treat others as you would have them treat you. You must be extra careful not to offend because you know even less about the people you are talking to, their opinions, culture, or even language.

    English is not the only language of Humanity!

    If you encounter someone using a language other than English, respect them. If you know that language, or even just a few words, it would be polite to use their language. Do not assume automatically that they know English. Nine out of ten people on the planet do not speak English as their first language. English is the lingua franca in computers and on the Internet, but why not let virtual worlds be enriched by many cultures and languages of humanity? I have encountered Koreans chatting by keying in versions of Korean characters using the western alphabet. This was tedious, but seemed to serve them (they could not use their own Chinese-style pictographic characters). Instead they used made up English words that sounded like Korean characters. This is completely indecipherable except to experts in the technique, so I just left them in peace. I have yet to see Navajo spoken in there, but any day nowÖ?

    Body language

    As previously mentioned, when moving around, you can pass through doors, but not walls. You will bump into walls and slide along them. However, you will pass through other avatars. This was a practical design decision made by the builders of Worlds Chat, but it poses some interesting social challenges. One obvious rule of avatar body language is, donít block someone elseís view if they are trying to have a conversation. The following figure shows a problem I had in trying to talk to my friend, Blue Bear. A general rule of thumb says that it is OK to pass through someoneís avatar, if you do it by accident (and apologize), or do it quickly and donít linger in anotherís space. In other virtual worlds, avatar bodies make contact and bump each other some distance, which provides for some interesting social dynamics. Note also that if you get very close to another avatar, it turns toward you. This is an automatic reaction of the Worlds Chat software, the person running the avatar did not actually turn.

    Figure 5.22: wc1c.gif

    Hey! Please donít block my conversation!

    Come closer: you can whisper to another person or group

    Figure 5.23: wc4l.gif

    Use the Whisper menu to speak quickly and privately.

    There are a few more options for chatting. You can chat with one specific person by whispering. This can be done in the following ways:

    Figure 5.24: wc4a.gif

    Right-click on an avatar to get the member options pop-up menu.

    Muting someone: when you just cannot stand it anymore

    If you have just lost patience with someone, you can click on their avatar and select Mute. This means that you will not see any text they enter. Use Mute only in extreme cases, as ignoring someone in this way is a form of rudeness in the real world. The muted person will still be able to see what you say, unless they choose to mute you in return. A muted person will not know that they have been muted, however.


    In Worlds Chat you are anonymous, that is, no-one knows who you really are or knows your e-mail address. Anonymity can make obnoxious users less responsible or shy users more outgoing. This is a big issue for people who make and use virtual worlds.

    Big type and good chatiquette

    Figure 5.25: wc4d.gif

    Use the Options menu to select a bigger font.

    If you are having trouble reading the chat or are using a demo of Worlds Chat, you might want to select Options and Font to change to bigger characters. If you are really studying the chat, you will notice that it is not just all gibberish, but has its own conventions and structure. I will go into greater detail about this later in the chapter.

    Figure 5.26: wc3c.gif

    Maximize the chat window with the big font.
    The things people say!

    You can also get the big picture by pressing the small button at the upper right-hand corner of the chat box. This will maximize the chat area so you can read more chat at one time. You can scroll down this window to read the last few minutes of chat. Press the Maximize Chat icon to minimize the chat window again. As you can see in the prededing figure, the chat contains some interesting features, some of which illustrate good and bad chat etiquette (chatiquette):

    Who is out there to talk to?

    Figure 5.27: wc4e.gif

    Use the People menu to find out about people in Worlds Chat.

    If you are in an area and wonder about all the other people, just select the People menu and pick the Who List (for a sample Who list, see the following figure).

    Figure 5.28: wc4k.gif

    A Who list under the People menu; who is here?

    The People menu will also show you who is in your whisper group and who you have muted out.

    Just who am I talking to?

    Figure 5.29: wc1d.gif

    Wow, Bear, are you his twin?

    You might have noticed that avatars are walking around with big signs over their heads. These are called badges, and let you distinguish between avatars. There are only a limited number of avatar choices, so badges are essential. Ever been to a conference of identical twins? There would certainly be name tags there! In some of the following screen shots, I was named Guest 400. My registered user name is, as always, DigiGardener, the digital gardener, sowing seeds in cyberspace. To have your own choice of name, you must become a registered user and purchase the gold edition CD of Worlds Chat from Worlds Inc. See the company Web page at for details.

    Got a question? Ask a local

    Often, the best way to learn about a world like Worlds Chat (other than buying this book!) is to ask someone in the world for help. This is the first time in history that software has been inhabited by people, and it is your opportunity to really become a pro. Sometimes there are people who have used a virtual world (and the same avatar or badge name) for a very long time. These users are often called veterans or ancients. Someone who has used Worlds Chat for a few hours a week over a month could easily become known as an ancient. If ours is an accelerated culture, then virtual worlds are the most turbo-charged environments on the planet Earth! The shapes of rooms, choices of avatars, and mix of people can change overnight (or over a few minutes). In revisiting a world you looked at a few months before, you might be amazed at the changes.

    Stepping out: how to get out of this world?

    Getting out of Worlds Chat is easy, just select File and Exit. Donít forget to disconnect from the Internet; you donít want to run up bills if you are paying for connection services by the hour.

    © Copyright Bruce Damer, 1996, All rights reserved.