General Reply

Wade Cherrington (
Mon, 9 Dec 1996 21:26:40 -0800 (PST)

General Reply -

I've responded to several replies to my tentative VRML proposal
individually, but decided it may be simpler to post a general reply that
tries to address each of the excellent points and suggestions being made...

Yudhowsky made some excellent points about what type
of underlying gaming architecture should be considered
- Yes, you can specify behaviors in VRML with Java. While
Java was designed specifically for VRML, the lastest
version of VRML, also called "Moving Worlds", was designed
with java-scripting in mind. It also supports RSX sound
compression, which is I have so far to be quite impressive.
- As for user-specified "room" addition - this is where things
get tricky (At least for a novice like myself).
I have seen code where by the user can activate a script that
will spawn "child nodes", which if we set it up right could have the desired
effect of customized user expansion of the world. This is where any
experience with
MOO's would be valuable. Somewhere else it would be valuable is in working
the avatars. So far multi-user shared VRML worlds are quite rare, but "The
Circus", multiple-user world at Sony's "Community Place" VRML Browser site
is one example...

Max More made an excellent point about commercial viability and incentives.
Right now I'm in the process of setting up a start-up with a few friends of
mine. We hope to break into the website development market; we'll be doing
HTML, Java, cgi, 2D/3D web graphics, and VRML. The Transhumanist Virtual
World would make a perfect place to showcase our skills. That already gives
me a monetary incentive to keep going with it,
as well as both my friends (who are very skilled computer-wise and happen to
be transhumanists...)
Eventually, we could market the world itself, charging so much per hour;
if that ever happens we'd make sure there was always a minimum access level
where any non-paying user could still use the world. Actually, one
possibility that might allow
the world to "pay for itself" could be renting out that "office" space to
it would be like advertising, but also a place to do real business at the
same time.
Lots to consider. One thing that I am quite confident in though is
that if it gets off the ground with enough momentum, it will just keep on
going. Also keep in mind what we are working towards isn't one
person's or group's world sitting on one server, but rather a
transhumanist "multiverse" of sorts...those interested in setting
up commercial areas will be free to do so, but no one will be held
back in either direction...

Basically, what I had in mind for the here and now was to put together a
"nucleus world" - it would contain the initial forms of the locales
mentioned in my first post. Structurally, I'm picturing a straightforward
fractal landform, in the middle of which an open space with some buildings,
cafes, surrounded by one side by water and the other sides by
high mountains where we can have paths leading underground, or to
summits with nice views, or to portals to other worlds...a starry background
would be nice, but not just white dots on black, but something like the
pleiades cluster or a nebula, maybe two or three moons. Not too unlike
the descriptions in BeyondMOO, which I found very appropriately capture the
transhumanist "sense of life" (A VRML sculpture of Prometheus would
be definitely by a nice touch..)

There seems to be of a schism - some are hoping to revel in an
incredibly decentralized world, others are understandably concerned

Chill out everyone - this is a fully object oriented endeavour!

The process I imagine is as follows:

1. Someone thinks of a useful addition
2. Suggestion is made, feedback given, approval made unless
serious objection made, in which case put to vote by appropriate
2. Addition is created and rendered, final result is a
VRML object.
3. Object is added as a node to one of several linked worlds.
(If large enough, may warrant being a sub-world of its own, in
which case it will just become another world)
4. Addition will be visible, but will likely start off as
just something to look at or a place to go, until someone
assigns it a behavior. This is where those

Basically I see two different approaches - both valid and both
very valuable.

A) The World-builder/Renderer/3D-Artist; mainly interested in
building the world; creating interesting settings and places to go and see.

B) The Animator/RPGer/Gamer; wants interaction - concerned
with avatars, user interaction, user-agent interaction,
animating behaviors, how users might add rooms,
basically how the world can alter the user/character and how
the user/character can alter the world and other user/characters.

(Of course there will be people that will dig both and see any
division as silly, but for now I'll address the role of each individually)

Basically all I have to say to the first category, is
let your imaginations run wild. Don't worry about how it "might
all fit together" - that can be left to the second who have a more
holistic, structured vision in mind. If an idea is any good, it
will find a place. The second group will likely be more worried
about tying it all together and imposing some modicum of order
to it all, but really there is no dichotomy - I agree in part with those who
are worried about a structured underlying gaming/character/event engine -
lessons learned from working with MOO's/MUDs are all applicable, but
those problems are mostly self-contained to the "gaming" or multi-user
layer of the world. Most VRML worlds out there have nothing like
MOO or traditional adventure-game interface, mostly are just arrays
of lifeless objects that you walk around in. Let us build
the world physically, and when it does come time to breath life into it,
then we will worry about having the best, most flexible, reliable and open
gaming architecture possible.

So for the renderers: don't worry about limits; there are none.
For the coders and scripters: an intelligently designed
set of primitives is a good idea, and we should get started as early
as possible. Personally, my skills lie in the rendering/graphic design
area right now, and I'm currently in the process of closing the

Unfortunately, I've been caught off guard and don't yet even
have my own homepage up!! Perhaps someone could volunteer
part of their own to post bulletins, guidelines, listings
of objects and worlds so far, useful/relevant links, suggestion

Also, I did make the original post, but that doesn't make me any
kind of an authority on what form the entire thing will take...
I hope to be with the project all the way, but have no aspirations
towards being or forming a central authority (sigh of relief amongst
radical libertarian/Spontaneous order mavens....)
As R.A. Wilson is fond of saying, "Communication is only possible
between peers..."

That's all for now...I have a feeling I'm going to be quite busy
for a next little while...For now I will suggest some short-term objectives.

- Web Page mentioned above
- Scour net for VRML worlds that might be technically
similar to what we're talking about (MOO's and MUDs as well,
as Yudowsky mention can be instructive)
- Brainstorm ideas - add and modify the scene list in my very
first post
- Familiarize oneself with VRML 2.0, Java and combining the two.
- Continue with the wonderful discussion/debate already going on...
- I've already started compiling a list of people who have expressed interest
and the particular skills they have mentioned; I'll wait a while
for any more such posts and compile a working list so we can
start assembling very loose "teams"...

BTW - A note to the musically inclined. Personally I'm heavily
into Jazz Fusion as well as Electronic/Synth type stuff like Tangerine
Dream, Vangelis. I haven't heard a lot of techno, but something
definitely in the upbeat direction and spacey/synthy sound would
be perfect background. My only preference is to keep most of it

- Wade Cherrington