Active Worlds

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Active Worlds
File:ActiveWorlds icon.png
Developer(s) Active Worlds, Inc.
Publisher(s) Active Worlds, Inc.
Designer(s) Active Worlds, Inc., User-generated content
Engine Renderware
Version 5.0
Platform(s) "Browser" client: Windows; World server/SDK: Windows
Release date(s) 1995 (beta), 1997 (public release)
Genre(s) Virtual world
Mode(s) Graphical Chat & Building Interface
Media Client Download
System requirements 300 MHz (800 MHz recommended) CPU, 128mb+ RAM, Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, or 7.
Direct X 8.1 or later
Windows Media Player 6.4 or later
3D acceleration (64mb+ Video RAM recommended)

Active Worlds (AW) is a 3D virtual reality platform. The "Active Worlds Browser" runs on Windows. Users assign themselves a unique name, log into the Active Worlds virtual world universe, and explore 3D virtual worlds and environments that other users have built. Users can chat with one another or build structures and areas from a selection of objects. AW allows users to own worlds and universes, and develop 3D content. The browser has web browsing capabilities, voice chat, and basic instant messaging. This integrated software can allow users to connect, explore, and gain a more in depth understanding of 3D. Corporate and educational clients of Active Worlds can make use of the interaction, communication, and media to provide functional environments suited for their objective. On May 30, 2006, version 4.1 was released to the general public.

The program's original goal was to be the 3D-equivalent of a 2D web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox). Instead of creating a website, the user could construct an office, building, or area in which to display products or information.

The necessity for 3D art within Active Worlds to enrich one's world has led to the development of a market place for 3D models, textures, avatars (and associated animation sequences), and more. There is also plenty of free exchange of 3D content. There are also custom design services for 3D art available, especially avatars.


Main Features

AWGate, the entry point for new users in the Active Worlds universe.


Building allows users to create their own environment. For example, a user may search for or request an open plot of land and then construct the walls of the building with 4x4 meter wall pieces. The user may then decide to add windows, doors, furniture, landscaping, etc. Active Worlds supports objects stored as RenderWare script RWX (and the RW3+ binary equivalent DFF) and trueSpace objects COB, as well as DirectX "X" objects. The available objects are defined by the world owner; it is not possible to upload custom objects to a public world. Builders must work with the available objects, or else purchase a private world.

Tourists may build, but their builds may be deleted by anyone. No one is allowed to "encroach" on territory that has been "claimed" by another user. (Claims are made by covering the desired area in objects, usually large "groundcover" objects.) Citizens who wish to build collaboratively can share their "privilege passwords" with one another. Entering another citizen's privilege password grants a citizen the right to modify their buildings. Any changes will be recorded in the name of the user whose privileges one is currently using.

Building in Active Worlds is done using the keyboard and mouse. All buildings are constructed of multiple copies of particular objects, arranged appropriately. In some respects, it is like building with virtual Lego blocks. Right-clicking an existing object will highlight it and open an "Object Properties" dialog box. Once an object is selected, it can be moved up/down, left/right, or forward/back. It can likewise be rotated on all axis, yaw (Y), pitch (Z) and roll (X). The object may be duplicated, and the new copy moved into a new position. The object may also be transformed into another object, by typing in the name of the desired object. So, for example, it is possible to transform a tree03.rwx into a rock10.rwx by selecting it and typing in "rock10.rwx" as the object name. The new rock can then be rotated 90 degrees around its X axis, moved 3.5 meters to the left, and sunk 1 meter into the ground. This is generally how builds grow to their incredible proportions, one object duplicated from another.

More advanced effects can be achieved through the use of "actions". There are a few dozen different commands one can apply to an object through actions. One of the most common is "texture", this simply gives the ability to change the texture from the object default, and may be applied to specific areas of the geometry. Signs can be made to give simple information within the 3D environment, and pictures are available to display images from all around the World Wide Web. Actions can be written to take place at creation time (create), when a user bumps the object (bump), when the user clicks the object (activate), or when an animation has completed (adone). In essence, the commands form a primitive scripting language which makes it possible alter objects' appearance, make them move on cue, emit light, or move a visitor to a new location.

It is even possible to write simple games in this language. However, the scripting language lacks the use of conditionals and variables. It is possible to simulate those using advanced properties of the "animate" command, but doing so is considered an advanced building skill.

Dedicated builders have created rich, complicated environments. Some of these, notably SW City, have grown to enormous size. SW City, a collaborative build started in 1999 and involving hundreds of builders, spans some 150 square kilometers of virtual territory. It includes some of the most sophisticated builds in Alpha World, AW's largest world, as well as the entire universe, some of which can be seen in their screenshots.

Public Building Worlds are a major attraction to Active Worlds. Public Building Worlds, such as "Alphaworld" or "AWTeen", are vast and expansive worlds that allow any citizen (and in certain cases, tourists) the opportunity to build to their hearts content, with the limit of building being imagination. Public Building Worlds are often populated at every time of the day, and are constantly at the top of AW's World List user count. Not counting the standard citizenship fee, there is no additional fee to building in these worlds, or building very large areas. Most Public Building Worlds are owned and operated by Activeworlds, Incorporated.

Building in Public Building Worlds is often very different from building in a privately owned. There is a set object path, or list of objects that are usable in the worlds, as well as the worlds own textures and other building resources. Builders in private worlds can have the advantage of importing large objects from other programs directly into their world at discretion of the world caretaker. With the exception of AWTeen, most AW, Inc. owned worlds have object paths that are rarely updated, and that can make building in them restrictive.

Several Public Building Worlds are themed worlds, with their own specific object path and landscape. These themed worlds are often p1000 sized (1000 coordinates of land from the ground zero in N/S/E/W directions.) and are usually very unpopulated. Such worlds include:

To enhance individual users experience, the use of AW's local path option has become popularized in recent times. Alphaworld Enhanced is the most developed example. Alphaworld Enhanced is a graphical modification developed expressly for Alphaworld. This modification uses to local path to upgrade existing textures to textures of much higher quality, as well as making unintended tiled textures seamless. A skybox, additional avatars, and gestures also come with this.


Communications in AW involve being within 200 meters from other people in the area and chatting. Users will quickly learn the common areas to chat, such as the starting location ("ground zero") when first entering a world. Citizens may also communicate with telegrams, which contact the user in any location. Telegrams are private (except to the universe administrator), and it is possible to "whisper" private messages to nearby users. All other chat is public. The 200 meter chat range can become a problem within large worlds and projects that span a larger area than 200 meters. To tackle this problem, bots (see below) can be programmed to broadcast chat to everyone in the current world.


You can travel through AW inside a world and through multiple worlds. The main AW universe has around 800 worlds as of April 2008. Though this is misleading as some worlds are extremely large and hold many communities and a sort of sub-worlds, while others are not used all the time, even other worlds are private and not always shown in the worlds list. xyz

The largest world in the main AW universe is Alphaworld, which is also the first world. Alphaworld contains several more square kilometers of available space than the real-world state of California in the United States of America. To aid in navigating such a vast area you can "teleport" to a specified location, also you can maintain a "Teleport List", like a list of bookmarked web pages.

Other worlds can be seen in other universes. As the Active Worlds technology makes it possible to create own universes which are not by default advertised in the main universe, a lot of universes -and thus worlds- are hidden for the first visitor.

Bots / Active Worlds SDK

Bots are applications developed using the Active Worlds SDK. Some of these applications have been developed to allow users to automate simple tasks, such as weather, chat relay, giving tours and information, complex property management, and more. Games can be developed which interact with databases and other technologies to provide a basic, but extensible gaming platform. There are many other potential applications that can be developed using the SDK, for example, a program that automatically explores a world and creates a map, artificial intelligence through chat, and much more. Examples include Preston and Eclipse Evolution.

Tourists, citizens, and world owners

Active Worlds has two ways of entering its universe: as a free tourist or as a paid citizen. Tourist mode is Active Worlds' version of a free account with several limitations. You can pay for a citizen for the price of $6.95/month or $69.95/year. As a citizen you have more features when using the software. Additionally, AW allows citizens to purchase their own worlds.


Tourists have several limitations:

  • Tourists do not have an account number which all citizens have, they all use citizen #0 when queried by a Bot.
  • Tourists cannot reserve a unique name across visits; when they log out, anyone else may choose the same name.
  • Tourists usually have two choices of avatar(male and female) in most worlds but there are some worlds such as AWGate and Winter which allow tourists to use CAVs (Custom AVatars).
  • In chat, tourist text is colored gray instead of black and tourist names appear in quotes.
  • Anything that a tourist builds can be deleted and edited by other tourists. Citizens cannot edit tourist builds but can delete them.
  • Tourists cannot enter all worlds, and cannot build in all worlds they can enter.
  • Tourists can build in most AWI owned worlds, including AW(Alphaworld), AWTeen and Winter.
  • In voice chat enabled worlds, tourists may hear voice chat but not talk.

But there are limited advantages to being a tourist:

  • Tourists can enter Active Worlds for free at any time; their 'trial' never expires.
  • Tourists can work together on buildings.


  • A citizenship grants the user (a "citizen") access to any public world in the universe.
  • Citizens have a unique user name, unlike tourists.
  • Citizen builds cannot be deleted or modified in any way, except by themselves or the world caretakers.
  • Citizens may choose to give other citizens the ability to modify their builds, using a special secondary password called a "privilege password" (also known as "priv pass" or "ppw"). This makes it possible to engage in collaborative building.
  • Send telegrams to other citizens. Telegrams allow conversation between citizens who may be anywhere in the universe. Unlike instant messages, outgoing telegrams are stored on the server; if the recipient is not online when the telegram is sent, it will be delivered the next time the recipient logs on. Telegrams received are stored on the user's local computer. Added in version 4.2, a copy of outgoing telegrams are now saved on the user's local computer.
  • Send files directly to other citizens, though this feature may require configuration to work properly when using a router.
  • Join to where another user is, or invite to bring a user to another's location.
  • Add citizens to a contacts list to see when the user is online and easily telegram or join them.
  • In addition to a contacts list, there are associated privacy options which allow users to control who may and may not contact them and how their online status is shown.
  • Access to all generally available avatars in a world.
  • Citizens may talk to each other using Voice Chat
  • Citizens have the ability to bring bots into any universe or galaxy running the Active Worlds software. Noteworthy examples include the dictionary-based Preston Bot, the multi-purpose Xelagot, the highly configurable Eclipse Evolution, and the powerful, extensible MagsBots. In the main universe, the maximum limit for simultaneous bots on one citizenship is three. This limit can be increased through contests, or by paying $19.95 for a three bot limit increase.
  • Citizens may post messages at the Active Worlds Forums.
  • Citizens can opt to have a Personalized Avatar. These Personalized Avatars (also called PAV) is a hand-made avatar by a modeller which the citizen can use from world to world. PAVs cost $19.99 for the first time, as well as each change thereafter. PAVs are required to be modeled by a third party before a citizen can use them.
  • Citizens are allowed a Customizable Avatar (or CAV). These CASs are made using an interface in the browser and can be done by anyone with no experience. Citizens and are able to make changes to it for no charge. This feature was added in version 4.2.

World owners

  • A world allows a user to have their own environment which others may explore, build, and more. Generally users have their worlds hosted by those who provide such services within the community, although can host their world themselves on Windows and Linux servers.
  • Custom content provided by various object paths, of which users may use their own. This allows the creation of unique content, including models, textures, sounds, avatars and animations/gestures, and more.
  • Caretaker privileges allow users to not only have vast control over the 3D environment, but to manage the privileges other users have within that world. As well, worlds may be made private to select users for special situations and personal preference.
  • World owners may create and edit custom worldwide terrain.
  • Adjust the appearance of the world sky, clouds, and water. AW supports skyboxes for realistic scenes. With the arrival of the skybox feature, some citizens have used skyspheres for a more realistic experience.
  • Control the operation of chat, building (including the content and functions of), physics, world sounds, and more.
  • Moderation abilities, known as "ejection".
  • Voice Chat, optional for a fee.
  • Tourist access, optional for a fee. Tourists may not enter worlds without it.

As well, there are further administrative abilities of those that purchase their own galaxy (Galaxerver) / universe (Uniserver). Generally, galaxervers and uniservers are separate from the Activeworlds universe.


AW Reunions

Much of the community has gotten to know each other quite well over a long period of time. Since 1998, Active Worlds users have organized and held an annual real-world reunion. Typically, this is organized on a web page or internet forum in the months before the reunion. During their time together, Reunion Attendees will meet, visit sites in the city they are in for that year, and chat with AW Users online in the universe at the hotel. In past years, more than one reunion has also been held.

Every year, a world named Reunion is built and modeled to reflect the city the reunion members are attending. In this world, users from the universe can interact with the reunion members while they are in the hotel online, and a webcam is set up at the hotel as well.

Below is a list of AW Reunions that have been held to date:


The Peacekeepers are voluntary group of citizens, who help in the ActiveWorlds community by enforcing the ActiveWorlds guidelines. They assist new and regular users who come to ActiveWorlds, resolve user disputes and prevent harassment, regardless of the form, be it verbal abuse or harassment, racism or vandalism.

Becoming a Peacekeeper requires the applicant to be a citizen in good standing and the completion of Peacekeeper Academy. The Academy provides the technical background needed to assist users with the browser and building. It also covers reports related to ejecting users who violate the guidelines on worlds under their protection. Reporting requirements and special bots are included in the instruction. There are specialized classes related to vandalism, conflict resolution and harassment. A trainee must demonstrate competence in realistic simulations prior to receiving the “badge”.

The Peacekeeper began in 1998 and is one of the oldest service organizations of its type in the metaverse. [3]

Towns and Cities

In the Public Building Worlds, towns and cities are common throughout the world. These towns are collections of buildings and builders, and are essentially small, virtual communities. The majority of the towns in Active Worlds are abandoned, and most towns are active for several weeks with a small amount of builders.

Some towns though, notably Moonlight Heights and SW City have survived for years and have many participants and have moved on to incorporate other projects into their towns. Other towns, such as Off World are uniformly themed and have a clear focus for builders.


In the summer 1994, Ron Britvich created WebWorld, the first 2.5D world where tens of thousands could chat, build and travel. WebWorld operated on the Peregrine Systems Inc. servers as an 'after hours' project until Britvich left the company to join Knowledge Adventure Worlds (KAW) in the fall of that year. In February 1995, KAW spun off their 3D Web division to form the company Worlds Inc.[4]

Britvich was eventually joined by several other developers, and the renamed "AlphaWorld" continued to develop as a skunk works project at Worlds Inc, internally competing with a similar project known internally as Gamma and publicly as Worlds Chat. While AlphaWorld was developing a strong cult following due in large part to Britvich's open philosophy of favoring user-built content, Worlds, Inc. favored Gamma for the company produced contract projects for Disney and others.[5]

On June 28, 1995, AlphaWorld was renamed Active Worlds (from Active Worlds Explorer) and officially launched as version 1.0. Around this time, Circle of Fire (CoF) was formed to create content for the Active Worlds universe. This company played a pivotal role in the future of the product.

In January, 1997, Worlds Inc., after failing to secure needed contracts and having spent its venture investment of over 15 million dollars, laid off almost the entire staff of the company, keeping only several employees which included the author of Gamma, now known as WorldsPlayer. Active Worlds, never considered much of an asset by the company, became an object of struggle for those close to it. Eventually, it ended up in the hands of CoF, with most of the development team joining CoF until (in July 1997) internal disagreements caused most of the team and employees, including Britvich, to leave the company.

On January 21, 1999, CoF did a reverse merger with Vanguard Enterprises, Inc., which changed the company's name to, Inc. and, later, Activeworlds, Inc. Some of the original developers like Roland Vilett and Shamus Young (although Shamus Young had been involved as first an artist, then webmaster, and now developer since COF took over) stayed involved with Active Worlds and development on the product continued for years, as it continues to have a following.

In 2001, the company launched a new product called 3D homepages [1]. Each citizen account is entitled to one free 30 day trial of a virtual 10,000 square-meter 3D homepage, using their choice of layout from a selection of pre-designed styles. After the trial, the user has the option of upgrading to a larger size and user limit. These 3D Homepages are hosted for the user, unlike traditional worlds where the user would have to get their world hosted by another company or user, or themselves. Later, the 30 day free trial citizenship that came included with the 3D Homepage would be discarded.[6]

In 2002, the company, in an attempt to financially survive and turn a profit, increased the price of their yearly citizenships from $19.95 USD to $69.95 USD [7]

In September 2002, the company was sold back to its founders Richard Noll and JP McCormick and became a private company again. The company was renamed "Activeworlds, Inc."

In January, 2006, Wells Fargo's Stagecoach Island program was released, which used a pre-release version of the software. During that time, beta versions of Activeworlds 4.1 were available to registered citizens only.[8]

On May 30, 2006, Activeworlds, Inc. commenced the rollout of the 4.1 version. Active Worlds routers did not last for long due to the extreme amount of users downloading the new 4.1 browser and a large amount of users in the new 4.1 universe. 4.1 was closed for a short time, while Active Worlds upgraded their equipment. On May 31, 4.1 was reopened and the release began again.[9]

On June 1, 2006, Activeworlds, Inc. released the public world server version 4.1. While a normal amount of issues were reported for a massive software update, there are now over 700 worlds converted to 4.1.

In late August 2006, a new product called Miuchiz was launched using the Active Worlds technology. This is a virtual world where users can enter as a Bratz or other character and interact with the world.

In early 2008, Activeworlds, Inc. plans to release the first customer-oriented feature in years: the introduction of Customizable Avatars, similar to Second Life. The feature has been described as better than the competition's, with more options for easier customization. It will come in the next version of the browser, 4.2.[10]

On June 16, 2008, Activeworlds, Inc. released the first major update to the browser in two years, version 4.2. The update was considered smooth and painless, being completed in a matter of only fifteen minutes, compared to the several days of version 4.1's initial upgrade in 2006. Version 4.2 includes an enhanced graphics engine, captured web pages on objects, and, most notably, customizable avatars.[10]

On December 5, 2008, Activeworlds, Inc. renewed over 65,000 citizenships for a period of 30 days. In doing this, the company hopes to draw back some of the community that has been lost over the years.

On June 24, 2009, Activeworlds, Inc., released an open beta of their next version, 5.0, for anyone to download and use.[11]



  • Britvitch, Ron. "Message Board Posting, June 14, 1994." Retrieved September 4, 2007.
  • Hansen, Kenneth. "The Design of Public Space in 3D Virtual Worlds on the Internet." Virtual Space: Spatiality in Virtual Inhabited 3d Worlds. Lars Qvortrup, ed. London: Springer-Verlag, 2002.
  • Noll, Rick. "Plan Letter". Retrieved September 4, 2007.
  • Scannell, Beth. Life on the Border: Cyberspace and the Frontier in Historical Perspective. edition. Retrieved September 4, 2007.
  • Stanney, Kay. Handbook of Virtual Environments: Design, Implementation, and Applications. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002.

See also


External links

Official sites

Official distributors

  • Active Worlds Europe – Distributor for the Benelux and Europe since 2003, main focus on professional education and business use and development


Worlds, cities, communities

  • Aeon – A fantasy 3D world owned by AerHawk & Lady NightHawk
  • Arcadia RPG – Adult virtual reality RPG world without the adult content.
  • Scuola3d – Students and Teachers building their school (IT)
  • AWRPG – RPG world where you may choose your character's destiny and future, including religion and other activities.
  • AWTeen – A virtual world dedicated to Activeworlds Teens
  • MusicWorld3D – MusicWorld3D Virtual Community
  • Sedan City – Sedan, an urban city in a tropical world
  • SW City – AW's largest individual community
  • Titanic3D – version 1.0 of the Titanic in real size, sinks every 2 hours. Version 2.0 with cabins and machine rooms expected mid 2008
  • Harps – Harps is a music information world with 18 pavilions containing links to subjects related to the Harp as well as music theory (Over 1500 links)



  • – Active Worlds Portals, comprehensive site including history, worlds and services
  • Gate Network System - Provides inter-world transportation
  • 3D Internet – Strong view of 3D Internet aspects, written in 1997 (with additions based on Active Worlds in 1998), web-published in 2003 by Emmanuel Gruijs (Active Worlds Europe, English site)
  • ORB3d – ORB3d Objects, Textures, Avatars. See us in Active Worlds!
  • Pelican3d – Pelican3d 3d Objects
  • SistaAVs – 3D Avatars for AW!
  • Snow Crash – The inspiration that ignited the Active World's living metaverse representation of a creative idea into reality.
  • SupportAW – Dedicated to supporting the Active Worlds software


ko:액티브 월드 it:Active Worlds mk:Active Worlds nl:Active Worlds pt:Active Worlds

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