AW Europe is a rich multi-user 3D
Universe with over thirty themed worlds, accessed from a feature packed
custom ActiveWorlds browser plugin. What sets it apart from other 3D
chats is that the users (tourists & citizens) can build structures or
even entire worlds in real time. This means you can get together with your
friends and build your own homes, cities, RPG's or whatever you can
imagine. There are literally thousands of detailed 3D models available,
from realistic building materials to elaborate premade "kit" models.
Tourist access is free with some limitations or you can become a Citizen
with full access for a nominal fee.
You are represented by an "Avatar", a 3d articulated model of a human, animal, alien etc. Each world has a list of unique avatars to choose from and you can instantly switch characters. (tourists are limited to one choice)You can walk, run, jump, swim, and fly using the arrow keys on your keyboard or with your mouse. There are also action buttons on the toolbar for special moves like dance steps. Oh and did I mention you can chat too? There's also built in instant messaging and file sharing as well as support for midi, wav and mp3s.
Building takes some practice but there's a building school and plenty of experts around to help you get you started. The keyboard and mouse are your main "tools" allowing you to place "objects" and manipulate them in variety of ways. You can customize objects with colors, textures, sounds and special commands to make them move, blink, flash, disappear, rotate and much more. Exploring worlds is a popular pastime and there are plenty to choose from with everything from fantasy and game worlds to music and arts. These aren't small "rooms" either. They range everywhere from 40,000 to a 1,000,000 square kilometers of virtual real estate with rolling clouds, moving water and realistic terrain!
I stopped by and ran into the owner/director Emmanuel Gruijs in the main portal world so I cornered him for a few questions.
Lain: What kind of people will I meet here and where are they from?
Emmanuel: Knowing these kind of communities I expected most people to be in the 25-45 age range and a smaller percentage of younger and older people. As it shows, both the younger and older communities start getting more interested; we have even been asked to set up a community for 65+ people. The people in such environments as AW-Europe will tend to be looking for "intelligent" conversations about music, culture, art and everyday subjects and in the case of further friendship also more personal subjects. The general idea about "chat = rubbish talk" has long changed; this can be seen in the multi-lingual and multi-cultural set-up. People from all over the world join us and even if English is often used as common language, more and more visitors take the time and effort to learn the basics of the other people's languages. Also some 3D worlds focus on one language, while others are multi-lingual.
Lain: Are children welcome here? Is it safe?
Emmanuel: That is one of our biggest concerns. Yes, we think the environment is safe, as sufficient intelligent adults are around. Chat and instant messaging gives people the power of "being anonymous" and unfortunately some people misuse that. We do everything to keep our public environments child-friendly and offer parents the possibility to add a password to the "level" of world the child is allowed in. Also we have a team of experienced people who welcome newcomers and warn people when the conversation is hurtful for others, be it children or related to culture, race or belief. We do have conduct guidelines and ask people to read them before entering. If someone is offensive they receive a warning. Then if the abuse continues that person is removed from the environment for anywhere from five minutes to permanently. If the person was acting against the law, we immediately involve the police and give all details needed.
Lain: What are some of the activities people will find when they come here?
Emmanuel: There are 4 main streams in what we offer: Building, Gaming, Music and communities. This technology offers everyone the possibility to build his/her own 3D environment, alone or with others. So building contests and visiting existing builds is a fun thing to do. Also several games are available and some Role playing adventure games are being built. Regarding Music, this environment brings musicians and audience together. Bands can broadcast their music, chat with the public and hear their reactions. Most people who come online are here to share something with others or even to have a moment of peace and quiet while building or playing a game of chess. We also organise yearly events; this year it will be a Saint Nicolas treasure hunt for all Dutch people in the world during the first week of December 2003.
Lain: What makes AW Europe unique?
Emmanuel: The group of people working on what we want to bring: the next generation of Internet communication, a much more personal way of communicating with others. Also the combination of entertainment, communication and professional business use of the software makes us pioneers, and we love it. We can without a problem, bring tens of thousands of people online via the internet, in real-time, interactively and in recognizable environments. No special gadgets, no travel, no delay. I think the fact that we are the first company combining instant messaging, chat and 3D for professional use shows the uniqueness of what we offer.
Lain: Why should I consider becoming a "citizen"? What are the benefits?
Emmanuel: That is for each person to decide. Entry in AW-Europe is free for everybody; you enter as a tourist and can enjoy chat, building in a public world and some of the games. Becoming a citizen of course gives you the software extras like your own registered name, choice of hundreds of avatars, "whispering" with your friends, instant messages and "join me" features, special events etc. But much more important for most is becoming a member of a community of great and especially fun people. One of the benefits of being a member is that people who are willing to help, can become part of the special teams who make the games, organize the contests or build up new ideas. If you consider the cost/benefits of citizenship compared to an evening at the cinema, AW Europe is quite economical and a lot more fun!.
Lain: What does the future hold for AW Europe?
Emmanuel: *smiles* Businesswise, we expect AW-Europe to become one of the leading companies in 3D portal technology within the next year. Think of virtual shopping centers where you meet live shop assistants, the Virtual Band Warz where musicians from all over the world meet and compete or virtual representations of cities where you want to go on holiday (inlcuding the ski-slopes or beach-bars). Regarding communities and chat, we expect to have an interesting part of the market, as we are a multi-lingual set-up. AW-Europe will also release several new internet games early next year, and expects to release a new game every 3 months.
Thanks to Emmanuel Gruijs for taking the time to answer my questions. This software is fun, it's cool and best of all, it's free to enter as a tourist. Becoming a citizen has many advantages and for less than the price of one movie ticket a month, it's cheap entertainment.
Please send your comments or questions to: Lain O'Siodhachain
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