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World Review: ActiveWorlds Gate 5.0


 
Main Review

Compatible with Operating Systems:
Win 98 Win XP Win 2K Vista

World Status: Operational


World Purpose: Business

Age Suitability: Anyone


World-Type

ActiveWorlds Gate 5.0 launched on November the 26th 2009, in readiness for the launch of ActiveWorlds 5.0 on December the 1st 2009. As always this gate world is the primary embarkation environment for the platform.

Version 5 has seen many fundamental differences over the previous versions. Not least of which being that its visual construction is entirely different.

The world of ActiveWorlds Gate 5 (or AWGate as it is locally known) is a small one. This alliteration being smaller than most, in terms of accessible area. It is barely 70 metres across, and arranged in a rough off-pentagon. The world is slightly larger than the accessible area however. For the first time, there are areas which cannot be entered, even with clipping turned off. This is a first for the ActiveWorlds platform, and hints at new capabilities. These areas run around the outside of the island, which as you peer over the edge, reveals itself to be floating in the void.

Other islands are floating all around the gate, but since you cannot fly over to them directly, they can be taken for metaphors of the other worlds in the ActiveWorlds platform, accessible from the gate only when you know how. This is a new level of subtlety not previously encountered with this development studio.


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AWGate?s island is fairly simple and functional. On the outside, there are a few trees, a collection of almost Grecian deity statues reaching towards the heavens, and a large number of marble paths and manicured lawns. Very much giving the feel of a home of the gods. Not all the statues are motionless, and we see some such as a spinning, distorting and reforming ActiveWorlds logo, very reminiscent of the Lawnmower Man spinning effect.

The centre of the island is dominated by five domes: A massive central dome surrounded by four smaller ones. The larger possesses a globe on top, which shows faintly the countries of Earth, but is almost transparent, covered with a second, larger dome of rippling water. Both are not directly connected to the dome, but spin lazily over the top of it, where the tip of the dome opens like metallic petals to support it. Again the motif of power, barely constrained, almost god-like.

Four doors lead into the main dome, one near each of the small domes, which reveal to be hollow, and contain a myriad of photos of ActiveWorlds worlds inside. Each small dome is dedicated to a single subject area. One for business uses of ActiveWorlds, one for Education, one for Gaming and one for Community. Other than the pictures inside, which are themselves non-interactive, there is nothing to do in the smaller domes, so we move on. The wall of the larger dome slides open in star-trek style doors here, and we enter the main one, through a short corridor behind the door.


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The corridor is very short; perhaps five metres all told, and is open at the far end, straight onto the central space of the dome, which is easily 40 metres across. This wide space is clear of clutter, grey metallic walls around it offering clean lines. A single flag flutters in an unseen soft breeze by the entrance of the corridor, and of the other three, identifying the nature of the small dome they lead to.

Around the periphery, a variety of small rooms, some with doors wide, others with firmly shut doors, are scattered. Each has a specific purpose for newcomers to the platform. A mezzanine level running above them, is also open to the central area, and offers space for future expansion, as well as potential standing room for future events. High above, the base of that aforementioned globe can be seen lazilly spinning; Antarctica faintly visible.


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The World in Brief

This AWGate, much more than its predecessors, is set up not as a place to ?hang out?, but as an introduction, a place to learn about the platform and then move on. Everything about the construction is geared to this end. Sadly, it is of course version 5 of the gate, and from the start, from the earliest days of its existence, the Gate was always where many regulars who only saw the platform as a glorified chatroom, would hang out. With the advent of the new version, this has not changed, and so a great deal of moaning was encountered by the regulars, as to how this environment needed to be jazzed up, as it did not make them feel welcome to stay. Moaning that of course took place repeatedly, in the world that newcomers to the platform always see upon initial entry. Whoops.

Still, if the rather vocal thoughts of this segment of the population can be ignored, the Gate does it?s job rather well. There is a Gatekeeeper?s station kiosk present on the main floor, which is regularly staffed by a guide ? who unfortunately does not always seem too up on the technical capabilities of the platform, or its possibilities. Several times during the review process, the Gatekeeper on duty at the time, advertised ActiveWorlds as the best chatroom on the web. Considering that is nowhere near what it is about, it seemed unfortunate that this was the marketing approach being taken. Especially as it went against the grain of the numerous information rooms around the central area, working so hard to prove its not a chat room.


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Each of these rooms is barely five metres deep, by maybe seven wide ? slightly shallower than the entrance corridors for obvious reason. For most, the doors are open and welcoming. A few with closed doors signify that there is not yet enough marketing content to promote the platform to the desired intent. For ActiveWorlds, such a state is normal. The material does exist, but the company have a notably poor track record at self-promotion.

Of the information that is present however, it is well presented and structured. Each room is dedicated to a completely different purpose, and full of in-world hyperlinks to open the in-built web browser, or direct teleportation links to other worlds of the platform.

One of these rooms deals with resources to help an aspiring artist, as art projects make up a sizeable portion of work in ActiveWorlds. How-to and tools to create textures, 3D models, unique avatars, even create sequence files for expression. How to upload them, and add your own work into yours or a friend?s 3D world. What it does not contain, sadly, is links to or even pictures of, some of the amazing and high profile art projects to use the ActiveWorlds platform.


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Another room is dedicated entirely to hosting of 3D worlds, and tutorials attempting to explain both the benefits of having your own world, and how to go about setting one up. A third is dedicated to bots ? user programmable sub-programs that you can bolt on to increase the experience. Every registered user is allowed up to three at any time. This room details some of the basics, and some of the more popular bots. It also looks at using the software?s SDK to make your own.


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A music room is dedicated to the independent radio stations that use ActiveWorlds as their hosts. No explanation of each is sadly given, and you have to try each yourself to see what they are about.

Another room is given over to building, and showing how to assemble 3D models together in the 3D space to create anything you can conceive of. This one at least, comes with photographs as well.


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Sub Reviews

Here at Virtual Worldlets, we look at all worlds, whether for entertainment, training, medicare, industry or military use. Thus, we have the situation where different uses judge by different criteria. Below are a series of sub-reviews, each tailored to a different aspect of the world.

 

Educational
Virtual environments as classrooms, museums, theme parks, or galleries. Holding conferences or training for the job at hand. Holding their own, or beating back the physical for locational learning.


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AWGate houses no educational material itself, however it serves as a directory for a small fraction of the educational material the ActiveWorlds platform houses, and can be used as a stepping stone into the other worlds of the platform. Still, it is not without problems. A great many of the wonderful resources at time of review, had not yet actually been assigned world and area co-ordinates to actually get to them. It is still unclear whether or not this is going to occur, so educator examination prior to sending a class is most definitely advised.

 

 

Overall
It?s a nice attempt from a company infamous for not having the first clue how to self-promote, to do just that. The whole world is set up to inspire awe, then overload you with information, and push you into the rest of the platform. This one feels like more of an airport terminal than a village, which is definitely for the better.

However, resistance from the established community, many of which lack the more modern (under three years old) computer systems AWGate 5 expects, definitely works to slow it?s overbearing effectiveness as an introductory portal.

It?s an improvement on what has been around before but it is a long way from perfect, and the introductory material is more heavily geared towards making the sponsors look good, than it is providing a solid foundation for a newcomer, or a directory of information for an old hand.

AWGate 5 is progress, but it is unclear how effective it can be.


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Rating 77 / 100
Newbie Friendliness
13.0
/ 15
Community Values
14.0
/ 15
Believability
10.0
/ 15
Immersion
10.0
/ 15
Administration
5.0
/ 10
Automated help
9.0
/ 10
Code Integrity
9.0
/ 10
Entertainment
7.0
/ 10

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