Creating your own World
The advantage to running your own Active World Server, is that you don't have the restrictions of building in someone else's world (such as OW world.) Anyone building within OW world must comply with the limitations of that world. Having your own world allows you to control what objects are used, who has access, and to create a world that represents your own ideas, mood and theme.
You make all the decisions about the way your world will work. These include the choice of backdrop, what artwork will be available, who will be able to build, who has access to special commands and objects, and more. When you make these decisions, you decide what the overall mood of your world will be. Take as much time as you can afford to plan things ahead! Before you start building, you should choose a theme, choose what objects and avatars to use (either the free Outerworlds objects, your own creations or a combination) and design a layout.
Choosing a Theme
Your theme depends on your overall strategy, and will both limit and guide your choices. Besides the obvious factor of who your expected user are going to be, there are some other factors which will weigh heavily in choice of a theme, including:
Creating Building Models
Before you start making the objects, it is important to think about your overall goals. If you are going to open your world to building by many different users, you must plan even more carefully. You can expect that some of your visitors will devote a substantial amount of time to building in your world, and if you make changes after they start they may be very upset that the look of their constructions has changed unexpectedly.
One limiting factor is available memory. Each texture you use in your world can take up anywhere from 32K (for a 128 x 128 texture) to half a megabyte or even more (for 512 x 512 or larger textures). Also, animated textures such as the flame in OW world can take up many times more than that (since each frame in the animation is stored as a separate texture.) Keep in mind that some of your visitors may only have 4 or even as little as 2 megabytes of total texture memory available on their video cards. Texture memory is always a scarce resource and using too much of it can significantly reduce the performance for your visitors and reduce the likelihood that they will ever return again. So, always try to use the smallest texture necessary for the job, and re-use the same texture on different objects wherever possible (a texture used many times in different places only needs to be stored in memory once.)
You can create a relatively small suite of building models which share a reasonably small set of versatile textures, from which just about anything can then be built. Of course, there will always be odd pieces that don't fit into any other category; for example, the two "drinks" in OW world use their own textures which are probably not suitable for any other objects. You should plan these exceptions in advance as much as possible and weigh their importance to the simulation of reality within the theme you have chosen.
Deciding on a Layout
Before allowing users to build, or even before you build anything yourself, consider a layout. If you want to promote traffic in certain areas, these areas should have significant construction which is worth a detour to see, or they should be easily accessible.
The most easily accessible point in any world is the default drop zone ("Ground Zero"). You should reserve a large area around Ground Zero to start with, in case your plans change later. This will be the first area users will build in, and if unregulated, they may build very densely, which can reduce performance and detract from your world's first impression to new visitors.
The layout of this central area is crucial to the success of your world. We recommend you follow these guidelines:
These guidelines are also good for other areas. They are even more important to the Ground Zero area since it is the first place your visitors will see.
Designing a Layout
Think about the overall layout of your world as if you were a user coming to visit it for the first time, or someone taking a tour of it later. What would you expect to see? For instance, if you have street objects, you might want to have a main highway system in place in advance. Although streets aren't strictly necessary, they provide a way of marking off areas, and making it easier for users to orient themselves.
In order to avoid the confusion of the Web in 3D, plan where you want your teleports to be. Too many teleports, or too many areas containing them, will be confusing. There should only be a few areas containing multiple teleports.
You can split your world into smaller areas, such as commercial and residential districts, entertainment areas, etc.. But as users get accustomed to the layout, and especially if they are allowed to build, it will become harder to change anything, so make sure you put as much planning into it as possible.
There will be a point of diminishing returns after which it can make sense to just go ahead and change things. Chances are that no matter how much planning you put into your world, at some point you will find yourself desperately wanting to make a substantial change. Fortunately, we can always create new worlds; there will never be a shortage of "virtual real estate". On the other hand, just as with the World Wide Web, users do get attached to their creations and favorites, so you want to plan each world as well as you can.
Laying Out Your World
You will want to cover a significant amount of your world before opening it if user construction is allowed. Outerworlds doesn't currently allow ownership of areas per se, only of objects. This allows users to build within areas that other users consider to be theirs. If you plan to charge users by the area they want, you can then "cede" areas to your customers as they pay for them. This approach has been used successfully in worlds such as Colony Alpha.
In any case, before you open a world for construction, you should at least cover key areas, such as the Ground Zero area. You can use WALKs or their rough equivalent to cover these areas. Cover should be continuous, but avoid overlapping objects. Also, if you use a reasonably conventional ground object as in OW world, you should try to build a bit off the ground with your ground-cover objects. If you place flat objects too close to the ground you may experience "bleed through" when you view the scene from high above.
Posting Objects on the Web
When you set up a world, all of the files describing the objects, avatars, and sounds in your world will be served from a web server. You will need to choose a location on the World Wide Web for your files. A typical world needs approximately 10 megabytes of web space to store objects. If you find yourself needing much more than that it may be a sign that you have too much content in your world and that your visitors will be discouraged by lengthy download times.
You can see an example of the way an object website is set up by browsing the URL objects.Outerworlds.com/aw. This is the object directory for OW world. Often the best way to understand how an Outerworlds object directory is laid out is to first examine an existing one.
Under the main web directory must be five sub-directories:
Note that except for the textures which are stored as JPEGs, all files stored in each of these directories must be stored in zip format, with one file per zip. You may use pkzip, WinZip, or Unix gzip to create these files. Regardless of which utility you use, the file must have a .zip extension when placed on the website.
DOS Tricks For Creating Zip Files
You'll probably add new artwork in batches to minimize out-of-sync artwork situations such as the one discussed above, and to make it easier to keep track of your changes. If you have a batch of RWX files to zip up at once, you can use one DOS command to zip them all up. For instance, if they are called wall20, wall21, wall22, and wall23, you could just type this at the DOS prompt:
In this case because of the similarity of the filenames, we can simplify even more:
You can use a batch file to automate this further, but use %%f instead of %f within the batch file.
Since URLs are case-sensitive, when you design objects be sure to always use lower case for texture names, and always make sure that all filenames (sounds, avatars, models and textures) are stored on the web in lower case.
For example, say you make an object called myobject.rwx and it contains this line:
The Outerworlds Browser client software will look on the object path for "cloth1.jpg", download it, and convert it to a texture. If the file on the web is called "Cloth1.jpg" instead it will not be found.