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Stu Shepherd Art
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"Microcosm"/"EC Habitats"  -  Electric Communities 1996-1997
Above is a screenshot of "Habitats" running, with one of the simple 3D avatars in place.  EC's most innovative Virtual World, Habitats was a collection of VRML 3D regions that demonstrated a range of technological innovations, but also showed that the infrastructure for successful online communal 3D virtual worlds was still a few years from maturity. Bandwidth and Lag issues were the largest problems, that and the limitations of Java in graphic rendering.  Total Texture budget for this region was in the 800k range Below are the six locked camera views, which you could swtich between while in the region..
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or  2006 Stu Shepherd
This page was last updated: June 3, 2011
Communities.com 1998
To create a compelling 3D space without the inevitable "giant pixel" problems that a free camera view would create, the choice was made to lock a set of cameras into postion. This allowed the textures to be built no bigger than the largest size displayed on screen. Large areas were allowed to stretch a bit in some views, but at the time the overall effect was totally beyond anything anyone else was doing online.  It pre-dated Second Life by a decade!
Note also that there were no lights in this scene.; I built all lighting into the textures. I built very simple models and captured a sense of detail in the textures. For example, the fencing was a single polygon with a single texture. There was no tiling available so all textures are complete.  Note the "jaggy" edges in the screenshot were an artifact of the rendering engine (no aliasing between 3D components.) Several locations in the backgrounds of the view were clickable, which would take you to a separate region (The Theater, the Square Rigger Avatar store, the Mountain Villa, the Night Beach and the Cruise Ship; more would have been added, such as the hotel.) Only people who's avatars were in the same region as you could chat with you directly, and then every conversation by every avatar in that region would be visible at all times to facilitate group interaction.  Artistically, the Beach Town world consisted of a series of locations strung along a resort style beach, with the first location being in full sunny beach glor y, and the last region being the "Night Beach" - perfect for a campfire and watching the moon glistening on the waves.

The fun part is always the testing -- that's my avatar waving from the top screenshot. The icons on the screenshot were to easily facilitate gestures and communication between avatars. By the way, two of EC's founders (Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer - my boss for most of my time with the company) originated the term "Avatar" for the use of an image representing a real person in a virtual world only a few years prior to this project.
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BeachTown screenshot
Click for another full size  view of the application as it appeared when in use.
BeachTown Downtown - Microcosm/EC Habitats 
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