Munich-based VRML pioneer blaxxun Interactive, which took a particularly savage beating in the great VRML slump of 1997, has re-entered America with a new multi-user virtual environment called Colony City (http://www.colonycity.com/). Part VRML world, part multi user dungeon and part chat room, the compelling feature of Colony City is supposed to be its potential to […]
Munich-based VRML pioneer blaxxun Interactive, which took a particularly savage beating in the great VRML slump of 1997, has re-entered America with a new multi-user virtual environment called Colony City (http://www.colonycity.com/). Part VRML world, part multi user dungeon and part chat room, the compelling feature of Colony City is supposed to be its potential to become a virtual community like GeoCities. You can actually navigate over to your friends’ house, like riding a bicycle, enthuses blaxxun’s Patrick Kitani. Indeed, most of aspects of the physical world, from houses and offices through to an economy, elections and a class system have been translated into VRML for Colony City. The science fiction based world with its Star Trek special interest groups is conceived as the first of several. A soccer city is planned, as is a financial services city, just to be really outlandish, Kitano chuckles. He traces VRML’s troubles last year partly to the lack of processor power and bandwidth to render compelling environments, and partly to the perception on the part of enterprises that VRML was inevitably frivolous in nature. It was during those dark days that blaxxun changed its name from Black Sun in a desperate attempt to increase its appeal to corporate customers (CI No 3,280). Kitano says that many players went under or were swallowed up by larger companies, notably SGI. The survivors lived on their consulting work. That was blaxxun’s recourse. For the last year or so it has been developing multimedia brochures and annual reports for IBM, Siemans-Nixdorf and Bacardi. Now that times are happier, the company is once more entertaining its conviction that 3D can and must infiltrate business and consumer software. The acquisition of Cosmo Software by Sony and InterVista by Platinum Technology lend a certain credence to that view (CI 3,440). And blaxxun has evidently learned a marketing trick or two from its rivals: Two buzzwords we’re using are multimedia communications, Kitano says. As far as Colony City is concerned, Kitano believes the sky’s the limit. The software can scale up to a million members. They don’t have to worry about urban problems, says Kitano cheerfully. It could be a totalitarian society – we have to kick off undesirable elements, he admits rather alarmingly, but we are expecting the community to be self-policing. The oft-cited comparison with GeoCities is perhaps not the most apt, then. Since that company introduced a watermark to identify its pages, its community’s self-policing instincts have turned upon the host (CI No 3,439). Child or Frankenstein, Colony City has already come to life. 2000 members signed up in the first three days.