juil 08 2008

My VRML story… by Mr Phillip

Here is a “rough draft” of my story. It is not too exciting, it may sound better in French.
Maybe you have some questions for an interview that I could answer if this does not cover your needs ?
My VRML story…
Back in 1993, a supervisor suggested I take some self study courses to improve my standing in the company. I took one on SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language). It was interesting and introduced me to a markup language that used preconceived tags. This introduction allowed me to easily understand HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and in 1994 I made my first web page. Whilst browsing Netscape help sections, I stumbled across a viewer called 3DLive and found the first tutorial on what became VRML (Virtual Reality Mark-up (or Modeling) Language). With a text editor (vi on an SGI), a little patience, and some trial-and-error, I was able to place eight columns on top of a few flattened boxes and created what I called the VRML shrine. That was my first unique creation. http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/1855/shrinetourvrml2_gz.wrl
I soon discovered that clever people had made some tools which allow the creation of 3D objects without having to be concerned with the underlying code. I forget the name of the first 30-day-demo I downloaded, but before the trial period was expired, I had made a number of “lofted extrusions” that were saved as VRML objects. You make an outline of something, and it gets lifted up into a 3D version of that profile. I made some things that I thought were pretty magical. These items were static 3D ; they just sat there and looked cool.
So, I started looking around for other 30-day-demos of software that I could use for free. I found a few and spent that summer learning and using each tool until it expired, then moving on to the next one. Soon, I discovered Cosmo Worlds a content creation tool that was written by the same folks that solidified VRML (from the SGI OpenInventor base). Cosmo Worlds added a fourth dimension ; time. The items could be animated to move back and forth or spin around ! Whoopie ! This was about 1996 when VRML 2.0 came out, soon to be called VRML97 when it received ISO approval. I spent some time reading tutorials and experimenting and came up with what was probably the first 3D juggling routine. http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/1855/juggle3.wrl [This used to work with Contact, it does not work in Flux, I don’t know why.] I still had some things to learn about scale ; each ball is one meter around… too large to juggle effectively.
I learned a simple way to combine a number of objects into one scene, and this collection became my first virtual environment.
I discovered VRCreator, HomeSpace Designer, and a promising little program dubbed Spazz3D. Spazz was newly released for “beta testing”, so it was free (a price I could afford). The beta test lasted at least five to seven years (the world’s longest beta test). The programmer was a fine programmer, but like most programmers, very weak on developing documentation. So, I took it upon myself to write up a tutorial on how to stack boxes… one thing lead to another and soon I was making a web page almost every time I built something or as soon as I had it sorta figured out. I learned VRML by reading documentation, but I learned it even better by writing documentation for others.
The only thing that could be better than putting 3D on a web page, would be having visitors in a virtual world that you had created… I discovered the Blaxxun Community Server where multi-user worlds could be shared. I soon discovered ColonyCity a 3D community that evolved into what we call Cybertown today. One feature of Cybertown is that people are not just “users”, but they actually do some work in helping to run the community. I was granted the privileges of collecting and uploading worlds members created to a location called the Suburbs. The Cybertown Suburbs remains the largest collection of independently authored VRML today.
I ended up building about a thousand objects and worlds. I authored many “help” pages and documented several dozen different VRML tricks and techniques. I created about 25 Worlds or 3D environments which varied in subject from ancient Greco-Roman themes to a base on the moon. I’ve learned to use 30 or 40 different tools for modeling or some other aspect of building 3D items. Times are changing, and so is 3D on the web. VRML is dead, long live X3D ! I look forward to the challenges and rewards of this new syntax. Happy Building !

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