Habitat (video game)

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Habitat
Habitat cover.jpg
Developer(s) Lucasfilm Games, Quantum Link, Fujitsu
Publisher(s) Quantum Link, Fujitsu
Director(s) Chip Morningstar[1]
Producer(s) Steve Arnold[1]
Designer(s) Chip Morningstar[1]
Randy Farmer
Programmer(s) Chip Morningstar[1]
Artist(s) Gary Winnick[1]
Platform(s) Commodore 64, FM Towns, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS
Release
  • NA: Habitat (Beta): Q2 1986
  • NA: Club Caribe: Q3 1988
  • JP: Fujitsu Habitat: Q3 1990
  • NA: WorldsAway: September 1995
[citation needed]
Genre(s) Massively multiplayer online role-playing game
Mode(s) Multiplayer

Habitat is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed by LucasArts. It is the first attempt at a large-scale commercial virtual community[2][3] that was graphic based. Initially created in 1985 by Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar,[4] the game was made available as a beta test in 1986 by Quantum Link, an online service for the Commodore 64 computer and the corporate progenitor to America Online. Both Farmer and Morningstar were given a First Penguin Award at the 2001 Game Developers Choice Awards for their innovative work on Habitat. As a graphical MUD[5] it is considered a forerunner of modern MMORPGs unlike other online communities of the time (i.e. MUDs and massively multiplayer onlines with text-based interfaces). The Habitat had a GUI and large user base of consumer-oriented users, and those elements in particular have made the Habitat a much-cited project and acknowledged benchmark for the design of today's online communities that incorporate accelerated 3D computer graphics and immersive elements into their environments.

Culture

Habitat is "a multi-participant online virtual environment", a cyberspace. Each participant ("player") uses a home computer (Commodore 64) as an intelligent, interactive client, communicating via modem and telephone over a commercial packet-switching network to a centralized, mainframe host system. The client software provides the user interface, generating a real-time animated display of what is going on and translating input from the player into messages to the host. The host maintains the system's world model enforcing the rules and keeping each player's client informed about the constantly changing state of the universe.

— Farmer 1993

Users in the virtual world were represented by onscreen avatars,[6][2][7] meaning that individual users had a third-person perspective of themselves, making it rather like a videogame. Players in the same region (denoted by all objects and elements shown on a particular screen) could see, speak (through onscreen text output from the users), and interact with one another. Interestingly, Habitat was governed by its citizenry. The only off-limits portions were those concerning the underlying software constructs and physical components of the system. The users were responsible for laws and acceptable behavior within the Habitat. The authors of Habitat were greatly concerned with allowing the broadest range of interaction possible, since they felt that interaction, not technology or information, truly drove cyberspace.[2] Avatars had to barter for resources within the Habitat, and could even be robbed or "killed" by other avatars. Initially, this led to chaos within the Habitat, which led to rules and regulations (and authority avatars) to maintain order.

Timeline

Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar created the first graphical virtual world, which was released in a beta test by Lucasfilm Games in 1986 as Habitat for the Quantum Link service for the Commodore 64.[8] Habitat ran from 1986[6] to 1988, and was closed down at the end of the pilot run. The service proved too costly to be viable, so Lucasfilm Games recouped the cost of development by releasing a sized down version called Club Caribe on Quantum Link in 1988.[9] It was then licensed by Fujitsu in 1988,[10] and released in Japan as Fujitsu Habitat in 1990.

In 1994, Fujitsu Cultural Technologies was spun off as a new division of Fujitsu Open Systems Solutions, INC or OSSI for short. In conjunction with Electric Communities, the two companies began work on the WorldsAway project (which was codenamed Reno at the time).[11] Originally, the initial plan was for the team to work from the Fujitsu Habitat code and bring it to the Mac and Windows operating systems.[10] Unfortunately, this proved not to be possible due to the fact the underlying architecture was nothing like its predecessor Habitat due to being developed by a different team. This led to delays in the project whilst the kinks were being worked out[12] It was launched on CompuServe in 1995 as a free service for members.[13] The world was called Dreamscape[14] and moved to the public Internet in 1997 still under the operation of Fujitsu. As CompuServe morphed into AOL's "value brand", Fujitsu sought to sell off its product as they were making a loss. Inworlds.com (who later became Avaterra, Inc) stepped up and bought the licensing rights and took over the reins. In 2011 the Dreamscape was still surviving independently as one of the VZones.com worlds – owned by Stratagem Corporation. Other WorldsAway worlds using the same server software that have been launched during Stratagem times were newHorizone, Seducity, Second Kingdom and Datylus.[15] The VZones.com worlds closed in August 2014. The only remaining licensees of the technology is vzones.com.

Creation

One challenge in producing games is to resist the "conceit that all things may be planned in advance and then directly implemented according to the plan's detailed specification". Morningstar and Farmer argues that this mentality only leads to failure as the potential capabilities and imagination of a game would remain confined within the small niche of developers. They generalized this well by pointing out that "even very imaginative people are limited in the range of variation that they can produce, especially if they are working in a virgin environment uninfluenced by the works and reactions of other designers".[16]

With this outlook Morningstar and Farmer stated that a developer should consider providing a variety of possible experiences within the cyberspace, ranging from events with established rules and goals (i.e. hunts) to activities propelled by the user's own motivations (entrepreneur) to completely free-form, purely existential activities (socializing with other members). The best method to manage and maintain such an immense project, they have discovered, was to simply to let the people drive the direction of design and aid them in achieving their desires. In short the owners became the facilitators as much as designers and implementers.

Regardless, the authors note the importance of separation between the access levels of the designer and the operator. They classify the two coexisting virtualities as the "infrastructure level" (implementation of the cyberspace, or the "reality" of the world), which the creators should only control, and the "experiential level" (visual and interactive feature for users), which the operators are free to explore. The user not need to be aware of how data are encoded in the application. This naturally follows from the good programming practice of encapsulation.[17]

Revival

An effort is currently underway to relaunch Habitat using emulation of both the Commodore 64 and the original Q-Link system that Habitat ran on.[18] The project is headed by Alex Handy, founder of The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE), who received the game's source code from its original developers.[19] In July 2016, the source code was uploaded by MADE to GitHub under MIT license for open review.[20][21]

In February 2017, an open-source project to revive Habitat led by Randy Farmer (one of Habitat's creators) named NeoHabitat was announced to the public. The project is currently requesting volunteer contributors to aide in developing code, region design, documentation, and provide other assistance. Utilizing Quantumlink Reloaded, a new Habitat server was created which support the ability for an avatar to log in, manipulate objects, chat and navigate between sample regions.[22]

WorldsAway

A new locale opening in the world of Dreamscape circa 1996.

WorldsAway is an online graphical "virtual chat"[23] environment in which users designed their own two dimensionally represented avatars.[24][25] It was one of the first visual virtual worlds.[23] In 1996 it was one of the top 20 most popular forums on Compuserve.[26] WorldsAway users would login, first only via dial-up Compuserve accounts, later via the public internet. First-time users would choose their gender, name, head and body style on a virtual ship before entering the world proper to meet other online users (these could be changed later by paying a quantity of tokens).[27]

Each subscriber would view and manipulate their own avatar which was displayed in a limited set of poses and profiles.[25] A user would walk their avatar around a virtual city (named Kymer), enter shops and teleporter cabins, gesture or chat to other avatars (cartoon like text bubbles would appear), and carry out various in-game actions.[23][25] Ty Burr's 1996 review of the three graphical chat worlds then available (the others were Worlds Chat and Time Warner's The Palace) rated WorldsAway the lowest at C+, criticizing the slowness and lack of flexibility.[23]

Unlike some modern virtual worlds, WorldsAway did not boast 3D graphics or any combat system (although inworld combat had been planned, it was never implemented).[28] Most time spent in the world by users was spent on economic endeavors and chat. Which meant that the world had a monetary token system and virtual business endeavors could be set up such as Clover's famous auctions with commissions for sales, or Dennis S's nightclub with admission charges, or the payments for the various street games such as bingo. The token system facilitated the economy. Avatars received tokens based on the number of hours played, from sales of objects, from gifts, and other sources such as running enterprises. Rare and/or functional objects were introduced into the world by stores and Acolytes. Acolytes were appointed by the Oracles and had access to changing supplies of objects that they gave away or awarded as prizes to the community. Clover's famous auctions were held weekly and people bid vast amounts of tokens to acquire rare items such as heads, clothing, furniture, and other useful or artistic objects. Apartments could be purchased, furnished, or sold. Other popular past-times were playing Bingo[23] and other simple games. These games were not a part of the original software; however, were made by third party developers as plug-ins.[28]

Dreamscape

Dreamscape was the first graphical online chat environment built on the WorldsAway platform. It allowed users to create an avatar to represent themselves in a 2D world and interact with other users and virtual items.[29] The player chooses an avatar, which is the graphical representation of the player. The avatar can text chat, move, gesture, use facial expressions, and is customizable in a virtually unlimited number of ways. Avatars earn money, own possessions, rent apartments, and make friends. The environment itself is composed of thousands of screens, in which the player's avatar moves about.[4]

Literature

  • Farmer, F. R. (1993). "Social Dimensions of Habitat's Citizenry." Virtual Realities: An Anthology of Industry and Culture, C. Loeffler, ed., Gijutsu Hyoron Sha, Tokyo, Japan
  • "Habitat Anecdotes and other boastings" by F. Randall Farmer (Fall 1988), Electric Communities

Bibliography

  • ^ Bruce Damer (1997). "WorldsAway". digitalspace.com. Retrieved 2008-02-25. Depth 2 1/2-D 
  • ^ Ty Burr (1996-05-03). "The Palace; Worldsaway; Worlds Chat". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  • ^ Steve Homer (1996-06-17). "Nothing on telly? There will be". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-02-25. online chat system that allows users to adopt personalities through avatars, surrogate graphic characters which appear on screen. As people "talk" (by typing on their keyboards) words appear in speech bubbles. [dead link]
  • ^ Steven V. Brull; Robert D. Hof; Julia Flynn; Neil Gross (1996-03-18). "FUJITSU GETS WIRED (int'l edition)". Business Week. Retrieved 2008-02-25. More than 15,000 subscribers, intrigued by this extension of "chat", log on via CompuServe in 147 countries around the world. 
  • ^ Robert Rossney (June 1996). "Metaworlds" (4.06). Wired. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "Habitat (1987) Commodore 64 credits". MobyGames. Blue Flame Labs. Retrieved 3 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Morningstar, C. and F. R. Farmer (1990) "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat", The First International Conference on Cyberspace, Austin, TX, USA
  3. ^ Robinett, W. (1994). "Interactivity and Individual Viewpoint in Shared Virtual Worlds: The Big Screen vs. Networked Personal Displays." Computer Graphics, 28(2), 127e
  4. ^ a b Robert Rossney (June 1996). "Metaworlds" (4.06). Wired. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  5. ^ Castronova, Edward (2006). Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games. University Of Chicago Press. p. 291. ISBN 0-226-09627-0. [...] established Habitat as a result. This is described as a 2D graphical MUD [...] 
  6. ^ a b Lytel, David (Winter 1986). "Between Here and Interactivity". Hispanic Engineer & IT. Career Communications Group. 2 (5): 50–54. ISSN 1088-3452. 
  7. ^ GameSpot, "Classic Studio Postmortem: Lucasfilm Games", Chip Morningstar, 24 March 2014, accessed 03 April 2015
  8. ^ "The Game Archeologist Moves Into Lucasfilm's Habitat". Joystiq. 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2013-07-09. 
  9. ^ Smith, Rob (2008). Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts. Chronicle Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-8118-6184-8. 
  10. ^ a b http://habitatchronicles.com/2004/04/you-cant-tell-people-anything/
  11. ^ http://habitatchronicles.com/2009/09/elko-i-the-life-death-life-death-life-death-and-resurrection-of-the-elko-session-sever/
  12. ^ http://www.fudco.com/chip/resume.html
  13. ^ Remembering 1.x, Lizard Man, November 3rd, 1998
  14. ^ Rossney
  15. ^ Stratagem Corporation
  16. ^ "The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat". stanford.edu. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  17. ^ Wardrip-Fruin, Noah and Nick Montfort, eds. The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. ISBN 0-262-23227-8. "Lucasfilm's Habitat" pp. 663–677.
  18. ^ "The Habitat Hackathon". The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  19. ^ "Bringing Habitat Back to Life". PasteMagazine. Retrieved 2016-02-22. 
  20. ^ Francis, Bryant (2016-07-06). "Source code for Lucasfilm Games' '80s MMO Habitat released". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2016-07-06. 
  21. ^ Lucasfilm Games' MMO 'Habitat' source code released by Brittany Vincent on Engadget.com (2016-07-07)
  22. ^ "NeoHabitat Website". 
  23. ^ a b c d e Ty Burr
  24. ^ Bruce Damer
  25. ^ a b c Steve Homer
  26. ^ Business Week
  27. ^ Voyage on the Argo: Joining the Dreamscape Community, Bruce Damer
  28. ^ a b Gullible's Travels: Through the Dreamscape, Bruce Damer, Avatars!, "This is not a shoot-em-up world"
  29. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/19961120223218/http://www.worldsaway.com/Worldsaway/press2/wafact.html

External links

  • NeoHabitat
  • History and screen shots of the original Habitat by Keith Elkin
  • Playing Catch Up: Habitat's Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer on Gamasutra by Alistair Wallis (October 12, 2006)
  • VZN's guide to Club Caribe Screenshots and comparisons to the modern version of habitat, Vzones
  • COMPUTE! magazine article about Habitat from COMPUTE! ISSUE 77 / OCTOBER 1986 / PAGE 32
  • Enter The Online World of Lucasfilm RUN Magazine Issue 32
  • VZones Website
  • VZones Network Archives archives of locales, screenshots and info from 1995 to 2003
  • WorldsAway Graphics archived screenshots from 1996
  • Original WorldsAway DreamScape Website
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