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Jim Bumgardner Mansion Chat Transcript

November 15, 2002
wedog™:
I'd like to welcome and introduce Jim Bumgardner, creator of the Palace software.
jbum
Hi everyone :)
webdog™:
Often known as "jbum", Jim has a vast knowledge of virtual worlds and social aspects of the Internet.
Auto:
applause
webdog™:
We are grateful to have him here at Mansion to celebrate the 7th Anniversary of the public release of the Palace software.
webdog™:
)applause
webdog™:
Welcome!
jbum:
thank's for inviting me. :)
jbum:
when do the rockettes come out?
Auto:
they where occupied, sorry Jbum
jbum:
damn.
webdog™:
ah, back again!
jbum:
did we lose you there? welcome back.
webdog™:
:(jbum coughs politely, and asks for a green smiley ball to crush under his thumb)
jbum:
heh.
webdog™:
We have a bunch of questions, mostly submitted by users on www.thepalace.com for you tonight.
jbum:
you got questions. i got answers.
webdog™:
The first part we want to delve into is the history of the Palace.
jbum:
cool.
webdog™:
Ready for the first question?
jbum:
yes please :)
webdog™:
"Jim, could you tell me a little about yourself and what led you to create the Palace?"
jbum:
hmmm okay.
webdog™:
:you can just take the first part
jbum:
i recently took a personality test that said that i am a 50% audio and 50% visual thinker.
jbum:
but that i am 30% more right brained than left.
webdog™:
hmmm
jbum:
meaning, i suppose... i have no idea.
webdog™:
:I'm a 90% olfactory thinker.
jbum:
i went to art school in the early 80s, studied music, and then got into computers
jbum:
so i'm a person, i guess who likes to mix creative things with technical things.
jbum:
incidentally, before i go on,
webdog™:
A catalyst of sorts/
webdog™:
yes?
jbum:
i should mention that i put a very detailed accounting of the origin of the palace on my website
jbum:
it's a copy of an email i sent a few weeks ago. it can be found here:
jbum:
http://www.jbum.com/details.html
Auto:
a very interesting read
webdog™:
Better than the Reader's Digest version
jbum:
my daughter jenna just picked this time to ask me how to get an avatar from photoshop into the palace.
jbum:
funny.
webdog™:
lol
jbum:
anyway, the short answer is "i made the palace because i thought it would be something fun to do"
webdog™:
Was it as fun as you had hoped for?
jbum:
and i was right, i guess
jbum:
oh, much more. i never guessed it would turn into the life altering force (for me, anyway) it did.
jbum:
my experience with it, and its success (and lack thereof) has colored my whole adult life.
webdog™:
How did you get interested in virtual worlds?
jbum:
well, i've always been a dreamer and a reader of fantasy.
jbum:
i was a big giant Tolkien nerd in high school.
jbum:
used to walk around school with a gandalf staff.
jbum:
oy...
webdog™:
ahahaha
jbum:
still am (i geek out at theonering.net nearly everyday)
jbum:
so i was always into the *idea* of living in a fantasy world.
jbum:
and then when i got into computers, there were the early 80s BBSes
webdog™:
:Sir Ian McKellen eat your heart out
jbum:
some of which used a virtual world kind of metaphor - there was one called Citadel I remember well that was like an early kind of MUD.
webdog™:
tell our audience what a MUD is
jbum:
I tried programming a chat system in the mid 80s at work,
jbum:
a MUD, or multi-user-dungeon is a text based virtual world where people do D&D kinds of things.
webdog™:
sorry to interrupt, go on about programming the chat system.
jbum:
so yeah, before I had ever heard the word MUD, i worked on a text-based system called "Mansion"
jbum:
this was a BBS that you called on the phone, and when the modem picked up, you would see the lines "You're at the front door"
jbum:
and you would type "knock on the door" and you would see "A butler answers the door" and so on...
jbum:
and the idea was that the house was unfinished. That anyone who visited the house could add rooms at the "frontier" of the house - it had a bleeding edge.
jbum:
and people could add rooms, or they could add a rocket launcher in the backyard that took you to other planets. it was just text.
jbum:
the cool thing about it being just text was that it could really be anything you wanted.
jbum:
anyway, the "mansion" project didn't get very far, because I was working at a real-estate company and there weren't paying me to make chat software.
jbum:
so I worked on it for a few weeks, and got the basic chat mechanics - the multiuser chat system happening...
webdog™:
heh
jbum:
and then i got bogged down in the natural language-parsing stuff.
jbum:
like you could say a cup was ON the table. and a picture was ON the wall. but if you said the cup was ON the wall, what did it mean?
webdog™:
:it means my milk is on the floor again
webdog™:
Angel asks: "What gave you the idea to start the palace?"
jbum:
so then my attention wandered and i spent a few weeks working on natural language parsing, and then as I am known to do, i moved onto to something else...
jbum:
so.... angel...
jbum:
10 years later....
jbum:
i was working at time warner and i got this idea to do a graphical version of "mansion"
jbum:
at this time there was a lot of stories in the press about "3d virtual reality". the movie lawnmower man had come out recently...
jbum:
and i vividly remember an issue of Scientific American with a dataglove on the cover.
webdog™:
Ah, i remember that
jbum:
and I remember reading all these stories and thinking. "Why does it need to be in 3d?"
jbum:
i thought you could make something really cool in 2D, which would allow people greater freedom to use their imaginations (just as text gives you greater freedom still...)
jbum:
..but still have a strong visual component, which is cool too...
webdog™:
yes
jbum:
and i pictured this app, that would look a bit like that old Nintendo "Zelda" game, except with smiley heads, that you would use on your TV with a headset. You could chat with folks (using voice)
jbum:
...and move from room to room... talking to the other folks on the Cable TV system.
jbum:
(my division of Time Warner was into interactive cable tv)
webdog™:
Heh
jbum:
so I made a demo at my company, and the demo evolved....
webdog™:
So that's how you justified the project?
jbum:
yes, the cable-division wanted "games", and this was my idea for a "game"
jbum:
(although i knew it wasn't really a game)
webdog™:
Did they know?
jbum:
(but a portal into serious addiction)
webdog™:
haha
jbum:
yeah, they knew. they saw right through my proposal and rejected it.
jbum:
BUT one of the execs encouraged me to make a 'proof-of-concept' anyway, so i did.
jbum:
and it evolved over the 2-3 weeks we were working on it. when we started, it was all OVERHEAD views, like the NES Zelda game.
webdog™:
So we have a Time Warner exec to thank!
jbum:
but then the artist i was working with, Damon Williams, started making pictures where the camera was at eye level.
webdog™:
yes, i believe you have a picture on your website?
jbum:
and it was SO MUCH BETTER.
jbum:
it seems obvious now, but at the time, it was like.. hmm this is interesting...
webdog™:
http://www.jbum.com/jbum/history/index.html
webdog™:
Ah, so that was Damon's early contribution
webdog™:
Damon and Doyle Moyer made the original room artworks for the Mansion
jbum:
one of his many contributions. the whole 'interior design' of the original mansion is basically damon's
jbum:
i said 'let's have a bar HERE, and a room with a movie screen HERE and make some stairs HERE' - but they actually made the rooms.
jbum:
one of my favorite things Damon made was the original 'Mansion' exterior that shows the actual house.
Auto:
webdog™:
So how did you convince Time Warner to spin off into your own company?
jbum:
i remember the marketing folks at Time Warner picked that thing apart. they thought it looked too 'gothic' and 'scary'
jbum:
but i always liked it.
webdog™:
:that is, the formation of The Palace, Inc.
jbum:
i don't know if it was me that convinced them as much as the internet itself. The Palace was clearly a cool "internet thing" and in 1994 (when the demo was made) the Internet was becoming very hot.
jbum:
so Time Warner Interactive decided to produce the product as a marketing tool to sell their other CD-ROM games.
jbum:
they would give out the Palace on the internet, and then cross-promote other stuff on it, that was what they wanted to do...
jbum:
but then something happened...
jbum:
the division of time warner i worked for was disbanded.
jbum:
but they still wanted to keep the palace project going (because it was 'internet' hot hot hot) so they did, and it sort of developed a life of its own.
webdog™:
:it still has a life of it's own ;-)
jbum:
indeed :)
jbum:
the palace is dead. long live the palace!
webdog™:
ahaha
webdog™:
trav's freq gf asks: "After looking back at all of the trials and tribulations during the seven years in which The Palace existed, what is one (palace-related) thing you would have done differently?"
jbum:
i would have resisted the impetus for Time Warner to sell the property to Intel (this deal resulted in the stand alone company "The Palace Inc")
webdog™:
ah, i see
jbum:
once the team went from being 6-7 people to 40 people, that's when things started to go south.
webdog™:
:i remember
jbum:
ideally, the company should have been a small 6-7 person company. it might still exist today if that had happened. but in reality that was probably impossible.
jbum:
because it was owned by a very large company.
webdog™:
Later on, The Palace, Inc. went through a merger and became Communities.com
webdog™:
Jon asks: "Why exactly did Communities.com close? They were doing so well with Palace and other Palace Programs. I just don't understand why in the world they would do that when The Palace was the biggest virtual avatar chat used ever."
jbum:
yes, that's true. as far as i'm concerned though, things started going wrong around 1996.
jbum:
i didn't work for communities.com (i left right before the merger in late 1997). however, my guess is that they weren't profitable, and were finding it harder to get investments from VCs.
webdog™:
:i had to ask... that question gets asked all the time
jbum:
i don't think the palace community was capable of sustaining a company of that size.
webdog™:
"The Palace was pronounced dead over 2 years ago, and surprisingly, there are now over 1500 active servers - more than ever before. Why do you think this is?"
jbum:
because it was designed to work on small systems, and to be self-sustaining. because we started out with a small number of people, we had to build something that could exist without our support.
jbum:
and of course because it's fun and incredibly addicting.
Auto:
:indeed
webdog™:
i am not an addict
jbum:
...and because other chats aren't quite as good (most of them anyway). that will change i hope. i hear "the sims online" is going to be quite good.
webdog™:
"Where do you think the Palace community is headed over the next 2 years?"
jbum:
i don't know. i wonder if "the sims" when it is released might absorb some of the folks. it might. i remember when the palace came-to-be we absorbed a lot of the folks from Worlds Chat.
jbum:
...but at the same time there's a lot of folks here who've been here for years and years. amazing.
jbum:
and it's hard to imagine them just putting it down.
webdog™:
:I remember on New Year's Eve, 1995, you prognosticated that in a year, the Palace wouldn't exist, or it would be completely different.
webdog™:
yeah, we have some hardcore users out there!
jbum:
wow. how wrong can a person be!
jbum:
not only does it still exist, but it still uses a 512x384 window!!!!!
webdog™:
i think it was the eggnog speaking
jbum:
(the window size chosen to run on Macintosh LCs)
webdog™:
ah, those good old 12 inch CRT's
webdog™:
"What role do you currently have in the Palace community? Are there currently other virtual worlds or related projects are you involved with?"
jbum:
yeah.... (raises fist at bastards at apple... Dammmm you.....)
jbum:
my current role in the palace community consists of visiting yearly to give retrospective interviews.
jbum:
other than that, no role whatsoever.
webdog™:
heh
Auto:
an idol amung us palace mortals
jbum:
i am still somewhat interested in virtual worlds, but this interest competes with several other strong interests, which have not been sated as much as my virtual worlds interest.
jbum:
therefore, they get more attention.
webdog™:
Such as your chess program?
jbum:
those interests include: graphics and music programming, game programming and at the moment COMPUTER CHESS.. (and the upcoming two towers movie...)
jbum:
my involvedment in virtual communities is mostly restricted to the online chess company. i am 'plywood' at freechess.org - the free internet chess server.
webdog™:
You mentioned it, tell us more about your involvement in Two Towers.
jbum:
i'm trying to fix my program so it'll beat the other programs.
jbum:
:)
webdog™:
:-)
jbum:
my involvement with the Two Towers consists of waiting patiently everyday for the film to come out (i'm SUCH a geek...)
webdog™:
Is someone holding your place in line?
webdog™:
Doug asks: "What is your opinion of the Palace replacement projects out there?"
jbum:
nah. i'm going to take off work that day and see the noon show. last year i attended the same show with the whole animation department from disney studios.
jbum:
my opinion of most of them is high, and as of late, i've been a little more willing to share source code with those who ask, since no lawyers have come knocking on my door these past few years.
jbum:
however, at the same time, i must say...
jbum:
that simply 'duplicating' the palace is not really that interesting to me. the palace is vintage 1995 software, and it shows.
webdog™:
An anonymous users asks: "Are on-line friendships fundamentally deceiving? or just different?"
jbum:
i think there is some truth to the idea of their being 'fundamentally deceiving' - however you are deceiving yourself.
jbum:
the problem is that you are communicating with someone over a very low bandwidth stream - just a few text characters in the ether
jbum:
whereas in person there is a LOT more information being exchanged.
jbum:
given the lack of information, you tend to (especially when you first meet someone) FILL IN THE BLANKS in the information void.
jbum:
it's kind of like when you see an attractive person and you imagine what they sound like...
jbum:
and then they open their mouth and you realize a little more of the truth...
webdog™:
:bark
jbum:
so you fill in that void with YOURSELF.
webdog™:
gotcha
jbum:
everything you don't know about the person (and there's a lot of it) is replaced with YOU
webdog™:
"What influence, if any, do you think the Palace has had on other social environments on the Internet?"
jbum:
and since you like yourself, this is a great thing. so to sum up - there is a potential narcissistic thing going on with new online relationships that you ahve to be careful about.
jbum:
well, in the mid-late 90s it had a lot of obvious direct influence.
jbum:
AOL had a chat space, if I recall which was quite obviously modified to more closely resemble the palace.
jbum:
however, beyond that i can't say. i think the palace in turn was influenced by a lot of things that were going on simultaneously.
webdog™:
Ready for some fun questions?
jbum:
oh sure.
webdog™:
Sparkle asks: "My friend and I are both addicted to the Palace, but we have an ongoing disagreement about it. Was the Palace originally created for prep avs or skater/ goth avs?"
jbum:
hahahahaha
jbum:
uh. no.
webdog™:
Lou Lou asks: "I don't like how some wizzes and gods are mean. How is the EASIEST and FASTEST way to get rid of them? (Because I hate it when they pin you or play around with you for no reason at all.)"
jbum:
let's see. if the palace was originally created for any kind of av, it would be the 'smiley' av... (which was drawn by yours truly)
jbum:
the easiest way to get rid of a wiz is to....
jbum:
poop on his head.
jbum:
however, you have to be in the same room.
webdog™:
:taking notes
webdog™:
:poop on head... got it
Auto:
was )wind a personal creation?
jbum:
there are two wind sounds one of them (the louder 'robust' one is mark jeffrey, and the 'wet' one is me)
webdog™:
:uck
jbum:
the kiss and giggle are me too.
webdog™:
"Harvey Ball, creator of the yellow smiley face, died a year and a half ago. What influence, if any, did he have on your development of the Palace avatars?"
jbum:
well, obviously a huge one. i grew up in the 70s and always liked those smiley buttons.
jbum:
Kai Krause had a big influence too. because i used his "spheroid" tool to make it.
webdog™:
:-)
webdog™:
ah
webdog™:
Kai's Power Tools
jbum:
we had some fights over that original avatar at time warner.
webdog™:
for Photoshop
jbum:
there was one exec (Mike Gutentag) who thought we should have a collection of human faces (with hair and everything)
jbum:
so we would have 'the generic white guy' and the 'generic black girl' and so on...
jbum:
i've seen other chat systems which do this and i think it's a terrible idea, and i fought against that idea at the time.
jbum:
later at TPI there was a similar war waged...
webdog™:
glide asks: "If you could only have one super power, what would it be?"
jbum:
i liked the smileys, because there more abstract, and easier to relate to. if i see a photo of someone's face, that's not me - that's someone else.
jbum:
does 'invisible flight' count as one superpower?
webdog™:
yes
jbum:
okay, that's the one.
webdog™:
heh
webdog™:
LossAngeles asks: "Is he still married to Janet and what is she doing these days? Does she use the Palace anymore for chatting?"
jbum:
(i'd want to fly, but only if i could be invisible so the military wouldn't be able to catch me and do horrific experiements on me)
webdog™:
:ya, the military might turn you into a black hole or something ;-)
jbum:
Let me get janet, one moment..
jbum:
okay... yes janet and i still married. we live in a beautiful house in shadow hills california.
jbum:
janet's doing laundry at the moment (how domestic!)
webdog™:
heh
jbum:
janet doesn't use palace much either these days. she DOES play a LOT of snood.
jbum:
(when she's on the computer, which is not all that often)
webdog™:
I remember how I first became a wiz: I knew it wasn't possible through you, because everyone wanted jbum to make them a wiz. But I got on the good side of janet and that's how squeezed in.
jbum:
there's something very "I Claudius" about that story...
webdog™:
:whoa
webdog™:
:better check with janet on that
webdog™:
ok, one more question?
jbum:
sure :)
webdog™:
"If you were single, and the only women you could date were colored smiley balls, which color would you choose?"
jbum:
hmm, let's see....
jbum:
trying them out...
webdog™:
sure
jbum:
well, some i would like more if they didn't have horrible banding artifacts, but...
jbum:
---------- i think this one.
jbum:
i'm a sucker for magenta
webdog™:
i think these women would be classy enough to have 24-bit color
webdog™:
)applause
jbum:
thank you :)
webdog™:
It's been incredible having you here this evening.
jbum:
sure. did you know there's a hole in the curtain?
webdog™:
It's being fixed
jbum:
oh good :)
Auto:
glide is working on that
webdog™:
i think he's going to put a hole on the other side for symmetry
jbum:
that would work.
Auto:
the unsupported way to patch the Palace ;)
jbum:
yeah, just even it out.
webdog™:
It's been a real pleasure learning about your creation, the Palace.
jbum:
thank you very much for having me- thank you everybody :)
webdog™:
and of course, having your as a guest.
webdog™:
Can we count on having you next year?
jbum:
absolutely. i have a role to fill.
jbum:
:)
jbum:
:)
webdog™:
)applause thanks again, and everybody go and visit www.jbum.com!!!
jbum:
(and freechess.org)
webdog™:
:YA
jbum:
(and theonering.net)
webdog™:
lol
jbum:
(and slashdot.org)
webdog™:
heh
jbum:
bye folks :)
webdog™:
bye all!
Auto:
thankyou Jbum
jbum:
you're very welcome :)

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