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Kutan
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« on: January 28, 2022 @623.00 »

So, there was this avatar chat client that came out around '95, and it was a big deal to me when I was first getting onto the internet. I thought I'd make a thread about it! :cheesy:



You'd upload your own custom image as an avatar (or procure one in other ways), and you'd get plonked into a little room you could move around in and chat with other people. Speech came out of your avatar in a little speech bubble, and you could even specify different comic book style speech bubble effects (like a spiky bubble or a "thinking" bubble), or have sound effects play alongside your chat message. If you were on a Mac, you would even get text-to-speech options! You would navigate from room to room by clicking on regions of the background, and a lot of Palaces were pretty labyrinthian in nature.

It was all decentralized, so you just paid for the client, and then anybody could host their own Palace server. Which is great, because it means there's still servers online today! They were all built from the ground up, all with unique rooms and features. All the different servers were typically for different special interests, and each one had dozens or even hundreds of rooms to click your way through. It was fun getting to explore them even if you weren't there to chat, and see if there were any rooms with props (avatar pieces) to collect, or any interactive bits and bobs. The Palace had a really robust scripting system, and server operators did some really creative things with it. Some people made entire games in The Palace-- the one I played was Balamb Garden's colosseum, which was a 5v5 JRPG battle simulator featuring characters from Squaresoft games. In the days of dialup internet, it was so cool playing something like that and getting live updates on it every week without even having to download anything. There was just constantly new features and new content, and it had a really dedicated fanbase that went for years and years.



Collecting "props"-- avatar pieces-- was a huge part of Palace culture, and was one of the things that every Palace community had in common. Avatar editing was really fiddly in The Palace; you could make your own avatars using the client's built-in drawing software, but this wasn't ideal. You could also import images into The Palace, but they had to conform to a really specific palette, or the colors would come out all wrong. Props were also only 44x44 pixels in size (the size of one of those yellow smiley faces in the first picture-- that's the default avatar!), so to make bigger avatars, you had to make a 3x3 grid of them. It was all super fussy, so few people made their own. They'd ask for people to copy and share their props, or trade for them. Most Palaces also had "prop rooms" with scripted prop dispensers, or donation rooms, where you could leave your props for others. Some people would even screenshot props, and painstakingly edit the transparency pixel by pixel and import them back into the client, just so they could steal someone's look! (Avatar theft was a serious accusation and a bannable offense.) If you've seen Palace props around the web before, it's definitely because of Dollz-- this type of avatar was massively popular, due in part to how easy it was to customize their look by adding and removing parts, flood filling the colors, and so on. They crept off The Palace and onto the web at large, and lots of web page creators collected and customized them too. They were unavoidable! (I was part of a Pokemon communtity on The Palace, and we mostly despised the things-- we were all too busy trying to complete our collections of 151 individual Pokemon props :omg:k: )



I'm wondering if anyone else out there had heard of The Palace before? It was a cool little community, but it didn't exactly set the world on fire. It was only supported for about five years, and then official development stopped. Even There.com lasted way longer! It was definitely a huge part of my formative internet days though, and holds a really special place in my heart.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2022 @636.96 by Kutan » Logged

di
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2022 @682.22 »

So, Palace is before my time, but a year or two ago I somehow stumbled onto it. I downloaded it, but my experience was really weird - the room just offered pin-ups of real-life models as props (unedited Jpegs of Brad Pitt and the like) and nobody was talking. I guess they were DMing :wink:, or just staying idle, or didn't want to chat while the newb smiley face was in the room? :grin:

LOL - as an outsider to Palace culture, no judgement from me. I'm just very naive to it all - I partly understand how it used to work in the 90s, but not how it works now

Oh! And a while ago I was reading through this fascinating website, "A Cyberpsychology Case Study" on The Palace. The articles were really entertaining, and insightful in a way
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Kutan
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2022 @723.73 »

It's really cool hearing that someone else stumbled across it! As for its current state, I figured as much-- I haven't been on in ages, but I didn't exactly expect it to still be active. The number of idle avatars is interesting though, and I guess there's an observation to be made there: it's incredibly easy now to just log into something like The Palace nowadays and just run it in the background, but that didn't used to be the case. Not only was it demanding enough on your hardware that you couldn't really multitask, but you were also tying up the phone line (or paying by the hour!) by staying connected. So there wasn't an issue with AFK people just taking up space, but I'm sure that's different now.

I love that study you linked, too! I just stumbled across it earlier when looking for screenshots for this topic, and there's both some really silly and really insightful stuff to be had there. I liked this in particular:

Quote
At the Palace users automatically have something in common with everyone else. They are USERS! They share an interest in computer technology and the internet, which offers the strong possibility of instantaneous camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

Which is absolutely true about meeting people on the early Interent. If you were having a conversation with someone online, even if you had nothing else in common, you still could bond over just being online. It was like being part of an exclusive club, and it definitely helped everyone feel a lot closer.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2022 @724.80 by Kutan » Logged

TAS_1K
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2022 @779.38 »

This is super cool, thanks for sharing! I've never heard of this before. Are there any currently active servers you would recommend checking out?
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fLaMEd
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2022 @905.20 »

South Park Studios used to run a South Park chat server on Palace so I was on there sometimes back in the late 90s.

I spent a number of nights wandering around various servers collecting props etc.

I always cracked up at the crews people would be in, YMCMBC was the biggest and most aggressive lol!
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cinni
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2022 @66.16 »

ooooh the palace! like di, this was before my time but i heard about it when reading an article about the origin of Dollz.

i also didn't realize it was decentralized :-o that's so cool that there are servers around, but di's experience with it seems to be the case for a lot of these old graphical chats that are still around. (i used to go on furcadia alllll the time as a kid, and now it's mostly AFK avatars lol. it makes Worlds seem more active in comparison).

for those that went on it back in the day: any memorable stories? fav servers?
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di
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2022 @7.07 »

Quote
At the Palace users automatically have something in common with everyone else. They are USERS! They share an interest in computer technology and the internet, which offers the strong possibility of instantaneous camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

Which is absolutely true about meeting people on the early Interent. If you were having a conversation with someone online, even if you had nothing else in common, you still could bond over just being online. It was like being part of an exclusive club, and it definitely helped everyone feel a lot closer.

Right! Although not as "exclusive" anymore, I feel like we're able to recreate a similar sort of bond in the web revival community :loved:
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