Universe cavatars

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Custom Avatars were introduced with Activeworlds 4.2 and thus require a 4.2 universe. Custom avatars work by taking a predefined base model and deforming it according to user options. Each user downloads only the base pieces and then manipulates the settings in order to change the shape and coloring of the avatar. These settings are then transmitted to the universe server, which sends a notification about changed settings out to other users. These other browsers then re-create the avatar based on the settings.

The advantage with custom avatars is that they offer incredible variety - billions and billions of different avatars are possible - for very little download cost. Since only the settings are transmitted, other users will not have to download an entire model and textures each time they encounter someone using a custom avatar. As a universe administrator, it will be up to you to decide what models and clothing options are available.

There are several components to the custom avatar system.


The process of obtaining a custom avatar is as follows:

  • The browser downloads the XML file (CAVTemplates.xml within a zipped archive) that defines the avatar types (usually male and female) and what parts and textures they use, along with parameters for how those parts are combined.
  • Assuming the user has custom avatars enabled for their account, and assuming the current world allows custom avatars, they may press ctrl-F6 to open the custom avatar dialog.
  • The user selects a type.
  • The browser downloads all of the parts required for that avatar type.
  • The user manipulates the dialog, making the avatar shorter, fatter, changing clothes, altering skin color, hair style, etc. The browser builds their avatar as these changes are made.
  • Once they user is satisfied they may select "apply", and their settings will be sent to all nearby users.
  • The other browsers download the required parts, textures, and sequences, and assemble the avatar.


XML File

The XML File is a zipped file that should be placed in the /avatars directory in your Universe Path. The XML defines what types are available, what parts they use, and what deformations the user may perform.

The structure of the XML file is as follows:

  • Race1 (human, elf, etc)
    • Gender1 (Male, female)
      • Texture Layer1 (Shirt, dress, socks, etc)
        • Texture and coloring options for Texture Layer1
      • Texture Layer2 (Shirt, dress, socks, etc)
        • Texture and coloring options for Texture Layer2
      • Body part1 (Torso, head, hands, legs, etc. The model can be divided any way you like.)
        • Body Geomerty1 (The filename of the geometry and the name of the part. For example, if this is the "hands" part, then perhaps this entry will be named "gloves" with the filename of "male_gloves1.x"
        • Body Geomerty2
    • Gender2
      • List of texture layers used by this type.
      • List of body parts used by this type.
  • Race2
    • Gender1
    • Gender2

Further attributes define if a texturelayer is non-selectable (sel="no") for base textures (i.e. base skin and color) or if a textlayer or body part becomes mandatory (force="yes").

Base Models

There can be a number of "base" models as defined by the XML. In the main universe these are simply male and female, but it's possible to introduce new types as well. The deformation sliders assume that the base models are upright bipeds, so if you want to use unconventional shapes (like reptiles or six-legged avatars) you may be better off using Personal Avatars.

The geometries for the parts must be in DirectX format - .x files. While it is possible to use either ascii or binary .x files, the use of binary is strongly encouraged due to their far superior loading speed.


All of the assets required to build and deploy custom avatars must be included in the appropriate directory in the universe path. This includes the base models, textures, and sequences.