The Palace (computer program)
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|Developer(s)||Time Warner Interactive, independent developers|
|Operating system||Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows|
|Type||Virtual Community, client|
The Palace (or Palace Chat, Chat Palace, Palace) is a computer program to access graphical chat room servers, called palaces, in which users may interact with one another using graphical avatars overlaid on a graphical backdrop. The software concept was originally created by Jim Bumgardner and produced by Time Warner Interactive in 1994, and was first opened to the public in November 1995.
While there is no longer any official support for the original program, a new client has been developed and is actively maintained by Jameson Heesen. Many chat servers are still operating and can be found on the Palace Portal Live Directory. Palace clients and servers are available for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows.
Concept and Design
The Palace has a flexible avatar system that allows users to combine small, partially transparent images to create a unique look. Once the member has created an avatar, the member can pick up various pieces of clothing or other items, such as hats, handbags, cans of soda, candy bars, bicycles, or hand tools. Dollz originated in The Palace.
By default, users are represented by spherical smiley face emoticons, but can also wear bitmaps called props. User messages appear as chat bubbles above their avatar, similar to those in comic books, and stored in a chat log. Each room in a palace is represented by a large image that serves as a backdrop for users. By clicking on certain areas in a room called doors, users can travel either to different rooms in the same palace, another palace server, or an address leading to a different service, such as websites and email. In some rooms, users are allowed to paint on the backdrop using a simple suite of drawing tools similar to oekaki.
The Palace was created by Jim Bumgardner and produced by Time Warner Interactive in 1994. Bumgardner incorporated many features of Idaho, an in-house authoring tool he had previously developed for making multimedia CD-ROMs. One of the features of Idaho was IPTSCRAE, a Forth-like programming language. The name is a play on the word "script" in Pig Latin. One of the unique features of the Palace for its time was that the server software was given away for free and ran on consumer PCs, rather than being housed in a central location.
From around 1997, artists began to use the Palace as a site for experimental live performance. Notably, the group Desktop Theatre staged interventions and performances in their own and public Palaces from 1997 until 2002. In 1997 they presented "waitingforgodot.com" at the Third Annual Digital Storytelling Festival, which took an interesting turn when another Palatian changed their name to Godot and arrived in the performance. Other artists working in The Palace include Avatar Body Collision (2002-2007).
Palace Chat's popularity peaked around 1999-2000, when nu metal band Korn had their own palace chat room that fans could download from korn.com. Palace's popularity at this time could also be attributed to a palace which focused on the cartoon South Park, as well as the Sci Fi channel's Mothership palace. There was even a link to the South Park palace on the Comedy Central website at the time.
The Palace was the subject of a number of sales between companies until 2001, when Open Text Corporation purchased the rights to the Palace software and technology as part of a bankruptcy settlement. The software is currently unsupported by Open Text or any of its previous owners, and many members of the community now consider the software abandonware and provide support for existing versions on unofficial web sites. The original thepalace.com domain was bought by a long time Palace user, and is now used as a directory for other sites.
Official Palace software development ceased when Communities.com declared bankruptcy, but at least four groups are working on Palace protocol compatible clients. One of the biggest contributions came from Ruben Pizarro, known as oORubenOo only 13 years old at the time, was successfully able to reverse engineer the most important protocol packets talk (Windows) & xtlk (Unix) for proper communication between the client and server.
All of these new clients support improved high-color avatars, larger room backgrounds (also in high-color), and modern sound formats (such as MP3), and are designed for modern operating systems. However, there are some drawbacks to the new clients, such as not being fully compatible with older clients (because of the latter's limitations), and many users have chosen to remain with older alternatives.
One of the first comprehensive psychological studies of avatar communities, conducted by John Suler, took place at the Palace. This collection of essays, entitled Life at the Palace, consists of an analysis of Palace history, social relationships, "addiction," and deviance. Suler's work focused on the unique aspects of interacting via avatars and in a graphical space.
Signing into The Palace does not require any registration or personal information. To begin chatting, users download the client, set their user handle and login to a server. A child filter is enabled on the client by default, which filters out chat servers with an Adult ranking and inappropriate language used in chat rooms.
- PalaceChat, created by Jameson Heesen (known in the community as PaVVn), which supports all original features of The Palace, as well as high-quality backgrounds and avatars, larger rooms and videos. This is the primary client in use.
- OpenPalace, an open source, Adobe Flash implementation by Brian McKelvey which has recently been gaining popularity and receiving much support and feedback from many Palace users.
- Linpal, an open source Linux client using GTK+.
- Phalanx, by Brainhouse Laboratories.
Incompatible Palace-like Clients
- The Manor, written by a former Palace lead developer. The Manor includes embedded Python for user and room scripting with an encrypted data stream. Supports importing Palace avatars. Both new incarnations of The Palace support larger room sizes and 32-bit color avatars.
- Worlize, an online virtual world utilizing user-generated content
- OpenVerse, an open-source visual chat program written in TCL/Tk.