VZones Forum & Newspaper Posts - Virtual Planet

From Reno Project

Here are reprinted forum posts and newspaper articles of note that were originally featured in the Virtual Planet newspaper and are being reprinted here in their original form wherever possible.




Consumable Items, an Invitation to Brainstorming! - July 10, 1999 by Michael (World Manager)

Taken from: https://web.archive.org/web/20030502221510/http://www.vplanet.org/archives/articles/news/n90711a.html

Dear Members, 
Several of you have mentioned that they believe we need more "consumable" items. I agree with you, and we are now starting to work on strategies in this sense. And this is where we need your input and your ideas! 

Let me explain what "consumable" items are. There are, in theory, two different kinds: 

1) Items with charges: These items can be used x times, then they run out of charges and can be pawned for a small amount of tokens. Spraycans fall into this category. You can use them 3-5 times, then they are used up and worthless. Other items of this kind could be: magic wands that teleport you to a locale of high interest (Elevator, V-Mart, a certain city (in NRW), etc.); expensive magic wands that let you engrave an item, fireworks that can be used 10 times, full bottles of whiskey that turn into empty bottles after you sipped three times (with a nice gulping sound), etc. 

2) Items with a lifespan: Currently we have no items of this category, and the technology doesn't support it at this time. However, such items would last a certain period of time. For example: Vases with flowers that turn into empty vases after a week or two, snowballs that melt after an hour (and vanish), single roses that disappear after a week, food items that can be eaten (might or might not enchant your avatar and provide special abilities for a short period of time, could also be random), candles that burn out after 12 hours (and vanish), cigarettes that disappear after a while, etc. 

Excited? Okay, now: Be creative! Think of items that would fall into one of these two categories. Only rule: Other avatars cannot be manipulated with these items. So no wands that mute someone else for 10 minutes, or eggs that can be placed in someone else's turf and after a week the turf becomes unusable <g>, etc. Also think about how these items would affect the economy and the community, and the product as whole. Would it open new possibilities? Are some of them of commercial value? (Can they be marketed, and if so, how?) 

Put on your thinking caps, and tell us your ideas. Be Utopian, think in new dimensions, and think BIG! We have a good chance to expand the technology, and make the product even better, and more exciting. Let's work on the things we have always dreamed of. Now is the chance, and each of you is invited to help. 

World Manager 
Avaterra.com Inc.



Michael And Delilah Announce New Pricing Plan - Golden Knight Joscelin - September 20, 1999

Taken from: https://web.archive.org/web/20040908231538/http://www.vplanet.org/archives/articles/news/n90920b.htm

Just before 9:00 PM WAT on Sunday night World Managers Michael and Delilah made an appearance in front of  the Temple Street Terrace turf.  A system broadcast message send out just after 8:00 PM WAT had notified avatars inworld that there was to be an announcement when the turfs reopened.

The call went out in both Dreamscape and Virtual Zones about this announcement, many avatars reached out even into their ICQ lists to bring people in to hear the news and in reply avatars flocked to the proposed site.  Some, who were locked in their turfs because of the maintenance were rescued by kind Acolytes who teleported them to the streets so they could be in attendance.

Michael and Delilah, resplendent in their robes greeted the the crowd.  Thanks went out to the community for patience and activism in the last few weeks to help put the Dream back into perspective, as far as getting people out of turfs and onto the streets.  It was requested that we give thanks to the Techs who got us back up and running after the unexpected outage on Saturday (and if you think WE had it bad, Virtual Zones (Formerly NRW) was down for more than 10 hours).

Then the announcement we had been waiting for.  The subject:  Dreamscape Pricing.  Michael took the floor and announced that effective October 1, 1999 Avaterra will be billing a mere $9.95 per month for Dreamscape Accounts.  We still retain both of our avatars (remember that in Virtual Zones, the account only has ONE avatar). The only concession is that you MUST be billed by Avaterra, so if you have been putting off the inevitable, get the hence and convert to Avaterra before the end of the month.  Delilah told us that management was taking notice of all of the activity in the Dreamscape, and thanked us for being visual and controversial.

Here is an edited text of what Michael and Delilah had to say.

Michael (World Manager): we understand that the past days and weeks have been emotionally stressful ... and we do appreciate your patience in times when it was hard to keep a positive attitude and not to give up.

Delilah (World Events Manager): It's hard when you don't know everything that's going on. It's difficult on us as well. We have been overwhelmed by the support of the community. Our management has been excited to see the changes. It was a challenge for you, for us, controversy can be a good thing but you hung in there as did we <g>

Michael (World Manager): Please keep in mind that this is the beginning of, so we hope, a new era, and it something that YOU, you as community, achieved. Starting October 1, we will lower the monthly Dreamscape membership fee from $19.95 to $9.95/month. For accounts with 2 avatars.

Michael (World Manager): That is a price change of 50% ... and equals to $4.95/month per avatar.

Delilah (World Events Manager): for those of you who believed and kept going, no matter the nay-sayers pat yourselves on the back and each other.

Acolyte Jal: Have to switch to Avaterra

Delilah (World Events Manager): Yes, you have to convert to Avaterra billing in order to take advantage of the new pricing.

Michael (World Manager): There is now a message in the forum .. with details and the official announcement in written form. <grin>

Michael (World Manager): So ..and now ...many of you thought we'd just repaint the lobby. WRONG!: <grin>

Delilah (World Events Manager): thank yourselves, you all did it

Michael (World Manager): Please use the forum to post questions and comments, we'll answer there. <grin> (regarding the new pricing plan <grin>)

So my friends, we have been given a breath of fresh air.  We have been screaming and we have been heard. I join Michael and Delilah in thanking everyone who dug their heels in and made changes in the Dream.  Never give up on a dream.



Acolyte/Guide Application Form - Shawnee Chance 2 - November 8, 1999

Taken from: https://web.archive.org/web/20030526194249/http://www.vplanet.org/archives/articles/news/n91108a.htm

It's official, Michael (World Manager) has posted the link to the Acolyte/Guide forms in the Vzones Forum.

    From what I have heard from several Acolytes, you cannot be the owner of a shop and be an Acolyte, or at least not the owner of a shop that sells any Acolyte prize item.  I cannot be sure if this is true or not, or if this would be a reason for initial disqualification.

Below is the information from the application URL.  The information below is copyrighted 1999 by Avaterra.com.
Dear Avatar,

For the second time in the four years history of the VZones product, we are
encouraging interested members to apply for Acolyte and Guide positions in
Dreamscape and VZones.

The purpose of this detailed application form is to get to know you,
understand your current involvement with the community, and become aware
of the skills and knowledge you will bring, not only to the Guide/Acolyte
Program, but the Avaterra VZones Community.

Before you apply for one of the volunteer positions in our worlds, please make
sure that you meet all requirements listed below:

- Applicant must be 18 years of age or older, there are no exceptions to
this rule.

- Applicant must have a pay account in VZones or Dreamscape for at least
six weeks as of the time of applying for a volunteer position.

- Applicant must be willing to sign a Non-Disclosure-Agreement with Avaterra
in case they are offered a volunteer position.

- Applicant must be willing to provide home address and telephone number.

- Applicant must use their real email addresses when applying (no hotmail.com
or addresses of other free email providers).

By submitting this application, you agree with the Terms of Becoming a Guide:

*** You may not become an Avaterra volunteer staff member if you work
either in-house, under contract or as a volunteer in any capacity for a
computer game company, online games aggregator, online service, virtual
world provider or a competing online product. By returning this form to
Avaterra, you certify that you do not presently work for such a company
and/or competitor in any capacity and that, while a member of the
Guide/Acolyte Program, you will immediately inform Avaterra if you do accept
work with such a competitor. ***

All guides/acolytes are required to commit and adhere to a regular schedule
of duty consisting of three two-hour shifts per week. Every reasonable
attempt will be made by Avaterra to accommodate your preferences in the
scheduling of duty time; this is a subject that should be discussed and
worked out to the satisfaction of everyone involved at the time your
application is accepted.

When on duty, and when in-zone with known alternate avatars,
guides/acolytes are considered representatives and 'ambassadors at large'
for Avaterra and the service and, thus, are held to a higher standard of
behavior than the average member. Guides/Acolytes on duty are expected to
treat subscribers and other team mates with dignity, respect, courtesy and
professionalism at all times.

In consideration for your time volunteered as a guide/acolyte, you will receive
a free account to VZones, including slots for at least one alternate avatar for
your private use. You continue to be responsible for any ISP fees and local or
long distance telephone charges necessary to allow you to connect to and
access the Zone.

Your affiliation with the guide/acolyte program can be terminated at any time
by Avaterra, for any or no reason and at its sole discretion. If you decide
that you no longer wish to be a guide/acolyte, for any reason, you may
terminate your affiliation as a guide/acolyte at any time, with no hard
feelings on our part. We understand that the demands of real life can
sometimes intrude on the world or that you can just plain 'burn out,' and that
it may become necessary to take extended time off from being a
guide/acolyte. If you and your supervisor agree, dependent on the final
approval of the World Manager, you may take a leave of absence of two
weeks to four months from your regularly scheduled shifts without dropping
out of the program altogether.

As a guide/acolyte, you agree to adhere to Avaterra's Terms of Service.
You agree to inform your supervisor of all TOS violation that you observe.

If you agree with these terms, please read on.

Still interested in becoming a guide/acolyte? Below you find the actual
application. Read all the questions through before answering the first one.
Some of the questions may suggest the same or similar answer to you. We
want to get to know you and your relationship to VZones and your experience
with this type of project. Please take your time to read and answer the
questions carefully. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Please be aware that we have a limited number of openings, and we expect
many more applications than we have positions available. This means that we
will not be able to offer a position to every qualified applicant. We will
contact accepted members within four weeks after getting their application.

We will keep applications on file and may, or may not, contact applicants at a
later date if we have new openings. Please do not contact guides, acolytes,
caretakers, oracles or world manager to ask the status of your application.
Doing so will result in the removal of your application. If you have any
questions regarding this application, please contact the guide/acolyte
supervisor or the world manager.

Thank you, for your interest and desire to serve the VZones community.

Interested in becoming a Guide in VZones? Click here (http://vzmembers.com/applications/guide.html).

Interested in becoming an Acolyte in Dreamscape? Click here (http://vzmembers.com/applications/acolyte.htm).


Some Exciting Changes Are Coming - Shawnee Chance 2 - November 10, 1999

Taken from: https://web.archive.org/web/20030526194249/http://www.vplanet.org/archives/articles/news/n91110a.htm

While reading the Vzones forum I came upon a message written by Delilah.

From what she is saying in the message, we will see some extensive changes in the next few weeks.

First off they have received a new server that they hope to have online by December 1st.  There isn't much she can give on the server except to say that it will help increase speed and decrease lag and crashes.

They are also doing some extensive reworking of their member support services in order to make it more friendly to us all.

Thanks to Delilah for posting this information to the forum.

Below is the full text of Delilah's message.
Greetings Members!

    As you all have seen and heard, we are making many changes at Avaterra. We recognize that our members have suffered with regards to member support. Although we are still going through a transition period, which takes a while for all that we are working on, for YOU our members, we thought you’d all be interested in knowing where our energies are being placed!

    You’ve all hung in there with us tremendously, supportively, and loyally, and we know that we have been tapping that as of late, so here is what we are working on for you!

1. New Billing System
2. New Server Implementation
3. New Member Support Plans

    There are many other things going on, but we thought these might be of most interest to you at this time!

    New Billing System:

    Our Engineers have examined the current billing system, investigated the flaws, and have completely re-written the system to fit Avaterra. With this our billing, tracking and account activity can be more accurately managed.

    This is scheduled to go live on 12/01/99. The issues with the untimely and inaccurate billing will improve tremendously, if not completely dissolve.

    New Server Implementation:

    Our new server has arrived, I cannot give you the details, but we will run a test environment of the current worlds, prior to the switch over. Our new server will increase speed, decrease lag time and crashes. Currently, our old server is full and as you all know, we have had terrible lag, crashes, and connectivity issues.

    The new server is tentatively scheduled for 12/01. We expect an estimated 8 hours of downtime to do this. Once we have the final test environment effectively running and are ready for the cut over, we will make a full announcement of plans, days and times.

    New Member Support Plan:

    We have evaluated our current Member Support, and it took no genius to figure out that we are lacking heavily here. It has been a priority to get it reorganized and offer some more effective means of resolving issues.

    We have developed a new Member Support automated system. This will eliminate the lengthy process involved with billing/account issues, and will be much user friendly for our Member Support staff, both local and remote.

    We are going to implement a Member Support area in both worlds, where we will have Member Support staff available at scheduled times to address your billing/account issues. Our SysOps will be equipped to answer many of your questions directly and privately through the forum. We have identified a few members from both our VZ and DS communities to assist with this. Once we have the tool in place, we will post a schedule of times, both European and US times. As we grow, and evaluate the success of this, we will add to this staff as needed.

    Although there are many other exciting changes going on behind the scenes, these are a few of the ones that are coming in the next 3 weeks. Again, we appreciate all of the input, the patience and understanding you have all shown as we rebuild!

    Best Regards,
    VZones Community Management



Server To Be Down On Friday - Shawnee Chance 2 - December 8, 1999

Michael announced in the VZones Forum that the server will be down from Midnight to 6am WA time on Friday December 10th.

Below is the statement that Micheal posted in the forum
Dear Avaterra members,

  In order to improve the performance and to increase the stability of Dreamscape and VZones, we will be upgrading our production world servers. This requires an extended server  maintenance this Friday, December 10th, 12:00 AM (midnight) to 6:00 AM Pacific Time.  During this time you will not be able to connect to Dreamscape and VZones. We apologize for any inconviences this may cause.

  Delilah & Michael
  Community Management




Dreamscape to Switch Over to New Server January 12 - Voodoo Cat - January 9, 2000

This e-mail was sent to all Dreamscape and Vzones members earlier this week:
Dear VZones Members: 
Over the last 6 months or so our VZones population has grown faster than ever before. The massive new traffic has stressed our hardware to the limits, and in fact beyond. Over the Holiday, and again over the last few days, the hardware on which we run the VZones failed causing a lot of disruption for you, our valued members. For this I apologize and assure you that we are doing all we can to fix the problems.

On January 12, 2000 we will switch over to our new hardware configuration which is currently in the testing process. This new hardware, together with several new software upgrades and a new hosting service, will provide a better and more reliable service. We have invested a large amount of time and money in these new upgrades, and the feedback so far from our testing group is that it was money well spent.

Again, I apologize for the inconvenience and assure you that we intend 2000 to be the best Avatar year so far!

David Andrews,
Will there be down time? My guess is yes, but there is no official word on this yet. Stay tuned!


Server Upgrade & Downtime Official - BrownEyedGirl - January 11, 2000

Michael (World Manager) posted a message in the Delphi forum confirming that the Avaterra technicians would be upgrading to the new servers on January 12th.  There will be a 24 hour downtime and when we are able to log in again things should be running better than ever.  Below is the entire message Michael posted.
Dear Members, 

The time has finally arrived! We will be upgrading to new servers this Wednesday, January 12. The cutover is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. VZT (PST) and completed by Thursday, January 13 at 9:00 a.m. VZT (PST). We are doing everything possible to ensure downtime is limited to 24 hours. 

What does this mean to you? 

Once the cutover begins, neither VZconnections, nor the Dreamscape will be available for a 24 hour period.  There will be no access to the Avaterra web sites during this 24 hour period as well. Full service should be restored by January 13 at 9:00 a.m. VZT (PST). There will be no "time warp" with regards to the cutover, so all  possessions, avatars, turfs, etc. will be in tact when we return to service. 

This also means that once the new servers are in place, we can look forward to fewer crashes, shorter downtimes, and increased functionality of our products. We are continuing to work towards providing you with the best service possible. 

We apologize for this inconvenience, but in order to move forward, the down time is a necessary evil! Support will be available through the Delphi forum (http://www.delphi.com/vzones) during this down time to keep you all company, and inform you of any delays or problems that might arise. 

We look forward to a successful cutover, and will see you all in worlds on January 13th! 

Have a great 2000! 

Avaterra Team



New Maintenance Schedule - BrownEyedGirl - February 20, 2000

Delilah posted the following in the Delphi forum:
In order to prevent any more extended downtimes, we need to perform maintenance 4 times/week per week where we will take 'cold backups'. A cold backup is one that is taken when the server has been shut down. This means the server will be shut down for an hour 4 days per week.

Monday 12:30am PST
Tuesday 12:30am PST
Wednesday 12:30am PST
Friday 12:30am PST



Mr. Andrews was extremely prompt in responding to our e-mail containing these questions. I only wish we had been more prompt in sending it! Big thanks to David Andrews for taking the time to answer our questions.
1. Would you say that you expect our Dreamscape to be available in a week? Two weeks? Or more like a month or more?

As I write this, Queery and Dreamscape are up, and I'm assured that VZconnections will be up later today.

2. Can you assure members that overdue turf rents due to the downtime will not prevent them from getting their turfs and belongings back once the world comes up?

This will have to be handled by our inZone team, but should not be a problem.

3. Will member's accounts be reimbursed for the downtime? For example, will members get a free month?

With our current financial difficulties, offering a free month would only compound the problems. I hope that the members will understand that. We did not bill during the downtime, but will resume billing as usual on August.

4. Are you going to refund the members who bought but never received anime products?

They should have them very soon, and in fact Delilah will be working on this immediately. There are orders that have been filled, but were not able to be delivered during the downtime. We will continue to fill those orders as scheduled.

5. We noticed that your questions have been posted in the Vzones member forum, but not the Dreamscape member forum. Why show this favoritism?

I do not often post to the members and It was not immediately evident to me that I needed to post in several areas. There is no favoritism at all, and it was just an oversight.

6. Do you intend to increase the price of Dreamscape, and if so, why?

I have not had any discussions with anyone about increasing the subscription rate for Dreamscape or VZconnections.

7. Do you plan to upgrade your customer service? Specifically, will you have more paid customer service representatives available in the Dreamscape, in the forums, and on toll-free phone lines? Will this customer support be available 24/7?

We will do whatever we can within our financial constraints. I can't promise anything right now.

8. Are you going to hire more full-time in-house techs?

Same as answer 7 above.

9. What measures are you implementing to insure that we never go through a down time like this one again?

It is impossible to rule out the chance that we will have another crash. The situation we are coming out of right now was caused by an expensive new Sun hard drive crashing. If it had been any other drive in our system the effect would have been minimal. All we can do is to try to make sure we have adequate coverage and redundancy plans.

10. Are you going to change the format for Dreamscape? If so, can you give us any idea of the direction these changes will take?

I have no intentions of changing any formats. If this question has arisen out of my surveys, let me reassure everyone one more time that this was never the intention. I saw the downtime as an opportunity to talk to everyone while they were not spending their time in the worlds. I wanted to learn about current opinion, and to test out ideas for new worlds. That's all.

11. You asked about changing the level of management control. What exactly do you mean by control?

Same as answer 10 above.

12. If Avaterra closes, does that mean that our Dreamscape will never return? Or could the software be leased to another company?

I am attempting to assist Fujitsu in licensing the technology to several companies. If and when completed, this will ensure that members have several options and worlds that they can visit in the future.

13. Finally, in a statement on July 15th, you indicated that members complaining in the forum have caused some of Avaterra's problems, and that members have "no clue" as to what is really going on. Were these statements made to intentionally antagonize members? Or do you just not care how they think of you?

First, I did NOT infer that members have no clue as to what is really going on. It is not important what people think about me personally, as they come to VZconnections and Dreamscape for the experience and their friends. My intention, as always, is to try to provide what the vast majority of members want.


Coming soon!