Web3D RoundUp: Looking Backwards and Forwards

Vol.34 No.2 May 2000

SimsalaGrimm - Fairy-Tale Themed On-Line 3D Community

Robert Rothfarb
blaxxun interactive
Philippe Van Nedervelde

Figure 1: The Simsala Grimm™ on-line community showing the Castle Library environment with animated character guides Yoyo and Doc Roc, the magic mirror, the chat and gesture interface and the avatar selection frame. Content produced by E-SPACES. Copyright1999-2000 Greenlight Media GmbH, blaxxun interactive Inc. and E-SPACES nv.

Rothfarb, Figure 2: The Castle environment and archery game in the SimsalaGrimm™ fairy-tale themed 3D community.

The SimsalaGrimm™ web destination is an engaging fairy-tale themed parallel world for Greenlight Media’s current animated international TV series based on the world-famous tales of the Brothers Grimm. Visitors to this kid-oriented on-line community, offered in German language now (with an English version in production), can select animated 3D avatars to represent themselves and can thus see and interact with other visitors. Communication is supported by text chat and enhanced with text-to-speech technology. To help personalize the experience for users and to facilitate emotion-rich communication, specially designed SimsalaGrimm avatars are complete with avatar-specific sets of expressive gestures. A cinematic visual design using Virtual Reality Modeling Language (yes VRML!) complements the animated TV series and an under-development feature film. In the SimsalaGrimm community, kids can become actors in 3D fantasy settings that are familiar from the famous stories.

To create this convergence between the Internet, TV and film, blaxxun interactive, developer of multi-user virtual world technologies, and E-spaces, a virtual world design company and production partner, worked closely together to bring the unique SimsalaGrimm world to life on-line. The world is implemented using the blaxxun Community Platform, a modular client-server system for the development of multi-user 2D and 3D virtual world communities.

A beautiful castle is the doorway into a lush, compelling 3D universe, where kids can meet other kids as well as the characters from the TV series. In the Castle Library tower, community members have access to all the tales from the series, represented as books in the large circular hall. The covers of the books feature embedded streaming video, displaying teasers of each cartoon on demand. The characters Yoyo and Doc Roc greet visitors and actively help them to find all of the many attractions and world-integrated games. A magic mirror inside the library environment allows kids to see how they look to other visitors and offers a link to a video about how the cartoon series was produced. Outside the Castle, kids can explore extensive areas with picturesque windmills, waterfalls, windblown wheat fields, murmuring brooks and rivers and medieval towns and houses. There’s a magic forest too, complete with its own spooky section evoking Snow White’s frantic flight from her stepmother’s castle through menacing, ominous woods. Each location is directly inspired from settings in the stories. The idyllic house of Hansel and Gretl and that of the Seven Little Goats are among the environments currently offered. New places and experiences continue to be developed for this expanding community.

The main design goal for the world was to keep the spirit as well as the visual "look and feel" of the fairy-tale world from the animated series intact. Accurately stylized graphic elements, straightforward but expressive character animation and special attention to interface features accessible by the community’s youthful target age group helped blaxxun/E-SPACES reach that goal. Navigation through the seven extensive worlds of the SimsalaGrimm universe is easy as visitors encounter magical portals throughout the environments, which transport them from one locale to another. A right click in blaxxun Contact’s 3D window additionally provides a pop-up menu for switching to another place, selecting an avatar or activating a gesture.

Plunge into the wonderful world of the Brothers Grimm stories by visiting the SimsalaGrimm on-line community at New worlds, games and other fun experiences are planned to be added soon. To fully experience SimsalaGrimm, you’ll need to download blaxxun Contact, a free VRML web browser plug-in compatible with current browsers from Netscape and Microsoft, and the Real Video Player.

Robert Rothfarb
blaxxun interactive
1550 Bryant Street
Suite 770
San Francisco, CA 94103

Tel: +1-415-437-7269

Philippe Van Nedervelde
Steenweg op Sevendonk 110
B-2360 Oud-Turnhout

Tel: +32-0-75-69-04-26

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.