EC Habitats Hack Day

EC Habitats Hack Day
A scene from the EC Habitats beta in 1998

Electric Communities was a company co founded by Chip Morningstar, Randy Farmer and Doug Crockford in the early 1990’s.

Electric Communities was contracted by Fujitsu in 1993 to begin development of what would eventually turn out to be WorldsAway. As part of that deal, Fujitsu also paid them for their time spent on writing and researching a paper about the future of cyberspace.

Whilst WorldsAway was simply a modern refinement of what Habitat was, this paper innovated way beyond that.

From this paper, a new virtual world concept and programming language (E) was born amongst and pioneering research was made into modern programming concepts like webapps, promises and futures. Ultimately, this led to the eventual creation of EC Habitats.

EC Habitats looked and functioned like a 3D version of WorldsAway at first glance but it was so much more. Instead of a game client connecting to a centralised server, in EC Habitats, each client was its own individual server and worked in a peer to peer fashion. This was unheard of in late 1990’s technology.

Randy Farmer giving a demo of EC Habitats at the Avatars 97 conference in San Francisco

This would make the service the worlds first 3D distributed metaverse.

EC Habitats was developed between 1996 and 1998, with some former WorldsAway alumni working on the project including Jeffery Douglas, our Anonymous Artist and others.

An avatar shows off gesturing in EC Habitats

Thanks to the efforts of The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment in Oakland, CA who also helped to open source Habitat, EC Habitats is now open source. Included in this open sourcing are the rights to The Palace and OnLive Traveler who Electric Communities later acquired.

In order to celebrate this amazing achievement, Randy Farmer is leading a hack day event to work on bringing EC Habitats back online in a working state.

The event takes place on January 13th, 2024 from 12pm pacific time until late.

Anyone can join in from all over the world, or if you’re local then go pay them a visit!

The MADE Discord server will function as the base of operations for people wanting to help remotely, as well as a livestream of the event being held there over in the #hack-day channel.

An EC Habitats GitHub repository has been created containing the original final beta client that was made available to testers (build r167), a modern installer I created using Inno Setup and shortly, the EC Habitats source code will be available there too.

What you will see when you first launch the EC Habitats client. The head on the right will speak to you and explain how to use the interface. Voice of this head provided by Randy Farmer.

Although you can fire up the EC Habitats client right now and explore the starting area and create turf apartments, the directory server that let you move between areas and connect with other people’s servers is offline, restricting you to single player only.

The main goal of the hack day is as follows:

  • Get the first Decentralized Metaverse: EC Habitats r167 Beta disk-software for Windows PCs fully operational (permitting people to connect their locally run worlds to each other without a centralized server running game or message code.)

Secondary goals are:

  • Try to get EC Habitats to compile from source. We have two potential source trees (COSM and COSM1), but don’t know the status of the code.
  • Identify critical design documents (unum, dist containers, etc.) that should be FOSS
  • Build or not, we will open the EC Habitats code and documentation as FOSS

Tertiary goals include:

  • Identity leaders for future EC Hack Days for other former EC products:
    • The Original E programming language
    • Electric Communities Passport platform and many, many worlds - needs IP scrubbing
    • The Palace (including the original Mansion source provided by Jim Bumgardner)
    • Onlive Technologies (including Traveler)

A potential less ephemeral stream may be available on YouTube or Twitch but this hasn’t been confirmed yet. Either way, we would love to see you get involved. Whether it’s by showing up on the discord, watching the stream or just spreading this news article to people.