What is
Anyone can start a Palace. That is both the beauty and the pain of the Palace community. You can easily obtain a palace server (or get one now at http://www.palaceplanet.net/downloads/), which can be launched on whatever IP (Internet Provider) you are using. The Palace server (called Pserver on the Mac) is a separate application from the Palace client and both need to be running for you to connect to your own Palace and begin the work of creating your own world.

When you launch your Palace server application, it will automatically send a signal to the Palace Directory Web Page, which will then show your palace on that Directory. Obviously, until your Palace is ready for public use, you don't want it to appear on the Directory. You can block that by going into the Preferences in the menu and turning that option off. Then no message will be sent to the Directory and you can launch and work on your Palace in complete privacy.

When launched, your Palace comes with the a few rooms already installed, such as the gate, the Bar, the Backgammon table, etc. But you can modify your palace to make it uniquely your own by adding your own rooms and changing the GIFs.

You can find lots of pictures on the web and on CD's, or you can create your own rooms with programs like Ray Dream Studio and Bryce. Regardless, you'll have to make some modifications on them to fit them into your Palace.

First, you should have some graphics program that is capable of manipulating pictures. The Mercedes of graphics programs remains Adobe's Photoshop, but for many of us it remains too expensive to buy. Some shareware programs, however, work very well and will do almost everything you need to create cool looking rooms. For Mac users, I recommend Graphic Converter and GIF Converter, both available as shareware. For PC users, I recommend Paint Shop Pro, again available on the web as shareware. Once you've d/l'ed (downloaded) one of these applications, open it and then open the picture you want to put into your Palace.

Palace requires that your pics be 1) GIFs (Macs can download jpg's, but you'll still need GIFs in place for your PC users), 2) 72 X 72 resolution, 3) 236 colors, and 4) 512 X 384 sized. Let's take each of those in turn.

GIFs: Most graphics programs can save your pic into another format. So, you can open a JPEG, for example, and save it as a GIF. When you do, the appendix .GIF should be attached to the name of the file. You should be able to convert PICT, TIFF, and other graphics files, too.

Resolution: The graphics program should have a feature that allows you to change the resolution of the image. Some high quality photo CD images can have resolutions of 300 X 300, but Palace will only read 72 X 72 resolution. Again, you can convert your image to the proper resolution and save it.

Colors: Palace also only reads 236 colors (not a typo--I know, it's weird), not the thousands or millions that many graphics programs read. So, you'll have to convert your image to 236 colors. Here's where things can get a little dicey. An image in thousands or millions of colors may look pretty bad when converted to only 236 colors (don't I know it!). The image can look distorted, with strange blobs rather than the nice colors it had in the original image. You can manipulate your original image several times to achieve the best look possible. Try turning dithering off, for example, before you convert to 236 colors. If that looks bad (it probably will), try leaving it on and then converting. Now, most graphics programs convert to 256 colors, as I'm sure you know and probably have been muttering to yourself this entire paragraph. Read on.

Palette: To make the best pics possible, you'll want to use the Palace color palette before you convert your image to 256 or 236 colors. You can use the Palace color palette with Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro (for PC users) and Graphic Converter (for Mac users). To learn how to get the Palace palette, please see the web page called Avs of Steel, which is a part of Dr. X's fine collection of Palace information. The directions are clear and useful and you can obtain the Palace palette for several graphics programs under the Clut section on that web page. Using the Palace palette will greatly enhance your final image quality.

Size: Finally, you'll need to size your image to 512 horizontal by 384 vertical pixels. Your graphics program should be able to do that, too. Note, however, that while you can resize an image down to size, changing a smaller image into a larger one will almost certainly cause it to look fuzzy and out of focus. So, when your hunting for cool pictures to put in your Palace, you'll probably want to reject anything that's not at least close to 512 X 384 originally.

Once your picture is Palace ready, save it and move the image to your Palace:Pictures folder. That's where it needs to be so that you can actually call it up into your Palace.

Now, in your Palace go to Wizard mode (you set the wizard code from your server's Preferences menu). Then under the Wizard menu (only visible when you are in wizard mode) go to Create New Room. Presto! You'll be transported to a new room with a name like "Room 124." The default room GIF is "Clouds" so you'll see a background of blue sky and fluffy clouds, but you can soon change that. Under the Wizard Menu, pull down the Room Info menu. That opens a dialogue box where you can start making changes:

In the illustration above you'll see a line called Pict which will read "Clouds.GIF" without the quotation marks. Just change the name there to the name of the image you want to call up--we'll call that "Filename.GIF" Type the name of the GIF in that spot, making sure you put the appendix .GIF and you should immediately see your new picture as the background to the room.

So, creating a new room picture is not all that hard. The tricky part is making it look good while fitting the Palace requirements of resolution, colors, and size. Other users will be able to d/l your new background picture automatically as part of the Palace client program.

Once you've created your background picture, you can also overlay GIFs. This can create very cool effects, such an animations, text or images that work with scripts for special effects. In the following section, I'll describe how to make such GIFs, how to install them on your Palace, and give you some idea of why you'd want to use such overlays by talking about some actual uses for them in CyberQuest Palace ( where I am a wiz.

Creating a GIF to overlay in a room is a lot like creating a GIF for a web page. If you've done web page GIFs, this should be a snap. If not, you'll now learn.

Call Up and Resize: First, using your graphics program, call up the image you want to overlay. This probably will be something like text or small pictures of trees, ferns, people, boats, or whatever. If you get such images from a CD the image will probably call up with a white background surrounding the GIF--a picture of a guitar with a white background, for example. Convert and save your GIF in the same fashion described above, except you'll want to resize your GIF to the size you want it when you call it up on Palace. Resize it so the image, not the background, is the size you want. (By the way, I've mentioned text as something that can be overlaid as a gif. Can anything be more ugly than the text Palace uses when you make a door name visible? You've probably seen such text--in fact, we still have some at CyberQuest, but making any necessary text into lovely, colored, and anti-aliased text sure beats the horror of Palacetext.

Transparency: Now, you can make the background transparent using your graphics program. Most graphics applications will allow you to create a "GIF transparency." You can make the white background transparent, then. The white background won't show up at all and you'll only see the other colors of the image. Once you hit "GIF Transparency" it's possible you'll still see the white background in the graphics application, but it should still be transparent when called up in Palace.

PC USERS NOTE: One helpful reader (Ken) sent the following information regarding creating transparencies in PaintShop Pro: "I tried the PSP in Palace and got a transparent background with no trouble. One must save the file with the background color on the program set to the color one wants transparent. Then under options when saving click the box that sets transparent color as background."

Mac USERS NOTE: To create a transparency in GraphicConverter, go to the Pictures menu and then to Toolbox. That will bring up a small palette which has the transparency tool, which lies just to the right of the text tool. To create a transparency in Photoshop, export your file as a GIF and you'll be asked which color you'd like transparent.

Create and Position Door: Save your new image into your Palace:Pictures folder. Then in the room you want the image, create a new door. Size the door to about an inch square. You can change the size and location of the door by highlighting the door "handles." Clicking in the center of the door makes those handles visible as small tabs which appear at the four corners of the door. You may then move each of the four handles wherever you want. That will both size and position the door. Open the door dialogue box by going in the Wizard Menu under Door Info. That dialogue box has a place called PICT's. Clicking on that spot opens another dialogue box.

(Note: The following information is Mac-based, but should be more or less true for PC users as well). In that dialogue box you'll see a line called <none> for the GIF that's now in the door. By using the buttons at the bottom of that dialogue box, you can delete the <none> and then click "Add." On Macs, that calls up a menu that allows you to choose a GIF from your hard drive. Call up your new GIF and click "Save." Voila! You should now see your GIF overlaid over the top of your background picture. By moving the door, you can move the overlaid GIF anywhere in the room. Just highlight the door and drag it to make the overlaid GIF move.

You can use this technique to add things into a picture that didn't come in the original. In this way, the overlaid GIF can act as the poor person's Photoshop, layering photos over photos. If your beach scene didn't have any bathing beauties in the original, don't despair! You can add some now using the overlaid GIF technique. And you can move those beauties anywhere you want to. How convenient!

Remember that you can only call up GIFs that are in the Palace:Pictures folder. I can create a GIF on my home computer, but I won't be able to call up that GIF at CyberQuest Palace, which runs on a different computer entirely. The GIF must be on the server which houses the Palace itself.

Remember that when you enter a Palace room, your computer will call up the GIF with the name that matches the name in the Room Info dialogue box. That sounds blatantly obvious, I know, but actually has caused a lot of problems. For example, I once visited a palace and saw, to my horror, that their gate GIF was a picture I had drawn on my personal computer. For a terrible minute I thought my puter had been hacked and someone had stolen my artwork. And then I realized my puter was calling up my GIF, only because it had the exact filename as the Palace gate where I was visiting. I fixed the problem by finding that gif in my Palace:Pictures folder and deleting it. I then left the gate, returned, and began to d/l the correct and not-stolen GIF.

Sometimes you might want to take a cool av and make it a permanent part of a room. You cannot do this with a script that just calls up the av, because it can be erased by any user saying "Clean." But you can do this with the overlaid GIF technique. Let's say you have an av of some male hunk you want to be a permanent part of your room (see, I'm being equally sexist, folks, so don't flame me about the bathing beauties in the last section). Take your av and place it in a room, making sure you line up the parts perfectly. Then you can change the background of the room to be all white. Under Wizard Menu, go to Room Info and in that dialogue box, under Pict change it to Allwhite.GIF That's a background that comes with your palace server, so you should have it already in your Palace:Pictures folder. That will change the room background to entirely white and your av will stand out nicely. Now, take a screenshot of that room. On Macs, you can do that by pushing Control/Shift/3. If your computer can't take a screen shot, find someone who can.

The screen shot will be saved on your Hard Disk in some format that you can open with your graphics program. Now, you can treat the image as you would any other, and do a GIF transparency on it to get rid of the white background. Once you have sized it and done a GIF transparency, save it in your Palace:Pictures folder and you can call it up in a door dialogue box, just as you can any GIF (see above). So any av can be turned into a GIF which can be overlaid in any Palace room. It's a handy thing to do, as you'll see below.

Remember that the GIF transparency won't work through e-mail. You cannot mail a GIF and keep the transparency in tact, so whoever puts the GIF on the server must do the transparency. The above technique, then, will only work if your Palace server resides on your computer. If it resides on another computer, someone at that end will have to do a GIF transparency for you.

The great thing about overlaid GIFs is that they are part of a door, or spot. The door can be moved anywhere in the room, meaning you can place your overlaid GIF with precision and can move it again if you change your mind. It's not a part of the background GIF which is fixed and permanent.

But a door with a GIF can also be activated with a script to turn on and off, or even cycle through a number of GIFs. Let's see some actual examples of how this works.

Example One (simple): Go to the Quest for Romance section of CyberQuest CyberQuest Palace (, and from there to the Ballroom in the Quest for Romance wing. In that room you'll see a lovely flowering tree and some flowers on the harpsichord. Those are actually overlaid GIFs. I created the Ballroom in Ray Dream Studio, a very nice 3D program, but one which allows for very few objects such as trees or flowers. And so Jeannie of CyberQuest put in overlaid GIFs to achieve a more "decorated" look. You can really achieve some wonderful results by adding overlays to existing room GIFs.

(Note: most of our rooms at CyberQuest are hidden, but can be accessed by going through the Foyer and from there to the various wings. You'll find the Quest for Romance wing by clicking on the door in the Foyer that leads to a harpsichord.)

Example Two (more complex): Please go to CyberQuest and go to the Foyer room. There you will see an icon in the upper left labled "CQ Tour." If you click on that spot, you'll "hear" part of the CyberQuest tour. An overlaid GIF pops up, which we call "Linda." Linda appears and "speaks" certain information about the room. Of course, Linda is not always visible in that room or other rooms that are a part of the tour. She only appears when the tour script causes her door GIF to activate. Here's how Linda works:

We first created a door and went into the door to the pict dialogue box, adding the GIF of Linda after the <none> line:

Then, we added the script below:



325 257 SETPOS

"@39 232The Foyer is the beginning point for the various Wings at Cyberquest.Take a tour of Spinny's Universe! Stroll through the magnificent gardens of an old English Home. Or just relax in some of the more modern rooms we offer." LOCALMSG

"@39 232Your next stop is Imagination, so hold on tight. Hey, not that tight!" LOCALMSG



That particular script performs several functions, but let's just focus on the door state for now. You'll notice in line two that the 1 7 SETSPOTSTATELOCAL changes the state of door #7 to state 1. (The door state is the very first numeral you see there. The second number refers to the door ID#.) Remember that door state 0 shows no GIF at all <none>. Linda only appears when the door state becomes 1. So, the script first changes the door state to 1 and makes Linda appear. I love it! Then, in the last line you'll notice 0 7 SETSPOTSTATELOCAL. That changes the door state back to 0 and Linda disappears.

To simplify, you can change the door state to make an overlaid GIF pop up. In it's most simple state, here is that script:







In this script, when the door is touched once, the script makes the door state change from 0 to 1. When the door is touched again, the door state changes from 1 to 0. It's a simple, but very useful script and comes in handy when you use the lockable door script described on another page.

Example, the last (somewhat tricky!): Go to the Romance Island room at CyberQuest. Once you've found Romance Island, make the room into the night version (say "night") and click on the moon. You'll start seeing stars twinkling in the darkened night sky--an extremely cool effect. Those stars are a series of animated overlaid GIFs. And if that room doesn't make you want to learn how to overlay and animate GIFs, nothing will!

Here's how you can achieve that same kind of effect:

Go back to the PICT dialogue box in the Door Info dialogue box. Remember that the door initially came with <none> in the first line. That initial <none> state is called 0. That means no picture will appear if <none> is the first line in that box. But you can delete the <none> and start adding your own GIFS. Look at the example below:

And so, in that door's pict box, we have inserted no less than 13 separate GIFs. And we can insert a script to make those GIFs animate in sequential order (and repeat, so the animation effect continues). Below is that exact script:












When touched (selected), the script will cause the GIF to cycle through all the door states, causing it to animate and the stars twinkle!. Whoa! You can change the rate of speed for the animation by varying the number before ME SETALARM in the last line. Play with that number to achieve the speed of animation you desire.

Remember that the above scripts cause some lag and lag sucks, so use animation with caution, especially on small home-based servers. Also, remember that the smaller the GIF, the less the lag.

With the above information on room GIFs and overlaid GIFs you'll be able to achieve a wide variety of effects. Go to lots of palaces to see what others have done and then be creative yourself. It's a lot of fun, can look cool, and with any luck you won't crash the server.

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