While 3D hardware acceleration often brings greatly enhanced levels of performance to Active Worlds, it may also bring some annoying complications, due to the enormous number of different 3D video cards out there. Some video cards might have bugs which adversely affect performance, cause bizarre rendering errors, or in extreme cases cause Active Worlds to crash or even the entire PC to lock up, requiring a reboot. Each video card also has many different possible software driver versions that may be installed on a particular PC, and some drivers may work better than others. The latest driver available for your 3D video card has the best chance of working well with Active Worlds or for that matter with any software on your computer in Direct3D and/or OpenGL modes.
This is why we cannot stress enough the importance of making sure you have the latest drivers for your video card installed. The vast majority of problems reported with Active Worlds 3.4 are fixed simply by updating the video driver!
Keep in mind that even if you have a brand new PC, it may not have shipped to you with the latest drivers installed.
If you are trying to run Active Worlds in Direct3D or OpenGL accelerated mode and are experiencing problems, there are several things you can try:
- Update your video driver - this simple procedure fixes the vast majority of problems that people might experience. See details below.
- Try changing your display depth to 16 bits - some video cards (especially many older cards in the Voodoo family) work better when your screen is set to 16 bit color (also known as "high color".) Also, high color mode tends to use much less video memory than 24 or 32 but true color mode, and using more than 16 bits per pixel currently has no effect on the quality of the 3D scene rendering in Active Worlds. To change your display depth, right click on the Windows desktop, select Properties..., and click on the Settings tab.
- Upgrade to the latest version of DirectX - the latest version (currently 9.0) is available at www.microsoft.com/directx/homeuser/downloads/default.asp. You may currently find other versions of DirectX at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/search.aspx?categoryid=2 if you wish. Active Worlds 3.4 has been designed to work best with DirectX 8.0 or higher, and has been extensively tested with versions 7.0, 8.0, 8.1 and 9.0 of DirectX.
Updating your video driver
If you have a "name brand" computer such as a Dell or Compaq, check their web site first for driver updates. This is particularly important if you are using a laptop. Drivers can be found under the "Support" section of a PC vendor's web site.
You can also get updated drivers directly from the video card manufacturer. If you do not know what type of video card you have, the first thing you should do is run the DxDiag utility to find out what kind of card you have and to determine if your card supports 3D hardware acceleration:
- Click on the Windows Start button and select Run...
- In the dialog box that comes up, type in DxDiag.
- If Windows says that it cannot find DxDiag, you probably do not have DirectX installed. You will need to download and install DirectX from www.microsoft.com/directx/homeuser/downloads/default.asp.
- In the dialog box that comes up, first look at the "System Information" section. Near the bottom, it should indicate what version of DirectX you are currently running. Verify that this is at least 8.1. If not, download and install the latest DirectX from www.microsoft.com/directx/homeuser/downloads/default.asp.
- Next, click on the Display tab. In the Device section in the upper left of the Display page, it should indicate both the name and manufacturer of your video card. Make a note of both.
- Now look at the section DirectX Features further down in this dialog. Make sure that both "DirectDraw Acceleration" and "Direct3D Acceleration" are Enabled. If they are not enabled, press the Enable button for both. If you cannot enable Direct3D acceleration, then your video card probably does not support 3D hardware acceleration and you will only be able to use Active Worlds in software rendering mode. Also, make sure that "AGP Texture Acceleration" is Enabled, if possible.
- Finally, try pressing the "Test Direct3D" button and run through the simple tests, making sure they all complete successfully. It is possible that some computer systems may crash while performing these tests. See the DxDiag help files for more information about how to use the DirectX Diagnostic Tool (DxDiag).
Another common way to find out what type of video card you have is by clicking the Windows Start button, selecting Settings, then Control Panel. Select the Display control panel application. In the dialog that comes up, click on the Settings tab. If there is a button in this dialog called Advanced..., click that. The dialog that comes up from there should indicate your video card model.
If you completed the above steps without any problems, the next thing to do is to locate the web site for your video card manufacturer. Below we provide links to some of the more popular video card manufacturer's web sites:
- Nvidia - TNT, Vanta, Quadro, GeForce, RIVA, and nForce graphics drivers
- 3dfx - Voodoo cards (note that the company 3dfx, Inc. is out of business and no longer provides any support for Voodoo cards. This link is to a third party site that has some Voodoo driver downloads.)
- ATI Technologies - Rage, Radeon and Mobility graphics drivers
- Creative Labs - 3D Blaster graphics drivers
- Matrox - Millenium G200, G400, G450 graphics drivers
- Intel - many common types of "onboard" 3D hardware acceleration, including the i740, i810 and i815 chipsets
- Hercules - 3D Prophet and Guillemot graphics drivers
- ELSA - Gladiac, Erazor, Gloria, Synergy graphics drivers
- Diamond Multimedia - Viper, Stealth, SpeedStar graphics drivers
- S3 Graphics - ViRGE, Trio, Savage graphics drivers
- SiS - many different chipset families. Note that Active Worlds generally does not work well (or at all) in 3D accelerated mode on most SiS chipsets, even with the latest drivers installed
A good general purpose video driver web site is WinDrivers.com. Also see CNET.com for a beginner-friendly introduction to the concept of drivers.
Once you have located the web site for your video card manufacturer, you will need to locate the drivers specific to your video card model and operating system. Note that many cards require different drivers depending on what version of Windows you are using. Drivers are usually located under the "Support" section of the web site. Look for a link called "Drivers" or "Downloads."
Once you have located the correct driver, in most cases it is then a simple matter of downloading the new driver to your computer and installing it. When you start the download, be sure to note where on your hard disk you are downloading the file to. Once the download is complete, locate the downloaded file on your hard disk and double click to install. After installing your new drivers, you usually have to reboot your PC.
Some cards may require separate drivers for running in OpenGL mode. If you are having trouble with OpenGL mode, you can try running the GLSetup utility, which is available for free download from www.glsetup.com.
In some cases installing new drivers can cause problems on some PCs, and even prevent some systems from running. In particular, installing the wrong driver for your video card can cause severe problems. If you choose to update your video drivers, you accept full responsibility for any problems that may result from doing so. Activeworlds Inc. is not responsible for any problems or damages that occur as a result of installing new drivers. If you are unsure about whether or not you should install a particular driver on your system, always contact the video card manufacturer before proceeding!