Course Syllabus
CS658 Networked Virtual Environments
Fall 2012
Dr. J. Mark Pullen
(last revised 7-28-12)



Dept of Computer Science
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Telephone: 703-993-1538

FAX: 703-993-1706


Office hours: Mondays 16:00 to 18:00 in person or online in MIST/C (send email beforehand)

Class meets: Wednesdays 19:20 to 22:00 online and ENGR 4705 (attend in person, online, or by recording)


Course Description

This course provides a breadth-first overview of how distributed/networked simulations work to create virtual worlds by integrating a range of advanced technologies. Topics covered in lecture are: networked virtual environment overview, networking technology, network multimedia concepts, virtual simulation concepts, efficiency/performance issues, and online conferencing/virtual classrooms. The project consists of five segments, each covering one aspect of networked virtual environments, plus a final session where one- or two-person teams create a minimally functional networked virtual environment over the Internet using overlay multicast software.  The course consists of 31 fifty-minute sessions plus a multi-part Java programming project, which will be presented/discussed in class, and two ninety-minute examinations.  Lectures are recorded in MIST/C format (see below) and are available for playback on a flexible schedule, which is necessary since the course is shared among institutions having different academic calendars.


CS555 or other introductory computer networks course, plus the ability to write simple programs in Java.


Anthony Steed & Manuel Fradinho Oliveira, Networked Graphics, Morgan-Kaufmann, 2010

Computer and Network Requirements

We will communicate mostly by MIST/C and email. All software required for the course will run on a Windows XP/Vista/7, Macintosh OSX, or Linux computer with at least 1 GHz processor, 512MB memory, 100MB free disk space, and Internet access supporting at least 56 kb/s. All software is available for free download. To try MIST/C, go to, load the client software, and play recording WelcomeToMISTC. Then go to and login to CS658 page (to be available not later than 24 Aug) using your GMU email username and password. Links to project software will be provided in lectures. MIST/C will be used with the Xj3D virtual world viewer or other similar free download viewer.


Individual project assignments (6; 10% each)            60%
  (Projects due by 19:30; late projects lose 20% per week)
Exams (2; 20% each)                                                   40%
  (Missed exams must be coordinated with the instructor before the exam date)

Schedule (subject to revision)
NOTE: Some lectures will be pre-recorded; students are expected to attend these before class.
This will be discussed during the first class period.


(End) Week Of

Lectures; Discussion Date



Project Assignment

29 Aug


1 to 3
29 Aug

networked virtual environment overview: forms of distributed interaction; example systems; NVE technologies and challenges; origins of NVE


text ch 1

load and test MIST/C & software

5 Sep
(5 Sep)

4 to 9;
5 Sep

network technology overview: host-to-network technologies; internetting; multicasting; transport layer; application protocols; communication architectures

text ch
2, 3, 4

part 1: sending DIS PDUs
due 12 Sep

19 Sep
(26 Sep)

10 to 15;
26 Sep

networked multimedia overview: sound; graphics; video; priority, rate control, flow control; middleware; exam review

text ch    5, 6

part 2:
sending networked sound
due 26 Sep

3 Oct

16; none

first exam

text ch
1 to 6


10 Oct
(17 Oct)

17 to 22;
17 Oct

Visualization; virtual simulation: managing shared state; stream networking; psychological issues: event resolution; DoD architectures: DIS and HLA

text ch
7, 8, 9

part 3: visualization using VRML
due 17 Oct

17 Oct


Guest lecture: Dr. Don Brutzman, NPS MOVES



24 Oct
(31 Oct)

23 to 28;
31 Oct

efficiency/performance issues: approximating reality: dead reckoning; threads; real-time rendering; collision detection; compression and aggregation; area-of-interest management; server architectures

text ch   10, 11, 12

part 4: linking visualization to received DIS PDUs
due 7 Nov

14 Nov
(28 Nov)

30 to 31;
28 Nov

online conferencing/teaching: system requirements & subtle issues; floor control; recording; integrated graphics; network performance issues

13 + readings to be provided

part 5: collision detection
due 28 Nov

28 Nov
(28 Nov)


Second exam


ch 7 to 13


5 Dec

33; NVE validation

Integrate individual projects into an NVE; exam discussion (group activity)


part 6: multi-avatars and multicast; integration event