What is OpenSimulator and is it for you?

Defining OpenSim can be a difficult task, especially if you are moving from an established virtual world with no background knowledge or experience of what other environments and communities have been developed. Even the standard terms used can be easily misunderstood. I’ve included some explanations below – which are by no means comprehensive or all encompassing.

Basic Definitions

OpenSim/OpenSimulator:

Sometimes people use the words ‘opensim’ or ‘Open Sim’ in a way that can be confusing. Essentially what this means is the free software. This is the programmed framework that many companies and individuals have based their virtual world on.

You can use OpenSim software as a private, entirely self-contained, virtual realm on your own computer. You can choose to host it on a server so that you and friends can access it. You can even build a grid for the use of others, commercially or not, if you wish to. (For further reading visit the OpenSimulator website)

Grids:

These are the virtual worlds created by others (individuals, groups and businesses) and based on OpenSim. Some of the better-known grids aside from Linden Labs’ Second Life are Third Rock, InWorldz, OSgrid. There are many variations and themes. There’s a Grid List at the OpenSimulator website, but, please bear in mind that not all grids that are available will be listed or that those listed will be open at the time of reading.

Hypergrid:

This refers to the ability to move (teleport) between different public grids that have the facility enabled. As myself and fellow writer, Thom Lunasea, have not yet used hypergrid it is something that may feature in another, separate, entry in the future.

Regions:

What most people (within Second Life) call ‘sims’, this is the basic square of land, islands and water, ocean or whatever variant it has been terraformed into.

Viewers:

If you have used an established grid then you will have, at some point, downloaded a viewer. Some virtual worlds have specific viewers that are the preferred method to log into that place; some leave that preference open to the user. For the purposes of this blog, on our own regions, myself and Thom Lunasea use the Imprudence viewer.

Is it for you?

To go it alone, or with support and help from a few keen friends, to create your own regions with OpenSim is definitely not to everyone’s taste or preferences. It is something that depends, roughly speaking, on three things:

  • what you want from a virtual environment
  • what level of involvement you want or can give
  • what your primary interests are

If your particular areas of interest are socializing, shopping, role-playing, being active in groups and events, etc., then it is likely that an established or developing grid will offer a more familiar level of user experience, interaction and support.

If building, creative experimentation or having a private environment is your key interest then using OpenSim may hold a greater attraction.

Moving to work directly with OpenSim does mean managing your expectations and developing a self-sufficient frame of mind. If you are acquainted with a grid that has a developed commercial infrastructure, where you are able to purchase or trade for all goods and services, then the entire lack of those facilities within your own virtual world does mean being prepared and interested to adapt to making what you need.

It can be a long-term project demanding time and there is a cost involved if you want to rent server space to host your regions.

All of that said: the possibilities that are on offer are fascinating. The chance to learn, to create and to build from the terrain on upwards is one that can make for an exciting sense of freedom. In turn that gives rise to creative ideas to see what can be made with such a blank canvas to work on.

In my next post I will be writing about my first experience of logging in. Up next though is the initial instalment by Thom Lunasea on how to use OpenSim software. Over to you, Thom!

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