Hi all! I know it’s been a bit since I posted an article. Other parts of my life have been conspiring to keep me busy. As much as I’d like to be able to really focus on this, it’s only responsible of me to admit this is something I have to fit in around the margins for right now.
Thanks for your patience, and rest assured I’m still eager to get back to exploring more Opensim and Hypergrid with you soon!
We just covered the basics of the Right Click Menu, our secret weapon for accessing more actions in Opensim Viewers. What we didn’t get to cover were a few other actions you’ll end up using quite a bit if you ever want to add or remove objects from the world.
Let’s start with Take. If you have the permissions to do so (often because the object belongs to you), using the Take action will pick up the object and place it in your Inventory. Opensim tries to be fairly intuitive about where it puts things, so most of the time the object will go into your Objects folder.
Next up is an action almost exactly the same as Take, but with a twist. Take Copy will also place a copy of the object in your Inventory, but it will also leave the object still in world. This is very useful if you’re working on an object, but want to save an in-progress copy. Some freebies also work by asking users to take a copy.
The last one we’ll cover is Create (sometimes labeled as Build). This is an incredibly powerful action, and it’s the foundation of almost all the the objects that fill Opensim worlds. The action creates a brand new object wherever the user right clicked. It’s important to note this will only work if you have been given permission to Build. Because it’s such a powerful action, many Regions will have Build permissions restricted to just a handful of trusted users (generally the owners of the Region).
To get a taste of how powerful the Create action is, find a special type of Region known as a Sandbox. These Regions allow pretty much everyone to build to their hearts desire, and sometimes some pretty wild things can happen as a result! Most Sandboxes have a feature which returns objects to their owners after a set amount of time, so make sure you select your creations and use the Take action!
We’ll dig much deeper into the process of creating and editing objects later. After all, it’s one of the truly powerful parts of Opensim! But we’re going to refocus and get back to basics. Next time we’ll clear up what exactly a Viewer is, and how to get the most out of yours.
Last time on LTB, we covered how we can use the default actions of objects to interact with them. These all relied on either using text chat or left clicking on the object. But what if you want to do something that’s not the default action? Let’s look into one of the most used tools in the Opensim interface: The Right Click Menu.
Because there’s a lot of things that a user could want to do or learn in a general purpose virtual environment, it’s been a long-standing tradition on Second Life and Opensim Viewers (the programs that let users interact with the virtual world) to tuck most of them away in a special menu. This menu is accessed by using the right mouse button while over the object in question. This menu works on pretty much everything: Objects, land, your Avatar, other Avatars, etc.
Because the kinds of actions you’d want to perform are different depending on the context, this menu is sometimes called a context menu. It’s also sometimes called the “Pie Menu” or “Circle Menu”, based off of the circular shape the menu has often had on some Viewers.
For now let’s do a quick overview of some of the actions found when right-clicking an object:
Touch, Sit: Same as left click actions. On some objects the text for Sit is changed to be a bit more descriptive. For example, a motorcycle might say “Ride”.
Open: Some objects can hold other objects inside them, and deliver them to a user. Think of it like opening a box. You can only open objects when its owner has granted users like you permission to do so.
Pay: Opensim has a built-in money system (we’ll cover Money later), and some objects use the Pay action to sell other objects or services.
Buy: Very similar to Pay, except when you finish Buying, you’ll recieve your very own copy of the object that had the Buy option. Many regions give away items for free “freebies” by having the item for sale for $0.
Next time, we’ll cover a few more Actions, which are all about adding or removing Objects from the world.
A lot of the content on Hello Hypergrid focuses on answering the “How” and “What” kinds of questions, but this time I want to spend a little bit of time addressing a big question that I don’t think gets a good answer often: Why?
Why use Opensim, an open source virtual world platform with no major financial investment behind it, no hard focus on any one use-case, no flashy marketing, based off technology which isn’t the newest and greatest?
Because that’s exactly why.
Opensim is the perfect platform for the hundreds of small uses for virtual worlds that aren’t big enough or flashy enough to warrant millions of dollars of tech investment money. The lack of focus on a single profitable game loop makes it a fantastic palette for virtual collaboration. Its tools make it easy for anyone to participate and improve the world, virtual and real.
Its open-source federated nature makes it perfect for communities looking for a safe space to call home, and it’s able to be run from pretty much anywhere in the world. I’ve run Opensim worlds off of thumb drives, and visited a world hosted on a Rasberry Pi.
The fact that Opensim’s technology isn’t the latest is also a kind of benefit. Not only is it well tested, it’s widely available. You don’t need an incredible computer to use the platform. Anyone can chip in to improve the software, and they have for over a decade.
It’s easy to knock Opensim for its clunky interface, to get scared off by the fact that it’s not the shiniest, glamorous platform. I know, I’ve done it to myself several times. What keeps me coming back is the fact that the fate of the platform is in the hands of its user community, not just a company looking to maximize its bottom line. I can help improve the platform, and so can anyone else.
Why use Opensim? Because it’s a tool for building better worlds, together.
So far in our journey, we’ve been learning a lot about how the virtual worlds of Opensim are stitched together, and how to navigate them. Now let’s change our focus and look at how to interact with the places and objects you’ll find there.
In addition to being able to walk, fly, and teleport, every Avatar has a set of abilities for interacting with the world. Let’s cover some of the one’s you’ll see the most of first:
Many objects that you’ll find in Opensim will respond when they are clicked on, or “touched.” Depending on what the object is meant to do, this can trigger any number of actions. Keep you eye out for clues as to what they will do, if the creator has done their job right, it should be pretty clear.
How do you know an object is touchable? Your mouse pointer will turn into a pointing finger when it’s over the object.
Evey Avatar comes with the ability to talk using text chat. Not only will other user’s Avatars be able to respond to it, some objects can too! Some objects use chat to tell the world what they’re up to at the moment, and not all objects will respond to chat. In general your chat messages will only go 20 meters away from your Avatar, so sometimes you’ll need to move closer to be heard.
While a lot of objects in Opensim stay put unless edited by their creators, some objects can be moved around just like real life physical objects. You can move these objects around by clicking and dragging them. This is known as “grabbing” an object. An object that can be grabbed will have a open hand mouse pointer icon.
Lots of objects in Opensim are designed to be sat upon. Furniture, vehicles, and even some dance floors will have an option to sit on the object. Objects you can sit on will have a chair as their mouse pointer icon. Once seated, you can press the “Stand” button on your screen to unseat yourself.
We just did a quick overview of the different ways a user can get from Point A to Point B in Opensim, and we saw how teleporting was a very convenient method of getting almost anywhere instantly. We’ve also talked about just how big the virtual worlds in Opensim can get. This leaves us with a conundrum: How do we know where to go, and how do we share places we find with others?
Happily, there’s a few good solutions for this in Opensim. The first is an item you can receive in-world called a Landmark. These are sort of like a bookmark that points to a specific place in the virtual world. Landmarks can take you to places both on your home Grid, or take you across the Hypergrid. As long as the destination still exists, the Landmark can take you there.
When you get a Landmark, it will usually go into a specially marked folder in your Inventory (a personal collection of items that belong to your Avatar). When you click on a Landmark, you can choose either to have it whisk you away immediately, or look at some basic information about the destination before you go. You can also create your own Landmarks to save for later or share with friends you meet in-world!
Sometimes, you’ll find out about a destination while you’re not in-world. Fortunately, many Regions and Grids can be accessed using a URL Link. These look a bit different from a normal web link. For example, this is what the URL Link for the Welcome Region in Digiworldz looks like:
When that address is searched for by a user in their Viewer, it will find the correct place to go and allow the user to teleport there. There are a few other flavors of these Links, some start with “hop://” and some start with “secondlife://”. Depending on the Viewer, these can be clicked on directly and the Viewer will try to take you straight to the destination.
Up next, we’ll talk a bit about how to interact with the world and other users you’ll find in Opensim!
In the last few articles we’ve covered the basics of how the virtual world of Opensim is structured. Now, let’s talk a bit about how to explore it. In Opensim, every user is given an Avatar (we’ll cover them soon, promise) to explore the virtual world. Aside from being highly customizable, Avatars have a few basic ways to get around.
Walking, Running, and Jumping
It’s probably no surprise that Opensim allows user Avatars to walk around. Walking (and running) are pretty much available everywhere in Opensim. It’s great for exploring a lot of areas, but isn’t really the fastest way to move. A user can walk across a border between Regions, but if two regions aren’t connected together, they can’t walk the empty space in between.
A feature that a lot of newcomers to Opensim and Second Life focus on when starting out is the ability for Avatars to fly. Flying is useful in many cases. It’s not only faster than walking or running, but also allows users to reach areas they wouldn’t be able to reach on foot. Many users rely on flying as a sort of “fast-forward” button to speed up their travel.
In some cases, flying Avatars don’t make sense for the way a land owner is using their Region, and they have the ability to disable flying on some or all of their land. Also, like walking and running, flying won’t let you get to Regions that aren’t connected in some way to wherever you currently are.
Another handy supernatural power is the ability to teleport an Avatar from one place to another in Opensim. Unlike walking or flying, teleporting allows you to go immediately to any Region that the system can find the address for. Even if a Region is isolated far away from every other Region, there’s a good chance a teleport will get you there. Before the Hypergrid, a user could teleport only within the Grid their account was with. The Hypergrid opened up that restriction, so that a user can teleport to far off Grids just as easily. Teleporting can get a bit confusing, and we’ll dive deeper into how to keep your bearings later.
Up next, we’ll talk about how Opensim lets you find new places and share them using Landmarks.
Over the last few posts, we’ve gone from exploring Regions to seeing how they work together to form Grids. As we mentioned in the last article, this is all pretty much identical to how Second Life handles things. Now let’s talk about one of the really cool features that Opensim has: The Hypergrid.
Before the Hypergrid came along, there were a whole bunch of different Opensim Grids, but they each operated apart from each other. If a user on Grid A wanted to go explore Grid B, they’d have to go create a whole new account on Grid B. Understandable, but not great. The Hypergrid changed that.
The Hypergrid is an optional feature that was introduced to Opensim after it’s initial creation. It allows that user from Grid A to travel instantly to Grid B and interact with it just like they were back home on Grid A. Any Grid that’s willing to connect to the Hypergrid can send and receive users, objects, and communications from other Grids. Suddenly, the Opensim virtual world just got a lot bigger.
Now it’s possible for users to regularly travel between Grids to visit friends, shop (we’ll talk about how money works in Opensim in a later post), or to explore. User’s aren’t just limited by what their Grid has to offer, but instead have a whole virtual universe to explore.
Some Grids understandably value their privacy over the access that the Hypergrid offers, and have chosen not to be a part of it. In our article on Grids, we compared Grids to countries. When it comes to the Hypergrid, Grids that are open to it could be considered to have “open borders”.
We’ve now covered the ways that virtual land exists and is tied together in Opensim. We’ll be coming back to each one later in more detail, once we’ve covered some more basics. Up next, we’ll talk about the ways you can get around to all these virtual places, how to find points of interest, and how to get back to them later.
Last time we covered Regions, and how they could be banded together to form big chunks of virtual space. We left off asking how all these Regions could work together, even when the Regions aren’t direct neighbors.
The answer in Opensim is a service known as a Grid. Grids are like a buddy system for Regions. Not only do they allow multiple Regions to act together, they act as community hubs for users. While it’s possible for a Region to exist completely on its own, a very large majority of Regions belong to a Grid.
Grids are owned and operated by people or organizations who are responsible for running all the background services that make a Grid possible. In some cases, this is a single person. Other times, a Grid owner is a business or non-profit. Many larger grids have a mixture of volunteer helpers and paid staff.
A Grid can be a wide range of sizes. Some are quite small, just a handful of Regions and users. These are often personal Grids, for a small group of friends. Others, are quite big, with hundreds of Regions and an active population of users.
A good way to think about Grids and Regions is to imagine this: Regions are like towns, and Grids are like countries. The members of the town are all citizens of the country, and can freely move pretty much anywhere in its borders. Grids often have their own economy, their own culture, and their own focus. When a new user comes to Opensim, one of their first decisions is what Grid they want to join. When they sign up with one, that Grid becomes their “home base”.
If you’re familiar with Second Life, you’re already familiar with the idea of a Grid. Second Life itself is one big grid run by a single company called Linden Labs. When Opensim first started off, it was trying to mimic a lot of the way Second Life grouped things together, and borrowed the idea of Grids, Regions, and many other ideas too.
How many Opensim Grids are out there? Well, the last time Hypergrid Business counted (at the end of July 2018) there were 248 active Grids. Not too shabby!
Next time, we’ll talk about something which makes Opensim truly different from Second Life. It’s a shared network called the Hypergrid that allows Grids to work together as one big community.