Let’s Talk Basics: Regions

Because Opensim is a platform for simulating virtual worlds, it’s only fair that we talk about the way it does it. Let’s start with Regions, the foundation of Opensim’s virtual universe.

A Region is a big, 3D chunk of virtual land.  By default, all regions come with land, ocean, and sky.  Users can enter into Regions and interact with the Region through their Avatars (a virtual representation of the user, more on Avatars in a later article).

It would be a bit weird if Opensim only allowed one Avatar to use a Region at a time (though it’s possible to set up your Region to do that).  Fortunately, Opensim is designed from the ground up around the idea that Regions should be social spaces.  Not only can multiple users use a Region together at the same time, they can work together to build the space as a community.

Pictured above: A blank default Region. This is the starting point for every virtual place in Opensim.

Traditionally, Regions have been 256 meters long, 256 meters wide, and a couple thousand meters tall.  More recently, Regions have been allowed to have lengths and widths that are multiples of 256.  This means you can sometimes find Regions that are literally kilometers in each direction.  That’s a lot of space!

So why even have Regions? Why not just have one huge one? There’s a couple good reasons:

  1. Breaking the world up into Regions means each on can have it’s own identity, rules, and boundaries.
  2. Regions make it easy to split up the work computers have to do in order to simulate the 3D space, which means Regions can be run on normal computer hardware, instead of supercomputers.
  3. Regions makes it easy to have many different people, each owning their own chunk of a bigger virtual world.
  4. Life happens and things change. Regions make it easier for chunks of a virtual world to come and go.

But how does Opensim turn these individual Regions into a larger, seamless virtual world? We’ll get into that next time when we talk about how multiple can Regions can become neighbors.