Let’s Talk Basics: The Hypergrid

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.

Let’s Talk Basics: Grids

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 map view of OSGrid, one of the oldest Opensim Grids.  Each speck is a standard-sized Region!

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.

Let’s Talk Basics: More on Regions

Hi again explorers!  Last time we started to explore the idea of a Region, sort of a building block of virtual simulated land. We left off wondering how you could build worlds much larger than what one Region could realistically simulate.  Today we’ll explore the answer to that and along the way introduce some concepts we’ll cover next.

Getting Neighborly

The trick to how Opensim (and Second Life) can simulate seemingly unending continuous virtual land that goes on and on happens at the edges of a Region. Opensim allows a Region to be placed right next to another Region so that their borders match up.  When this happens, a user  can travel right across the border seamlessly into the other Region (though every so often things can get a little quirky).

Regions can do this in all directions, and their neighboring Regions can do it too.  When Regions join up together like this, they start to form something that looks a bit like a patchwork quilt.  These Regions may be all owned and operated by the same user, or multiple different users. Generally speaking, neighboring Regions often have some sort of shared interest or social connection, but it’s worth noting that sometimes Regions might have different rules or purposes.

Curious how other users use Regions? Here’s a list of Common Types of Regions.

Pulling it All Together

Now that we know it’s possible to stitch Regions together into big continuous patchwork quilts of virtual space, the next questions are: What about Regions that want to be part of a different cluster, or just want to be off on their own?  How do all these Regions hang together, share resources, and make themselves known to the rest of the virtual world?

We’ll cover that next time, when we talk about Grids, the glue which makes Opensim the social platform it is.

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.

Starting with the Basics

Hi again!

There’s a lot to go over when it comes to Opensim and the Hypergrid, and I want to make sure I’m doing justice to you by covering it in a way that’s easy and accessible.  But that shouldn’t stop us from getting started, right?

So here’s our first real in-depth article on a critical topic: What even is Opensim, anyway?

As always, if you’re looking to dive right on in, check out the Quick Start Guide, and if you have questions don’t be shy about asking them!

Hello, Hypergrid!

Hi there I’m Alan, and I’ll be your guide here on the site.  I’ve been a long-time user of open virtual world platforms like Opensimulator, but I’ve always been frustrated, disappointed, or even downright angry at the lack of resources out there for new users.

This site is my attempt to start to fill in the gaps, and provide an easy to use reference.  I’ll be focusing first on the basics and how to get started, but it’s my hope to eventually move on to cover topics like content creation.  Let’s get started!

Here’s some basics to get the ball rolling:

The Quick Term Cheat Sheet: Learn some of the basic concepts and terms behind Opensim and the Hypergrid.

Quick Start Guide: Get up and in-world fast with this guide.