The Architecture of OpenSim (machinima)
September 17, 2009, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Just in case you haven’t updated your feed – here’s a post from the Network – originally posted HERE.

6 sims for $150/month?  No prim size limits?  Saving and restoring entire sims to and from my own hard drive?    OpenSim is where it’s at, and improving at a pretty impressive rate.   With IBMIntelMicrosoft and evenLinden Lab itself making contributions toward strengthening OpenSim, it certainly seems to have a chance at achieving ‘prime time’ if  it hasn’t already.  The clients I’m working with, who are making sizable investments in OpenSim projects, seem pretty confident.

Being able to work on a sim-sized scale is always a liberating experience, but it can get expensive in SL – especially if all you really need is a place to sketch and brainstorm in a virtual environment where you can invite friends and colleagues to visit and collaborate.  If you’re willing to deal with the inevitable glitches of experimental software, just need some space to build on, and want to network within the growing ecosystem of organizations building on it, OpenSim is definitely ready for design prime time, as far as I can tell.

This video shows some simple sketching in OpenSim, including a glimpse of prim size limits in the first few seconds. Nothing special, but a fun little build:

I needed some land to build on, so I pinged Kyle over at ReactionGrid, with whom I had recently collaborated on another project, and inquired about setting up some space.

The next day, I had access to my own 6-sim setup.  This was a vast amount of virtual territory, and I immediately rolled up my virtual sleeves and started building.  I had the sims jammed full of little experiments and follies within the first few days!  It didn’t matter that I had run out of space, because I simply did a ‘Save As’ on each sim so I could rez them some other time, and saved it all to my hard drive.  I then deleted everything and started over again.  Imagine that… saving and restoring full sim  .oar (OpenSim archive) files, sort of like opening and closing CAD files, only inside of a multi-user, online, virtual environment.   The top machinima on this post includes several time-lapse clips of those features.  Below is a screenshot of day two on the new grid:

Did I mention there are no limits on prim size?  You’d be surprised how much that changes your approach to design – when larger builds are no longer a patchwork quilt of 10 meter prims, or math-builder work-arounds that take hours to assemble.  Getting from ideation to fly-through is significantly quicker this way.

I can also load a sim design onto a friend’s grid, or work offline inside my own computer for a while.  When I’m done, I can rez the sim within the larger public Architecture Islands commons to share the idea with others and collaborate on the design.  Its all very elastic and flexible, and builds can really be treated more like a kind of digital liquid, and less like a static and rigid physical artifact that can’t be easily modified.

I’ve even been able to prototype several design ideas on my OpenSim grid, then port the idea back into Second Life when I’ve got it just right (assuming I haven’t violated the 10 meter prim size limit).  For this,  I use Meerkatviewer, Second Inventory, or Prim Composer, all of which allow me to port the content I’ve created between worlds.  If you personally built something in Second Life, its only a few clicks away from porting to OpenSim if you wish, and vice versa.  In Meerkat, you just right click on the object and click ‘Export.’  Then File -> Import to rez it on another grid.  You can even set up your user accounts in both Second Life and Opensim, then easily switch accounts with a single click without even re-opening your viewer.  I look forward to greater interoperability between the grids, but once you have your accounts set up, it only takes about 10 seconds longer to teleport from Second Life to OpenSim than it does to teleport from one sim to another in Second Life. Here’s the Meerkat import/export feature in action:

I certainly don’t intend to suggest any dissatisfaction with Second Life, as I still enjoy working there very much, and find the vast majority of my own design consulting work on the SL grid.  Also, I should mention that the remaining Architecture Island sim in Second Life is still doing well, with renters continuing to build some amazing and innovative works – well worth a visit. Luckily, the Architecture sim I most recently sold was transferred to a client with whom I’m currently working to build one of the more exciting projects I’ve ever been involved with in Second Life.

Besides, OpenSim might look like Second Life, but I’m told that’s where the similarities end.  Besides being less stable, the technical architecture of OpenSim is very different, making it somewhat irrelevant to compare them, or suggest that one is better than the other.  It sort of feels to me like Second Life is the New York City or New England of the new world, with the greater population, the community, the commerce, and the culture.  OpenSim is more like California in the 1800’s (only you can teleport back to New York any time you wish ;-). You might be living out of stage coaches, but limitless land stretches out before you and at some point, someone might even find some gold.

If not gold, then how about 16-sim megaregions without any border crossings?  Adam Frisby blogged about this experimental feature recently, and shared this early demo:

There isn’t much of a universal economy (yet), insofar as you can’t really expect to sell prefab builds for $5 or $10 the way you can in Second Life and expect to earn a living. But you can probably cover your hosting fees, at the very least, given that there is a growing demand for well designed sims for business, personal and education uses within the OpenSim ecosystem, and it isn’t unreasonable to ask $800 + for a single prefab sim design, or quite a bit more for a custom design/build commission. I’m listing the prefab sim below at $1,100 on ReactionGrid’s new Outpost, and I’ve already sold one before the post went live.

If you don’t want to sell architectural prefabs, I know firsthand that there is growing demand for all kinds of content – from furnishings to custom avatars, landscape elements, entourage and more.  Some see the lack of content as a drawback of working in OpenSim – but I see it as an opportunity.  I’m supplying fully modifiable models, with full-permissions, in a wide open and unregulated marketplace, but it’s so much more like working on the rest of the web -selling templates and/or custom web designs for release into the wild, not just within a single grid.  If someone really feels compelled to buy this design, rip me off and call it their own – so be it.  I’ll make more! 😉

I wonder what some of you, the best and brightest minds of the architecture and design worlds, would do with several full sims at your disposal?  Who knows where the metaverse will lead us, but for the time being, I’m going to enjoy the best of both worlds.

You can visit the Architecture Islands grid by following the instructions posted HERE.

I’m also going to extend an invitation for you to join me.  ReactionGrid has offered a pretty competitive package to help build the Architecture Islands grid for architects and designers alike.

For $150/month and a $220 one-time setup fee, you get 6 sims at your disposal on the Architecture Islands grid – either contiguously connected or via hypergrid link.  What this means is, you can have your own isolated, secure and private world or you can connect directly to a more public design community spaces on the Architecture Islands grid.   The choice is yours, and you can have a little of each if  and when you want it.   This package also includes full remote desktop access and control over your own server, with save/restore access of .oar files, and training on how to use the system.  They recommend using 2 of the 6 sims in this package for light use – and the other 4 for light to medium use (low scripting) with a recommended 6-12k prims per sim.

If you would rather start smaller, we also offer single mid/light use sims at $50/month with a $50 one-time setup fee for a sim, but you can’t yet save and restore .oar files with this smaller plan.

You also get 1 free month of hosting if you refer anyone who adds a 6-sim package and sticks around for at least 3 months.

More about these packages can be found on the ‘Get Some Land‘ page, and to get started with either option, send an email to, or find me on skype at keystone1111.

Even if you have an OpenSim hosted elsewhere, or on your own machine, please consider a hypergrid link to Architecture Islands, or loading an .oar there every so often for the design community to tour.  My vision has always been to bring architects and designers working in any virtual environments together, so we can learn from one another, be inspired by each other, share ideas, and instigate new innovation.  Architecture Islands in Second Life spawned Wikitecture, and several other unique innovations and design theories – what new innovation can be invented within the context of OpenSim?

So lets stir things up a bit and see what we can build together.  Just imagine the cumulative effect of our collective imaginations on sim sized scale.  Maybe we circle the wagons and push several of our sims together for a showcase and open house once a month, then tear it all down and start over again.  Maybe we initiate a cross-disciplinary charrette with the folks at the Fashion Research Institute, or some other design-related groups and explore some of the ways they’re using OpenSim?  I jumped the gun a bit on realxtend’s early releases, but maybe their next few releases will be more stable, and we’ll be able to add rex sims with mesh imports as well?  Maybe the eventual advent of meshes in Second Life will turn this all upside down.  Who knows?  Nobody knows.  But I think we can make the best of all worlds, and leverage each platform for what its best used for.

I could be wrong, but I think the metaverse is way too young to be trying to hold onto a single mantra or suggestion that we know all there is to know about design in virtual environments.  It seems like we’re spending a lot of time trying to protect some of our first-round ideas and builds as if we’ve reached some kind of polished conclusion and we have it all figured out.  It’s just too early for that, imho, and we need to keep it fresh, and keep trying to distill what works, and what doesn’t work – not holding onto an outdated sim that hasn’t gotten any traffic in 6 months, just because its impossible to ‘Save As’.  Let it go, and start something new no matter what platform you’re working on.  “Design with a wastebasket nearby,” like a professor in architecture school used to say.  We still have so much to learn, and the quickest way we can make meaningful strides toward that end is to build, build build, then tear it all down and build from the best of it.

Let me know if you need a sim, or 2, or 6, and I’ll see you on the grids!

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

The 6th pic down on that list is gorgeous, indeed…slick, distinctive but still classic looking.

Comment by Gadget Sleuth

You just blew me away with an extraordinary video (1st one) the Custom Design which was created using OpenSim.. Its Just so awesome.
Now following you on your new Website. and will always follow you for your contents.

XX John XX

Comment by Luxury Modern Architecture

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