The new frontier: on the hypergrid

Each time I go out traveling the hypergrid, I meet someone who tells me that this is the new frontier — that this is what Second Life used to be, back at the beginning. The wide open spaces. The sense of boundless posibility.

The feeling that simply by being there, you’re stepping into the future — no, you’re forging the future. The design and building decisions you make today will help mold the 3D aesthetic, and ripple out through the metaverse.

But this new frontier isn’t as barren as desolate as it used to be.

Thanks to easy-to-set-up versions of OpenSim like the Diva Distro, Sim-on-a-Stick and — my new favorite — New World Studio, anyone can become a grid owner. All you need is a spare computer, a decent broadband connection, and a few minutes to install the software. And, if you’re using New World Studio and you’re lucky to have a supported router — or your computer is simply connected directly to your broadband modem — then you can have your grid be on the hypergrid right from the start. (Otherwise, expect to spend some time manually configuring your ports.)

Dutch builder Kanarie Klaar used New World Studio to set up his mini-grid.

A couple of years ago, just getting a grid up and running was a major accomplishment. There was no content yet, so everyone was building everything from scratch — or laboriously importing individual items that they had made in Second Life.

There were few public grids available to visit, and those that were up had many empty regions, unfinished builds, plywood boxes scattered everywhere.

That’s no longer the case. In fact, it’s easier to get a mini-grid going in OpenSim than to fill the same amount of land in Second Life. There are dozens of pre-made OAR files available for free download (see: Where to get content for OpenSim) with particularly amazing work being done by Linda Kellie, a former Second Life professional designer.

You can’t upload these OAR files to Second Life. But it only takes a few minutes to upload them to your startup OpenSim grid — or a region on an existing grid, of course — and you instantly have a perfectly landscaped region, with buildings, activities, and freebie stores stuffed with the main things you need to get started. Everything is original creations, Creative Commons-licensed, free for you to modify and use in any way you want.

Traveling the hypergrid, I’ve found Linda Kellie’s builds everywhere — or pieces of them, at least. It raises the minimum — instead of redoing all the basics from scratch, builders can now focus on customizing, improving, and making things that are unique and creative.

Personal grids

The biggest growth has been in personal grids. Small, four-region to 16-region setups which their owners use as a home base from which to explore the hypergrid.

There are several advantage to having a personal grid — as opposed to sims on an existing grid. The first, and most obvious, is the price. Your personal grid is there whenever you need it, you can have as many regions as your computer can support, all for zero dollars a month.

The personal AlaFolie minigrid.

Second is privacy. Your grid runs on your home computer. The only people who can visit are those for whom you set up user accounts — or to whom you give your hypergrid address. If you like, you can list your grid on public directories, put up a website promoting it. Or you can keep it totally quiet. You can sit and think by yourself, or you can invite a small group of friends to join you. You can engage in any kind of hanky-panky you like, without fear of strangers looking over your shoulder. Or you could just build in peace.

Next, is control over your own content. Everything on your grid is yours. You can make backups of your builds, and of your inventory. If your hard drive crashes and the grid goes down with it — you have nobody but yourself to blame, and nobody to complain to. So make plenty of backups!

You can even sit there, enjoying stolen intellectual property, like some art thief in a secret den looking by himself at his stolen masterpieces. After all, even friends and loved ones can turn on you and rat you out — better be safe than sorry. And, no, I’m not endorsing this hiding-like-a-rat-in-a-hole-with-its-stolen-piece-of-cheese lifestyle! In addition to the social condemnation, soul-racking guilt, the infringement fines and penalties, the infringers are also forced into secretive, reclusive lifestyles — and where’s the joy in having great stuff if you can’t show it off to people?

But moving on….

You also have control over your technology. You upgrade the grid when you want to, on your own schedule. You can run the latest experimental release of OpenSim and upgrade every week, or you can wait until everything is tested and secured, and all the other grids have upgraded, before you do the same. You can also run the grid on a super-fast computer for great performance, or make the grid small and light, and run it on the oldest computer in the house — like I do. The OpenSim server itself doesn’t even need a graphics card — only the computer running the viewer does! Hell, it doesn’t even need a monitor. Just set it up and let it run. If you don’t crash your grid with crazy scripting, it will run forever, or until you trip over the power cord.

Artistic grids

Artists have been known to starve in pursuit of their calling. Well, if they work in 3D and run their own OpenSim grids, they’re not starving because they’re spending their food money on land tier.

The stunning and artistic Aloha region on the Worlds End grid.

With a private grid, artists can have as much land as they want for their creations — no need to pack every square meter full of stuff. They can save previous versions of their work and go back to them at any time. And they can work while off-line or where Internet connections are slow, simply by running their mini-grid on their laptop.

They can keep their grid private while they work, then turn on hypergrid connectivity when they’re ready for visitors. And they can put up a PayPal tip jar to help pay for food, without having to spend any of it on land rental.

Not that there aren’t any artists on the public grids. Kitely is home to a few — check out the art gallery on Serenity Island or Heresy of The Intimate and Water and Glass by Karima Hoisan. Not to mention Ruben Haan’s Kliederaar on OSGrid. Or the Museo del Metaverso on Craft.

School grids

There was a rush to OpenSim when Second Life doubled prices for educators. Now, with Vivox voice widely — and freely — available, OpenSim is ready for prime time when it comes to education.

Caltech has a grid up — vCaltech. So does the University of Cincinnati.

University of Cincinnati’s McMicken Hall on the university’s virtual campus.

For every public grid, however, there are an unknowable number of private grids, running behind campus firewalls.

Being on the hypergrid allows a school to hold open meetings for the public, or joint events with educators and students from other grids. A private grid, however, ensures maximum security, keeps strangers away from students — and keeps students away from some of the more risque destinations in the metaverse.

Eventually, schools will all have some regions open to the public, for events and marketing purposes, and the rest closed, for the campus community only — similar to the way they now have public Websites and private intranets for teachers, students, and parents. For their first steps into OpenSim, however, educators tend to pick one or the other, and, I suspect, most are opting for privacy and security.

Niche social grids

Niche social community are a good fit for private grids. On the one hand, these groups have their own content — and want to control it. With their own grid, they can make backups when they want, and move from one hosting provider to another if they need to. Plus, they get their own domain name. And if they’re on the hypergrid, the public can stop by and visit.

Take, for example, Littlefield Grid, an adults-only, BDSM-themed community. (Yes, you don’t want your elementary school students teleporting in here!)

Littlefield Grid.

By allowing hypergrid access, interested members of the public can teleport in and wander around without making a commitment. Maybe attend some events. Pick up a couple of outfits. Stop by the land rental office and check out land prices.

And it’s not just for the BDSM crowd alone. Grids like Littlefield also have a lot to contribute to the OpenSim community as a whole. Maybe you won’t be using the freebie cages for their intended purpose (which, I swear, I don’t know what it is!), but I can easily see them holding pet dragons on a fantasy-themed sim, as jail cells in a simulated police station used for training exercises, to hold tigers in a virtual circus (much more humane than a real tiger in a real circus), or as a funky elevator car. Really, the possibilities are endless. And don’t get me started on the whips and chains!

Or take AndroWorld — on S-Grid.

AndroWorld on S-Grid.

Let’s say you’re a man and you’re … curious .. about alternate lifestyles. You can teleport over and — like with Littlefield — check out the grid without making a commitment to creating a new avatar and figuring out how to log into a new grid and then buying all new clothes. You can do some dancing, upgrade your wardrobe, meet some people, rent a free apartment…

In fact, the hypergrid is a lot like a dispersed version of Second Life. With one avatar, you can hop around from community to community, visiting different friends, different shops, attending different events all while being able to tell yourself,  “I’m just here for the music,” or, “I’m here to develop my 3D skills to make me more marketable in tomorrow’s economy.” Feel free to use that last one, by the way, to explain to your friends and family why you spend your time in-world in a furry costume.

Professional grids

Another trend I’m seeing more of is the use of grids to show off professional skills.

Jon Brouchoud’s ArchitectureIslands.

The best known of these is Jon Brouchoud’s Architecture Islands, which Brouchoud, a real architect with Crescendo Design, an architecture firm based in Madison, Wisconsin, uses to demonstrate both his virtual and his physical projects. (He also uses Kitely to sell entire pre-fab sims, which I wrote about last week.)

Now consulting firms and virtual event planning firms are also setting up grids where they can show their work, or meet with potential customers.

Virtual Events Planners International’s Virtual-EPI grid.

I was just at the Virtual-EPI grid, for example, run by Virtual Event Planners International. They help companies use immersive work environments to solve real world problems. And they also do some free classes. Which is a great way for designers, builders and consultants to promote themselves: potential customers teleport in to pick up some skills, decide that doing it yourself is possible and easily something they can handle, of course — but their time is valuable and maybe they’ll just hire a professional to do it for them.

3dCoLab’s virtual training facilities.

Or take 3dCoLab, a virtual world development company. Its company grid is home to a new user training center, meeting facilties, conference halls, a virtual Detroit, a virtual fire-fighting simulation, and other builds. Very much worth visiting, if you’re not a potential customer for their services. And if you are, then it’s definitely worth visiting.

So many grids, so little time

Today, the Hyperica directory indexes 71 different grids, all of which are on the hypergrid. And here at Hypergrid Business, we track a total of 143 active social grids, of which only 26 are definitely not on the hypergrid.

But in mid-February, we were tracking 118 active grids — and in January, we were tracking just 91. (All our monthly historical statistics are here.)

Maybe we’re getting better at finding them. Or — and this is my theory — more folks are putting up grids, and making them public.

Meanwhile, the time to get recognized as one of the first 100 grids on the hypergrid is running out!

Locations mentioned in this article

Canaria grid, middle coordinates, hypergrid address: 83.160.118.176:9000 (Up part-time.)

Worlds End grid, Aloha region, upper coordinates, hypergrid address: wegrid.net:8002:Aloha

 grid, upper coordinates, hypergrid address: ucsim.uc.edu:8002

vCaltech grid, lower coordinates, hypergrid address: virtual.caltech.edu:9000

Littlefield grid, upper coordinates, hypergrid address: grid.lfgrid.com:8002

AndroWorld on S-Grid, upper coordinates, hypergrid address:  s-grid.net:8020:AndroWorld

Virtual-EPI grid, upper coordinates, hypergrid address:  66.240.223.16:9024:virtual event planners int

3dCoLab grid, upper coordinates, hypergrid address:  3dcolab.com:9015

 

 

 

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maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • I remember when we had to walk five miles for a prim

    Uphill

    Both ways

    *laughs*

    Seriously, thanks to OpenSim, AuroraSim, the whole of the metaverse and the people in it, I’ve not had this much fun in decades 😀

    • VirtualClover

      We still do…without shoes or flexi hair. 

      *siiigh*

      •  Littlefield is a must, the 1st place i found and made me aware how much open sims could give us.
        And its really easy to tlp using hypergrid, visited S grid without even realizing i was on a diff grid then OG:)
         Still for me, and i have my private grid, just to see if i could host 1, via diva distro, OG is the place to be.
         And Adult content is by no means forbidden, just make sure your regions are rated Adult and if want to be even safier, create A group and restrict their acess to that group only!
         We all Know that adult thematic is part and will never be out of our dreams, our imagination, just make sure they are Well promoted as being one, and that Sex is no sin nor curse!
         
         

  • Walter Balazic

    There is actually a new URL for Littlefield Grid:  http://www.worldoflittlefield.org
    The information is more up to date there.  Thank you for the mention on this Maria, we have some of the best content creators in the Metaverse working with us at Littlefield in OSgrid and LFgrid and they really kill themselves putting out a lot of wonderful free stuff for everyone.  

    • Thanks Walter, I made the change! And you guys are doing an amazing job.

      By the way, what are the license terms on your content? Is it licensed for use on the grid itself (OSGrid content on OSGrid, LF content on LF) or can people take it to their home standalones? Is it licensed for personal use only, or can people incorporate it into commercial projects?

      Thank you!

      • Walter Balazic

        Thank you Maria, we are trying our best.. LOL.  At the moment because we are trying to promote OSgrid and LFgrid it is for use on those two grids only currently.  As for personal standalones, if someone wants the stuff for a personal home standalone, we wouldn’t have a problem with that at all.  Also because we have purchased licenses for the textures and sculpts for those 2 grids, so we don’t want the original creators of our building material upset if they see the stuff on other grids, but we will negotiate to get it on other grids soon.  We do not permit the content on “commercial” grids and never will.  If it ends up there we won’t persue it obviously, but it’s in bad taste for people to take something that’s free and try to sell it.  I see it all the time in SL and that’s why we want nothing to do with commercial grids.  This stuff is all FREE and we want it to remain that way.  We are very anti-commerce over at Littlefield, we want everything to be available for all to enjoy without anyone having to stress out putting money together for content.  Our policy is to give people a nice place to “live” and just enjoy themselves without the money overhead that comes from the commercial grids.

  • I know several people with their own personal multi-region grids. While this is fun/inevitable, it does mean that the avatar population gets increasingly sparse.

    • That’s one of the reasons I am so big on RP, graymills. Just look at the popularity of MMOs out there. Between the social aspects and RP, I can see the metaverse experiencing a population boom in the future.

  • Thanks for the kind words Maria.  We’ll be hosting IMMERSION Tools Jam meetings every Tuesday in March at 9:30 SLT.

    • At 
      66.240.223.16:9024:virtual event planners int , right?

  • Isn’t it great to have so much options to visit. Great article Maria. thanks.

  • Timothy Rogers

    I must say I happy to have my grid HyperGrid enabled, so far it has been great for me. I have a few residents who come in just to hypergrid away and explore, while currently having one building an amazing Ponyville sim. I must say I love exploring the hypergrid myself, so many places to see and so little time.

  • Alexander Duncan

    I know how to teleport direct to a grid using the IP address directly in the viewer, but – if I understand your article correctly – it is also possible to tp directly from one grid to another grid on the hypergrid (New World Grid, in my case). How does one actually do this? Or did I misunderstand?

    • First, you have to start out on an hypergrid-enabled grid. That’s most of them, fortunately! I recommend OSGrid (osgrid.org). 

      Then go to map — and type in the hypergrid address in the search box.

      For example, to go to Hyperica Upper, type in:

         hg.hyperica.com:8022:hyperica upper

      Then click search, and teleport — just as you would teleport to another region on the same grid.

      Once you’re at Hyperica upper, you can look around at all the terminals I’ve got up — 120 gates to locations on 73 different grids! Just step on any gate and whoosh — you’ll be teleported to that destination. 

      Or you can go to hyperica.com — find a destination you like, and copy and paste it’s hypergrid address into map-search.

      Sometimes just clicking on the hypergrid links works as well, but I haven’t figured our a firm-and-fast rule yet on when it works and when it doesn’t!

      More info here: http://www.hyperica.com/how-to-travel/

      • Alexander Duncan

        Does creating a grid on New World Studio automatically add one’s grid to the various directories, or does one have to do that manually?

        • Creating a grid on New World Studio is like creating an HTML file on your computer. You can make it accessible to outside by opening up your ports, and enabling hypergrid.

          But if you want people to find it, then you do the same as you would for a website — have other people link to it (by putting up hypergates pointing people to your grid), submit it to directories (like Hyperica — http://www.hyperica.com/add-your-grid/ ).

          You can also submit it to The Hypergates, by putting one of their gates on your grid and registering it.

          You can also promote it on Hyperica Forums, which we launched Thursday night after a discussion at the Hypergrid Entrepreneurs Group:

          http://www.hyperica.com/forum/ 

  • Amy Storm

    It is not just grids that list themselves as a adult that parents and teachers should be wary of. It is my belief that children belong on closed grids that are setup and monitored by educators and parents. Most grids, even commercial grids, do not have the resources of focus to supervise and protect the interests of younger users.

    • Hannah

      It’s my belief that children should not be on the internet unless they’re being supervised by their parents or teachers -full stop.