5 minutes, 5 clicks, one new world

I beta-tested the latest version of the New World Studio today.

It took me exactly five clicks to have a new OpenSim-based world up and running on my computer. And the whole process took five minutes. Though probably half of it was spent taking pictures of my computer screen, resizing them, and saving them.

So here’s how it went.

First, I emailed Olivier Battini, who heads up the project, and volunteered as a beta tester for Windows. He’s also looking for Mac beta testers, so feel free to drop him a line if you’d like to test out the product on either machine.

He sent me a download link. I downloaded it, and unzipped it.

NWS 2-1 extracting

Unzipping New World Studio 2.1.

Then I double-clicked on the application folder to open it — titled NewWorldStudio_CE_2.1.0_0002_Win in the test version and launched the program by double-clicking on NewWorldStudio.exe.

The software launched with a start screen showing just one possible option — Start 3D World. So I clicked that.

Start panel.

Start panel.

Microsoft Windows 7 asked if I wanted to allow access to the software. I did, and clicked on Allow access. Meanwhile, a bunch of stuff was being installed in the background.

allow access nws 2-1

I wasn’t really paying attention, since I was trying to get a screen capture and kept pressing the wrong buttons. Fortunately, the Allow access screen came up again, and I had a second opportunity to grab the screenshot.

Now I was back to the start screen again, except this time I had two options – Stop 3D world in red and Login to 3D world in blue.  What to choose? What to choose? After taking picture of the screen and saving it, I decided to login. Click.

login nws 2-1

A moment of panic ensued as I realized that I didn’t know the avatar name, nor the LoginURI of the world, but while I was worried about this, New World Studio launched Imprudence, logged me in automatically, and started up the world.

Turns out, I didn’t need to know any of that stuff.

welcome avatar

And there’s my brand-new avatar, wearing a hard hat, in what looks like the OpenVCE open source conference space.

And there's the world.

And there’s the world.

I noted the time. Five minutes from start to end, five clicks — not counting the downloading and unzipping. Zero typing.

This has got to be the most streamlined OpenSim installation experience in the universe.

I shut down the viewer, clicked on Stop 3D world, and took a look at what I had installed.

The zipped file was 161 megabytes, a pretty hefty size. It unzipped to a 501 megabyte folder which had the NewWorldStudio.exe file and a couple of .ini files.

The NewWorldStudio.ini file includes some configuration details like the name of the starting avatar and its password and initial appearance, and the map position of the first region, and what region to start at. It also had “False” for “IsPublic” and “IsListed,” referring to hypergrid access and listing in the New World Studio directory.

I changed the “IsPublic” value to “True.” and started the world again. It started very quickly the second time around. But I couldn’t teleport out. Maybe this .ini file is only for the first time the world is run?

For the benefit of my readers, I erased the New World Studio folder and started over with the zipped file again. Two minutes to unzip, five minutes to launch the 3D world. Still no hypergrid connectivity.

Okay, what else was there? An Applications.ini file that listed the version of all the software used, and three folders — apps, avatars, and regions. The first folder, apps, contains all the applications that make up the New World Studio package — Apache, MySQL, OpenSim, the Imprudence Viewer, and the New World Studio launcher itself.

The avatars folder includes Benjiro, the guy in a hard hat, and three other starter avatars — Benjiro2, a hipster guy in a scarf and sunglasses; Cara, a blonde wearing jeans and a tight, low-cut sweater; and Cara2, a brunette in a long blue dress with open midriff.

Starting avatars are CC licensed, with avatars by Slim Jammies and clothing by Linda Kellie.

Starting avatars are CC licensed, with avatars by Slim Jammies and clothing by Linda Kellie.

The regions folder includes five different starting regions — a flat region with an elevation of 21 meters, or one meter above sea level, the OpenVCE conference center, Linda Kellie’s Business District, Linda Kellie’s Mountain Retreat, and Justin Reeve’s Undersea Observatory.

I deleted everything and started over. This time, right after unzipping, I edited the NewWorldStudio.ini file to say Cara instead of Benjiro as the avatar name, and Mountain Retreat (LindaKellie.com) instead of OpenVCE as the starting region.

Then I took a five-minute break while it started up the world for the first time again.

And it worked. Changing the NewWorldStudio.ini file before running the software for the first time allowed me to change my default starting avatar, and load up a different starting region.

The Cora avatar on Linda Kellie's Mountain Retreat OAR.

The Cora avatar on Linda Kellie’s Mountain Retreat OAR.

I was also able to change the name of my avatar by editing the “Owner” section of that file.

The Verdict

First, I want to say that if someone wants to be running their own virtual world on their own computer and has zero technical skills this is the hands-down best way to get it done.

Second, I want to say that creating a user-friendly installer — user-friendly anything, actually — is very, very difficult and thankless. Developers and power users don’t need an installer and will just complain about all the missing features. And there will be idiots who will still have problems figuring it out, no matter how idiot-proof you make it.

Third, I understand and support the fact that Olivier Battini is making more advanced features of his New World Studio available for a fee. If you don’t want to pay the fee, all the same functionality is right there, in the console, for those who want to get in there and type the commands.

The advanced features are a convenience, and a one-time fee of around US $20 for individual users is fine by me, especially if it encourages further development.

The fee might also encourage more competition, spurring other groups to create their own installers and management tools.

Finally, if you’re using this preview version of the New World Studio to create your own virtual world, edit the NewWorldStudio.ini file before running the software for the first time. Edit your avatar name, pick your starting avatar appearance, and choose your starting region and your starting coordinates. The current starting coordinates are 7000,7000 which are a nice round number. Since a lot of people are likely to have regions at those same coordinates, you wouldn’t be able to jump directly there, since hypergrid jumps don’t work unless you’re going to a destination with different coordinates. I’d pick something random but in the same general vicinity — like 7023,7019.

What I would change

That’s not to say that the New World Studio, as is, is perfect.

Here the top five things I would change before the final release:

1. Make the OpenSim console optional. Right now, the console is right there, running in the background, whether you want it or not. Advanced users will like seeing it, since you can use it to create new regions, load and save OAR region files and IAR inventory files, and do all kinds of other management stuff. But for typical users, the console is a scary sight. Make it invisible by default, and put an option to bring it up under an “Options” tab.

2. Make the choice of new avatars more explicit. Right now, by default, you get the Benjiro avatar. Switching to Cora requires editing a file, which most folks would not want to do for fear of messing stuff up. Giving a choice of starting avatars on startup would add to the complexity of the starting interface. Again, it could go under an Options tab. It would also be nice to change your avatar name without editing the NewWorldStudio.ini file.

3. Make the choice of starting regions more explicit. Similarly, since the starting regions are already included with New World Studio, make it easier by picking a different starting region. Again, Options tab?

4. Pick a different default viewer. I know that there are licensing considerations that might come into play here, but Imprudence is out of date and no longer supported. My current favorite viewer is Firestorm, which is actively supported, has mesh and media-on-a-prim, and is committed to OpenSim.

5. Provide a hypergrid option. Standalone worlds are fine for local building, but the real power of OpenSim is being able to teleport to other worlds — and having users from other worlds visit you.

I would argue that these five features be included in the free community version of New World Studio, and keep OAR and IAR imports and exports and automatic backups and other more complex actions for the paid premium feature set.

By adding the five features I mentioned, a newbie user would be able to do 99 percent of what they want to do in OpenSim without ever cracking open a console.

Custom installers

What I would especially like to see is the ability for organizations — companies, schools, non-profits — to create customized versions of this installer for their own users.

Some schools might want to use the Imprudence viewer, for example, because their hardware won’t support advanced viewers. Others might want Firestorm because they work with mesh. Or they might want some other viewer — say, one customized to be kid-friendly.

Some organizations might want to have their own default starting environments, and their own set of default starting avatars.

For example, I might want to a distribute a Hypergrid Business version of this installer, with a default region that has gates on it pre-set to take them to popular shopping destinations and to the Hyperica hyperport and a tutorial about how to travel the hypergrid. I would be willing to pay a license fee to do this, since it would help my readers, and promote my hyperport.

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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.

  • Maria, thanks for your review and feedback !

    This new Community Edition will evolve and improve in the next weeks and some simple options may be added. Consider it a work-in-progress. 🙂 That’s all about Kaizen (continuous improvement philsophy).

    Concerning Imprudence, it is indeed the only viewer (with Kokua perhaps ?) that is fully GPLv2 thus allowing redistribution along side the Community Edition. If there’s a MOAP+Mesh viewer that is 100% open source then we could replace Imprudence.

    Hypergrid functionnality is configurable manually (INI files, ports forwarding…), but all the magic of New World Studio (automatic network and firewall configuration) goes into the paid version which will directly fuel the project on the long term. I also already got requests for customized New World Studio distributions/installers with per project logo etc… I deeply think that would help widespread OpenSim adoption, especially in schools and universities.

    • Samantha Atkins

      The lack of MOAP/Mesh is a major no go for future facing projects and a lot of education and business based use especially. Why does it have to be GPLv2 in the viewer exactly? That you are bundling everything doesn’t mean that you are actually changing or distributing a new version of the viewer. Or am I missing something?

      • In fact, Firestorm, like other v3 viewers, use proprietary addons that you need to request permission to redistribute with the viewer. When you redistribute software, you must check that you have permission to. If the package contains proprietary parts, it can become a nightmare at requesting permission to each proprietary part maintainer… These are legal and licensing considerations to take into account.

        • WhiteStar Magic

          Olivier, Why not just add Links to the viewers and allow the user to select which they want. That is not redistributing a viewer and resolves the licensing issues. Offer 4 vhoice that work with OpenSim such as Singularity, Firestorm/OS, Cool VL Viewer, Kokua(?)

  • Of course, you can always install New World Studio and use any viewer you like with it. The avatar name and password are right in the .ini file, and all you do is pick the “local” grid option in the viewer.

    It is nice , though, to have the viewer launched automatically for you. Maybe it could be another configuration option — using another default viewer that you already have installed?

    • Kitely offers the option to choose certain viewers in their settings area of the myworld section…I find it quite useful ths Astra, very similar to imp but with mesh support, is not in the options, yet.

      But one can launch it separately as they recently added the ability to run the viewer of choice separate from their auto-launching function.

      So, it can be done, and nicely too, for NWS.

  • CiderJack

    To chime in here on the comment about Imprudence being “out of date and no longer supported” which is true in-and-of-itself, it remains the go-to viewer for many prim builders (quite possibly the majority of prim builders, but then I’ve not done the research to support that). The version 2/3-based viewers are resource hogs, and the interface is actually not very conducive to ease or efficiency for building. Imprudence has gotten a lot right that for some reason has been just completely left out of later viewers.

    You also have my complete agreement that it would be nice to offer a choice of viewers on startup (perhaps a little menu of viewers rather than a single ‘start’ button), but if you consider 161MB to be “hefty”, you wouldn’t like what adding the options will do to that.

    It’s a shame that since Imprudence is fully open source, someone doesn’t just hack MOAP & mesh support into it. /me prods the coding community 😉

    That said, I’ve personally got a project in the works putting together an XAMPP-based portable OpenSim, and this build looks very interesting – I am curious if it is “portable”, it seems to take the concept to a whole new level. I will be sure to “drop him a line”, as it were!

    • CiderJack, it’s indeed portable.

      New World Studio leit motiv is being :
      * multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux)
      * multi-support (portable on USB drives, or installable)
      * multi-language (it is natively design for international support)

      • Orion Greymoon

        However, keep in mind that Imprudence is not working on the latest releases of Ubuntu/linux (and I hear some other distro’s as well), so that inhibits the cross -platform benefit.

  • “I would argue that these five features be included in the free community version of New World Studio, and keep OAR and IAR imports and exports and automatic backups and other more complex actions for the paid premium feature set.

    By adding the five features I mentioned, a newbie user would be able to do 99 percent of what they want to do in OpenSim without ever cracking open a console.”

    I agree, and I look forward to having a permalink to this I can send my less-techy friends to. I would love to tell more folx about opensim but so many are in closed grids and simply find it all to daunting.

    Just as with the evolving of windows [and DOS] a nice gui opened up computing to many, many people.

    • Maria, Minethere,

      I may agree on the 3 first features of the list. But custom viewer selection and hypergrid configuration make the principal interrest of the New World Studio software.

      Bundling a simple Apache + MySQL system, adding Diva Distro that provides updates, and making installers just like Sim-on-a-Stick does, is easy. But New World Studio relies on its own updates, and designing a whole application that takes care of everything for you in a click, is multi-platform, multi-language and multi-support, installable or portable, and provides automated updates of the whole package, does deserve, I believe, even a little contribution. Don’t you think ? 🙂

      • I try NOT to think, it hurts to much.

        But, great concept and I wish you all the best-))

      • “making installers just like Sim-on-a-Stick does, is easy” – easy is a relative term – for someone who doesn’t much like getting techy with PCs, has a family, job, school, etc, it isn’t “that” easy, especially finding the hours to update within a week of new releases, test, do the website, and share – but passion overcomes that =)

        • Absolutely. I’m not saying this is that easy, because it takes long hours. On the contrary, I do admire your creative work and your passion !! =)

          I was only trying to say that what we do is a hard work for us that is, sometimes, ungrateful, even if it is our passion and we get a lot of pleasure to give out and share.

          • One of the things I love about virtual reality, is finding the –passion– folx have for so many things….software, Art, creating-)))

          • i often recommend your package – it fits many people’s needs (and does so very nicely). i tried to use the OSGrid package but never could get my computer configured. you do that effortlessly (from the user’s perspective)

            as for anyone being critical of your premium offering, my answer is that they don’t have to buy it and can try doing it on their own. i think it is more than fair that you offer one for real money

            it’s funny about OpenSim (and SL too) that everyone wants everything to be free but then wonder why nothing ever sells like that moon thing for $150K!

            there is value to people’s work, they just need to be brave enough to charge what they think it is worth – i applaud you for having a premium version =)

  • Joe Builder

    Do not replace Imprudence, That would be a horrible Mistake many still use it. Other viewers are real resource hogs suck the life out of your CPU’s. I suppose its because of all the junk (Add-ons) they offer. Imprudence in my opinion is a builders viewer, regardless what others offer. Off Subject a bit Mesh is a surely a economy destroyer, for the poor souls who create. Again thats another topic.

  • DT

    I love how to sign up to beta test, it sends you to a facebook page. Not everyone in the world does facebook… like me. My choice, not yours. I guess you don’t want developers to test your products with 20+ years of development experience.

    • DT — I included a link to the Facebook page because that’s where the discussion was being held.

      But you can contact Olivier directly: olivier at newworldstudio.net — he gives the email address openly in the discussion, so I guess I can reprint it here.

      You’re right about not everyone using Facebook, but it’s hard to think of a community that is used by more people. So if you want to reach out to folks, there are only a few options — Twitter, which doesn’t easily lend itself to conversations like Facebook does, or Google Plus, which is becoming popular for some types of techie discussions, but some folks don’t want to be part of Google Plus, either.

      Or you could set up your own community, which can work if you have a popular product and people use it all the time, so that you have a medium through which to send them messages.

      You do have a point, however, in that companies shouldn’t *only* be relying on communities, but mirror all the information that they put out through social media through their own channels, like a website, so that folks looking for it know there’s one official place they can go to find it. So that we don’t have to hunt through Google Plus, Twitter, and Facebook to find the latest announcements.

    • DT, thanks for your interrest. I published the beta test application form on Facebook in the first place because there are people who already knew the software and I just wanted to clear the most important bugs and issues with a few people. Once downloads are available, all communication will go through the blog. We’ve got a bug tracker installed now and everyone will be able to help and report, so your long experience in development is most welcome =)