Free OpenSim in a snap

Running OpenSim on your home computer in, in theory, a great way to have as much virtual land as you want — for free.

In practice, it can take quite a bit of time and effort to set it up. I normally have my teenage daughter do it, but with each passing year, she gets more and more sullen and resentful.

The Diva Distro is a big improvement, but you have to download the right files from github and then follow a complex configuration procedure.

Ener Hax’s Sim-on-a-Stick makes the process easier by packaging everything up nicely, but it’s still not a no-brainer.

Today, I tried out New World Grid’s New World Studio, available in English, French and Italian versions. Wow, what an improvement!

First of all, it installs like a packaged software executable. You download it, click on it, it installs everything it needs and puts a nice icon on your desktop. You click the icon, enter your grid’s name, your avatar name and password, decide whether you want your world public or not, and click on the big green “Click to Start” button.

The New World Studio management panel.

It automatically does all the nasty stuff — configuring databases, installing the WiFi system, and loading up OpenSim. I followed the New World Studio QuickStart guide to help me set it up. Though it was hardly needed — the few steps there were, were pretty much self-explanatory

Now all you need to do is run Imprudence (or your viewer of choice), select “localhost” from the grid list, and log in.

After downloading — I swear I’m not kidding — I had my four-region world up in just a couple of minutes.

To shut down, click the big red button that say “Click to stop” in the New World Grid console. It shuts down OpenSim. To start it up again, click that “Start” button — you only have to enter your avatar information the first time.

The OpenSim command console itself. Why does a 3D virtual environment use a DOS-era command line interface? Oh, my eyes, my eyes.

You still have the OpenSim console open in the background, in case you want to load up OAR files – check out LindaKellie’s — or level the terrain.

For example, to load up Linda Kellie’s Boardwalk region, type the following into the OpenSim console:

load oar http://www.lindakellie.com/Creations/boardwalk.tgz

To change the default tiny island to a nice, flat region, type the following:

terrain fill 22 

You can find more OpenSim server commands here.

It even gave me the Diva Distro WiFi panel — which I’ve never been able to successfully set up on my own before. The WiFi panel is a way for outsiders to get information about your grid over the Web, to create or change their user accounts, or just to see how many regions you have up.

It also gives the login URI at the bottom of the page — which doubles as your grid’s hypergrid address.

My WiFi page.

So, a couple of clicks and I was in-world on my pimple island. Now I wanted to travel the hypergrid. After a restart, I turned connectivity on in the New World Grid console and could teleport to my company grid and to OSGrid. But I couldn’t come back. Other people could teleport in — but they couldn’t get out.

Apparently, the automatic port forwarding and router configuring that New World Studio sets up doesn’t work for my router.

I searched for answers on the New World Studio’s connectivity wiki. I went to PortForward.com and found my router and forwarded my ports, and followed their instructions for setting up a static IP address for Windows 7. I even set up my Windows Loopback Adapter. I also checked the New World Studio support forums, where Chrome kindly translated those postings that were in French for me. (New World Grid is based in France.) Nothing worked — plus, I lost my Internet connection a couple of times and had to go back a step.

After a couple of hours, I gave up, and wrote this review. Tomorrow, I might try downloading and using the New World Studio Loopback Installer. Or re-configure and re-forward all my ports again.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for OpenSim to run locally, New World Studio is fantastic and I highly, highly recommend it. Highly. The only caveat is that if you’re going to be using it to create OAR files to upload to other grids — like Kitely — you’ll want to work with independent regions rather than the four-region megaregion. It’s easy enough — simply create a new region in the console by typing in:

create region RegionName 

You’ll be asked to choose region coordinates and … voila … you’ll have a fifth region on your mini-grid. Go in with your viewer, and do your thing. When you’re ready to save it as an OAR file, do the following:

change region RegionName
save oar
c:/Documents/FileName.oar 

You’ll need to change the address of the OAR based on where you want it to be saved. More information about saving OARs — including preserving creator names with the “-home” option — is on the OpenSimulator wiki OAR page.

Correction: Adding regions to an OpenSim instance that already has megaregions doesn’t work. Instead, you will have to go into the .INI files and turn off the megaregions before you do any building, by setting CombineContiguousRegions to false.

On my machine, the files were located at C:\Program Files (x86)\Virtus France Association\New World Studio\opensim\diva-r15592\bin\config-include\MyWorld.ini

In the first [Startup] section of the file, add this line:

CombineContiguousRegions=false

Right before the [DatabaseService] section.

While you’re in this file, you can browse through to see what other settings you can change. For example, you can set OutboundPermission to False by deleting the semicolon in front of that line.  People will still be able to teleport to your regions, but they won’t be able to take any content out with them. (But it could also mean that when you yourself teleport out, you show up naked.)

If you have Windows 7, remember to run Notepad as administrator (right-click Notepad in your Start menu, select “Run as administrator”) in order to be able to edit and save the file.

Working on your own gets lonely.

You can still try out New World Studio. It might work with your router, in which case you’ll be traveling the metaverse in a couple of minutes.

Otherwise, be prepared to manually configure your router and your ports.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I teleported over to OSGrid’s LBSA Plaza, where there are always kind people ready to help out — that’s how I found about the loopback adapter. Other resources include the OpenSim Live Chat channel on IRC, the OSGrid IRC chat channel, and the OSGrid Forums.

Or you could pay 25 Euros an hour for premium support from Virrea, the company behind the New World Studio. You can also download the same software — though called Virrea Studio instead of New World Studio, and without the nice installer — from the Virrea website as well.

Wishlist

Some improvements I’d like to see added to New World Studio are some simple management tasks, such as creating and deleting regions, and loading and saving OAR files, so that most folks would never have to go into the OpenSim server command console at all.

I’d also like to see an upgrade button — right now, you have to go into your Program Files folder, find the Virtus France Association folder, go to New World Studio, then the opensim folder, then the diva-r15592 folder (the number might change), then the bin folder, and run the upgrade.exe program. Make sure to save OAR backups of your regions before upgrading, just in case.

The upgrade issue is particularly important right now because there’s a new version of the Diva Distro has just been released with OpenSim 0.7.3, with some nice fixes and improvements — including NPCs. The New World Studio, however, hasn’t been updated since last summer.

The folks at New World Grid — including New World Studio creator Olish Newman — are having a meeting on March 21 to discuss future developments. The meeting is open to the public — and New World Grid is on the hypergrid, so you don’t even need a new avatar. The meeting will be on the Welcome region, hypergrid address grid.newworldgrid.com:8002 (upper).

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is a science fiction writer who covers cybersecurity, AI and extended reality as a tech journalist at her day job.
Check out her author page on Amazon or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Her first virtual world novella, Krim Times, made the Amazon best-seller list in its category. Her second novella, The Lost King of Krim, is out now.