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Getting Started With Sim On A Stick

Updated on March 5, 2014
Terrain heightmap10 deployed
Terrain heightmap10 deployed

Your Stand-alone OpenSim from SoaS

So your virtual interest in creating a stand-alone virtual world is peaked, and your PC is clean and streamlined (I'm assuming here you read the previous two articles in this series! If not please pause and do so). You think you're ready to start downloading and installing – BUT WAIT! Just one last itsy bitsy more thing!

Before you continue, please consider where you are going to download your new software to. Now Sim On A Stick comes in a zip type file which you will have to open and install on your computer. Let me offer some friendly experiential advice here. In case you colossally make a mess of your early steps on that road to elemental being - somewhere between VW greenhorn and VW guru, make sure that the downloaded zip files are somewhere you can reuse them -- at any date; creating a fresh install from them. I've already reused mine three times. So don't feel bad if you must at some point start over from scratch. Sometimes it truly is easier to take one step backwards in order to take five steps forwards. *VW = Virtual World

I like to leave my zip software downloads in my Downloads file in my My Documents section of my Windows files, precisely for moments of brain farts where the whole intellect-melded-to-technology-thang irretrievably stalls. I only have so much fuel in my personal tank for wheel-spinning, you see. When all else fails start fresh.

Sim-on-a-Stick Installer Walk Through

Download Sim On A Stick now

So now you can go download those exciting Simonastick files. It's ALL FREEWARE! Yaaah! Go ahead and install them wherever you like. The components are comprised of: MySQL database, the server software stuff – Apache & PhP, and also whatever viewer you plan to use like the favorite of many OpenSim users, Imprudence.

Download Sim-on-a-Stick

I'm using the USB memory stick's awesome. I can cart the thing around the house in the memory stick to any of the other computers as I please. Here's something really nerdy: I can even run it on this itty bitty laptop while I'm in the kitchen browning meat in the skillet for dinner. Shhhh, don't tell no one. I have a rep to maintain and all as a “normal” person. Grin.

There are instructions that come with SoaS for doing the set up. Follow those. You will find a notepad shortcut-link to the file with those instructions which should have put a link to itself on your desktop when you installed. If not find it in the first level of the tiered SoaS files titled Simonastick1. Other shortcut links should auto install on your desktop as well, like: “mowes” (your server connection software), “OpenSim” (this is your link to the MySQL database access), and “Imprudence” your viewer. VERY IMPORTANT -- Notice the order in which I list these links. Save yourself some half crazed thinking process and just open them IN THIS ORDER when you start your world. This is how you will start your virtual world each day you decide to do something with it.

So, you've downloaded and installed. You haven't purged your original zip files of the software. And you're set up with the software either on your computer or on a memory stick.

Now, here's a little of the fun stuff. Go explore your new world!

Getting a world to look like something.
Getting a world to look like something.

Your Avatar Tutorial

Learning the ropes of your world

I have a question for you, is it a little flat? Where's the buildings? Trees? Furniture? How about those default clothes – leave a bit to be desired? Is your default avatar male or female? Well the good news, all of that is stuff which can be adjusted or added.

So here's some basic points about those adjustments:

A. Your avatar: you should have been prompted about what your preferences are – male or female avatar. If not, in the viewer you have a set of files that come default to the software precisely for that. Take a gander at those, find the viewer's menu lists at the top of the screen (Imprudence) and choose the part for avatar modifications – meaning go to the EDIT menu and go to near the bottom choose APPEARANCE. Select your preference. Then go ahead and alter the Avatar's physical features to suit. Clothes too. The system comes with a plethora of options to modify your new avatar. This will keep you busy an hour or more, lol.

B. Buildings and Objects. I've already mentioned there's freebie stuff out there you can use to get you started. The first steps of building mean you will need to take some time to learn how to rez, place and position objects. And there are tricks of that trade which make their appearance and placement in your sim look more adept. I will address these things in an upcoming article.

BIG TIP**Here's an fyi, something for future exploration. On the web are many freebie resources for Open Sim. This includes everything from Avatar Skins, to clothing, to buildings, accessories, plants, textures and more. Make a note in your notebook to schedule a day or two to simply spend roaming the net to peruse all those freebies. Make a folder in your PC book marks with two subfolders...main folder title make as SOAS, subfolders FREEBIE SITES and the other DOWNLOAD ME. You won't always have time to sit for all the downloads due to life interruptions, so save the links of items you find which you want to come back to get. A direct link to the appealing ones time savers because these sites are sometimes huge indexes of all kinds of stuff and covering the same ground twice can be avoided.

The skins for the avatars that come with your SoaS are a nice quality, but there are many freebies out there that are even more unique. Many artists in the community contribute to the growing virtual collection out there of free user resources. Don't discount them. Artists pride themselves on what they produce. Not to mention seeing a texture for a skin laid out like a world map on virtual paper is absolutely could go a lifetime and never see something so funny if you hadn't come across one before. The ones with big lips bring that classic story by Robert Fulghum to mind, of his neighbor lady and the spider, going out the door to go to All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten book. Which is besides the point, but when you see one, I think you'll fully understand what I find so humorous about it.

Anyway, I'm not saying you have to rush to the net and start collecting freebies right now. I'm just saying they are out there and if you feel initially intimidated about creating your own content, there is more than enough out there to populate multiple worlds full of stuff.

Basic Building Tutorial

Tutorial - OpenSim Build a House

The Basics of Building

Your files which you perused in the viewer's(Imprudence) files section has some starter trees and shrubbery among the collection to play with. I'm assuming here you've already opened every drop down menu and button in the viewer to look over what options come with the program.

Open your build menu now. Keep it open. Set it to Edit. Now go to your files and open an object. Maybe start with a tree, for aesthetic value. Grab with your mouse the tree file and drag over to your view of the land in the world and drop it. Give it a minute if it don't do it right off the bat. Some systems are a bit slow, like my old jalopy. If it don't happen at all, operator error becoming a suspicion, try it again.

So a tree rezz's (rezz means appears; it refers to the process your software goes through to get an object to form in-world. Another term you might as well learn now is Bake or Re-Bake which essentially tells your system to go to the default item or your modified item and Rez or process the existential data for it again causing it to appear – Rez is a usually the end result of Bake or ReBake). Now double check your build menu and make certain you are still in edit mode; the mode options are the cute little icons at the top of the build menu or the written ones just below it.

From the edit options choose MOVE. Click on your tree item in-world. You should see a set of lines bisecting your tree. One will be blue, another red, and another green. They should be straight not circular. Circular is rotate in the edit options – see Edit menu again. Those straight colorful lines are the directions you can move an item in-world. Grab one of those lines and practice moving your tree around.

Notice that when you move your tree up and down; how when you hit land, it can disappear into the ground? This is important to notice because objects that disappear into the ground can get seriously lost and still weigh you down with your prim cost.

Create Menu and Raw Prims

Raw prims cube, cylinder, and circle.  Circle in move mode.
Raw prims cube, cylinder, and circle. Circle in move mode.

About Prims and Prim Cost

Let's talk a moment about these new terms. Prim & Prim Cost.

A prim is a singular shape, either on its own or combined with others to make an object, like a table...which will have the top as one prim and at least three or four other prims as legs. You may see the different raw prims available to build with in your build menu which is under Tools; choose Tools then select Create. This will open a build menu with many options like Square, Pyramid, Cylinder, Circle and others. If you choose Edit instead of Create, you will find options like Move, Rotate, Stretch, Create, & Land.

A raw prim is a prim that has not yet been modified by shaping or texturing. Raw prims are what you will get when you select a shape and rez it in-world.

Prim Cost is the number of prims in every object placed into your world. Now if you've ever been to Second Life (SL another virtual world system – not SoaS) you might have learned that Prim Cost is a curse on the Avatar's. No matter where you go, there is a prim cost. In some types of clothing if those clothes are created from anything other than the default system clothing they will incur a prim cost, and also in every object you place or create. Properties in-world, in SL usually have pre-set Prim Costs, the result of which different sizes of properties will limit how many prims you can place in any given area. Public areas often won't let you place any independent objects like benches or books or boxed items you want to share, et al in their areas (exceptions are sandboxes) because they add to the region's prim cost, although they don't usually penalize you if a few pieces of your clothing are comprised of prims like the big fancy formal dresses some female avatars will wear. Prim cost limits limiting the number of prims in an area are usually set to allow for the variables of the average number of worn prims. When an area approaches those limits some regions will message to all avatars in an area that limits are being reached and that if you do not have critical business in the area you are being asked to leave and return later when the area is less crowded.

So, you ask, how is this important if I own-build-operate my own new Sim? Well, there's a reason virtual worlds have such limits or restrictions. It's because the more prims you put in a world, the longer it takes for your world to rez, or for visitors to rez, or for objects in-world to rez. That affects the whole VW experience. I love Second Life, BUT this is one of the things that drove me nuts about it. I have an older less endowed set of computers in my home. So when I take one of my old jalopies to the net to a virtual world like SL, well strange things happen in fully developed realms, like my shirt not rezzing (a pet peeve with me) or it taking forever to see where I am, or all the other avatars present being greyed because they didn't fully rez or are taking forever to do so, or some are still a cloud, or I'm still a cloud to someone else because my computer is so archaic my little barking processor just can't keep up.

For example, I want to go to a party someone is hosting in-world in SL, and by that world's little lonesome self on any normal day, there's no one there, prim count is within reason, and everything is visible. Then come time for the party, I show up and I can't see a darned thing.

By the time the world finally gets around to rezzing the party is generally over and I've been a wallflower who's spent her time politely making excuses for being stationary the whole time or for bumping into person after person who I cannot see.

All that is partly related to prim count. Newer machines are less affected by high prim regions or high prim count events. And the limits are often set with newer machines in mind.

Eventually your new self-contained personally hosted virtual world will face these issues even if you forever remain a population of just yourself...unless you're driving the Maserati of Desktop Planet. I don't have that luxury and many of us in this community are not far from my own boat. So we swim with the tune of Prim Count in mind; somewhere in mind, even if it's a dusty corner way in the back at first.

Texturing Land Tutorial

Terraforming Land Tutorial

Modify Land Methods

Now, lets get around to discussing the next eyesore. The flat land. Lovely ain't it? Well if the novelty has worn off on you, know this. It can be easily modified! Tutelage for doing this did not come in your set up instructions either. And I hunted across the net for the methods, which to this newb, seemed to be in pieces in a hundred different places. So I'm going to walk you through some basics to understand about it, then I'll cut you loose to experiment for awhile with a couple of them. When you get tired of that, come see me in one of my next articles and I'll tell you all the juicy tidbits I've already figured out ahead of you. It'll save you a whole lot of Googling.

For starters. There are three ways to alter the terrain of your world. (Vocabulary: TERRAIN = the land shape and elevation) First method is in your build menu. You may have already discovered it experimenting. It is that icon that looks like a bulldozer (Imprudence) and/or the option in writing below that says Land. With this tool you can raise, lower, smooth, and flatten your land, or dig your way to China bypassing the northwest passage, if you are so inclined.

The next method is faster in many respects and even comes with perks. Remember how I was mentioning those freebies? You can go to the net and hunt for “open sim free terrains”, “simonastick free terrains”, or “free OARS”. A fully formed freebie terrain will come most often in OAR format which is sort of like a zip file. It is basically an archive which can contain not only land but objects on that land too (the perks I mentioned). Other types of files common to your virtual world are IARs which usually are collections of objects or accessories for in your world. Another is png which is usually how you find heightmaps of regions formatted. A heightmap is like a topographic map; it's 2D rendering of a 3D concept area using greyscale colors instead of topographical lines to describe elevations. Black is the bottom of the ocean and white is up near the sky with grey being somewhere in between.

Ok so lets back up here a moment. I just threw a lot of terminology at you. You now know what a terrain is. But what is a Region? And here's another you will run into if not already: Estate.

A Region is the singular unit that your land is made of. A single default size for a region is 256x256. Four regions can be combined to make one Mega Region. And the SoaS world can be grown to a 16 region size and still run on little old laptops like mine operating with Windows XP.

Now an Estate is a collection of one or more regions. This becomes useful if you ever connect to a world grid outside of the one you have on your computer. Or if you finally complete your world to the point you decide you want to invite some buddies in, and maybe sell them some land to use on your world. Then one or more region can be assigned to a new Estate which they operate to some degree depending on what covenants you set. A covenant is a set of operating parameters or restrictions for land and land use in your world.

Free Heightmap - SANDA

Created by Cyrellys - free to take or modify. Full permissions.
Created by Cyrellys - free to take or modify. Full permissions.

About Heightmaps

Ok, so before I burn you out on all this new terminology, lets look at the third way you can modify or change land. We've covered the in-world bulldozer engine, and OARS in the section above. This third method is through downloading or creating your own greyscale heightmaps. You can find some out there for free on the net. Usually in png format.

You can super easy make your own for free! Once you know how, its way easier and faster than using the bulldozer. Then the only use for the bulldozer you'll have, will be helping to meld the terrain of one region to another as part of fine tuning your landscape at region borders usually between unrelated heightmaps obtained from different collections or a heightmap of your own individual single region creation. Huge time saver.

To make your own grey-scale heightmaps you'll need an editor (example: GIMP or BLENDER - both freeware!). The general process is very simple. In over view, you'll choose an editor and download it if your choice isn't already extant on your machine. You'll have that file collection I mentioned above set up and handy where you will save the ones you make or modify. And you will have learned how to load files into your database directly. Making the heightmaps is just a matter of creating it with the editor, saving it to file, and then loading it in your OpenSim database. So you need to check out my article on loading first.



BIG TIP**Save any early finds of heightmaps (I included one for you here - see the black and grey pic) you think you might like or want to try out, to a set of files which are outside of your SoaS software world files. Use these files to stow all your internet finds which you have not yet loaded to your SoaS. I keep my external file set on the same stick I keep my installation of SoaS. That set of files can be described in a File Tree.

A file tree I have setup for this purpose looks like the following:

A Textures (because if I use A as the first letter it comes up first in my files – ease of quick access) Inside of A Textures are the following sub or child files:







Structures (Buildings)

Terrains (Non OARs)

Textures (the colors and color patterns we apply to objects to make them look like wood, fabric, etc)

You might also have one for neat Avatar Skins, you find out there.

And some of the above subfiles have child files such as the Textures file which in turn has child files of its own like, Interior (Textures), Exterior (Textures), Fabrics, Wood, WindowGlass, RocknBrick, Terrain, Pictures, Objects, Fire, Doors, Roads, Plants. You get the idea.

It provides you with an initial place to stow and sort internet finds that you might use but not immediately. Remember that Prim Cost song? The more files or prims you burden your SoaS or any VW system with, the greater the chance it will run slow. So keep an eye out for ways that can keep snail creep out of your system for as long as possible.

The other nice thing about keeping such a file or collection of resource files separate from your SoaS files is that if you ever need to completely restart from a fresh install, you have individual copies in a collection you can reload. That is besides any IAR file you may have or not have created of your objects and texture files already loaded in SoaS.

BIG TIP**Try to make all your files one word! The reason is when you go to specify a file path for loading – which you will have to manually type in to specify to your database (see next article), it makes life a whole lot easier. It also avoids the database sending back endless messages to you like the following in the case of problem loading an OAR: Unable to load file, parameter not valid. This occurred because one of the files in my path was titled OAR Doomed City. Notice the spaces in the file name? That is what caused my one hour of head scratching spent reentering my command a thousand different ways in the hopes of getting a success response. MySQL really can't stomach a multi-part file needs to be one word. Youarewelcome.

Next article: Loading Files Into Simonastick

Next article: Simonastick Making Heightmaps in GIMP


Submit a Comment
  • Nik Dollas profile image

    Nik Dollas 

    12 months ago from Kastoria - Greece

    Very good article helped me a lot to make a start :)

  • Cyrellys profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from Montana

    you're welcome! I'm posting the next one, maybe two tomorrow.

  • hotwebideas profile image

    Bruce Chamoff 

    5 years ago from New York

    This looks like an awesome game. Voted up. I like sim games and OpenSim/Sim on a Stick reminds me of Second Life, but you went the extra mile to show how to install the app and how to build objects in the world. I still have a lot to read up on here, but I will certainly read it all and comment when done. Thanks for this article.


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