Open Simulator

Open Simulator (or OpenSim) is an open source, 3D, virtual environment simulator. Basically it allows you to create game-like environments that several people can share at the same time. The articles in this series will describe how you can create a simulated Mars environment.

It was originally based on work done by the commercial Second Life platform, and so they initially look quite similar. However, underneath they are very different beasts. To try and compare them is to open a can of worms, but the casual user will find Second Life more polished, and OpenSim less restricted.

There are a few different variations of OpenSim available. For example the Diva Distribution is a popular, and well-featured option. If you are looking for a simple, easy setup, then you are probably best off choosing the standard version. In fact you can have your own virtual environment running in less than half an hour, and the majority of that is waiting for progress bars while downloading and installing.

Installing OpenSim

These instructions are for Windows, but it is possible to use it on Linux and Mac. If you are using Windows 7 then you can get started straight away. If you are using any older versions on Windows, then you will need to make sure that you have .Net installed.

Installing OpenSim.  Note that there is nothing in the square brackets - you'll need to name the region yourself. Installing OpenSim. Note that there is nothing in the square brackets - you'll need to name the region yourself.

Connecting to OpenSim

Now that your virtual world is up and running, you'll want to login and look at it. For this you are going to need another application, generally referred to as a viewer. The OpenSim site provides a list for you to choose from. You used to be able to use the same viewer for Second Life and OpenSim, but that doesn't seem to be possible anymore.

The instructions below relate to Firestorm for OpenSim.

Logged in to OpenSim.  Logged in to OpenSim.

What Next?

There's quite a long way to go before you have a simulation of Mars, but don't let that put you off. The dull sequences of button pushing are pretty much over. From here on in you'll have a creative input - terraforming the surface, building a settlement etc. Click on the link below when you are ready to move on.

Go to the next article: Martian Terrain >