Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An Author's Guide to the Metaverse

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
What is the Metaverse?
The metaverse, for our purposes, is a loosely connected set of simulated worlds created by Opensim users and connected by a hypergrid which will allow you to move between regions built by different creators. The images in my slideshow above are all from a series of simulations I built online. There are other virtual worlds outside the Opensim hypergrid, but I'm trying to keep this simple, so lets start small with something powerful enough to meet an author's needs and simple enough that they can get up to speed quickly.

Why do you need a metaverse?
Basically the metaverse is an alternate reality where things you do and create can have real world impact on yourself and others. And that real-world impact aspect of the metaverse is why it is so valuable to authors.
  • Having trouble getting inside a characters head? When I was writing Blind Heat, I logged into a virtual world as a domestic house cat and tried getting around in a human world as a cat. Not only did I discover that jumping from floor to tabletop without overshooting and smacking into a wall takes practice, but I was able to experience how street-tough inhabitants in that simulation of a slum would treat a vulnerable kitten.
  • Stuck in writer's block? I think writer's block stems from not being able to see what needs to happen next. If you can go to a setting like the one you need to write about, it's easier to imagine your characters interacting. But a love scene on a beach is hard to imagine in the middle of January when the snow is piling up. A back alley in a rough part of town is not a not a safe place to go daydream. In the metaverse you can find a diner, or tropical beach, or back alley, or biodome on mars to work through your blocks at any time. You can even launch a private world right on your computer for working out sex scenes.
  • Research exotic locals. I've explored exact replicas of cities I had neither time nor finances to visit. I've even done some research on surfing in a virtual surfing simulation. I was really bad at it too. Fortunately you can't drown in the metaverse. I've even visited a midwifing simulation where real world midwifes teach via virtual world. Maybe you can't find every single thing you need to research in the metaverse, but I've found everything I went looking for.
How do you get there?
I created a Virtual Writer's and Reader's Colony. It is designed for writers and readers new to the metaverse. It's a safe place to learn how to get around. You can meet up with other authors, just find a quiet corner to write (lots of quiet corners), explore, have adventures, interact with characters, and discover learning resources to build your craft.

To get into the Writer's Colony at Nara's Nook. Click here to create a user account. Sorry, I hate creating accounts too, but you'll need this account to store freebies, outfits, and various things you create or discover in your journeys. The form is simple: pick a name, enter email address, and choose a password. Be sure to select either male or female avatar--I don't have any neutral avatars in the system yet. Sign up as one of your favorite characters or under your author name.

And since your web browser is only powerful enough to get you to the front door of the colony, you'll need to click here to download a web viewer that lets you enter virtual worlds, walk around, and take pictures of all the cool things that happen. This will be worth it, I promise. Where else can you go chat with a dragon?

Be sure to select the middle, opensim tab and download the version (Windows, Mac, or Linux) that matches your operating system.

 Once you have your viewer downloaded and installed, launch it and you should see something like so.

 It doesn't matter if the picture is a little different, we're interested in the tab labeled "viewer" in the top left corner. Click viewer, click preferences, and then down on the bottom left, select, opensim. You see it highlighted in orange below.

Copy and paste this code:  world.narasnook.com:8900 into the empty box at the very top where it says "add new grid" and click apply on the right. Then click that miscellaneous tab (above the add new grid area) and make sure "enable lightshare" is checked. Click apply again, then click okay. You only have to supply this information once. The viewer will save these preferences for your future adventures. Now you're ready to go exploring.

You should now see something like this. Enter your user name just the way you see mine entered in the picture. Then enter your password. Under "Start at" type: Greyville. Under "Log into Grid" click the down arrow and select NarasNook from the list. Then click the login button and wait for a whole new world to appear.

At first things will look white, including you.

But as the world paints itself on your screen, the colors fill in. It's okay to move around while you wait.

That's you there in the picture. The woman, not the lizard. It's possible to change your appearance to look more like your real world self, but we'll save that for another day. You worked hard to get here and now it's time to play. Use your computer's arrow keys to walk around--right, left, forward, back. Walk around the village and out into the park.

You can launch fly mode by holding the Pg Up key for a few seconds. Then arrow keys take you in different directions and the Pg Dn key takes you back toward the ground. Holding the Pg Dn until you smack into the ground stops the fly mode. Fly to those distant lands you see. It's all mine and you have my permission to go into any building and do what you like. You can't break anything. Have fun.Stay as long as you want.

Take lots of pictures. There's a little camera icon on the bottom bar of your browser, toward the right. Click it to snap a picture and save to your computer.

~ Nara Malone.
You can learn more about Nara at her author blog www.naramalone.com You can learn more about her virtual worlds at her new website www.narasnook.com (under construction so expect some linkless links)

Credits: The dragon picture is a shot I took on the Alba sim in OSGrid, when I met up with a dragon who invited me to chat. I intend to blog about that adventure soon. It's a very cool sim based on ancient Scotland.

The author colony region is based largely on one of Linda Kellie's first oars.


  1. Woah, Nara! This wild! Okay, so what program did you use to create the virtual worlds. Did I miss something? I wanna make a virtual world toooooo!

  2. I did this with sim-on-a-stick and I will post about how to use that in the future. I imagine you will all be able to do just what I've done shortly, but let's get the hang of how to walk/talk/fly. Next up how to change your clothes, and hair, and skin, and how to sit in a chair, or how to go down to my lake and float in one of those lovely innertubes there.

    You can find sim-on-a-stick at http://simonastick.com/ if you want to give it a try on your own.

  3. Oooo! I, of course, ran ahead of the instructions, but I got to spend some time on a desert island as a result. Sounds like a nice place to hang out with special friends later. :)

    Nara, I'll see you there later!

  4. This is very cool. I'm looking forward to learning more about this. I'm also very afraid! This could become a serious distraction. I'm so impressed by your mad skills!

  5. Lol, Lexi. I drove myself crazy trying to figure out how to get the writer colony to be the default landing spot and I kept winding up on the island. I moved all the simulations around, renamed stuff and still wound up on that island. It hit me today that it's alphabetical, I'll rename the island something later in the alphabet. I have a pic of myself on the island as a purple lizard with two Robs for company...long story there. I have a secret project out there, a holodeck that lets you rez scenes and characters, like in Star Trek. I have the programs working, now to put some interesting stuff to play with inside.

  6. Denise, I wouldn't say it's a distraction so much as a tool to make elements of this job we love more fun and exciting. I don't want to overwhelm everyone with too much info at once, but as we go forward you'll learn so much cool stuff you can do to inspire your writing and promotions.

    That motorcycle out by the landing area works. Do you think the gang of us riding around the village on bikes would make an interesting blog post?

  7. Still haven't visited, but now I'm jealous! I'll get there one of these days. I'm definitely up for the bike ride? (You do mean "bike" as in Harley, right?) :-)

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  9. I got here from one of Google+ communities... this is AWESOME!

    I will have to find time to come visit...

    1. Thanks commenting Shep. We look forward to seeing you inworld.

  10. Just did my first attempt and have to say, that was a lot of fun!

    1. Leah, we still need to get you on that Harley.