4:12 AM

Step 01: Creating your NGrid avatar

Please go to this URL: http://ngrid.org/blog/?q=node/3

This will take you to a page with three start up avatars, a furry, a male and a female. Since NGrid is a virtual world which emphasizes a difference the start-up avatars too are different - they are all white! You will be able to completely change your appearance and gender once you are in-world, so basically you can click on either one.

From here you will go to a new screen where you will be asked to enter your user information. In other words this screen is where you decide upon the name of your avatar and your password with which you login to NGrid. So, give your avatar a first name, a last name, a password and then enter the email address where you wish to receive the validation email and click the blue "submit and validate" button at the bottom. And choose wisely since the avatar's name cannot be changed later!

OK! All set to go! Now go to your email and click on the validation link and then you are ready to enter NGrid, the sophisticated metaverse!

5:19 AM

Step 02: Setting up your viewer

The recommended viewer for the open metaverse is the Imprudence Viewer and therefore this is the one that you too should definitely use. To download the viewer go to this URL:

Before you decide upon which version of Imprudence to use you may also wish to check whether your PC (Windows only) can run an SSE2 optimized viewer, and if so you can use that version also since it is reputed to be slightly faster than the standard release.

The downloads page on the official NGrid blog also gives you a list of minimum system requirements, so you may want to check these out before you proceed also: http://ngrid.org/blog-NEW/?q=node/4

And now we need to look at how you set up NGrid as a new grid on your viewer: The 3 screenshots below will guide you through the process step by step. The all important info which you need is the login URI which is http://login.ngrid.org:8002/. You will see where this will be needed in image three, during step 02 as is shown on that image.

When you start up the viewer, on the bottom you will see the above entry fields. In all likelihood the grid will be set to OSgrid, but do not worry about this, we will be changing this to our own grid very shortly. Enter your avatar's first and last name and password and then click on Grid Manager.

Once you open the Grid Manager you will see what is in the image above. Enter the word ngrid for the Grid name (which is unique and cannot be changed later). Then copy paste the following line http://login.ngrid.org:8002/ into the  Login URI field shown in step 03 in the image above. Next click the button which says Get Grid Info (step 04) and all of the entry fields below it will fill automatically. Then click Apply and OK. The Grid manager will close and you should have ngrid in the pull down menu on the login screen at the bottom where it used to say OSgrid or whatever. If not simply change it to that, and reenter your avatar name and password if needed... So - now go ahead and login!

8:50 AM

Step 03: All important! Your preferences!

I am sure you have seen all these presentations with screenshots of Second Life and have wondered as to why anyone in their right senses could possibly want to spend time in a world which looks like as if it is made out of very bad quality cardboard! The reason is very simple: For the most part novices do not know how to figure out their preferences or simply do not care to spend the few minutes that it takes to fix this very basic issue.

So, before you even login for the very first time, look on the top left hand corner of the viewer where you will see a small menu. Click on Edit and then preferences.

I will start out with what I think are the most important ones, which are your graphics settings, and then further down I will also show you some other ones which you may need as well.

True, the level of your graphics settings will depend upon you hardware, more specifically your graphics card. However, if your machine is less than 3 years old you should be able to get a decent display. The very first thing to do is to set your native screen resolution to as high as it will go - as an example, mine is 1920 x 1080. Once you have taken care of this, go back to the viewer, to Edit and Preferences and then Graphics and check the Advanced options box which you will see there. Then follow the instructions on the lower image above as closely as you can. What you should not sacrifice above all else are the shaders. Make sure that all 4 are checked.

Where you can compromise are the draw distance number and the particle count and the non-imposters. The water reflections should ideally show "all avatars and objects" but if that proves to be too much you can also select all static objects from the pulldown menu. Enabling the shaders is what will make the world three dimensional as nothing else will. I will talk more about the atmospheric shaders later but in addition to the 3D feeling these will also give you different skies, lights and atmospheric conditions and "mood". In short, the graphics settings are the difference between a flat drab world and one that holds light!

And a word of advice from wonderful Snoopy Pfeffer, our valiant service provider: If your machine is older than 3 years make sure that your hardware is up to the task of displaying everything in the way in which I have described above. A good way of figuring out if you are doing OK is by occasionally checking out what the Statistics Bar (found under the View menu - please look at screenshot here >>>) is telling you through your framerate. Ideally this value should not go below 30 fps, and 15 fps is the absolute lowest acceptable minimum. So, if you are falling below that you may yet need to compromise with the above values. :-\

And now, onto the other ones:

The General tab is fairly self explanatory. The only thing to be mindful of with this one is to keep the GoAway/AFK box unchecked so that your avatar can always stay in-world fully alert.

The important thing to know about the network tab is the Clear Disk Cache button, which you may need to press on occasion and then log off and relog so that your cache can get cleared. This will improve performance and stability.

With the Audio tab, please remember to check the wind generator box. This will create an ambient sound effect which is similar to wind. Research in this area gives substantial evidence that what immerses us in virtual environments is sound. Not music - but simply a sound which simulates the spatial sound of the physical world. So, having this active will indeed make you feel more "there" in the world in which you are immersed. Another thing is to set the interface sounds as low as you can get them to be, without sacrificing message alerts, since the click clack sounds of the interface are very loud and annoying indeed.

On the camera tab it is important to check the two boxes which disable camera constraints. And then the camera angle you can experiment with to move closer in or out of the back of the avatar and also to decide upon transition time and smoothing. I tend to keep both of these last two very low since heightened values tend to make me somewhat seasick. But if this doesn't affect you the higher values will actually give you rather nice motion effects.

And finally skins: Given that the world itself is already very colorful I prefer skins which do not add to the color but stick to the dark, grayscale ones. But obviously this is a matter of preference. So, I am putting this shot in here just to let you know that you do have the choice. (Note: I am noticing that in the newest release of Imprudence they are back to the two basic skins, which are top ones - so currently you do not have these extra choices - ouch!. I am still keeping this image however, since you never know, and they could easily go back to more choices in upcoming releases ;-)

5:28 AM

Step 04: Arriving at NGrid

The above screenshot shows you what you will see upon your first step into NGrid - the dramatic concourse of the virtual world's reception hub, which is located in a region called Ubik. But stand right there and hold your horses! Before you can do much else you will have to get some kind of familiarity with the viewer's software and its interface. And this is the subject matter of the next set of tutorials which will show you everything step by step.

For now - your keyboard arrows will make you move. The Up Arrow moves you forward, Down backwards, Right lets you turn right while you are standing, and Left lets you turn left, again in standing position. Page Up lets you fly up, and Page Down lets you fly down.

Now, further down the concourse, slightly to your right, there are a pile of black boxes, which I have outlined in orange and marked up as 01. These hold all kinds of goodies with which you can "create" your personal avatar: Everything from skins, shapes, eyes, and hair to clothes. So, walk towards these boxes using your keyboard arrows. And once there, go onto the next set of tutorials where you will learn all about what to do next, how this whole thing actually works.

Note: Your lighting and sky will look different from what you see in this screenshot since you will login with the default lighting whereas I have a custom sky and light setting. No worries, you will soon learn how to fix all of that!

12:48 PM

Step 05: Learning the software - a quick tour with exploded interface shots

The metaverse viewer is no different than any other computer application: You have to know your way around it before you can get any sort of mileage out of it. And the better you know it, the more you will enjoy your sojourn in virtual 3D. I personally think that one of the reasons for the rather large fallout rate of virtual worlds is that their novice users seldom bother to learn the software. And lack of knowledge, in my estimation, certainly accounts for all those dreadful screenshots that one sees of an environment where everything looks like as if it was cut out with a blunt pair of scissors, populated with badly dressed avatars, sporting dreadful hair and skin, all perched on their clumsy prim chairs - sitting like as if they have bad cases of indigestion - and all facing away from the camera at all times!

The funny thing however is that learning the interface actually doesn't take that long since it is all logically designed and fairly self-explanatory. So, please do take the couple of hours needed: Log in, and then using the screenshots below check out where everything is. I have opened up all of the menus and palettes and then created composite screenshots as to how all these things look, with explanations regarding their usage below them. So, actually a good idea may be to print these images and have them next to your computer so that it is all right in front of you.

Basically the metaverse viewer has two menus, a top one and a bottom one, which are narrowly lined up along the interface. While the top one is more of a standard type of menu, like you would expect to see in most computer applications, the bottom one works with pop-ups which let you do all sorts of stuff. From the top menu you will mostly check/uncheck various commands which are generalized and will work at all times, whereas the bottom one will let you do things intuitively through its floating palettes.

Needless to say, this is only a highly condensed overview and things (especially some of the stuff the happens through the bottom menu) will be covered in more detail in following tutorials. However - please remember: No tutorial will teach you stuff unless you get curious and really sniff around and start investigating on your own account. And as I said above, the metaverse viewer is actually very intuitive. So, please please do!

Worst thing that can happen? You crash... And then you simply relog and no harm done! And also, please have fun! At least for me, that is precisely where creativity starts - and nowhere more so than in a builder's world :-D

3:13 PM

Step 06: Learning the interface - the pie menu

You will very quickly learn to appreciate the pie menu, with which you can take care of many tasks as well as get a lot of info in a very quick and efficient manner. In fact, most metaverse pros will use the pie menu far more often than all the others, especially when it comes to building and avatar interactions.

Above you will find the basic commands which are available just by right clicking on the things around you. The pie menu has deeper levels which I am not showing here, so please continue to explore by yourself. To repeat, it is all highly self-explanatory and you will get the hang of it in no time at all...