I need a simulator simpler than OpenSim. Read the details. Do you have suggestions?

When writing, it sometimes helps to build a diorama of a setting. You can then place characters and examine key points from different perspectives. You can even act out the entire scene. Yes, it sounds like playing with dolls, and it certainly is... but it is a huge help to visualize an event so that you can really describe it in your writing. The problem is, a diorama can be time-consuming and sometimes even expensive to set up... and I certainly don't have much space in my home for one. What I need is a virtual diorama. For the current project, I wish for a house with several rooms, a back yard, a small section of street, and a small piece of forested wilderness(all can be separate)... so I need a program that's fairly flexible. First thought was to set up a local OpenSim server, but I ran into a lot of difficulty getting it running and getting content (i.e. props and houses) is a nightmare. Worse, bugs and quirks made it difficult to use in practice. After two weeks of setting up a virtual environment, I crashed the server during a backup and corrupted the whole installation. So OpenSim is not suitable for me. I tried Second Life too, because I figured I'd rent a small piece of land and build on it. Second Life has the advantage of having a lot of content available, but getting a chunk of land big enough to do what I need is too expensive for me, and all the areas I checked out were too laggy. Other things I tried or examined were FPS video games (with map editors) and the Sims... both presented their own problems. I'm open to suggestions on either. Anyway, this is long-winded enough so I'm going to get right to requirements. Here's what I need: -3d simulation with an easily configurable environment. -Simple to use. Need "duh duh" simple" -No distractions. -Little loading or lag time. -A reasonably good selection of objects and props such as houses, furniture, streetlights, asphalt and plants. -The ability to place characters where I want them. Here's what isn't necessary: -Characters don't have to have any animation and can be as simple as cardboard cutouts. -Doesn't have to be free. -Doesn't have to be specific to any OS or hardware.

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Re-design8 years ago
I like sketch up also for this. Also nice job of asking the question and giving enough details for a logical answer!
DELETED_GuardianFox (author)  Re-design8 years ago
Thanks, but sketch-up is getting me nowhere as well. I can find lots of content for it, but getting it all sized properly and in place is a pain, even more so than in my buggy physics-less opensim server. I'm not made to operate 3d modeling software, even if it is supposedly super-simple. I appreciate your help and I'm flattered at the compliment.
What you're looking for are Storyboarding software. Have you tried The Sims? Or theSims 2? There are tons of content and it's very deliberately an easy to use dollhouse environment.

If you're just looking for a point and shoot solution for an arbitrary environment, you're probably asking for something that doesn't exist. The closest that I know of is Machinima. The tools will be the easiest to use, the models will all be to relative scale, but your environments limited to the game.

If this isn't doing what you what you have several other choices:

1) Work with an illustrator. If you're in a college environment then you can find someone who will work for free in order to build their portfolio.

2) Work in the real world. Get some friends and a camera and set up the shots. If you're behind the (still) camera this can provide valuable insight into the framing of a scene.

3) Play with dolls. Serious;y, what's wrong with it? They're plentiful and cheap. And you can abuse them in ways you can't abuse your friends.

4) Develop your imagination, which is where 99% of all writers write from. As a published writer I can say that it doesn't matter if what you're describing is physically impossible as long as the scene feels fight and fully supports the story you're telling, the reader won't question it.* Shakespeare rarely included stage direction, he expect that smart participants would figure it out on their own.

*(And if they do question it, they'll assume that they're making the mistake, not that you are. The author is the authority, that's why they both come from the same root word.)
DELETED_GuardianFox (author)  Grathio8 years ago
Wow, thanks. It's all helpful advice you gave, but the search term "storyboarding" brought me a bunch of professional programs that seem to be nearly perfect for me.

http://www.powerproduction.com/quick.html -seems to be just characters placed on a 2d background, but it looks pretty flexible and easy.

http://www.write-brain.com/frameforge3d_main.htm -really 3d, but a little more expensive and slightly tougher to learn.

Thanks again!
kayemmell7 years ago
 This may be coming late to the party, but I'd recommend Poser (or DAZ Studio as a free alternative, with perhaps less flexibility).  Both allow you to create and clothe figures, as well as backdrops / sets, and are much easier to use than full-up 3D modelers.  Poser isn't cheap, but Studio's free, and there's lots of inexpensive and free content available.
DELETED_GuardianFox (author)  kayemmell7 years ago
Better late then never!  I pretty much gave up on this after I couldn't get a demo for FrameForge to work and wrote one of the worst action scenes ever on paper.   For my next project, visualizations are going to be a must.

I'm checking out DAZ now,  I've got a feeling you're on to something!

I did like Poser in previous projects and it would be fantastic for this purpose.  If DAZ has half the usability, it'll be a winner in my books (literally and figuratively).

Thanks!
orksecurity8 years ago
SketchUp?
seandogue8 years ago
Autodesk animator possibly?
If you want a solid 3d program, I'd suggest both sketchup and Rhino 3d's trial (30 saves, not 30 days). But if you want a "simulator" I'm not going to be much help(although, you could bootleg smething if you wanted to go that far).