Thursday, 27 September 2007

Map Thoughts plus Plus

The Second Life map is now getting quite bewildering. When I was a (virtual) lad, this time last year, I could actually find my way around the island archipelagos without too much difficulty. It may have been time-consuming, but it wasn't impossible. However, since then the population of Second Life has grown more than ten-fold, and the island count has grown five-fold. This huge increase in the number of islands has made it much more challenging to find islands of interest to me - in effect I'm looking for a needle in a much larger haystack.

One thing I have noticed is the development of island clusters. There have been multi-sim land masses for a considerable time (well, "considerable" in SL terms), and these have continued to grow, while new land masses have formed. Examples include New Media Consortium, Caledon and IBM. Newer land masses include Virtual Tokyo and Scilands. There have also been looser groupings of individual islands, but 12 months ago these tended to be sited close to the main build companies in SL, such as Millionsofus and Electric Sheep Company.

This year I have noticed the development of archipelagos of loosely associated islands. The first to come to my attention was the Developer Archipelago, that included Amazon Web Services, AMD Developers and IBM Rational Codestation. The one I want to touch on here is what I shall call the German Archilpego. Far out in the virtual ocean there is a loose collection of islands whose only common attribute is that they are owned by German companies. They were not all constructed by the same builder, nor are they organised together in any official or unofficial manner. However, as I thought about this, I realised how much sense it made. Proximity is not important for travelling in Second Life, due to the teleport system that will whisk you from one location to another, from one side of the grid to the other. However, proximity does play a part in community cohesion. If you are used to using the Map feature in Second Life, it becomes almost second nature to check out the islands near you when considering moving on. If those islands you can see also tie in with your culture or language you are probably more likely to give them a go. You may also be more likely to return in the future.

And that, I think, is the key. Companies need footfall, as it is one of the metrics they can use to justify their presence in Second Life. By forming loose archipelagos they maintain their independence and sim control, while there is nevertheless an increased probability of driving footfall, and at the same time encouraging return visits and the possible formation of virtual communities. Hence the German Archipelago (and yes... I'm sure this is not the only one).


A newcomer to the Archipelago is Plus, whose island opened this week. Plus, is a supermarket chain, with extensive online shopping facilities. It is celebrating its 35th year of trading, and as part of this, has launched a presence in Second Life.

The island is modelled on the blue and orange company logo, making it unmistakable on the Map view. Around a central plaza, on which is emblazoned the company name, you will find a number of cabins. Some provide assorted goods - not free, but very cheap; others give you an overview of the company, and links to the Well Being parts of their website. Wandering around the island are little numbers (see below), which also feature on the website. Quite what they mean I don't know.

The whole place is designed to be like a 3D cartoon, and I think it carries it off admirably. Just watching the numbers wandering about, sitting playing games or simply sleeping was fun - I like the light touch here. The one negative I would make is the doors - they are just too narrow. They are not actually difficult to negotiate, but they are a bit tricky - and for a complete newcomer to Second Life could be a real headache.

There's also a closed room containing presents - but some judicious use of camera controls got this snap:

Other islands in the German Archipelago include: TUI and VOKS DAM, both of which I have featured in this blog in the past.


Lem Skall said...

I've already expressed my opinions about the map and what should be done with it: Yes, the map should be re-designed. And I'm quite sure it will happen.

Aleister Kronos said...


I am not actually looking for a redesign, merely observing how the geography of SL is evolving and adapting. Mind you, if the map was improved I am unlikely to complain.