Thursday, July 13, 2017

Second Life's Entry Areas: Learning And Social Islands

By Bixyl Shuftan

"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," goes an ancient proverb. And for Second Life residents, there has been an entry area for most of it's history. Over the years, Linden Lab has made changes to what kind of experiences those entering Second Life for the first time receive, sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better.

In the early days, at least when yours truly started out in 2006, there was Orientation Island. While a pleasant grassy area when the lag was low, my initial experience was slow and laggy. Trouble was, only an estimated ten percent of newcomers were bothering to continue past their first day, Hamlet Au saying, "Within sixty minutes of creating an avatar name and entering ... most people become too bored, frustrated, or confused to continue."

By 2010, Orientation Island was retired as the newbie starting area, though remains open to residents wishing to see it. In it's place were Welcome and Discovery Islands, in which the trees and grass were replaced with a white, high-tech, looking place. The reviews on the place I saw were mixed. Hamlet Au compared it to how an Apple store would sell Microsoft PC computers, saying it was an overall improvement, but didn't solve all of the basic problems. From early 2012 to mid 2013 were a couple changes for the worse. Destination Island was a much simpler, more bare bones experience, which gave people a few basic instructions before offering them a choice of portals that threw them at a random location, the one I chose throwing me out for having a new account. The New Resident Experience that was apparently around in Summer 2013 was described as even worse by Uccie Poultry, being dropped into a shopping area with no instructions at all. One could be forgiven for thinking the Lab was basically giving up on ways to find ways of keeping new residents.

In September 2013, I found out about Learning Island. This was the first half of a two-stage process for newcomers, the second half being Social Island, which was open to more experienced residents. Taking a look around learning Island, I found it to be a definite improvement from Destination Island, and an overall one from Orientation Island. Looking around Social Island, I found occasional older residents giving pointers to newcomers, a club area, and a whole islands with nooks and crannies to explore.

Some months ago, Social Island was changed to a more Greco-Roman look. But it wasn't until I created a new alt to test the new starter avatars announced on July 5 that I learned that Learning Island had been changed as well. I don't know how many months ago it was redesigned, but here's a look at it.

 And a new account, Rezzdarnnit, takes his first steps into the virtual world, sword in hand.

 There was a sign nearby explaining how to move around, and a HUD popped up with instructions on where to go next.

 Panning around, I saw the place had been given an overall Greco-Roman look. Of course, a newbie would not be thinking of that, so this was probably done for aesthetics, or to keep bloggers and newsletter writers from making questionable remarks.

Learning Island on the map.

More instructions. Newcomers would learn how to jump over gaps, the HUD giving an encouraging ring when you made it across. If not, there were stairs one could find their way back up.

 The third set of instructions was on how to fly up, and then back down.

Continuing on.

 The fourth set of instructions was about how to pan around to get a better look at things.

This was an area with an aquarium, so there were some fish to zoom in on.

As well as some weasels running about.

 Going through a portal, I ended up in the Courtyard. The fifth lesson was how to talk to others, or in this case the parrot that had also been used in the days of Orientation Island.

Approaching the portal, I was told this was the way to Social Island for continued instructions, but once through I could never return.

Comparing this to the Learning Island a few years ago, the big difference to me was no instructions on how to adjust your avatar. But as people were now using mesh and Bento, new residents wouldn't need to know that with avatars like those. And as I would mention in an article about the Bento avatars, there were no instructions on how to take off and remove objects on your avatar, as people just don't walk up to one another, sword drawn.

And Rezzdarnnit's first look at Social Island.

 There was a video screen nearby, that when clicked had Magellan Linden welcoming the new resident to Second Life.

Among the first things mentioned was the people, "some may look strange. Others may actually *be* strange." The second remark was most likely a muted warning about the griefers that have been noted to hang around places to harass newbies.

 It was then down the steps to a central area.

 It was there that the player would start to learn about Linden dollars.

 But for now, they would have to make do with "Tutorial Dollars," which were displayed in a new part of the HUD. People got more by completing certain actions.

 Nearby were some basic rules to follow when going about Second Life.

And there were some details such as this little birdie.

There was a room about building things in Second Life, "Not only is building ... possible, it is encouraged!" It would go on to explain things like prims and how to move them, and mesh.

 One display was a demonstration of textures, another one, not shown, was about how to move them around.

This display was about how scripts work, this one being for a light bulb that went on and off when touched.

 Another section was introducing new residents to shopping, the video showing Magellan getting out of his hardsuit and wearing something else.

Tutorial dollars are used to guy the handful of products here, hairpieces, shirts, pants, and shoes.

I got the angel a new shirt and hairpiece. I figured this is where some newbies would learn how to ditch the sword. There was a changing room one could click on to be ported to.

 Another area was the "camera challenge," where there was a game to help people practice their camming skills.

 There was a reminder on how to do so. The build in the middle of the circle had seven red spots you had to press to get the 50 Tutorial dollar reward. The three fastest times were on display.

And camming arount, there was much detail to see around the place.

I noticed a gathering, and among the newcomers was an experienced resident. I greeted him hello, and he gave me a landmark to a freebie store. I saw a couple others, and chatted with one, a Spanish-speaking resident, but she only wanted to talk for a few minutes.

Going down to the lower level.

Like the old Social Island, there's a club here.

 There were instructions on how to get a music stream going. Note the naked guy sitting down, which would probably make a newbie think of Magellan's warning, "some of the people actually *are* strange."

I never could get the danceball to work by clicking on it. But there was no one to dance with, though.

One newbie hasn't bothered to change his look yet.

Another activity I saw was the boat ride.

 There were a few, flat, images, of hammerhead sharks swimming around. Falling or wadding too deep into the water would get you tossed out onto shore, with a remark telling the player the sharks aren't to be fed for several hours.

The player was instructed to get in the boat, and sail through the rings in the cave and head back to get the tutorial Linden dollar reward.

 The last activity was the maze.

 One was reminded you could always pan up for an overhead look to figure your way out faster.

Getting the prize in the middle got you the tutorial dollar reward. You still had to find your way out, though.

 The video before the last area, the portal circle, was Magellan instructing

There were nine portals to chose from, marked as: Art, Roleplay, Popular Places, Portal Park, Newcomer Friendly, Gaming Island, Editor's Picks, Music, and Adults Only.

I decided to try "Newcomer friendly" first.

By chance, it led me to what looked like a community gateway at Lazy Adams, in Great Staughton. The description of the place was of a community and social hangout, and there were a number of games, and people around. I never did talk to anyone, but this looked like a promising start to a newcomer.

After trying the "Art" portal, and ending up at the Vordun Gallery, I then decided to give Portal Park a try.

Newcomers might be inclined to give "The Cornfield" a try, so I gave it a whirl.

After getting about a hundred cornbucks, and a souvenir t-shirt, I was ready to call it here. I've seen enough of what happens when noobs try to flirt with girls whom are regular residents, "You need to up your game, Mister," so I can only conclude those heading straight to the Adults Only areas would likely be disappointed. But my impression of the new Learning and Social Islands was this was an overall improvement from their predecessors. Will it encourage more newcomers to stay? Combined with the community gateways, it just might.

Bixyl Shuftan

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