I’ve been traveling around the hypergrid a lot lately enjoying the new hypergrid landmarks, friends, and messages — and updating the Hyperica directory.
And I’ve been amazed at how far the grids have come. Areas which were bare or under construction when I last visited are now looking finished and welcoming.
Well, most of them.
Some common design mistakes are still showing up.
I’m all wet
When I teleport into a new region, the standard landing point is right in the center of the region, at coordinates 128, 128.
Back in Second Life, where land is expensive, the typical unit of land is a parcel, and people teleport around by using SLURLs, landmarks, and search listings.
In OpenSim, land is cheap, and the typical minimum land unit is an entire region – with prices starting at under $10 a month, it’s hardly worth it to rent anything smaller, especially on the open grids with multiple hosting providers competing on price and features.
So when you teleport to a destination, you’re as likely to type the region name into the Map dialog box as to use a landmark to teleport to a specific location on that region. Especially the first time you’re going there.
Once in a while, however, that central landing point is under water. Perhaps it looks nice to have a central lake or pond in the region perfectly positioned in the exact center.
Trust me, visitors won’t mind if the pond is a little to the side, so that they can land in a dry spot.
Alternatively, you can raise a little point of land in the middle of the lake to hold a little landing platform.
The landing area is a visitor’s first view of your region. Few regions look best from under water.
The exception, of course, is a region that has an underwater garden at the landing point. Maybe a little grotto filled with mermaids and giant clams…
Don’t hit your head
At least, when I land under water I can usually fly up and out of the water.
Some regions put buildings right in the central landing area — with crawl space in the basements. Not enough space to straighten up. Just enough to trap you there for ever. Or until you teleport back out again.
You see, the default landing point is at ground level. And if ground level underneath your poured concrete foundation slab, well, that’s where your visitors will wind up buried.
Not a great introduction to your virtual space.
And don’t get me started on flooded basements.
Don’t tell me where to go
Is there a cool museum or a hot store on your region or the nicest beach this side of virtual Hawaii? If it’s on the other side of a mountain chain, your visitors might never know about it.
You know what’s even harder to find? Floating islands hundreds of feet up in the air.
Think of the central landing spot of your region as the masthead of a website. Key destinations should be in clear view — and teleport links or sign posts should point the way to key areas that aren’t immediately visible.
Can’t there from here
But what’s even worse than not being able to find your cool museum or store is seeing it right there — in plain view, big class walls making me drool over all the goodies inside — and not being able to find the door.
If the building is made of glass, folks, it’s hard to figure out where the doors are. I wind up feeling that those birds the TV commercials that keep flying into windows because they are too clean.
Is there a reason to put the door on the other side of the building from where your visitors are arriving? Or, better yet, why only one door? Are you trying to reduce heating and cooling costs? Are you worried about drafts? Are you limiting the number of entry points in order to make it easier for your security staff to watch for potential shoplifters and art thieves?
Yes, Samsara, I love you, but I am talking about you.
All tangled up
So what do you do when you’re on the wrong side of a glass-walled building? You try to walk around it, or fly over, right?
And what happens then? You run into the shrubbery. And get trapped.
Tangled in the branches. And if you’re with friends, they point at you and laugh because you can’t even avoid walking into a tree. Now everyone can tell that your computer is so old that you can’t even walk like a normal person.
Fortunately, there are steps that land owners can take to keep their visitors off the grass. Transparent barriers can keep your visitors not only from running into trees and bushes but from falling off cliffs and bridges — and transparent ramps can keep them from stumbling on stairs and curbs.
Another option for plants is to make them phantom — they still look just as good in the landscape, but they’re no longer a menace to erratic walkers.