Today’s OpenSim grids all have a static idea of a world map. So does Second Life.
There’s nothing wrong with that — I love having a virtual environment that I can navigate, that makes geometric sense. Room-based environments, where any room can connect to any other room, and all the rooms are different sizes, limit a user’s ability to build up a mental map of the world.
So maps are good. But does everyone need to have the same map?
Here’s what I’m thinking.
I have four friends: Anna, Bob, Charlie, and Dave. And I want them to be my neighbors on a grid so I can visit their houses, attend their parties, water their virtual plants, and check in on their virtual pets. I want to be able to see them immediately if they’re home.
Anna is fine with this, as are Bob, Charlie, and Dave. But what if Anna, Bob, Charlie, and Dave don’t know each other, and don’t want to be each other’s neighbors?
Anna might want to have, say, Igor, Harry, Joe and me as neighbors.
Today, OpenSim (and Second Life) don’t allow this to happen because there is only one map — THE map — of the world.
But what if you had multiple maps? A different — local — map for each user, say.
That would enable me to locate my region right next to the regions of all my friends. If I grow tired of a friend, I can move them further away from me on my map, or drop them altogether.
This would be particularly useful for social, residential grids.
Say a grid gives out free residential regions to everyone with a paid-up membership. When users travel to the mainland, or to the regions of folks they’re not friends with, they see the standard, default map or the local map of the resident. When they’re on their own region, they see their own local map.
This would require modifications both to the server and to the viewer code.
But residents may be willing to use a new viewer if it means they get access to the new features this affords. For example, picking your own neighbors means that you can set up gardening and farming games, virtual pet games, breeding games, and other social games.
I can imagine a future in the which the phrase “neighbor me” replaces “friend me.”