Neighbor me!

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.”

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

8 Responses

  1. Gaga says:

    Interesting point Maria. I’m not sure exactly what kind of map you have in mind though. Sounds like multiple choices of maps which, I suspect, could get kind of complicated to code given that all objects and avatars are somewhat anchored to their region while rezzed.

    The current map of both Open Sim and Second Life is two dimensional but perhaps if it were three dimensional permitting levels as well as direction, and thus forming a cubic space, then that might be doable. It would certainly work for space-themed grids and is something we talked about on the Aurora Sim forum.

    • Gaga — No, you’d still have the standard OpenSim map as the core, for the objects etc… But the map sent to each individual user would be different — at least, the local maps of their own surroundings. 

  2.' SignpostMarv Martin says:

    Isn’t this what HyperGrid maps do already? e.g. no further modifications required ?

    • Marv — Are you referring to Link Regions? Kind of like that, except for everyone, and local teleports (not hypergrid teleports).

      I’m thinking that this is something that a closed, commercial grid would offer (or a mostly closed one — maybe some limited hypergridding). A 3D version of Facebook — say, The Neighborhood.

      You pay for your membership and you get a free residential region with a choice of houses and island shapes. Or quarter-regions, so you can more easily see your neighbors. (Merchants would have paid commercial regions on the mainland, in themed town centers.)

      You invite your friends to join, and they’d get land plots near you. If you invite X number of friends, your island increases in size (or if you accomplish other goals). There’s a play currency (non-redeemable) to spend on accessories and game items — plants, animals, fish, whatever the games are. And you can spend real money in the shops in town on clothes, avatars, events.

      As the company’s income from these other revenue streams increases, it could lower the price of memberships, or make them free. 

      You’d have to customize OpenSim quite a bit to make this work, and I don’t see the technology becoming part of the standard distribution of OpenSim since solving the problem would be a competitive advantage for the grid. For example — how do you set things up so that everyone can see their friends around them, when everyone has a different group of friends?

      How do you arrange their plots on the map? This is a nice mathematical puzzle — I want to be able to walk over to my neighbor’s plot, or swim over — and come back again. So our plots should be in the same relationship to one another both on his map and mine — so that when he sees me coming towards him, he actually sees me coming towards him and not in another direction and suddenly pop in on his land. 

      I actually have some ideas about how to do this. (I used to be a math major.) And I’m available to act as a consultant! Hmm… maybe I should write it up as an HG Biz Plan…

  3. Ener Hax says:

    great thought and something that needs some way to be addressed

    and you are sooo cliquish! “I have four friends: Anna, Bob, Charlie, and Dave.” 

    and here i thought i was your friend . . .   =p

  4. Great thinking, which could be applied on a smaller scale too: For exactly the same reasons we might benefit from being able to have non-standard spatial relationships between individual buildings and rooms.

  5.' Kai Ludwig says:

    Hi Maria.

    I think that the one “map per grid” approach is fine, because on the long term the hypergrid will enable every user to have a grid on his/her own. With that every user will have his/her own map anyway, providing exactly what you requested.

    In the internet there is no centralized concept for content, nor will the centralized approach of the actual 3d-internet survive.

    I expect things to change in a way that many small grids, seamlessly and transparantly interconnected via hypergrid, will form the future virtual universe.

    This eliminates the need for giant and hard to manage central grid services with huge databases and gives every user fully control over his/her own content. Just like websites work today.

    The reach that goal the hypergrid features have to be further improved, unless users won’t feel the difference between “beeing home” and “beeing somewhere else” anymore.

    Kai Ludwig.