Now, I have often disparaged Linden Lab's attempts to introduce people to the wonders of Second Life. In particular, I am a huge proponent of providing live helpers on the spot, to help new users and answer their questions. In my opinion signs and tutorials, and even helpful videos are only useful to some people. Others learn best by one on one interaction with a mentor, teacher, or helper. But live helpers are either expensive (LL employees) or unruly (volunteer Residents, like the old Mentor program.) LL has, understandably from their point of view, tried ways of introducing people to SL that don't involve live human beings. Up until now, those ways (Orientation Island, Help Island, Welcome Island, Destination Island) have all been less than successful, at least in this writer's view.
Enter the new "Social Island". It is not all that different conceptually from the old Help Island, but the quality of the build is much better, and visually more intriguing. You can't see all of the region from any given location, since mountainous rock formations block your view. But bridges and pathways lead off in various directions, and tantalizing hints of what lies around the next corner invite you to explore.
There are several disparate areas on Social Island. A beach house with a pleasant indoor pool; a lighthouse on a hilltop; an amphitheatre (with teleport doors leading off to other Destinations -- it's modeled after the larger one on the earlier Destination Island). There's an oriental temple where you can go sit to get out of a local rainstorm that is one of the best "cheats" at making rain and shelter from it seem realistic that I have come across. There's a flashing, blinging rock club with one of the most eye-searing dance floors I've ever seen. (My biggest complaint about Social Island -- the rock club has no music stream, and only offers the dopy "free" dance animations.) There is a futuristic build of a multi-level bar, and a tiny pocket valley with a pleasant campfire to sit by.
And there is a "game" one can play. It's not advertised, there are no signs anywhere. But there are hidden places to be found on Social Island. I doubt that many newbies will actually find them, but that is really OK. There is a library area in a huge underground cavern, and from there, if you are curious and persistent enough, you can find the entrance to a hidden treasure cave, where you can get a golden crown from a treasure chest. There is a second entrance to the treasure cave, hidden from outsiders...a "one way" rock texture.
For those who manage to get themselves stuck on the seabed under the island, there are numerous handy teleport pads to get you back up to the surface.
The new Social Island does not use signs or tutorials, but it does use psychology and the pervasive internet meme of games, quests, and prizes to encourage new people to nose around and explore. Yes, I was asked, "What's the point of this game" by a newbie. I told him, "find the Crown!" and explained the task. He went off much happier than if I had insisted, "Second Life is not a "game"! There are plenty of things to click, and sit on, and look at. In the simple act of walking around and doing these everyday things, new people are going to get a "feel" for Second Life. And when they are ready, that amphitheatre with its many exits to the main grid is ready to funnel them into Second Life proper.
Kudos to Linden Lab for this one, especially the hard-working Moles.
Here are some pictures of my visit!
|View from the Lighthouse|
|See How One Thing Leads to Another? Lighthouse over the hill|
|A Pleasant Beach House|
|Nice Club, if it had music!|
|Dancing at Club SL|
|Thunderstorm at the Temple|
|The Library of the Cave Club (hard to find!)|
|The Departure Area...All Aboard for the Main Grid!|
|Click Here if you Get Stuck!|